Warning: Movie spoiler alert. I will try to keep it to a minimum.
Last Sunday I took Sam to see the much-awaited Disney Pixar film, Brave (Yes, we contributed to its $66.7-M debut). We’d built up anticipation around the event as it was her very first time to watch in an actual movie house. Together we watched the trailers, read the book (The one that we have is the simplified version, one that Sam can read by herself) and have seen the toys in the Disney store. I made sure she could sit still for at least 90 minutes watching a long film at home (We do have some princess movies to practice on) and could pick up a little bit of the main plot here and there. Sam was excited — to put it mildly. And I think she was also just super happy to go on a solo, non-errand date with me! It’s been a while, I’d have to admit.
I was fairly excited too – quite honestly. I hadn’t seen the inside of a cinema since before Jamie was born. That was over 16 months ago. And I’d been reading a lot of the hype surrounding this latest Pixar-Princess film. Peggy Orenstein touched on it a little bit in her new book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter (This is a must-read if you have girls!). She seemed to be unlike the stereotype princesses that Disney has made in the past — with a love story, “marry the prince” plot. In fact in the more recent films , the female characters have gotten — uhh, how do we put it? — less male dependent (Rapunzel, Tiana and Mulan to name a few) and have done things to change their own destiny. Still somehow, while their characters have become more strong-willed, there was some form of “saving” needed from the male protagonists. Brave didn’t have that last bit, and that gave it a little bit more talk-value. Even the merchandise hype around Merida the main character focused on how she was unlike the usual girly-girl dolls.
Instead, the plot was more about the relationship of a mom and her firstborn daughter, which made me want to see it with Sam all the more. I felt that we (I) could relate. 😉 But I will get to all of this later.
My first insight to this whole process was how conscious we were in ensuring it was a pleasant experience from beginning to end. My husband purchased the tickets online (even if it cost a tad bit more than usual), just in case there was a line at the ticket counter. We didn’t want Sam, already bursting at the seams with excitement, to stand in line under the sun unnecessarily. Also, if she decided to jump and run, I would have to leave my place in line, which may have been the beginning of the unraveling of the supposed happy afternoon. I also made sure she took a decent potty break before we left the house, and that she didn’t get any water in until we were halfway into the movie. That sounds mean I know, but I wasn’t about to stand up in the middle and miss parts of a good film for possible potty encounters!
We entered the theater 30 minutes before the previews started to get good seats. I let Sam play and stand in our row for as long as the lights were on. I decided asking her to sit and be quiet while nothing was happening was just a little bit too much. And since it was a special occasion, we took lots of pictures with Brave merchandise, and also bought a huge pack of M&Ms to celebrate (What sugar rush?!).
In addition to all of that I gave Sam a little heads up on movie-theater watching. We would watch in the dark and the sound would be loud. There’s normally no problem with this but I wanted to be sure we covered all bases of possible reasons to leave halfway. I said that if she got worried or scared, she could sit in my lap or hold on to me. She seemed fine with the concept, up until it actually happened. I could feel her trying to be Brave, but her hand slowly crept up my arm and held on. She still had a smile plastered on her face though, as if to show me there was no reason to leave. By the time the previews were over and the movie started, she was nicely snug on my lap and in my arms eating her M&Ms, and my bag took the chair.
The second thought that hit me while we were watching the film was, “Thank God we read the book before this!” I could tell from the sound effects when things were supposed to be scary or surprising. Each time I’d whisper to Sam and ask if she remembered what happened next and she’d nod and whisper the answer back to me. “She meets the witch!” or “She turns into a bear! Oh no!” So the book definitely, definitely helped, and that is now going to be my new protocol before taking the girls to any movie. That would go for Jamie too — seeing as how she is so much more sensitive than Sam is. There were still a few surprising parts that even made me jump and clutch Sam tightly, but then at least she was in my lap and she felt a little bit safer (Why then, would movie houses charge for a child’s ticket if they just end up in your lap?!).
All in all Sam did surprisingly well and took out a lot from what she watched. The film had just enough adult humor to enjoy but it was also light and quirky enough for the kids to appreciate. A lot of the storyline was still beyond her comprehension (I wasn’t about to explain the betrothal for instance), but she was able to follow the story’s sequence and pick up a few funny moments here and there. Of course at the end of it all I cried as the movie touched me as a mom with a strong-willed first-born little girl. I can see the disagreements and misunderstandings we may have down the line but of course I hope it only strengthens our relationship in the end. The insights and reflections I made were my biggest take away from this entire experience. It’s funny how an animated film can do that for you.
I’m so glad I took Sam to see it. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and like Sam, wouldn’t mind watching it again (We are going to get a copy of that DVD for our future library I just know it!) I also love the idea Sam and Jamie will grow up with Merida as their generation’s princess (Mine was everyone between Snow White and Jasmine I think). She’s not such a bad figure to aspire towards. In fact she does have a lot of the characteristics I’ve said I wanted my girls to have when they get older. Well, maybe except the self-absorbed teenager bit, but as moviefone.com says, it does make her more authentic.
And to add a cherry on top of Sam’s wonderful afternoon (she was skipping out of the theater as happy as a bee in honey), we found Mr. Frankie inside the mall. He provided the perfect souvenir for us: a bear-shaped balloon. Typical Sam, she chose to name it Mor’du, the antagonist in the film. 😉