Thursday, December 14, 2017

Have I ever mentioned that I love Christmas?

Pinterest and I, together with a severe case of "Christmas in July" daydreaming, teamed up to explain to you all why the yuletide is actually the most wonderful time of the year.  This is the result.

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First things first:  Jesus is literally the reason for the season, and none of this would be so nice if He had not come to us.

This post will mainly be about the more "shallow" side of Christmas, and hence the above "disclaimer," if you will.

For one thing, the holidays give you kind of the best of everything.  (Except weather, I suppose.  But then again to some people winter weather IS the best kind of weather.  So.  There you are.) 

Decorations and such go without saying, so I shall provide examples of other things.

  • The Nativity Story 

[I know I've mentioned my extreme love for this movie before, and I know I've mentioned Oscar Isaac's Joseph before . . . but seriously Oscar Isaac's Joseph, though.  ALL THE HEARTS IN THE WHOLE WORLD. <3 <3 <3]
  • While You Were Sleeping
  • Elf   [It's entertaining and it's a lot of fun to quote, if nothing else. :-P]
  • Little Women   [Hey, the beginning is Christmas-y.  It can count.]
  • A Christmas Story

[This movie is legit hilarious. XD  I had heard a lot about it and had actually watched some of it several years ago, but I didn't get all the love for it that I kept hearing a lot of people express.  But then I watched the whole thing last year and I got it, dontcha know. ;)  It's seriously awesome.]

Music  (titles are linked to YouTube where possible)

I might go a little bit overboard in this section.  Just warning you. :-P

Favorite tracks:  "Magnificat" ~ "O Savior of Our Fallen Race" ~ "How Suddenly a Baby Cries" (GUUUYYYYYS) ~ "Fullness of Grace" ~ "Joy to the World" ~  REALLY ALLZ OF THEM <3 <3 <3
Favorite tracks:  "Go, Tell It on the Mountain" {BEST VERSION EVER.  (Maybe.)  I love how unbelievably relaxed and chill it is.  And the finger-snaps?!} ~ "Christmas Dreams" ~ "Heaven Everywhere" ~ "Christmas Is" ~ "You're Here" ~ "Be Born in Me" ~ "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" (I am SUUUUPER picky about renditions of certain traditional carols, and this one isn't EXACTLY what I want from a version of this particular carol -- more on that later -- but I like it.)
Favorite tracks:  "Angels We Have Heard on High" ~ "Auld Lang Syne" ~ "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" ~ "The Little Things" ~ "Some Children See Him" ~ "Mary, Did You Know?"



I mean. 


I love seeing how most of us change our headers for the winter!  (I'm not remotely suggesting that there's anything wrong with NOT changing your headers with the seasons, though, just to be clear.)  It makes me happy to explore all the new looks. :)

I've loved ever so many of y'all's headers, but one of the winter ones that has really stuck in my memory is this one, made by zee lovely Naomi:

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3

I seem to remember she paired it with a lovely background that was soft, deep blue, and it was awesome. :D


Y'all have a collection of special Christmas picture books, right?  Because THEY ARE THE BEST. <333  I love One Wintry Night (that's a little more than a picture book, actually), The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, and The Boy with a Wish particularly. <3

The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker deserves its own category.  I grew up going to see it every year, and I still love it very muchly. <3

The music (have y'all listened to "Pas de Deux" lately?!), the dancing, the aesthetic, the actual story itself . . . gahh, it's beautiful.

I love basically everything about Christmas, is the point.

"The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned."

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Are you a huge fan of Christmas, too?

P.S.  Oh, and by the way, I'M DONE WITH FINALS AAAAGGGHHHH!!!  I'm very happy. :D  How are my fellow college peeps doing?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

This Beautiful Fantastic {2017}

You know how occasionally you'll find a trailer and it just looks so good and you get super psyched for it and then finally you get to see the movie, and even though it had the potential to be a letdown, like any movie you're excited about does, it isn't -- it's actually just as amazing as you thought and hoped it'd be and so afterward you're just like 

Basically, that.

Set against the backdrop of a beautiful London garden, this contemporary fairy tale stars Jessica Brown Findlay and Tom Wilkinson.  Facing eviction in a month if she can't resurrect the dying garden in her backyard, reclusive librarian Bella Brown (Findlay) meets her grumpy next-door neighbor (Wilkinson), who happens to be a talented horticulturist.  As the two form an unlikely friendship, Bella begins to wonder if she can revive both the garden -- and her dreams of becoming a children's book author -- in this magical, witty film about life and love, also starring Andrew Scott and Jeremy Irvine.  {synopsis from the back cover}

This movie is very much "a yes from me."  I loved it.  I know I throw that word around pretty flippantly, but I really can see this one becoming a favorite.  It had a way of nestling quietly, placidly, and contentedly into my heart.  Everyone connects with different movies, and I definitely connected with this one.  It has a soothing, gentle presence, even though (in my opinion) it's a fully well-rounded movie with depth and humor and happiness by turns.  It's not always sunshine and roses, but then again, it is, too -- that's sort of the whole point.  I felt peaceful after watching it.  It completely (or almost completely) satisfied my story sense, and it's just what one needs now and again.

In style, it reminds me of Penelope; it's similar in color palette, quirkiness of characters, and uniqueness of theme.  That isn't to say that on the surface it's the most original thing ever, but some of the themes underlying it aren't ones you see every day in a movie.

It gives a sweet, sympathetic, non-victimizing look at some struggles such as OCD (I think?) and phobias.  

It recognizes and celebrates the fact that most of us have a bit of oddball in us, and (as a dear friend was recently telling me) there's nothing wrong with that -- there are people who will love us in a multitude of ways just as we are.

It's a love letter to plants and the people who care about them.  That first scene in Alfred's garden makes you feel that vibrant, impressionistic energy flowers have; it makes you remember greenhouses and the moist, sweet air inside them, and the buzzing, humming, happy activity that seems to permeate a plant-filled space, even while there's an equally coexistent hush and stillness.

The characters are infiltrative little things, grabbing your heart so quickly you're surprised.  And it's not just the primary characters -- there's one secondary who really touched me, too.

All of the actors nail their roles.  Jessica Brown Findlay does a flawless Bella Brown.  Tom Wilkinson is excellent as always.  Billy is what you might call precious, and the way Jeremy Irvine was able to portray his nervous energy and occasional stammer was really good.  AND AND Andrew Scott's Vernon is probably my favorite.  (But I don't know.  'Cause I love Bella and Alfred too.  I can't really have any of those three without the other two, ya feel me?  They needs each other, sweet little trio that they are. <3)

Seriously, I loved Vernon!!!  Andrew Scott maaayy have had some rather biased brownie points awarded him because of you-know-what *ahem*, but he just played Vernon so well, man.  Someone fangirl with me about Vernon, okay?  Pretty-please?

[Because for real like the scene below when he and Alfred are interrogating Billy ("Yeah, I know, I'm trying to test him out") . . . and his first scene . . . and his relationship with Bella, and how he tried to make her answer when she had locked herself in her room by threatening to spill crumbs . . . and . .  ]

There are so many little things about this movie that I loved.  Here's a list: 

* I like how it takes its time depicting the garden's transformation -- it doesn't magically become a bower in the space of a few three-minute montages.

* The librarian lady.  Am I right or am I right.  (I'm right.)


* I like how some of the film quality isn't 100% pristine.  It makes it seem more real.  Like, during that one scene in Bella's bedroom when she's been crying and Alfred's talking with her, the lighting isn't perfect and the image is a little grainier and dust mite-y.  AND THAT'S COOL.  Because it was probably that time of day when the blinds would be partially drawn and the light would be creating a very specific sort of "aura" in the room, and they captured it.  So I think that's pretty neat. :)

* The lovely, completely perfect soundtrack.

* The ending was perfect (except for one thing which I'll talk about below).

And now we come to my one dissatisfaction with the movie, but it involves spoilers, so use caution, eh, what!

*SPOILERS!*  I shipped Bella with Vernon more than with Billy.  So I was actually sort of on-board when Bella thought she saw him with someone else.   As I said before, Billy is precious and I do love him, but I did want Bella to end up with Vernon more.  So, that's rather disappointing. :-/  But the rest of the movie is so beautifully done, and at least Billy is a good "second choice," so I don't think it'll affect my love for the movie that much.  (But then again it IS quite disappointing . . . )  So, anyway, while I wish that had turned out differently, I'm willing to let it slide. ;)  *END OF SPOILERS*

I could ramble on about all my favorite parts of the movie and the myriad reasons why I loved it, but I think you'll have to watch it for yourself.  And I hope you do, because it's wonderful. <333

Here's to Bella Brown "and future generations of spectacularly dysfunctional artists."

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Winter Look

So I made a new look!  I feel like I may have to make another one for the after-Christmas winter months, but we'll see. :)  I'm also still working on the sidebar, so there may be more pictures/quotes later.  

Anyway, what think you all? :D

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P.S.  Also, who is this child and where has he been all my life?!?!  (Quick note about the video for anyone who might watch it:  he does use God's name in vain several times and I probably don't agree with a lot of the stuff in some of the shows he's been in/talks about in this video, BUT STILL.)

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Movies: Month in Review {November 2017}

GUUUUYYYSSS, IT'S DECEMBER!!  Do you know what that means?!?!

*confetti explosions*  I'M SO EXCITED, GUYS! <3333

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A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (2000)

Aww, this was cute and sweet. <3  The way Charlie Brown and his friends talk is Quite Excellent. ;)

Adam's Rib (1949)

I greatly enjoyed this.  I'm a pretty big Katharine Hepburn fan, so that's not much of a surprise, but still.  It posed some interesting, rather controversial questions, but I liked the way it resolved them.  K. H.'s character had a valid point in terms of gender role, but that blinded her a bit in terms of the case itself.  So the way she and Spencer Tracy worked through that was cool.  

Also, the character David Wayne played was a terrible smarmster, undoubtedly, but he was rather funny. ;)  "Don't you do it, Amanda."

Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)

Okay, I'll admit it:  I kind of love the Kung Fu Panda movies. :-P  They have fantastic animation, gorgeous music, awesome main charries, and terrific villains.  This one was no different!  

RED (2010) & Red 2 (2013)

I've been wanting to see these movies for a long while now, and I finally got to!  Absolutely loved the first one (probably even more than I expected); really didn't like the second one.  Since the first one was so fabulous, the second one just seemed more like gratuitous shoot-'em-up rather than the actually adorable action-comedy that the first was.  (John Malkovich, Bruce Willis, and Mary-Louise Parker were probably my favorite characters.  They were spot-on. <3)

The Moon-Spinners (1964)

I remembered Natalie having written a little about this movie, so I picked it up at the library.  And it was most enjoyable!  Hayley Mills is adorable, and Mark is adorable, and the scenery is beauteous. <3

This Beautiful Fantastic (2017)

This movie is just . . . yes.  ALL the yes.  I'm hoping to get a review done soon, so stay tuned. 

To Have and Have Not (1944)

Yet another one that's been on my mental "possibly-to-watch-someday" radar for a long time, since I read Hamlette's thoughts on it.  I liked it vey mucho!  "Bogie and Bacall" are amazing together, and the end was adorable.  I Approve. <3

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What movies have you been watching lately?
Have you decorated for Christmas yet?

P.S.  Oh, and guys, were y'all aware of this?  I for one am very down. ;D

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Where We Belong {by Lynn Austin}

** Note:  I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

In the city of Chicago in 1892, the rules and expectations for Victorian women are strict, their roles in life limited.  But sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes are not typical Victorian ladies.  Their love of adventure and their desire to use their God-given talents have taken them out of society ballrooms and delivered them to the Sinai Desert -- and into the teeth of a sandstorm.  

Accompanied by Soren Petersen, their somber young butler, and Kate Rafferty, a plucky street urchin learning to be their lady's maid, the two women are on a quest across the desert, chasing rumors of an important biblical manuscript.

As the expedition becomes ever more dangerous and uncertain, all four travelers sift through memories and adventures of their past, recalling the events that shaped them and the journeys and providence that brought them to this very time and place.   [synopsis from the back cover]

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Lynn Austin is, in general, one of the best authors of Christian fiction out there -- at least, that's the idea I've gotten from hearing about many of her books and reading a few myself.  So I have to say that I was rather disappointed by this one.  

The plot itself isn't too cliché -- the love triangle near the beginning is something you don't see every day in CF, for instance -- but the way it was written did slip into a lot of CF clichés, in my opinion.  For one thing, I know Ms. Austin explains in the author's note that she based the story off two real sisters and that "God knows when the end of our days will be.  We have nothing to fear" was their real motto, but the amount of times she used it got a little bit irksome and cheesy.  The whole "resenting and bucking the conventional rules for Victorian women" thing is valid and all, but still, unfortunately, overdone in this kind of genre.  And, unfortunately, the way the romances were written did get cheesy fairly often.  *SPOILERS!*  (However, I will say that one instance in which she did not slip into a CF cliché was how Soren and Kate actually didn't become a couple.  I think I actually sort of wanted them to, heehee, but it's still neat that Ms. Austin didn't feel the need to incorporate the typical love/hate romance between the two teen characters.  That was refreshing.  And I was SO thankful that when Soren and Kate had to kiss to get out of that tricky situation with the sheikh, she didn't make it some sort of "scales falling from their eyes," "surprisingly captivating" thing.  Bravo!) *END OF SPOILERS*

Future readers should be aware that most of the book is actually comprised of flashbacks, which is fine, but don't think from the back cover that there's actually a whole lot of time spent in the 1892 Egyptian desert.  There is some, but most of it, like I said, is memory-based.  *Minor Spoilers* (Also, be aware that one of the characters falls into the clutches of a pimp and is forced to live at his brothel, but she escapes before she can be sold to a "customer".  So prostitution is a theme for those few chapters, but there's nothing graphic.  And there is mention of another minor character resorting to prostitution and becoming pregnant with an illegitimate child.) *End of Minor Spoilers*

In terms of characters, most of them were pretty good.  But I have to say that Rebecca Hawes drove. me. up. the. waaaalllllllll for most of the book.  Whether she was right a lot of the time or not, she was way too pushy and overbearing and tried to influence Flora at the expense of Flora's own opinions.  Rebecca had a stronger personality than Flora, and if she wanted to help her, I think she should have worked harder at helping her to find her own voice, cheesy though that sounds.  (To be fair, I'm a little passionate about this because I'm more like Flora than Rebecca.)  Also, Rebecca was pretty foolish and spoiled and headstrong as a child (and even as an adolescent).  The way she'd just take off on her own schemes was irresponsible and dangerous.  I know she doesn't want to be treated like a child, but she was a child, and she was a child with a little sister in tow.  

Ack.  There were just several things about her that bugged me. :-P  (Plus, she and Flora seemed to resort to lying a bit much -- like even when it wasn't a life or death situation.  To be fair, I don't know that I would have done any different/better if I was in some of the positions in which they found themselves, but still.)

All of the characters were fairly well-rounded, though.  (The only main character that I felt I didn't really get to know fully was Kate.)  And the subplot of Soren and Gunnar was ADORABLE.  It reminded me a lot of Jack and Crutchie, but perhaps -- dare I say it? -- even cuter?! :) <3

Although I wasn't a huge fan of the writing in this one, there were times when I could still catch a glimpse of Lynn Austin's signature, humorous, endearing turn of phrase, especially in some of the dialogue. :)  This little bit was cute:

"Have you asked Rebecca how she feels about Timothy?" Edmund asked.

"I'm afraid to.  I so hope she finds happiness with him, yet I don't want to see her get hurt.  If she is falling in love with Timothy and he doesn't return her feelings . . . if he is simply leading her along for her money or for any other reason -- "

"I'll murder him," Edmund finished.  


I can't think of much else to say.  Again, it wasn't awful, but it wasn't Ms. Austin's best, either.

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Have you read any Lynn Austin books?
Do you like Christian fiction at all?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Animation Tag

The lovely Ruth over at Amongst Spring Blossoms tagged me back in October!  Thanks so much, Ruth!  I haven't done a tag in a while, and a tag about animated movies is even more welcome. :)  Everyone, be sure to check out Rachel's blog -- it's fantastic!! <3

Okay, here we go. *cracks knuckles*  (Since the title just says "The Animation Tag," I'm including all sorts of animated movies, not just Disney.)

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1. Who's your favourite animated heroine?

Yikes, that's asking quite a bit.  Pocahontas, Esmeralda, Anna, Elsa, Rapunzel, Jane, ALL OF THEM??!!  *gasp*  Oh, and Jenna from Balto.  The last time I watched it, I was more than a little concerned that I was low-key falling a little bit in love with a female dog.

2. Who's your favourite animated hero?

You're killin' me, Smalls!  Quasimodo, Aiden (from Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus, don't judge), Dmitri, Prince Eric (which surprises me), Flynn, Shang ("Sign me up for the next war!"), Hiccup . . . again, ALL OF THEM??!!

3. If there was to be a sequel(or even a third, fourth, or fifth part)(and then I don't mean like Frozen Fever and Tangled Ever After, those short movies, but a real one) of an animated movie, where would you like it to be about?

I'm coming up empty on this one, other than the possibility of a real Frozen sequel with Jack Frost (more on that later).  And, of course, The Incredibles has been in need of a sequel since forever, so I'm glad they're finally getting that going . . . even though:

4. Which couple from an animated movie do you think is highly underrated?

I'm sure there is one that'll come to me a couple days after posting this, and it'll make me Much Annoyed, but for the moment all I can think of is that Nani and David from Lilo and Stitch are pretty cute, and they don't get a whole lot of love.  Also, Bob & Helen/Mr. Incredible & Elastigirl are actually a really cool couple.  'Cause like, they're MARRIED and they have issues and they fight but they make up and they always love each other and all that stuff.

5. Which couple do you like most?

I like Flynn & Rapunel, Anastasia & Dmitri, Mulan & Shang ("Would you like to stay forever?"), Jane & Tarzan . . .

How many times am I allowed to say "all of them" in this post??!!

6. Which song is your favourite?

But seriously, no.

(Although I'm especially partial to like the entirety of Hunchback, the Pocahontas soundtrack, the Anastasia soundtrack, the Barbie Princess and the Pauper soundtrack, the Prince of Egypt soundtrack, "Poor Unfortunate Souls" (see below), AND JUST BASICALLY EVERYTHING, OKAY???)

7. And if you should choose a song that isn't likely to be chosen by you, one that didn't immediately come up in your mind but is still a favourite, which one would it be?

Well, recently I and two of my coworkers/friends have been going through a major "Poor Unfortunate Souls" phase, and it's not the first song that pops into my head when I'm asked about my favorite.  I really, really like that song, though. :)  Oh, and "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)"!  And the second Lion King soundtrack.  And "I Am Moana".  And . . .

8. What animation movie did you first think you wouldn't like, but eventually you did?

LILO AND STITCH, oh my flippin' word. <3

9. Which two do you always consider as a couple, even though they are not a definite couple, but almost no one else does?

I think most of my animated ships are recognized couples . . . I guess, though, I used to alllmost ship Dory and Marlin?  Or, not even really ship them, but just think that they were a couple??  Also, I sort of ship Nakoma and Kocoum.

10. Which girl from an animated movie has the best hairstyle(s)?

Pocahontas and Ariel, hands down.


(Also, can we just talk about how Pocahontas is legit like one of if not the most gorgeous Disney princesses EVER??)

11. Which is the best dress?

Two of the ones I really love are Ariel's pink dress and Anastasia's opera dress.

12. Which sidekick is the best according to you?

I like Hei-Hei.

But for a serious answer: Pascal, Maximus, Mushu (of course), Meeko, Penelope and Hobie (from Barbie as Rapunzel), Scuttle, and lots of others.


Sorry, Smaug, you ain't got nothin' on this beast.  Not a bloomin' thing. 

13. What's your favourite Disney princess movie?

Eeesh . . . I think that'd have to be Pocahontas, since I think Pocahontas might be my second favorite Disney movie ever, but I'm not sure.  (I MEAN I LOVE THEM ALL.)  Frozen would probably be the second favorite Disney princess movie.

14. What's your favourite animated movie(no Disney princess movies included)? 

The Swan Princess. :)  Anastasia is a close second.  Rango needs more attention in the world.  Oh, and for a favorite Disney movie that's not a Disney princess movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  And Tarzan, oh my gosh!  That movie is SUCH THE BEST. <3


15. What is your Disney personality?

I think I'm most like both Anna and Elsa, as you can read here, but whenever I take a Disney personality quiz I come out as like Ariel or Jasmine unless I specifically try to come out as Belle.  And as far as I know, I'm not that much like either Ariel or Jasmine.  So.  Go figure.

I also really relate to Shanti from The Jungle Book 2 -- like, scary a lot.  Also, my younger brother's and my relationship is basically Dash and Violet from The Incredibles.

16. Which animated girl do you think looks most like you(in looks, not in character)?

Trying and failing.  I really don't know.  I have brown hair and brown eyes like Belle . . . that's about all I can come up with at the moment.

17. Which statement do you think is true and which not(you know, those things on Pinterest that say...for example: That Elsa and Anna are Rapunzels cousins, and that Tarzan is Anna and Elsa's brother or that the oldest girl from Despicable Me is maybe Riley's mom from Inside Out)?

Well, I like the idea of a Jack Frost/Elsa ship, I think (???).  I guess I don't see a LOT of those theories . . . but, just from those examples, I don't think I agree with the theory of Tarzan being Anna and Elsa's brother, and I DO think I could see the oldest girl from Despicable Me being Riley's mom!

18. What animated movie did you expect much of, but turned out to be much worse than you originally thought?

Okay, so . . . I can't technically think of an animated movie that really, really disappointed me, so I'mma have to go with one that just didn't really wow me, and that didn't quite meet my expectations for a Disney princess movie.

Moana.  *ducks*

I'm sorry, fam!  But it just didn't do it for me -- at least, not on the whole.  There were parts that I liked, and I like the music pretty well, and Hei-Hei was fun, and I loved the general feel of the movie -- the aesthetic was really nice and I Approve Greatly. ;)  But overall, like I said, it didn't wow me.

But, again, the visuals are STUNNING AND I LOVED THEM. 

It looks like most of the peeps in my acquaintance have already been tagged, so I tag:

~ Art3mis Took
~ Lissa (Classic Girl)
~ and anyone else who wants to do it! :)  Here are the questions again:

1. Who's you favourite animated heroine?

2. Who's your favourite animated hero?

3. If there was to be a sequel(or even a third, fourth, or fifth part)(and then I don't mean like Frozen Fever and Tangled Ever After, those short movies, but a real one) of an animated movie, where would you like it to be about?

4. Which couple from an animated movie do you think is highly underrated?

5. Which couple do you like most?

6. Which song is your favourite?

7. And if you should choose a song that isn't likely to be chosen by you, one that didn't immediately come up in your mind but is still a favourite, which one would it be?

8. What animation movie did you first think you wouldn't like, but eventually you did?

9. Which two do you always consider as a couple, even though they are not a definite couple, but almost no one else does?

10. Which girl from an animated movie has the best hairstyle(s)?

11. Which is the best dress?

12. Which sidekick is the best according to you?

13. What's your favourite Disney princess movie?

14. What's your favourite animated movie(no Disney princess movies included)?

15. What is your Disney personality?

16. Which animated girl do you think looks most like you(in looks, not in character)?

17. Which statement do you think is true and which not(you know, those things on Pinterest that say...for example: That Elsa and Anna are Rapunzels cousins, and that Tarzan is Anna and Elsa's brother or that the oldest girl from Despicable Me is maybe Riley's mom from Inside Out)?

18. What animated movie did you expect much of, but turned out to be much worse than you originally thought?

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Thanks for reading this mammoth post, and Happy Thanksgiving!!!