Tag Archives: Luna

What is love? Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more…

Romance, man.  I don’t even.

Look, maybe I’m playing up to the lonely writer stereotype (is that a thing?  is it an attractive thing?…. la…ladies?), but I’m not a huge fan of the typical romance plot you see in movies/books/comics/pretty much everywhere.  It just feels shallow and very, very fake these days.  I guess this means I’m not romantic?

Eh, never had the dreamy eyes for it anyway.

Now, the obvious counter argument is, “Seriously?  You’re writing a story where one of your main characters is the hologram of a castle’s AI system, and you’re going to lose your suspension of disbelief on true love?  What kind of monster are you?”

Well, when you put it that way… yes, actually.  One of the reasons why I want to write this screenplay is because the typical Disney love plot drives me up a wall, hissing like the meanest member of your grandmother’s 30 cats.  I can point to two reasons why:

1) Speed.  Oh, you met someone two days ago and want to get married?  Yeah, that’s gonna be good.  Because when people pull those kinds of shenanigans in real life, it’s totally sane and always works out.  Sure.

2) Characterization.  What about Eric gets Ariel feeling all tingly?  We never find out.  Was it his skill at dancing that drew her gaze?  The fact that he was royalty?  The mysterious allure of something forbidden?  The fact that her cave was running out of space and there was no way a merman would ever let her hoard her stuff?  Why did Snow White fall for Prince Charming?  Outside of his name, of course.  Falling love could be a huge character moment– what the protagonists see in each other can be powerful and really lends credibility and believability to who they are.

Now, recent trends in Disney movies have abated these problems somewhat– both Tangled and Frozen end with their protagonists not getting married, but with a kiss and the vague promises of a future date.  Yes, Rapunzel eventually marries Eugene, but we get the important line at the end of the film– “And after asking, and asking, and asking, [she] finally said yes.” (Replacement mine, I don’t want to write extra to spell out the joke).

However, both these films still don’t satisfy me on the characterization side of things.   We get vague hints of it in Tangled, but it still kinda feels like the love by default sort of Disney standard.  Flynn gets characterization through his emerging love for Rapunzel (he finds that what he was looking for was more than just money, freedom or adventure), but, honestly to this day, I’m not really sure why she falls for him.

I think most of her ‘falling in love’ is wrapped up in the kingdom montage, after all, her line to Mother Gothel is, “And… I think he likes me.” (Emphasis mine). Very importantly, it’s not “I think I like him.”  She takes longer to come around, and that’s probably why I like the movie so much.  But we still never really learn why.

See previous posts about my rant on Frozen— it’s very love by default.

Now, enter in the most commonly associated animal with love– the frog.
The_Princess_and_the_Frog_poster
I feel like I might have made that reference wrong.

Anyway, despite the fact that it might be racist, I’m a pretty big fan of the film overall.  Yes, I know that the action slows to a crawl when they get to the swamp.  Yes, Randy Newman is not my favorite composer.

How can I still really like it?  Because Tiana and Prince Naveen have one of the most character driven love stories in all of Disney’s cannon.  I mean, their love plot still moves way to fast (I think it’s a three day meet-greet-marriage?  Certainly no longer than a week).  Both of them are willing to do far, far too much for someone they just met.  I know.

But, Prince Naveen mincing random bullshit he found for Tiana is a more touching moment than anything in Frozen.  Tiana looking at the Shadowman’s vision of her father and realizing what he truly stood for is chilling just to write about.

Both characters have flaws, and it’s only seeing someone else without those flaws do they realize what they’re missing in themselves.  Tiana is not only a strong character in her own right, but it’s her hard work that foils Naveen’s carefree lifestyle.  It’s Naveen’s focus on actually smelling the roses that shows how Tiana is missing out on so much more in the world.

That’s brilliant characterization!  And the movie sticks it in front and center, so you know it was the intent.  By falling in love with each other, the pair learns something about themselves– Naveen is able to find someone that makes him truly happy and Tiana realizes what her father’s dream truly was.

The movie eventually trips on it’s own feet and gets rather sappy towards the end, and again, the fact that it ends in frog marriage makes me facepalm, but in the middle?  That is a love story for the ages.  That’s what love is all about.

That’s how Luna and Ivan should fall in love.  Both characters are both on the run– Luna is running from her future and Ivan is running from his past.  Its their falling in love that drives the character change that lets them find the courage to face their problems and make the hard choices.

Hold on, writing about my screenplay is inspiring me to write my screenplay.  Brb.

Concept Art !!!!!!!!11!!

So, I met with the pretty great Nick Pflug a few weeks ago for some concept art.  He also tumblrs (tumbles?).  Although he’s an animator by trade, I asked for some stills, and being the boss he is, he made some.  I also once played Netrunner at his house for like, 7 hours.

Before you can feast your eyes on the epic amazing that is our (*squeeeee*) art, I’d like to try and keep my inner fangirl on a leash and go into why I asked for art in the first place.  Consider this stage 1 of actually trying to turn this script into something.

First, there is something rather apparent about content that goes viral on the Internet– it’s short.  It needs to grab you in less than thirty seconds and keep you entertained for no more than five minutes.  This is not a place for 100+ page scripts.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.

So, one of several dreams we have for this project is that maybe we can eventually release a short trailer or an animatic or something– if we’re really lucky, we can have it showcase a song, which is why I’ve asked a composer and another animator to help out.  (if you’re a regular reader, you’ve met them before) We’ll let the result out into the wilds of the Internet.

So, without further ado, I’m gonna slowly let my inner fangir– OMG you guys!  We have art! And it’s just the best!  LOOKIT.  LOOK AT IT.  THIS IS THE GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE.  EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

1 - Copy 2 - Copy

So, this here are our concept sketches of Luna.  They’re pretty great.  Obviously, Luna’s design is fluid, but there are some cool standouts here– I’m a pretty huge fan of her eyes, which sounds creepy when you say it about a concept sketch.  The ballet inspired shoes are pretty neat too.

There are surprising details that I didn’t think about while writing– Luna has short hair.  Not that her hair length changes any particular part of the script, but it is part of her that I never really considered.

ON TO MORE ART, BECAUSE YAY.

3 - Copy 4 - Copy 5 - Copy

These are our Ivan sketches.  It’s amazing to see his robotic arm finally realized in an actual sketch, considering that part of the finale has Ivan using his arm creatively.  He kinda reminds me of Hans Solo, and I still can’t write him, but at least I know what he looks like when I read Shannon’s writing of him.

All in all, this was one of the greatest Skype calls ever.

 

Writing on a Team

Whee, as of a few nights ago we’re about half done!  I mean, sure, it’s only a rough draft, and I need to touch up large sections of act III, but #YOLO right?

Did I do the hashtag right?  I’m not really sure.  Whatever you kids do these days.

At any rate, progress has been stellar.  Or at least I think it’s been stellar.  Apparently, screenwriting is a fast medium.  That being said, the first round of edits is going to hurt.  However, that’s future Johnathan’s problem, and I’ve long since learned how to pass the buck on to that poor shmuck.

In important, but pretty unrelated, news: We now have a real fake title!  The current working title has leveled up from “______ Waltz” to “Secrets”.  Isn’t that pretty.

One of the coolest things about this project thus far has been writing with a partner.  It’s a new experience for me, and man is it great.  Highly recommend, 10/10, five stars, would eat here again.

It’s amazing because, at least for this project, we cover each other’s holes pretty well.  What kind of holes, you ask?  Like, you know, half of the characters.

No, but seriously: all of my blog posts have been about Luna (or at least relating to Luna) because I don’t get Ivan in the slightest.  I mean, I know he’s got a robotic arm and he’s a mechanical wizard and he’s living down a troubled past.  But, I can’t get in his head.  I struggle to write his lines and generally ask that Shannon go over and rewrite his dialogue for any scene I’ve written him in.

On the other hand, I see Luna in my head really well.  I could probably write her in a rom com about online dating if I had to, because I can see all her personality and her dreams and her ambitions.  These are independent from the setting, and even (to an extent) independent from what she physically looks like.

Shannon gets Ivan, but she doesn’t understand Luna.  It’s gotten to the point where we just do cutouts for the other to come back and write the correct lines.  So, in the rough draft, it isn’t uncommon to see:

VLAD
Is everything to your liking?

LUNA
response

VLAD
Shall you join me for this dance?

I need to fill in Luna’s line here.   I mean, it’s obvious that her line is just a sorta generic “yeppers!” but there are so many ways to write that.

Oh, by the way, Vlad (full name: Vladimir) is our villain.  Yes, there is a scene where our female lead dances with the villain.  No, you don’t know he’s the villain yet, unless we decide to tip the hand and make him look eeeeviiiiil.

Now, this quirk in writing gets even better when you think about it for a second.  As you can see by my picture down there, I’m male (ladies).  Shannon isn’t.  So, our male lead writer is writing the female protagonist and our female lead writer is writing the male protagonist.  Apparently, we’re confused.

So, you know, this’ll either be the least implicitly sexist thing ever or the most implicitly sexist thing ever.  Could go either way, really.  Obviously, Shannon and I aren’t trying to be awful, and she’s probably more in tune with this sort of thing than I am.  I will say that Luna is based on an actual male friend of mine, which, depending on how you look at it, either helps or hurts my case.  I don’t even know anymore.

I’m really bad with this.

At any rate, this is something fun to talk about but not something I’m thinking about at all when I write.  Especially in ‘rough draft’ mode, the most important part is to get all the plot and character elements on the page, and roughly lined up in order.  From here, editing, rewrites and feedback from beta readers can polish up the script to a mirror like shine that even Jezebel won’t hate me for.

They may still hate me anyway, but ya know…  In this age of viral content, if I even get slammed it still counts as publicity!

This title will be written as soon as I get off TV Tropes

Disclaimer: TV Tropes is one of the more notorious black holes on the Internet.  A common tale of woe told around monitors is that of a man who goes to TV Tropes and the next thing he knows is it’s a week later and he’s got Cheetos stains on everything.  You have been warned.  I’m a professional– don’t browse TV Tropes at home kids.  It’s dangerous.

Things that you run into when you write any type of fiction: tropes.

Defined by the authority on tropes, TV Tropes:   “Tropes are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members’ minds and expectations.  On the whole, tropes are not clichés.”

A cliché is a trope gone to far– one that’s been done to death and back and no one wants to hear that bit again.  However, even the most trite and overused tropes often get reinvented to add fresh air to an old concept– we’re still telling damsel in distress stories, after all, but in modern fiction (or, I should say, good modern fiction– trashy dollar store novels will use every hack in the book) it’s rare to see the textbook example.  Everyone has read that textbook already, thank you.

So, to understand our source material a little better, I browsed through its entry on TV Tropes.  I was saddened to find out that TDP isn’t a trope namer for any tropes, nor is it the first example of any trope.

Several tropes can get thrown out as unimportant– the fact that TDP, in the version we’re basing things off of, has no named characters is nice, but irrelevant.  Disney movies have characters with names.

Per our preliminary notes, we’re already including a big, fancy castle, massive numbers of siblings, a protagonist that starts out pretty poor and some sort of dance.  I’m currently scribbling down on a notepad what the basic consequences of having these sorts of tropes does to the narrative and characters.  For example, seeing that large families these days are kinda rare, and households are having less and less children,  how did it happen that a political figure in the far future has twelve daughters?

Magic?  Strange political reasons?  Really bad luck?  Taking advice from rabbits?

Aside: Oh my god, I want to write that scene where the king, is his awkward youth, gets dating/relationship advice from a magical talking rabbit.  I’m giggling just picturing that.  Probably doesn’t fit into our story or target audience, but still.  *snicker*

I’m not looking for a particularly compelling reason, or a rational one, or even one that I’m going to explicitly point to.  Just food for thought.  Another one:  Dancing might be pretty rare, so it helps the princesses motivations along– they love dancing (get it from their mother) but this is the year 20XX.  No one dances anymore.  It’s a dying art.

Other things to look at are tropes that have become clichés (but weren’t done to death when the tale was written down) that we’re going to want to subvert or ignore.  Everything isn’t better with a traditional princess, but I’m hoping to subvert that a bit.  Personally, I’d like to bring out the political side of being next in line.  The royalty in our story, I think, is going to hold actual political power, and Luna (and probably the next oldest, Zorya) are going to be expected to rule themselves one day.

That’s a heavy responsibility– it’s like being the President, but you can’t blame things not working on congress.  Being a princess is not all fun and games and being frail and waiting for a white knight– that doesn’t feed people.  Ruling feeds people.

There are several tropes in TDP that I hadn’t considered at all before looking over the tropes page.  In the tale, the princesses evade getting caught through slipping drugs in wine to put the people sent to find them to sleep.  The protagonist gets around this with some discrete drink disposal.

Even though I haven’t really thought about it, we can throw some quiet nods to both tropes all in two scenes.  Maybe in our version of the tale, our protagonist (who’s name is Ivan, by the way), is the first person to try and figure out what the princesses are doing every night and one of them comes up with a knee jerk reaction to roofie him.

Our protagonist evades the ruse with the help of his animal sidekick, or his robotic arm (preliminary notes put Ivan as a cyborg.  And of course he has a sidekick, this is a Disney movie) and the tale goes on as normal.  I don’t know how important exactly the drugged drink is, but it is very important to note that the princesses do not want to be caught.

This helps tie into our already established themes about Luna– she starts the tale so resistant to leave the nightly dancing that she’ll resort to chemical warfare to keep things the way they are.  By the end of the story, she’s the catalyst of change.

Other things we haven’t covered at all– the hero in the fairy tale gets help from a magical shady lady in a forest.  I, personally, kinda dislike this trope.  It’s a derivative of Deus ex Machina, which came about because the ancient Greeks sometimes wrote themselves into a plot holes and were kinda lazy (I think.  It’s been a few years since I had to sit through an ancient Greek lit class).  Unless we decide the story needs it, I’d be more than happy to never touch on this facet of the tale, and let Ivan win his battles on his own.

Ok, two more.

First– the ubiquitous rule of three shows up in TDP– the protagonist has three days to figure out where the princesses are going every night before he gets murdered by the king.  His first two trips down to the hidden underground castle are pretty much the same, his last time down there has a twist.  The twist, at least in TDP, is rather minor– the solder takes an extra cup along with him for proof to show the king.  I almost want to ignore the pattern outright, but it’s such a common fairy tale rhythm that not using it feels wrong. Repetition is a tricky beast in stories– amazingly powerful when done right, but boring as hell when done wrong.

Finally, the fairy tale does do a bit of subversion– the youngest child doesn’t win.  However, the youngest princess is totally onto the protagonist the entire time he’s spying on the princesses.  You get the feeling he chooses the oldest as a bride because she’s a few light bulbs short of a full set and he knows he can outwit her.  However, we want people to leave the theater with Luna as a confident princess, ready to take on the throne.  What do?

Well, rather than just ignoring the subversion, I think we can play homage to it.  Cassiopeia (our youngest princess) can find the evidence that starts Luna’s change of heart, thus keeping true to the spirit of both characters, while still letting us focus on the older one without making her kinda dumb.

This helps add dramatic tension as well– Cass doesn’t know the gravity of the evidence she brings to Luna (or even that it’s a bad thing), and when Luna uses it as a reason to stop the dancing, Cass can naturally resist, rebel and ultimately feel like it’s her fault for pushing her sister away.

Awww, yeah.  Just what I like in my fictional characters– development and personality.  Damn gurl, you look fiiiiine with all that character.

_____________ Waltz (working title)

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, RumpelstiltskinPuss 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.