I’ll admit it. I love Disney movies. I’ve loved them since I was a little girl. And yes, I loved all the “princess” movies—Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty—I loved them all. But here’s the thing, I couldn’t have cared less about the prince in each movie. Take Cinderella…Sure I was happy Cinderella escaped the toxic and dysfunctional regime of her wicked stepmother and stepsisters. But I never saw Prince Charming as some great prize. He couldn’t catch up with a girl running away wearing only one glass, high-heeled shoe? It smacks of laziness if you ask me.
I’ll tell you who wasn’t lazy though—all the little animals who lived with Cinderella. This brings me to what REALLY drew me to the movie: talking animals. Show me a mouse in a kerchief and I’ll show you a happy Carol. Those birds and mice were the real heroes. Of course, I was also obsessed with Lady and the Tramp, Robin Hood, Bambi, and The Aristocats. One of the first albums I ever received was the soundtrack to The Aristocats. I can still picture the bright yellow album cover. When you opened it, there was a storybook to flip through as the record played. Even at seven years old I could appreciate the brilliant casting of Eva Gabor as “Duchess.” I must have played that album on my little record player a thousand times.
As a little girl, I talked to the trees and animals all the time so, when I’d watch these Disney movies, there was something very natural, but also exciting about watching them converse with one another, taking on human qualities.
I even felt a twinge of jealousy towards the princesses because their animal friends REALLY communicated with them. They didn’t have to pretend. The animals helped them to clean without even being asked. That could have come in handy—especially on a Saturday morning when I was dying to go outside and play.
As an adult, I’ve had many animal encounters on my walks. Each time it feels that a message is being delivered. True, it’s not expressed in a catchy song, but there is some kind of communication happening. It feels like a connection has been made. A fawn darts out of the woods and follows me from a distance. A Great Blue Heron lands only yards away from where I’m sitting, staring at me as he flaps his gigantic wings. A chipmunk eats seeds from my hand. Each encounter feels special, even magical.
I wonder if these meetings hold as much meaning for them as they do for me. Do they go home and discuss them with family? I can’t be sure. But I like to imagine that somewhere there’s a little mouse donning her kerchief and telling her children about the woman she found in the forest. Their little black eyes grow wide as she spins the tale, exaggerating the story just slightly for dramatic effect. When she finishes, they all cry out in unison “tell it again, mama! Tell it again!”