We might be bad at titles.
Progress on the writing front continues. Slowly. I blame the speed of writing on this being the last two weeks of school before the summer. But, I’m here to talk our fairy tale of choice, how that choice helped us start to flesh out a character and how our setting is totally not related to anything.
However, I have other cool things to talk about– I’ve asked a friend who is an aspiring composer to see about writing some music for us. As we’ve covered here, Disney movies work on a strong emotional level, and as such, I wanted to bring in a composer as soon as we had the fairy tale and setting nailed down. More on that front later in the post.
In addition, I have a tentative ‘yes’ from another friend who does pretty pictures that move. This job is more colloquially known as an ‘animator’. No, we’re not going to try and do an entire movie, because that is madness. Therein lies the abyss, and as Nietzsche wrote, “..as you gaze at Disney princesses, they gaze back at you.” Or something like that.
The reason behind this is that some concept art and concept music will probably influence the writing. Maybe that’s not a thing you worry about with screenplays, but as stated before, I’m not the part of this collective with a film degree. Plus, the more people I can get excited about this project, the greater chance I have of convincing people I’m a high functioning adult. Also, the greater chance this turns into something even more awesome than an epic script.
So, it’s past time I started actually talking a bit about what we’re writing. We will be adapting the Grimm fairy tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses (TDP for the rest of this post. Blame all the academic writing I’ve had to read recently). The merchandising potential should be immense.
Shannon and I both compiled a top three list fairy tales, in no particular order, and one honorable mention. Both our lists contained the same tales– TDP, Rumpelstiltskin, Puss in Boots, and The Brave Little Tailor.
I promise you we aren’t the same person.
Anyway, I pushed for TDP over the other films because 1) both Puss in Boots and Rumpelstilskin have been done to varying degrees recently and 2) The Brave Little Tailor seemed trickier to adapt.
So, what’s important in TDP? What can’t we, as adapters, change? Why has this tale been handed down through time, and adapted for countless cultures? Hm, tough question.
Well, the most obvious examples of things that need to be in the Disney movie are in the title– there are twelve princesses, and they are going to dance. There is really no way to adapt this tale and not have either of those things present. In particular though, we get some help from the tale– ten out of twelve princesses can be foils/background characters. We only need to focus on two of them, the youngest and oldest.
I’ve settled on some names to call them while we hash out plot details– Luna is our oldest, Cassiopeia is our youngest. All of them have names vaguely related to celestial bodies that also have Russian/Slavic roots (well, Luna has its roots in Latin, but it’s also the Russian word for moon). You’ll see why the roots are important later. The names are almost certainly subject to change as we keep writing.
The fairy tale is told from the perspective of a male protagonist. I don’t see this as an essential element of the tale, but it’s certainly a perfectly fine place to start. Besides, it’s a fairly unique perspective for a Disney movie. I’m not denying Aladdin exists, I’m just saying that there are more Snow Whites in the library. That brings our number of characters up to three– a male protagonist and primary point of view, the oldest princess and the youngest princess.
The other really important thematic element is shoes. The give away for the princesses sneaking off to dance every night is their footwear– shoes are to this tale what the lamp is to Aladdin.
The other thematic elements are harder to pin down– most of the fairy tale has curiosity as a motivation for characters. The downside is here is that curiosity is not a very strong motivator– think of Belle from Beauty and the Beast. When she goes to explore the west wing, she’s spitting in the face of danger for no better reason than, “But what does this button do?”
I’d claim that curiosity works best as either supplemental motivation, or as a way to get a character to trigger a good inciting incident. Ariel doesn’t trade her fins for legs because she’s curious about the human world, she does it because her curiosity helped her to fall in love with prince Eric.
Alice in Wonderland, for another example, starts with curiosity being the driving force behind Alice’s actions– she has an insatiable need to know what the rabbit is late for (… did I just do innuendo there? I feel like I did). Her curiosity slowly brings wisdom in the trippy-est sense of the word, and transforms into a desire to get back to reality as she finds out that her fantasies don’t always work out for her.
Heeeeeeeey. Wait a minute—
Let’s not deal with curiosity, but the deal with the knowledge that curiosity brings. If you want to go poking at the edges of a bit of fabric, the whole thing can start to unravel on you. What if it does? What if you learn something you can’t keep to yourself, and that knowledge forces you to act? What if it’s the last thing your sisters want? What if it turns your whole world upside down? What if it makes you do something hard?
Oooh. Luna is starting to shape up into something character-like. So, what is she curious about? What does she learn?
Well, the nightly dances seem to be an obvious place to start. Clearly, the princesses enjoy them in the tale, so what if they were malicious in some other, unknown way? Through the course of the tale, then Luna is going to learn about some dark design behind the dancing, and will have to reject her nightly bliss to do the right thing. She’ll have to reject the fantasy and face the reality.
Yeah, it’s pretty Lion King. I said this was rough, didn’t I? What is the sinister plot? Umm. Magic? We’re working on it.
Speaking of magic, our setting is a futuristic Russia. I told you it wasn’t related to anything else. Most of the motivation here was just, “what hasn’t Disney done?”., with the follow-up, “What hasn’t Disney done well?”
The idea is to invoke the shit out of Clark’s third law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from [Disney] magic. As such, we’re going to go in the other direction than something like Terminator or Deus Ex. This isn’t a gritty future, this isn’t hard sci-fi based on actual science of today. This is a whimsical, magical future. This is the future of Meet The Robinsons.
But maybe not with that much whimsy, because holy shit does that movie has whimsy. That about wraps up all I wanted to talk about, so that’s what– a character teaser and some setting information? Sounds about as much as you’d get from a teaser trailer.
Anyway, on to other things! The composer who I’ve asked to write pretty music (or not pretty music, if that’s what this script needs), is Kaelee, who is based somewhere out of the greater Seattle Metro area.
You can listen to selections from her work in progress musical, Starshine, on YouTube here. The track linked in question is “What I Am”, and is pretty goddamn fantastic.
The animator is Steven, who might be the most Internet famous of all of us because he’s made it to io9. He’s currently doing animation things in Los Angeles, and I’ll be sure to edit in a referral link as soon as I remember to ask for one.
June should be a very fruitful month for writing, as we actually get a real outline on the page and maybe even a first draft (so all these other fantastic people have the ability to work with something more than our outline of questions divided into acts).
Tune in next week for a hopefully more complete post about our protagonist, or maybe our villain, or maybe the youngest princess or maybe more on our setting. Or maybe how Answer Set Programming should be combined with genetic algorithms, if I get tired enough and have both the blog and my class notes open at the same time.