27 Feb 2010

The Princess and the Frog

The film was released here just after we left for our holiday and it had been out for so long in the US that it was no longer shown in most cinemas. So keen as were (me and Lady anyway!) to see this, we just had to wait until we got home again. So a few days ago we headed off the local cinema for a bit of old fashioned Disney animated goodness. Now I am aware that Disney films are not all peachy and contain heaps of patriarchy pushing and much outright racism but I like, even love most of them, flaws and all. OK so Ariel has some twisted ambitions, Cinderella is so wet and pathetic and Belle falls for a creature who locks up first her dad and then her and shouts and is cruel, but I'll overlook these things, they can happen to any of us.

As usual in the cinema I sat by Duncan. He took a while to get involved in the story but I fell for it right away. It looks beautiful and Tiana is such an engaging, feisty character. I didn't care much for the prince, even after he'd been improved (as is always the case in these films) by his association with our smart wee waiter woman. Having watched a few of the preview trailers last year (and following some of the controversy about how race was depicted in the film) I was dreading the appearance of the firefly Ray but he was lovely and his love of the star was sweet and his role at the movie's end really touching. The bad guy, who uses the spirits to advance himself and whom we know will meet a sticky end before the credits role, was well realised too, and the spirits were bloody spooky and menacing.

We all enjoyed it. I liked the music and Duncan definitely favoured Ray. So much so that when an unfortunate event occurs near the end, he was really saddened and even angered and said very loudly, "Where is Ray?" He was properly concerned. I tried to comfort him with some theory or other about where Ray had gone but he saw right through me. Then he declared, "Ray is not a star, get Ray back NOW!" Thankfully the cinema was almost empty, but even if it hadn't been, I hardy think his expressing deep feelings about the action would have bothered anyone. He cried for a while later that night and I talked to him about it all. Then he said he wasn't sad any more and that was that.

I was predisposed to like this film. I have to admit I did want to see a beautiful black woman become a Disney Princess in a classic tale and moreover, for my brown-skinned daughter to see someone other than the typical Disney gal depicted. On our last morning at Disney World we happened across the Tiana and Naveen characters meeting people. There was a short line so see them so I approached to wait too but was told they had closed the line and asked to return an hour later. Too bad I thought. But then the staff member (cast member they're called over there!) decided to allow us on in. So a few minutes later the children were meeting Tiana and Naveen who were absolutely lovely and chatted with them for ages. Lady did OK with handsome Naveen's arm on her shoulder all along while Duncan had the pretty lady (and he likes the pretty ones!) hold his hand all the time.

We big people joined the children for a photo next and I positioned myself next to the prince.

When we'd finished they walked off regally, the Tiana character waving and smiling at all the gobsmacked little girls. It was sweet and I am not so cynical that I didn't get a warm feeling when a little girl of 4 or so stopped to stare at the princess who looked like her.

25 Feb 2010

Orlando Holiday: Part 1 The Flight

We rose early on Tuesday morning and piled cases, wheelchairs and bodies into the car bound for Dublin airport. Once parked and in the airport, we'd only a short wait to drop of our bags then through security. So far, so fantastic. Duncan used his wheelchair (occasionally recreationally- see video!) though he did jump out every so often before sprinting after whatever took his fancy. No doubt folk observing were wondering what we were about, but sure, we're used to that!

We were delighted to spot my sister at the departure gate. Now we had the full crew the holiday really was on course. When the plane was ready we were allowed to board early. Duncan sat at the window, me to his right, his dad and Thomas in front (in case he kicked the seat!) and Lady and my sister across the aisle from me. It was just right. Best of all each passenger had a personal entertainment system in the seat back. Duncan started to watch Disney films straight off, with his ear defenders over the ear phones.

The Aer Lingus crew were fantastic. After take off we were told that the empty bulkhead seats were ours for the taking if we wanted them. We decided to stay put, even though they had more leg room, since it wasn't worth disrupting what was working so far.

Before long Duncan opted to simply listen to children's TV theme tunes and soon after that he set his screen to show the route map which he followed for hours! The journey took over 9 hours and in all that time he was just as perfect as I could possibly have hoped for. As always, Thomas and Lady were helpful and relaxed, and enjoyed the films and games on offer.

Just one incident marred the experience. Sitting behind me were 2 elderly men whom I presume from their accents were from the USA. They both slept for a few hours. Unfortunately I was assaulted at regular intervals by the most foul stench of someone's intestinal gases escaping and the pungency and direction of the attack strongly suggested one or both of these dudes was the culprit. But hey, when you're on an aeroplane you have to put up with whatever you're next to so I set the air blower things in my row to maximum and tried to breathe through my mouth. Then a couple of hours before landing Duncan started to move the window shutter next to him. He put it up, then a minute later shut it, and for a while he played at opening and closing it. He wasn't making much noise and the shutter wasn't shared with another row. He wasn't causing any harm and I was keeping a close eye to see if I needed to move him on to something else. Then I heard the men behind us talking and they were complaining to each other about the shutter thing, saying they wished he'd make up his mind and leave it alone. I was a bit surprised and caught my sister's eye. She sighed and rolled her eyes at the cranky old guys. Then I heard something I couldn't ignore. The one behind Duncan said (and I didn't catch it all exactly) "...I'd choke him..." and I knew he was referring to Duncan. I said to my sister who looked outraged, "did I just hear that right?!" She said that yes, she'd heard him too. I turned around and looked him in the eye, "excuse me, what was that you just said about my son?" He wasn't so forthright when he was challenged; "oh, nothing...I was just talking about the light. It's OK."
"You were talking about my son. He is disabled, he is autistic and he is doing the best he can. In fact, he is being bloody fantastic."
"Yes, yes. It's OK."

I wanted to say something to the crew but since I wasn't sure what else he's said, besides I'd choke him which I'd heard loud and clear, I left it. But I was a bit shaken. It was extra nice when a few minutes later another old Irish man who was queuing next to our seat for the sandwich sale, started chatting and asked about Duncan saying what a great boy he was. Better yet, 2 of the crew approached me to chat and commended Duncan in the most complimentary way saying he had been just wonderful and he was such a credit to us and what a lovely, happy child he is and it was a pleasure having us on board. Mr Nasty can't help but have heard.
My sister told me later that she'd heard the whole thing clearly. He'd said, "if he was my son I'd have choked him by now." Cruel sod. I pity the children he may have had and hope karma bites him hard on the ass.

But onwards. The descent was hard on Duncan. His ears hurt and despite our best efforts (together with kind offers of sweets and olbas oil drops from the crew and other, nicer passengers sitting close) he couldn't or wouldn't take anything. I just held him and whispered comforting words and he cried until he were almost down. But this too passed. We disembarked and were able to go follow airport staff through the disabled passengers' line at immigration. We even had a friendly immigration officer! We were all tired out but managed to keep it together until we'd got our cases (both times) and picked up the hire car.

We'd more than survived the journey, we'd enjoyed it.