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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]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.