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The Brave People of Disney

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Going to watch a Disney film in your early twenties can be plagued with embarrassments, especially after the advent of Pixar. The movies have got excellent reviews, and you wish to go and see them, but then you find yourself queuing with hoards of children and, for the first time in your life, you can actually feel your presence raising the average age, rather than dragging it down.

Once, a friend of mine and I had to ask a girl we knew to come with us to a screening of Up! because we feared that the sight of two men in coats (it was November) walking into a Pixar screening might cause the attendant parents undue concern.

However, there is nothing like going to see a film at the cinema, and a Disney film especially. I was struck by this when I went to go and see Brave. As the Disney ident rolled (though it is very different and far grander to the one from my childhood), I could feel a spine-tingle herald that old and overwhelming sense of joy, wonder and excitement. For so many moviegoers down the generations, the sights and sound that spell out Disney are the echoes of their own cinematic genesis.

The first film I can remember going to see was The Lion King. It was a dark and wet evening in the late autumn of 1994, but none of this mattered, and I can remember waiting with anticipation as, in the screening, I heard the distant roar of lions in the darkness, before the most amazing blast of light and song began, and I found my first cinematic love. I get that spine-tingling feeling just talking about it.

That feeling has come back to me since, in screenings of Disney films down the years. With Wall•E, I can remember watching as the eponymous robot was carried into space, and that feeling from my childhood came rushing back. That is magic, and it is the essence and the heritage of Disney.

It struck me with Brave that those who make Disney films now are exactly that: brave, indeed. Every film that is made by that studio will be the first film for thousands. Every film that is made by that studio, if it is to carry on the heritage and capture the imagination of the new generation, must do the seemingly impossible and distil magic. If they fail to do so, then they deny children that glorious feeling that they themselves enjoyed.

There are no greater magicians in the modern age than the storytellers of Pixar, but they should not carry it alone. No-one at Pixar would claim that digital animation is the only way. They all fell in love with hand-drawn and stop motion work as children, and those mediums deserve their place still. They too can delight the child.

We have been living through a golden age of films for the young, but the continuation of this is by no means guaranteed. It is vitally important that this is maintained, because all children should have that moment of magic at the cinema.