Saturday, May 23, 2015

Childhood, Revisited: Re-watching Disney

7:35 PM

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Nabokov once said that the best reader is a re-reader; I believe the same concept applies to movies. We all re-watch our favorites, and each re-watch adds a new dimension to our appreciation of them. We spot little details that we missed the first time around, details that enrich the comedy or pathos of whatever we’re watching. Each re-watch, while tied to all the previous re-watches, is a different experience, informed by different contexts and beliefs. Who you were when you were seven isn’t necessarily the same person you are now; thus, a film you loved when you were seven won’t necessarily move the emotional needle if you re-watch it now. The ones that still do are the ones that become our favorites.

The first movie I remember having watched as a child was Toy Story 2. It was on Disney Channel during one of the many slow summer days that make up childhood, and – because I was never much for the outdoors – I decided to sit tight and enjoy it. By some quirk of syndication, I actually watched TS2 before the first Toy Story, which is why the former will always be the movie I remember when someone mentions the series.

I was young then, and not a particularly detail-oriented viewer. I loved the action scenes and found every other scene boring. Children are prone to that, after all. When the film kicked off with the frantic attempt to rescue Woody from the yard sale, my seven-year-old heart pounded. When Prospector pulls his heel turn and stops Woody from leaving, I gasped. And when the toys finally made it home after jumping out of an airplane, I cheered. They were all very basic, very positive emotions, which is why I normally think of Toy Story 2 as a very basic, very positive movie, with nowhere near the amount of gravitas and “ahrt”-ness the other two films had.

Re-watching it these days as a nineteen-year-old, I can finally appreciate the film’s understated nuance. Part of it comes with being older. Emotions get more complex, and contexts get richer. We’ve lived through a few more years since those young summers spent looping through Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, and Nickelodeon. Those are the years we bring to each new viewing, and those are the years that inform our appreciation of them.

Take everyone’s favorite – or least favorite, depending on how one feels about ugly-crying into a Kleenex – scene in the movie: Jessie’s “When She Loved Me” musical flashback. When you’re younger, the scene doesn’t hit you as much. I mean, you understand that Jessie’s hurting, but it’s not a hurt most seven-year-olds can process. For me, it was difficult to fully empathize with Jessie, because I hadn’t yet understood what it meant to be left behind by someone you cared for – someone you thought would always care for you. I didn’t get loss at the time, but now, I understand it more. Re-watching the scene, I teared up a bit. Seven-year-old me would have never done that; seven-year-old me would have forwarded to the scene where Buzz and his friends fight Zurg in the elevator, because it was much more exciting.

It begs an interesting question: can I really say I’ve seen the same movie, if I reacted to it in vastly different ways? Technically, it is, but each re-watch isn’t simply a replication of the previous one. The experience of watching a movie isn’t entirely dependent on the movie being watched; the consumer is just as important as the art. One has to consider that circumstances change, because circumstances change all the time. Circumstances are the other half of the movie-watching experience – and of all experiences, really – which is why we can never really recapture those that came before. We can only breathe new life into old things through remembering them and returning to them, but they will never be the same.

And that is no bad thing.

Article by Deany Cheng
Art by Elle
Elle is a 17-year old aspiring doctor who somehow found herself at art school. She loves rap music and bunnies. She still hasn't grown out of her otaku stage (which started all the way back in elementary school, thank you very much).

Deany is a Management Engineering student and an aspiring writer. He isn't a real person yet, but he's doing his best. He enjoys good movies, cheesy pop music, and math. You can find him on Twitter (@DeanyNotDeeny) or at a theater near you.


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