INTERVIEW: Cecil Castellucci on live action Disney films

When I started off this live action Disney idea, one of my friends on Twitter suggested that I speak with her friend Cecil Castellucci, who was in the midst of live tweeting multiple Disney films (she still is — you can follow her on Twitter to read them).

Any time that she was tweeting them, I’ve delighted in reading her comments along with sending messages back and forth. Once this week finally came around, I was beyond excited that she agreed to be interviewed for our site.

Before we get started, Cecil Castellucci is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of books and graphic novels for young adults including Shade, The Changing Girl; Boy Proof; Soupy Leaves Home; The Year of the Beasts; Tin Star, The Female Furies and Odd Duck. In 2015 she co-authored Star Wars Moving Target: A Princess Leia Adventure. She is currently writing Batgirl for DC Comics and The Little Mermaid for Dark Horse Comics. Her two newest graphic novels are Girl on Film (Boom!) and The Plain Janes (Little Brown). Her short stories and short comics have been published in Strange Horizons, Tor.com, Womanthology, Star Trek: Waypoint, Vertigo SFX: Slam! and many other anthologies. In a former life, she was known as Cecil Seaskull in the ‘90s indie band Nerdy Girl. She has written two opera librettos Les Aventures de Madame Merveille (World Premiere in 2010) and Hockey Noir: The Opera (World Premiere 2018). She is the former Children’s Correspondence Coordinator for The Rumpus, a two-time MacDowell Fellow, and the founding YA Editor at the LA Review of Books. She lives in Los Angeles. You can check out her official site for more.

If you’re a Kirby fan or just like strong women heroes/villains/somewhere in-between, you need to check out Female Furies.

B&S About Movies: Did you watch these Disney films as a kid or are you coming into them as an adult?

Cecil Castellucci: Oh I totally watched Disney films as a kid. My mom was going back to school to get her PhD so my Dad used to take me and my brother to a double feature matinee on Saturday’s so that she could study.  So that’s when I saw a lot of the classics or ones that were not first run. And when we were older, there was always family movie outings and Disney films definitely figured into that equation of what we would go see.  The nice thing about seeing/revisiting some of these films is it’s like an archaeological excavation into my own film memories and going back to the beginning of my roots as a cinephile.

B&S: You’ve been live tweeting your live action Disney experience for a while. How did that get started?

Cecil: Well, you know, during the pandemic I was riding the whole thing out solo. And I had to keep myself amused. I was on a zoom with Jose Pimienta who I did the graphic novel Soupy Leaves Home with. He and his lady, who is in animation, were watching every animated film in order as a project and for art learning. I had just written the comics for Disney of Snow White, The Little Mermaid and Frozen, and I’m a Disney/Disneyland fan. I thought: “Who knows how long lockdown will be and it will sort of be a measurement of time. What a good pandemic project!” But I didn’t want to do just animated films, because I’m a live action girl. So it was really something to keep me occupied and engaged and I thought something fun that I could tweet about and have a little connection. Because most people have a fave Disney film or at least one that they have a bit of nostalgia with.  I also just thought it would be really interesting to see the evolution of a studio and its voice. Like an ethnographic study! I should mention that I decided I would only do Disney films not Touchstone or Hollywood Pictures. I’m going to include Pixar but I haven’t decided about Marvel or Lucasfilm yet. Maybe I’ll put that to a Twitter poll.

B&S: What’s the best you’ve watched? The worst?

Cecil: Well, I’m only on film 153 and by my count I still have about 370 films left to go, so I can’t really say for certainty which films I think are the best. And there are some classics that are just great, or have some great things about them, but in reviewing you’re like, oooooh that is super problematic. There are a couple of titles that I had forgotten about thought were stellar and were a great pleasure to watch/rewatch. Those include Sleeping Beauty, Pollyanna, The Parent Trap, Robin Hood, Freaky Friday, Candleshoe, The Black Hole and Tron. As for the worst, I’d say Song of the South, all of the Davy Crockett films and pretty much all of the westerns and One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing.

B&S: Were you a Disney Channel kid?

Cecil: I was not. I think it came on the scene after I was a kid.

B&S: Do you think anyone other than the writers caught on to the fact that the movies had a central Medfield setting?

Cecil: Yes!  I mean, the Kurt Russel films make it obvious, and I kind of love that there’s this one central fucked up university in the Disney Universe.  I mean, I kind of want to go to Medfield. Seems like a lot of cool weird shit goes on there. And they definitely celebrate science and invention.

Medfield even shows up in Disney theme parks!

B&S: What makes the perfect Disney movie?

Cecil: Character. Heart. Warmth. Story. Care. I think a character who figures out it’s ok to walk through the/ their world as themselves. Self-acceptance.

B&S: Has any of this impacted your writing?

Cecil: I am not quite sure yet, but I think it probably will in some unknown way. One thing for sure, is seeing all the problematic stuff being so blatant and obvious makes me even more aware of that and so makes me really think about trying to avoid that. So that awareness has impacted me. Because a lot of the films it’s like, really you had to do that? And go there? And what that what? Whoa not cool storytellers. That is not cool.

B&S: Have you ever compared the remakes?

Cecil: My rule is that I am going in order, so I’m only in 1983 right now. The remakes will be coming up sooner than later and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they are updated and if they hold up a bit better and try to fix some of the oh no stuff. And you know, have more girls in them. Too many boys in a lot of the earlier films.

B&S: Who is the better Disney hero: Dean Jones or Kurt Russell?

Cecil: Hmmmmmmm. I’m going to go Kurt Russell because I think Kurt Russel the actor had cooler parts outside of Disney films that had a little more edge. Dean is a little milquetoast. Sorry, Dean!

B&S: When does Condorman show up in the MCU?

Cecil: Never, hopefully. Condorman is a boring hero. Gosh I disliked that film so much. BUT I would gladly write a comic book miniseries about LASER LADY who he created a comic book about. So give me a call, Marvel about that!

Thanks Cecil for your time! Don’t forget to check out her site and all of her great books!

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