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.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Fantasy Literature Rewind: "Goblin Market".

When I chose this poem to talk about, I did it mainly because it’s October and I thought the poem was kind of spooky.  I mean, it’s about goblins after all.  However, when I did a little searching around, I found that there might be some more to this story than I thought.

First, some background on what exactly a goblin is.  We’ve encountered “goblins” before in George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin.  In that story, they were essentially kobolds or tommy-knockers.  However, the word “goblin” is actually derived from the old French “goeblin” and tends to be used as a catch-all for any kind of malevolent or mischievous fairy creature.  In fact, Puck in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” refers to himself as a goblin.

The author of this poem, Christina Rosetti came from a family of creative and intellectual types.  Her father was an Italian political exile and her mother was a half-English, half-Italian woman trained as a governess.  Two of her brothers were members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of artists who thought art had taken a severe downturn since the days of the Renaissance artist Raphael.  In fact, an early edition of “Goblin Market” was illustrated by her brother Dante Gabriel Rosetti.
Illustration by Dante Gabriel Rosetti
The poem follows two sisters, Laura and Lizzie, who can hear the hawkers at the goblin fruit market.  They’re selling all manner of fruit, including a number of ones that were probably out-of-season (this would be a strange and notable thing in the Victorian era in which this poem was produced).  Lizzie is dead set on avoiding the goblin men and their fruit, but Laura gives in to temptation and goes to the Goblin Market.  She has no money, so she trades a lock of her hair for their fruit goes into a sort of frenzy, eating her fill of the strange fruit.  After returning home in a trance, Lizzie upbraids Laura and reminds her of the story of Jeanne, a girl who partook of the goblin fruit who suffered a long decline and died.  As time goes by, Laura starts to decline herself.  When it seems she’s at death’s door, she heads to the goblin market herself where she tries to buy some fruit.  The goblins though, try to force her to eat it herself.  She resists and ultimately ends up going home covered in fruit juices.  Laura kisses the juice off of Lizzie’s cheeks and is cured of her declining health, albeit in a painful way.  Years later, they tell their children about the whole thing as a cautionary tale.

I’m sure I’m not doing this poem any justice with that synopsis, so you can read it right HERE.  Though, one thing I’d like to mention that I find interesting is how the various goblins are described as having animal traits.  It’s an approach I’m not sure I’ve seen done with goblins before.

Still, it’s kind of creepy, right?  All those strange goblin men and the poor woman wasting away because of it.  But then I started reading up on the analysis and subtext that people have taken from the poem over the years.

People have interpreted this poem and its subtext in numerous ways for years.  A great deal of that interpretation seems to come from views regarding women, sexuality and Christianity (an example HERE).  The Victorian period was a time when all three subjects were kind of loaded.  Rosetti had even worked in a home for so-called “fallen women” for a time.  I can totally see where these inspirations are coming from.  It’s easy to see the goblins’ fruits as the classic “forbidden fruit” usually represented by the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden.  However, when I read the poem at first, it didn’t occur to me.

Instead, what I was first reminded of was classic fairy lore.  It’s a fairly common bit of lore regarding the fair folk that human beings should not eat their food.  In some cases, it’s because if you eat their food while in fairy lands, you will not be able to return to the world of men.  In other cases, just trying to eat the food will make it disappear before you can get a bite.  In general, eating fairy food was always a bad idea for humans.  To some degree, this calls back to classical mythology and the story of Persephone.  Because Persephone ate six pomegranate arils from a pomegranate of the underworld, she was compelled to stay there for half the year.
Illustration by Arthur Rackham
Of course, that’s probably because I come from a rather secular family who live in a rather secular country during a rather secular time.  Victorian England would have been a different matter altogether.

I’ve seen another interpretation that suggests that Rosetti was trying to create a new type of literary heroine.  One that stands fast against temptation. 

That’s not all, though.  Just looking at the Wikipedia entry, it seems there are a number of other interpretations.  Some see an anti-semitic undertone in the poem.  Some see it as a critique of Capitalism.  Others see it as a criticism of Victorian marriage markets.  (Note: I did not fact-check the Wikipedia article.  So, I'm taking it at its word).

Now, you know I’m not the type to go much into subtext or analysis or interpretation.  Not because I can’t but because I’d rather not push my own interpretations on other people.  Interpretation is much more interesting on a personal level without someone saying “this story is really about such-and-such”.  But it’s still kind of interesting that so many people have gotten so much out of this one spooky little goblin poem.

And if you have the chance, check it out.  Who knows what you might get out of it.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Scary Tale TV, part 2.

Somewhere in Hollywood, there is probably a big building called The Hall of Television Law.  And in this building there is a book and in this book is a law that reads “All horror/urban fantasy television shows must have one episode in which fairy tales come to life”.  Okay, maybe not.  But still, it is a fairly consistent plot idea that gets reused often.  Fantasy television shows are hardly a rarity these days, but their can probably be traced back to the late 1990s where it began with certain shows aimed at teen audiences.  How well they handled their respective fairy tale episodes varies.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)- Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the show that likely started the ball on the rise of fantasy shows on television.  The brainchild of writer Joss Whedon, the show is about a teenage girl who is the one chosen by prophecy to fight vampires and demons and keep the balance between good and evil.  The concept first saw light as a 1992 movie.  Whedon, however, was highly disappointed that his creation was interpreted as a straight-up comedy rather than a drama with comedic moments and fought to bring the concept to TV.  (To Mr. Whedon: Have you ever considered that it was that ridiculous title that made people misjudge this idea of yours?).  Anyway, he succeeded and the rest is history.  The show was a huge hit in no small part to its clever writing and the chemistry of the cast.  In fact, the way the show handles its fairy tale episodes may be a big indicator of why the show was as good as it was.  The themes and plot of the Buffy episodes come together in an almost perfect way.  With the other shows, it’s a bit more hit-or-miss.

“Gingerbread” (S3, E11)- In this episode Buffy is out on patrol when her mother Joyce, who just found out she was the Slayer, brings her some food.  While Buffy fights off a vampire, her mother stumbles on the bodies of two children that seem to have been killed in some ritualistic way.  Seeing it shakes her up and by the next day Buffy’s mother is making a call to action from most of the adults in the town of Sunnydale.  Pretty soon, the group of concerned citizens has transformed into a fully blown witch-hunting mob.  While it is a demon behind Joyce’s new furor, the episode also hinges very much on the story of “Hansel and Gretel” as is evident in the episode’s title.  The show doesn’t dwell on it, though.  Instead, the main thrust of the show is in the relationships between parents and children, paranoia and how concern can change into something far more active and dangerous.

“Hush” (S4, E10)-  The other place where the Buffy writers drop the term “fairy tale” is a rather popular season 4 episode entitled “Hush”.  As far as plot goes, a group of fairy tale monsters called The Gentlemen come to Sunnydale.  They steal the voices of everyone in town and then go around collecting hearts from victims.  The Gentlemen, from everything I’ve been able to find out, were made up for the show.  They don’t appear in any actual fairy tale that I know of.  The intention of the show’s writers in making them “fairy tale monsters” seems to be to capitalize on the combination of scary and whimsical the Gentlemen seem to possess.  The Gentlemen, as a group, all dress in rather dapper looking suits, hover slightly above the ground to move around and in general seem to go about looking very well-mannered and pleased with themselves.  On the other side of the coin, they’re also ugly demons that will cut your heart out with a scalpel and keep it in a jar.  I have to give the writers credit for trying to make it feel very folkloric.  They even make up a little rhyme that a creepy girl in one of Buffy’s prophetic dreams recites.  But, as in the other episode, the monster serves the theme.  In this case, the theme is communication.  Every character is having some kind of communication issue and the loss of voices forces them to deal with it when their own words can no longer stand in their way.  Faux fairy tales aside, this episode also kind of reflects something touched on in this blog in the way that music and actions communicate everything: the ballet.  Also, seeing as Joss Whedon is a comic book fan, I’d probably be remiss not to mention that some inspiration for this episode probably came from a wordless comic book like the famous G.I.Joe #21.

Supernatural (2005-present)- Supernatural is a television show that follows two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester as they hunt monsters, ghosts and demons.  I can’t say much about this show as I never really got into it.  It is wildly popular, though.  It’s about to start its twelfth season this year.  Some of this show’s appeal seems to come from its unique feel.  Between the muscle car they drive around in and the classic rock soundtrack the show sports, the show has a much more working class USA vibe than Buffy or any of the other horror dramas out there.  Despite not being a fan, I did check out a couple of episodes.  One in which fairy tales seem to come to life acted out by regular people and another that references the marvelous land of Oz.

“Bedtime Stories” (S3, E5)- Sam and Dean roll into a town because they hear of a brutal killing in which two brothers who are construction foremen are slayed by an unknown assailant leaving the third brother alive.  The brothers are stumped until another killing happens when two lost hikers are attacked by an old woman in the woods.  Sam soon comes up with the idea that the crimes resemble the plots to “The Three Little Pigs” and “Hansel and Gretel”.  Soon, more crimes that resemble “Cinderella” and “Little Red Riding Hood” come to light.  The whole thing is traced back to a comatose woman with hair as black as ebony and skin as white as snow and her doctor father who’s been keeping her alive and reading her fairy tales as she lies in her unconscious state.  The ultimate theme is that of letting someone go and it connects back to a running plot for the season in which Dean made a deal with a demon in order to bring Sam back to life.  It’s an okay theme and it works well enough but it doesn’t gel quite so perfectly as the themes in the Buffy episodes did.

“Slumber Party” (S9, E4)- By this point, the Winchester brothers have moved into some sort of bunker that was used by the government to hunt demons back in the 1920s.  In order to figure out how to use one of the computers there, they call on their friend Charlie Bradbury played by geek icon Felicia Day.  While in the bunker, they discover a big green web.  When they cut it down, they discover it contains Dorothy who has been prisoner there along with the Wicked Witch for over 70 years.  And now, both of them are free.  The bulk of the episode focuses on the Winchesters, Dorothy and Charlie hunting the witch through the bunker.  Supernatural’s take on the Oz mythology is a bit strange.  Here, Oz is part of the faerie realm of Avalon.  Dorothy, who here looks like a female Indiana Jones, is the daughter of L. Frank Baum who investigated Oz ages ago and wrote the books as coded guide books for his daughter with hints in them as to how to survive Oz.  The episode provides a decent character arc for Felicia Day’s character of Charlie.  However, much of the Oz stuff is kind of meh.  There is really only the monster hunter version of Dorothy and the witch who can’t talk because Dorothy cut out her tongue.  You only get one brief glimpse of the real Oz through a doorway.  It’s really kind of Oz without Oz, which is honestly kind of boring.

Charmed (1998-2006)- What is there to say about Charmed?  It was a TV show produced by Aaron Spelling that starred three sisters who were witches called The Charmed Ones who used their magic to fight off evil witches and demons in San Francisco.  Unlike the other shows listed here, this one was much less horror and much more urban fantasy with a dash of modern paganism to make it interesting.  The show originally focused on the sisters Prue, Piper and Phoebe Halliwell but when actress Shannen Doherty who played Prue left the show the remaining sisters discovered they secretly had a half-sister named Paige that they never knew about (played by Rose McGowan who would later play the younger version of Regina’s mother on Once Upon a Time).  The show was popular and it lasted for a few seasons and even had spinoffs in the form of novels and comic books.  I remember liking the show when it first came out but I didn’t see it through to the end.  And naturally, they had a fairy tale episode.

“Happily Ever After” (S5, E3)- This episode is five seasons in, so a lot has happened to get to this point.  Prue is dead.  Paige is part of the group.  Phoebe is in the process of divorcing a demon husband.  And Piper has married her guardian angel Leo and is expecting their first child.  Anyway, Piper is staying up reading fairy tales to her unborn child when Paige comes in asking her why she’s reading those outdated old tales.  Piper responds that it’s because of their values.  We then cut to a mysterious castle where the Keeper of Fairy Tales is attacked and killed by the Evil Witch who was trapped in the magic mirror.  She then asks the mirror who the most powerful witches of all are, and it responds “The Charmed Ones”.  I’m not going to go into much further detail because it would require a lot of backstory, but a lot of it hinges on Piper essentially bringing her dead grandmother back to life to help her prepare for the baby.  The witch attacks the Charmed ones, essentially trapping them in situations from the stories.  For Phoebe, it’s Cinderella.  For Piper, it’s Little Red Riding Hood.  For Paige, it’s Snow White.  There are some fun/funny scenes, like when the Dwarfs show up to take care of Paige after she bites into a poisoned apple.  But what it really comes down to are the following character beats 1) Phoebe learning to trust again, seeing as her demon husband has messed with her head, 2) Paige accepting their Grams even though she already had a grandmother that she knew and loved in her adopted family, and 3) Piper taking back control of the situation after their grandmother’s arrival has her essentially falling back into a supporting role.  It was okay, not as good as the Supernatural one and nowhere near as good as the Buffy episodes.

So that’s it for the two-part look at “Scary Tale TV”.  I promise I’ll post about something different next week (even I’m getting a bit tired of this topic).  Though, I must say that while the Buffy episodes may be the best fairy tale episodes of a fantasy drama, they’re not necessarily my favorite.  However, I think I’ll save that for another time.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Scary Tale TV, part 1

It’s that time of year again.   There’s a distinctive chill in the air.  The witches gather ‘round their cauldrons.  Every shadow seems to hold some long forgotten ghost.  And the pumpkins just can’t seem to stop grinning.  Halloween will be on us once again before long.  
  Horror and fairy tales have often been associated with different demographics but they draw from common roots.  Both draw on folklore and both frequently tell stories of the strange and fantastic.  So, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that almost every horror/supernatural/urban fantasy TV show would have at least one episode that touches on fairy tale concepts and themes.  I’ve been wanting to post something spotlighting those odd episodes for a while now and here’s my chance!  And since I am who I am and this blog is often more retro than not, I thought I would start by focusing on kids’ horror properties from the 1990s!  Let’s begin:

Tales from the Cryptkeeper (1993-2000)- Tales from the Cryptkeeper was a CBS Saturday morning anthology horror show based on the very much adult-oriented HBO horror show Tales from the Crypt.  That show was in turn based on the chilling and gory EC Comics magazine from the ‘50s of the same name that probably shouldn’t have been made for kids, but they read it anyway.  Now that I’ve thoroughly confused you about what demographic this show was ostensibly aimed at, I’ll let you know a bit more about the show.  Every episode has one or two tales of terror in it.  All the episodes are introduced by the grotesque, pun-spouting Cryptkeeper with occasional interference from the Vault Keeper (originally the host of the comic The Vault of Horror) or the Old Witch (host of The Haunt of Fear).  There are three episodes of this show that have some degree of fairy tale theming.  Two of them use the same characters while the other is a stand alone.

“The Sleeping Beauty” (S1, E6)- This episode focuses on Prince Charming (real name: Chuck) and his horse Splendor (real name: Steve) as they venture through the dark, deadly forest to awaken Sleeping Beauty.  Along with them is Chuck’s nebbish, put-upon fraternal twin brother Melvin.  While Chuck seemed to have gotten the good looks in the family, Melvin got all the brains.  Most of the show deals with Charming/Chuck coasting through the adventure while making Melvin deal with all the hard stuff like facing the various monsters in their path.  This episode seems to revel in all the various gags made about fairy tale princes.  Chuck is vain, shallow, cowardly, self-absorbed and only seems to care about the princess’s looks.  And Melvin is the poor sap who has to put up with it all.  Needless to say, they do make it to Sleeping Beauty’s castle but there’s a bit of a twist in the works there.  A twist with a bit of a . . . bite (yeah, if you know some of the usual horror twists on “Sleeping Beauty” then you probably know what it is).

“The Brothers Gruff” (S2, E9)- This episode concerns a boy named Eddie Gruff who’s tired of being the lowest man on the totem pole in his family.  He always seems to get in trouble and it’s usually his big brother’s fault.  It doesn’t help that Eddie’s brother picks on him for believing in trolls, ogres and goblins.  The real trouble starts when Eddie is forced to cross a bridge he doesn’t want to cross because he’s convinced a troll is underneath it.  Just as he feared, the troll does follow him home but it’s not Eddie the troll wants.  This episode is not memorable so much for drawing on folklore but for ignoring a lot of folklore and just inventing a whole lot of its own monster lore.  This lore is communicated to Eddie through his friend Sheldon who “saw the movies, read the books, heard the stories”.  According to Sheldon, the only way to keep a troll from following you home is bathing in vinegar, wearing a tin foil hat and wearing your mother’s housecoat with the pockets stuffed with chalk.  And if you forget the chalk, then the troll can “smell your shadow”.  Then, when something smears strawberry jam on the ceiling and mashes all the food in the refrigerator, Sheldon claims it’s a text book case of a troll infestation.  It’s funny, with all that silliness you’d think something as simple and iconic as “turns to stone in daylight” might also make the cut.

“Chuck (and Melvin) and the Beanstalker” (S2, E12)- Chuck and Melvin are back at it.  Strangely, this episode acknowledges that they had gone into the deadly forest before but nothing else from the story, especially the ending.  This time, Chuck and Melvin are travelling but are running low on food.  So, they’re forced to make a deal with the mysterious Trader for some food.  Alas, they have to trade the horse Splendor for a bag of beans.  As can naturally be expected, a giant beanstalk is the result.  At the top of the beanstalk, Chuck quickly puts Melvin to work trying to steal a golden harp so he can trade it for some food.  The creepiest part of the story is how every creature in the giant’s castle is cyclopean.  The giant himself, his cat, the mouse that infests the walls.  They all have one big yellow eye.  However, the big twist is that the giant isn’t the real monster of the story.  The real monster is another giant creature called a Beanstalker.  Honestly though, it’s just kind of a different giant so the surprise is “meh”.  Technically speaking, this episode also has some perspective issues while in the giant’s castle.

Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1990-2000)- Are You Afraid of the Dark? was another horror anthology show for kids.  This time one originally from Canada but imported to air on Nickelodeon.  The set-up this time is that a group of kids calling themselves The Midnight Society meet in the woods at night to tell scary stories around a campfire.  Honestly, I like this premise because it calls back to the oral tradition, in a way.  It’s kind of strange how the last kind of story we still associate with the oral tradition is the ghost story.

“The Tale of the Final Wish” (S2, E1)- This episode starts off with the storyteller setting her fellow members of the  Midnight Society straight about how fairy tales were really darker and scarier than most people think.  They even reference some tales like “Faithful Johannes” and “Twelve Brothers”.  The tale itself concerns a girl named Jill who loves fairy tales even though her friends have long outgrown them.  After dealing with some grief from her brother, she clutches the book The Sandman and other Tales to her chest and wishes she could live in a fairy tale forever.  She goes to sleep and wakes up in the Land of Nod, where the Sandman rules and she’s told by the Sandman that she (and her sleeping friends and family) are trapped there forever so that she can live out her fairy tale forever.  As Jill tries to escape she does stumble on some other tales like Alice in Wonderland and “Hansel and Gretel”.  While an okay episode it has one specific problem.  Everything that the Midnight Society is talking about at the beginning sounds scarier and more interesting than what’s in the actual story.  And anyone who’s read E.T.A. Hoffmann knows there are scarier takes on the Sandman.  It’s understandable why this is, though.  There are some things you can’t show on children’s television.  But it really didn’t help that the Sandman was played by comedian Bobcat Goldthwait (think of the voice of Pain from Disney's Hercules).

“The Tale of the Pinball Wizard” (S1, E13)- I’m going to include this one even though it isn’t really fairy tale based.  There is a princess, witch and evil lord, though.  However, the true root of this episode’s fantasy themes is classic video games like The Legend of Zelda.  The story is about a kid who shirks his responsibilities to play pinball and when he finishes the game discovers that the whole mall has turned into a fantasy game like the one he was playing.  It’s a fun episode and a reminder that many of the elements in fairy tales cross over into other types of fantasy.  The episode does suffer from the unfortunate fact that it doesn’t seem to understand how pinball works, though.  The main character keeps talking about getting to the third level.  In pinball there are no levels, you just keep racking up points until you run out of balls to play with.

Monster in my Pocket (1989)- Monster in my Pocket was a popular toyline back in the ‘90s that featured figures of characters from folklore, myth and literary fantasy.  There were also trading cards, comic books and a TV pilot that was never picked up.  While the line had all sorts of witches, goblins and other assorted creatures in it, I thought you folks would be most interested in this one:
That’s right, it’s the Beast from “Beauty and the Beast”, looking very lion-ish and Cocteau-ian for a little purple toy.

Well, that’s it for now.  The TV shows I listed can be found on DVD in some countries and can be downloaded through some online sources (I know I got Are You Afraid of the Dark? off itunes).  But this isn’t the end.  We’re going to scale the age demographic up a little bit next week to look at episodes from a couple more shows.  Stay tuned.