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“Sincere fairy tales” sell toys.

“Sincere fairy tales” sell toys. (photo)

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One of the things Pixar boosters love is the studio’s supposed indifference to overt commercial prospects — you know, their willingness to make a movie with a robot who doesn’t talk for the first 45 minutes (no matter that “WALL*E”‘s sound and visuals are more than enough stimulus for even your most easily bored viewer) or build a movie around a crotchety old guy (no matter that the old guy is just as cute and cuddly as, say, a fish voiced by Albert Brooks?).

So there was reason for Pixar fans to get psyched that Disney’s traditional animation division was being taken over by John Lasseter. As far back as May, Lasseter was all pumped about what he called the return of the “sincere fairy tale” — which Disney apparently hadn’t made one of since “Beauty And The Beast” — and he still is, talking to the Los Angeles Times about designing Mattel toys for “The Princess and the Frog,” Disney’s hyperactive but harmless (if far from amazing) return to the traditional animation fray. “We’re a filmmaker-led studio, and not an executive-led studio,” he said in May.

But quickly he was making intuitive leaps that are savvy, cynical or both: “What’s at the centre of every Magic Kingdom the Disney company has?” he asked Screen Daily. “The castle. Look how gigantic the princess brand is within consumer products. You’ve got to recognise that, and see how important it is to families.”

Which makes one wonder — what’s an insincere fairy tale and what’s wrong with “Aladdin”? Does “important to families” mean “important” in some kind of meaningful quasi-spiritual sense or just “renumerative” and “good to get for your kids for Christmas”? By “fairy tale,” does Lasseter mean fantastical tales centering solely around princesses rather than men (because the toy market is just that much more lucrative), and isn’t that kind of not true? When the LA Times praises Lasseter for his meticulous attention to toy-making (flying to Hong Kong to watch Buzz Lightyear being painted, insisting “WALL*E” have real treads rather than wheels), should we be impressed or wonder where the man’s priorities are?

12152009_princessfrog9.jpg“The Princess and the Frog” just isn’t that great. It’s not as saccharine and overbearing as the Disney pits of the ’90s, but it never once does anything surprising or odd — something the best Pixar films, despite their general observance of the generic three-act arc, are totally capable of doing. But I’m have to applaud Lasseter’s uneuphemized calculations here. The resurrection of the Disney “brand” is irrevocably tied in with princesses and toys and lessons about being yourself, all of which “Princess” has (down to its title, I mean c’mon).

What Lasseter seems to be saying (unconsciously?) is that the Disney brand can’t be reinvented all at once, much less salvaged, and his primary responsibility there is to the merchandise, and at Pixar it’s the work. That’s what he really means when he says one difference between Pixar and Disney is that “at Disney we believe in the sincere fairy tale.” For “sincere fairy tale,” read “toys.”

[Photo: “The Princess and the Frog,” Disney, 2009; ]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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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

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