January 25th, 2012 § § permalink
I was browsing through the book section at the art supply store over the weekend, and I came across a book of animation drawings from the Disney animated features. I was flipping through the book, and when I got to this image of Ariel, I sort of smile and let out a laugh. Without even looking at the credit for the image, I knew immediately who had drawn it and which scene it was from. Funnily enough, I have had in my possession for a long time copies of the drawings from this sequence, given to me in one of the animation classes that I had taken.
Sometimes I will talk about The Little Mermaid. People know that it’s my favorite Disney cartoon from the 90′s. And if they keep having the conversation with me, I will tell them that this movie was the reason that I made up my mind to study art once I enter college. I had known my entire life, like most artists, that I will somehow end up becoming an artist. But as you grow older, as much as you carry that dream—and what you might believe as a calling—with you throughout those formative years, at some point you say to yourself that it might not be better to pursue other career paths. If not from a practical, financial point of view.
That conversation was probably lingering somewhat in my head around the time before this movie came out. I had gone through a big transition with my migration to the States from Thailand. Things that I had always known, the way that I was doing things, all of it was based on a different place, a different culture, a different way of doing things than where I ended up. And as much as I knew that I wanted to pursue art (and I did continued to do so), I couldn’t quite figure out how to go about walking that path.
Seeing The Little Mermaid changed that. It wasn’t so much the story, or the catchy soundtrack that caught my attention. What I saw were more specific. And that specificity was Glen Keane’s renditions of Ariel in the movie.
Keane is the son of Bill Keane, the creator of the classic comic strip Family Circus. Comparing the drawing styles of father and son, and you wouldn’t realize that there was that connection. By the time Keane worked on Ariel, he had done several other features for the company, most notably, personally, was Rescuers Down Under, still one of my favorite Disney cartoons.
I remember when I first saw The Little Mermaid, I specifically took note of the sequence in which the above drawing came from. I have always thought that Keane’s drawings in this sequence were the best renditions of Ariel in the entire film. Keane’s rendition of Ariel in the film always made her seemed more mature than any other drawings of her in the film. There seemed to have been an understanding on Keane’s part of the real psychology of the character. That this wasn’t somehow just some naive young girl who was foolishly chasing after something without any real understanding of what she was doing. Keane based the model of the character on his wife, and perhaps that made the connection to the character even more real to him.
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January 25th, 2012 § § permalink
January 23rd, 2012 § § permalink
Growing up half Thai and half Chinese was always interesting. You noticed early on the differences in cultural beliefs and the way each lead their lives. Sometimes things that would seem so inconsequential somehow come to the fore. Very little things. Like when I was around two or three years old, and I overheard my grandfather reprimanding my dad for not teaching me how to eat with chopsticks.
There’s also a lesson that you learn very quickly. You learn to accept people’s different beliefs and opinions. You tend to realize very early that people are simply the sum of their life experiences. Even if you disagree with what they believe in, you do have to recognize that they believe in those things due to their life experiences or lack thereof.
Growing up within multiple cultures also meant you celebrate its different traditions. The New Year was always interesting growing up. Since Thailand is a Buddhist country, the celebration of Christmas is a non-subject. Your celebration really begins with the regular New Year, for a lack of a better description. The celebration of the change in the Gregorian Calendar, let’s just say. The first of January was the day you exchange gifts. It’s the day you go to the temple. It’s the day you have the festivals. My fondest memories of New Year in Thailand were on New Year’s Eve. They would set up a projection screen in a field inside the village and play movies throughout the evening. We would go see the film under the darkened night sky, and laugh and cry, and express whatever emotions that come to us while looking at those flickering images.
My memories of Chinese New Year seemed a lot less quiet, less grandios than those of the regular New Year, or even the Thai New Year (Songkran) that follows a couple months later. Sure, you have the lions dancing in the streets, and the gongs and firecrackers going off, but somehow memories of Chinese New Year could easily passed by without much impressions. I do have to say that as a child, though, the one memory of Chinese New Year that will always get impressed upon you is that red envelope. No greater excitements can be produced than by adults showing those red envelopes to children on Chinese New Year. So this year when my mom gave the red envelope and told me that it has $29.99 in it for good luck, I laughed.
When my family migrated to the States, my parents tried to keep the tradition going. We would get up early in the morning to prepare food that we would then offer in prayers to our ancestors. But that’s sort of where the whole thing breaks down.
My grandfather migrated to the southern part of Thailand from the island of Hainan, which is located in the south of China. Even though his brother later followed him, I never had any real connections to that part of my family. I didn’t have any relationships with my grandfather’s brother even, because he later moved back to China. Sometimes in my late teens, on my trip to Hong Kong, I met one of my cousins from Hainan. It was strange to finally have a face to connect to with that part of my heritage. Several years later when my dad went to visit Hainan for the first time, he told me that my cousin has pictures on the wall of the entire family, and we were included on that wall. All this time there was no real concrete image for any of them.
I think Chinese New Year serves as the perfect metaphor for my life here in the States. I’ve always felt that when I was taken from the place that I was living, and was placed in another that was so foreign to me, my connection to that larger picture of myself was severed. Living the life here with few family to surround me, knowing that my entire family is somewhere an ocean away, I feel a great disconnect.
My dad always tell my sisters and I that he hopes that we would continue the tradition once my parents are both gone. That we would get together and continue what we have been doing. I think my family never really formed any real family traditions for ourselves surrounding the traditional American holidays (although we’re beginning to), but I believe Chinese New Year has always been that tradition that we’ve always had as a family. No matter how quiet it continues to be each passing year, it’s one of those things that has been so much a part of you that you might not easily recognize its importance.