The Strongest Tales of Disney Love
With Valentines Day just around the corner we’re getting an abundance of advertising blanketed in the romcom inspired, superficial idea of love. It’s something we’re constantly being sold on a daily basis and retailers only up that marketing to 100 during this time of the year. So I thought to myself; what’s one of the largest, most popular types of movies out there with the truest representations of love? After about 4 and a half seconds the Mouse popped into my head and I immediately knew where to take this article. Written below are the most genuine, beautiful and heartfelt forms of love shown in the entire Walt Disney collection. I’m not talking about the Prince and the Princess falling for each others stereotypical beauty or the archetypes falling for each other because it makes sense for the story – I’m talking about actual, painful, genuine love. There’s few instances of this in Disney movies since, let’s face it, a lot of it is the fluffy kind that bookends the movie nicely and is enough for a happy ending. After running through my collection and looking through the varied relationships intently I settled on two that I think are head and shoulders above the rest (though of course I’m not discrediting any others).
Beauty and the Beast
When you think of love in Disney movies you’re immediately drawn to the beautiful Princess finding the perfect Prince and living happily ever after. It’s light and shiny and sewn up into this idea of love we’re so often spoon-fed by others as it’s projected onto us on a daily basis. However the truth is that love is hard and painful and full of trials and tribulations. It takes a lot of work and a lot of effort and it’s an organic property in itself. Ever changing, ever evolving and going through transformations just as the two of you grow along with one another. When I think about beautiful relationships showcased by Disney I always come back to Beauty and the Beast because of those core ideals. There’s a reason this is one of their masterpieces and a story that became the first ever animated film to nab a Best Picture nominee. It’s a wonderful showcase of not only falling in love with someone else but learning to love and trust yourself first.
Take Belle for example – she’s independent, free-spirited and a brilliant mind who cares more for her books and her own intuitions and feelings over societal tropes and stereotypes. She doesn’t “fit in” with the rest of the town in the sense that she’s her own person – and she openly accepts it. She isn’t searching for love – love just happens. It comes from the most unexpected of places and grows over the course of the movie. When she first meets the Beast he’s a man who’s so bitter and full of self-loathing that he’s covered up his own heart and refuses to love again. She not only teaches him to accept who he is and love himself but she teaches him to let others get to know him. This isn’t a case of class issues where you have a character immediately wanting to change and to experience something new either. This is a case where you have two honest people growing alongside one another and learning true acceptance.
I think one of the most touching moments in the movie is when the Beast and Belle are sitting down to eat breakfast together in the grand dining room. The Beast immediately grabs his bowl and pours it down his throat like an animal until he notices Belle’s cockeyed look and then attempts to use a spoon… unsuccessfully. Right here Belle could’ve showed him how to use the spoon by forcing another lifestyle on him but instead she simply takes her bowl, brings it up to her mouth and drinks from it just like him. It’s a beautiful sequence of acceptance that highlights the rest of the movie. She doesn’t want him to change or force him to change – she gives him the option and allows him to make the choice. There’s a deep, underlying notion of accepting someone else for who they are rather than changing them to who you want them to be that lies through that entire movie. The Beast’s gradual transformation comes from a place of loving himself and being able to finally throw away that pity and bitterness that’s plagued him since he was cursed all those years ago.
Right after that in the same scene the Beast is outside trying to feed birds with Belle and they keep running away from his hands as he aggressively shoves the food towards them. He tries and tries with no luck at all and rather than lose his mind in anger and pessimistically give up he learns to be gentle and have patience from Belle. This transpires throughout the rest of the film and it’s what a lot of their love story is really built on. She’s not sexually attracted to a monstrous beast with hooves and claws and jaws but she’s attracted to the man that he is. That’s an important lesson and one of the more realistic and truest forms of love you’ve seen from a company like Disney. It’s a very earned and very developed love that makes you feel as if these two not only grew by themselves but grew with each other and formed a bond that wasn’t just skin deep. It’s beautiful and worth re-watching again and again.
Of course there are all different types of love and one of the best things Frozen managed to do in my opinion was take those tropes and break them in half. I’ve seen a lot of people arguing that the movie is overrated after the overwhelmingly popular response it had – and that’s fine, we’re all entitled to our own opinions on a film and expectations can crush certain people. However this core relationship between Anna and Elsa truly resonated with me. Maybe it’s because I have two brothers I’ve loved my entire life but there’s a very different form of love when it comes to family. It’s a powerful bond that ultimately – in some instances – transcends what you believe love can be and it’s something that wasn’t often showcased by the studio. And that’s the brilliant twist. That’s the best part of Frozen. When you’re finally there at the very end of Anna’s quest for true love you (and her) come to realize that the true love she’s speaking of is the love she has for her sister. It’s incredibly touching and poignant and makes sense from a storyboard level. It’s just another instance of Frozen being clever and throwing the “usual” idea back in your face by tossing it aside and becoming something else entirely.
Anna and Elsa loved each other since they were young as most siblings do but grew apart the older they got – especially through their teenage years. It’s a common occurrence and seen all too often in the adolescent stages of a rebellious nature. It doesn’t matter here that they were torn apart by a dangerous form of magic which Elsa is trying to contain because that’s just the facade they’re using to tell their story. Everyone who has a sibling has experienced that disconnect in some form or another before, whether it be through teenage years, an outside source or from growing apart a little while. It happens and what matters is the ultimate acceptance in the end.
That’s the beautiful part of their relationship really. Elsa did everything in her mind to keep Anna safe and to let her enjoy her life while Anna did everything in her mind to get Elsa back and show her that it didn’t matter. Both were fighting for each other throughout the entire movie even though it was often covered up and disguised as something else. They were so busy trying to do what they thought was best for one another that they ultimately lost focus of what their relationship was built on. Their love is a true and storied form of the emotion that transcends the tales often seen where two characters meet and are married 2 hours later. It took them years to curve it and weave it into something that they grew to not only divulge in but to showcase to the rest of the world. It’s just a beautiful thing to see and it’s a universal symbol that anyone can relate to – and it helped the movie become a global phenomenon.
After reading this I really hope these stories of love not only connected with you but inspired you to either give both a watch this weekend of seek out another Disney representation on your own. After all, what’s Valentines Day good for if you can’t sit around watching movies and stuffing your face with chocolates?