TIME movies

Christopher Nolan Wrote an Interstellar Comic to Explain the Backstory

It will appear in the next issue of Wired

Interstellar writer and director Christopher Nolan wrote a seven-page comic to satiate moviegoers’ curiosity about the film’s backstory.

The comic will follow Matt Damon’s character Dr. Mann, according to The Hollywood Reporter, and is scheduled to appear in the Nov. 25 issue of Wired, which Nolan is guest-editing. It is currently available online.

Here’s a preview:

THR notes that this is an unorthodox move for Nolan, as he rarely even includes deleted scenes in his films.


TIME Video Games

Far Cry 4 Review: The Best Far Cry Yet


Ubisoft's latest offers gorgeous Himalayan views, immaculately well-balanced gameplay and cathartic pandemonium

This is how crazy Far Cry 4 can get: I’m droning just above the treetops in a ramshackle gyrocopter, scouting for macaques, when I spy a trio of the pale-furred primates loping near the edge of a precipice. I descend slowly through stands of firs, my rotors audibly clipping branches, preparing to leap out, when I hear the telltale tattoo of machine guns talking—the country’s militia trading gunfire with insurgents.

Bullets suddenly smack into my body, thump-thump-thump. My vision narrows. I jab a greenish syringe into my arm and bail out of the copter—still hovering at the lip of the cliff—spreading my arms and legs and arcing in a wingsuit toward the terrain below like a fired missile. With seconds to land, I deploy my parachute and tumble into more trees, rocks, snarled undergrowth…and the sights of one pissed honey badger, which growls like it definitely cares, then leaps at me, cobra-like, to eat my face off.

Surviving Far Cry 4 often feels like that, abrupt and slightly mad and sequentially unhinged. It’s you in a jam band, an improvisatory celebration of net-less oneupmanship (versus your own best performances) as you vector from mission to mission. The experience is somewhat like being a pinball, lured off course by too-cool-to-ignore distractions, bounding into bedlam with the fleet-footedness of a huntsman by way of an exuberant toddler.

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And lo, what distractions in this brave new world of drivable elephants, scalable summits, sartorial safaris and literal B-movie stunt quests. As named, the Far Cry games are about hurling you into slight caricatures of otherworldly milieus full of both serious and utterly frivolous things to do. The first and third entries in the series were staged in sultry equatorial spaces (the former eventually turning full-on Island of Dr. Moreau), while the second channeled Kurtzian jungles and savannah through a lens Anton Chigurah. Think part first-person shooter, part Lonely Planet, part Tarantino abattoir.

Far Cry 4 sculpts its vamp on that equation out of Nepalese remoteness and Himalayan verticality, and the results are predictably head-turning. Look out from any point in Kyrat, Ubisoft’s fictional Nepal, and you’ll note the sunlight glinting naturally off ornate bronze prayer wheels, throngs of thousand-leafed autumnal trees and undulating highways of calligraphic prayer flags fluttering in the wind.

Look further and you’ll spy plumes of distant smoke drifting stratospherically, blinking radio towers on miles-away hilltops and the intricately scalloped terraces of far-flung vertical farms. Then look up to where the horizon line should be to find the Himalayas towering like upthrust fangs, each snowy crag or escarpment crisply articulated, every draped and drifting cloud bank ethereal. There’s a sense of visual continuity here that seems only matched, in hindsight, in Bethesda’s 2011 hit Skyrim.

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Set the game’s new look aside, and you could argue Far Cry 4 hasn’t changed much since players strained to salvage Jason Brody’s Pacific vacation. Kyrati-American Ajay Ghale wages a parallel, accidental campaign against a maniacal (but endlessly amusing) despot. He’s returned to scatter his mother’s ashes but then, whoops, he’s wrestling tigers, scaling mountains and squaring off with a megalomaniacal fashionista! But that’s an oversimplification. This is both the game Far Cry 3 was and wasn’t.


You still play a stereotypically displaced Westerner (Kyrati-American or no) in a freely explorable danger-scape, leveling up superhuman abilities and weapons as you fight to liberate thug-filled outposts. And you still do so by glassing enemies with binoculars, mulling over different attack approaches, hypothesizing ideal takedown scenarios and tripping auxiliary triggers like freeing lethal animals in cages, or lobbing “bait” to summon others.

Those animals still haunt regions of the world map, and you still hunt them to craft upgrades that pad out your ability to schlep stuff. And overlying that, you’ll still have to scale and sabotage nearly two dozen towers (here broadcasting propaganda) to de-fog swathes of the map and spotlight new activities. These are what Ubisoft’s taken to calling “pillars” in its primary franchises, and you’re either into the idea or not.

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But Far Cry 4 also builds gainfully on what Ubisoft’s learned about crafting freeform microcosms. Take your guides through the game’s main story: two parental sides of a Kyrati rebel force (after Nepal’s maoist insurgency) calling itself The Golden Path. The friction between their prosecutorial styles unlocks unique missions and rival story paths, some of which culminate in extremely discomfiting moments as you’re dressed down by the game’s incisive writers and get-under-your-skin voice actors, the strategist you shunned arguing the other’s illogic witheringly. As usual, there are no right or wrong choices here, only more or less relatable ones.


The rest comes down to well-executed fan service. You can zip to almost anywhere now in the handy gyrocopter, or survive impossible falls and cobble together breathtaking impromptu maneuvers with the wingsuit. The new “hunter” class enemy basically has thousand-yard x-ray vision, can nail you from as far off and, in a bit of inspired insidiousness, turns animals against you. All of this adds delightful emergent wrinkles to combat scrums.

The most difficult outposts are now called fortresses, and they’re so brutally and brilliantly difficult the game actually recommends performing other tasks to “weaken” them before you muster and assault (but you’re always welcome to try sooner). Vehicles now have an auto-drive feature that turns control over to the A.I. so you can focus on shooting, solving an ages-old problem. (Expect this one to be emulated in other games.) And cooperative play now happens in the main world, not adjunct to it, so while friends can’t co-play story missions, they can drop in or out at will to tackle anything else in your version of Kyrat, or vice versa.

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That the war’s progress still comes to a standstill as you gallivant around the countryside is no more a problem here than any of the game’s other non sequiturs: hundreds of loot chests that lie in the open waiting just for you; that you groan with disgust as you gut animals but make not a sound when head-popping thousands of enemy soldiers; your ability to wield non-metaphorical superpowers for goodness sake; and the idea that everyone else prattles on while you say almost nothing. (Though, it’s perhaps the better compromise if you’re not a manic quipster.) You could pretentiously call any of that ludonarrative dissonance, or just settle for “game design circa 2014.”


But my favorite parts of Far Cry 4 lie in its quieter, unscripted moments, ones where I’d notice an inconspicuous grapple point glinting at me from high above, only to climb thousands of feet and find myself swinging between precarious protrusions toward terra incognita, inching up or down my grapple rope and angling to land just so on a silver of ledge-space.

There’s another kind of game that lives inside Far Cry 4, one that’s not about the hails of bullets or checking off victory points or slicing open a stockade’s worth of wildlife. You can play that game for hours here if you like, exploring Ubisoft’s Kyrat in trancelike quietude, but the gameplay rewards are marginal–exploration for its own sake has to suffice. How much longer before someone offers a viably nonviolent parallel path through one of these games? One that involves playing not as the guns-a-blazin’ savior, but a character more like the war correspondent in David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks—the person whose perilous job it is to chronicle the war instead of waging it, and perhaps bring a sense of accountability to the chaos and madness.

5 out of 5

Reviewed using the PlayStation 4 version of the game.

Read next: Everything You Need to Know About World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor

TIME Television

Dancing With the Stars Watch: The Semifinals Unplugged

Adam Taylor—ABC

Find out who made it to the finals

It was the semifinal round of Dancing With the Stars, and the five remaining couples had their work cut out for them — and not just getting into their skin-tight spandex costumes. Tonight, the semifinalists had to perform a classic DWTS routine followed by a slowed-down performance to an acoustic version of the same song. At the end of the night, one person goes home and the rest advance to the finals, which are efficiently spread out over two nights next week.

Here’s what happened in the semifinal round of Dancing With the Stars:

Sadie Robertson and Mark Ballas: Last week, the judges completely missed the fact that Sadie miffed the last minute of her routine, but Sadie knew in her heart she had screwed up and cried on Mark’s shoulder. This week, she hit the floor in head-to-toe sequins and managed to perform a quick step to Ariana Grande’s “Problem” without a single, yep, problem. Head judge Len Goodman was “disappointed” with the routine “because there was nothing [he] didn’t like about it.” 37/40, including a 10 from Len, but mostly because she bribed him with this photo.

Tommy Chong and Peta Murgatroyd: Tommy had his bags packed to leave last week, but at 76 years old he made it to the semifinals to dance a jazz routine with a leather-and-lace-clad Peta to “Tainted Love.” Beats retiring to Boca, eh? Len admitted that he couldn’t have done what Tommy just did on the dance floor, while Bruno Tonioli gave the credit to Peta, whom he referred to as “a human defibrillator.” Maybe she should make herself available to the Red Cross? 28/40

Bethany Mota and Derek Hough: After their excellent scores in last week’s threesome round, Derek decided to relive the magic by bringing in troupe member Sasha for a fast-paced and fall-themed samba to the Jackson Five. But before he came up with that sorta-not-really brilliant idea he had a rehearsal meltdown and Bethany had to talk him down from his creative ledge. After the routine that Len called “cotton candy,” Derek’s sister Julianne suggested that he “get out of [his] head” and stop overthinking the routines, which is good advice that Derek will probably ignore. 36/40

Janel Parrish and Val Chmerkovskiy: Val imported his big brother Maks for a rehearsal-room pep talk and an adorable Chmerkovskiy brother spin across the dance floor. Val is really worried that he’s getting older and hasn’t won a Mirror Ball yet and is determined to make a real go at it with Janel. To wit, he delivered a black-clad dramatic paso doble to Calvin Harris’ “Blame.” The second it ended, the crowd was on its feet cheering, and Carrie Ann Inaba was begging for more. Len was worried that Maks was going to be a bad influence on Val, but even Len was impressed with the chic routine. 40/40

Alfonso Ribeiro and Witney Carson: Alfonso told TIME last week that the biggest question mark about this competition was whether his body would hold up for the rest of his run. Last week, while attempting to protect his groin injury, he injured his back and ended up at the doctor, who urged him to give his body a break. Instead, he hit the dance floor for an Argentine tango. The judges admitted that they could tell he was in pain while he danced, but threw around lots of words like fighter and tough while Alfonso cried actual tears and swore he was going to make it through the next dance. Carrie Ann encouraged to “go safe, but go hard” in the next round. 36/40

Sadie and Mark, Part II: For the big push into the finals, Sadie called in the troops, and the entire Duck Dynasty crew came out for the video package, which also included clips of baby Sadie preaching about her love of God. For their Argentine tango, Mark kept it PG-rated by keeping a guitar between them at all times, which was an odd but effective chaperone for the couple. Len was not impressed by the guitar maneuver, but Utah girl (and Flashdance star) Julianne understood the need to be chaste. For her part, Sadie thinks she’s matured a lot over the course of the nine-week competition. 36/40

Tommy and Peta, Part II: For his video package, Tommy’s wife and children, including Rae Dawn Chong, naturally, talked about how proud they are of their dad. Then his comedy partner, Cheech, reminded the world that Tommy is just really freakin’ awesome. After that lead-in, there was no way he couldn’t deliver on the dance floor. Their Christmas-toymaker-themed rumba to “Tainted Love” was one of those only-on-Dancing With the Stars moments. Peta played a snow-globe doll that came to life to dance with her velvet-clad toymaker — and it kind of worked? Julianne, who is Tommy’s biggest booster, thought it was “magical,” “awesome” and “so great” and almost broke into tears. Carrie Ann was crying by the end of the routine, tears were rolling down Peta’s face and Erin Andrews was all choked up too. 34/40

Bethany and Derek, Part II: Bethany was bullied before she found her voice on YouTube, and in her video package, her family recounted her tough years. Luckily, it clearly all turned out well, because Bethany is now dancing with a shirtless Derek on national television. Their contemporary routine was set to a surprisingly haunting acoustic version of Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back.” Bruno said the routine belonged in an art gallery and called it a “modern masterpiece” and Carrie Ann said she “didn’t want to blink” so she wouldn’t miss a moment. 40/40

Janel and Val, Part II: Janel’s family left Hawaii so Janel could follow her dreams of acting and dancing, which is probably a lot of pressure for a young girl, but she finally got a job as Mona on Pretty Little Liars, so all’s well that ends in paychecks. The band Time for Three (with a guest appearance by Val on violin!) performed a string version of Calvin Harris’ “Blame” to accompany their Argentine tango. The routine was filled with fluid movements and jaw-dropping lifts (made even more jaw-dropping by the fact that Janel performed them in a low-cut, high-cut sparkly lace dress). Len thought they put the “oo in mood” and confirmed that she is an incredible dancer, but Lift Police Carrie Ann thought the transitions between the lifts were rough. 38/40

Alfonso and Witney, Part II: If there was ever going to be a moment for the Fresh Prince himself to come out and support his “brother” it would be now, but apparently Will Smith is just too busy. Alfonso did however get Ricky Schroeder to show up and remind us that he was on Silver Spoons. Plus, his Bel Air sisters Tatyana Ali and Karyn Parsons and butler Joseph Marcell showed up to recount some behind-the-scenes moments from the Fresh Prince set. Then, for absolutely no reason other than to entertain, well, me, former Vice President of the United States Dan Quayle endorsed Alfonso for Mirror Ball holder. Once on the dance floor, Alfonso’s and Witney’s contemporary routine to Christina Grimmie’s cover of One Republic’s “‘Til The Love Runs Out” was the dance equivalent of the satin pajamas they wore for the number — fluid, shiny and easy on the eyes. 39/40

In jeopardy: Unfortunately for Alfonso, he has to return next week and continue to watch his body crumble. Also headed to the finals are Bethany and Derek, and Janel and Val. That left Sadie and Tommy in jeopardy.

Who went home: Tommy Chong. While it was always fun to watch Tommy dance, he remained on the show due to his charm and humor, more than talent. His departure before the final is no real surprise, but no less sad.

Best reason to come back next week: It’s the finals, and someone is taking home the Mirror Ball trophy.

Read next: Alfonso Ribeiro Talks About Heading to the Semi-Finals on Dancing with the Stars


Hot in Cleveland to End Run After 6 Seasons

TV Land's "Hot In Cleveland" Celebrates 100 Episodes
Jesse Grant—Getty Images for TV Land From left, Valerie Bertinelli, Wendie Malick, president of TV Land Larry W. Jones, Betty White, Jane Leeves and show creator Suzanne Martin attend Hot in Cleveland's 100 Episodes Celebration in Studio City, Calif., on May 1, 2014

It’s time for the ladies of Cleveland to say goodbye.

TV Land announced Monday that Hot in Cleveland, which focuses on a trio of women who moved to Ohio from Los Angeles, will end after its sixth and current season.

“It’s been an honor to work with Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick and the incomparable Betty White,” TV Land President Larry W. Jones said in a statement. “The passion and talent they brought to the set each and every week over the past 5 years has put TV Land on the map as a network dedicated to quality original programming. We will continue to celebrate the show and are looking forward to a fantastic series finale.”

To help celebrate its final batch of episodes, the sitcom is giving 92-year-old star White the chance to mack on an old TV favorite.

PEOPLE obtained the exclusive first look of White enjoying a steamy kiss with Robert Wagner, who is set to guest-star on the show Wednesday.

The former Hart to Hart actor plays Jim, a guy whom Elka (White) sets her sights on in a local bar. But when her powers of seduction don’t work right away, Elka does the unthinkable: She decides to listen to his boring stories, and gets an unexpected surprise as a result.

Hot in Cleveland airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on TV Land.

This article originally appeared on People.com

TIME movies

Frequent Tim Burton Collaborator to Pen Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Movie

The writer of Frankenweenie will adapt the books that terrified you as a kid

The movie version of those books that haunted your dreams as a child may not be so scary after all.

Screenwriter John August, who has written multiple screenplays for director Tim Burton, will write CBS Films’ upcoming Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Deadline reports.

The previous screenwriters attached to the project had written the past four Saw films. August, on the other hand, most recently wrote the Oscar-nominated animated Frankenweenie. But it’s hard to imagine there’s a non-terrifying adaptation of the Alvin Schwartz books that featured these twisted illustrations from Stephen Gammell.

The three-book series has sold more than 7 million copies around the globe since its first volume hit shelves in 1981.


TIME Television

HBO Creepily Announces Westworld Series Starring Anthony Hopkins

"Noah" Press Conference
Vera Anderson—WireImage Anthony Hopkins at the "Noah" Press Conference at the Four Seasons Hotel on March 24, 2014 in Beverly Hills.

Jonah Nolan and J.J. Abrams court an all-star cast for the highly anticipated sci-fi western

HBO has officially green lit Westworld, a futuristic drama starring Anthony Hopkins, for 2015. The premium cable network made the announcement Monday via a creepy Vine posted to its Twitter account:

The show, based on Michael Crichton’s 1973 film of the same name, will center on an adult amusement park that is filled with lifelike robots. Stars are flocking to the project, according to The Hollywood Reporter, because of the juicy acting opportunity to play many different characters in a single season, as the plot involves robots that are killed off and return with completely different personalities.

So far James Marsden (X-Men), Ed Harris (A Beautiful Mind), Evan Rachel Wood (The Wrestler), Thandie Newton (The Pursuit of Happyness) and Jeffrey Wright (Casino Royale) will join Anthony Hopkins in the show. Unlike HBO’s all-star True Detective, which tells a new story with new actors every season, actors on Westworld will sign multi-season contracts. This will be Hopkins’ first series regular role ever.

Penned by married writing duo, Jonathan Nolan (Interstellar) and Lisa Joy (Burn Notice), Westworld will be produced by Nolan and J.J. Abrams. The series comes as HBO wraps three of its dramas this year: Boardwalk Empire, True Blood and The Newsroom.

TIME movies

Ranking: The Disney Renaissance From Worst to Best

Animated mermaids, lion cubs, and a bell ringer with chronic back problems

This post originally appeared on Consequence of Sound.

On November 17, 1989, 25 years ago today, Walt Disney Pictures’ The Little Mermaid premiered in movie theatres across America, swimming into our hearts and kicking off what is now known as the Disney Renaissance.

After the colossal disappointment of the 1985 feature The Black Cauldron and slightly more profitable efforts like 1986’s The Great Mouse Detective and 1988’s Oliver & Company still getting pummeled at the box office by former Disney animator Don Bluth’s An American Tail and The Land Before Time, respectively, the House of Mouse was in dire need of a transformation. Pivoting back to the music-driven, ornately drawn fairy tales of the studio’s heyday, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, then-CEO Michael Eisner hired lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken, known for working together on the successful Off-Broadway production Little Shop of Horrors, to write the songs for an ambitious new film: an animated adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid.

Thankfully, the result was a critical and commercial success, garnering a higher weekend gross than Bluth’s All Dogs Go to Heaven, which opened the same weekend, and eventually breaking The Land Before Time’s record of highest-grossing animated film. The Little Mermaid also won two Academy Awards, for Best Original Score and for Best Original Song (“Under the Sea”), and breathed new life into what had hitherto been a fading empire. After struggling through a string of commercial flops from the early-’70s to the mid-’80s, the Walt Disney Company was finally back on top, with 1989 marking the dawn of the studio’s new golden era.

Disney would go on to release one animated musical a year for the next decade, resulting in 10 motion pictures that are widely recognized as the Disney Renaissance oeuvre. So, get ready for some prime millennial nostalgia as we rank each of the outings from meh to magnificent, and let us know in the comments section which films you still love, which ones you can’t stand, and which VHS tapes you broke from rewinding and playing over and over.

— Leah Pickett
Film Staff Writer

10. Pocahontas (1995)

If you prefer your history whitewashed, then you probably won’t be too offended by Pocahontas, the weakest and most vapid entry in the Renaissance Ten. As the first animated Disney film to be based on a historical figure, one would expect our main character, even with the rest of her story bastardized and kid-proofed to death with cuddly animal sidekicks (Meeko the Raccoon and Percy the Pug) and a talking willow tree (Linda Hunt), to be at least somewhat interesting. But no, she and her equally boring lover, John Smith, voiced by famed anti-Semite Mel Gibson, are the Barbie and Ken of the New World, with not much to offer besides dramatic poses and platitudes.

Iconic Disney Moment: Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue-corn moon, or asked the grinning bobcat why he grins? Perhaps you should try jumping off a cliff and letting the colors of the wind carry you down; that looks fun.

Leah Pickett

9. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Taking a nearly 500-page novel by Victor Hugo and turning it into a 91-minute, animated extravaganza suitable for children is risky, to be sure. But the main problem with Disney’s version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is not in its reach for the dramatic — on the contrary, the grand leaps into gothic spectacle and pathos are the films high points — but in its yielding to the requisite tomfoolery, like the gargoyles dancing and singing (for the kids!), that creates several jarring shifts in tone. Perhaps the studio was reticent to go too dark, considering how The Black Cauldron turned out. But when the villain, Claude Frollo (Tony Jay), is the most electrifying screen presence, and Esmeralda (Demi Moore) and Captain Phoebus (Kevin Kline) barely register, well, that presents quite a conundrum. Perhaps if the sidekicks had been less hackneyed and if Quasimodo had been performed with more gusto (Tom Hulce’s voiceover is adequate, but ultimately forgettable), then Hunchback, which isn’t all that bad in retrospect, might have left a more lasting impression.

Iconic Disney Moment: That’s easy: Frollo singing to the shadow of Esmeralda’s naked, dancing body as it erupts into flames. “Destroy Esmeralda, and let her taste the fires of hell, or else let her be mine and mine alone!” he wails, torn apart by the horror of his forbidden lust. Um, holy shit.

Leah Pickett

8. The Rescuers Down Under (1990)

And so it began. Thirteen years after the release of The Rescuers, Disney dipped its toes into the sequel pool for the first time with The Rescuers Down Under, another of the earliest entries in the Renaissance era. As a film, it’s an exciting enough adventure flick and one which offers Disney’s characteristic sense of genuine danger, even in a film about cute, anthropological animals who govern their own animal rescue squadron (the Rescue Aid Society). Like The Rescuers, which was primarily built around an anonymous plea for help by a kidnapped orphan, Down Under sees Bernard (Bob Newhart) and Miss Bianca (Eva Gabor, in her final film role) attempting to save Cody, a young boy unwittingly captured and very nearly fed to crocodiles by a maniacal big-game hunter in search of a golden eagle. Down Under is far from the most memorable Disney movie, but it’s absolutely noteworthy for one reason: not only was it Disney’s first sequel but also its first foray into the hybridized hand-drawn/computer-generated animation that would characterize the studio’s next and best phase.

Iconic Disney Moment: The point at which Bernard saves Cody from the aforementioned crocodile trap by furiously riding in on a razorback pig he tamed with an animal-whispering technique. It’s quintessential Disney: beautifully animated, exciting, and with just a dash of reckless child endangerment.

Dominick Mayer

7. Tarzan (1999)

For a time, Tarzan was Disney’s most expensive animated production ever. And despite its budget being trumped within a few years by the underrated but still notorious flop Treasure Planet, Tarzan still stands as one of Disney’s most lushly animated, visually memorable films. It’s also a moving one, as Edgar Rice Burroughs’ characters are brought to life in a film that at once pays homage to Burroughs and stages its own powerful arguments about the modern world, about man’s violation of nature and its propensity to act in ways more savage than the animals it forever hopes to tame. It’s the chronicle of Tarzan (Tony Goldwyn), who’s torn between his loyalty to his given family of apes and Jane (Minnie Driver), the gentle scientist who offers Tarzan the opportunity to live among his own kind. While it’s an often simplistic film, and hardly strays from the long-established Tarzan stories of yore, it occasionally offers some surprisingly complex lessons about loyalty and what it is that defines a family, and even briefly returned Phil Collins to top 40 prominence. The renaissance more or less ended here, but it’s an impressive way to go out.

Iconic Disney Moment: Tarzan’s introductory journey, as he pursues game through a thicket of trees by flying effortlessly between them. It’s a truly breathtaking sequence that stands among Disney’s best individual scenes.

Dominick Mayer

6. Hercules (1997)

Greek mythology seems like a perfect springboard for a Disney movie, given the amount of them that trade on the basic iconographies of the mythic. But what’s most pleasantly surprising about Hercules isn’t necessary its retelling of Herc’s trials, an aspect of Greek lore that had been done to death for years before Disney ever took aim at it, or even the music, which doesn’t linger well after viewing in the same way as some of the soundtrack cuts from other films on our list. (Well, the refrain of “Herc-u-les” notwithstanding.) It’s how surprisingly quick and fun the film is. Bolstered by a score of studio-best voice performances, from James Woods’ perfectly jaded and sarcastic Hades to Susan Egan’s seen-it-all Megara, Hercules makes up for whatever it may be lacking in the iconic, universal appeal of Disney’s best films of this period with sheer entertainment value. Whether it’s Danny DeVito cracking wise as Hercules’ trainer Phil or Hades callously informing Hercules of Meg’s mortality with a smirk and a couple one-liners, Hercules is Disney animation at its fleet-footed, oddly comical, darkly tinged best.

Iconic Disney Moment: Hercules conquering the Hydra, only after removing several of its heads and trapping it in a landslide. Woods’ running commentary and DeVito’s screaming panic give the scene a perfectly pitched, off-kilter tone.

Dominick Mayer

5. The Little Mermaid (1989)

If you’re wondering why The Little Mermaid is placed in the middle of our list, and not closer to the top, the truth is that the story doesn’t hold up as well as it should. Sure, the very best elements retain their magic: the striking animation, the infectious songs, the fabulous villain (“And don’t underestimate the importance of body language!”), the memorable side characters, and the tenacious, likable lead still shine. But the whole girl meets boy, girl gives up her voice to be with boy scenario is harder to swallow as an adult than, say, as an impressionable child dreaming of true love’s first kiss. The biggest problem is that, after literally giving up her voice to be with Prince Eric, Ariel doesn’t change. She gets what she wants in the end and all for a guy she’s known for grand total of three days. King Triton is the only character with a real arc, and, to the movie’s credit, he is the most impressive Disney dad. Also, if you reframe The Little Mermaid as being Triton’s story, of how he learns to love his daughter by letting her go, that makes the film even better in hindsight. Granted, that could just be my inner old person talking.

Iconic Disney Moment: “Part of Your World”. If you are a female-identified child of the ‘90s, chances are good that you have belted this song into your hairbrush or showerhead on more than one occasion.

Leah Pickett

4. Aladdin (1992)

As animation goes, you can’t get much more fluid or imaginative, at least within the boundaries of the early ‘90s, than what Aladdin had to offer. John Musker and Ron Clements, who already had The Little Mermaid under their belts and would go on to helm Hercules, Treasure Planet, and The Princess and the Frog as well, made use of Disney’s continually growing interest in the potential of computer animation. But never before (and rarely since) had it been used to such stunning effect. From Aladdin’s initial footrace through the streets of Agrabah to the magic carpet ride to the Genie’s cave and right through Jafar reaching his final form late in the film, Aladdin offers one jaw-dropping step forward for animation as a medium after another. That sense of endeavor into the unknown and unconquered, combined with Alan Menken’s bouncing, infectious music, makes for one of Disney’s most lovable and enduring films.

And while it’s easy to come down on the film with respect to most modern metrics (the racially problematic villainy, Jasmine’s relative ineffectuality when compared to most other Disney princesses), Aladdin is still a visual and aural pleasure of substantial caliber. It’s also among Disney’s warmest films, a tale of love and friendship and how one or both of those things can only be truly achieved when you set selfishness aside and look out for those who’ve been good to you. Given the events of the past few months, viewings will never quite be the same again, but in the Genie, Robin Williams left one of his most indelible and timeless characters, and one of the very best in the Disney canon.

Iconic Disney Moment: That flying carpet ride. The maudlin nature of “A Whole New World” has been parodied to death over the years, but it’s still one of the most unabashedly breathtaking and romantic sequences Disney’s ever put together.

Dominick Mayer

3. Mulan (1998)

Before Disney’s more recent girl-power epics Brave and Frozen came along, there was Mulan, the story of a woman who disguises herself as a man to defeat the Huns (hwah!). Yes, Mulan is a badass, but she also has nobler aims: to protect her family by taking her elderly father’s place on the battlefield and to prove that she has value above and beyond being married off to the highest bidder. And while the movie gets off to a slow start, the training camp montage is a Renaissance high point, with the budding, gender-bending magnetism between Mulan and her commander, Li Shang, providing some compelling sparks alongside her main focus, which is to find the strength within herself to be brave, follow her heart, and save China.

Plus, most of the main characters, with the obvious exception of Eddie Murphy as the dragon Mushu, are voiced by Asian-American actors. Ming Na-Wen is Mulan’s speaking voice, and Lea Salonga is her singing voice; BD Wong voices Li Shang; Pat Morita is the Emperor of China; George Takei cameos as one of Mulan’s ancestors; and Soon Tek-Oh plays Mulan’s father, Fa Zhou. Okay, Harvey Fierstein also pops up as one of the army dunces, but with such an impressive female lead, enticing story, moving message, and in my opinion, the catchiest song in the Renaissance catalog, “Be a Man”, this one bizarre admission is easily forgivable.

Iconic Disney Moment: “Let’s get down to business / to defeat the Huns!” This song is everything.

Leah Pickett

2. The Lion King (1994)

Yeah, it’s basically Hamlet with lions. But let’s move on from the obvious note, because The Lion King is so much more than a kid-friendly (well, friendly-ish) rendition of Shakespeare. While our top film edges it out by just a hair, The Lion King is the sort of generation-defining masterpiece that Disney does with the best when it’s at its best. Particularly for those who grew up during the film’s salad years, this writer included, it’s hard to start talking about The Lion King without highlighting the power of that stampede sequence and Mufasa’s subsequent death. “Get up, Dad” is not only one of Disney’s most instantly recognizable bits of dialogue, but it was also a bold maneuver. Through that impeccably animated moment, Disney taught a generation of kids about death and mortality and the responsibilities that the living have to the dead they once loved. It’s affecting, troubling stuff even by Disney’s standards.

But this, and the surprisingly bracing showdown that eventually transpires between an adult Simba (Matthew Broderick) and his uncle Scar (a deliciously vampy Jeremy Irons), take The Lion King from a story of a young cub coming of age in a starving kingdom to a transcendent piece of filmmaking, one that treats its ostensibly young audience with a respect and esteem that few family-centric filmmakers typically do. It’s a crash course in moral relativism for kids, offering lessons in forgiveness, redemption, the virtues of Hakuna Matata juxtaposed with the importance of being willing to grow up and take responsibility for the people who depend on you when the time comes. And when Simba tugs on his father’s cheek, begging him to get up, it’s not only heartbreaking, but a reminder that those we love will eventually leave us. Where another film might simply let that tragic life lesson sit on its own, The Lion King is about where Simba goes from there, how it shapes the course of the rest of his life, and how there is indeed life after death, even if it’s not the one you plan on.

That’s to say nothing of the soundtrack, which is one of Disney’s most iconic in a walk. Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” is as touching an approximation of a sex scene as Disney’s ever done, via John’s powerful delivery and no shortage of meaningful glances and feline necking. “Hakuna Matata” taught countless kids the value of taking it easy at a time when the world was becoming more worrisome and high-strung than ever before. And then there’s “Circle of Life”, the background to the film’s classic opening shots of the African savannah and an easy way to teach kids (and their parents) that if death is one of the most inevitable and life-changing parts of the human comedy, the coming of a new life into the world is perhaps the one that most powerfully surpasses it.

Iconic Disney Moment: The entire film is like a gauntlet of one after another, really, but it has to be Mufasa’s death. Not since Bambi’s mother was gunned down had a Disney movie so starkly stared mortality in the face.

Dominick Mayer

1. Beauty and the Beast (1991)

It makes sense that the top two films on our list, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, also became the two most successful Broadway musicals from Disney’s wheelhouse. Simply put, they are the best; they have the best stories, the best characters, the best settings, and the best songs. But what gives Beauty and the Beast the edge over The Lion King is its groundbreaking importance. While The Little Mermaid was the turning point for Disney’s resurgence and The Lion King a sturdy mid-Renaissance tent pole, Beauty remains the studio’s crown jewel.

First and foremost, it is a truly great film: enthralling, beautiful, dark, humorous, thought-provoking, suspenseful, complex, and grandiose. Belle is a delightfully nerdy heroine who loves to read and doesn’t care what other people think of her. The Beast is also a well-developed and multi-dimensional character, with more emotional complexity in his fingernail than Prince Eric, Hercules, and John Smith combined. And as for the “Stockholm Syndrome” argument, re-watching the film and looking into the finer points all but disproves it. The Beast is angry, yes, because he has been cursed to live in the body of a hideous animal unworthy of love, or so he believes. Of course, he’s not perfect, but he also is the exact opposite of bland, which is more than can be said of many a cookie-cutter Disney prince. The Beast also grows and changes more than any other character of the Renaissance set, in large part because a strong, intelligent, passionate, and independent woman has inspired him to be better.

In the beginning, the Beast yells at Belle and locks her in the castle after allowing her father to go free, but he never lays a hand on her or Maurice, and his bitterness begins to melt fairly early on, as Belle refuses to put up with him until he starts treating her with some respect. He lets his guard down; they take time to get to know each other; he eventually realizes that he can’t force anyone to love him to save himself, and he lets Belle go, resigning himself to misery so that she might find happiness. And, it is important to note, as soon as he says that she can go, she leaves.

When she does return in the film’s climax, it is because Gaston is marching to the castle to kill the Beast, and she realizes that she does love him for who he really is, and he loves her, and she cannot bear to see him sacrifice himself. Although perhaps a bit too on the nose, Belle’s line, “He’s no monster, Gaston, you are!” sums up the prevailing theme quite nicely. It’s what’s on the inside that counts, and while the Beast is ugly on the outside but actually gentle, kind, and thoughtful underneath, Gaston’s evil seeps grotesquely from the inside out, proving that wolves all too often exist in muscle-man clothing. And in the end, the Beast is the one to do a complete 180, realizing that to love is to be completely unselfish, and that only then can his curse be lifted and his love returned.

As the first animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, and perhaps the most critically lauded animated film of the 20th century, Beauty and the Beast is a stunning achievement. The dialogue is well-written, the scenes are gorgeously rendered, and the songs, especially “Belle” and “Be Our Guest”, are sublime. In sum, Beauty is a love story for the ages, “a tale as old as time,” and the ultimate Disney Renaissance classic.

Iconic Disney Moment: Belle and the Beast waltzing to the titular lullaby. Not only is this the most romantic sequence of any Disney animated film, but also, over two decades later, still one of the most visually dazzling and, of course, iconic.

Leah Pickett

TIME Music

The 5 Weirdest Things Willow and Jaden Smith Said In That T Interview

Willow Smith, Jaden Smith
Jordan Strauss—Invision/AP From Left: Willow Smith and her brother Jaden Smith arrive at the Roc Nation 2014 Pre-Grammy Brunch Celebration on Jan. 25, 2014 in Los Angeles.

Willow does not believe in time, while Jaden is alarmed by the state of drivers' ed

Willow and Jaden Smith, the progeny of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, recently sat down with the New York TimesT magazine to talk about their new albums. Mostly, though, they spouted the kind of over-the-top philosophical wisdom that’s recently made Jaden’s Twitter account an endless source of Internet amusement. But, not one to let her brother do all the navel-gazing, Willow — she of “Whip My Hair” fame — also got a little metaphysical. Below are the highlights — read the full interview here.

They make formidable book club members: When asked what they’ve been reading lately, Willow says “quantum physics,” while Jaden says “ancient texts [that] can’t be pre-dated.” Maybe pass on inviting them to your Jonathan Franzen discussion group, then.

Willow is a magical being who can control time even though time is not actually real to her: “I mean, time for me, I can make it go slow or fast, however I please,” she says. “That’s how I know it doesn’t exist.”

Jaden really likes Apple products and also maybe should be kept away from electrical outlets: “Something that’s worth buying to me is like Final Cut Pro or Logic … Anything that you can shock somebody with. The only way to change something is to shock it. If you want your muscles to grow, you have to shock them. If you want society to change, you have to shock them.”

Willow is allegedly 14 in human years but already mourns her infancy: “When they’re in the stomach, [babies are] so aware, putting all their bones together, putting all their ligaments together. But they’re shocked by this harsh world … As they grow up, they start losing.”

Jaden, 16, is very concerned with the state of drivers’ ed: “Think about how many car accidents happen every day,” he says. “Driver’s ed? What’s up? I still haven’t been to driver’s ed because if everybody I know has been in an accident, I can’t see how driver’s ed is really helping them out.”


Read next:

TIME movies

How The Little Mermaid Cued the Disney Animation Renaissance


Twenty-five years ago, the old Disney magic launched an animation revolution that bloomed with Pixar, DreamWorks and Disney's own 'Frozen'

Ariel (voiced by Jodi Benson) has a cushy job: mermaid princess of her father Triton’s underwater kingdom. But she’s also a teenager, restless with wanderlust and fascinated by the “gizmos and gadgets” that have fallen from her sky — the water’s surface. She dreams of joining the magical creatures up on land and, this being a Disney animated feature, she dreams in song. In the Howard Ashman lyric put to Alan Menken’s tune, she sings: “Up where they walk, up where they run, / Up where they stay all day in the sun, / Wanderin’ free. Wish I could be / Part of that world.”

At an early screening of The Little Mermaid, the young audience got restless during that opening ballad — some kids actually started fighting — and Jeffrey Katzenberg, the head of Disney Animation, considered dropping it. Writer-directors John Musker and Ron Clements had to remind Katzenberg that the very first Disney feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, began with a similar “I want” song, “Someday My Prince Will Come,” and that the bosses at MGM had wanted to drop “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz until smarter heads prevailed. Both of those numbers served their stories and became enduring hits. Why not stick with “Part of Your World”?

So the song stayed in, as a declaration of its heroine’s hopes. And The Little Mermaid, which opened 25 years ago, on Nov. 17, 1989, realized its makers’ dream: recapturing the magic of classic Disney as destination entertainment to enthrall generations of moviegoers. More than two decades after Walt Disney’s death, and following a series of less-than-fabulous cartoon features, this was the picture that launched the Disney Renaissance that soared with Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King.

As I wrote in my most enthusi-woozy-astic tone in the Nov. 20, 1989, issue of TIME:

[F]rom the first frame, Disney’s suave storytellers cue you to wonderment in their adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. … For 82 minutes, The Little Mermaid reclaims the movie house as a dream palace and the big screen as a window into enchantment. Live-action filmmakers, see this and try to top it. Go on and try.

Many live-action filmmakers did try; they turned their adventure movies into special-effects showcases indebted to cartoons and comic books. The phenomenal critical and popular success of the Disney Renaissance features also prodded rival studios (including DreamWorks, which Katzenberg cofounded after leaving Disney) to start their own animation units and rake in the cash. That they did, making animation the industry’s most reliably money-making “genre.” In 2010, five of the 10 top-grossing movies were CGI-animated: Pixar’s Toy Story 3, Universal’s Despicable Me, DreamWorks’ Shrek Forever After and How to Train Your Dragon and Disney’s Tangled. But it all began with Ariel.

Walt Disney had first considered the story in the 1930s, as one segment in a proposed omnibus feature of Andersen tales. Fifty years later, Musker and Clements freshened the idea for Disney’s first fairy-tale animated feature since the 1959 Sleeping Beauty. That meant reviving the long-dormant Disney notion of a questing young female (Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora from Sleeping Beauty) who battles for her life and honor against an evil older woman (the Queen, the wicked stepmother, Maleficient). Much later, this conflict of young beauty vs. middle-aged sorcery stoked the drama of Rapunzel and her crone captor in Tangled.

Ariel’s subterranean nemesis, the sea witch Ursula (voiced by Pat Carroll), makes mischief aplenty; but the girl’s main challenge is finding her place in a hostile environment. She’s literally a fish out of water — an undocumented alien, if you will — who must acclimate herself to the strange customs of beasts who breathe through lungs, not gills. The one constant, ain the sea or on land, is true love, which Ariel discovers with the charming Prince Eric (Christopher Daniel Barnes). You may debate whether the Disney heroines fit the feminist standard, but they don’t live in a democracy. Remember, they’re princesses.

The Little Mermaid further harkened back to the classic Disney features by mounting a full musical score with songs that explained the characters and propelled the action. The movie was basically a Broadway musical, but animated and underwater. For the job of custodians and innovators, Menken and Ashman, who had written the off-Broadway hit Little Shop of Horrors, were a perfect choice. Menken could compose sumptuous melodies with a pop lilt, and the clever Ashman worked closely with Musker and Clements on the story. He suggested, for example, that Sebastian the Crab (Samuel E. Wright) be changed from a Jeeves-type English butler to a friendly Jamaican. From this decision came the calypso-inflected revel “Under the Sea” and the sweet samba “Kiss the Girl” — two numbers that broke out of the movie to become modest hits.

One measure of a song’s mainstream success is an Academy Award. Disney had earned Best Song Oscars in 1941 for “When You Wish Upon a Star” from Pinocchio and in 1947 for “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” from Song of the South. Then nothing — until The Little Mermaid again changed the studio’s luck. In the past quarter-century, ten Disney tunes have won the Best Song Oscar: “Under the Sea,” “Beauty and the Beast” (Menkin and Ashman), “A Whole New World” (Menkin and Tim Rice) from Aladdin, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” (Rice and Elton John) from The Lion King, “Colors of the Wind” (Menken and Stephen Schwartz) from Pocahontas, “You’ll Be in My Heart” (Phil Collins) from Tarzan, “If I Didn’t Have You” (Randy Newman) from Pixar’s Monsters, Inc., “We Belong Together” (Newman) from Pixar’s Toy Story 3, “Man or Muppet” (Bret McKenzie) from the live-action The Muppets and the worldwide smash “Let It Go” (Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez) from Frozen.

In some ways, The Little Mermaid was old-fashioned. Rendered in the hand-drawn style, it was the last Disney animated feature to use cels and Xeroxing. Pixar and its CGI imitators soon made that rigorous process obsolete. The Toy Story, Shrek and Ice Age franchises taught audiences to accept movies that emphasized comedy, not romance, and to forget that a cartoon feature was supposed to sing. Not until the return of the Disney princess musical — The Princess and the Frog, Tangled and Frozen — did moviegoers re-warm to the old pleasure of leaving a theater humming as well as smiling.

But the phrase “old-fashioned” means nothing to kids treated to their first view of a Disney classic like The Little Mermaid. Its humor and heart, not to mention its verve and impeccable craft, can touch any viewer today as it did in 1989. How lucky we are that this timeless movie became part of our world.

Read TIME’s Nov. 1989 review of The Little Mermaid, here in the archives: Festive Film Fare for Thanksgiving

TIME movies

Now You Can Get Lost in an Infinity Wormhole of Interstellar Screenings

Warner Brothers—Melinda Sue Gordon Matthew McConaughey in 'Interstellar'

A new unlimited ticket lets fans see the movie as many times as they want

Director Christopher Nolan’s new space epic Interstellar is the kind of movie that might require multiple viewings before everything in it starts making complete sense.

Fortunately, AMC Theaters and Paramount are sympathetic toward this plight. To keep these repeat journeys to outer space from swallowing the cash in your wallet like a black hole, they’re now offering the Interstellar Unlimited Ticket, which allows fans to see as many screenings of the film as they want.

Prices for the ticket range from $19.99 to $34.99 depending on location, Entertainment Weekly reports. Viewers who have already bought a ticket to the film, whose worldwide gross just surpassed $300 million, can upgrade for an extra $14.99.

Nolan and the film’s stars — Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain — were the subject of a recent TIME cover story.


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