We begin a very special birthday celebration with Jim Henson, STAR WARS and Muhammad Ali
How did we get here in the first place?
52 Things That Made Me Who I Am
Let’s have some fun.
I’m turning 52 years old this month. That seems impossible to me, but here we are. I still feel in many ways like I am very young and yet I get up and look in the mirror and there’s an old man looking back at me.
How did I get here? How did I become the person I am now? My parents, obviously, first and foremost. But the way I look at it, pop culture has been a huge part of shaping my attitudes and opinions and the very vocabulary I use to discuss things. I would not be the person I am if I had not soaked up the various influences that have all been, at one point or another, obsessions of mine.
If I’m going to pick one influence for every year I’ve been alive, that still doesn’t even scratch the surface of everything that’s bouncing around inside me. This feels like a fun way of spending the rest of this month here on the newsletter. Celebratory. Positive, and a way to refocus on why these things mean whatever they mean to me. I’ll write some new reviews as well, but today, let’s jump right in and kick off this trip back to see how we got here in the first place by starting with some of the earliest inspirations…
1. Walt Disney
Disney animation was the safest way to introduce children to the movies when I was young. I was born in 1970, and throughout my childhood, there were new Disney movies as well as numerous re-releases of the classic animated films. While it might not be the first one I ever saw, the first live-action film I distinctly remember going to see in a theater was a 1976 re-release of Blackbeard’s Ghost. We moved to Florida when I was three, just a few years after Walt Disney World opened, and we went to the park so many times when I was young that I honestly felt like that place was a second home. I knew every corner of the park, and many of my early milestones (like the American Bicentennial) were spent at Disney.
The Disney that existed at that point had a distinctly different corporate identity from the world-swallowing megalith that exists today, and while they’re happy to trade on people’s nostalgia for that company that really was, by and large, the reflection of one man’s ideas and energies. While Disney died before I was born, he still loomed very large as an icon thanks to his presence on the various TV shows and all over the theme parks. They still gave the impression that they were a company that was trying to make the same kinds of films he made, from the same artistic viewpoint that he did. It still felt like a company with a point of view instead of an umbrella under which every single IP ever created has to live.
More than anything, what my early love of Disney imparted to me was a love of animation as a big-screen art form. One of the most tactile memories I have of seeing anything on a big screen as a child was when I saw Pinocchio. The final chase when Monstro the Whale is trying to catch Pinocchio and Gepetto is as thrilling as the truck chase in Raiders of the Lost Ark, an absolutely staggering example of what you can do with film craft, and it is as key a step in my evolution as a film lover as any live-action film I saw.
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