1 Jan 2019


Film genres have formulas and rules, but how well do films follow those formulas?

What are the rules for Disney animated films?

Rule 1

1a. Old Tale - A fairy tale or old story.

1b. Basic Plot - Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

1c. Musical - It will be a musical.

1d. Weak Love Story - An underdeveloped romance (Love at first sight, love fixes everything/True love's kiss).

Rule 2
Sex & Nudity

2a. Nudity - There won't be any, except possibly easter eggs.

2b. Sex - There may be some risque jokes for the adults, but that's it.

Rule 3
Character - The Disney Princess

3a. Protagonist - Will usually have the primary role in a film.
i. Main Character - This is me opening narration.
ii. "Trapped" - A princess that feels trapped/unfulfilled. Doesn't feel like they belong.

3b. Family:
i. Royal - Member of the royal, marry a royal at the end or related to a chief or such.
ii. Dead parents - especially mother.
iii. Outsider - If one or more parents are alive she will quickly become banished/missing, some how separated from them.

3c. Look:
i. Hair - Long, always perfect hair.
ii. Tiny waist - Smaller than neck.
iii. Giant eyes - bigger than stomach.
iv. Long necks.
v. Small nose.
vi. Light Colour Clothes - Good guys wear light colours.

3d. Personality:
i. Awkward - especially as the protagonist.
ii. Trusting - possibly due to a sheltered life.
iii. Dreamer - Looking to stars for comfort.

3e. Other:
i. Sidekicks - Will have multiple animals or inanimate objects as sidekicks
ii. Singer/dancer.
iii. Saved by hero - Waiting for rescue.

Rule 4
Character - The Hero

4a.  Will either be:
i. Wise cracking male hero - if he is the protagonist.  He will be an outsider.
ii. One dimensional prince - if he's the heroine's love interest.

4b. Others:
i. Sidekicks - The wise cracking make hero with have a comedic sidekick, maybe two.
ii. Rescuer - Will save the heroine

Rule 5
Character - The Villain.

5a. Flamboyant villain - Greedy

5b. Evil look:
i. Dark colours.ii. Beard - Goatee or Van Dyke.
iii. Species - If animal based may be a species villain.
iv. Voice - Also has an evil voice/laugh.

5c. Will have incompetent villain sidekicks, some of which may turn.

5d. Will have a screen safe death:
i. Fall - Usually a long fall, with the final impact never shown implying death, but never showing blood. Others my be dragged off by demons or other such deaths.
ii. Injured - May have a pre-death injury
iii. Refusal - Will refuse the hero's offer of rescue (usually "take my hand.")

Rule 6
Other Characters

6a. Obnoxious side characters - often the sidekicks of the three major characters

6b. Non-humans - Animals or objects that act like people. And some that don't.

6c. Shape-changer - Character obsessed with changing appearance

6d. Townsfolk - who will be against the hero at the beginning, but come to support them at the end.

Rule 7

7a. The outsider, either the princess (rule 1) or a heroic male character. They will have a "this is me" opening narration to tell us why they're an outsider.

7b. Separation - As noted the heroine will become separated from her family.

7c. Tear jerking scene.

7d. Fake out deaths - No one actually dies near the end.

7e. Final Battle.

Rules 8

Will usually be a musical and thus include some standard numbers from musical theatre:

8a "The I Want Song" - A musical standard establishing the character's desires and setting up the character's arc.

8b. Crowd song - aka "The Merry Townsfolk Number"/"Multiplayer Ensemble Song." The towns people also establishing the status quo. Possibly returning at the end for their new situation.

8c. The Dream Ballet - A dream-like flight of fantasy by the main female character who will dance around while magical things happen.

8d. Counterpoint Duet - The hero and the heroine or a hero and the villain will sing separately highlighting their differences
i. With the hero and heroine it may just highlight that they are on the same page but unable to express it.
ii. With a hero and the villain it may be a sarcastic echo (where the villain is reacting to the hero's song).

8e. Dark Reprise - A happy/sappy song from earlier in the film will have a darker version shaped by events of the film.

8f. Pre-Climatic Song - A song building to the final showdown. May be a Multiplayer Ensemble Song.

8g. Final Love Duet - A duet between the hero and heroine, usually ending with a kiss.

8h. Triumphant Reprise - A reprise of an earlier song at the end of the film, with the "I want" achieved or the couple coming together.

Rule 9
The End

9a. Death of villain - as noted above.

9b. Heavy Handed Moral:
i. You just needed to be themselves all along.
ii. Love conquers all.
iii. You have unexpected strengths.
iv. Imagination is powerful and important.
v. Friendship is powerful and important.
vi. Acceptance.
vii. Knowledge is power.
viii. Good will win in the end.

9c. Happy Ending - for everyone but the dead villain.

9d. Marriage - The hero and the heroine will marry.

Rules 10

10a. Animated direct to video sequel - Rather than a feature film sequel, they will usually have a barely remembered inferior sequel released on video or DVD. (This may not apply to CGI films).

10b. Animated spin-off series - May have a TV series based on side-kick characters.

10b. Live Action remake - A more recent feature.

10c. Disney on ice - A live show.

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
  • Pinocchio (1940)
  • Fantasia (1940)
  • Dumbo (1941)
  • Bambi (1942)
  • Cinderella (1950)
  • Alice in Wonderland (1951)
  • Peter Pan (1953)
  • Lady and the Tramp (1955)
  • The Jungle Book (1967)
  • The Aristocats (1970)
  • Robin Hood (1971)
  • The Rescuers (1977)
  • The Little Mermaid (1989)
  • The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
  • Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  • Aladdin (1992)
  • The Lion King (1994)
  • Toy Story (1995)
  • Frozen (2013)

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