Saturday, January 31, 2015

Tim Burton's Long Lost Disney Project: "Hansel & Gretel" (1982)

This "long lost" film resurfaced on YouTube last year while I was in recovery and I found my note to myself to post the news on OUABlog when I returned, just today. (The images included are some of Burton's concept art for the project.)

A little background:
The film was conceptualized and created by Tim Burton whilst in Disney's employ. It aired one time only on Halloween night in 1983 on the The Disney Channel, due to the Disney Executives horrified reactions when they saw it on air, and I think, in this instance, they were right. It doesn't really fall within the Disney branding, and I wouldn't have been pleased to find a little one watching this either! (Did no one check the show before it aired? Yikes.)

The film was included in the MoMA exhibit that featured Burton's earlier and lesser known works and history a few years ago but hasn't been available to see anywhere before or since (except in Paris for a similar exhibition).

The movie is usually classified stop motion, though it uses real (amateur) actors, all of whom are Japanese*. (Note: it's also Tim Burton's first time working with live actors, which may be apparent in the quality of performance, though his direction is often very imaginative.) In yet another interesting choice, (especially for the time period) the same male actor plays both the Stepmother and the Witch. Seen throughout are designs now considered "Burtonesque", many of which might be considered precursors to other film designs seen in Frankenweenie and The Nightmare Before Christmas. There's interesting use of birds in this one too (duck and swan in particular), and that little toy duck looks remarkably like one Jack Skellington has Halloween town make as one of the presents.

From Wikipedia:
Filmed for $116,000 on 16mm, this live-action short film featured a cast of amateur Japanese actors, kung fu fights (despite kung fu being Chinese) and Japanese toys, as Burton was obsessed with Japanese culture at the time of production. The film's design style and color schemes paid homage to the Godzilla movies and is said to be heavy on special effects, making use of front projectionforced perspective and even some stop-motion animation.
Here you go. Enjoy! (Or, be creeped out):
Hansel - Andy Lee 
Gretel - Alison Hong 
Stepmother / Wicked Witch - Michael Yama  
Father - Jim Ishida 
Dan Dan the Gingerbread Man (voice) - David Koenigsburg 
Features early work by Stephen Chiodo of the Chiodo Bros. Studio as well as the late Joe Ranft of Disney and Pixar. 
Music by John Costa of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood fame!(source)

Can I just say: I'm just not going to ask what the Father did to the Stepmother, and I will stick with my regular Gingerbread Men, thank you very much!

* Has anyone else noticed the Asian (specifically Japanese) fascination with Hansel and Gretel? I wonder what it is about the tale, exactly?

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that is phenomenally terrible. I was watching it, thinking "The music sounds like something out of a Mr. Rogers episode" and then I scrolled down and just laughed when I saw that I was totally right.