Tag Archives: Johnathan

There is something fishy in Atlantis (it’s not the linguistics)

So, last week we watched Atlantis and The Rescuers.

Wait, you want to know how script writing is going?  Have a hint: Vladimir Putin.  No, but seriously– we’ve got a bunch of pages of notes and have realized that we both are kinda sorta awful at planning things.  When things settle down a little bit for me, I plan on getting a real post about it out (I might have missed a week, maybe?).

Anyway, lets talk about Atlantis because this was a movie I’ve seen twice recently and I mis-pegged it the first time around.  Oh, it’s still bad.  Atlantis bombed in the box office, and although Disney has done worse, it’s not exactly a movie I recommend.  Which is sad, because look at how cool that submarine is.

Pity it gets like... 5 minutes of screen time.
Pity it gets like… 5 minutes of screen time.

I’m used to this problem by now, because I work with computers, but if you’re a linguist and you want to see Atlantis… get ready to cringe.  Also, feel my pain.  However, I’m pretty used to professions being magic in Disney movies, so I don’t think this is where the film fails.  I’m sure sewing is too complicated for actual mice, but I won’t poke that hole in Cinderella.  You got to buy into some baseline amount hand waving/magic.  In this case, linguistics (much like friendship) is magic.

So, that’s out.

I gotta give credit where credit is due– the movie is hilarious.  Hands down, the supporting cast’s one liners are comedy gold.  And, hey, all the cast members get a bit of back story, except for Mole because you don’t ask about Mole’s back story.

Most of each back story snippet is, in fact, a little quirky and interesting.  The demolitions expert wants to open a flower shop, the mechanic was pressured into being great at repairing things by a father who wanted sons, the doctor got into war medicine from being drafted.

I had originally thought that Atlantis’ great failing was it’s protagonist.  Milo Thatch falls under the same problems as Jim from Treasure Planet.  Namely, that sometimes protagonists are less people and more just shells that we the audience are supposed to project ourselves into.

However, on re-watch… I no longer buy into that theory.  Milo is a fleshed out character.  He adores his father who perished before the outset of the movie.  He has a dream, and is willing to sacrifice everything on it.  He’s that ubiquitous awkward nerd type.  Now, he just needs a good character arc and he’s set.

Unfortunately, the plot to Atlantis is about as ramshackle as they come.  Lets start with character motivations, shall we?

It isn’t through any achievement of Milo’s that he gets to hang out with the cool kids (aka the rest of the cast).  They just get bored of teasing him, and then everyone is friends, apparently.  They continue to tease Milo after he’s proven his specialty in gibberish is useful, and then just sorta… stop.

Milo’s lack of arc is not helped by his love interest.  Which, by the way, can we just say it’s really awkward when Disney goes for sex appeal?  I mean, at least it isn’t a stripping mouse this time (go watch The Great Mouse Detective if you don’t believe me), but come on.  It’s even worse in the fact that Kida doesn’t do a whole lot– she’s basically just there to look nice, and then be a plot device.

"See, Sailor Moon, I can make adolescent boys confused too!"

No, but seriously.  Most of Kida’s dialogue is during her “date” ( which is going pretty badly, based on the conversation) with Milo.  Also, that scene is painfully bad– the running gag isn’t funny, and it just makes you wonder if Kida suffered a blow to the head during that whole apocalypse 8500-8800 years ago.

Other than that, she delivers exposition to Milo, spurs on his already well established curiosity, and gets turned into a crystal.

Also, although our supporting cast has back story, they don’t really develop.  They pull a pretty random about-face when they realize that their actions will lead the entire Atlantean population to die (at least the movie is willing to lampshade it).  And the villain will eventually turn on his compatriot for no apparent reason.

And I think that pokes at the huge flaw here.  Things just happen because they do, and explanation is hard to come by.  How is Atlantis’ culture dying?  Never explained.  How did an entire population forget how to read their own script? Never explained.  Why does the crystal only feel threatened when they kick a tiny pebble somewhere close to it?  Not explained.  Outsiders can’t see Atlantis and live, so did the King plan on murdering them after letting them restock their supplies and spend the night, or did he just assume that they’d eventually starve to death looking for a way back to the surface?

So many plot holes, so many questions.  So, despite a strong grounding with a really cool setting (look at that sub picture again), some great characters (I’d watch a TV series that’s just the crew just putting around, exploring places), the lackluster plot really hurts this film.

We shall do better!

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What Makes a Good Character?

So, last week, I watched both Pocahontas  and The Great Mouse Detective with some friends (and not my writing partner), which is why the showing wasn’t live tweeted.

This is another awkward week for me, because I personally think that the one with mice is a better movie, but not adjusted for inflation dollars say otherwise.

I’m also convinced that we can blame one particularly pervy animator working at Disney during the late 80’s for modern furries, but that’s unrelated to the topic I want to talk about.

At any rate, I would maintain that all the characters in both these films are not humans.  Miko, Flick and that stuck up pooch make decent characters in Pocahontas and Basil, Dr. Dawson and Ratigan are oozing with character in The Great Mouse Detective.

However, all these characters are missing one last thing that separates the Elsas of fiction from everyone else.  This intro makes this post sound long… might want to grab a drink before you dive in.

I’ll wait.

Got something with rum?  Yes?  Great.

Lets start by talking about what the humans from Pocahontas are lacking to make them strong characters.  Keeping within the narrow range of Disney films, a character is a person the audience is supposed to relate to.  It’s the characters of the film that allow the viewers to relate to the plot.  Without them, things just happen on screen for reasons.  You can have a badly written character, which would be one that attempts to connect to the audience in a particular fashion and fails (this was covered a bit in context with Beauty and the Beast).

However, the humans from Pocahontas don’t even reach that level for me, and I think it’s because they’re all way to genetic.  Jon Smith is a bland heroic character, Pocahontas is a vaguely rebellious teenage girl and the villain is greed personified (but not in a good way, like Doctor Facilier).  They all have strong character traits, but no personality.  Personality comes from the little quirks that riddle actual people and prevent them from falling neatly into an archetype.

Look at Grandmother Willow, who is a pretty solid character.  When we’re introduced to her, she plays into the “Wise Person Providing Guidance” archetype.  Pocahontas goes to her for wisdom, and she advises our female lead on dreams and listening with your heart and other Disney magical things.

However, later in the movie, we see Grandmother Willow arguably kick as much ass as our leads.  She drives away the men looking for Jon when he steals away with Pocahontas.  She’s old and wise, but she also has a surprising bit of spunk left in her.  It’s that quirk of spunk that prevents her from being bland and makes her a person (we all know that grandparent that rocks despite having two hip replacement surgeries)*.

So, what quirks does Pocahontas have?  Or, to cite some lines from a much better Disney movie:
“What’s his last name?”
“of the Southern Isles.”
“What’s his favorite food?”
“Sandwiches.”
“Eye color?”
“Dreamy.”

Sure, this conversation in Frozen happens in different context (true love, they aren’t having some meta conversation about characters) but the underlying concept is the same.  The audience should fall in love with the characters on the screen.  Pocahontas doesn’t have any of that– she’s more plot device than person, vague strong female lead than character.

All the characters of Pocahontas have this issue, except for maybe the villain who is a bit of a fop (and according to some equally unqualified people, not the real villain of the film at all).  It’s hard for me to care about the action on screen when I can’t relate to the characters that are a part of that action.

So, lets turn this about on its head and take a look at The Great Mouse Detective.  This film only works because of its characters.  The plot is pretty predictable.  The setting is just modern day (when the movie was made, anyway) but with mice and without the cool Rescuers-esque world building.

However, Basil is a wonderful protagonist.  He’s the spitting image of mousy Sherlock Holmes, and just like the detective he is based off of, he is bristling with character quirks.  He’s observant and brilliant, but because his mind works so much faster than the people around him, he comes off as a bit insane.  It’s also obvious he’s worked alone for quite some time– he has trouble relating and talking to other mice.  He’s arrogant (he never learns Olivia’s last name), full of himself and also dangerously obsessed with catching Ratigan.

He might be one of my favorite Disney characters.  He gets strengths and flaws in equal measure, and I totally know people exactly like him (heck, I’ve worked with Basils in software engineering).  The movie also mirrors it’s protagonist and antagonist very well– a lot of Ratigan’s strengths are Basil’s strengths, and a lot of his flaws are Basil’s flaws.  Ratigan is also brilliant (he’s evaded Basil’s attempts to capture him time and time again and comes dangerously close to lethally outsmarting the protagonist in the film), full of himself (he gets a harp solo in the middle of his own song, which he uses to bitch about his problems) and dangerously obsessed with killing Basil.

There is a defining difference in both these characters– one of virtue.  Basil does want to help people in his own, round about way.  Ratigan murders his own henchmen.  However, both these characters are effective because of their quirks.  Ratigan is just as greedy as the villain from Pocahontas, but he comes across as less of a plot device and more of a character.

So, we see the difference is that characters with little quirks are more believable than ‘pure’ characters.  Have another example: Elsa from Frozen loves chocolate, along with her sister, Anna.  It’s a one line gag, but it helps flesh out both characters.  That’s all it takes to establish a little quirk.

However, obviously, Elsa is a great character for more than just this one line.  In fact, Elsa is a cut above all the characters from both these films because she develops as the film progresses.  The events of the plot change who she is, she grows with the viewer.  Over the course of Frozen, Elsa goes from a girl terrified of her powers to a queen able to control them.  Along the way, she learns about what fear (and its opposite) truly are as well as how to appreciate and accommodate her extroverted sister.

It’s a powerful character arc, one that carries the movie.  Both films I watched last weekend did not have character arcs.  Heck, The Great Mouse Detective goes out of its way to remind us that Basil has not changed, at all, over the course of the film.  Pocahontas has character change (Jon Smith), but because he was never a fleshed out character to begin with, his growth isn’t a potent as Elsa’s.

In fact, without the ground work, his transformation over the course of the film isn’t effective, at all.

So, what to take away from all of this?  Characters are important, complicated things.  They need some good qualities, some questionable qualities and if we really want them to stick with an audience, they need to grow.

So, characters are basically my vegetable garden back home, except with less weeds.

*It is interesting to note that this “old person with spunk” has become a bland archtype.  It may have been a bland archtype at the time Pocahontas first came out.  However, I happen to still enjoy it, so this doesn’t bother me too badly.  It’s still something to note of having been done before, and maybe even done to death.

The First Few Minutes

You know what the most common advice to aspiring writers is?  I don’t actually know, it’s probably “just write and stop talking about the eventual movie deal already of your unwritten novel already”.

That makes a rough intro.  Hm.  Ok, fine, what’s the most important line in a story?

The first line, obviously.  I’d bet fake money that every writer you asked would give you the same answer.  However, it’s more than just the first line– I can’t recall the first line of any of my favorite novels, except for maybe The Gunslinger.  I’m going to say that it’s really all about ‘the first few minutes’.

The first few minutes is a nebulous time.  It can be anywhere from the first line of a book, to all of chapter 1, from the teaser of an episode on network TV, to the entire first episode, from the level after the tutorial, to the first thirty minutes of a particularly slow movie.   (Aside: You probably should get going if it’s taking that long).  It’s that tricky time when the reader/viewer/player sets up their expectations about the world that your story resides in.

I’ll use Dreamkeepers as an example.  Dreamkeepers is a graphic novel series and the reason why I didn’t get a post out last week.  It currently consists of three books (still ongoing), with new books getting published when the creators feel like they’re ready, and not a moment before.

Also, aside: the first two novels are on the Internet for free, and I think they are worth your time.  The Prelude, a (still ongoing) webcomic that is set before the first novel, is also worth your time because it has children acting like children and they aren’t super annoying.  How Dave and Liz managed that is a post for another time, I think.

Back to the first few minutes, or the first few pages, in this case.  Go over to the website, real quick.  Don’t click anything, just look at the first page and come back here.

Back?  Great.  What kind of website are you expecting to see?  We got a raccoon-esque creature, who is probably a protagonist, with a big smile on his face.  Lots of bright colors, seems pretty cheery.  By the time you click another link, the tone has already been set.  You can’t take back that bright, cheery picture.  Changing the tone too drastically without cause will generate emotional whiplash, and we don’t even know his name. (Or, to be honest, his gender.  But its a he.  And his name is Mace.)  To change tone at this point would be subverting it– something like a trick opening.  You haven’t even been on the website for a minute, and already we’re talking about expectations, what you want out of the website, etc.

This makes a ton of sense– you’ll notice that the website is the primary portal to The Prelude.  What does the first page of The Prelude look like?

From: http://www.dreamkeeperscomic.com/Prelude.php?pg=1
View here!

Bright blue, beaches, chillin’ in hammocks and a bit of slapstick humor.  The Prelude is a pretty lighthearted web comic, tone wise.  There is a very important distinction here– The Prelude still deals with some serious material, even adult material.  There are darker moments in the comic– the tone doesn’t always have to be bright, happy to go lucky wonderfulness.  However, we expect happy endings.  Definitely nothing overtly graphic.  Probably not even a mention of rape, or racism, or slavery or… the list goes on.  There is a limit as to how dark we are willing to let The Prelude be before questioning the ‘new direction’ of the comic, and there are topics that I never expect The Prelude to cover.

But what about the main attraction?  The Dreamkeepers graphic novels themselves?  Well, what does the first page look like?

From: http://www.dreamkeeperscomic.com/GNSaga.php?pg=4
This isn’t stolen, I swear.

Oh.  That’s… different.  This isn’t going to be the same type of story, is it?  I mean, maybe it’ll get subverted and then we’ll establish a lighter tone–

From: http://www.dreamkeeperscomic.com/GNSaga.php?pg=6
I didn’t steal this one either

Oh.  Guess not.  This is three pages in, so we’ve still got a long time before we’ve hit the first few minutes mark, and it is very, very obvious that Dreamkeepers is much, much, much darker than the Prelude.  We’ve already seen graphic murder, so almost everything dark is on the table for Dreamkeepers.  That being said, now, the other side of the spectrum is off limits.  Silly, cartoonish solutions, (very) happy endings… Dreamkeepers can’t go to the realm of say, Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny or Space Jam.  There is a limit to how bright Dreamkeepers can be.

That being said, Dreamkeepers still employs a bit of slapstick humor and makes jokes.  There are bright moments in the comic, it’s not oppressive.  However, the first few pages set up other things as well.

What we see first is the most important, we tend to remember it better.  For The Prelude, it’s very, very clear that Mace is a protagonist.  We’ve got a website title page and a first page of a comic to back it up.  Mace is established as important.  Also, a chunk of Mace’s character is set in stone.  Mace doesn’t care much for school, and is also pretty young.  He’s the kind of kid that’ll play hooky, and probably pulls lighthearted pranks.  Mace can grow and change over the course of the comic, but that growth and change must be explained by plot and make sense.

There is a page missing from the excerpt of The Dreamkeepers graphic novel that I’m showing here, but I think it’s obvious that the event going on,  is kinda  a big deal. Things are going down.  By book 3, it’s rather apparent that this might be the most important event that has happened in the past three books.  It’s going to stick out in your mind.

You better believe graphic novels are not the only form of entertainment to do this.  I can pull examples from novels, to movies, to music, to TV…

Oh.   You want examples.  Bring it.

Babylon 5, a sci-fi TV series that everyone really should watch, spends its first season getting its legs under it.  Season 1 of Babylon 5 is not very indicative of the rest of the show in some respects– it’s more campy than later seasons, and the lightest season overall when it comes to tone.  However, you know what Midnight on the Firing Line is about?  A surprise attack on a research station, which is just one action on a grander scale.  We get, in the very first episode, the fact that Babylon 5 is bigger than this station.  Even if that sense of scope isn’t really developed until later, the first few minutes promise it.  It will come.

Game of Thrones (and, by extension, A Song of Ice and Fire) kills off more main characters than there are flavors of ice cream, and if the Internet is any indication, every time is somehow more surprising and awful than the last.  Yet, what are the first few minutes about?  Some poor sods getting murdered in a forest, by forces far greater than them.

That’s essentially the entire show/book series, with more murder locations.

Harry Potter opens us with wizards moving a young boy in secret, with JK Rowling showing a mastery of making up words that can only be rivaled by Steven King.  This event is due to something bigger than everyone involved, there are hints and expectations of the grand scope the series will eventually embody.  But, it’s quirky too– wizards are almost like us, but not quite.  The vibrant magical world that Rowling has constructed is poking at the edges, a world you know young Harry will eventually be thrust into.  It’s personal as well, with little bits of emotional drama sparkling through the sheer enormity of what has occurred on that night, and a lot of Harry Potter is personal drama.

A whole lot.  Like, all the boring parts of book 4.

Why start the book series there?  Harry doesn’t remember any of this– why not start him at age 11?  Hell, the very next chapter does that fast forward anyway.  Because the first few minutes are the most important.  If we do start the book at chapter 2, Hagrid’s revel to Harry seems super random, and we’d probably end up siding with the Dursley’s, or something.

“How does any of this relate to Disney?” you ask.  Quick check– can you hum the first song from Pocahontas?  It happens in the first five minutes of the movie.  No.  No you can’t, because you don’t remember the first fifteen minutes.

Everything I wrote about the first chapter of Harry Potter?  From memory, and I’ll goddamn bet real money that Hagrid sheds a tear at Harry’s departure, and the entire wizarding world is celebrating the death of Lord Voldamort, and McGonagall is sternly against Harry being sent to this particular family (Also, she doesn’t understand how Harry survived).  I haven’t read book 1 in so long that I can’t actually remember the act reading it.  I remember it contents perfectly fine.

Quick, what are the first fifteen minutes about for Home on the Range?  I don’t fucking know.  Famine, maybe?  Can’t be right… cow snatching?  First few minutes of Lion King?  Circle of Life!  Great song, maybe even the best song in that entire movie.  First fifteen minutes of Hunchback?  The jester tells his story about Frollo murdering some gypsies, right?  I think the song is called The Bells of Notre Dame?

Catching the pattern yet?  We’re still in the quick fire round.  What’s the most memorable thing about Hunchback?  That it has the darkest Disney villian ever.  What’s the theme of the Lion King?  That we all need to find our destiny and take our place.  Scope of the Lion King?  Pretty large, like the entire savannah large.  That’s pretty much at least a small country.  Scope of Circle of Life?  Pretty much the same thing.  Antagonist of The Hunchback?  The priest that killed the family and tried to kill the boy, and locked him in a goddamn tower.  Protagonist?  Hazier.  The misshapen boy locked in the tower?  It’s a good guess, we don’t really know. 

The first few minutes set up the entire world that your story will reside in.

Now, this isn’t an absolute rule.  Nothing, when talking about creativity or story telling, ever is.  The Little Mermaid does not, in fact, start with the downward sweeping ocean shot with Allen Menken being all Allen Menken.  That where it should have started.  It, in fact, starts with some bullshit where prince Eric is on a ship for some reason?  Probably being chastised about not marrying anyone yet, but I don’t remember that part of the movie at all.  I think there is even a song that I couldn’t whistle for you to save my life.

I still really like The Little Mermaid.

For an example on the other side, Breaking Bad has a great first few minutes.  I was totally sold on Breaking Bad fifteen minutes in, the gritty drug dealing world of New Mexico seemed awesome.  I spent four hours (four entire hours!) watching the first four episodes of season 1– despite the fact that I didn’t even enjoy it– based on that promise alone.  By the end of those four hours I realized I hated every single character and kinda just wanted to set fire to all of New Mexico.

The first few minutes are powerful.  It wasn’t until I thought about it that I realized how powerful.

Multiculturally Ambushed

A lot of people will tell you that the starting point is the worst, because you have no idea what to do with just a blank page in front of you.

I dunno about all of that.  Blank pages have a lot of opportunity.  You actually can’t mess up a blank page, its only after you’ve gotten a little ways into a project that you start to realize it’s awful.

And, as we started to compile the list of potential fairy tales, we had a pretty blank page of opportunity.  A friend suggested that we look beyond the brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen and look at folktales that don’t usually make it to Disney’s typical audiences.  She suggested some Japanese folktales to look at.

I was all for this idea, mostly because I didn’t realize exactly how many fairy tales we have floating around in English, (Oscar Wilde made a book of fairy tales.  Oscar.  Wilde.) nor did I realize how many adaptations of various fairy tales exist.

In related news, I’m about to raise all kinds of alarms at the local library when I check out most of their YA romance section.  Again.  Luckily, I still look like I’m 16.  Also, that is probably the only time I will ever type that sentence.

Anyway, I started reviewing some more popular Japanese folk tales, and things started out tame enough.  I had even added a few I liked to the list potential candidates.  I made a sub-folder of kitsune myths to sort through later, and found some pretty good summaries of The Tale of Genji.  And then I ran into tanuki.

I wasn’t ready for tanuki.  Or rather, I wasn’t ready for their massive testicles.  Let me clarify– massive magical shape shifting testicles.

And the blog is no longer family safe.
And the blog is no longer family friendly.

This is a thing that exists.  And it existed before the Internet.  A few more searches using my patented process of “skimming the first page of Google” have shown that they are popular image in culture, often seen hanging in shops and places that I’d assume children would pass by.

I also have to assume that they all show off the massive testicles, because it was disturbingly hard to find images without massive testicles.  Then again, my primary source of tanuki information is from other WordPress blogs that have authors who I hope are less lonely than they look.

Also, this goes to show that my Disney knowledge isn’t perfect.  I have not seen Studio Ghibli’s movie Pom Poko, in which tanuki play a part.  From a screenshot I could find, it looks like a pack (is that the right collective noun for raccoon-dog-ish creatures?) is either flying or skydiving with their scrota*.

So, I had to cross tanuki off the list.  Not from the imagery, but because Disney had already gone there.

*I had to Google the plural of scrotum.  I didn’t have safe search on.  I’ve officially suffered for art.

Why don’t we write like this anymore?

Ok, so a big part of trying to write Disney’s next fairy tale based blockbuster, is to, you know, pick a fairy tale.  And it turns out, there are a lot of fairy tales.  While we’re still trying to get logistics worked out– like how to get online to write a blog post and not reread all of XKCD (that may be mostly my problem)– Shannon polled a collection of friends for some fairy tales they always wanted to see as Disney movies.

The response was pretty great.  I decided to try the same thing with some of my friends.  They asked me if the Windows 2000 operating system manual counted.  That line of inquiry was quickly dropped.

At any rate, I’ve been reading down the tales I could track down easily (read as: find on the first page of Google when searching “[fairy tale title] original fairy tale”), and I have a very important question.

Why, in the name of all things good and grand, did we stop writing like this?

For example, take this excerpt from The Juniper Tree:
“Then the mother took the little boy and chopped him in pieces, put him into the pot, and cooked him into stew. But Marlene stood by crying and crying, and all her tears fell into the pot, and they did not need any salt.

Then the father came home, and sat down at the table and said, “Where is my son?” […]

Then he said, “Wife, this food is delicious. Give me some more.” And the more he ate the more he wanted, and he said, “Give me some more. You two shall have none of it. It seems to me as if it were all mine.” And he ate and ate, throwing all the bones under the table, until he had finished it all.”

Is that not the most chilling thing you’ve read all week?  In less than two paragraphs, about 6 sentences, the brothers Grimm have lived up to their last name.   It’s not only that a father ate his son, its that he ate his son and liked it to the point of not feeding his remaining child or wife.  Steven King doesn’t even write that dark.

Sometimes, the text his hilarious, as in Hansel and Gretel:
“The old woman had only pretended to be so kind; she was in reality a wicked witch, who lay in wait for children, and had only built the little house of bread in order to entice them there. When a child fell into her power, she killed it, cooked and ate it, and that was a feast day with her.  Witches have red eyes, and cannot see far, but they have a keen scent like the beasts, and are aware when human beings draw near.”

Oh.  Well, that would have made that entire witch burning sequence in Monty Python and the Holy Grail take a lot less time.  Also, thinking about old ladies being an entire separate genus and species away from homo sapiens is funny.  You think witches are descendant from monkeys as well, or do they come from, say, parasitic eels?  The fact that the eels are blind might explain the poor eyesight.

Also, I love how the text is so mater of fact.  Everyone already knows that witches have red eyes, for the love of– stop asking bad questions, Jimmy.

From The Nightingle:
“But when he came to the words, “the nightingale is the most beautiful of all,” he exclaimed, “What is this? I know nothing of any nightingale. Is there such a bird in my empire? and even in my garden? I have never heard of it. Something, it appears, may be learnt from books.”

Oh, snap, son!  There was a point to all that book-learnin’ nonsense in school after all!  Awwww, yeah.  Book throw down!  Boom!

Also, of note, is the extra special opening (this is the first sentence):
“In China, you know, the emperor is a Chinese, and all those about him are Chinamen also.”

Thanks for clearing that up.  I wasn’t aware.  Also, you get an extra star for probable racist connotations, if I can find one… I can’t.  Sorry.  You want a homophobic rainbow instead?

I’m not just pointing out these quips in language to make fun of them, however.  Fairy tales are short.  Really short.  I’ve read longer poems (and I’m not cheating and talking about The Odyessy).  As such, if we’re going to adapt a fairy tale, we’re going to need to draw inspiration from every line and really wring the tale out to dry.  Even these bizarre lines matter.

Sure, the father eating his son is very over the top, but that gives us indication on tone.  The Juniper Tree is an over the top fairy tale.  Perhaps its silly that the witch is described as a some sort of exotic creature, but if we were to adapt Hansel and Gretel, by that line alone I would argue the witch, as a villain, would sit closer to the Horned King than the Evil Stepmother.  In The Nightingale, we get an interesting point about the world.  The Emperor likes books, most of his court does not.  That’s a quirk of the setting.

But yeah, I’m just making fun of the Chinamen line.  How can you possibly not?

Addendum:
I actually had this post sitting around for a few days to help keep a steady flow of blog posts rather than lump a bunch at once.  I read this bit from The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids, after writing the above post:

“And when the baker had rubbed his feet over, he ran to the miller and said, strew some white meal over my feet for me. The miller thought to himself, the wolf wants to deceive someone, and refused, but the wolf said, if you will not do it, I will devour you. Then the miller was afraid, and made his paws white for him. Truly, this the way of mankind.”

Amen.

Once Upon A Time…

Disney Animation Studios released a movie called Frozen.  And it was pretty good.  But it also contained a character called Olaf the Snowman, and that character was really bad.  It also had a lame villain that it didn’t need, and beneath Elphaba’s belting, there were serious cracks in an otherwise very good movie.

Now, in the land where this movie was made, there was a lad, named Johnathan, of about 20 and some odd years, who had always been taught by his father the most important lesson of all: “Always bet on back.”  But the boy’s father also taught him, “Put your money where your mouth is.”

And this boy sometimes fashioned himself a writer.  After he had seen Frozen, he got out one of his most treasured possessions, the iPhone 4S, and sent a magical text message to a friend.  It went as such:

Ok, I doctored it slightly to cut out my response. The important bit is "We should tho'."

For, you see, the boy had a friend, named Shannon, a girl of 20 and some odd years, who actually knew something about writing and film making.  And the friend also shared the boys concerns about Frozen.  And the friend was also, perhaps, a bit crazy.

And so, the quest began: the pair would write the screenplay to Disney’s next fairy tale movie.  This is their blog.  This is why normal adults stop believing in magic.