Friday, June 22, 2012

Pixar's Brave to Change the Fate of Princess Culture?

While it's a given that Brave will be a beautiful film it is interesting to see the smattering of mixed reviews surfacing in its debut week. There are the expected rave reviews and gushing over the lush animation and the feisty red-headed princess but there's been more than a little criticism too.

Why? Three theories:

1) Merida got upstaged
Pixar was a little late to the theater with their feisty heroine this year. Since we've had Hunger Games and Snow White and the Huntsman provide audiences with larger-than-life kick ass girl-women, seeing Merida do much of the same is, sadly, a little like deja vu, despite that this is the first family film in that vein where the others were mainstream (or perhaps teen-stream).

The "Brave" wigs
2) Too much hair
There's waaaay too much emphasis on all this hair! Maria Tatar recently linked to an article and it seems Ms. Tatar has the right of it when she noticed the topic continually returning to Merida's hair. It's what everybody - creators and marketers - seem focused on. Hair! A quick story to illustrate: my husband is currently working in downtown Hollywood and, in his words, this is what he saw:
This morning when I came out of the Hollywood/Highland station I saw, walking down the street in front of me, two women with a little girl and a young boy. Both women had curly, curly long red-orange hair and the girl was carrying a chunk of red-orange hair. This seemed a bit odd to me until I realized that they were walking away from the El Capitan theatre and were wearing "Brave" wigs. The boy was having nothing to do with the females and was walking apart from them. He had no wig.
I think this scene is a good example of the response we're seeing all over. Despite how strong, feisty and brave Merida is, with marketing campaigns like Target's stating: "Look pretty and be brave, too" we've diluted anything important the film may have had to say. But that's not the whole story either.

3) Change your fate. Or not.
Even more importantly, it would appear the entire story has already been told in the promotional fare and there's really nothing more to Princess Merida than we've seen. Although she's feisty and defies convention she doesn't really have a direction or drive once she's able to do all the things she wants. In other words, we have a princess who is behaving like, well, a princess. There's no saving her people, the world or anything else going on. She makes a mistake and has to repair the damage she's done but, in reality, though she grows closer to her mother, nothing much else appears to change.

There's an interesting article in Time published today, titled: Why Pixar's Brave is a Failure of Female EmpowermentUnlike the writer, I don't have a problem with Merida being a princess. Nor do I have a problem that she has to deal with the marriage issue. For the era, that was primarily what princesses were useful for: forming alliances by joining in marriage and producing heirs. How she deals with that is where she has to show her individuality. What is a problem, though, is the lack of both growth and of personal purpose by Merida, beyond the crisis (of her own making).

From the article:
The best parts of Brave are the scenes involving the changed Queen Elinor, now a gigantic bear. But despite a lot of superficial talk of fate — “Our fate lies within us. You only have to be brave enough to see it” — her physical metamorphosis represents the main transformation. Other than deciding her mother isn’t so bad, Merida doesn’t really grow. She’s simply extended her time as a tomboy, another archetype, less a girl than a stereotype of a kind of girl.  “It wasn’t clear to me what her arc was,” Orenstein (FTNH ed: author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter) says. “What is it that we are imagining girls moving toward here? ‘I get to ride around on a horse all day’ isn’t really enough. That isn’t going to take her anywhere. There wasn’t a desire to do something.” 
This wouldn’t feel so vaguely unsatisfying if Brave were just one of many Pixar movies that featured a strong female lead. It’s the absence of others that turns the spotlight on Brave. And having a princess protagonist isn’t inherently bad. It’s just that she is so chapter one of what girls can be — and so many other Pixar movies skipped most known chapters and moved on to whole new volumes. (FTNH: bold emphasis mine)
You can read the whole article HERE.
There's one other issue that appeared in the comments regarding the grilling Brave gets in the article. I feel for the parents who are tired of every movie needing to "be a good example" for their children when all they want is good, clean entertainment. I would wholeheartedly agree except for one major thing: the marketing push and resulting peer pressure from the toy angle (even four year olds will influence their peers with regard to what is "cool"!) really does speak as loudly, often louder, than the most conscientious parents. and that's when a kid hasn't even seen the movie! When the best way for a child to recapture their personal movie experience is through a toy or book with the same images, that's the "message" that will sink in and stay.

What if the marketing for Brave was more gender-neutral, or perhaps aimed more toward tomboy-girls and boys at most, rather than at the princess culture girls? Instead of exiting El Capitan with giant red-orange wigs what if each kid got a sword or bow and arrow? (No floaty blue dresses in sight either, thank you.) Do you think the boy my husband saw would have been keeping himself so carefully separate from his "wimminfolk" then? I don't think so. I think he'd be (happily) trading blows and bruises with his sister, complete with sound effects of turning into a bear of which his sister would no doubt (happily) match him roar for roar.

There is one other interesting observation by a few of the commenters on the article that I want to highlight too. I'll quote the shortest one:
I'd appreciate if films with female leads had adequate male character. I don't understand why "female empowerment" films have the need to portray men as incompetent goofs.
They have a good point and there's more in the comments expanding on it too. The presence of a "strong" female character does not exclude the presence of strong men. The now go-to standard in family films (making the men less competent to make the women appear more so) isn't good for boys, for assertive/kick-ass girls OR for the princess set. I'll let you read the debate (and rants) for yourself.

One thing I do agree with the writer on, though, is that I hope Brave does well - really, really well actually. Why?
1) I would like to see more lead heroines from Pixar. With the marketing force of Disney behind them, Pixar does have a great influence on kids. I'd like to see what other female leads they come up with and hope that the results are as "groundbreaking" as everyone's been hoping Merida would be.
2) I'd like to see more fairy tale fare handled by Pixar (and Disney) story people, especially now that the public view on fairy tales has changed somewhat.

Pixar's "Brave": Release Day

Today's the day. It's the "other" big fairy tale movie of the year, by which I mean the other movie which will have an effect on how people view fairy tales this year and how movie studio and TV series executives will consider spending their money with regard to other fairy tale fare. Personally (and despite all you will read in the next post) I'm very much looking forward to seeing it.

Here's a clip to whet your appetite:
Pretty, yes? And moody in the best way. It's going to look amazing on the big screen.

The clip reminds me of Secret of Kells but then it probably should - and the association is a good one. Brave will be very different in many ways, of course, but there's no doubt it will be beautiful too.

CW's Beauty & the Beast Extended Preview

Playing catch-up...

In case you missed it, here's the 5 minute extended preview of CW's Beauty and the Beast scheduled to premiere in the US in the Fall:

The 5 minutes looks very much like an entire episode edited down to its main scenes, which is disappointing. What's left to tune in for if you've seen it all? Let's hope there's more to it other than "Why was my mother murdered?".

In the premise details, the post-9/11 Iraq War reference (military experiments make a beast out of a man) isn't as completely hokey as expected but I still have major reservations - especially since we end up with a very clean-faced broody guy with a not-at-all-authentic-looking scar placed just "so". Perhaps it's just that the writing is too obvious for me. ("You're like a superhero!") I'm hoping they're not going to state the obvious for the audience every time. Scratch that. I hope they don't do it again. If they want any of the cop procedural demographic they're going to have to write smarter, harder and use far more subtlety. Hopefully the actors are good enough they will get the message across without needing to utter the subtext but it's an important risk to take if you want to be a memorable series.

On the flip side, one of the promos says "All men have a dark side... but not like this" and in this case I truly hope they mean what they're saying. In order to make this show interesting we're going to really need to see the monster inside the man*- and hopefully the monster isn't typical either. The Beast we're seeing just looks conflicted about his transformations, ashamed of his appearance and rather hormonal - ie broody. Not exactly an attractive quality in a leading man (or woman).**

Regarding the actors, it's nice to see a more mature Kristen Kreuk. Except for the flashback, she works better than I thought she would with that little edge to her. I think I even caught glimpses of some character layering in there (fingers crossed). The Beast, on the other hand, is unfortunately rather forgettable. I don't even have the sense that he's had first hand experience of a real war, let alone anything else he's working through. Let's hope that was just due to editing for this clip.

The thing I'm really missing in this preview from the original series? All the underground stuff and that vague sense of fantasy just out of reach. That was what captured my imagination then and makes me remember it now - a whole other world right under our feet. I must admit I had little patience with the series in the 80's - it was too slow and angsty for me - but I kept trying to tune in from time to time to get another glimpse of the hidden world. 

One more peeve - the promo image/poster. Ugh. The actors look like they were shot separately and 'shopped together - no chemistry at all. I know they were directed like that but the result is you can almost overlook the fact that there's a guy standing next to "Detective Catherine Chandler". He looks completely replaceable. And it doesn't say Beauty and the Beast to me at all. 

Maybe I'm being harsh but I expect more from people using fairy tales (I wonder if the writers and creators actually went back to the tale or completely took their cues from the original series?) and also from any type of police procedural or reference to any war we've had friends and family fight in. These are the days post-CSI and 24, which raised the standard for details and suspense. Since almost everyone reading this blog will remember the Twin Towers falling on 9/11, no matter what country you were in, any reference to that has to have substance. It's not a vague historical point in time to hang a plot point on but a very real wound for too many people today. Ironically, this is what fairy tales are very good at helping with but you have to be very smart about it as well as honest while still being respectful. That's not an easy job. While I would sincerely love for that rabbit to be pulled out of CWs hat my expectations will likely remain low on that point.
Right now the only reason I'd be tuning in is because of the fairy tale connection but it's early days yet. There's much more promo-ing to come so hopefully we'll get a real carrot sometime before the Fall season starts. You never know: a rabbit might just appear.

* Eg In Buffy, we saw all this angst and unrequited love happening but it was really when Angel and Buffy finally got together and Angel turned Bad with a capital "B" that things got very interesting - and mythic. For the first time we saw this "person" be truly evil. Although he had the reputation of being the baddest of the bad, we didn't really believe it till he turned into an actual killing machine and became a very real threat to his one true love. Because bad should be BAD and not be sitting on the fence. There's no point to a story if there's no real threat, no conflict. Fairy tales are very clear about that!
**Even the Angel paradox got tiring after a while, despite seeing him get his evil on, first hand.

Little Dead Riding Hood

Another take on LRRH I haven't seen before but which makes a lot of sense: Dia de los Muertos (Mexican Day of the Dead) meets Red Riding Hood. (Not sure why it's cosplay, rather than just a Halloween costume idea.)

And, without too much hunting, I found a Snow White as well. (Gotta love the nod to going organic in this illustration!) But where's Sleeping Beauty?*

FYI a fascination with Dia de los Meurtos make-up is another of those surprising trends I've seen among fairy tale enthusiasts on Pinterest. It's not unusual to find more than a few examples of costume-like Dia de los Muertos make-up on our friend's boards, if they don't happen to have a whole board already dedicated that is. 

Also in this vein (oops, punny!) we find corpse brides (other than, but including, Tim Burton's Corpse Bride) as well as death and the maiden posters and illustrations, variations on Ophelia and other "beautiful dead". Even more interesting is that this is all quite separate from any zombie, vampire or gothic trends, though they sometimes overlap.

Fascinating, no?

Marigold by Syvia Ji
When you think about it, it's not that far fetched. Much of the Dia de los Muertos make-up and costumery walks the line between creepy and beautiful just as many fairy tales do. We often talk about the need for fairy tales with teeth but perhaps we should say "teeth and bones". 

I do feel we miss out on a lot when we're not surrounded by culture steeped in old tales and traditions. So many cultures have fairy tales that include the dead (and I mean regarding the heroes and heroines) and I don't think it's a coincidence that many of our better known/most loved tales deal with death in a fashion too. Unfortunately we're way too good at cleaning it up so we forget what we're looking at anymore. 

One of my favorite lesser-known fairy tales is The Singing Bone or The Twa Sisters. I've never read a retelling, though I did briefly sketch out the "bones" of a script a few years ago (sorry - apparently it's a punny day), which perhaps I should unearth again sometime. Now I can envision the whole story with a Dia de los Muertos style to it.

*I found one but it was just lines over a Disney drawing, not really a tale revisiting. Interestingly, the just released photo of Angelina Jolie as Maleficent, complete with horns kept surfacing in variations of this search.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Maleficent: Behind-the-Scenes First Look

Behind-the-scene shot, filming Maleficent in the UK
You've probably all seen the image of Angelina Jolie in her Maleficent horns that's sweeping around the internet, right?

 Just in case you haven't, here she is:

Well there's more, including a couple of tidbits I find interesting:

1) looking at the behind-the-scenes photos it's not actually clear that the horns are part of the outfit Maleficent has styled to intimidate and amp her evil presence. instead they actually look as if they're part of her. If it turns out they are "hers" I must admit I have LOTS of sympathy kicking in for the character already. (And for Jolie as she fields the bazillion "horny" headlines about to explode in the media.)

Since Ms. Jolie told EW a few months back to liken the plot treatment of Maleficent to that of  Wicked (in having sympathy for the traditional villain as you learn her story and see how she got to the place we know her best), now knowing there's a possibility the horns are supposed to be as real on her as they are on the cattle, my mind immediately goes to Greek myth. She may just be the most gorgeous minotaur the world has ever seen.

You must admit, when we saw Maleficent in the Disney movie we immediately thought "demon" (despite that the horned headdress was perfectly in fashion back in the day that particular film was [vaguely] set). Even for this film you'd think "demon" (or the intention to appear rather more demonic and therefore ultra scary) would be more obvious but with the cattle at her back she gives far more of the "tragic figure" air than of the initial "must-be-put-down evil spawn" vibe.

2) These behind-the-scene shots from Dread Central show her in the British countryside in full dress, surrounded by a herd of cattle. They look like Highland Cattle specifically (a very beautiful breed with serious looking horns). Anyone up on their ancient tales should be sitting up a little straighter with the appearance of a whole herd of cows backing Maleficent as she gets her magic on.

I have to wonder at the role of the herd and what part they play in her magic. (She looks like she's busy doing something magically intimidating in the shot at the head of the post, don't you think?)

I admit I am partial to fairy tales like The Black Bull of Norroway and I never quite forgave Jack for selling Milky White for some magic beans. When you see how cattle were revered in ancient times it's no surprise they can be magical in the correct context. It's all wishful thinking that this aspect is even hinted at in the film I'm sure, but script writer Linda Woolverton can surprise with her layering and she won't have chosen the cattle by accident or whim. I'm curious to see what the significance is.
Note the Maleficent stunt double in the background
Maleficent is set for release in theaters on March 14, 2014. (2014! I'm guessing they have a lot of special effects work to do.)

Note: If you've never hugged a cow, you're missing out on an amazing life experience. Put it on your bucket list. I highly recommend it.

"Adventure Time" Meets the 3 Bears

By Graham Annable
While Adventure Time episodes (on Cartoon Network) do not, as a rule, base their story lines on fairy tales, though they do have this mythic sense which pervades the series and make it fairy-tale-enthusiast-friendly, it's not unusual to see fan art of the series pop up that takes on plot elements of other popular and myth-based works (eg Star Wars, Game of Thrones etc). This is an official cover illustration by Graham Annable for an Adventure Time comic (release date unknown) so I'm very curious about the issue itself. 

It's fun to see the characters get a fairy tale makeover and while this illustration isn't very different from the Goldilocks tale (Finn is blonde underneath the ear-cap by the way) it meshes very well with his character from the series (he starts out with good intentions then tends to get sucked into Trouble - with a capital "T', usually by his mischievous magical dog). We don't have any sense of the end of this story here (ie. we're meant to buy the comic) but Finn's sense of chivalry means he goes to ridiculous lengths to make thing right again. Of course, things usually get worse (far worse!) before they get better and Finn and Jake have some rather crazy adventuring doing it all. Very fun!

What I'd dearly love to see is these characters, and their world, tackle a few fairy tale plots and see where they end up. The sensibility of the series is such that there's a good chance they'll keep a lot of the fairy tales' "essence" despite the whimsical and wacky framework it's presented in. (Hint, hint Frederator Studios!)

The picture above is of Fionna the Human (who is Finn the Human's alternate reality persona) with Marshall the Vampire (Marceline the Vampire's alternate reality persona) as envisioned by an unidentified fan (although I do see "baby churros" signed). Interestingly, although I couldn't find any reference to an episode in which Fionna acts as LRRH and is pursued/tempted by Marshall, there are many fan art pics on this subject. I guess vampire to wolf isn't such a stretch but why does it make me think of Twilight..? (I mean the book/series phenomenon even before the movie-crazy.)

Oh no.

Is THIS why Twilight* struck such a chord with teenage (and older) girls? Because Stephenie Meyer was influenced/inspired by LRRH**?? Interesting if it is, because Catherine Hardwicke flipping the Twilight elements back into an recognizable Red Riding Hood tale got kind of lost in the woods...

Hmm. I feel as if I have thought-gristle in my teeth.

Having not made it through the Twilight series, despite trying to for the sake of keeping up with pop culture, I can't do a proper comparison beyond using synopsis  and Wikipedia - *grinds teeth* - but the idea is sticking, even after a quick research-binge. As for comparison of Twilight to the LRRH fairy tale (leaving the movie well out of the equation) the internetz are rife with the obsessive idea that Harwicke "Twilight-ed" the LRRH story, rather than any hint that Ms. Meyer may have unconsciously been using LRRH elements in her books.
** Ms. Meyer does not cite fairy tales as being any part of her inspiration for the Twilight series, as far as I can find  but rather Jane Austen and Shakespeare. I find this odd since there's definitely a hint of Beauty and the Beast at least, as well as Red Riding Hood. Perhaps it's one of those "taken as a given" things but I don't see it having been discussed anywhere.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Working on Some Changes...

A post to ask for your continued patience as I work on restructuring the way I handle a few things regarding the blog.

I am busy trying to get a new work station happening so I can be more mobile (and therefore more in touch and post more often) but it may mean compromising some of the features and formatting - we shall see. So far things look promising but there are a few important things that I can't get to work smoothly just yet.

Since I have also suddenly had a large amount of review requests, (!) rather than repeat myself inconsistently as I answer and have to assess every request from scratch, I will shortly be adding a policy for review requests for Once Upon A Blog to direct people to so that authors and artists will be better prepared when they contact me.

Snow White Reinterpreted via Rene Magritte by Brian Cook
(T-shirt design concept.  Why have we not seen this before?)
Please note! The intent is not to discourage you if you'd like promotion via the blog. I'm actually adding some suggestions for those who would like promotion via OUAB (especially for those who may not fall within the review guidelines), and trying to make it clear with regard to what is acceptable for promotion and content. I'll also be putting up some guidelines for anyone interested in writing guest posts, so watch for that too.

The upshot of this announcement is that I'm working hard on making a lot of changes happen right now but - hopefully! - the only thing you'll really notice when I'm done, is that you'll get more regular posts again, unlike the image at the head of the post in which all the major aspects have well and truly been swapped around and nothing is at all like what it was before.

The flipped Snow White scene at the top is an ad for digital art studio Farbraum, showing how completely they can make you over. It's a version of Snow White we haven't seen yet, at least not in the sense of a straight gender swap (though I'm certain I've seen a gay version once upon a time). That would certainly put a different spin on things. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Brave Father's Day Tribute/Promo

I couldn't resist posting this, even though it wasn't officially in my way-too-long "must post" list until a minute ago...

One of the things I'm loving about this new fairy tale is the portrayal of the family: it's intact! Although it's about a mother and daughter and their push-pull relationship, here there's a father too and neither parent appears to be distant/absent. In fact the family dynamic and their individual relationships with Princess Merida are central to what the story is all about. I'm really liking this aspect.

Is it weird to remark, though, that this portrayal of Merida's dad is exactly the kind of mother I would like to be to my son? (Except maybe a couple of hundred sizes smaller?)  ;)


Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Futuristic Snow White by Meghan Boehman

"The 3rd in my Snow White series. This shows the Huntsman, under orders from the evil queen, leading Snow White into the woods to cut out her heart."
I'm always very happy to discover talented new artists and Ms. Boehman has me doubly so since she's focused so much of her portfolio's attention on the fairy tale of the year, Snow White (though she first posted them in mid 2011). Her interpretation, however, is a very different from what we usually see and provides a somewhat unusual lens for the story. 

From her profile HERE:
I am a college student studying Film and Animation at Rochester Institute of Technology. I love to paint on Photoshop and I especially enjoy fantastical or futuristic designs. While I hope to pursue a career in animation, painting and design work will always be my passion.
As a student, Ms. Boehman is already proving someone we should keep an eye on. (I particularly like her The Huntsman piece.) I do hope that, as she continues along the path to professional artist that she considers painting different versions of other fairy tales too.
"The second in a series of 3 futuristic Snow White paintings. This depicts the evil queen in front of the enchanted mirror." 

It's no secret Snow White is a favorite tale of mine and has been since I was little. It's also no secret that for all its faults I also still very much love Disney's version as well, though that also has to do with it's milestones in art in film. But yes, even so I've quite had it with all the Disneyfied versions of the tale (which are diluted in the extreme even from Disney's version if you stop and compare) and the sweet, sweet Snow Whites churned out since that are completely passive, guileless and guiltless (something which I never saw, not even in the Disney version - but that's a whole other post..).

If for no other reason, this is the reason I've been so interested in the film Snow White and the Huntsman, because it's (finally!) breaking this social mindset people seem to have of SW and of the fairy tale. It's during these times, when people are for once taking a real look at this character and seeing her potential and how much she relates to them as a real person, that works of art that have been doing just that for so long, finally get noticed. As such, this is a perfect time for Ms. Boehman to have her art seen - because it will "be seen" in the real sense. I wish her every success.
"This is the first of a series of 3 that I did of the fairy tale "Snow White". It depicts Snow White in her glass case as the prince first discovers her. I used this opportunity to reinvent the fairy tale by challenging myself with a futuristic design, something I had never attempted before."
You can see more of Meghan Boehman's work at the CG Society HERE and she also has work for sale in her Etsy store, "The Seven Dwarves", HERE.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Brave: 1 week to go + New TV Spot & Behind the Scenes Featurette

That's right - just one week till Pixar's first ever fairy tale (and first ever female lead) hits theaters. Excited? Yes I am. ;)
Brave: The Video Game
In case you haven't seen these yet, please enjoy.
June TV Spot:
Brave: The Video Game
Behind-the-scenes featurette focusing on the setup and the family, featuring Mark Andrews (Director), Katherine Sarafian (Producer), Kelly MacDonald (Princess Merida),  Billy Connolly (King Fergus), Emma Thompson (Queen Elinor) and Craig Ferguson (Lord Macintosh):
The images (other than the gorgeous concept poster by Steve Pilcher at the head) are from the soon-to-be-released video game which looks quite lush and full of fantasy adventure. As nice as that looks and promises to be for those who like a little "more" in their video games, I'd really be surprised if the game held some kind of fairy tale sense along with all the fantastic adventuring, although I live in hope. My just-graduated-from-preschool little boy has finally discovered computer games and is fascinated by whatever stories they contain (he's bored if they don't have one) so if this game has a fairy tale core beyond nods to the movie I'll do my best to make room for it in our budget. Anything that keeps the fairy tale conversation going with my young son, along with an excellence in tech and artistry, is definitely worth it. 
Brave: The Video Game

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Snow White Through the (Hollywood) Years

Skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood and hair as black as ebony … sound fa­mil­i­ar? Few have res­isted the le­gendary story of Snow White and her sev­en dwarfs, and many have told their own ver­sions of the tale. Here’s a look at the ori­gin of the fairest of them all, who’s re­peatedly cap­tured Hol­ly­wood’s heart in re­cent years.
I have such a huge backlog of Snow White posts! This is one of them: a dynamic timeline published by the LA Times which takes you through incarnations and retellings of Snow White, mainly in entertainment, since published by the Grimm's in their Household Tales

Unfortunately it's nowhere near comprehensive, though people who haven't followed the tale over the years may learn a few things. It jumps from 1812 to 1912 and the only "book" referenced is Bill Willingham's Fables.

Still it's fun to click through and take a look, though it's clearly missing a ton of published works and less popularly known films and series nods I would have like to have seen included.

You can see the timeline and take a hop, skip and jump through the popular history of Snow White HERE.

Monday, June 11, 2012

From Wicked Witch to Snow Queen + Disney's First Official "Frozen" Blurb

Disney have just (re)announced that their doing their take (the quote is "loosely based") on Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, to be titled Frozen.

We already knew Kristen Bell was to be the Gerda equivalent (now revealed as "Anna") and now it's just been announced that the Tony Award Winning Actress Idina Menzel, who first played Elphaba in the Broadway musical Wicked, will step into the shoes of the Snow Queen herself.

How will it play out? Disney have also just released their first official blurb for the film to give us some insight:
In Frozen, a prophecy traps a kingdom in eternal winter, so Anna (voice of Kristen Bell) must team up with Kristoff, a daring mountain man, on the grandest of journeys to find the Snow Queen (voice of Idina Menzel) and put an end to the icy spell. Encountering Everest-like extremes, mystical creatures and magic at every turn, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom from destruction.

I don't know about you, but to me it seems that this premise is so "loose" in comparison to the classic (and dearly loved across the globe) fairy tale that it's just about lost. I have no problem with Disney making an fantasy animated feature film with lots of snow and an icy queen  - they should. It'd be beautiful and they certainly have both the artistry and the tech to support a big vision BUT to say it's based on a fairy tale and essentially claim this is the new Snow Queen when it has almost nothing in common with the original (based on the official tidbits released this year)? That seems wrong. It's one of those few times I wish there were some form of copyright on the literary tales that say "you cannot liken your work to the original without using x% of the plot, characters and acknowledging the source material in the opening credits..." But then, that's part of why Disney use fairy tales in the first place, isn't it? They can do whatever they like.

From Entertainment Weekly:

The movie, of course, will have a musical element, with original songs by Broadway’s Robert Lopez (a two-time Tony winner for Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon) and wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez (who worked with him on Disney’s 2011 Winnie the Pooh.) 
The digitally animated feature will open in November 2013 and is being directed by Chris Buck (TarzanSurf’s Up) and produced by Peter Del Vecho (Winnie the PoohThe Princess and the Frog).

So there you have it. A CG musical using the very marketable phrase (as far as Disney goes)"fairy tale". We know Disney's been having a huge internal reshuffle with one of their most loved and recognizable (read "bankable") veteran animators, Glen Keane, departing in March this year but it seems as if they've been hard at work in an effort to show they remain undaunted and are barreling along into production on (another) new version of this old project. Considering they still attract much of the world's best in all the various talents I have no doubt it will be a beautiful, magical and wonderful film. But will it feel like The Snow Queen we know and love?

Although fairy tales can have their elements and plot points changed more than you'd think and still remain "recognizable" it requires more than just having a character with one key characteristic for that recognition to happen. (Eg. just because a girl in a film puts on a red hat, or even a red cape and hood, does not automatically make it a Little Red Cap tale.)

I will be watching to see what, if any, fairy tale elements are in the film at all, as well as what it will do to the public perception of HCA's Snow Queen.*

I couldn't help but stifle a snigger, though, when I read the summary of the announcement by Bleeding Coolsince it's what everyone's been thinking but I hadn't seen put so boldly in print until now:
So, Disney are going from Tangled to Frozen. Surely there needs to be a third in this series. I suggest Bloated, maybe. Or how about PuncturedMutedSoddenBurnt?

Frozen is currently set for a Winter holiday release in the US during November 2013.

Note: All images shown are concept art by Paul Felix for an earlier version of Frozen (still then called The Snow Queen). One of these are from current development art.

*Interestingly, I've noticed the fairy tale of Rapunzel, as published by the Grimm's in Household Tales 200 years ago this year, is remaining largely intact in the public minds. Tangled, and all it's various marketing, didn't have the usual effect of very near eclipsing the classic tale in the public mind at all. It would seem that Disney's title change, in addition to other things, did indeed distance it more than intended from the classics tie-in they were hoping for.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Mythic, Magical and Endearing Art of Andy Kehoe

All Turns to Brilliance - Andy Kehoe
Artwork made before the world ends. Paintings also double as radiation protection for the nuclear winter and some can be eaten like beef jerky.
Onward Again My Friend by Andy Kehoe
Roamer of Reverie by Andy Kehoe
This is the introduction to Andy Kehoe's work for 2012 on his website.

For 2011 it was this:
Paintings best enjoyed with smile on face and bourbon in non-mouse hand. When possible, fill room with the smell of burnt gun powder and bacon. At least four gas lanterns recommended for lighting. Legs can either be crossed or uncrossed. Remove Shoes.Thank you.Management 
Affinity to Unfamiliar Worlds by Andy Kehoe

With such introductions to his art, along with a blog titled: Tall Tales of Depravity - The place to be for Kehoe matters and whisky fist fights, it's clear this Pittsburgh artist doesn't take himself too seriously (we approve!), despite that his work is beautiful, mythic, simply stunning and yes endearing (or should that be en-deer-ing?). I think the title of the work at the head of the post says it well: "All Turns To Brilliance".
Together at the Threshold by Andy Kehoe (created 2012 for his fiancé)

It does seem that there is something very special about Mr. Kehoe's work. Even in his earlier pieces you can see a particular style and sensibility that suggests we live with fantasy, if only we had the eyes to see it (as he apparently does).  In 2011 that sensibility blossomed even further with a richness in colors and what seemed to be additional dimensional depth in his paintings.
A Fading Farewell by Andy Kehoe

I've noticed certain trends on Pinterest among fans of fairy tales and one of those are men, women, children, creatures and other beings with antlers. Fairy tale images of woodland beings with horns and antlers of various sizes populate fairy tale themed boards consistently, as do forest with sentient looking deer. I don't think this is coincidence.

On the Banks of Broken Worlds by Andy Kehoe

There is something royal yet wild, gentle yet dangerous, commanding yet connected, natural yet "other" about deer. Fawns, doe, stags, hinds with antlers, golden-antlers, white harts, brother deer and horned gods as well as those of the Wild Hunt and all their half-breed fae brethren easily capture our attention in fairy tales and often appear in fairy tale illustrations, even when there is no specific reference to one in the corresponding text. A stag doesn't need to transform into a man to have a sense of magic, he carries it with him.

In Marie-Luise von Franz's book, The Interpretation of Fairy Tales she discusses the primal reaction we have to the image of deer in tales and the importance of the majestic stags being able to shed their antler crowns, so as to grow new horns. She says: "The shedding of the antlers is probably the natural basis for all the mythological transformation attributes of the deer. In medieval medicine, the bone in the heart of the deer was thought to be beneficial for heart trouble."

A Moment of Respite by Andy Kehoe

Here's a larger quote from the same chapter, Shadow, Anima and Animus:

Whether or not it was his intention, these aspects - both the fascination and the dread - are definitely communicated in Mr. Kehoe's work.

When I see so many people across the web and in Pinterest - especially those who have an interest in myth and fairy tale - gathering images of deer and antlered beings it's clear this sense of wonder with such is just as strong today as it ever was. In fact there are so many comments, from very different people and many different backgrounds, that say the same thing: "I wish I had a pair of antlers!"*
Grief and Glory by Andy Kehoe

The antlered and horned creatures in Mr. Kehoe's work bring a sense of connecting us personally to something of Wonder. I don't know how he captures it but the blend of wild and familiar, of both the playful and the melancholy, of a personal magic and at the same time a vast world of wonder; all these qualities pervade his paintings.
Under the Gaze of the Glorious by Andy Kehoe
I'm glad he's sharing the pictures in his mind. Some of them look familiar, but only because I'm sure I've seen some of these beings in my dreams.
Lord of Ghouls - Arise Feral Night, Roq La Rue by Andy Kehoe

Go, enjoy, support and tell him "More, more! The end of the world gets closer every day!" ;)

Andy Kehoe's website and portfolio are HERE, his blog is HERE, he's on Twitter HERE and he also has an Etsy store HERE, where you can purchase a little magic to keep for yourself (and perhaps help fund one of his numerous wedding ideas such as having "a small rowboat full of explosives and fireworks floating in the middle of the pond to be ignited with a fiery arrow the moment we both say, "I do." I have zero clues as to why that idea was shot down... ;)

*One very interesting image collection doing the rounds on Pinterest shows a wedding party taking fun photos as they're holding antlers to their heads. Despite the fun, there is something that elicits an "Ooh!" or "Awesome!" response from so many people, including, I must admit, myself. Perhaps it's just that, for all it's simplicity it's still rather Wonder-ful.