In passing, I told my friend that I was watching Elf tonight and wondered if I could declare it Mousey. His immediate response was “How?” An excellent question spawning from his knowledge of my self-imposed rules for declaring movies Mousey.
Stay with me and allow me to pull back the magical creativity veil and reveal to you my process. As a general rule, I require at least 4 connections to Disney properties in order to affirm a Mousey movie. Additionally, at least two of these connections need to be strong and not previously discussed before in a Mousey Movie post. So in the case of Elf, I could have used director Jon Faverau as one of my connections, but 1) I have used him before and 2) I have plans to use him again. So that is a connection I do not wish to revisit.
Sometimes I use themes and backgrounds to tie a movie to the Mouse House. So, for Elf an easy connection would be the settings of New York City and Central Park which also are used heavily in Enchanted. But there are a lot of movies that use New York that are not Disney productions, like The Smurfs, making the connection rather weak. What Elf really has going for it is motivation. For me, it is the non-Disney movies that are the most fun to link back. For example, a movie like Secret of the Wings is not fun for me, as I simply would link the majority of the fairy voices back to their Disney Channel and direct to video productions. To be fun, I need new possibilities and the thrill of the hunt in the research. So, for a new Disney movie, my preference is to write a Mousey Movie Review rather than focus on the links to Mickey’s Empire. So yes, my friend’s question had thrown down the gauntlet and somewhat unknowingly issued a challenge to both of us. In accepting this challenge, I found in Elf more than I ever needed to declare it a Mousey Movie!
If the viewing of The Santa Clause has become the primary holiday tradition in my house, the multiple replaying of Elf by the Between Kids is the second video tradition. They love the story of Buddy the Elf played by Will Ferrell who upon discovering that he is in fact human journeys to New York City to connect with his biological father. In New York, Buddy has to help his father get off the naughty list and find acceptance of his very odd, lost son. Along the way, things get Mousey:
- Jolly Old Men: I had to adjust the first time I saw Elf because Santa Claus was not played by Tim Allen. Instead Ed Asner plays the legendary figure. Asner stars in my favorite Disney/Pixar movie Up as Carl Fredricksen. In Up, Anser is a grumpy old man who becomes jolly and learns to share the love in his heart, a problem that this version of Chris Kringle does not seem to share.
- Mousey Elf: If you want to treat yourself, go listen to Bob Newhart’s The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart. It was not until I gave this comedy album a spin that I truly realized how funny Newhart is. I grew up watching Newhart and still believe that it has the best series finale of all time. But for me, Newhart was often the straight man on the show as a crazy cast of characters revolved around him. In many ways Newhart remains the straight man in Elf, if you can call pointy shoes straight, as Papa Elf the adoptive father of Buddy. Newhart starred in not one but two Disney animated features voicing Bernard, the mouse janitor of the Rescue Aid Society who becomes hero in The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under.
- I Just Meet You: I see another similarity between Up and Elf in the characters of Dug and Buddy. Both offer love quickly. When Dug meets Carl he announces, “My name is Dug. I have just met you, and I love you.” Buddy has a similar moment meeting Walter the first time singing, “I love you. I love you! I LOVE YOU!” The fact that both are so willing to love is in many ways enduring, or for some a little creepy!
A Loving Dog and a Grumpy Old Man!
- Angry: Actor Peter Dinklage plays children’s author Miles Finch. Finch is successful, entitled and angry. He does not take kindly to Buddy who becomes upset with Buddy’s belief that Finch is one of Santa’s elves. Dinklage appeared in Disney’s Underdog as Dr. Simon Bar Sinister, which is clearly a bad guy name! I enjoyed him more in his second Disney production The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian as the dwarf Trumpkin, a character that I wanted to see on screen when I originally read the book as a kid. Trumpkin like Finch has a shade of angry in his personality. Sadly for me he did not reprise his role in the non-Disney sequel, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. With his success in the HBO Game of Thrones, Dinklage’s fine work is being critically applauded.
- The Iron Diaries: John Debney provides the score for Elf. Debney is no stranger to Mousey Movies scoring Iron Man 2 (where he worked with Favreau), Hannah Montana: The Movie, Chicken Little, The Princess Diaries, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, Snow Dogs, and The Emperor’s New Groove. Debney’s music is very familiar in the halls of the House of Mouse.