Friday, February 28, 2014

'Descendants' Movie Mirrors 'Ever After High' (We Hope...)

It would appear that the profitable 'Ever After High pie' has Disney drooling for a piece of their own.

Enter the 'Original Disney Movie, Descendants'. The show's development has certainly been boosted by the high anticipation surrounding the live action Maleficent as well. Clearly, the trend of villain stories and anti-heroes isn't going away any time soon for Disney. While it's been in development for a few months already (it was announced in December, I believe), we now have a release window and format: it's heading straight to Disney Channel, in live action form, and is set to air sometime during 2015.
The Descendants is going to be Disney's original movie that will feature the now teenage children of the heroes and (more specifically the) villains. 
Beast and Belle (of Beauty and The Beast) rule over an "idyllic kingdom" with a son of their own, who's waiting to take over the throne, according to Entertainment Weekly. In his first proclamation, the young prince looks to give some redemption to his not-so-well-behaved classmates Carlos (son of 101 Dalmatians' Cruella De Vil), Mal, (child of Sleeping Beauty's Maleficent), Evvie (daughter of Snow White's the Evil Queen) and Jay (son of Aladdin's Jafar).They all attend the kingdom's prep school with offspring of other Disney favorites like The Fairy Godmother (from Cinderella), Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and Mulan.  

The children of Disney's villains are about to face a dilemma of whether to take the evil steps laid out by their parents or to follow the goodness in their hearts.
The famous High School Musical director will be directing Disney Movie Descendants with the script written by Josann McGibbon and Sara Parriott (The Starter Wife, Runaway Bride). Mark Hofeling, another High School Musical veteran will be in charge of the production design for the Disney movie "Descendants."

Disney Channel, despite some decent animation series in their offerings, doesn't have as stellar a track record with it's live action shows, other than High School Musical. Despite the credits of those involved being noteworthy, I still have my doubts about this. My guess is, if the movie does well, it may have the option to branch into a series.

The movie's redeeming factor - and the one thing that will set it apart - is that it will be focusing on the Disney VILLAINS' offspring, rather than all the possible offspring. It has good potential using this emphasis, but I'm very leery of the live action approach in comparison to the other Disney live action shows. Kitsch is just too easy a trap to fall into with whatever formula it is they use, but we'll see. Hopefully we'll be pleasantly surprised.

But why, do you ask, am I hoping that Descendants will mirror Ever After High? (At least, in some respects.)

Far from first impressions, Ever After High is, to coin a phrase from critics of The Lego Movie*, "far better than it has any right to be". Seriously. The designs are crazy-girly, the animation has a lot of flash bopping about but the characters, their development, the writing and the story lines are ridiculously good. Even the designs have far more to them than first looks imply. It's yet another one of those things I've been dismissing, only bothering to give it another look because respected fairy tale author, Shannon Hale's name remains attached.

I'm really glad I did.

Here's the premise (from Wikipedia), in case you have no idea what I'm talking about:
The Ever After High storyline is based on the lives of the teen children of famous fairytale characters who are destined to follow in their parents’ footsteps in order keep their stories alive through the generations. If they do not, these stories will cease to exist and the characters will disappear. 
The main characters are Raven Queen (daughter of the Evil Queen), who is unhappy with her destiny, and Apple White (daughter of Snow White), who is destined to "live happily ever after." Raven would prefer to create a new destiny for herself, while Apple White believes that if Raven changes her own story. this will put her own "happily ever after" in jeopardy. The school gets divided into "Royals and Rebels". The Royals are supporters of Apple who also know they will have a "happily ever after" and are content (even enthusiastic) with their fates. The Rebels are supporters of Raven who prefer the idea of creating their own destinies. Many disagreements and fights result between the groups.

When I finally took the time to have a proper look, I was truly surprised that something so 'fluffy looking' had so much real fairy tale soul. In fact, I would bet that there are a LOT of fairy tale references in the dialog, plots and designs that are completely missed by those not up on their slightly-more-obscure fairy tales reading. And I LOVE that! For the EAH fandom (which is growing fast) who are really getting into the characters (and they really are!) there's always more to mine and if you take time to peruse the EAH fandom Tumblrs you see the discussions border on 'Buffyverse depth' at times (if you're not Buffy-savvy, that means it's a good thing).

The fandom are getting into the ideas so much they're looking up the 'original' tales for themselves so they can better speculate motivations, among other things, and discovering other lesser known tales they'd like to see explored as well. Here's an example in 'Ever After High Confessions' format:
I want a child of the princess and the pea, and I want them to either have insomnia or be a sleep walker. I feel like it’d work with the princess and the peas story line.You could even make that character constantly worried that because of his/her insomnia or sleep walking, they won’t be able to follow their parents story right. It’d be a super intense storyline. I’d LOVE IT! (Source)
HERE's my original post about the toy line and series before it premiered. You may notice the bit about "is it 'scarier' than Monster High?', meaning, are little girls everywhere in for another disturbing dose of pop-sexism? Surprisingly, the answer is 'no, they're not'. In fact, those 'out there' concerns, commented on by Tumblr people when they heard the announcement of the dolls (eg, "...this is giving me some serious NO REALLY THIS IS F***ING DISTURBING feelings regarding fate and free will and the fact that some of these kids are expected to have no choice beyond ultimately dying in unbelievably gruesome ways..." ), are specifically being addressed - smartly! - by the writing. And all this effort is primarily for A TOY LINE.
Clearly, someone understands just how influential dolls can be and has chosen to not only give them what they think they want (sparkle, girly, glitter, pink, SHOES!), but dose it liberally with real issues and embed it with some meaty tale explorations.

Thank you Ms. Hale!!

I discovered this by realizing I hadn't really given the series the time of day and that Ms. Hale's work deserved better attention than that so set up the Ever After High Valentine's Day special to record as a reminder. Cleaning out the DVR last week I let the special run while I was doing other things "just in case there was anything worth noticing, fairy-tale-wise". Boy was there ever! I went back to watch the whole thing without distractions and, although I couldn't stop wincing at the over-the-top sparkly-curlicue designs (and the thinness - although they are not as thin as the Monster High dolls - and the crazy high shoes) I was amazed at how layered it was.

How they/Ms. Hale, struck this balance, I have no idea. It feels as ridiculous on the surface as the 'pinkest' shows out there (I know, you know what I mean) and yet... we have a truly girl-empowering show (and - surprise - boys too!) that sneaks in really solid fairy tale motifs, themes, plot lines and archetypes with many a modern twist. While 'choose your own destiny' seems like a simple enough premise at first, the Ever After High treatment of the (very large) topic has more gravitas than much of what I've seen come out of Once Upon A Time on the same theme.

Take, for instance, the True Hearts Day special, in which Valentine's Day celebrations have been banned because of the danger that the kids might consider people other than their 'destined partners' as potential mates. This all comes across as 'our fun party has been sabotaged by the meanie school principal' but you look closer and realize a key antagonizer in this episode is Odile, the 'false', black swan from Swan Lake and you start to get an idea of the layering.

At the end:
 (highlight the space below to read the text)
The kids are able to give their (physical) valentine tree hearts to the person of their choice and while it's completely expected that Cinderella's daughter (Ashlynn), who is in love with a 'rebel' (the Huntsman) instead of her destined Prince Charming, finally gets the courage to stand up to her friends and choose him no matter what their response will be, the surprise is that Apple White (Snow White's daughter, who has a serious problem with the Evil Queen wanting her own destiny instead of ending up Evil and thus guaranteeing Apple's preferred happy ending) gives HER valentine heart to her friend, Cinderella, saying "although I don't always agree with your choices, it doesn't mean you're not still my friend."
Gasp! I did not see that coming. Nicely done, Ms. Hale!

(Once again), I feel embarrassed by my initial dismissal of the show but even if it's too sparkly for your taste to sit through, you can be comforted in knowing that any girls (and boys) watching, will be getting good content. REALLY good content. And that the main things the girls buying these dolls are thinking about are not so much fashion and make-up but the issues of free will, destiny, responsibility and choice.

If you'd like to read more, you can currently get ebook samplings of the writing for free for the Kindle HERE by downloading various character stories (one link hooks you up to the others. There are six different character stories available for free download. To catch up you can watch the webisodes (which have already aired on TV) HERE (note: as girly as it looks, you may want to pay close attention to the various designs used. There's been a lot of research and thought about story going into all that as well), and, as of this week, you can also read the first two chapters of the second Ever After High novel, The Unfairest of Them All, for free on your Kindle HERE (the whole novel will be released on March 23rd).

Whether or not Descendants has any of the same type of substance as Ever After High has proven to have, remains to be seen, but we are hopeful... After all, once you start taking a closer look, fairy tales are rarely as dismissible as people are led to believe.

Additional source: HERE

*If you haven't yet seen The Lego Movie - see it. It has mythic aspects to it and is a wonderful, affirming ride to the land of make-believe.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Ask Baba Yaga: When My Drive to Succeed Is Waning, How Do I Get Back on the Horse?

Baba Yaga by Vania Zouravliov
Try, try and ride again? Or change horses mid-race? It's a question that plagues many of us. Especially those who are involved in creative endeavors, relationships, have work responsibilities.. ok, so pretty much everyone. But what to do? Apparently Baba Yaga knows our inner horses too...*

This week's question and answer (via poet and oracle Taisia Kitaiskaia* of The Hairpin):
(Originally posted at The Hairpin HERE)

A drunken horse, laughing it up with horse friends? No wonder getting back on is such a trial! Apparently my horse is just tired (aka burnt out), needs to express some foolery (aka 'ass-ery') and get the angst out of its system before it can keep going forward. And by 'it', I obviously mean 'I'. 

This explains so very much. (And I think that's the second time in a week I've admitted to being guilty of some sort of 'umption' too. Hm.)

What do you think of Baba Yaga's advice?

Want to ask Baba Yaga a question of your own?
You can!
There's now an email address where you can send your questions
directly to Baba Yaga herself.
AskBabaYaga AT gmail DOT com
To encourage Baba Yaga to continue imparting her no-bones-about-it wisdom (ok, there may be some gristle in there... bones too), I suggest we not to leave her box empty... 

Thank you Baba Yaga (& Taisia).

Taisia Kitaiskaia is a poet, writer, and Michener Center for Writers fellow. Born in Russia and raised in America, she's had her poems and translations published in Narrative Magazine, Poetry International, and others.

Housekeeping & Getting to the Red Heart of Papercuts

Queen of Hearts & Card Army - out of real cards by Rei_Areaaaaaaa
I've been doing a little blog-housekeeping, checking links (the Pinterest one is now fixed!) and trying to catch up on archiving the stories on the Pinterest Fairy Tale News Headline boards. Although I'm not there yet, I'm getting close to completing the archiving for last year and the plan is to get to the rest as soon as possible so I can post fairy tale headlines there again on a daily basis.

In the meantime, since there's a whole heap of stuff happening here that doesn't result in any reading for you, and I'm resisting the urge to play rather than work, here's The Queen of Hearts, made out of cards. (Sorry -the only info on the artist is the identity above that I linked to.)

(Let the puns begin!)

I particularly like a brief exchange on Reddit regarding them:
Human_Sandwich: Very nice. How did you learn how to do that? Are you into origami? 
Superplayah: As an origami artist, you are refering to our much hated brethren, the kirigami artists. For centuries we have battled with them, and to our dismay, their scissors and x-acto knifes cut through our creations too well. Eventually the origami artists figured out how to turn the tides of the ever raging war by making modular origami that could have any damaged pieces replaced by an equally capable piece. People that disagreed with the conflict left their respective warring nations and founded their own bastard of a nation where origami artists place minor cuts into creations to achieve greater detail and kirigami artists make strangely shaped papers to create even stranger pieces. We called them abominations, disliked and rejected by purists of both sides. They preach that greater detail and freedom results from their style of art but it is only a ruse to corrupt purists and gain support. Only one side can win and it is only a matter of time before the war ends and we see who the real gods of paper are! 
LegacyCrono: But everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked 
MrPaperchips: I'm going to bet on the side that has the knives.
Wow - beware the paper cut! This scenario sounds like it would fit right in the book actually.

More news very soon. :)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Fearless Folkloric Foxes: Mining the Unexpected Mythic in (Assumedly) Ridiculous Pop Culture (& You Know What They Say About Assume...)

Norwegian folk art - and tricksters - have gone mainstream.

First of all: I did NOT EVER expect to give the source of this a second thought but it turns out, a ridiculous, bizarre, annoying and hugely successful viral internet music video has produced a stunning folkloric work that's unbelievably mythic. (If you've seen some of the the text and are thinking "whaaa...?", just keep reading and concentrate on the artwork.)

The source I'm talking about, if you're still in the dark on this one, is the bizarre/nonsense music video by Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis, "What Does the Fox Say?" (link takes you to the video). Turns out, even before the video went viral with its bear and squirrel costumes, that they had plans to produce a beautiful and mythic work of home grown folk art in children's book form, to be released in the wake of an "intentionally bad" song (their words). They even had an illustrator in mind, Svein Nyhus, a very famous Norwegian author and illustrator, and approached him about the project but he was very busy with other priority deadlines and the timing just didn't appear to be good.

While the song was supposed to be a quick way to draw annoying, but also amusing, attention to the pair and their talk show, what they didn't count on was just how popular their "bad song" was going to get (well over 300 million YouTube hits to date), or just how many dollars from the viral success of their video produced, making for a hit on the song alone. To quote the duo: "It's just so stupid. But stupid dollars are the same as smart dollars." As the YouTube hits started stacking up, Nyhus (the illustrator) called them back and agreed to take on the task of illustrating the, er, "text".

And now they also have a gorgeous book, which is not only a #1 NYT best selling children's book but also sold out on its first day on It's also been rumored as being under consideration for Children's Book of the Year (unconfirmed). The book is hardcover, 32 full color pages and only contain the lyrics - no other story, but then, that's where you get to write your own... ;)

You can read a full color PDF version right HERE. (Highly recommended - although, you'll likely want to go grab a print copy too. Just a heads-up.)

I'll admit I was completely taken by surprise by the beautiful (stunning!) folk art the book contains, making me look at this pop-culture "phenom-sense" with a whole new set of eyes. (I never could figure out if the song was supposed to be silly and whimsical or sneakily subversive. Perhaps it's both!) However I felt about the music video, I was immediately and irresistibly drawn to the book.

While the comedy duo clearly meant their music and video to be a ridiculous stunt, it would seem that  - at least initially - they unintentionally tapped into their mythic roots and translated them playfully for pop culture - no skin off their nose if it didn't take. But it did take, showing that people - MANY people - had a positive and playful gut resonant response to the video images, even they couldn't explain, which in turn proved the importance of playful nonsense. It's this very trickster-like mentality that is reaffirmed in the excellent illustrations. In fact the whole presentation of the book tends to bring the mythic aspect to the forefront - and it's blowing people away (in a good way!).

I admit to having some shame now, for dismissing something so ridiculous, even though, somehow, it appeared to be resonating with hundreds of millions of people; and that's without/before the filter of the artwork, even if it was only on a playful level. Although I consider myself more open to pop culture and children's odd obsessions and trends than many, I have to wonder: did I dismiss this disguised trickster and the power of nonsense due to some unrealized snobbery (and ass-umption) on my part?! It certainly appears that way, and I almost missed out on something amazing as a result. Shame on me! I have some serious reassessing to do...

That said, I still can't handle repeat views of the video. The book, however, has me wanting to put the pages on display.

Someone else made a different connection with the book as well. Though my own revelation took me down forests paths of fox myth-masks and trickster stories, this person stumbled on a darker side to the images which I found fascinating. Here's the comment the person who uploaded this video (book images to a very different soundtrack) added:
DISCLAIMER: THIS VIDEO NOT INTENDED TO BE LISTENED TO BY CHILDREN - I had discovered that "The Fox" by Ylvis was so mainstream that a children's book was to be made featuring the lyrics of the hit song. Upon viewing the illustrations I was reminded of something eerie... something not native to Earth. If you're familiar with John Carpenter's "The Thing", just look at the illustrations and compare the Fox with the alien.(Basically I was almost passed out one night while on a website chatting with people when I saw this book while "The Thing" theme happened to be playing. Needless to say, it creeped the hell out of me. Crazy Swedes.)
Have any of you been treasuring this book on your shelves, secretly worried that you'll be outed? You can breathe a sigh of relief now.
This book is "mythic approved".
Additional sources: HERE, HERE & HERE

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Is the Bloom Off 'Beauty's Rose?

Beast concept design by Patrick Tatopoulos
This is just a heads-up here really: while Gans' Beauty and the Beast premiered to rave reviews in Paris, the ones following haven't been quite as flattering overall. In fact the star rating is trending toward the low side. (Oh no!)

While the visuals are continuously applauded in terms of grandeur and fairy tale quality the main two criticisms are:
Beast reference head (not final hair)
Design by Patrick Tatopoulos
1) the audience for the film isn't clear - you'd think 'family' but there are some decidedly-not family elements to it, yet it plays down the smarts when you think it would get gutsier for an adult audience and is clearly adding elements for children (like the giant-eyed dog-morph things). 
2) the relationship between Beauty and the Beast just doesn't have the necessary gravitas, or bite, needed to make us believe it happened; their relationship having no comparison to the Beast's previous one with his wife. While you might think the furry-CG meld of a beast might be the issue it's not Cassel who's being criticized but Seydoux. She is criticized as coming across somewhat cold and stand-offish, with her falling in love with the Beast failing to be believable, although critics hasten to add she doesn't have a lot of choice in the material given her. (Oh dear.)
And these two points are the criticisms that keep surfacing, no matter where or whom is writing the reviews now.

Beast concept design by Patrick Tatopoulos

I'll admit, I've been reading all I can to find out critic responses and to hunt down any news of a US/UK release date (sorry - nothing yet) so after reading this over and over, I'll admit my fervor to see the film has cooled slightly.

So very pretty but lacking substance, seems to be the upshot on this one. I'm still waiting for reviewers I'm more familiar with to chime in but it would seem to be prudent to, for instance, not spend your life savings on a ticket to Paris just to go see the film... (Just saying. ;) )

I still want to see it though, very much, and I'm still looking forward to it. I'm just going to be lowering my expectations for when I do.

Great Promo for Wicked Return of OUAT! If Only They Had Followed Through..

I'm way behind on my TV viewing (shocker, I know) so I haven't been up to date on what's been going on with OUAT or when exactly it was coming back. I only knew that the Wicked Witch of the West would be featured, although I didn't realize she was the main hook for the second half of the season. I should have been tipped off by the 75th MGM anniversary though. How could they not take advantage of such a tie-in?

And I only just saw this promo (below) which is quite possibly THE best teaser/promo Once Upon A Time has ever had. It's brief, clearly fairy tale in Storybrooke, uses iconic motifs and images, is subtle in presentation and doesn't suffer from a whole lot of bad CG or weirdly lit make-up and costumes. Take a look:
See what I mean? It's a good promo. It's piqued my curiosity.

Then I saw the full trailer for the return of the show and... "wah waaah..." Yeah.

The WWs look is just hideous and wouldn't even pass the audition phase of FaceOff. I feel awful for the actress. It's just a bad, bad combo. I know she's not supposed to be beautiful (at least in the traditional sense) but she's not supposed to look like her kids colored her face with green markers while she was asleep, either.  And all the extra sparkle makes her look like some sort of failed lizard-lady. :/ Even so, this could still be fixed with some changes to the lighting, lens and smart use of a filter. (It's driving me crazy!) I can only hope the actress is good enough to transcend her look.

The image at left was the official 'teaser image' to see what fans thought of the next cast member's look. Here it isn't too bad, but then this has been through the power of Photoshop. If only they'd done the something similar with the actress' scenes instead of that make-up. (I would even prefer her just in black and white for a good long stretch...)

I do, however, like the flying monkeys - at least, seen in a split-second from a distance... Here's the longer promo I'm talking about:

As a side note: Seeing what fans do with the images gives me good cause to believe that if the show just used a filter on most of the camera work, it would be make the show lot easier to watch (especially in the CG scenes) and a lot more magical! But I digress...

UPDATE 6:52pm:
I forgot to add an excerpt from an interview on the OZ-factor coming to OUAT with the creators. here:
Where is Glinda, the Good Witch? We will meet Sunny Mabrey in the iconic role in latter half of this new crop of episodes.“I think she’s still Glinda the Good Witch in that she’s positive and has a lot of spirit to her,” said Kitsis of their spin on the character. 'But the kind of mythology of the four witches and that thing, we kind of created our own.” Horowitz also revealed that our Glinda is pure goodness but she’s a character “who has gone through a lot more."
You can read more of that interview HERE.

So, we shall see what OUAT has done to the WW of the West story and to Glinda as well. The Wicked Witch will not be named Elphaba or Theodora but will have her own identity and a story we haven't yet heard.  Her name instead, will be Zelena. Although there's usually a reason for the name choices on OUAT I can't immediately think of a reason for this choice. Can you?
Fan-made promo image
Since seeing the second promo and the extensive use of awful green make-up, and use of purple screen (that's right - they had to switch to 'purple screen' for the CG sets instead of using the usual green), I'm just not really hooked in. It doesn't help that the Snow-Charming storyline is so very, very tired and that we just don't care anymore. They essentially had a reboot though, which, although being (essentially) a writerly-cheat, it may just be enough to inject some much-needed life back into the series. The wandering-in-circles-around-the-island with lots of made-up drama got old very quickly and I think everyone cheered when we got back into Storybrook this time. It's the magical juxtaposed against the every day that seems to be most fascinating to people, including big-time fans, so here's hoping Horowitz & Kitsis are listening and have steered this aimless storyline back on course.

OUAT is returning Sunday, March 9th, with a promise of no-repeat episodes until the season finale this time.

I'm going to do my best to be optimistic about it. I'd love to enjoy watching this again and not have it dissolve into a 'likely-to-be-canceled' series.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Fairy Tale Review's 10th (!!) Anniversary Issue Is Out and It's An 'Oz-Stravaganza'

Coinciding with the 75th anniversary of MGM's beloved The Wizard of Oz movie, Fairy Tale Review, the annual literary journal dedicated to publishing new fairy tales, has released their special 10th anniversary Oz-themed issue! (And it's EMERALD green... ;) )

Ten years! Wow and congrats to all editors  and contributors through the years. You make our world a much richer place. Thank you.

Speaking of contributors, fairy tale news friend and writer Cate Fricke (of Something to Read For the Train) has a short story, Tin Girl, in this landmark issue as well (congrats Cate!). Here's a quickie-peek on the inspiration for her achievement:
Love that heart too! And you can go read more about her news and story HERE.

Here's a little announcement from Fairy Tale Review with some more exciting fairy tale news as well (the grayed links are intact so you can go there directly to find out more):
Fairy Tale Review is now open for submissions. 
Our tenth-anniversary issue, The Emerald Issue, is now available from Wayne State University Press. 
The newest Pins & Needles interview features the fabulous Timothy Schaffert.
We’ve added a new blog feature, Fairy-Tale Files, launching this week with ten days of Oz in celebration of The Emerald Issue. 
See you at AWP!
Did you see that? Fairy-Tale Files! A new blog feature and new fairy tale reading! Here's the scoop (& the new header by Samantha Sweeting):
(Read more HERE.)

This is just wonderful. Plus: Baba Yaga! Tam Lin! Fearnot! These are in my all time favorites fairy tale list!! I cannot click on all the goody-links fast enough!

Now I just need to clone myself so I have time to read even more and then figure out a way to download my clone's brain back into my own so I don't miss anything...

Note: Apologies for all the exclamation marks... I take it back. It's too exciting to not add exclamation marks!!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

'Pushing Daisies' Looks To Be Getting a Revival. Or Two! *-fist-pump-*

You know the show I'm talking about, right? One of the shows that was (most agree) an unfair victim of that writer's fiasco a few years back? I've rarely met a fan of fairy tales that this show didn't appeal to.

In fact, when I heard this announcement I completely guarantee to you that my face was not the only one that looked like this:
'Pushing Daisies' was that stylized, fantasy show, where the most normal and innocent thing becomes the focus of something truly bizarre and fantastic, all in the middle of an ongoing mystery, and, oh yeah, death. In this show, the colors were saturated, the sets were distinctly staged and the people were bizarrely unique, particular and fantastic. You never knew when things were going to take a turn for the weird, or when a magical moment might happen or when people might break into song. It was bizarre and wondrous and able to ponder very deep truths in the midst of pie... very much like fairy tales. In fact, that's the very word that was often used to describe - a mix of wonder, magic and macabre, just like a good old fairy tale. (With extra singing.) 

So I'm gonna just leave this announcement here (ok, I added bold, underline and embiggened the letters... and yes 'embiggened' is a totally appropriate frankenword, worthy to be included in any article discussing Pushing Daisies!):
Pushing Daisies show creator Bryan Fuller has announced that he’s hoping to bring the cast back for a project or two. 
Fuller states in the interview, “I’ve had conversations very recently with Barry Sonnenfeld about financing a film, and with Kristin Chenoweth and Warner Brothers about developing a stage musical.” 

Additionally, Fuller said that some sort of revival is also on its way: “We’re working on something that is definitely a Pushing Daisies revival, and the idea would be to have as many cast as we can to participate in it.” 
We’re hoping that they’ll be able to get the full cast to return, which includes Lee Pace, Kristen Chenoweth, Anna Friel, Ellen Greene, Chi McBride, Swoosie Kurtz, and maybe even Jim Dale as the narrator.
Yes, yes! Any! Both! Just-doo-eeet!! And please note: we will not love this as much if the cast are not exact clones of the previous ones we loved.
Party on.
Sources: HERE & HERE

Hannah New Talks About Her Role as Aurora's Mother (aka 'Maleficent' News)

Apologies for a quiet weekend on the news front. It's been close to impossible to get to a computer I can blog on for days now, but I hope to put up a few shorter - and, sadly, less detailed - posts over the next couple of days to catch you up a bit.

First of all, the cast for Maleficent is beginning to be allowed to talk about their work on the film. The following excerpt is from an interview with Hannah New who plays Sleeping Beauty's mother when SB was a baby:

From CraveOnline:
You also worked on Maleficent. What’s your role in that?
It was fab. I got to play the mother of Sleeping Beauty which was an incredible role. Sleeping Beauty is a film that I remember very vividly as a kid and I remember all of those scenes, so revisiting the dark side of these fairy tales is almost cathartic as an adult. I think it’s an interesting trend that’s happening now that all of these tails are being explored from both sides, from the good and evil side. I’m very excited to see it. I haven’t seen it yet.

Is her mother out of the picture by the time Maleficent comes along?
Obviously when she’s born, that whole scene from the Disney film when she curses the baby is going to be in Maleficent. It’s the core conflict that happens in the story. Yeah, she then is obviously, because much of the story covers when she’s older, when she’s 16 so obviously I’m only playing her mom when she was a baby.

That still must have been a fun scene to do in live action.
Yeah, totally, it was awesome and also kind of was the culmination of lots of dreams because I’d always dreamed of working at Pinewood because it’s such an institution for us Brits. Obviously that childhood dream of being a Disney princess and getting dressed up in amazing, amazing costumes. The costumes are just out of this world, and obviously working with such incredible actors was another incredible bonus to that job. I’m just really, really glad to be part of it.
I think we're going to be seeing a lot more talk about looking at the darker side of fairy tale, aka seeing stories from the villain's POV in the immediate future. Even though it feels (to me) like we've been discussing this "darker side of fairy tales" thing for a few years now, I guess being sympathetic with the villain's story is a more specific strain of that, and people are completely fascinated by it. There are quizzes and hypothetical posts all over on "who will/should get the Maleficent treatment next?!".

I do think the consideration of the anti-hero, the misunderstood hero who sacrifices all (including reputation and their correct place in history) is a reflection of our current social considerations.. but that's for someone else with more time (and a bigger brain!) to discuss! Feel free to weigh in though. I'd love to see what your thoughts are on this.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Ask Baba Yaga: My Best Friend Just Got Engaged and All I Can Do Is Weep

Illustration for Baba Yaga's Blue Rose Tea (Celestial Seasonings) by Patrick Sheehan
Being happy for someone when they get something you want is tough. Baba Yaga has advice on getting your 'self' together and finding peace. And maybe even some happiness for your friend.... (and just in time for Valentine's Day, when most women in particular - single AND married - are dreading seeing what everyone else is putting on Facebook that day.)

This week's question and answer (via poet and oracle Taisia Kitaiskaia* of The Hairpin):
(Originally posted at The Hairpin HERE)

Evidence of tough love (and tough self-love) appeared in the comments:
  • Oh my GOD this is good. "Happiness is a thing that passes through you, not a thing you meet and hold in your deathly grip forever afterwards" is somehow exactly what I needed to hear. Happiness is not the end goal, because it isn't guaranteed no matter what your circumstances are, and because it's a constantly evolving state of being, not a static thing you can hang on to. This column is seriously one of my favorite things the Hairpin has ever produced. (Jocasta Carr)
  • Oooohhh, THISSSS. That's all I can do, just point at it and say "THISSSS."
    Wanting to share this with a particular friend, buuuut she's engaged. (stroopwafel)
  • this absolutely gutted me, in the best possible way. (Lady Pants)
In the end death is death. She always gets right to the heart of it, doesn't she? 

I just hope that if they make soup in my cauldron after the fact, they give it a good clean first. (!)

In the meantime, have some tea...

"Seeking out her aid is usually portrayed as a dangerous act. An emphasis is placed on the need for proper preparation and purity of spirit, as well as basic politeness. It is said she ages one year every time she is asked a question, which probably explains her reluctance to help. This effect, however, can be reversed with a special blend of tea made with blue roses." (Source)

Wow. I really do need some tea. Specifically some of THAT tea, stat!

What do you think of Baba Yaga's advice?

Want to ask Baba Yaga a question of your own?
You can!
There's now an email address where you can send your questions
directly to Baba Yaga herself.
AskBabaYaga AT gmail DOT com
To encourage Baba Yaga to continue imparting her no-bones-about-it wisdom (ok, there may be some gristle in there... bones too), I suggest we not to leave her box empty... 

Thank you Baba Yaga (& Taisia).

Taisia Kitaiskaia is a poet, writer, and Michener Center for Writers fellow. Born in Russia and raised in America, she's had her poems and translations published in Narrative Magazine, Poetry International, and others.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

'La Belle et La Bête' 2014: First Reviews, More Concept Art & a Lovely Color Script

Gans' La Belle et La Bête is in theaters in France - and so far, it's doing very well. While there are bound to be some criticisms the overall response has been excellent, with many saying it's a tribute to French filmmaking. People seem to agree that the visuals are stunning throughout and it definitely has a fairy tale feel separate from Cocteau's La Belle et La Bête. I've yet to read much on the story execution though...

By the way, I'm peppering this post with more newly released concept art from the official concept artist for the film, Francois Baranger, and after the jump I'll put the color scripts, in case you are worried about spoilers (they're minimal but still...).

I'm using a lot of excerpts from a French review so you get a good overview but without spoilers (translated - not by me - so expect some rather flowery use of language). While you might assume the article was favorable, you have to admit, this headline is pretty impressive; perhaps even sensational:
Cocteau can rest in peace...
If taken as a whole, the film Christophe Gans certainly can not be reduced to a pile of moviegoers references and aesthetic refinement. This is especially respectful and deeply attached to sensations cinephile, images and details that diffusely print in indelible ink on the mind, like fragments that will act transcribe as narrative and not as parts winks (Gans is not Tarantino). 

For a filmmaker like Gans, hardcore cinephile before he was a journalist for the magazine Starfix, filmmaking is not a machine to satisfy the ego or tool without any commercial value: it is an area that it is to preserve, beautify and share. The idea of a new version of "Beauty and the Beast" was no more crazy than any another. No less than five different adaptations (including the studio of Uncle Walt) have emerged since the release of the masterpiece by Jean Cocteau in 1946, and the base material remained even more conducive to eternal variations on the subject that origins of this "fairy-like" are still vague (version 1757 written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, is now considered the basis of adaptations that followed).   
The content of the story, namely the meeting of a beautiful young woman and a terrifying beast, immediately reveals two levels of reading: the distinction between physical and moral ugliness ugliness, but also the ability to perceive purity of feelings behind the vilest appearances. True to this reading, Christophe Gans therefore seized the original material to thicken the scenario already very close to that written by Cocteau, another narrative layer, based on the taming mainly visual, symbolic and purely aesthetic a universe, which was already the case with his previous films. Beyond a plot that respects each letter of agreement fairy tale and initiatory journey, Gans focuses all its efforts on the staging of wanted a credible and conducive to world wonder purest. His staging favors immersion through a dazzling musical score and always moving camera, wedding every moment emotional variations of the two characters (the perfect symbiosis being reached at the time of their common dance scene), the appropriate integration of flashbacks perfectly brought by staging tricks which comes all the lexical field of "passing on the other side of the mirror" (nice reference to cinema Cocteau) and revealing a spectrum of emotions so vast that all public the young and old, will not have to strain to renew the imagination.  
Those who want to dazzle the eyes have plenty to see, and it will be the same for those who like to draw a darker tone and adult in a universe tale. Actors, far from being reduced to puppets meant to serve soup to huge sets, are of great accuracy in their partition, never forcing or overplaying (Léa Seydoux and Vincent Cassel show here a simple and natural game). Just may do you wince on the characterization of the Dussollier family, especially the two sisters (played by Audrey Lamy and Sara Giraudeau), reduced to caricatures pipelettes incarnations. But again, hard to see a real default as the cruelty of evil played by Eduardo Noriega, this kind of detail Manichean is fully within the archetypal tale for children.  
Among his influences in the design of the graphic film, Gans fond of quoting movies Hayao Miyazaki. Risky compared by a French filmmaker who does still not the genius of Japanese filmmaker, but not so trivial that the work of Miyazaki on creating a rich magical world of legends and mythologies can now be regarded as a clear benchmark for filmmakers. At first glance, references are embedded here and there in small steps.For example, the path of his father, lost in a snowstorm and arrived suddenly in the enchanted domain of the Beast, quite inevitably refers to a key scene of "My Neighbor Totoro", where the little girl away from her habitat and fell into an enchanted cave where she found Totoro. Similarly, small "Tadums" that haunt the corners of the castle of the Beast evoke in many aspects of the benevolent kami "Princess Mononoke". And what about this vision of the sacred animal, whose murder by the prince will be the catalyst of an imbalance between nature and man, reducing it to the status of Beast ravaged by suffering? The situation of the beast and his possible return to normal thanks to Belle join the final statement of "Howl's Moving Castle" : regardless of age or appearance, it is the truth of our feelings that reveals our own inner truth.  
After two hours of projection, the total success of the project is the result of a rather unexpected explosion, especially in a French industry less focused on the desire to open the imagination of its audience and stimulate the desire for adventure in all generations. By deploying an unprecedented visual richness in the French cinema and successfully married the poetic work of Cocteau to the magic of the Disney cartoon, Christophe Gans has completely won his bet a large popular movie, quick to reconcile all public and all sensitivities.
! The writer recognized multiple homages to Miyazaki and Cocteau, the former regarding specific movies, the latter regarding filmic sensibilities!

OK, wait. You probably have no real idea why that's exciting, apart from being favorably compared to Miyazaki (and Cocteau) being an all-round excellent thing. Although the reviewer may be a Gans' fan and aware of his film goals, the fact is, to be able to point those out must be making the Director feel very good right about now. Let me quote Gans talking to Variety so you understand what I mean by 'film goals':
My secret dream is that, visually, Beauty and the Beast is like no other magical film. But if I have to admit affiliation, it will be poetic about ... Before you even begin to write a line in the script, my co-writer Sandra Vohan and I asked ourselves a simple question: what are the works that we believe embody the more force the notion of magic today The answer did not take two seconds: cartoons 's Hayao Miyazaki ! Because they are built on a system of human values, ecological civilization, the Japanese master works have transcended cultural barriers pose to international public quintessential magical feeling. Modestly, we have written Beauty and the Beast in the shadow of this giant (Miyazaki)"!
Even a review that is more critical (and not as exuberant) still comes across positively overall. I like the perspective and context this reviewer adds:
Gans’ film is more likely to suffer from direct comparisons (to Cocteau's Beauty & the Beast), though, simply because it’s French. Cocteau’s version of the tale isn’t just a Criterion-worthy classic and triumph of the film-maker’s art – it’s nothing less than a national monument, cobbled together on minimal resources while the country was still reeling from the bitter legacy of the Second World War and the Nazi occupation, a shining vision amidst the post-war gloom and deprivation. 

It’s not surprising, therefore, that the further the new film strays from Cocteau’s scenario, the more fun it becomes, though the fun is not necessarily of the high-tone kind. This is fine; Gans is not known for art movies... 
...there’s little point in setting out a blow-by-blow comparison to Cocteau’s film. The new version is a different beast entirely, so let us try to approach it on its own terms...
I won't add any more because it's very specific regarding scenes and details. Although the writer says they're not spoilery, I would consider them to be partially so (aka, "yes, they are!"). If you are still interested to read it (note: there is a bulleted list at the end of likes and dislikes which might taint you in one direction or another, so consider yourself warned), you can read it HERE.

UPDATE 8pm, Thursday 2-13-14: 
I found another French review on the opposite end of the scale - ie. thumbs down! It only gave the film one star (out of five) BUT it made multiple (mostly favorable) comparisons to Guillermo del Toro's Labyrinth, which the reviewer clearly considers a filmic masterpiece (though it said it lacked del Toro's mastery of story and ability to say something in film) and said it was undeniably beautiful throughout. Basically it came down to: stunning and interesting but without much soul; beautiful images and wonderful scenes but not much to say with regard to the complexities of the story and couple. So maybe, "ooh pretty", but unsatisfying and shallow?  

Ack. I don't care. I admit it: the marketing has won me over (apart from the weirdly big-eyed puppy-pokemons, which I find off-putting). I still want to see this!

And now for the color scripts, which might also be considered partially spoilery, which is why they're after the jump... >>>>>
✒ ✒ ✒  ✒ ✒ ✒  ✒  ✒  ✒ (click the "Read more" link below this line for more) ✒ ✒ ✒ ✒  ✒ ✒ ✒  ✒  ✒