Life lessons learned from Disney movies

Maybe we all need more Disney movies in our lives.

I will admit that I used to be a very big fan of all things Disney. Remember the weekly TV show “The Wonderful World of Disney”? Original episodes featured Walt Disney himself, but the reruns I recall aired on Sunday evenings and were largely dedicated to cartoons and movie clips.

Each week, if our reception was good enough to get ABC out of Pittsburgh that day (we had a big antenna on the back of the house, not cable), I would plant myself on the floor with my legs crossed over one another to take it all in.

Disney movies were another matter altogether. It was a big deal when I got to go to a movie in a theater or at a drive-in. Usually my dad, the late Jim Compston, took me to see Disney movies. I remember seeing “Herbie Goes Bananas” at the Victoria Theater in Wheeling. On another occasion, he took me to see “101 Dalmatians” at the Ohio Valley Mall when that venue was almost brand new. We met our friends Bill and Mary Bartels there and enjoyed the show together.

I believe the very first movie I ever saw was “Bambi.” My brother, Larry, took me, his date and her little sister who was my age to the drive-in to watch it. I was very young; I don’t think I had started kindergarten yet. I found the movie fascinating, then devastating when Bambi lost his mother.

As I got older, Disney movies became less of a priority for me. When my nephews were small, they were more into the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” so the occasional Disney movie on TV was just background noise when I was babysitting them.

During the pandemic, though, my husband, Mike, and I have found that we have more hours at home to fill. Disney movies have become one of our go-to options when we want to watch something for a couple of hours before bed.

Last week, for example, we watched two Disney movies — “Inside Out” (2015) and “The Fox and the Hound” (1981). Created many years apart with very different subject matter, the two animated films still have some things in common.

When I got to thinking about that, it occurred to me that pretty much every Disney movie I could think of shared most if not all of those same attributes.

What am I talking about? Consider this.

First of all, DIsney productions are always beautiful to look at. Animated, in cooperation with Pixar or otherwise, these films always feature colorful imagery with great attention to detail. Settings are carefully created to relay specific moods or to portray certain time periods or locations. The voicing of the characters is often done by familiar celebrities, and in the case of animated films the way the soundtrack and action of the characters is synced up is amazing.

But if you set the production quality aside, you can always count on Disney movies to tug at your emotions and teach you a lesson.

Very often, the main characters experience joy and contentment throughout a large portion of the plot. But they almost always experience some sort of loss or hardship as well.

“Inside Out,” for example, focuses on an adolescent girl living a happy life in Minnesota. When her family moves to California, she loses her close connection to her lifelong friends, the home she had grown up in and some of the time her father used to spend with the family. She faces the situation cheerfully at first, but as she becomes more frustrated, she starts to lose the parts of her personality that make her the person she has become. She very nearly makes a disastrous choice before realizing how important it is to maintain her family ties if she is to have a happy and successful life.

“The Fox and the Hound” is the story of a young fox who is adopted by an elderly widow when his mother is killed. A neighboring bachelor brings home a new hound pup that he plans to train as a hunting dog, and the fox and the hound become fast friends. The old hunter takes the pup away for the winter, and when they return, the hound has become a real hunting dog — and the hunter has no patience for him befriending a fox instead of tracking it.

When the widow realizes the fox will be doomed if she keeps him at her home, she does the right thing and releases him in a nature preserve. Even though it is hard for her to say goodbye to her once-wild pet, she does what she believes is best for him.

Those are the types of lessons that I believe we all need to be reminded of right now: Doing the right thing. Doing what’s best for others. Making sacrifices. Accepting and making the best of inevitable losses.

For months, health and government officials have been urging Americans to stay at home, avoid large gatherings, practice good hygiene and wear a face mask. A pandemic that started in China has spread around the globe and across America. Here in Eastern Ohio, the impact has been greatest in Belmont County, but no local community has gone untouched.

Many of us have been laid off; some have even lost jobs. Lots of people have learned to do their work from home.

We have made sacrifices and, early on, it appeared that Ohio would be pretty successful in containing the outbreak. But as COVID-19 spreads across the South and West, cases are beginning to surge again all over the country. The new coronavirus is not going anywhere any time soon, and we will have to learn to live with it, rather than hide from it, if we are to return to some semblance of normalcy.

There are simple things we all can do to reduce the spread of this disease. We can wash our hands and sanitize surfaces frequently. We can wipe down high-touch and shared areas each time we use them, or at least several times a day.

We can avoid traveling and consider skipping our vacation trips this year. Travel to highly infected areas brought numerous new cases back to our region. It is fun to travel and we all need to get away from time to time, but is it really necessary during a time of crisis?

We can maintain social distance, being sure to stand at least 6 feet behind the person in front of us in line at the store. We can use care to keep our distance from others at work. We can have in-person conversations outdoors with space between the parties involved, instead of sliding back into old habits of sitting or standing inches away from one another in an enclosed space.

Perhaps most importantly, we can wear facial coverings when we are out in public. No, we are not required to do so, but it seems to me that it is the right thing to do. Masks may be somewhat uncomfortable, and it can be more challenging to wear one when the weather is hot, but for most people it is perfectly safe and not really much of a sacrifice to cover their nose and mouth while interacting closely with other people.

Nobody wants to be in the situation we are facing right now. The best way for us to bring it to an end is to consistently make small sacrifices, do what’s best for others, accept the necessary changes or small losses — basically, let’s just do the right thing.


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