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“The Little Mermaid” ain’t so great.

“The Little Mermaid” ain’t so great. (photo)

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“The Princess and the Frog” opens nationwide December 11, but hits New York’s Ziegfeld Theatre on Wednesday. It’s a slow, buzz-building rollout for Disney’s much-publicized attempt to resurrect the traditional animation that transformed the company from mere corporation to cultural touchstone.

But is it really a return to tradition? Sure, if by “tradition” you mean Disney movies from “Beauty and the Beast” onwards. The truth is, Walt Disney might not recognize the house he built if he were still alive.

The classic animated features that are mandatory viewing for children (and valuable home-video cash cows), like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” “Dumbo,” and “Cinderella,” had little-to-nothing to do with the standard “be yourself” platitudes that have made so many ’90s Disney flicks turgid and annoying. In the 30-odd-year gap between Walt’s death and “The Little Mermaid”‘s kick-starting of the so-called Disney Renaissance, the studio tried out a lot of things, most of which didn’t work.

There were the legendarily slapdash cheapie kiddie matinee live-action movies of the ’70s (like “The Cat from Outer Space”) and the unsettled ’80s, when the brand was up for grabs and there were expensive animated bombs like “The Black Cauldron” and increasingly adult-themed live-action movies like “Never Cry Wolf.” It was the founding of Touchstone Pictures — an alternate outlet for grown up Disney fare — that really saved the company with hits like “Good Morning Vietnam” and “Down and Out in Beverly Hills.” That was the true Disney renaissance.

11232009_littlemermaid.jpgWhat the new wave of animation did was turn cel-based movies — the kind that once made Salvador Dali call Disney one of the “great American surrealists” — into a babysitting tool for the overparented kids of the ’90s. (I’m speaking from experience here.) “The Little Mermaid” is nowhere as good as its rep — it’s alternately cutesy and tedious — but it set the template for a bunch of movies where, no matter the plot, we’d learn valuable lessons about being ourselves, valuing family, etc.

Only “Aladdin” and “Hercules” really made it out of that box (well, that and the oddity that was “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” and even that film turned into a lesson about accepting your friendly neighborhood hunchback at the end). “Tarzan” had a song called “Two Worlds, One Family.” And so on.

These days, everyone likes to complain about the latest CGI family movie larded with stupid pop culture references and fart jokes, but there’s a reason “Shrek” was a huge hit when it came out — people were sick and tired of visually stunning touchy-feely lectures. How “The Princess and the Frog” turns out remains to be seen, but it’s got nothing to do with the idea of the “original Disney.”

And don’t even get me started on “High School Musical.”

]Photo: “The Princess and the Frog,” Disney, 2009; “The Little Mermaid,” Disney, 1989]

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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