I wonder if I know. True story: Some years back, while I was rent-a-copping, I got brought in for one night to stay overnight in a mall Disney Store; IBM was in there updating their registers, and the store manager didn't want to stay all night and watch them. This left me in an empty Disney store with nothing to do for way too many hours between when IBM's people left and the store's people arrived in the morning. And I noticed very early in the evening that parts of the store made me more uncomfortable than others. So once things quieted down, I went into a mild trance, defocused my eyes a little, and let myself wander the aisles without thinking, trying to psychically sense the heart of the evil that I was feeling, the center of it, the most unrelentingly evil object in the store. To my vast surprise, the object that I found in my hands, when I came out of my trance and refocused my eyes, was in fact just exactly that evil.
It was a children's story book in the Disney Princess collection, obviously meant to be read aloud from to very young pre-schoolers. It took five Disney classic animated movies and boiled each of them down to a two-panel cartoon. Each page was a frame from the movie; the left hand page had the first half of a sentence, and the right hand page showed a frame from near the end of the movie with the other half of the sentence. Here they are, the five movie synopses as best as I can reconstruct them from memory:
- "Cinderella thought she was happy taking care of her stepmother and her stepsisters ... then she married a Prince and became truly happy!"
- "Snow White thought she was happy living with her friends, the Seven Dwarves ... then she married her Prince and became truly happy!"
- "Pocahontas had many animal friends ... then she fell in love with John Smith and became truly happy!"
- "Belle thought she was happy with all of her books ... then she fell in love with the Beast and became truly happy!"
- "Princess Jasmine loved her family and her life in the palace ... then she married Aladdin and became truly happy!"
Not nearly enough people have seen the 90 minute movie Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins and the 62 half-hour episode cartoon series "Buzz Lightyear of Star Command" that followed it. Together they make up a retroactive prequel to Toy Story; these are meant to be the cartoons that the Buzz Lightyear toy from that movie was marketed from. I say "not nearly enough people" because this is on my short list, alongside Gargoyles and TaleSpin and Kim Possible (and to a lesser extent Darkwing Duck and Disney's Aladdin), of Disney animated series that were so much better than they had any right to be. In fact, for all that it's meant to be more of a parody of a space opera science fiction TV series than actual science fiction, I'd still put it up there in the top 10 science fiction TV series of all time. The premise is that there is a Galactic Federation of more-or-less good-guy species, and in orbit around Capital Planet is a space station called Star Command, the headquarters of the Federation's elite inter-planetary law enforcement, rescue, and counter-espionage service, the Space Rangers. And one Space Ranger stands out above all the others for his skill, his bravery, his unbroken string of successes, and his relentless publicity: Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (voiced by Patrick Warburton, one of my all-time favorite voice actors).
In the pilot episode, against his wishes, Buzz gets stuck with 3 "partners:" a rookie with a crush on him, a miniature robot that was programmed with Buzz's personality and skills (before becoming corrupted), and a janitor who really wishes he could be a Space Ranger and has studied the Rangers obsessively but can't pass the physical. But Buzz has no choice but to rely on their help, when push comes to shove, because the four of them are the only escapees when the Evil Emperor Zurg uses his mind-control Mega-Ray to take over Star Command. As you might guess, this being a cartoon, they end up making a great team. But it isn't until episode 47, "First Missions," that they give us the full backstory on the rookie with a crush on Buzz, long enough that we've seen some serious character development by then, and suddenly it all snaps into focus why the Tangean crown princess, Space Ranger Mira Nova (voiced by Nicole Sullivan, another of my all-time favorite voice actors), is just so cool and why she stands head and shoulders above every other female character that Disney has ever allowed onto the screen under the Disney imprint.
The Tangeans were, so far as anybody can tell, the first species in this galaxy to evolve intelligence. They explored the galaxy, and concluded that there was nothing interesting there and nobody to talk to. So they retreated to their homeworld and set about improving themselves, technologically and evolutionarily. They've improved themselves to the absolute peak of physical perfection, and to the theoretical limit of humanoid intelligence. They've developed their psychic powers beyond those any other species could imagine, to the point where even small children learn to phase themselves through solid matter as a routine part of growing up. And their technology is sufficiently perfected that they see no benefit to be had from tinkering with it further, since it meets every need they have unobtrusively, with no environmental impact, and with no possibility of break-down. They've spent the millennia since then dedicated to advancement in the arts. In the intervening many thousands of years, the rest of the galaxy developed sentience, made contact with each other, and (except for Zurg's tiny despotic empire) learned to live together in peace and harmony in a Galactic Federation ... without yet even meeting the Tangean's standards for sentience; they see all other species, however intelligent, as little better than monkeys. And not without cause.
But when somebody develops a weapon that stops Tangeans from being able to phase through solid matter, it becomes trivially easy to take the whole planet hostage, since their rooms stopped having actual doors thousands of years ago. Buzz Lightyear of Star Command swoops in to rescue them, because, frankly, this is the kind of thing he does. And he saves the day, with some help from a very young teenage Tangean, princess Mira Nova. His rescue rather disgusts the rest of the Tangeans, who didn't feel particularly severely inconvenienced by being captured and held hostage, and who remain convinced that given a little more time to think about it, they would have solved the problem themselves in a way that was more intelligent, harmonious, artistic, and civilized, and, frankly, with a lot less disgusting violence and random property damage than was caused by Buzz Whatever the Space Monkey, or whatever he calls himself. But Mira was totally smitten by this handsome, brave stranger who thought nothing of putting himself in harm's way to rescue people who looked down on him and expected nothing in return. She threw herself, romantically, at Buzz ... who did something that almost no Disney hero has the integrity to do. He told her no. He told her that developing a schoolgirl crush on someone just because he rescues you isn't healthy, and that she knows nothing about him, and he left.
But for crying out loud, she's a teenage schoolgirl with a crush, do you think she's going to listen to him? Heck no. Since the only way she can get close to her hero is to follow him into the Space Rangers, she abandons her duties as the royal heir, becomes the first Tangean to leave Tangeah in millenia, travels to Capital Planet, and applies to the Space Ranger academy. There, Buzz's boss Commander Nebula and his technical staff of Little Green Men ran into a problem: she really is too good. She could learn everything they asked her to learn instantly. Buzz had been the only person in Ranger history to get a perfect score on all tests and all combat simulations, but she breezed through those tests so easily that the LGMs had to invent harder tests just to make excuses for why she hadn't graduated instantly. When she joins Team Lightyear, Buzz knows that this schoolgirl crush is going to be a crippling problem for the team, but by the end of that first mission together he knows that he needs her on the team and the risk be damned, because she's just that good.
Furthermore, we find out over the course of the 62 episodes exactly why Commander Nebula was so insistent that Buzz take on this particular partner. Nebula knows that Buzz, frankly, is getting a little too old for the kind of vigorous fieldwork that Space Rangers have to do. Buzz is starting to slow down, is starting to get too cautious, and his accumulated traumas are equipping him with something that's closing in on being full blown clinical paranoia if he keeps this up. Nebula also knows that he himself is way too old to be running the Rangers, that the reason Buzz gets away with so many rules violations is that Nebula's way too old to be managing a guy like Buzz, that he can't keep up with the job. But he can't retire until he grooms his replacement. Long before it dawned on Team Lightyear what the old man was up to, the old man had anticipated a near future, not very long after the end of the series, where it'll be Commander Lightyear running Star Command, and the galaxy's greatest hero will be Space Ranger Mira Nova of Star Command. It ended up taking Mira Nova almost two years to realize what her father, King Nova, and her boss, Commander Nebula, saw instantly: Buzz Lightyear, the galaxy's greatest hero, frankly isn't good enough for her. He's not capable enough, and he's not man enough. Maybe nobody is. But the important thing is that the sooner she realizes this, the sooner she realizes that Buzz is bluffing half the time and sees, in XR's exaggerations of Buzz's worst personality traits, that her idol has feet of clay, the sooner she can become what she was truly destined to be: the greatest hero the galaxy has ever seen.
Sort of makes the other Disney "Princesses" look a little tawdry, doesn't she?