I always forget that not all panels are created equal, but the first day of CTcon snapped that fact back into focus without wasting a second. Our Saturday morning panel was called “Music of the Disney Renaissance.” Lauryn and I both are something of Disney aficionados, and she’s a few years into a vocal performance education, so we were hoping for something that would challenge our knowledge and broaden our trivia base.
“What I expected was that we’d discuss how the music influenced the film’s development, how the time period that the movie was made and that it ‘took place in’ affected the film. Cultural impact. That kind of thing. You know, like there’s no synth in Cinderella.”
When Good Panels Let You Down
What we found instead was a wikipedia article of facts poorly copied over. “When Aladdin was being made, Howard Ashman was dying,” the panelist exclaimed “he was working on Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast at the same time.” she concluded, with a tone that indicated her usage of the word “dying” was far less literal than discussing a man in the terminal stages of HIV/AIDS. It was only once she continued the story, giggling as she went, that she added the fact that Ashman didn’t live to see a final cut of Beauty and the Beast, let alone begin production on the newer Aladdin. The story was told as punctuation to her slideshow, without a shade of respect for a man who lived and died for his music.
Okay, maybe I’m taking things a little personally, but isn’t that what cons are all about? Aren’t we all dressing in someone else’s clothes, discussing fictional worlds, building whole cultural experiences around taking things personally? Why else would we do all this nonsense—and at the end of the day, it’s all nonsense. We’re all very dedicated to a whole lot of nonsense. I acknowledge that, and I am okay with it. And I take my nonsense pretty seriously.
The panel did not get better. One of my pet peeves in pretty much any aspect of life is when others assert opinions as fact. “The Lion King is essentially MacBeth with lions” is an erroneous fact. “All the pop versions of Disney songs are garbage” is an opinion with which I do not agree. Both sentences came out of the panelists’ mouths during the panel. So now we have at least three faux pas going on. The final straw was when, after a nearly silent room through The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King and Pocahontas, everyone suddenly erupted in cheers for Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Again—I have a bit of a personal issue with this situation for two reasons. One: the Hunchback musical is coming to Broadway soon and I’m suuuuuper sick of hearing about it. Two: The Hunchback of Notre Dame is the reason Hercules practically tanked in movie theatres. I get it—take my own advice and move on considering Hercules’ superiority is opinion, not fact. Well I mean sure you have a point. But I wasn’t alone in my assessment of the situation. As soon as the cheers began, Lauryn turned to me and mouthed “time to leave.” It was not a question.
“I don’t regret leaving at all.” Lauryn told me, later in the day. “I feel like If I had stayed any longer it would have ruined the day—you go to a con with such high energy and expectations and that sorta crushed them all right outta the gate.” After leaving, Lauryn and I realized we missed Hercules by a slim margin (of course I’ve passed on my absolute love for that film.), but we made eye contact, shrugged and moved on. It wasn’t worth it—and that was my second realization of the morning. It should always be worth it for your faves.
Some of our faith was restored in our second Disney panel: “The Evolution of the Disney Princesses”. The presentation started off strong. Unlike our first panelists, this one took the matter semi-seriously, she spoke with authority, and she didn’t have any tendency towards giggling. I was totally into the whole thing until about halfway through, when she argued that Brave was A) A Disney movie considering Pixar is basically Disney anyways (not true for a variety of reasons) and B) Brave didn’t actually do anything to change the “princess” genre. More falsehoods.
It was at this point I started to think that maybe I’m just being way too picky about panelists and the information they present. I always go into a panel expecting to learn new things. When I find I know too much about a subject, I feel disappointed. So am I setting the bar too high, or are the panelists failing to jump? At this point, a weak-ass panelist would open the floor up to discussion without making any conclusions of their own.
I guess I’m not much better. What do you guys think? Why do you all go to panels?