J : My name is Joshua, I identify as a male and I go by ‘He his’
T : Are you gay? Queer?
J : I am bisexual.
T : Do you have a particular memory or early imprint around Disney?
J : I remember growing up watching Disney constantly. My earliest, earliest Disney memory was actually based around a Disney short called Little Toot. I believe was on a 1940’s collection of shorts called Make Mine Music. The local video rental place in Riverside, California, back back before we got a blockbuster because that was real fancy, at the local place was called “Video Wiz’ and it had a wizard out front. And in the kids section they had an old VHS copy of part of Make Mine Music that had Little Toot and the Ant and the Grasshopper and this section called the Isle of Jazz or something like that.
I was so obsessed with it that every week I would go with my parents and my brother, mom and dad always let us each pick out one video that we could watch, and every week I would bring back the video ,and put it in the slot. The guy would pull it back out and hold it for me because I would go “I want this one”. it got to the point where my mom actually offered to buy it and they were like “no we we we make too much money off of you”. (laughs)
So it's a very little known Disney film but it's about this little tugboat that is supposed to like follow his dad and he keeps messing up, and he ends up getting like banished from the harbor and he gets put out to sea, and there's this really creepy storm that happens, and then there's a lighthouse like does the beam of light and then when it gets to Little Toot, it like bubbles up over so it can't see him - but then a big old ship gets lost at sea and he ends up tugging it into the harbor when no one else can so he becomes the hero. It iis very cute. And dark, also, one of the darker...
T : Actually let's talk about that, thinking about the story right now what do you think that was for you?
J : For me, actually reflecting on all my favorite Disney characters, I often, I mean really any character I like in any story, I often like the ones who are misunderstood or a little on the outside or dark. My favorite Disney character of all time is actually the Chernabog which is the villain at the end of Fantasia. Who I actually have a framed photo of, on the wall and I have a tattoo of.
Anytime I was drawn to any form of animation, Disney or otherwise, it was always.. I was always the oddball so I always paralleled my own life. Like poor Little Toot was put out to sea because he's different, although he's not really different, he just didn't have a chance to shine yet. Especially around that age was before I had leg surgery, so I was actually in a wheelchair, so I wasn't included a lot, you know in preschool and kindergarten. So I was looking for my own chance to shine too, if you want to look at it that way.
T : Maybe the experience of Little Toot being overlooked, I think that's something that a lot of us oddball kids could probably relate too. So my next question was what are your favorite characters?
J : Definitely Chernabog.
T : Whom I also love.
J : Yes, Chernabog, is my all-time favorite. It's a lot of the villains, so the Chernabog, Maleficent, Horned King from The Black Cauldron, I also had a thing for the witch from The Black Cauldron, I can never remember her name but it's one of the three witches from The Black Cauldron who has very luscious breasts. And Jessica Rabbit was always one of my big all-time favorites.
T : How often do you go to the theme parks?
J : Growing up, when I was an actual child we didn't go very frequently just because of lack of money. We lived close by so that when we did it was more like we went and came back it was never a full weekend. By the time I got into high school I was already working and so I had convinced my parents to split an annual pass with me, because they would prefer that I was spending Friday nights at Disneyland's rather than being a tumultuous teenager in Riverside California. So in high school I was going at least twice a week, like non-stop. It just made sense you would drive down on Friday night, you had dinner in downtown Disney, you went on all your favorite rides and then you came back. Only on the off-season though, during the summer you only went down on like a Tuesday or something like that. These days because it's more of an excursion and it's much more of an expense I don't get down there as often as I would like.
T : When you were in high school, what do you think the draw was for you?
J : It was overall for me the feeling of Disneyland. I always love the idea of theme parks and the idea of going to an amusement park in general. I have a really sensitive stomach so I can't really go on roller coasters or anything that gets too crazy, just because I get really motion sick. So at Disneyland I could go on almost anything. There's more rides at Disneyland that I could go on than rides that I couldn't. If I go to Six Flags, I mean, I'm a purse holder all day. Especially when we were children going with my brother, who can go on anything at Six Flags or Knott's Berry Farm, I would be sitting with Grandma. If we were at Disneyland I can almost go on everything which is you know kind of special for me.
T : So, tell me about the tattoo.
J : So it's actually my newest tattoo, it's on my calf. It's something I've been talking about getting for a long long time, it's a tattoo of Chernabog. Specifically when he is kind of pulling the fire out of the mountain right before he shoots it up at the very end and brings everything crashing down, so kind of at the height of his “I pulled all the souls out of the town on and now this is my moment” right before he's supposed to devour them and right before the chimes of midnight and the Ave Maria happens. There's something really cool about the lore of the Chernabog. The way they animated it is just so gorgeous, with the deep dark blues highlighted with the yellows and oranges, and you never see the lower half of his body. Does he have a lower half of his body? We don't know.
There's just something very mysterious about him. Some Disney critics will often write that he's the most evil villain of all time because he's evil without purpose, but is he evil? He doesn't actually do anything aside from call all the ghoulies from their graves and then he sends them back. And then he probably does it again on the next full moon or whatever it is.
T : I always thought of him as kind of a force of nature.. Like as an elemental, or part of that cycle.
J : Yeah, and you know that's the question. If he's not causing anyone harm, he's just doing his job. Whatever he was born to do; sit on top of the mountain and call everyone, what's evil about? I mean it's a little scary sure, but…..
T : Someone else that I spoke to commented that she thinks Cruella De Vil is the most evil villain because of all of them she has no motivation.
J : Yeah she just wants a fur coat. In my opinion I think that the Horned King and Maleficent are probably the two most evil. I mean Maleficent, just like, she didn't get invited to a party so she's pissed. (laughs)
T : But who can't relate to that?
J : You know the Horned King just wants to take over everything and is willing to, you know, that's an obsession with power. He wants to raise an army of the Dead to take over the world.
T : Do you still watch Disney movies?
J : Fully. Fantasia is definitely my cleaning movie. If I ever need to get stuff done I have that in the background. I definitely bought Disney plus as soon as I could, just from a financial standpoint 70 bucks a year isn't that bad considering that every now and then I would have to either purchase a movie out right or rent a movie if I wanted to see it. I was probably spending more than that anyway.
The Disney realm, specifically the animated features are trope in my life. If I need a pick-me-up, if I need to cry, if I need to feel any sort of feeling, I can go back through the Disney library and figure out what movie I need to watch to kind of support me at that time.
T : To me it's so interesting how many of us queer people have this love of Disney and obviously there's some fantasy fulfillment, I feel like a lot of the villains are a little queer coded…
J : Yeah, and not necessarily in a bad way. There's so many films you can look at, and specifically regarding villains, so many films while we were growing up where they specifically made that villain be kind of, you know, “sissified”, because they were trying to say something about that. But with Disney, you look at Scar who is basically a drag queen, or Jafar who has better eyebrows then Divine, and they're not vilified because they might be queer. They're vilified for other reasons. They just look fabulous doing it
I think Disney is a really easy escape for anyone who feels they are “other than” or slightly on the outside, and it's totally fine. Because you can watch Disney movie and feel like you are included, and feel like you can find the meaning, and also just escape your life for a little while, if you need to.