Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Almost Midnight... And A Sneak Peek of Things To Come

A sneak peek at the "eleventh hour" of 2014...

...but not just at the upcoming live-action Cinderella. (Although I'd be remiss if I didn't post this:)

Today's last-post-of-2014 is really to let you know that the cogs of Once Upon A Blog are turning again and that, despite more than a bit of rust (here and on your Fairy Tale News Hound) that you WILL be getting daily* fairy tale news again very shortly...

Just like this, from Stitch Kingdom today:
Walt Disney Studios has announced via a teaser video (embedded below) that shortly before midnight ET on New Year’s Eve 2014, it will be sharing a brand new exclusive look at its upcoming film Cinderella (March 13, 2015), the live-action adaptation of the classic Disney animated film. The sneak peek will air during ‘Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve’ on the ABC television network.
Here's the official "Countdown to #Midnight" teaser just released:

The fairy tale continues in 2015 and Once Upon A Blog will be with you as it does. #insertwildcheering

And we will continue to bring news from many other fairy tales and fairy tale happenings around the globe, just like we always have. #missionstatement

For tonight, watch for magic and have a very

* Or as close to it as possible - 2014 has not been kind and we are still living with it's wake. Your support as we do our best in this is greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

"Glass Cages" - Lisa Stock Takes An Adventurous Look at Beauty & the Beast

"Glass Cages" by Lisa Stock
Mythic filmmaker, Lisa Stock, of InByTheEye, just released a lovely new image, once again taking us on a mythic journey. (I strongly recommend seeing it large HERE, where it's far more luminous!) This one, though, isn't from the realm of the mystical and otherwordly but is far more at home in a cityscape (at least, the concept is, even if the players themselves are not..).

Although not driven to creation by the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast, this easily falls into the category for contemplating that parallel, just as its inspiration, King Kong, has, since it first hit the silver screen.

Those fairy tale folk who love Beauty and the Beast will have seen King Kong discussed in the context of this fairy tale many times before, so I won't re-hash any of that. What I do want to draw your attention to, however, is how Lisa has framed her musings (literally!) on the connection between the two.

On her blog HERE, she discusses her image, the inspiration and the concept of adventure, not primarily (although it can include) the safari-type. She's talking about The Great Adventure: the grand quest of Life (to find one's own true form, true reason for being and all that means) and also of Love (in all it's forms).

From Lisa's blog:

[“King Kong” (1933)] ...opens with an Arabic proverb, “And lo, the beast looked upon the face of beauty. And it stayed its hand from killing. And from that day, it was as one dead.
This is a story about one’s changing nature, and the impetus that causes it. In relation to Kong, they put that responsibility on Anne Darrow (“Twas Beauty killed the Beast”).  In relation to the other characters, it starts with the ship’s adventure, daring to go into the unknown and then having to deal with what you find.
It was beauty killed the beast: Esther Hannaford in King Kong (stage show - Australia 2013)
The lovely thing about Kong and Anne's story in relation to the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale is that there are so many different ways to look at it. Though the juxtaposition of their sizes (and their species) means a true happy ending (or any form of marriage) is not possible in this version, it does, by this distortion, bring into focus some of those issues which the fairy tale holds.*

In true mythic form, this talented filmmaker says it all in one image.

To read her whole post on creating Glass Cages, click HERE.

*Lisa's note, about dream-casting Andy Serkis, points out a missed opportunity that would have been perfect... You'll have to read what she says, to see what I mean.

Ask Baba Yaga: I'm Hiding in Whiskey, Where Has My Spine Gone?

Baba Yaga's Garden by Naomi Johanna Nowak
So the title says "whiskey" but this could be just as true a concern - and advice - for anyone indulging themselves in what they know to be an unhealthy manner, (and that includes cookie dough overdosing, shopping addiction, doormatting, Netflix bingeing, as well as any booze, sex or drug related habits), wishing they would just get it together but wondering where their will  - or their old self - has gone...

As someone who constantly struggles with finding her creative self through many mediums, with a tendency of giving everything else priority (not always bad but it's also a habit so...), I REALLY like what Baba Yaga says in reply.

This week's question and answer (via poet and oracle Taisia Kitaiskaia* of The Hairpin):
(Originally posted at The Hairpin HERE)

Excellent. Still requires a double dose of will power but they do say often the first step is the hardest, don't they? (I guess this is the "lash it to you" bit!) 

I sincerely love the idea of myself as "brash and fiendly" though. What a powerful, liberating image!

And if I just remember those skulls lighting up the Baba's fence, that should be a good incentive for the needed follow-through...

What do you think of Baba Yaga's advice?

Want to ask Baba Yaga a question of your own?
You can!
There's now an email address where you can send your questions
directly to Baba Yaga herself.
AskBabaYaga AT gmail DOT com
To encourage Baba Yaga to continue imparting her no-bones-about-it wisdom (ok, there may be some gristle in there... bones too), I suggest we not to leave her box empty... 

Thank you Baba Yaga (& Taisia).

Taisia Kitaiskaia is a poet, writer, and Michener Center for Writers fellow. Born in Russia and raised in America, she's had her poems and translations published in Narrative Magazine, Poetry International, and others.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

"Into The Woods": New Movie Poster, New Website & Random Thoughts on How We (& the Media) View Fairy Tales

And one more bit of Into The Woods news for Thursday:

Today also saw the launch of the official website (although there's not a whole lot there apart from the trailer, cast list and the photos you've already seen) and new promo poster variations (see above and below).

The Facebook page is finally becoming active too.

The important thing this confirms is that they're still releasing on Christmas Day in theaters in the US. I can see the Winter merchandise and decorations now... although they're mixing up with Narnia a bit in my head at the moment, which I wouldn't mind too much since so much of the first Narnia movie merchandise at the time of the release was just stunning.  I'm going to do my best to be optimistic about this.

One note does concern me though: we're a little tired of fairy tale stories backstabbing us, or the media doing their level best to "shock" the public by uncovering their dark sides via these "OMG did you know..!" lists. Adam over at Fairy Tale Fandom has a great and timely post on this very subject.

One thing my forced downtime made me do, since I couldn't handle computer screens, was to do a lot more reading. While I plan to get to the various books in more detail in the coming weeks, I have to admit my favorites were not the novels but the collections, specifically Jack Zipes' recent wonderful book, The Golden Age of Folk & Fairy Tales from The Brothers Grimm to Andrew Lang and to a lesser extent, though still great to read, Philip Pullman's Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm (with the English version and the German version side by side so I could look at Shaun Tan's sculptures while reading).

Why? Because they were just "as is" - no emphasis on the happily ever after or the magic but also no emphasis on the dark, gruesome, grimness either. They were just tales in which something out of the ordinary happened and people had to choose how to respond and what, if anything, they should do about it.

When I started getting a lot better and could watch TV again, I also spent some time showing my kid some more of Miyazaki's movies and discussing extraordinary, ordinary things (if you follow me) and it struck me just how similar the sensibilities are - which is probably why I love the movies so much. While the fantasy creatures and impossible things were notable, it was clear that many of these things could have been either frightening or wondrous, depending on the context they were seen in and particularly how the child (usually it was a child) at the center of the story saw it. We weren't told "this is beautiful" or "this is scary", we had to hold our breath and see what the kid thought.

Here is an excerpt from a wonderful set of images, illustrating Miyazaki's philosophy in storytelling. It's something I sincerely wish more filmmakers, especially regarding family films, in English speaking countries would adopt:

The excerpt above is slightly out of context so you can see the full five illustrated page summary HERE.

Anyway - these are my random musings as I watch fairy tales being presented to the public once again. I'm actually hopeful that Into The Woods will work in favor of balancing some of the glitter vs gruesome polarization we currently see when the public contemplates fairy tales.

1st Official Trailer: "Into The Woods"

Ta da! And here it is:

My first thoughts are mostly positive, especially considering my (and many others') fears. Glad to see they're continuing the trend of customizing the view of the Disney castle for the film. 

How about you?

At Long Last, the Journey "Into The Woods" Begins

Over the last couple of days we've been treated to a bunch of stills (care of People Magazine) and a sneak peek of some footage, care of Entertainment Tonight (see below, with apologies for the quality) for Disney's, much anticipated/feared live action version of the award winning musical, Into the Woods. 
It was originally set for theatrical release this Winter (December 25, 2014), but there's a chance that may be moved... TBC.

Although it would seem they're currently doing some reshoots, the marketing machine appears to have finally chugged into gear. Rumor has it that we'll be seeing a proper trailer either August 1st or August 2nd.

In the meantime, here's the ET segment (cut off). Note: the first version I saw was removed so see this ASAP in case this goes too! (, no doubt we'll get a better look very soon):

Hm. Interesting. It actually looks quite... theatrical, though there will no doubt be more effects than we have currently seen. For fans of the Broadway musical, this is still going to be a tough sell but unless it's been completely "Disney-fied" and much glitter added where we have yet to see it, there appears to be a chance of a traditional live action musical here. (Gasp!)

(We've seen the images below before but I thought I'd add them for context.)

Emily Blunt and James Cordon look great, as do many of the cast but I'm going to have to see quite a bit more before I'm completely sold on the Witch, Cinderella and especially the Wolf... (Johnny Depp in a hat. Why are we not surprised?)

What do you think so far?

PS Personal note: I am finally - mostly! - recovered from my 'broken crown', it's unlikely I will be able to blog every day for a short while yet, but I will do my best to manage to bring you news as often as I can. While it turns out it's completely true that a good whack on the head does have you seeing bright lights and stars (but no tweety birds) just like a cartoon, recovery from said stars can actually take (a very inconvenient, painful and frustrating period of) weeks and weeks (very UNlike a cartoon!). Please take care of your heads!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Of Vinegar and Brown Paper...

Broken Crown by Vu Mai (from his Sims Medieval renders)
My apologies for the lack of fairy tale news. I'm working on repairing my crown, which is taking a little longer than expected. I've been advised to take still another week for recovery but hopefully I will be back to blogging by the second week in July.

Keep an eye out for rogue uses of fairy tales while I'm away, would you?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Happy Solstice!

Puck from A Midsummer Night's Dream retold by Bruce Coville & illustrated by Dennis Nolan
Summer in the North, Winter in the South.
A season's change for us all.
May it be joyous.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Disney's "Into The Woo.., er, HEAs" (Possible Spoilers, Except You Expected This)

All illustrations in this post are by Hudson Talbott for his adaptation of an Into The Woods picture book

Rapunzel Lives! The Wolf is Not a Lech! The Baker's Wife is Not Unfaithful! HAEs for Everybody!


What was the point of "Into The Woods" again?

It's taken me a few days to figure out just want I want to say about this news but my thoughts on the matter have basically stayed the same, because, be honest: I expected it. Heck, you expected it. You (and I) really, really, REALLY hoped it wouldn't happen, but it did. The edgy musical favorite, Into the Woods, which turns the popular view of fairy tales on its head by taking a gritty look at some very real consequences of fairy tale actions (in Act II), has been Disneyfied, or in fancier terms:

(The) more subversive elements of the Brothers Grimm-themed story (have) been excised by studio chiefs. 
"You will find in the movie that Rapunzel does not get killed, and the Prince does not sleep with the [Baker's Wife]," (Sondheim) told an audience of drama teachers at Sardi's restaurant in New York, also noting that Disney had objected to the sexualisation of the relationship between Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf. Added Sondheim: "Disney said, we don't want Rapunzel to die, so we replotted it. I won't tell you what happens, but we wrote a new song to cover it."

While James Lapine, (original Into The Woods writer) reportedly argued against the rewrites with Disney (but lost the battle) Stephen Sondheim (original composer/lyricist for Into the Woods) has defended the changes (from HERE):

Sondheim said teachers had a duty to explain to their students that creative licence could be undermined by social conservatism. "[You] have to explain to them that censorship is part of our puritanical ethics, and it's something that they're going to have to deal with," he said. "There has to be a point at which you don't compromise anymore, but that may mean that you won't get anyone to sell your painting or perform your musical. You have to deal with reality."
Translation: To Sondheim, it was worth the money to let Disney "Disneyfy" it. He wanted to get paid.

Ya know, I get that. We all gotta eat.


It's INTO THE WOODS! aka the Disney-fication-antidote!


At least we've been warned.

Will it hurt box office? Unlikely. At least not for opening weekend.

Because, in the end, again in the spirit of being honest, the original Sondheim/Lapine team are still on this so there's still a chance it might be good, and you want to know how they dealt with it all, just as much as I do, don't you? DON'T YOU?!



Bonus Brain Stretcher for the day:
There's an interesting article from the Washington Post HERE about why Disney cannot tell grown-up stories. While there are some interesting points, and it makes a good argument for the predictable patterns in (current) Disney storytelling, I think it also makes it even clearer that society in general doesn't really understand the essence of simple timeless stories, or of fairy tales. Fairy tales in particular may be condensed, spare and even, in some ways, simplistic, but they are never "childish". And I have to agree with the author on this point (below):

There is big money in happy endings, ...and Disney can complicate its brand only so much.This is the same problem the company has in other areas, and the reason we hear so many complaints about a juvenile strain in popular media. If your brand relies on the idea that Captain America is a good, trustworthy person,you can only go so far in encouraging your audience to think critically about the implications of giving a single person the ability to do great violence. If you are in the business of selling happy endings, your customers might get less enthusiastic as they become convinced that “ever after” is not an ironclad guarantee.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Aussies 'n' Fairy Tales Week: Shaun Tan, Artist and Alchemist

From the foreword - it's the Brothers Grimm themselves, being told stories by a fox
Shaun Tan, author and illustrator extraordinaire and winner of many, many awards, including:

  • Three time winner of Best Artist for the World Fantasy Award
  • Best Professional Artist Hugo Award (2011) and multiple award nominee

  • Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award or ALMA (2010)
  • Academy Award (aka Oscar Award Winner) for The Lost Thing, Best Short Film (animated)

It's very likely you know of him or know his work, especially if you follow children's literature, fantasy or animation (he also worked as a concept artist for Pixar's "WALL-E").

While Mr. Tan's illustrations have always had that uniquely Australian slightly off-kilter sense of fantasy underlying the mundane, and has always seemed to seamlessly weave the fantastic or 'other' into his largely suburban illustrations, it's only fairly recently that he created works specifically based on fairy tales. It turned out that he found this more challenging than he initially believed but, boy did it pay off!

Note: His Thousandfurs sculpture (shown above) was also a Spectrum 21, Dimensional Art Nominee/Finalist for 2014, which were held in May (they are 'the' coveted International Award for Contemporary Fantastic Art).
The Three Little Men in the Wood (Die drei Männlein im Walde)

As I've seen this quoted elsewhere in entirety, I'm including the whole of Mr. Tan's statement about the project here, as it will be of special interest to fairy tale folk, and those artists working to "illustrate" fairy tales (in whatever manner and media):
In 2012 I was approached by my German editor Klaus Humann of Aladin Verlag in Hamburg to consider a cover illustration, as well as perhaps some some internal drawings for a new edition of the Grimm Brothers collected folk tales written by Philip Pullman (the well known author of the His Dark Materials trilogy). I thought about this for some time, as I've always wanted to do something Grimm related but didn't have an ideal approach (or much time for commissions). Philip had chosen a selection of 50 favourite fairy tales, and written them with a thoughtful clarity that will appeal to modern readers yet keeping true to their original spirit. I was particularly interested in the scholarly notes at the end of each tale, offering background, critique and even a few suggested improvements from a writer's point of view; I was also interested in Philip's introduction which praises the concise, 'cardboard character' narrative of Grimm's fairy tales and points out they do not necessarily benefit much from illustration. A good problem for a visual artist! And one I'm inclined to agree with: I'd long ago researched fairy tales as a possible illustration project, but soon gave it up as the tales had such an abstracted quality about them, I couldn't think of a suitable 'way in' as an artist who favours representational imagery. While I love such illustrations as those byArthur Rackham, I've always felt they conflict with my own less literal experience a reader. And in many cases, the tales are just too strange or irrational for conventional 'scenes'. 
The Frog King, or Iron Heinrich
(Der Froschkönig oder
der eiserne Heinrich
So I was a little reluctant at first, but soon began to think of ways I could avoid painting or drawing altogether. As a child, I was actually more obsessed with sculpture than painting and drawing, working with clay, papier mache and soapstone, and was reminded of this when browsing through my collection of books on folk art and particularly Inuit scultpure and Pre-Columbian figurines from Mexico. Many of these small, hand-sized sculptures are strongly narrative and dreamlike, and offered a 'way in' to thinking about Grimm's stories as part of an old creative tradition. The works I ended up creating hopefully convey the spirit of each tale without actually illustrating them, like anonymous artifacts in a museum open to all kinds of interpretation.
Though Philip Pullman's Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm was published in the UK and US, each with a nice cover, it's the German edition that is the most wonderful, thanks to the inclusion of illustrations by the, incredibly adaptable, Shaun Tan.  Mr. Tan created some fifty sculptures representing Pullma's chosen fifty tales, which are photographed beautifully and are displayed in the edition throughout. While there are no plans at present, to translate it into English, (I don't understand why myself, as the edition with Shaun Tan's sculptures would be my first choice), one of the wonderful things is that Mr. Tan hasn't stopped there. He continues to be inspired by the tales and is in the process of enlarging the collection of fifty sculptures to at least 60.

Here is a very recent one, from Shaun Tan's blog, with his note:
"One of several new sculptures inspired by Grimm's Fairy Tales, this one for a the story 'The Blue Light' (Das blaue Licht), about a solider taking revenge against those who have wronged him (including the witch above). I began this series as a set of illustrations for the German edition of Philip Pullman's Grimm Tales published last year, and have since continued to create additional works for other stories that I found particularly intriguing outside of that collection. By 1850, the Grimm Brothers included over 200 tales in Children's and Household Tales, so there's certainly no shortage of inspiration; as Margaret Atwood notes, 'no emotion is unrepresented'." (Shaun Tan)
Little Red Cap (Rotkäppchen)
Godfather Death (Der Gevatter Tod)

I find it interesting that, in a discussion with Neil Gaiman, Shaun Tan says the way he uses words is, he believes, not just his style but also a cultural thing:
Gaiman: Your stuff is always laconic. One of the things I love about it is that a picture is worth a thousand words and you make your pictures work very hard. 
Tan: Part of it is that I don't trust myself as a writer. I still lack confidence, probably because the first 20 or so stories I wrote were roundly rejected. I actually started out as a writer and then converted to illustration because I realised that there was a dearth of good illustrators in genre fiction, at least in Australia at that time. I diverted all of my resources to visual imagery, and as a result I noticed that my writing did become more and more pared down, until it started to approximate my normal speaking patterns. When I write a story I imagine I'm telling it to someone like my brother. And we don't talk that much [laughs] – it condenses everything down and that's a very Australian thing, too.
And that trait might just explain why Australians on the whole seem to be so drawn to fairy and folktales and enjoy working with them.
The Nixie of the Mill-Pond (Die Nixe im Teich)

There is a wealth of information on Shaun Tan's work all over the internet, from his website to interviews to articles and awards, so I won't repeat much more here. I will only say that I am so glad Mr. Tan found illustrating fairy tales to be such "trouble" and found his own way around it. The sculptures are unique and beautiful and, now that they exist, it seems odd they didn't before.
The Stolen Farthings (Der gestohlene Heller)
A Riddling Tale (Rätselmärchen)

The Twelve Brothers (Die zwölf Brüder)
I can't wait to see what tales he tackles next in his Grimm sculptures and hope to see the collection together on day as well.
Iron John (Eisenhans) - (Not to be confused with The Frog King or Iron Henry)
(You can see many more of the sculptures from the German edition HERE in a previous post of mine and from a related one over the the SurLaLune blog HERE with an additional write about the book.)

Rumpelstiltskin (Rumpelstilzchen)
In the meantime, he is back to being very busy as author and illustrator and already gathering awards for his latest offering, Rules of Summer, about two brothers, living in a world of fantastic creatures and crazy gizmos, in which one breaks all the rules and the other does his best to stop him doing so... or save him. At home in Australia, this last month, Shaun Tan won both the Ditmar and the Chronos National Awards for Best Artwork for Rules of Summer, and just this past week he also won the 2014 Illustration Prize for Children's and Youth books from the German Gemeinschaftswerk der Evangelischen Publizistik (GEP)another prestigious illustrators award, also for Rules of Summer.

These 3 sculptures were sold at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2013 (sob!)
Here is a brief list of popular works as author and illustrator (or illustrator only, where indicated):
Shaun Tan's website can be found HERE.
He blogs HERE, usually with works-in-progress or pieces that likely won't be published elsewhere, as well as occasional news.