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Gamer Tuesday

October 22, 2013

Pap the Disney Gamer's Highlights: The Friends of Disney Friends

You and me together will be
Forever you'll see
You too can be good company
You and me
Yes together we do

There are many recurring themes in Disney culture, such as the theme of accepting and loving yourself for who you are, discovering your true self, and making a dream a reality, no matter the costs. One of the most common is that of friendship. Many characters, not just in the Disney animated classics but in other media as well, exist primarily to provide friendship to a certain character. While the more cynical will see this as an useless trait, the reality is that we all need someone to love, to trust, to vent when we are upset, share the things we love and to offer a shoulder to cry on. One of the most explored types of friendship in Disney films are the friendships we bond with our animal friends. Yeah, we may not be able to communicate directly with our furry friends, but the emotional bonds that bind us with them is there, and at times it is very strong.

The beauty of Disney storytelling is that we can further explore those friendships through the personification of our animal friends. Films like The Fox and the Hound, Oliver and Co., and Bolt have explored just how deep a bond between man and his pet can go, adding layers of emotional complexities and character development to further strengthen those ideals, and strike a chord with those that have ever loved a pet. In the video game industry, it comes as no surprise as to why there are many games that simulate the care and love of a pet. And much like in Disney animation, it allows its creators to be creative with how those friendships are presented, especially if they allow us to befriend mystical creatures like dragons and unicorns.

Disney friends

Nearly two years ago, I wrote about a Nintendo DS game called Disney Friends. A pet simulator hot off the heels of Nintendog's earlier success on the system, its main hook was that you could further care for famous Disney pets. To learn more about its technical aspects and features, you can read the old article here. Today, however, I will revisit Disney Friends in an attempt to explore how it presents to us the concept of friendship and pet ownership on an emotional level, and how the stories may have helped in its creation.

In Disney Friends, you can choose one of the following characters as a pet to care and love:

Stitch (Lilo and Stitch)

Winnie the Pooh (The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh)

Dory (Finding Nemo)

Simba (The Lion King)

At first glance, the character choices are obvious; each of these characters were chosen because they come from highly popular Disney and Pixar films, and they fit each pet archetype well (Dory being the fish, Simba the cat, Pooh the bear and Stitch the fantastical creature). But upon closer inspection, I believe that these characters were also chosen because they come from films where a strong focus is on the friendships they form with the other characters. The theme of friendship is what drives the story forward, and gives us various types of friendships for us to relate to.

Here is what I believe each character represents in Disney Friends:

Stitch: He represents unlikely friendships, as well as friendships that change our lives for the better. At the start of the film, Lilo is a weird and sad little girl who is still recovering from the death of her parents, and is at the care of her older sister Nani, who lacks the paternal skills to raise a young child. Stitch is a wild and dangerous alien set out to create destruction and mayhem. Through a series of misunderstandings, Stitch becomes Lilo's new �dog�. At first the connection is an odd one due to how different they are from each other. But as the story progresses, Lilo and Stitch begin to transform each other for the better. Stitch represents the fact that we need to be more than friendly to be considered a best friend. We need to be absolutely loyal to our friends, be there when they need us the most, and to always remain there, regardless if your friends are at their highest or their lowest. Lilo never gave up on Stitch, even if he was getting the hang of being good and caused mayhem to everybody. Stitch gave up his wild ways to be with Lilo for the rest of his days. Friendship requires sacrifice, genuine loyalty and love, which is what Lilo and Stitch are all about.

Stitch

Dory: Dory also represents the concept of odd friendships, except that her friendship to Marlin happened during the oddest of encounters. You could say that they met by �accident�, united by a common goal; to find Nemo. While it may seem that her long term memory problems actually makes matters worse, it is her undying loyalty and endless optimism that makes Marlin's journey more than memorable (no pun intended). Dory reminds us that sometimes life's journey is better taken with a friend, and even if at times our personalities, trains of thought and ways of life clash, you can still form a very strong friendship that can last for a long time. Both Dory and Marlin are transformed by the end of the story, with Dory finally finding someone that can bring out the best in her, and Marlin learned to trust the world a little more and to enjoy life with his son rather than to establish limits and boundaries.

Dory

Winnie the Pooh: Pooh is all about innocent friendships, the kind that we form as kids. Most importantly, it is about friendships that last a lifetime, the rarest kind of friendship you will ever find. Why? Because as we grow up, we often are stripped of our innocence, we become jaded and focus on places and people that we think better reflect our interests. But sometimes we do yearn to go back to simpler days. That is why the ending scene with Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh has always been considered to be one of the most powerful yet simply scenes in Disney history, reminding us to never forget our friends, even if we grow older, apart or we find something else.

Winnie the Pooh

Simba: Simba represents how often we become the people we are thanks to our friends. When Simba was accused of murdering his father, he was raised by Timon and Pumbaa after he ran away from home. Rafiki taught him to always look towards the future while learning from the past, Nala urged him to take his place as ruler, and they all helped him dethrone Scar and become the king he was born to be. Often we take our friends for granted. We expect them to always be there for us, to never fail us, and to always do what we tell them to. But a lot of the time, our friends leave a deeper impact than we realize. They inspire us to be better people, to pursue our dreams of happiness, and will often help you achieve that dream. Simba reminds us that we become great people because we were surrounded by great friends, and to never forget them.

Simba

Disney Friends may be a pet simulator for the DS, but I believe there is a reason why these characters were chosen to headline the game beyond just their appealing looks and popularity in Disney culture. These characters best represent what friendship truly means, and serve as a reminder to always appreciate the friends we have, regardless if our friendship is sometimes odd, if they have lasted a lifetime, or if they help us become the men and women we are today.

 

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