Thursday, December 29, 2016

The 6 Best Endings in Disney

            I have not been posting nearly enough this year and I want to steer back from that.  To that end I have found a 30-day blog challenge and fluffed it out to 31 entries (since December has 31 days).  I have done a 30-day challenge before for movies, though that one was poorly executed (I started it in the middle of a month, at one point I posted 2 entries on one day, it is a mess).  I did another one just this year in August on Video Games, that one was better, go read it after this one, all of it.  Or don’t, no pressure.

            Today is day 29 and the topic is “Favorite Happy Ending”.
            I thought about making this the last entry for the month, but decided to instead go with the really long Top List spread over two days and mostly referencing earlier entries in the month.  I think it will all work out.
Spoilers for this entry.  Obviously.  It is about endings.  I mean, I guess a bunch of Disney stuff is drawn from Fairy Tales and you can generally accept that happily ever after will follow a triumphant defeat of the bad guys by the good guys, spoiling that is not gonna ruin anything.  Disney is not hiring Lars Van Trier to make his version of… anything.  So, let’s make this a top 6, because I don’t want to just point at one movie and then talk about its epilogue.  That is a little too easy.
Generally speaking, there are only two types of endings in Disney films.  The first type is the one everybody knows and expects, “And they lived Happily Ever After.”  Knowing that the rewards earned in this adventure defined the character’s lives till the end is a satisfying way to give the audience closure.
The second ending, which I feel is more common these days—for reasons I pointed out in the “Best Sequel” entry—is, “And The Adventure Continues…”  which in contrast to “Happily”, this ending indicates that this is only the first of many tales yet untold.  This sort of denouement fires the audience’s imagination, not just to hope for future movies, but to imagine their own adventures for the characters and world.  I generally prefer this type, as I think people need to be encouraged to think about doing more and going on their own adventures, instead of just waiting for their “ending” to come to them.

These are the two most common and the best ways to end a movie.  So before we talk about those, let’s talk about a shitty ending.

There is a third type that I think most people would agree with me is the worst.  The ending that just stops.  There are elements of the story left unanswered but no promise of future adventures to resolve them, Disney doesn’t run into this issue too often and off the top of my head I can only point to one strong example, “The Sword in the Stone”.

Generally speaking, if your movie's ending is someone having a fantastic destiny thrust upon them thru no will of their own,
Then you are writing the story backwards.
Think of how many stories start with some goober being told they are "The Special"?
Here is an example, "You're a wizard, Harry."
You cannot tell me that the most interesting time in King Arthur’s life was BEFORE he became king.  Why are we not looking at the more interesting part of his life?  It is not like the movie is too long, it is 79 minutes, you could easily integrate more of the legend in there.
Show some more adventures.  Make him a little older, have him face off against the Black Knight, throw in Guinevere as a love interest, hint at how important the holy Grail will one day be to Camelot.  The existing final resolution of the movie isn’t even good as an ending.  It is resolved entirely by accident.  If not for the knight he is squiring for needing a sword Arthur would have never even seen the sword.  He has no concept of the importance of the action and no real agency in assuming his destiny.  “BLEH!”  I say.  “BLEH!”

Note: There is a bunch of Pixar on this list.  There is a reason that company has had such an impact on family entertainment these last 20 years.

Top 3 for “Happily Ever After”

Coming to the realization that your life was worth living and that the memories made are something to be treasured even if it was not the life you dreamed of is a good lesson.  There is also the lesson that you can make a go of adventuring at any point in your life and it still be a harrowing and worthwhile experience that will be enriching.  And there is also a lesson about how it is never too late to try and pass on what you have learned about life to the next generation and use what you know to serve as a mentor and fatherly figure to the young and that such things are valuable to both the young person and the mentor.
This movie is deep.

I love me some robots, but I am only lukewarm on this movie overall.  It is cute but it sure as hell is not subtle, I actually think that “Wall-E” has contributed to a modern Luddite type thinking, as stupid people resisting the advent of more automated systems in day to day life, “We can’t have self-driving cars, it will put too many drivers out of work.”  Completely ignoring that the ultimate end of the movie was not an abandonment of technology and automated systems, but using those systems as a means to free up time to better spend it appreciating life and the natural world.
The end of the movie is a call to action on the environment and to cast off the most comically over the top lampooning of consumerism ever put to film.  These are not bad morals.
I would also like to point out a good bit of narrative structure.  The conflict of the movie, that we not only care about getting back to Earth, but we also care about saving Wall-E from his mortal injuries, keeps the film exciting.  Contrast this with the “Lorax” CGI movie in which they are racing to plant a tree at the end of the movie, but no one’s life is at stake.  Weak ending.
Writing tip, to complicate and deepen the narrative in the third act, don’t just re-emphasize the initial goal, instead throw in an additional twist which will heighten the tension on an emotional level.  “Wall-E” is a good example of this in action, another good example?  “The Empire Strikes Back”, not enough to just defeat Vader, but since Vader is your dad, you now have to defeat your own potential to fall to the dark side.  That is meaningful.

I keep banging on about this movie, and its ending is why I keep doing so.  Almost the entire rest of the movie could be cut out except for the scene of Andy giving his toys away and it would still be the best happily (sadly) ever after out there.

Top 3 for “And the Adventures Continue!”

I really liked the sequel cartoon growing up.  Aladdin and crew were a medieval fantasy land Avengers in the 90’s that I watched each day after school, they had a colorful cast of villains and supporting characters with a range of motivations and methodology.  That being said, does the MOVIE set up the SERIES well by leaving the audience with the feeling that things will go on?  I think so.
Genie is set free and wants to see the world but remains a grateful friend of Aladdin, which promises a return.  The Sultan clearly has plans for Aladdin, and Al being aware of the poverty in the city will bring a fresh perspective to the palace about the state of the city and the value of its people.  Lastly, the world is still riff with potential for adventure, the original “Aladdin” story comes from a set of “1,001 Arabian Nights” which is name checked multiple times in the movie, that is a hint at a world that is rich with stories to tell.  (You might say, "A Whole New World").  This ending feels like the start of something more, and more came down the pipe.

The fact that this thing was not turned into a massive franchise is baffling to me.  IT ENDS WITH THE START OF ANOTHER ADVENTURE!  It’s a superhero story which talks about there being lots of bad guys and lots of history.  This should be more movies!

Inside Out
            The movie ends with a montage showing the complex and strange emotions of dozens of people.  “Inside Out” was one big event in the life of someone who has a whole life full of big events waiting for her to go thru them.  Not to mention all the people of the world going thru life changing events and the swirl of conflicting emotions that come with each.  We are all tiny little universes and each has stories to tell.

The Beg for Attention
            Share your own thoughts on this in the comments.  I know I am not the only person out there who is nostalgic for Disney products, and I am sure many people disagree with my selection for today’s entry.  
I picked Disney stuff just because I knew there was so much of it to talk about and it lends itself to discussion in the comments.
What is your favorite ending for a Disney movie?
Or family movie in general?
What is your favorite 3rd act twist?
Do you think I am giving “Up too much credit?
Share your thoughts below.


If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.


  1. I don't have answers for the other questions, but I agree with you on Up. Really solid movie.

    1. Thank you, I just went thru and read every comment that you wrote. I do not usually get so much feedback and looking at your blogs I can tell we cover very different material, so that is all the more surprising.

    2. Yeah, just slightly different! :) I found your blog through the Cracked article on Disney stuff yesterday.