Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Maleficent's Magical World - New Creature Concept art (aka Maleficent [& Fairy Tales] for Boys - 1 of 2)

I'm dedicating this particular post to my son, because, apart from the dragon, ("She's a DRAGON! Like Smaug!"*) he is completely enamored of the little creatures he catches glimpses of in the trailers and TV spots. Actually, it's going to be post 1 of 2, focusing on Maleficent for boys - this is the 'art' one and the other will be... well, you'll just have to tune in and see. ;)

(All this really means for you readers, is that you'll get another post of all the other Maleficent stuff that's been released this week very soon too.)

At the head of the post if one of the new character posters, featuring most of his favorite things about the movie (although I do believe he secretly finds Maleficent pretty awesome, what with her powerful wings and then showing serious magical clout).

The rest of the images are a whole lot of newly released concept art, all of which he's asked if they can come and live with us. I kind of wish they could too. About the only things missing merchandise-wise to date are creature sculpts/dolls/toys of these little critters, but more on that in part two...

The other thing my son is fascinated by? The best-buddy raven Diaval, and that he gets transformed into many different creatures (see the wolf above, although I don't know if there's a Diaval-wolf in the final movie), all keeping some of his bird aspects. I think he particularly likes that Diaval is annoyed at getting turned into a human, because he completely relates to that.

Why am I sharing this personal stuff? Because my son, despite having as balanced an upbringing regarding girls and boys things and fairy tales as I can manage (and it's been a priority of mine), he still has a very strong sense of "that's for girls" vs "that's for boys". What this movie is showing him, unlike much fairy tale marketing these days, is that there are aspects of fantasy and fairy tale stories (that aren't mainly focused on wars and knights) that are very appealing to boys. The creatures, the transformations, talking/communicating animals, the danger and the strength - he loves it all. He loves beautiful things too (most little boys I've met love beauty, especially natural/nature beauty), so has no problem with the pretty stuff, as long as there's balance. For example, in Adventure Time, he doesn't mind spending time with Princess Bubblegum story lines because, in his eyes, the candy kingdom is more a boys' idea of candy than the typical girl's representation of all-sugar-and-sweetness and Beemo, who is a very cute girl character, is awesome to him because she's tech savvy, creative, and rocks at video games.
He is not the only one enamored of these forest beings. I recently found a post by ex-Geeky Editor at Buzzfeed, Donna Dickens (@MildlyAmused on Twitter & currently blogging at HitFix HERE) I'm going to quote a ton of because the sentiments are so very similar in our house here (emphasis in bold, and underlined and yelled, politely, in Disney's direction, is mine):
Ignore the right side of the banner. Pretend it isn't there. Yes yes, dark and gloomy. Spiky thorns. Spooky rocks. We've seen it all before. Instead, look at these super cute sentient woodland species! OH MY GOD THEY ARE ADORABLE with their little spines and big noses and rock chins and floppy ears. Who are these tiny, cuddly people? A type of fairy perhaps? Or just more mythological creatures? Doesn't matter, I'm sure they play a part in the big battle sequence implied in the trailers. 
Don't they look as if they'd be right at home in a remake of 'Labyrinth' or 'The Dark Crystal?' NOT that those need to be remade, Hollywood. Back off. Seriously. Even the little malformed ones are so cute and fluffy, which is no easy trick when you don't even have fur!. Look at those sweet doe eyes and weird but precious boomerang noses! And are those noble treants wearing loincloths? How thoughtful to remember the PG-13 rating. 
And then there's these little fellas. The one in the middle is probably grumpy because he got stuck with the two nudists. But maybe the lack of clothes means they're pets and not people? I want an elephant nosed, web-handed amorphous blob pet!. If Disney doesn't turn these two into stuffed animals, their marketing department is missing a huge squishable opportunity.
Read the whole (fantastic) post HERE.

Ah marketing. Disney would totally be taking ALL-MA-MONEH if these creatures were considered toyable. The begging and the big, giant anime eyes a kid of seven can aim in your direction, along with the double whammy of "'s about fairy tales Mama!" is a recipe for "buy all the toys even though it means we're eating noodles for the next 3 months...". It's bad enough he's already begging me for this pricey little sweatshirt:
While I don't know much about how these creatures shown here are represented in the film, apart from the battle scenes, I can tell you that my son realizing that the idea of "fairy" in fairy tales everywhere (ie not just the stories I choose to read to him but in general knowledge), doesn't just apply to pixies with wings but also to any non-human magical creatures (right through to very powerful representations like the ent-like warrior riding the forest hog), is one of those breakthrough things. Why? It has made him more open to reading ALL the tales. It's one thing for your fairy tale obsessed mother to constantly tell you fairy tales are as much for boys as they are for girls, but when he sees evidence of that in the media, it makes an impact and (get this) sends him back to me to read him more of what I've been reading to him all along.**

The media and advertising are so very powerful and loom large in influencing our kid's ideas of how they see the world. While my son's experience may be more unique because he's already had fairy tales in his life (thanks to me), it still takes the "outside world" to show him a glimpse of the same before he'll truly take it on board. It's taken something like the Maleficent trailers for him to realize that "Adventure Time is kind of like a bunch of fairy tale stuff mixed up with weird and crazy fun stuff.." and that "Star Wars would be kind of like a fairy tale if it had trolls and castles instead of aliens and space ships and light sabers and stuff..."Now he'll even catch sight of some of the images I scroll through on Pinterest, eg a guy with antlers, and spontaneously say, "Maybe that's one of those don't-mess-with-me fairies, like Maleficent is friends with".

I am so happy he is at a "wonder-ous" age for tales and can experience all this social buzz on a fairy tale in his formative years, especially in a way that opens the road to looking back on what he's already been exposed to with delight and the way forward to even more.

Addendum: For an interesting footnote to this riff on the importance of balance, I'll share something else on the "for boys" end of the scale that made me realize this even more. My son and I watched Jack the Giant Slayer together on the weekend (with my hands at the ready to over his eyes for any potential gore) and his comment about the giants was: "Why are they so stupid? You wouldn't think giants that big and that old would be so dumb." and "Where are the nice things the giants have? If they're hundreds of years old you think they would have had lots of time to build awesome stuff and make cool and weird looking houses and forests and stuff but everything is broken and nothing is alive..." Also interesting to note, he thought the Ewan McGregor character (Captain of the Guard?) was really heroic, whereas Jack didn't seem very smart. And we agreed that Jack would make a terrible king. "That's not the Jack you named me after, is it Mama? Because I know I'm smarter than that!" You are SO right kiddo.

*Gosh I hope he's right and she really IS a dragon and it's not just Diaval.
** These reasons, more than any others, have me crossing my fingers and toes that Maleficent will be good.


  1. Here's to fairy tales having some boy-appeal! The solo rule of the "pretty pink princess" has gone on long enough!

    As for Jack, well, he's always been a bit of a fool. But fools have the best adventures. Honestly, the thing I liked about Jack the Giant Slayer is that the giants were villains again. There's been a popular trend of making Jack the villain and having the giant be innocent that's gotten a bit annoying in fairy tale fiction.

    1. I'm totally with you there in having the giants be villains, We just wished they weren't so stupid. My view of Jack in reading old tales is that although he's a little naive at times, and definitely an everyman, he's no fool (like Ivan the fool is actually not a "real" fool). Even if that is the case though - lucky & pure of heart and ultimately not so big on brains - the Jack in this movie was just a little two dimensional - even for my seven year old (which tells you something, doesn't it?). Here's to some villains being villains just because they are, though! It's so rare these days it was almost refreshing...