Sunday, March 12, 2006

My Weekend With Disney

I had one of those Disney weekends, you know, the kind you have when you have young children. Nothing out of the ordinary. No big deal.

Unfortunately, though, I was paying attention. And as a result noticed something strange.

On Saturday our little family went to see Walt Disney Pictures' "The Shaggy Dog." This was supposed to be a remake of the 1959 movie starring Fred MacMurray.

The new "Shaggy Dog," and I hate to sound curmudgeonly about a kiddie flick but it's true, is a barely coherent mishmash of a movie (five different writers are credited, and God knows how many others might have contributed). The plot, as set forth in the first ten minutes, is supposed to be this, or as nearly as I can figure out this was it:

Tim Allen plays a workaholic DA.

He is prosecuting a man for arson. The man is accused of setting a fire at a pharmaceutical company.

The man claims the pharmaceutical company is performing genetic testing on animals.

It gets vague after that. At one point he claims he didnt' set the fire, but then just talks about the weird cross-breeds of animals he saw there. Anyway that's basically the last we hear of the arson. The rest of the movie is about the animals, insofar as it's about anything, with the usual Disney boilerplate about how family should come first.

[Note to budding sociologists: how many divorces go into the making of a Disney film? Come on, there's got to be a dissertation in there somewhere.]

You are probably wondering about the "shaggy dog" part.

The dog in question (who is called a sheepdog in the movie, but is in fact a bearded collie- sheesh, you 'd think they could at least get the breed straight), is a) over 300 years old, b) lives in a monastery in Tibet, and c) according to the pharmaceutical company, holds the key to the fountain of youth.


In the first minutes of the film the dog is stolen from his Tibetan home and spirited away to the U.S.

OK. Why am I going over all of this? And when will I get to the "strange "part?

Here's the strange part.

At first the characters in the movie say the dog comes from "Tibet."

In the climactic courtroom scene, though, Tim Allen declares the dog was stolen from "China."

Then in the

********SPOILER ALERT!!!!***********

nicey-nice ending, the dog is supposed to go home to "Tibet."


Huh?

"China"?

You mean, the part of China that was known as Tibet until the Chinese invaded- excuse me, were invited to overrun the place, driving their leader, the Dalai Lama, into exile?

There really are no accidents in movies. People are aware of what they're doing when they spend millions on a film. They rewrite dialogue, they dub in parts that got flubbed, they reissue scripts God knows how many times. If Tim Allen said "China" he said in on purpose. Unless the director abdicated for the day.

The Disney Co. might be between a rock and a hard place here. On the one hand, "Free Tibet" is a popular cause, particularly among the Hollywood faithful.

On the other hand, Disney's Hong Kong theme park- Hong Kong Disneyland, which opened last September- is 57% owned by the Chinese government.

Hm. Whom to placate? The folks who basically hold the deed to the (Disney hopes) cash cow, or the disgracefully victimized Tibetan people? Not to mention Richard Gere.

Yeah. It's a tough call. Take my advice, guys: split the difference and-

Oh. You already did.

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