Disney
Jessica Wang
April 12, 2017 2:15 pm

On April 12th, 1992, Disneyland Paris opened its magical gates to the Parisian public in the French town of Marne-la-Vallée. Its inception wasn’t without controversy, though — critics initially opposed what they believed would promote harmful American consumerism. However, it now serves as Europe’s most popular tourist attraction. What’s more ideal than the Happiest Place on Earth being situated in one of the most beau et romantiqué cities in the world?

To commemorate the resort celebrating its 25th birthday this year, we’re reminiscing on some of the more iconic Disney classics set in dreamy French countrysides or the heart of the glittering city itself. Also included are a few contemporary film recommendations that share similarly-inspired themes for your next movie night-in.

1The Aristocats

A personal favorite, The Aristocats follows a cat, Duchess, and her kittens, who are to be left the inheritance of their human, a retired opera singer. When the butler catches wind of this, he abandons the cats in the countryside to claim the inheritance for himself. While trying to find their way back home, the cats meet affable characters along the way, such as an alley cat jazz band with their iconic rendition of “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat.” We so want to be Parisian cats.

Modern film recs:

The Wizard of Oz (1939): A classic that follows a young girl (and her ruby-red shoes) trying to find her way back home and encountering eccentric characters along the way. This was a given.

La La Land (2016): Seemingly far-fetched, but La La Land’s narrative of an aspiring jazz musician and actress both trying to find their way — and ultimately finding each other — bears some gleaming parallels to Duchess and Thomas O’Malley, non?

2The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Based on Victor Hugo’s novel, Hunchback of Notre Dame centers on Quasimodo, a sweet-natured Notre Dame bell-ringer who possesses a facial deformity, and Esmerelda, a gypsy who befriends Quasimodo and seeks justice for Paris’ gypsies. She’s nearly burned at the stake for rejecting the advances of the shriveled-up creeper who raised Quasimodo. While possessing feelings for Esmerelda, Quasimodo eventually accepts that she’s in love with someone else and gives them his blessing.

Modern film recs:

Edward Scissorhands (1990): A sweet-natured outcast with scissors for hands created by an inventor, isolated in a gothic mansion, who learns to integrate into society and falls in love with a young Winona Ryder? Yes please.

The Goonies (1985): Another quintessential classic that features a lovably unusual, deformed ally who aids a group of resilient children against a family of treasure thieves.

3Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty follows a young princess Aurora plagued by a curse from evil fairy Maleficent, who ensures that her 16th birthday will result in a death-like slumber once her fingers prick the spindle of a spinning wheel. Kept hidden in a cottage with three fairy godmothers to avoid such an outcome, her fate proved unavoidable; only a kiss from her true love would break the curse.

Modern film recs:

While You Were Sleeping (1995): A fare token collector harbors a crush on an attractive commuter and rescues him from an oncoming train. He falls into a coma, his family believes she’s his fiancée, and she goes along with the charade — but ultimately falls for his brother. Wild things are happening while this dude is comatose.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004): This inimitable drama explores the lengths individuals would go to eliminate painful memories of loss. In this fictional world, a firm specializes in erasing memories of past relationships while you sleep. It’s a must-watch that possesses the same delicate Sleeping Beauty-esque aspects of destiny, fate, and love.

4Beauty and the Beast

We’re all deeply familiar with this one, given the current live-action remake: A woman, Belle, takes the place of her imprisoned father, held hostage by a beast who has been cast under a spell — only to be returned to his human form once he learns to love and be loved in return. The film ends with the Beast and Belle falling in love, and the Beast returning to his true form.

Modern film recs:

Penelope (2006): This whimsical film follows an heiress, Penelope, born with a pig snout and ears due to an old family curse — a curse believed to be lifted only when she finds someone to love her. The curse is broken once Penelope realizes she likes herself just the way she is. James McAvoy also plays her love interest, and obviously, anything with James McAvoy warrants a must-watch.

The BFG (2016): Based on Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book, The BFG (which stands for the big friendly giant) follows orphan Sophie, who’s kidnapped by a giant once he realizes he has been seen by a human. While being held hostage, they form an unlikely friendship that results in a meeting with the Queen of England in efforts to stop the other malevolent, human-eating giants.

5Cinderella

While there have been numerous Cinderella retellings expanding many regions, the Disney classic is believed to have been set in France (since it’s based on French writer Charles Perrault’s fairy tale). We all know the story: Having lost both her parents, Cinderella serves as a maid for her evil stepmother and stepsisters. Aided by her fairy godmother, she attends a royal ball, meets Prince Charming, and must return home by the stroke of midnight. She leaves behind a single glass slipper. The prince frantically searches for her, and they eventually find each other.

Modern film recs:

Serendipity (2001): Substitute a glass slipper for a department store glove and you’ll get Serendipity, a rom-com driven by fate. Having spent some time together for one night, a couple (both in their respective, own relationships) part ways — leaving things up to chance. Several years later, after engagements that fall through and other frustrating misunderstandings, they find their way back to each other.

Ella Enchanted (2004): Given the gift of obedience by a fairy, which turns out to be more of a curse, Ella Enchanted follows Anne Hathaway’s Ella as she embarks on a journey to find the fairy and reverse the spell after her stepsisters discover her secret and use it to humiliate her. With supporting casts like the always-charming Minnie Driver, a household fairy, and Hugh Dancy, the Prince Charming-type character, this modernized Cinderella tale is an adorbs must-watch for Cinderella enthusiasts.

6Ratatouille

While Ratatouille may not technically be considered a classic just yet, it would be a crime to omit this endearing tale of a rat named Remy’s passion for the love of gourmet cooking — set against the backdrop of glittering Paris and its finest restaurant. There’s just something oddly poetic about a rat controlling the movements of a human under the guise of a chef hat.

Modern film recs:

Chef (2014): Co-produced by food truck connoisseur Roy Choi, Chef follows a head chef who quits his well-off job at an L.A. restaurant in a pursuit to reclaim his originality and passion. He buys a food truck that specializes in Cuban sandwiches. It’s an endearing road-trip foodie movie that also centers on the restoration of a father-son relationship.

Julie and Julia (2009): Containing a stellar cast with the likes of Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, Julie and Julia follows a writer who, unhappy with her lackluster job, decides to cook every recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking as a means of motivation. She documents her feats in a blog, which garners attention from journalists, publishers, and Child herself.

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