I can always count on Disney for mommy issues, but now apparently I can count on Dreamworks for Daddy issues. I went to see How To Train Your Dragon 2 this weekend and afterward was so mad at Dreamworks that I decided I need to hate on them for awhile. So here we go.
It’s a well-known fact that Disney has Mommy issues. Think of any princess movie ever (and most other Disney movies) and tell me about a mom. They’re either dead (Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Snow White, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast) or going to die on or off-screen (Bambi, Nemo, Frozen) or might die on-screen in a really scary way (Brave). And don’t tell me Sleeping Beauty. She has to leave her parents until she turns 16 and live in Foster Care with dubious Foster Mothers. Ditto with Tangled. Mothers are absent, step-mothers are evil. Thanks, Disney. My 8-year-old Katie and I are thrilled. She has no problem listing off all the princesses and their problems.
So Dreamworks, now too? WTF? I will tell you now that spoilers abound since there’s no way to write this little diatribe without it. Guess what. The dad DIES (onscreen!) in How To Train Your Dragon 2. Worst part? The adorable more-of-a-dog-and-pet than Dragon KILLS the dad. WTF? Are you serious? So the dragon, Toothless, is taken over by an evil alpha dragon and becomes Cujo and starts to attack Hiccup, the main character, as he cowers and begs his loyal friend not to attack him. Then, just as that weird blue fire poof comes out of the dragon’s mouth, Stoic, the dad, pushes Hiccup out of the way and is murdered by their once loving and loyal pal. Way to go. My eight and ten-year-old kids are watching this and stop eating popcorn just long enough to say “wha?” and “really? Right after the family reunion?” respectively.
Wah and Really is exactly right. Why The F*$% do we need to kill parents on screen? Ever? Why do we need to watch loved ones check for heartbeats and cry over their dead? Why do we need to see their lifeless bodies atop a Viking funeral pyre as they shoot flaming arrows and light the corpse on fire? WTF? This is a KIDS movie right?
So apparently in 2009, Dreamworks entered into a long-term, 30 picture distribution deal with drumroll…DISNEY. In crazy film jargon, that means that Disney’s mommy complex is now creating daddy issues for Dreamworks. Let’s investigate.
Now, if I had endless time, or were actually PAID to write, my investigation would go something like this: Using the Dreamworks public website filmography, , watch every movie, noting themes, main and minor characters, backstory, and conflicts. Read three major reviews for each film and note recurring similarities. Note box office successes and parent reviews. Gain access to Dreamworks higher management (not just a spokesperson) and obtain comments on article and research of the theory “Dreamworks Doesn’t Dig Dads”.
However, I write for myself, without pay, and have an actual life that requires me to pay attention to my children and not just the whims of my writing. They want to be fed three meals per day plus usually 2-3 snacks, request entertainment, need clean clothing, need to be encouraged to do things semi-academic, especially since we are in that inbetween purgatory of ‘school has ended but camp has not yet begun’. So none of that other research protocol is going to happen. Instead, here’s what is happening.
I looked at the Dreamworks Filmography, wrote down the parts that help my argument. Then asked my ten-almost-eleven-year-old to look at the list and tell me which movies he has seen (not surprisingly he has seen most of the box office hits, and has not seen the box office busts that almost bankrupted Dreamworks in the process). Alex, who is smart, tells me his opinion on what will help my blog. He came up with quotes like this:
Megamind – Is about a superhero fakes his own death. It leaves a city in total despair.
Monster vs. Aliens – The main character is separated from her fiancé (and parents and family) at the altar where she turns into a freak and the government sends her off to fight robots.
How To Train Your Dragon – The mom is not around in the first movie, we assume she’s been taken away by dragons, they finally find her in the second movie just in time for her to watch the dad die. Dude.
A lot of these Dreamworks movies are all about doomed love.
I think Alex could have his own blog. He’s wicked smart.
So those tidbits aside, my main examples of how Dreamworks has started to suck include Kung Fu Panda, The Croods, and of course as already discussed, the How To Train Your Dragon 2 movie. In quick detail and order of distribution date:
Kung Fu Panda (2008, sequel 2011) – So first off, the Panda, Po, is adopted. In the sequel we discover that he lost his parents as a child, winds up in a radish container, and finds his way to the duck, stork, goose, crane or whatever bird he is, who finds him and adopts him. The goose is also a little crazy and fails to notice that his panda son has an infatuation with kung fu. Instead, the father has basically only one line the entire movie – “You like noodles?” This is also a funny line and one we use every time we talk about pool noodles or Chinese noodles. Now, the bird father eventually figures out that his portly panda child needs to follow his own destiny but only after Po is launched into the air on a chair full of fireworks screaming “I love Kung Fu”. Talk about the writing in the sky. So the stork dad is a dummy, but eventually comes around. And at the end of the second movie, we find out that Po’s parents are alive in some far-off meditative meadow, and while Po never gets to meet them, it does leave open the opportunity for a third movie. There is hope. There is also death on screen – something about the Wooshie Finger hold and a squidoosh – which kills the bad guy, Tai-lung the tiger/leopard, but there’s no body parts (just the town is a big mess) so that’s good. And when the old turtle guy dies he just turns into peach blossoms or something. So as far as general disrespect or violence to fathers and father figures goes, I give it a B+.
The Croods (2013) – First let me say I loved this movie. It was hilarious and cracked me up just in previews let alone the full-length film. The opening scene with the whole family chasing after an egg? And the “release the baby” bit? Loved. The little sloth whose name is Belt? Adorable. We still say “Dunh Dunh DUNH!” around here in homage to a caveman sloth drama drumroll. The part where the new boyfriend helps the girls make shoes that look remarkably like Uggs? I can’t even. And while it does start down the ‘death to dads’ path, it at least follows the Hollywood ending where we think something terribly sad is going to happen but it turns out to have a happily ever after ending instead. And I’m a big fan of those kinds of endings. Is it sappy and typical? Yes. It’s also what I’m paying $10 per ticket (plus $40 in popcorn) to go see. If I want to see something sad I’ll stay home and watch a documentary. If I’m bringing my kids out to a movie in public where I am battling the potential for bird flu, sticky floors, other people’s whiny children and who knows what else, I want to have a HAPPY ENDING. Period. So while this movie starts to make you think the Dad is going to DIE, there is at least a point to it. He is resigned to sacrificing himself to save others, literally throwing his family across a ravine while he stays in the falling apart side of the earth (because apparently only certain zip codes were falling apart and the “good” side of town across the ravine was FINE and the place to move. Better schools too I bet). As scary and sad as this is, this movie plays by the rules, we think the dad is going to die, but then he manages a miracle, comes up with an idea with his caveman brain, rescues himself and a pet, and lives. He Lives. But I cried a lot in the in-between part, just in case you were wondering, and my then seven-year-old said repeatedly “Mommy who is going to save the daddy?”. So I give this movie a rating on violence and potential death to dads as a C-. Other than that the movie was great.
I’ve already discussed How To Train Your Dragon 2 above, but here is the summary of why this movie sucked. As soon as there is a reunion of a happy two-parent household, they rip them apart and kill one of them. So yes, after nearly 20 years, Hiccup gets his mom back, but his dad is killed off by none other than his most loyal friend, Toothless the Dragon in less than 20 minutes. Boo. Seriously. Boo Hiss. This is a KIDS movie. Will my kids learn about death and dying in other places outside this movie? Yes. They have already and they will continue to do so. In real life. We don’t want or need the movies, which are supposed to be our happy escape, to teach us any more sad lessons. Show me Hope. Show me Patience. Show me a sense of Humor that can combat any bad day. Show me Hard Work that Pays Off. Show me Dedication, show me Love, show me Perseverance. Don’t show me the dad dying on screen and the main character holding his lifeless body in his arms. I don’t want to need to explain away bad movie writing – but I will. And then I’ll boycott the next Parents in Peril movie, because I’m tired of it. Dear Dreamworks, Dear Disney – smarten up. I’m here to stay. And I have a lot to say on the matter.