Pixar Review 30: Legends of Mor’du Review

legend of morduIn these Pixar shorts reviews I have only looked at original shorts and none of the spin-offs of movies except for Mike’s New Car and that was only because I thought the audio-commentary was the cutest thing I’d ever heard.  Well, I am making another exception for The Legend of Mor’du.  I wanted to review this short because I think it is a good example of the potential of Brave and the type of story it could have told.  In this brief short we get a true legend.  The kind of story you would tell your children and they would learn a great lesson. That just isn’t the case with Brave.  I don’t think Brave is a terrible movie but I do think it fails in a lot of ways (will save most of my Brave thoughts for the review!)

legend of mordu2The Legend of Mor’du tells the story of a man with 4 sons and each has a gift- compassion, wisdom, justice and the eldest has strength.  The father decides on his deathbed to give the kingdom to all sons instead of bequeathing it to the oldest.  legend of mordu4This enrages the oldest who is not only strong but extremely prideful.  He feels his inheritance has been stolen away. He demands his claim and when they refuse the brothers turn against each other bringing the kingdom into war.

legend of mordu11The witch telling the story meets up with the Prince and offers him a chance to change his fate much like Merida is given in Brave.  And as in Brave the Prince must chose family over his own pride in order to change his fate. Like most Pixar stories family is always the most important element of life and a person’s journey (probably more so than even Disney).  But the Prince drinks the potion seeking to overthrow his brothers and he turns into a great bear named Mor’du.

legend of mordu12All he needs to do is restore the bonds with his brothers but his pride causes him to embrace the bear, defeat his brothers and fight the soldiers who of course see him as the vicious bear.

legend of mordu3The bear Mor’du slays many warriors and the armies flee the kingdom leaving it desolate and fractured.  Mor’du is left alone to wander without family to support him or people to rule over the rest of his days.  The lust for power and his wounded pride forever changed his fate and the fate of the entire kingdom.

legend of mordu14Then the witch asks her audience ‘will you tempt fate?’.

Now that is a story!  It is clear, concise, with a lesson where the character is tested and in this case fails.  There is a clear good vs evil and an epic feeling to the journey, which is necessary in this type of story.  If you think of something like Lord of the Rings Frodo is given a job to do.  He must return the ring to Mordor or the Dark Lord will find it and “cover all the lands of a second darkness”.  There is this clear battle between good and evil.  And the weaknesses of Frodo and his entire team including Gandalf and Aragorn are tested and pushed to their limit.  This makes the journey exciting and gives it an emotional heft.

Such stakes are a must for such a story.  The Legend of King Arthur is another example of this kind of epic storytelling.  Arthur wants to lead with all goodness, courage and peace. But he falls for the lady Guinevere leaving him and his high ideals vulnerable to being wounded and hurt.  Lancelot comes and he and Guinevere fall in love despite their attempts not too.  This leads to conflict and the challenge to Arthur’s vision of Camelot.

You see how such a legend needs to be a tight story with clear consequences of good vs evil?  The characters individual weakness always comes into play and often leads to tragedy (even in Lord of the Rings many are asked to pay the price for the end goal including Gollum).

The Legend of Mor’du has all of these elements and it works as the legend it is trying to be.  It is a cautionary tale about the dangers of pride and that loyalty to family is always key to our fate.

Brave attempts such a tale far less successfully and you will find out why in my next Pixar review… (quite the lead in right!).

Overall Grade- B

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Disneynature Ranking

Hi guys!  So I have finished reviewing the Disneynature films!  It has been such an amazing experience to see God’s creation in all their variety and order.  I’ve learned a lot, been entertained and inspired.  But I know you are dying to know now that I have seen all 8 how do they rank?  First of all, they all have incredible cinematography and what these people do to get these images is unbelievable.  They risk their lives to keep all of us and especially children aware of these animals.  That is worthy of the strongest praise.  All of them are worthy of integration into the classroom and could be valuable parts of any home library.

But here is my ranking of the films.

wings of life28. Wings of Life–  bugs just aren’t that cute and I didn’t learn that much about the bees or bee crisis.  The only one I would say was kind of boring although Meryl Streep is good as the narrator.

earth

7. Earth– more like a nature documentary for television.  No real narrative but full of amazing images so I enjoyed watching it.  Some of the global warming stuff feels a little dated and heavy-handed although a very important message for kids.

MCDOCEA EC034

6. Oceans– again no narrative and more like a documentary you’d see on PBS or Animal Planet but I love the ocean so it was very interesting.  I just like the one’s with a little bit more story added in.  Like Earth it feels a little dated and preachy at times.

african cats5. African Cats– this one has amazing images but the narration is a little corny and it can get kind of brutal at times with lions hunting and eating zebras and antelope.  It could be upsetting for preschool age children.  It’s also a little bit too long.

monkey kingdom4. Monkey Kingdom– a very sweet story of Maya and her little monkey baby.  I liked Tina Fey and it will provide a good learning opportunity when kids see the different social classes within the monkey tribe.  Maya is on the bottom of the class structure so she is kept from doing many things and life is harder.  It is the movie which seemed the most staged to me especially the birthday party but I still enjoyed it.

bears

3. Bears– this is the most child-friendly of the films with a bear and her cubs trying to get food, catch fish (basically the bear necessities!).  There is a wolf that gives a few tense moments but nothing compared to African Cats.  It’s not as slow moving as the more traditional films (Earth, Oceans, Wings of Life etc).  It has a narrative kids will like and the bears are really cute.

Chimpanzee2. Chimpanzee– this is a cool movie because you can tell the outcome surprised the filmmakers which is the grandest part of nature.  They are ready to close up shop when the mother chimpanzee dies and out of the blue another male chimpanzee decides to care for the little chimp.  Even Jane Goodall is amazed at what happens.  She says it is highly unusual for male chimps.  It could be staged but it doesn’t feel so.  It is such a huge part of the movie and there are so many interviews and stories that I believe it happened.  What they had to go through to make this movie is unbelievable and to hear Goodall talk about the experience gave an authenticity that none of the other Disneynature films have.  I sometimes wish they would use a little bit more science but I understand they are trying to tell stories and inspire kids.

crimsonwing1.  Crimson Wing- I found out after watching this movie it wasn’t released in theaters!!!  Shocking because it was my favorite by a fairly wide margin.  I was totally invested in the story of the flamingos in Tanzania.  It was such a different environment I have never heard of before with the pink lake with algae, salt flats and beautiful flamingos.  The little birds were so cute and as some of them struggled with the salt shackles I got upset.  It is set up like a mystery.  The mystery of the lake, flamingos and everything else.  I liked that and it really got to me! I wanted the cameramen to help the poor little birds, but I know why they couldn’t.  It was all so new and different and even though they didn’t give names to the birds there was a narrative.  It was good vs evil with the evil Macaques  preying on the weak and lonely.  It was so different, beautiful, inspiring and absorbing.  The score on Crimson Wing was also the best out of all the Disneynature films.

Here’s a video I did of the ranking

So that is the Disneynature films!  Have you seen any of them? What do you think?  Which are your favorites?  Please put in the comments section.

Disneynature 8: Bears

bearsNow we get to the last of my Disneynature reviews 😦  I hope you guys have enjoyed them!  I certainly have and feel inspired by the majesty of God’s many creations.  It really has been a wonderful experience so thanks for picking them for me to review! After this I will post a ranking of all 8 Disneynature films, so start thinking of what your favorite is!  What do you think I will guess?

bears8But before that let’s talk about Bears, which is one of the most kid-friendly of all the Disneynature films and overall most entertaining.  The same crew that has given us all the films goes to Alaska and follows brown bears, particularly a mother they name Sky and her two cubs Scout and Amber (not great names.  Kind of like Freddy in Chimpanzee…).  I know they are dangerous animals but they are also very cute especially the cubs!

bears4Most of the movie is about Sky trying to take care of her cubs especially Scout who tends to wander off or lag behind.  She is trying to eat enough salmon to build up her food supply to provide milk during hibernation.  Unfortunately her efforts at many swimming holes get thwarted by other bears, wolves and by the salmon themselves.  The wolf is painted as the enemy following them and preying on the little bear cubs.

Character: Tikaani
The other bears can even be cannibalistic over the baby bears!   It’s unbelievable how close to these animals the filmmakers get.  Especially when we know how hungry they are and yet there the crew is without any major projection.  Seriously look at this shot!  These photographers are nuts!
bears9The narration is done by John C Reilly and it is very similar to Tina Fey in Monkey Kingdom or Tim Allen in Chimpanzee- a lighter more child-friendly narration.  I like this style of narration but I do always feel like it lessens some of the gravitas a Morgan Freeman, Jeremy Irons or James Earl Jones would give to these amazing images and creatures.  But they are movies for kids and if the lighter narration helps them learn about nature than it is a good thing.  I did keep thinking of Wreck-it Ralph the whole time while looking at the bears which was a little distracting. Why does Ralph like these bears anyway? 😉

bears10African Cats was definitely the most brutal of the Disneynature films but this one should have nothing that will upset kids.  It’s maybe a little tough for the salmon but that’s about it as far as nature on nature violence.  Most of the movie is just bears being super cute and Sky taking care of her cubs.  I think kids will really love it and perhaps relate to it a little bit more than a movie like Chimpanzee in such a remote setting.  Alaska feels more similar to at least where I live than the jungle.

It doesn’t pack the emotional punch of either Chimpanzee or Crimson Wing so it is slightly lower than those two but I did really enjoy it.

Have any of you seen it?  Have your kids?  What did they think?

Overall Grade- A-