Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Unboxing The Princess and the Goblin.

I got something in the mail!  Let's see what it is!
That's right, in the interest of diversifying what I put up on the old blog, I've decided to create some video content.  I shot this using my Iphone and came to one inevitable conclusion: I need to get a real video camera if I'm going to do this.

Anyway, this is a game that I supported on Kickstarter.  It's so rare for people, at least on this side of the Atlantic, to acknowledge George MacDonald's work that I had to throw some money their way.  There may be more stuff like this in the future depending on how things play out.  I'm not the sort of reviewer that people keep sending tangible stuff to (I'm looking at you, Black Nerd Comedy).  At best, I'll get an advance reader copy of a book in the form of a MOBI file for my kindle.  So, it would mostly be stuff I support on Kickstarter or stuff I order from Amazon.

In terms of other stuff, I have seen Disney's Moana and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and have thought of posts to do connected to them.  At the same time, Kubo and the Two Strings is out on DVD and I'd like to spotlight that.  Also, I still haven't seen The Tale of Tales (I'm still working my way through the new edition of the book which I wanted to read first.  On top of that, I wanted to do some retro reviews of the Cannon Movie Tales films.  There just aren't enough hours in the day for it all.  Also, has anyone else noticed that it's been a long time since I've done a "Folk Tale Secret Stash"?

I'll see what I can get around to as I move forward.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Beauty and the Beast trailer reaction.

In the past few weeks, we’ve gotten our first real trailer for Disney’s new live action (and also lots and lots of CGI) version of Beauty and the Beast.  Disney actually sent me an e-mail letting me know that the new trailer was up.  It must be because I’m such a big deal reviewer for fairy tale material.

Yup, that’s totally got to be it.

Okay, I’ll admit it.  They really did it because I had just cashed in a whole lot of Disney Rewards Codes and they had gotten a hold of my e-mail address in the process and were sending e-mails about pretty much everything.  But anyway, I thought we could take a look at the trailer and I’d point out some things that jumped out at me.

But first, the trailer:
(Trailer is property of Walt Disney Studios)

-          -Interesting shot with the painting.  You can see the faces of the young boy and the father are slashed but not the mother’s.  This may indicate an alteration to the Beast’s back story.  The back story in the original animated film was that he turned away an old crone who tried to stay at the castle for the price of a rose.  She turned out to be an enchantress who cursed him to be a Beast.  The time frame was always a bit strange, though.  He was supposed to lift the curse before his 21st birthday and the servants say they were cursed for ten years.  So, he was 11?  This all differs from the back story in Villeneuve’s original story in which the prince turned away the advances of an amorous fairy.  I think Disney wanted to suggest that the Beast also needed to learn a lesson, just as Belle needed to learn how to love a Beast.
-           
      -The famous scene from the original fairy tale where Belle’s father tries to steal a rose from the Beast’s garden.  I’m so glad they opted to put this back in the story for this movie.  I think the writer of the animated version , Linda Woolverton, made a conscious choice to leave it out.  I believe she didn’t like the idea of Belle wanting this rose.  I can kind of see why, seeing as Disney movies are often held up by a lot of longings and “I wants” and wanting a rose seemed a little unambitious.  But I don’t think the rose was ever meant to be Belle’s aspiration.  It was always supposed to be a little thing with a big consequence.  Also, it makes a bit more sense for the Beast to be mad because Maurice tried to steal something rather than him just trying to seek shelter in the castle.  Another thing from the original tale that we didn’t see in the animated version was that the Beast’s garden was supposed to be half in summer and half in winter.  I wonder if we’ll see that in this one.
-           
      -The Beast looks a bit more human here than I expected.  I think that might be necessary though, if they want to really show him expressing human emotion.  It’s like how Spider-Man always seemed to lose his mask in the movies when he had to show a lot of emotion.
-         
          - I like the look of the objects here.  It was so hard to tell how they’d be done through the still images.  I especially like how the faces for Mrs. Potts and Chip are the designs painted on the ceramic.  That approach could actually be used for certain other fantasy characters in the future (the Scarecrow from Oz is the first one that comes to mind).
-           
     -That library still looks fantastic!  Though, maybe not as good as the animated one.
-           
     -They managed to pack a lot of emotion into the last scenes in this trailer.  The one thing Disney has always had a talent for is tugging on the heart strings.

Anyway, the trailer certainly has me interested.  Even if it doesn’t turn out that great, I still want to see what it is they try to do. 

In other Disney related news, they have now apparently hired Marc Foster, the director of World War Z to direct their upcoming Winnie the Pooh project.  This seems like an odd choice until you realize he’s also the man who directed Finding Neverland.  Then things start to make a lot more sense.  As is usually the case, just the existence of this project has drawn its fair share of detractors.  This seems strange though, considering Disney has never shied away from doing Winnie the Pooh projects.  The Mouse has made at least four different TV shows starring that silly old bear.

Anyway, until next time.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Fairy Tale Media Fix: Okami-san and her Seven Companions.



I can hear someone shouting it already: “Not another weird Japanese thing!”

Yes, another weird Japanese thing.

The anime Okami-san and her Seven Companions is based on a series of light novels by Masashi Okita.  A light novel, for the record, is like a novella that’s primarily aimed at middle school and high school students. 

The anime and light novels revolve around a high school student named Ryoko Okami (note: Okami translates to “wolf”).  She works for the Otogi High School Student Aid Society, colloquially known as the Otogi Bank.  The way the Otogi Bank works is that students come to the bank when they need a favor and in return the student will owe a favor to the bank when they need it.  In her duties at the Otogi Bank, Okami often works with her best friend Ringo, a young girl who always wears a red hood and cape and Ryoshi, a shy boy who has a serious crush on Okami and is a crack shot with a slingshot.  She also works with a number of other eccentric characters at the bank.  Okami comes across as a tough girl but she’s also got a softer side that she hides because of traumatic events of her past.  For the record, this is one of those shows where I can't find any free use pictures to post, so here's a link to all the pictures I can't use.

If I wrote that out right, then you should have at least picked up on the aspects that allude to “Little Red Riding Hood”.  Okami is the wolf, Ringo is Red Riding Hood and Ryoshi is the hunter (yes, I know that it was actually a woodsman in “Little Red Riding Hood” as in a tree chopper, but people often seem to confuse Woodsman with Huntsman which they seem to have done with this show).
Truthfully, I’m not entirely sure how to approach this type of show.  This is unfortunate, seeing as along with stuff like Grimm and RWBY, I seem to be watching these types of shows more and more.  I’m not even all that sure what to call it.  There’s an element of parody for sure.  However, there’s also something else that I’m not sure what to call.  Is it homage?  Is it pastiche?  My vocabulary fails me.

Basically, it’s a show that’s made to function on two levels.  There’s the show itself which is a romantic high school comedy sort of thing about a tough girl who’s not so tough underneath helping others for her job.  But then, underneath that, there are all sorts of references to European fairy tales, Japanese fairy tales and Aesop’s Fables.

I mean, the laid back Bank president is clearly the grasshopper from “The Ant and the Grasshopper” while his super-industrious and organized assistant is the ant.  Bank flirt Tarou Urashima and his girlfriend Otohime Ryugu are clearly the fisherman and the turtle princess from the Japanese tale “Urashima-Taro the Fisherman”.  And . . .

Okay, I’ll admit it, I had to look a lot of that up.  Even Tarou’s name wasn’t a good enough hint.

And that’s one of my problems with shows like this and it’s sadly a problem that lies more with the audience than with the show’s creators.  While it’s great if you can pick up on the underlying references, some people (including myself apparently) can be a little too dense to pick up on them.  It should be okay if you can’t because of the show’s two layers but if you can’t and feel you should, you’re going to feel like a real dummling for not getting it.

Take the character of Otsu Tsurugaya, for instance.  She’s a character who works at the Otogi Bank and spends most of her time cleaning up while dressed as a maid (yes, I know there’s some weird Japanese-ness there, you’ll have to bear with me).  She’s also very fixated on repaying favors.  In one episode, Ryoshi saves Otsu from an errant baseball.  So, Otsu swears to be his servant and works herself to the point of exhaustion.  Then her friends step in to try and help her break from her “repayment fixation”.  When I first saw this episode I just thought Otsu was a completely original character and they just decided to create an original story around her.  Then I looked online and found out that Otsu is based on the crane from the Japanese tale “The Crane Wife”.  And it all hit me like a brick.  The episode matches with that story on a lot of levels.  That’s the thing though.  I know that story.  I’ve read that story in both prose and as a comic (it was one of the tales in the first Storyteller graphic novel).  But I simply could not recognize it out of its usual context.

Don’t get me wrong, there are other stories I recognize within the show.  I recognized the “Little Red Riding Hood” elements right away.  The first episode has a Cinderella theme that’s easy to pick up.  There’s a Momotaro-based episode which is easy to recognize.  I just feel kind of thick for being a fairy tale blogger who didn’t pick up on any of the other stuff.

It’s not a bad show, really.  The idea of the Otogi Bank is an interesting twist on the way good deeds are often repaid in fairy tales.  The show has kind of a slyly dirty sense of humor, which I don't usually go in for but which works here.  For example, the character of Momoko who is based on Momotaro often makes reference to how she gets followers by use of her “dumplings” (read as: breasts).  Also, whenever Tarou is being too much of a flirt, his girlfriend drags him away for some sort of unspecified “activity” and he always resurfaces acting like a perfect gentleman.  The characters are fun.  Okami herself, with her tough girl attitude and soft heart underneath is a good protagonist.  It’s especially heart-rending when you find out about her back story.  I won’t give much away but it features a really dark inversion of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”.

The show just has a tendency of making its best assets also be its biggest flaws.  One particular example is the narrator.  Yes, the show has a narrator.  It’s kind of a throwback to fairy tale anthology shows of the past (think the narrators of Folktales from Japan or Edward Everett Horton in “Fractured Fairy Tales”).  However, the difference is that this isn’t your typical dutiful storyteller.  Instead, the narrator in this show is snarky, opinionated, prone to editorializing and often a little bit inappropriate.  There are moments when the narrator will just say something so out of line that the characters will actually look straight at the camera as if they were calling the narrator out on it.  It’s hilarious.  There’s one problem: the narrator has a tendency of talking over the characters so you can’t hear them.  I’m not sure if this is the case in all versions or if it’s just the English dub.  But it is so annoying and ruins what was really a fun idea.

I like the show despite its double-edged sword moments.  It might not be for you, though.  Before seeking out the DVD or paying for episodes on Amazon Instant Video, check out the first and second episodes which Funimation posted for free on their YouTube page.  And if you’re having fun with Okami-san on YouTube, you might as well check out some of the fun AMVs that fans made of it like this one and this one.

Before I go, I’m also just going to direct you folks to some articles about fairy tales in anime.  Here’s the Geek and Sundry article that helped me discover this show.  And here’s another article I discovered because someone retweeted it into my Twitter feed.  There’s some interesting stuff in there.

Until next time, keep looking for that happy ever after.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Adam's Fairy Tale Mixtape, Side B.



Hey, everybody.  Greetings again from the Enchanted Condo!

Sometimes it’s funny how things find their way around to you again.  Take, for instance, my post on Andrew Lang.  It was just a one-off post from March 2015 in which I made a funny analogy to Lang being a DJ creating mixtapes out of various fairy tales.  Some people thought it was a neat little idea.  I got a few comments on it.  My storytelling associates seemed to think it was clever.

That was about it.

At least, it was until late October when one of my fairy tale blogging colleagues, InkGypsy, posted THIS over at Once Upon a Blog.  It seems that Gypsy had been thinking about this idea for a while.

Well, that post was enough to give the idea of the “fairy tale mixtape” enough of a signal boost that two others picked up on it.  One was Monash University professor, R.C. DoRosario (who I have mentioned before) who posted her fairy tale mixtape HERE.  The other is a poster by the name of Nike Sulway who posted her mixtape HERE.  I’m going to be honest, I know little about Ms. Sulway but she seems to be an author and is very knowledgeable about fairy tales.

So yeah, that’s pretty neat.  People who are more knowledgeable than me about fairy tales are playing around with my idea.  Neat yet kind of overwhelming in a way.  Oh, well.  I’ll get over the overwhelming part.
So, when this stuff started to pop up, I was right in the middle of my planned Halloween/fairy tale TV show thing and couldn’t really respond to any of it.  But now, I have some time freed up and I thought it was about time to do the whole mixtape thing again.  You see, the people who ran with my idea expanded the list of stories from 10 to 20.  They also mixed things up by including poems, novels and films.  So, this is a list of 10 tales, books, etc. to supplement the list I made way back in the day.  This is the B side of the tape, so to speak.

11) Iron Hans (German, from Grimm)
12) The Ballad of Mulan (from China)
13) The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
14) Swan Lake (the story from the ballet)
15) The Snow Queen (Hans Christian Andersen)
16) Thunder Boy (Iroquois tale)
17) The Girl who Married a Lion (African tale)
18) The Bamboo Cutter (Japan)
20) The Ballad of Tam Lin (English/Scots ballad)

Yeah, I decided to just drop Pinocchio in there.  Other people were including novels so I thought I could too.  Besides, though literary, Pinocchio is kind of walking in the same tradition as foolish boy heroes like Jack.  Beyond that, I included another Grimm tale but I tried to follow in the footsteps of my previous list and keep my choices rather cosmopolitan (it’s a big world with lots of interesting stories in it).  I couldn't find a link to the African tale I wanted to include, but it can be found in The Girl Who Married a Lion by Alexander McCall-Smith.  I also included a couple of ballads that I really like to give the mix a little more poetry.  I also included possibly the only Hans Christian Andersen story I really like and, inspired by InkGypsy’s list, added in the story from Swan Lake.  I am going to admit, I think the others were able to embrace the surprising aspects a little bit more than I could.

So, what do you think?  What's on your fairy tale mixtape?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Fairy Tale Fandom goes to Albany Comic Con!

Hey, everybody!  This past Sunday I had the privilege of going to the year's second Albany Comic Con.  Now, since I already have a stack of comics and other reading material that I need to get through at home, I decided to spend my time seeking out as many references to fairy tales, folklore, legends and classic children's literature that I could.  Even if it was something connected mostly by a tangent.  Not an easy task, seeing as the things at a comic book convention are usually only linked thematically.  But still, I think I picked up some pretty good pictures.  Let's take a look.

Legal Disclaimer: All the pictures of cosplayers here were taken with their permission.  They were also informed of this blog and what I post about.  Though, I may not have specifically said I was posting these on the blog.  Oops.  If you are one of the cosplayers and would like your photo either taken down or credited, please contact me and let me know.  Any other members of the crowd that made it into the photos have been either cropped out or had their faces blacked out.

Possibly the most impressive I encountered are this pair of queens.  On the left is Regina from Once Upon a Time.  On the right is the Evil Queen from the Disney animated movie Snow Whote and the Seven Dwarfs.  While I don't know who the one on the left is, I happen to know the person in costume on the right is a relatively local convention-goer who uses the internet handle Undies of Wondy.
Next, we have this woman playing the role of Blake Belladonna from the internet sensation RWBY.  As you may recall from my RWBY article, the character of Blake is based on Belle from the story "Beauty and the Beast".
And she seems to be traveling with a dragon for some reason.
And here we have the Mad Hatter, albeit the super-villain version that appears on the television show Gotham.
It wasn't just costumed attendees that I went looking for, though.  I also took a good look at what people were selling at the vendor booths.  For example, I went to a tabletop game booth and managed to pick up a game based on the Arthurian legends.
I also saw a piece of memorabilia connected to Disney's production of Alice in Wonderland.
I saw some Big Little Books that were of interest.
And is that Shannon Hale's Rapunzel's Revenge peeking out in that rack of books?
And possibly the strangest of all, a coloring book titled Undead Oz.
So, while these types of stories may not be the primary focus of conventions like these, they do have a presence.  So, we can find them in a venue of pulpy, mass market genre entertainment like a comic book convention.  But we can also find fairy tales, legends and children's fantasy in more upscale media like opera and the ballet.  These stories can serve as a kind of common ground that exists across social class.

For more about cosplaying and the con scene, there's an article right here on the Folklore of Cosplay.







Sunday, October 30, 2016

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.


Okay, so not that long ago, an article popped up on the entertainment website Gizmodo about MGM winning a bidding battle to a script for a comedy movie about a fairy godmother.  The author of the piece continues on to editorialize about how fairy tales are tired and overdone in Hollywood right now. 

A link for this article appeared in my Twitter feed because R.C. DoRozario (aka Doc-in-Boots), a fairy tale and children’s literature lecturer at Monash University who I follow, commented on it.  Her exact quote was “Not really worn out- Hollywood has only scratched the surface of fairy tale.  That’s the problem.”
So, that notion is what I’m going to comment on.  Granted, my usual followers will probably get it right away.  However, I have an analogy that will probably resonate with almost anyone who’s seen a recent Hollywood blockbuster and I think that analogy has to be put out into the world.

I want you to imagine a world where the superhero movie boom didn’t happen the way it did.  A world with no Marvel Studios, no Avengers franchise or any of that.  It’s also a world where anyone can make a movie of those properties.  Now, because of this, when Hollywood starts making superhero films, they all gravitate to the ones that are household names.  Namely: Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and maybe the Hulk.  So, that’s all any of them make.  And they start making spin-off movies based on the more commonly known elements of their franchises.  There’s a Robin movie here.  There’s a Jimmy Olsen movie there.  But eventually they start to mine a few select concepts a little too much and someone announces a movie based around Spider-Man’s dear old Aunt May, and . . . someone at Gizmodo writes about how superhero movies are tired.

This is the situation Hollywood fairy tale movies are in.

In other words, they are mined extensively but rarely mined deeply.  Hollywood returns to the tales that are household names again and again, constantly putting new spins on every “Cinderella”, “Snow White”, “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Hansel and Gretel”.  On very rare occasion, a Hollywood film gets made that’s based on a folk or fairy tale that’s not a household name.  However, when they do, they usually pass us by because the story’s origins are never advertised and we just see it as another original movie.  For example, Tim Burton’s 2005 stop-motion film Corpse Bride is based on a Jewish folk tale frequently told in Russia.  This kind of thing is rare, though.  Otherwise if you want to see the less publicized folk and fairy tales get made into films or at least have their elements used in film, you often have to indulge in movies from outside the United States.  Films like The Tale of Tales from Italy or The Tale of the Princess Kaguya from Japan or Song of the Sea from Ireland as well as many others.  However, that’s usually because those tales are more popular in their home countries.  Also, Disney will sometimes delve into less familiar lore in the interest of diversity, but that happens roughly once in a blue moon.
Now, I’m glad to be living in the current trend of “fairy tale/children’s fantasy” movies.  Partially because it gives me stuff to blog about and partially because it’s interesting to see someone like Disney retell stories they’ve told in different ways.  Granted, not all of these movies are gems.  A lot of studios tend to try and turn old stories and characters into copies of stories and characters that have already done well in Hollywood.  But then, I still kind of wish there was a Marvel Studios for fairy tales.  A studio that would delve deeper into the less famous tales.

Of course, that’s not to say that the obscure fairy tales don’t have certain aspects that might be keeping Hollywood away from them.  For example, there’s the question of who to market the films to.  One of the things about a lot of fairy tales these days that stymies people is that they often seem too dark for children but too simple for adults.  But still, that shouldn’t be something that clever screenwriting and direction couldn’t fix.  Then there’s the issue of “fairy tale logic”.  You know, that oddly dreamlike logic that fairy tale characters seem to act on during the course of a story.  One could argue that the reason that Hollywood film makers stick with the popular tales is because the general public has already accepted them and the leaps of logic in them.  People accept that Little Red Riding Hood mistakes the wolf for her grandmother because it’s wearing a nightcap or that the glass slipper will only fit Cinderella’s foot.  With other tales that they don’t know, those forays into fairy tale logic might not be so accepted.  Heck, Jean Cocteau essentially had a disclaimer at the beginning of his version of Beauty and the Beast explaining the presence of what he called “child logic”.  But still, a little clever writing might help that (or is that too much to ask of Hollywood?).  Some tales would even be hard to fit into a typical three act structure, seeing as they existed before there were any codified rules for creating stories for mass entertainment.  But still, I think it would be worth the effort to try.
Anyway, as much as I’d like to see more narrative diversity in the Hollywood fairy tale, this is the situation we’ve got for the foreseeable future.  At least, until someone who wants to see these other stories on film starts their own studio or something.  And I don’t see that happening unless some storytellers or folklorists win the lottery so they have the start-up capital.  That’s definitely unlikely to happen.

Though, maybe I should buy a couple of scratch-off just in case.