Thursday, August 31, 2017

PSA: Our Fairy Tale Newsroom's 2017 Summer Operating Schedule

Just a brief notice to let our regulars know that our Fairy Tale Newsroom will be open but not running at full capacity for the next little while.

Never fear: we will still post regularly during the week -as we can manage- from various locations.

We will resume our mostly-daily-or-more postings as soon as we all return to the OUABlog Headquarters, and our Fairy Tale News Hound is back in the office fulltime, for the per diem routine of news sourcing, sorting, researching and reporting (which we expect to coincide with the new school year/next semester commencement in late August... -ish).

Please note: Answering mail, however, is likely to be more delayed than usual.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Pixar's New Untitled 'Suburban Fantasy World' Movie Will Have Elves & Trolls& Sprites in Surburbia

Image from presentation at D23 2017
At D23, the Disney fan convention, director of Monsters University, Dan Scanlon, came on stage to make a surprise announcement about a new, personal movie he's directing for Pixar. Currently untitled, it's described as being set in a 'Suburban Fantasy World'.

From movie web:
Rip Van Winkle by Mike Ploog
According to Scanlon, who lost his father at a very young age, the movie is inspired by the question he's always asked: 'Who was my father?' The story is set in a world with no humans, only elves, trolls and sprites... Scanlon went on to give a brief synopsis of the untitled animated movie that will fit right in with the tears that Pixar is so famous for. He explains this. 
 "In the film, we're going to tell the story of two teenage elf brothers whose father died when they were too young to remember him. But thanks to the little magic still left in the world, the boys embark on a quest that will allow them a chance to spend one last magical day with their father."
Bruce Pennington
(Additional quote via MTV): "The story takes place in a modern fantasy world where there once was magic — real magic — but it was hard to do and complicated to learn, so people just lost interest. In this world, a mix of "the fantastical and the everyday," humans don't exist. There are only elves, trolls, and sprites — or "anything that would be on the side of a van in the '70s," the director said. Oh, and unicorns are everywhere. They roam the streets of this modern, magical suburbia like rodents." 
(Emphasis in bold by OUABlog - because that looks like the style you can expect to see, sort of like 'The Night Begins To Shine' special event beginning August 1st, on the Teen Titans Go series, which albeit leaning more toward 80's than 70s, taps the same nostalgic vein.)
One of the more family friendly 70s van art images found via google (no credit given for the photo)
The homes on the street are apparently going to be Mushroom houses much like the Smurfs, but set in a modern time where there are satellite dishes sticking out of the roofs. Magical and majestic unicorns will be seen digging through the garbage much like a possum or raccoon. No release date has been set for the untitled movie, but it certainly does sound like a very Pixar affair, balancing the absurd with the heartbreakingly realistic portrayals of life even if the lives are those of troll, sprites, and elves that live in mushroom houses surrounded by magic.
Also - according to the D23 image - there will be dragons. We approve. Always good to remind heroes of how crunchy they can be.

Assuming the Pixar powers-that-be and associated creatives are accessing their childlike, nostalgic sides more than anything else though, it's likely we can expect an adventurous and humorous romp through Lord of the Rings-meets-D&D-in-suburbia, (or Stranger Things for kids), along with some heart-wrenching, family/origin story threads, designed to have us muttering about something in our eyes. 

In other words: bring it on.

What do you think? Are you intrigued? What do you think the potential is for a contemporary fairy tale-type story here? What troll, elf and sprite tropes (or lore) do you think Pixar will tap, if any?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Del Toro's 'The Shape of Water' is an Other-Worldly Fairy Tale

Poster by James Jean
“If I told you about her — the princess without a voice — what would I say?”
(Opening narration from the trailer)

So begins a very different exploration of a princess, and of a mer (not maid but) man. Set in the Cold War era of 1963, we're taken to the world of a mute and lonely cleaning woman of a high-security government lab, who discovers a top-secret experiment: an “aquatic man”, destined to be experimented on. The discovery - and he - change her life forever.

It sounds sci-fi/ monster-movie-ish: where is the fairy tale aspect? (we hear you ask...) Take a look at the trailer and see. There's something undeniably fairy tale about the way this story is told, and it's not just the strong styling. Clearly Guillermo del Toro is exploring a number of fairy tale themes here:
The mythology teases are tantalizing: All we know is that the creature was revered in the Amazon as a god but somehow ended up under U.S. government control. (Collider)
It seems not a whole lot is known about the synopsis other than what is shown in the trailer. From the initial pitch by del Toro and footage here, we could be looking at plot, or dreams, or both. The use of art as a medium within the film for storytelling is intriguing as well. Recalling shades of The Creature From the Black Lagoon and Night of the Hunter, both of which do have a fairy tale slant to them. Whatever the case, the mousey little woman finds her 'voice' and a strength it's unlikely anyone, including she, knew she had. 
Abe? Is that you?
And that appears to be where this 'other-worldy fairy tale', as it is officially described, begins. 

You may consider our curiosity piqued.
Fox Searchlight has given “The Shape of Water” an awards season release date of Dec. 8.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

D23 Unveils Details on Disney's 'Nutcracker & the Four Realms'

People seem to be very excited about the details of Disney's live action 'The Nutcracker and the Four Realms' that have been revealed at the D23 convention this past week. No visuals, other than the title card have been released to the public yet but we're told by all fans who've seen it that "it's beautiful! - at least as beautiful as Beauty and the Beast", and there is a little intriguing information about the synopsis we can share.

(In case you missed it, you can catch up on everything we've known about this movie to date HERE so you can read the following with more context.)

Gennady Spirin's illustration of the Mouse King for The Nutcracker
From the Disney's Inside The Magic report:
The film will star Keira Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fairy, along with Morgan Freeman, and Helen Mirren. It’s a re-imagining of the classic story – a cross between Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast and Fantasia with a bit of a Narnia vibe. 
The film largely takes place in a strange and mysterious parallel world—home to Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers and Land of Sweets. But it’s the ominous Fourth Realm where Clara must take on a tyrant called Mother Ginger as well as a gang of mice who’ve stolen a coveted key from Clara. 
“The Mouse King is made up of thousands of mice—a cutting-edge CG creation. But we wanted him to move in a way that would be wonderfully surprising and incredibly cool, so we called on Lil Buck to provide the style of dance that defines the character. (InsideTheMagic)
The glaring omission from this report (!) is that the ABT's Principal Ballerina, Misty Copeland, will also star and be dancing in the film, not to mention that she will be THE reason many people go to see this film.

Speaking of dance, the style showcased by Lil Buck for the Mouse King's motion style, is called 'jookin' and is basically a contemporary cross between pop-n-lock and breakdance.

Here's a little more information on the actual realms from EW:
Bailey also elaborated on the four realms that Clara visits during her magical Christmas Eve adventure: The Land of Flowers, attended by Eugenio Derbez’s Hawthorn; The Land of Snowflakes, lorded over by Richard E. Grant’s Shiver; the Land of Sweets, dominated by Knightley’s Sugar Plum Fairy; and the fourth realm, belonging to the villainous Mother Ginger, played by Mirren.
Lil Buck showcasing his 'jookin' at D23 2017
The movie is (still) reportedly inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic tale (he is credited with the story, while Ashleigh Powell is credited with the screenplay) but the influence of the popular revisions and ballet variations are clearly very influential as well. That said, with this being a 'darker version of the Nutcracker story' (as reported by various posts by D23 attendees) hopefully we'll see some of Hoffman's original touch - and his wonderful character of Marie, who is much less delicate than the now-traditional Clara - in there. (We highly recommend the NPR article which interviews Professor Zipes on the story HERE, and discusses Hoffman's original and how the story became watered down.)

'Nutcracker' finished filming in January this year (2017) and is currently in post-production release date for this movie has been bumped up to November 2, 2018, meaning Disney's live action 'Mulan' will be re-slated for a later debut, possibly 2019, as the Christmas/Holiday 2018 slot is set for 'Mary Poppins Returns'.

With SDCC (San Diego ComiCon) in full swing this week we should start to see some visuals released very soon, so stay tuned.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

GKids Studio Ghibli Fest 2017!

In case you're not aware of it's slid under your radar, don't forget GKids current Studio Ghibli Fest, showing classic Studio Ghibli films in theaters around the US during 2017! 

Studio Ghibli is known for their children's fairy tale/ fantasy films that do, indeed, fit our genre very well. The storytelling is different to Western fairy tales, of course, but is still very accessible to kids of all ages and highly recommended.

You may think: "But I've seen all these, more than once. What's the point?" The answer is that the experience is entirely different on the big screen  - an opportunity that comes along quite rarely - and worth the price of entry.

The showings take place over two days: the first day with English dubbing and the second day with Japanese audio and English subtitles. (We recommend viewing with the original audio and subtitles! It makes a huge difference and both kids who can read and those who can't love the original audio versions too.)
We took the Fairy Tale News Room Little League to go watch 'My Neighbor Totoro' (in Japanese with English subtitles), at the end of June, and are more convinced than ever that this should be considered a fairy tale film and a must-see for children the globe over. All the kids knew the movie so well they thought they'd be bored seeing 'this little kids movie', but came out proclaiming this movie "the best ever!" and back on top of their favorites list ("...the Japanese version!").

Other films coming up are: 
Kiki's Delivery Service - July 23, 24
(If you haven't seen this lovely, magical film, do yourself and kids you know a favor and go see it)
Castle in the Sky - August 27, 28
(A robot in a fairy tale? Yep. Expect to fall in love with him...)
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind - September 24, 25
(a wonderful eco-sci-fi-fairy tale kids love)
Spirited Away - October 29, 30
(perfect for uplifting Halloween viewing!)
Howl's Moving Castle - November 26, 27
(with Miyazaki's version of Baba Yaga's hut - sort of.)

See you at the movies!

Friday, July 14, 2017

'Mary and The Witch's Flower' Opens in Japan to Great Acclaim & Thumbs Up by Miyazaki

You may not have heard of this new film that has a serious Studio Ghibli vibe, but take a look at why you want this one on your radar!
We've included the three trailers so you can see a range of the goodies awaiting - all three are worth watching for a different perspective on the film:
'Mary and The Witch's Flower' is based on the 1971 English children's novel by Mary Stewart (yes, that Mary Stewart!), 'The Little Broomstick' and is considered a simple 'proto-Harry Potter' type of story. The movie itself shows a lot of Ghibli-like magic, style and Miyazaki-ish imagination, even as it pays close attention to it's source material.
The story is based off a very short novel. The greatest strength of the original story was its vivid and lyrical descriptions, making the world it takes place in feel very tangible despite the brevity of its plot. This same quality is on display in the film, too, which succeeds more because of its attention to detail than anything else. Even brief asides in the novel like “The little broomstick gave a leap, a violent twist, a kick like the kick of a pony” are faithfully recreated in visual form. (Animenewsnetwork)
Here's a brief introduction to the novel, taken from a non-spoilery review:
‘Nothing, thought Mary, nothing could ever happen here’ ‘Everywhere was damp, and decay, and the end of summer’; but then a small black green-eyed cat appears, and adventure and magic begin.
The cat leads Mary to a clump of unusual purple flowers that she shows to Zebedee the gardener at Red Manor, who names both the cat (Tib) and the blooms (fly-by-night). Zebedee also tells Mary of the folklore surrounding the flower , including: ‘And ’tis said that in the olden days the witches sought her [the flower] from the corners of the Black Mountains, and from the place where the old city was and there’s now naught but a pool o’ water’.
...While sweeping up leaves with a small broom, Mary accidentally smears the broom in the juice of a fly-by-night flower. Immediately, ‘the little broomstick gave a leap, a violent twist, a kick like the kick of a pony’ and Mary and Tib are transported by flying broomstick to Endor College, school of witchcraft. Endor is no Hogwarts: Madam Mumblechook believes that Mary has come to enrol at the school to learn skills such as ‘Turning milk sour, blighting turnips, making the cows go dry’. The ill-wishing of the spells is underlined by the sourness of the rhymes used in the spells: nursery-rhymes that ‘slipped somehow, so that the result was not ordinary, or even nice at all.’ But then Mary makes a sinister discovery about animals that have been ‘transformed’ and begins to wonder if she will be allowed to leave Endor. She does manage to return to Red Manor, only to find that the cat Tib has been kept captive at the College. 
True to the spirit of a Mary Stewart heroine, Mary decides to go back to rescue Tib, which leads to further adventure and dangers as Mary releases all of the animals, breaks the transformation spell and flees Endor College. (extracted from a review at MaryStewartReading)

We recommend reading the whole review for a good overview of the book and it's themes in context of today. What Studio Ponoc does with those themes and ideas, we've yet to see, of course, but it's intriguing to have this as background.

The new studio producing 'Mary and The Witch's Flower', Studio Ponoc, is being considered "the new Studio Ghibli" - or, more accurately "Studio Ghibli 2.0". 

As Miyazaki slips out of retirement (for the sixth?? time) to finish another short film, 'Boro the Caterpillar' for the exclusive Ghibli Museum theater presentations, it's clear that even with blessed longevity, he can't keep un-retiring forever, and speculation mounts as to 'who will be the new Miyazaki?'. (Answer: no one!)

Director of 'Mary and The Witch's Flower'Hiromasa Yonebayashi (director of 'Arriety' and 'When Marnie Was There') is considered a protegé of Miyazaki with this being his third feature film (and his first since leaving Studio Ghibli). Miyazaki - a notoriously critical director - has officially given it his thumbs-up, which is a huge deal. While no one will ever 'do Miyazaki like Miyazaki', Yonebayashi is certain to do his legacy proud at the very least and we can look forward to more of this unique type of storytelling and animation magic in the future.

Distribution update from Crunchyroll on July 13, 2017:
After a modest opening in theaters in Japan on July 08, 2017, Mary and the Witch's Flower will be casting its spell with an expanded theatrical release that will include some 155 territories worldwide, including the United States, England, France, Australia, China, and South Korea. The film will also see distribution in South America, Africa, and the Middle East.
Yes! We are doubly-excited now!

Monday, July 10, 2017

If Picasso & Other Modernist Painters Retold Red Riding Hood

Jean Ache, (born Jean Huet 1923-1985) was greatly admired in France (and beyond) for his wide ranging cartoonist and animation work, as well as his 'one off' cartoons, published in the periodical Pilote. While generally realist in his comic style some of these 'one-offs' took unusual and unexpected forms.

One of these was Huet's wonderful Little Red Riding Hood series, created in 1974. It included seven re-imaginings of the tale, in the style of seven modernist painters.

It's best just to look, appreciate and enjoy. We suspect you're familiar enough with the tale that the few untranslated French words won't be a problem...

Click on the images to view them full size.

After Georgio de Chirico:

After Joan Miró:

What a brilliant way to combine tale telling, narrative form, art elements and art history and to inspire a new generation of artists and storytellers!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Google Translate Sings 'Aesthetic & the Animals' (aka B&tB) aka the importance of good translation!

Ah Google Translate! Where would researchers and far flung friends and colleagues be without you? Performer Malinda Kathleen Reese gave us a glimpse of what non-English speaking folks, trying to translate tales and lyrics via Google Translate, might be 'hearing' instead...
This is a bit of (very well done) fun, of course, but it illustrates wonderfully why, when studying tales translated to English from other languages, you should be aware of the translator and how accurate they're considered to be, or (if you're lucky and have their notes) why they chose to use certain words and phrases instead of the more obvious ones... for instance the ones the Google Translate might suggest. ;)
One of the difficulties in translating to English is that it's a very imprecise language and definitions are constantly evolving, because social and popular meaning changes. And that's only half of the equation. The other is the original language and its quirks. If you've ever dabbled in languages with even minor translation endeavors, you quickly learned that there is rarely a 'correct' way to translate  - except that the guaranteed 'wrong way' is to try the word-for-word method - and that it's more of an art form than a science of substituting equal meanings.

You have to take into account:
  • the words and what they specifically mean (and their equivalent in the language you're translating too)
  • what the words also imply (the subtext of using that specific word instead of similar ones), which is influenced by...
  • the context at the time - and place - of writing
  • all of which usually has a 'tone' and style
(A very small selection of recommended books of translated tales with lots of great notes!)

And that doesn't include:
  • storytelling style - which is very important in translating tales
  • cultural expressions, idioms, similes and metaphors
  • those words that have no English equivalent
(And there are more factors too that a qualified folklorist or professional translator could discuss at length, but you get the idea.)

When you take these into account, even retelling old tales originally written in English can prove tricky..!

Speaking of untranslatable words, can you imagine a retelling of Rapunzel, in which these words - wonderfully illustrated  by Marija Tiurina - are used? (Click on the images to see full size.)

And what about this one for Riquet of the Tuft?

You can find a lovely bunch of many more 'untranslatable words', that have been wonderfully illustrated HERE.

It's a pretty fascinating subject and we're a little in awe of people who translate tales and other creative and social works (not to mention those who facilitate United Nations negotiations!). Be prepared for a fun ride down a rabbit hole if you decide to look into this subject further!

(Note: our suggestion, if you don't want a world of instant-overwhelm, would be to start with annotated tales, and tale collections in which the translators include their notes on the story origins, collection and translation process, sometimes summarized in a foreword on each of the stories. Be prepared to never read anything quite the same way again!)

And just because these are a lot of fun, here's Malinda's latest Google Translate Sings video with a compilation of Mary Poppins songs. Enjoy!
Want more? Malinda has a bunch of princess songs too, in which she sings the original and has a 'sing-off' with the google translate version. Funny stuff!