Disney’s newest movie “Queen of Katwe” makes headway for a new type of story that may diversify the multinational company’s library of magical tales. “Queen of Katwe” tells of Phiona Mutesi, a young Ugandan girl of the impoverished Katwe who masters the strategies of chess and becomes a Woman Candidate Master at the 39th Chess Olympiad. The movie, though longwinded at parts, is a different territory for Disney. It’s the furthest thing from magical kingdoms of snow and princesses with magical, golden hair finding love. Instead, Disney uses this opportunity to focus on a more important lesson: with hard work and focus, one will find a place in their world.
Disney is well-known for creating beautiful films with life lessons. “Lion King” spoke about learning from one’s past to change the future. “Frozen” showed that love for family is as important as finding one’s prince, or princess, charming. “Toy Story,” through all four movies, preaches friendship, loyalty and kindness even to those who may seem unfamiliar at first.
So, it’s no surprise that Disney again succeeds in making a movie with a deep lesson. In “Queen of Katwe,” the main lesson is to never give up and try one’s very best. If one’s life does not favor one’s success, then try harder. Through the characters and events, “Queen of Katwe” tells its audience to have a plan, have confidence and fight for one’s life.
It’s not a surprise if there are other Disney films that speak of similar lessons. However, “Queen of Katwe” amplifies those lessons, making them almost like laws of life.
In other Disney movies, the magic and animation of the story seems to take away the breadth of the meaning. Although these movies are wildly successful, viewers come out of theaters commending the beautiful artwork or catchy soundtrack. It’s only later where these movies are sharply observed and those heart-melting Disney lessons come alive.
In “Queen of Katwe,” we see these lessons play out clearly in each scene. One of the main lines in the movie speaks about having a clear plan because only then will one see every move, obstacle and end goal. Similarly, as the scenes in “Queen of Katwe” progresses, the audience can see Phiona struggling to rise above her life of poverty without a plan. We root for her and secretly hopes she knows what she’s doing. We want her to beat every chess player out there. Towards the end, we see her gain confidence, create a plan and have a goal in sight – to be a master chess player.
But, more than the lessons, through “Queen of Katwe,” Disney introduces the audience to a new culture and lifestyle. It shows what the people of Uganda are like, showcasing their food, music and even their education system. These are the kinds of films that Disney needs to continue making.
There’s an entire magical world in reality that Disney can find without having to fabricate one through animations. The international cultures and lifestyles, the way people survive and the joy and love that exists even in the darkest places are all stories that Disney can maximize.
However, it’s disappointing when I don’t see enough marketing for “Queen of Katwe.” There are only a few trailers about it and other news or pop culture agencies don’t really write about it. Regardless, it’s a story that needs to be told and watched. It teaches more lessons in a span of two hours than other Disney films.
I may not see the “Queen of Katwe” rides or mascots at Disneyland. I probably won’t even see “Queen of Katwe” party balloons at a kid’s birthday party. However, the inability to monetize this movie in other ways should not stop Disney from properly marketing this story.
This movie can actually inspire the young generation. It can nurture a talent in chess or even give them an interest in visiting Uganda. It can teach the well-fed children of wealthy nations to not take their lives for granted. It can inspire impoverished communities to strive for the best even if the world tries to knock them down.
These are the stories that need to be told and Disney is taking its first step towards telling them, but they need to advocate these films better. Have more press or maybe make a Mutesi doll. If the story of Mutesi was this inspiring, then who knows what other tales of overcoming adversity are out there. It’s time for the audience to pay more attention to these stories, because they deserve to be heard.