Saturday, May 31, 2014

We're Off To See the Wicked (Fairy, That Is...)

I'm taking my family to see Maleficent today and trying to not read too much about it via news outlets and every social media site (all of them!) before we do.

However, so far ratings are showing just under 50% of critics give it thumbs up while, on the other hands, over 75% of audiences are reporting they love it (and a large percentage of those intend to see it again). So all is looking good in the land of the fairy tale film future for Disney at the moment. (The question will be, what kind? We've already got another remake coming in Cinderella. Is there any chance of them looking at other tales? I'm going to guess... no. While there are changes in the air at Disney they're still largely on the safe side.)

Looking forward to:
1) the visuals - it should look amazing
2) seeing my kid love a fairy tale film (and the creatures) in the theater, like I remember doing as a kid (there haven't been many since that era!)
3) the push at the Disney boundaries that we know Ms. Jolie has insisted on to remain part of the movie
4) making this movie-going a whole experience (which is why we've decided to take the trip to downtown Hollywood and the El Capitan Theater)
5) seeing the connection of fairy to protector of the land, rather than just full of... pixie dust. The witch-like qualities of Maleficent hark back to the roots of fairy tale oral tellings and it's been too long since kids have had that exposure of fairy tale
6) use of Spenser's Faery Queene and the forest
7) seeing Angelina Jolie play Maleficent - I haven't heard or read a single criticism of her in the role

1) it's a family movie but I'm not sure that message has been really clear in the attempt to draw in a wider audience for the film
2) it's a DISNEY family movie so I'm concerned that despite darker elements it won't dive into the potential as much as it should to make it a film of real substance (something that might have happened had it been made by a different company)
3) that, despite Ms. Jolie's involvement in almost every detail and an obvious elevation in quality as a result, a risky (and potentially awesome) end choice that might have been resonant will likely be softened in deference to the Disney brand, the requirement of a 'happy ending' and an attempt not to polarize viewers

And I really hope Maleficent changes into a dragon. So does my son. He really likes the concept of a earth-savvy, powerful fairies and creatures that are both fantastic and a little (or a lot) dangerous. Since having him watch the Disney animated classic Sleeping Beauty, he loves that dragon, loves the idea of transformation (which, we've read stories about, of course, but he actually saw it happen in that movie) and keeps peering closely at all the Maleficent movie posters and pics he sees around town to check for dragon parts. I have my fingers crossed for his sake.

Hopefully I will have a report of some type to share with you sometime tomorrow.

Song of the Sea Gets It's First Real Trailer!

The official poster, not yet properly released but on display in the offices at Cartoon Saloon
We've been looking at the conceptual trailer for this selkie movie a couple of years now (at least) but a real, honest-to-goodness teaser trailer means one very important thing: it's almost here! And boy is it GORGEOUS!

The teaser is only a minute but it's so beautiful and artful. Take a look:
Here's the description if you missed it before:
SONG OF THE SEA tells the story of Ben and his little sister Saoirse -- the last Seal-child -- who embark on a fantastic journey across a fading world of ancient legend and magic in an attempt to return to their home by the sea. The film takes inspiration from the mythological Selkies of Irish folklore, who live as seals in the sea but become humans on land. SONG OF THE SEA features the voices of Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flanagan, David Rawle, Lisa Hannigan, Pat Shortt, Jon Kenny, Lucy O'Connell, Liam Hourican and Kevin Swierszsz. Music is by composer Bruno Coulais and Irish band Kíla, both of whom previously collaborated on The Secret of Kells.
No word yet on how GKids will be distributing this in the US - how widely or when - but it's hpappening and it'll be showing in theaters before the end of the year (in some places). Images are also starting to be released internationally as it's being picked up around the world for distribution. When I see dates, I'll let you know.

In the meantime, have some eye candy:

Trailer: "The Book Of Life"

I mentioned this up and coming film, The Book of Life, based around the Mexican Day of the Dead yesterday, very briefly, but thought I'd include the trailer, as much of the plot is very reminiscent of fairy tale and myth (including Persephone, which can be linked to Snow White... [although this would then be considered gender-flipped] so you get the idea).
The official website is looking very colorful! And there's already lots of artwork to explore as well as the high def version of the trailer and a music preview (very reminiscent of The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack, but for me that's a good thing).

Here's the first official trailer:
For those not yet caught up, here's the 411 - story, cast and main crew:
An animated comedy with a unique visual style, "The Book of Life" is the journey of Manolo, a young man who is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart. Before choosing which path to follow, he embarks on an incredible adventure that spans three fantastical worlds where he must face his greatest fears. Rich with a fresh take on pop music favorites, "The Book of Life" encourages us to celebrate the past while looking forward to the future.
Release Date: October 17, 2014  
Studio: 20th Century Fox  
Director: Jorge R. Gutierrez  
Screenwriter: Jorge R. Gutierrez, Doug Langdale  
Starring: Channing Tatum, Zoe Saldana, Diego Luna, Christina Applegate, Ice Cube, Kate del Castillo, Ron Perlman, Cheech Marin, Hector Elizondo, Placido Domingo, Ana de la Reguera, Eugenio Derbez, Gabriel Iglesias, Ricardo ("El Mandril") Sanchez, Danny Trejo  
Genre: Animation  
MPAA Rating: Not Available 
For continuing updates in the coming months you can follow the movie on Twitter HEREFacebook HERE and Instagram HERE.

Did I mention I already love the "Art Of" book? Because I do.

Australian Fairy Tale Society Inaugural Conference Program 2014 (& a preview of amazing Aussies working in fairy tales!)

The Forbidden Chamber' by Spike Deane (2013)
examines tales like those of Bluebeard and Fitcher's bird
where a terrible secret lies behind a forbidden door.
Here it is folks! The first conference program for the AFTS! You should be able to see why we're so excited about this (and why I dearly wish I could be in Oz for it, but can't) and this is just the beginning. Conference number one, and just for one (packed!) day but this is how we get going - like gangbusters! ;)
Click to enlarge program for easy reading
And more news: the AFTS just became incorporated! (That's a big deal and makes the whole society legitimate and in keeping with governmental guidelines, enabling proper collection, procedures and protection of future work.)

Expect to see a little showcasing of Australians working in and/or with fairy tales in the coming couple of weeks (many of whom you will probably already know). Here's one; a soon-to-be-released book by Australian author Juliet Marillier which will be Book One of the Blackthorn and Grim series, an adult fantasy novel with mystery and fairy tale elements:
At the head of the post is a small preview of some amazing work by Australian glass artist Spike Deane, who's work is inspired by, rooted in and represents fairy tales. I can't wait to show you her work! It's inspiring and unique. Having the impact of seeing images of her work online only makes me wonder how much more powerful these pieces must be in person. Hopefully one day I will be privileged enough to see them.

In the meantime, the AFTS is close to getting the funds they need to get the society off on the right foot and fund the basics of the first conference, but not quite.

They still need to raise just under $500 in only seven days, which may not seem like much to some but will make all the difference to what the AFTS can do in the immediate future, and how steadily they can start their work.

A personal request: If you enjoy this blog, love fairy tales and want to support the preservation of tales, their collection and in encouraging artists of all kinds to continue their work and create with fairy tales, please consider pledging a little. Just a few people contributing the minimum will get us most, if not all, of the way home.

(Don't forget there are rewards available too! Certificates, complimentary AFTS founding memberships [you'll get an official card and everything], limited edition AFTS mugs, fairy tale bookmarks by artist Regan Kubecek, a professional storytelling CD... lots of lovely things!)

Thank you!

And stay tuned for more news on the amazing work
and creativity happening in fairy tales down under, to be posted during the inaugural conference week.

Friday, May 30, 2014

"Maleficent" Release Day (Will She Re-Awaken Fairy Tale Films for Disney?)

So, today is the big day and yes, I am looking forward to seeing the movie. What I'm really interested in, however, is that in the ramp up to this movie I've seen more than the average amount of "delving into Sleeping Beauty's  - the literary fairy tale - history", and from a much wider variety of sources as well, than for any other fairy tale movie remade, retold or sent to the "dark side". People are being sent back to their libraries, searching google for this "Perrault" guy, buying up vintage fairy tale volumes with Sleeping Beauty (the extended version) and learning about it would really be like to have an ogre-ish mother-in-law.

Case in point, seen in Entertainment Weekly this week, a timeline spanning Perrault's tale and it's retellings and remakes till today (literary, the movie being released today, Maleficent). Please click on the image to see the double page scan full size.

While we're on the topic:

 Disney has announced the release of “Maleficent”: The Official Multi-Touch Book.  The book,which you can get for free exclusively through iBooks. 
It explores both the legacy of Disney’s classic animated film, “Sleeping Beauty”—which first introduced the iconic villainess Maleficent—and the making of the all-new live-action film, “Maleficent.” 
The books include a interactive timeline of the origins of the timeless “Sleeping Beauty” tale, with rare content from the Disney archives; rich and explorable environments, filled with fantastic creatures from the world of “Maleficent”—waiting to be discovered at your fingertips; interviews with Angelina Jolie and the cast and crew responsible for bringing the reimagined story to the big screen; an afterword by director Robert Stromberg, two-time Academy Award, winner for production design on “Alice in Wonderland” and “Avatar”; exclusive behind-the-scenes photo galleries and video featurettes; never-before-seen concept art, storyboards and sketches from pre-production; fun facts from the set; and profiles of the characters from the film, all created by Apple’s digital book creation app, iBooks Author. The “Maleficent” book is available for free, exclusively on iBooks HERE.

Maleficent is a family movie and not only the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty, but also the idea of a more traditional (to fairy tales) "faerie world" are a big factor in this one, as are some other mythic elements. I'm really curious to see, not only if it's a good movie, but what impact it will have on fairy tale movies in the future, on people's perception of fairy tales and faerie and if it will mark yet another significant change in the approach Disney has been having to fairy tale properties.

So far the reviews are ridiculously good and rather gushy so I'm not at all certain if I'm seeing a proper cross section or just a certain demographic but I'm on the optimistic side. I get the feeling the naysayers on WallStreet are going to be a little red-faced after this weekend...

I have many more thoughts on this but am planning on taking my family to see it this weekend so, between the actual movie, and the book properties which I am quickly getting up to speed on, I should have some better - and more informed - comments to offer on the topic soon...

By the way, the trailer, reportedly being shown in front of Maleficent is for the upcoming animated family film, The Book Of Life, based on the traditions, superstitions and mythology surrounding the Mexican Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos. It looks kind of adorable. The adorable dead. (It was going to happen.)
The Book of Life: Produced by Guillermo Del Toro and directed by Jorge Gutierrez, the film revolves around three childhood friends—Manolo (Diego Luna), Maria (Zoe Saldana), and Joaquin (Channing Tatum)—who find themselves in a love triangle as the gods wager on who will win Maria’s heart.  Manolo is the central character of the story, as he dreams of breaking his family tradition of bullfighting to become a guitar player.  Over the course of the fantastical story, audiences are taken to The Land of the Living, the Land of the Remembered, and the Land of the Forgotten as Manolo seeks to live a complete and fulfilling life that is remembered by the living.  
You can see more on the upcoming film HERE (stills and more).

I do find it interesting that nowhere have I seen anyone make the connection between a journey through the lands of the dead and a sleeping tale, or of deferred dreams. Looks like there's another theme emerging from the social subconscious...

Sounds like a good time to pull out Heidi's wonderful collection on Sleeping Beauties again (SurLaLune Fairy Tale Series book).

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Art: Edmund Dulac's Fairy Book: Fairy Tales of the Allied Nations - the color plates

The Story of the Bird Feng - A Chinese Fairy Tale

I do love the subtitle of this book, "Fairy Tales of the Allied Nations". I also love that this collection is varied and contains a lot of lesser known tales, even, it would seem, for the time (1916).
The Fire Bird - A Russian Fairy Tale
The Fire Bird (second plate - see above plate for link to tale)
Urashima Taro - A Japanese Fairy Tale
The Green Serpent - A French Fairy Tale
The Friar and the Boy - An English Fairy Tale
The Blue Bird - A French Fairy Tale
The Hind of the Wood - A French Fairy Tale
These are just the full page color plates for the titles but they're worthy of showcasing on their own. If you don't know the tales, I've provided links below each so you can go catch up on some lovely reading.
Ivan and the Chestnut Horse - A Russian Fairy Tale
Seven Conquerers of the Queen of the Mississippi - A Belgian Fairy Tale
The Serpent Prince - An Italian Fairy Tale

Bashtchelik (Or, Real Steel) - A Serbian Fairy Tale

Bashtchelik (Or, Real Steel) - A Serbian Fairy Tale (second color plate - tale link on plate above)

One fairy tale in this book I can't find a color plate for is: The Queen of the Many Colored Bedchamber (an Irish Fairy Tale) and I haven't been able to find any other illustrations by anyone else for this tale either, but I'll keep looking.


White Caroline and Black Caroline - A Flemish Fairy Tale

The Buried Moon - An English Fairy Tale

Snegorotchka - A Russian Fairy Tale

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Today Will Require Some Flying Monkeys...

Flying Monkey of Oz by Jim Pearson
.. and I can't wait!

Today is all about last-minute scrambling for my little monkey's son's first school play, The Wizard of Oz. (In case you hadn't guessed my monkey will be of the flying variety*.)

While flying monkeys are already very cool to him (and were his first choice among the roles), his favorite part is where he gleefully gets to tell the Wicked Witch of the West: "You no longer have any power over us! Goodbye!" and flaps away with a big monkey-grin.

I loved that, in showing him Labyrinth this past weekend, he noticed that Sarah said almost exactly the same thing to Jared, the Goblin King in the end. It's a different sort of dragon to defeat but it's an important one.

Your regularly scheduled daily news will be returning shortly, I promise.
Some of the flying monkeys of Burlington, Vermont**
By the way, looking for an alternate way to introduce kids to the Oz stories apart from the MGM movie and avoiding the largely creepy original illustrations that accompany classic copies of Baum's books? I recommend the Eisner Award winning, Eric Shanower and Skottie Young graphic novels. They follow the original book plots (giving the flying monkeys many more things to do, which my little guy couldn't be happier about) with the first volume being the first, best known, story of Dorothy's visit to Oz, finishing (after a few more detours than the popular movie provides) with her making it home to Auntie Em (no dream required).

The illustrations are charming and adorable yet easily lend themselves to dark subjects as the story requires as well.

Although the Oz books aren't really fairy tales (or 'a fairy tale'), the works are often called "the first American fairy tale", and since Baum himself quoted Grimm and Andersen as inspiration and was, in fact, creating his own version of a literary fairy tale (as extended as it was over many volumes), it seems appropriate that it be included in discussions on fairy tales in general, especially since, the more time goes on, the more the tropes and motifs of the books have taken root alongside traditional fairy tale ones in the American social consciousness (and beyond) until many don't see them as separate any more. 
Note: If this is-it-or-isn't-it-a-fairy-tale territory is new for you, there are many discussions available online on the subject but suffice it to say, as far as this blog goes, while we will mention and refer to Oz from time to time, we still consider it a fantasy that uses fairy tale inspiration and motifs, rather than, by actual definition, 'a fairy tale'. That society at large lumps it into the same category is also something we acknowledge, including the way fairy tales are socially perceived today, especially in the US, so we feel it is important to consider the Oz-influence in general. 

I do find it funny that Baum specifically wrote the Oz books to be a fairy tale without the grim of the Grimm's, yet when MGM made the movie they put the scary back, front and center, with the Wicked Witch of the West.

Here's Baum on fairy tales and on his Oz books:
FOLK lore, legends, myths and fairy tales have followed childhood through the ages, for every healthy youngster has a wholesome and instinctive love for stories fantastic, marvelous and manifestly unreal. The winged fairies of Grimm and Andersen have brought more happiness to childish hearts than all other human creations. 
Yet the old-time fairy tale, having served for generations, may now be classed as "historical" in the children's library; for the time has come for a series of newer "wonder tales" in which the stereotyped genie, dwarf and fairy are eliminated, together with all the horrible and blood-curdling incident devised by their authors to point a fearsome moral to each tale. Modern education includes morality; therefore the modern child seeks only entertainment in its wonder-tales and gladly dispenses with all disagreeable incident.   

Having this thought in mind, the story of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" was written solely to pleasure children of to-day. It aspires to being a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heart-aches and nightmares are left out.  
Chicago, April, 1900 L. Frank Baum

*Keep your fingers crossed that I won't need to make a last minute costume for his second, understudy role as a tornado. Exactly how do you dress a tornado anyway?
** Burlington, Vermont is on my "must visit" list just because of these monkeys.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ask Baba Yaga: How Can I Tell the Difference Between Prestige and Personal Satisfaction?

Cover of  Russian Fairy Tales (minus text) by Marie Avril
When you are boosted by a sense of achievement, how do you know if what you feel has anything to do with your true happiness? Where is the right conjunction of happiness and success for you? I vaguely recall someone telling me that's part of what you're supposed to figure out during your lifetime, but I wasn't satisfied with that then and even less so now. Baba Yaga puts all that aside and hones in on the Real...

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

"..find & name yr hungriest wolves..." "..keep them all strong, not starving.."  

Oh dear. Well that explains a lot. *checks bite marks all over* 

I believe I have some wolves to go feed ASAP. (Now where did I put that wolf food? O.o )

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, May 22, 2014

Your Fairy Tale News Hound Is Now A Card Carrying Founding Member of the AFTS!

It's official!
It has been a week teetering on insanity (exactly how many days can one go without sleep?) but I've nearly made it to the end and will be able to bring you daily news again shortly... (after I catch 40 winks!)

Very quickly, an exciting bit of my news that arrived by mail box this week: I am now, officially, a card-carrying founding member of the AFTS (Australian Fairy Tale Society)! *does backflip* *imagines she's doing a backflip while pouring a celebratory glass of wine*

Australia is rich with many (many!) authors who work with fairy tales, fairy tale artists and filmmakers and those using innovative approaches to fairy tale scholarship. You might be surprised how many names you already know, but didn't realize hark from Oz! (I'm aiming to highlight some of these people around the time of the inaugural conference taking place on June 9th.)

The AFTS is brand new and needs support to help get things running, with the intent that their work will not only benefit Australians working in fairy tales, but will also be of use to scholars, students, artists and enthusiasts all over the world.

To this end, AFTS has a crowd-funding campaign with the option to become a founding member at the same time as well (no Australian citizenship required).They (we!) are now a little over half-way funded in the modest goal of $2000. If regular Once Upon A Blog readers donated just the minimum, we'd easily meet the goal and fill the kitty!

Please consider donating to help this important - and much needed - society, start it's daunting work in earnest. Every little bit helps.
Here is a little summary of the AFTS' objectives:
The objectives of the Australian Fairy Tale Society as set out in our extremely new constitution are:  
To investigate, appreciate and perform fairy tales within the Australian context through: 
• Collecting original Australian fairy tales, fairy tale adaptations, interpretations, and criticism, through research within existing collections and in the field. 
• Organising and cataloguing this fairy tale collection meaningfully for maximum accessibility by Australian and international researchers, folklorists, educators and creatives. 
• Analysing this fairy tale collection according to evolving manifestations of Australian cultural identity  
• Communicating this investigation through: interpersonal discussions (conferences and small groups); the publication of written articles; digital resources (websites, social media, teleconferencing)  
• Building a community of interest across Australia, (academics, folklorists, performers) in national and local groups, which can communicate with like-minded communities internationally.  
• Promoting Australian fairy tale retellings in all forms 
• Encouraging the creation of new fairy tale works (literary, visual, musical and performative). 
• Analysing this fairy tale collection according to evolving manifestations of Australian cultural identity  
• Communicating this investigation through: interpersonal discussions (conferences and small groups); the publication of written articles; digital resources (websites, social media, teleconferencing)  
• Building a community of interest across Australia, (academics, folklorists, performers) in national and local groups, which can communicate with like-minded communities internationally.  
• Promoting Australian fairy tale retellings in all forms 
• Encouraging the creation of new fairy tale works (literary, visual, musical and performative).
The status of the crowd-funding campaign on May 22, 2014

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Great Suggestion For the OUAT Writers (AKA The Call To Use Different Fairy Tale Characters From 'Round the World)

With the season end reveal of Elsa coming to Storybrooke for Season 4 of Once Upon A Time, speculation is rife with regard to story lines, additional Frozen world character additions, plot twists and, as you can imagine, concerns about changing an already much-beloved character. Clearly, from the brief finale teaser, Elsa will be fair skinned (ie caucasian) but there are a lot of people, many already concerned with Disney's lack of POC representation, that see the same in OUAT, and that the addition of Elsa just exacerbates that.

(I'll get to why I am posting images of all these cultural variants of Cinderella in just a sec. Bare with me.) 

The "discussion" throughout social media has birthed a petition, calling for Tiana (from Disney's The Frog Princess) to be added to the cast and canon but not just as "fodder" like it seems most other POC characters have been used in OUAT.
The lack of POC people in the ABC show Once Upon a Time is rather depressing. They are either villains, dead or forgotten. The character Mulan has disappeared and Rapunzel, who was added to the royal line up, had one episode and she wasn’t even the focus. For three seasons, the fans have waited patiently for at least one POC who doesn’t get shafted. So to the writers and creators, would you please give us Tiana? All we are asking is for a POC character that gets to go on a journey and not be forgotten.  

The fact that the POC issue is coming up so regularly these days says a lot to me: not just about the lack of representation by arguably the most influential company using fairy tales in the world, but also that people are tired of the same regurgitation of stories. Red Riding Hood has been told multiple times the world over in a myriad of ways, yet Western retellings of Red Riding Hood tend to default to the girl in the red hood in the wood with a wolf.

Carissa Shuman, of The Celebrity Cafe, however, came up with a solution that I want to applaud, (despite the fact that it's highly unlikely this suggestion will be implemented):
Should Horowitz and Kitsis decide to include more POC, they could possible draw from fairy tales of other cultures which are sometimes stand-alone stories, and sometimes variations of their European counterparts. Their focus has been predominantly on Disney princesses, which does include Mulan and Tiana. However, they have also included or alluded to other popular stories such as Hansel and Gretel. If they were to refer to some other stories, they may want to use Leola from Melodye Benson Rosales’ Leola and the Honeybears, which is an African-American version of Goldilocks, who although not a princess is a well-known fairy tale character. 
Another option could be to incorporate “relatives” of Red or Ella by using a variation of their story. For example, Lon Po Po is a Chinese version of Little Red Riding Hood written by Ed Young. There are also several versions of Cinderella. The idea of rags to riches is a common theme, and the Chinese have told it in Yeh-Shen by Ai-Ling Louie. Robert D. San Souci told it in his story entitled Cendrillon, a Caribbean Cinderella, and Rafe Martin told it in The Rough-Face Girl which stars a disfigured Algonquin girl.

The whole things about OUAT being basically a Disney property and using Disney versions of fairy tales makes sense, from a production point of view (and an intellectual property point of view). That excuse doesn't apply for when they go outside the canon though. For them to use, for example, Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel, which Disney do not have popular versions of, says that they're willing to step outside the Disney canon if they think it's worth they're while (read, ratings).

With regard to the fact that Horowitz and Kitsis are extremely unlikely to consider using cultural variations of stories, what I would like to see is: They decide, yes, they'll bring Tiana on board and yes, they'll bow to popular demand and offer Oscar Winner Lupita Nyong'o the role. She says "yes, on one condition". They say "anything!" and she demands that they bring some fairy tales from her cultural background to the show...

I can dream.