Tag: Disney

Life is a Highway by Carlee Cantwell

From the earliest stages of childhood, I was exposed to the idea of the road. At just a few months old, I took my very first road trip to the Jersey Shore. Ever since then, every road trip I’ve ever taken has represented a different milestone. Whether it was the first vacation I took without my parents, the first time I drove a car, or my travels across Ireland and Europe, the road has always represented more than just a journey between physical destinations, but more so a journey in my personal growth. A song that immediately jumps into my head when I think about my journeys is “Life is a Highway”. Although originally a Tom Cochrane song, the version I connect most with is the one done by Rascal Flatts for the movie, “Cars”. In particular the lyrics, “Life’s like a road that you travel on…”, and “Life is a highway, I wanna ride it all night long”, speak to the connections I find between the road and its representation of journey and personal growth.

I believe that many people see the road as a representation of a pathway to achieving their goals. They’ll “hit the road” and get out of their town to achieve bigger and better things. In the movie “Cars”, which draws a lot of its imagery from the stereotypical ideas of Route 66, Lightening McQueen, a young race car is traveling across the country to get to California for a big race. However, he runs into the town of Radiator Springs, an old town that lost all its visitors when the new highway was built. From traveling this stretch of road, McQueen learns that life isn’t just about all his shiny trophies, but about enjoying the road you’re on and embracing the journey itself. In the movie, some of the secondary characters like Mater the Tow Truck and Doc Hudson fondly reminisce on the old times in Radiator Springs. While the road holds old memories for them, like many roads do for people today, they also recognize that their memories aren’t how things will be forever. In the end of the movie, the town recieves a revival after McQueen brings his crew through it, providing the typical children’s movie happy ending, just as Route 66 has achieved its own “happy ending” as a tourist attraction. While the people who travel the roads are on physically and personal journeys, the roads themselves take journeys as well. Route 66 for example went from being the route to get you places to being THE place to visit. Old popular roads are replaced with bigger, newer highways. Towns whole landscapes shift because of the use of one road or another. Some people may say a road is just a road, but I think the roads we travel play an integral part in our own stories and experiences. As we travel along the fast-paced highway of life, the exits we choose to get off at dictate our direction, and when old places and memories are replaced it can feel like a part of our journey is gone forever.
Image: Original Cars Movie Poster (2006)

Disney and John Henry – by Kelsey Miranda

Walt Disney Pictures created an animated short depicting the life of American jh1legend John Henry.  The cartoon tells a story of two freed slaves John Henry and his wife Polly Ann on the search for work and a new home during Reconstruction. John Henry finds a crew of exhausted workers who are having trouble completing the railroad’s deadline.  The railroad company has a contract with the workers; if they complete their deadline on time the workers are entitled to 50 acres of land.  John Henry gets right to work but workers become fearful when a steam-powered drill comes to finish the job. The laborers contracts will be broken if the steam-powered drill proves to be more efficient. This part of the film dealt with the anxiety workers had during this time that industries would replace manpower with machines. In Nelson’s reading this anxiety propelled labor unions and the communist party to use pictures of John Henry to represent Black laborers.

In the film American hero John Henry will not let his crew lose their land due to the machine, which results in a competition between John Henry and the steam-powered drill.  Whoever gets the most work done by sundown wins the competition. John Henry with two hammers beats the machine; the workers and his wife Polly Ann were given the land that they were promised in their contract. Unfortunately, John Henry loses his life due to exhaustion and the movie ends with Polly Ann telling this story to her and John’s son. In the film, Disney recreated versions of the worker songs about John Henry, which showed the icon’s lasting power in American Folk music.

In the readingJH2s by Scott Reynolds Nelson stated music teachers taught rhythm using John Henry folk songs during the 1950’s and later. He was also written about in many children books but was not discussed in other disciplines due to the association with the communist party.  This Disney short was a part of a compilation called American Legends and the addition of the John Henry short was only released recently compared to the other shorts that were released in the 1950s. This displayed the controversy that surrounded the icon but his popularity continued through children stories, music, and movies.  John Henry has had a strong lasting power in American society and is one of the greatest African American heroes.