There are certain things that I will never forget the first time I experienced them – and an inordinate number of them are Disney movies… so when all of these live action remakes and sequels started popping up, I had mixed emotions. After all, as many of us know, the best way to screw up a really great movie is to make a really cruddy sequel or remake.
So I was HIGHLY skeptical of the new Beauty and the Beast (one of my top five all-time favorite Disney movies). In fact, I waited a really long time before even seeing it – despite the great reviews it was getting and all my friends telling me it was amazing. What can I say, I can be really stubborn sometimes!
But, at the encouragement/nagging of my then 12-year-old daughter, I finally gave in and rented the movie. And I was SO GLAD I did! Not only because it was an incredibly well done, beautiful and fun movie to watch, but because of the experience of watching it with my daughter.
As any parent of a teen or preteen knows, the older they get, the harder it is to find things they are willing to do with you! But that is part of the magic of Disney – it seems to be able to cross the infamous parent-teen divide in a way few other of our cultural icons can. So while I still view each new Disney remake or sequel with an eye of skepticism (what can I say, old habits die hard), I have begun to appreciate them for what they can offer families – a chance to come together, share a common experience, get a window into their world and share a piece of ours.
There is an onslaught of these movies coming in this and next year (Mary Poppins Returns, Dumbo, Aladdin, Lion King, Toy Story 4… ) and we have a great great opportunity as parents to take advantage of them.
For me, the most exciting live-action remake coming out is The Lion King. I have loved this movie since it was first released. In fact, when I went away to college, ALL of my dorm room linens were Lion King, and no, I am not ashamed of that fact! I have SIGNIFICANT portions of that movie memorized and have used many of the scenes and themes in my ministry over the years.
My kids have also seen the movie, but we have never really watched it together in an intentional way. I have not really shared my memories of the film from when I was young, why I loved it so much then and now or asked them what their favorite parts of the story are. So as I anticipate the release of the live action movie, I am thinking about how I can make the experience of that film, not just two hours spent in a dark room, but rather as a way to share part of myself with them and make a connection between my childhood and theirs.
Before we see the new movie in theaters, we are going to have an unplugged family movie night to watch the original one together. This means that we all leave our electronic devices in another room, pile on the couch together with a big bowl of buttery popcorn and cups of hot chocolate, and ignore the rest of the world for a couple of hours to get lost in another reality. It’s the best. I highly recommend it in general.
For The Lion King, though, we plan on spending some time after the movie ends talking about what we love about it, our favorite characters, songs or scenes, and hearing from our kids what theirs are. Then, when we do head to the theater to see the new movie, we are all able to watch it through each other’s eyes – appreciating moments and characters that maybe we would have overlooked or underappreciated otherwise. And after, we have the chance to sit down together again and compare the two films – to have lively family debates about which was better and why, or laugh at things we loved or hated. We get to come together around this shared experience and really share it. And with the crazy pace of family life today, those opportunities seem to be becoming more and more rare so we must try and grab them when we can!
This is just one example and the way my family likes to do it, but there are many other ways your family might want to dive into Disney remakes together! Maybe make it a friend and family event – get a few families together for a themed dinner and movie viewing party, then all go together to the theater to see the new film when it comes out. Or host a viewing party for your kids and their friends.
Or if you have the patience to wait for them to come out on DVD or On-Demand, you can have a Disney Movie double feature where you watch the old and the new back to back.
Whatever you do, the important thing is for this to be a time when your family can come together and share something that connects us all, no matter the age. When we are able to do that, we are able to be better mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers, because connection forges bonds of love that will continue to grow long after the credits run.