Monday, January 13, 2014

Here There Be Dragons... Specifically Maleficent

While everybody still seems to have Frozen-fever, once Maleficent gets close to debuting in the theaters, I have no doubt we're going to see a lot of Sleeping Beauty emphasis, themes, products, marketing tie-ins and who knows what else. I'm actually looking forward to it, hoping they get creative and mine the tale in fresh ways and I don't care if it seems foolishly optimistic - I live in hope... ;)

We've seen the first poster and trailer - both of which have people ridiculously excited and as a taste of things to come, Walt Disney World have unveiled a steampunk Maleficent dragon that will be part of the spectacular new Festival of Fantasy Parade for Magic Kingdom this year. (Source)

(By the way: Steampunk + Disney = awesome! More please.)
Although Sleeping Beauty herself, named Aurora in the Disney film, is THE most passive of any princess or gonna-be-princess Disney has ever put on the big screen (argh!), I like many other things about this film. Apart from being an incredibly beautiful film - mostly due to Eyvind Earle's design contributions, Prince Philip is a hard-to-beat Prince, his horse Samson is just about perfect, Maleficent is both dark fairy and demon (and hard to beat for scariest villain ever), her raven is wonderful (her goons are not - they're ridiculous and hurt the film), the castle falling asleep is wonderful (and the best use of the ridiculous fairies), the original hundred year sleep is referenced as Maleficent mocks her captor, the thorn barrier is truly intimidating and awe-inspiring, the final battle is perfect (apart from the fairies, I think Philip would have done fine without them) AND Disney added physical transformation which is a stroke of genius.

Already intimidating Maleficent turns it up to 11 when she resorts to dragon form (I say "resorts" because it actually shows a measure of desperation on her part to pull out every last "big gun" she has against this hero. I'm always reminded of the GK Chesterton quote:

I love that this dragon is not only massive and awe-some (in the original sense of the word) but that kids will see this gigantic structure and quite possibly remember it for the rest of their lives (hopefully with positive associations). I remember seeing things as a kid that, because they were in front of me, made a huge impact whereas more incredible/technically better objects and characters were easier to dismiss if they were in books or on the TV. Take a look at some more close-ups. Although Disney has had giant Maleficent dragons in parades and displays before (the one at the link has been "retired"), this is something rather special looking (and possibly more real? Sometimes steampunk has that effect for some odd reason). You'll see this will be a pretty hard sight to top, especially if you're in the front row.

Pretty nice work, yes?

The Festival of Fantasy Parade is set to debut at Walt Disney World sometime in Spring (apparently, March 2014).

Though dragons in fairy tales aren't actually the norm (that's more a romantic medieval conceit and based around popular legends of St. George and the Dragon etc), evil women changing into serpents or other sinuous creatures are more common, so once Disney's Maleficent showed her inner-self, dragons became more popular as fairy tale staples too. It's a little example of how society's view of fairy tales changes with pop culture by the way, something that's about to be reinforced big time in 2014.

Fairy tale bonus of the day: "Philip's trophy"
Unique commission by Dan Reeder
Although I'm anti-hunting, and therefore trophies, I did see this and think it was something that might have happened in the era Disney's version was set in (it helps that it's papier maché, of course). Pretty cool and besides, being magic, I'm not convinced she's as dead as she appears. Fairy tales forever have heads being reattached and forms restored - usually good people and creatures but sometimes bad one s too... And by bringing a whole head into his house philip might just be asking for trouble (and a sequel) because, well, there's a lot a head can do, even all by itself.. ;)

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