Wednesday, August 26, 2015

D23 News: Live Action "The Jungle Book" Update

Reporting belatedly, I'm afraid, but it can't be helped at the moment. Above is the new poster unveiled at D23 and while it is beautiful, my first impression was that Bagheera had a human face CGI'd onto his panther one. I've quickly discovered this is because of the lighting (you can see that it's not human at all in the close-up below) but now I can't un-see that...

Here's a round up of news tidbits regarding Jon Favreau's live action "The Jungle Book" remake for Disney, with the best news being that the reveals, though not so highly anticipated, brought a standing ovation and have created a strong expectation of goodness (classic with some darker Kipling resonances) for the movie being released next year. I'm so pleased to hear there will be much more of Kipling's original story vibes in there (though I would have been even more excited to hear that more storylines - or even characters like Kotik and Rikki Tikki Tavi - of Kipling's classic had made it in, but, baby steps are also good. You can read the original online HERE.)

As with other fan exclusives shown at D23 (at which all cell phones and cameras were confiscated on entering), the rest of us won't get to see what attendees did for some time yet but 2016 is rapidly drawing closer so I'm guessing the Christmas season promos will give us more to look at.

Here are the trailer details from The Grill:
Development art from Favreau's version
Director Jon Favreau unveiled the first trailer for Disney’s “The Jungle Book” and brought stars Lupita Nyong'oBen Kingsley and newcomer Neel Sethi onstage at Saturday’s D23 Fan Expo in Anaheim. 
Sethi plays the film’s young hero Mowgli, while Kingsley plays Bagheera the Panther and Nyong’o plays Raksha the Wolf. Favreau played up the eye-popping visual spectacle of the film, saying that “The best CGI is the CGI that disappears.” 
...The trailer opens with the smoky voice of Scarlett Johansson‘s Kaa the Python talking about the Red Flower, which brings “warmth, light and destruction.” 
Bagheera finds Mowgli and we’re told that “the jungle is no longer safe. I’ll return him to where he belongs.” 
We see Idris Elba‘s killer tiger Shere Khan stalking Mowgli through the outback in a thrilling sequence that ends with him jumping off a cliff, after which he’s discovered by Bill Murray‘s Baloo the Bear. Baloo tells Mowgli to “relax” and that “there’s no need to get worked up.” Then he sings the classic Disney song “Bare Necessities,” a song about “the good life,” though Mowgli confesses he doesn’t know what a song is. 
“Everyone’s got a song,” Baloo assures him. 
As the trailer nears its end, we see Shere Khan warning Mowgli that “if you come back, I’ll be waiting,” then the footage concludes with Christopher Walken‘s orangutan King Louie saying “I am the king!” — which brought the house down. 
... The footage, which was stunning and full of wonder, earned a standing ovation...
New star, Neel Sethi, handles his first public appearance very well.
And a very short video via Yahoo Movies is worth taking a peek at as Jon Favreau speaks about the classic comedic animation classic versus Kipling and his approach on trying to find the balance of both.
“A lot of liberty was taken in tone in the ’67 animated film, because the source material was much darker,” Favreau tells Yahoo Movies during a chat at D23. However, Favreau felt a deep connection to the original Disney movie, particularly regarding the music, the tone, and “the playfulness of the characters.” So in creating new version, Favreau drew on both the book and the cartoon. “I tried to pick out the aspects [of the 1967 movie] that I found most memorable and that I connected with the most, and made sure that we protected those as we explored the combination of those things,” (Favreau) explains.
Overall, this definitely sounds like it beats the first Disney live action remake by leaps and bounds, but will it be worth seeing in the theater? What do you think?

Bonus of the day:
Mondo posters is well known for their artistic alternative versions of movie posters and The Jungle Book has a couple done through them. The one below though is particularly lovely, hailing both classic book and future live action film beautifully. The artist is Brandon Holt.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Timeless Tales Magazine Cover Contest Cancellation

A special message from the editor of Timeless Tales, Tahlia Merrill Kirk:

Creative projects are all about throwing new ideas onto a wall and seeing what sticks. Which means that sometimes that idea you thought was brilliant and destined for success ends up sliding into a mushy pile on the floor.

That’s pretty much what happened with the Timeless Tales cover contest. It was a total shot in the dark and the shot missed its mark. We had the contest open for nearly a month and got a grand total of TWO entries. This is obviously not enough to be considered a proper contest.

I seriously considered letting our failure slide under the radar while privately emailing the artists an explanation, but then I saw a series of blog posts by Wil Wheaton* (links at the bottom of this post).

Wil is the creator of several webseries I follow closely. He’s one of those really down-to-earth people who I’ve never met, but have a ton of respect for his accomplishments. His summer has been full of professional frustrations this summer and isn’t afraid to share them with his fans.  His honesty made me appreciate all his hard work even more than before. So I’m hoping that I can follow in his footsteps here.

I suspect that the contest’s failure is related to my lack of knowledge about the illustrating community. Possibly, my budget was too small, but I also didn’t have a clue where to promote the contest beyond our own social media. If anyone has suggestions for what I could’ve done better, I’d love to hear them so I can learn from this experience.

I’d like to thank Terry Fischer  ( and Scott Klase for being the kind souls who sent in their work. Terry's is on the left and Scott's is on the right:
Inline image 1
The good news is that our story submissions are as strong as ever and I have some great ideas for issue #6 that I’ll be announcing later on this year (pretty sure we’re finally going to be adding poetry!) For this upcoming issue, I’ve hired my graphic artist friend who designed our logo ( In the words of a famous fish:

Monday, August 24, 2015

Disney Parodies Snow White & Other Fairy Tales in "Wish Upon A Coin"

Once of the best things coming out of the various Disney animation studios at the moment are the new generation Mickey Mouse Cartoon - Disney Shorts. The original spirit of Mickey is there, along with some needed sweetness (which Mickey has been known for since the parks opened) and it's one of the best uses of excellent comedic timing that Disney has ever done with Mickey Mouse (I cannot watch the old Mickey shorts - their comedy timing is awful and irritates the heck out of me).

One of their newest Mickey shorts, however, is a bit of a surprise. I wasn't initially surprised to see a send-up of Snow White and parodying different aspects, but I was with some of the paths it went down! Despite the borderline issues it may have, it's still one of the better parodies I've seen and still manages to be sweet in the end.

Take a look:
Not quite what you expected but still rather satisfying and funny-sweet, no?

What's MOST interesting to me, though, is the commentary on how the Disney studio currently regards fairy tales and fairy tale tropes, including their own versions. It's a good barometer for telling you where the studio is at today, sensibility-wise, as well as current pop-culture, since the "arm" that produces these shorts is rather separated from the TV series studio and the feature animation studio. To help mark these little (or not so little) things, I'm adding a hashtag: #FTBarometerCheckpoint (and if I get time/remember will add the tag to older posts that are a good pop-culture and societal "pulse check" with regard society's current thoughts and views on fairy tales).
Additional note on coins and wishing: it's interesting to me that throwing coins into a well or fountain remains such a strong superstition and/or tradition and has been adopted the world over. It's a direct link to folklore and belief in local deities and fae, as well as various tales and isn't hidden by much commercialism or "watering down" as other traditions and superstitions have received over the centuries. Interestingly, it's not fear motivated, like many superstitions are, nor is it truly greed oriented but more of a petition for additional luck to the powers that be. There's a little article HERE if you'd like to read more. I couldn't finish without mentioning Britain's amazing "wishing trees" (more pics and history at this link HERE) in which people have, over centuries (!), pushed coins into the bark for luck and good health.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Ask Baba Yaga: How Do I Break Out Of My Hermit Shell?

Baba Yaga's Hut by Alyssa Davis

Confession: I kind of like being a hermit. Mostly. Once I gave in to the fact that my nature is to be generally drained by people, even those I truly love, and even when I've had a great time with them, I grew to greatly appreciate my alone time and revel in the space to think, research, write and create. But I can't be a hermit all the time and there are sometimes I find it frustrating too. I love working in theater and that necessitates an outgoing personality, at least some of the time, so it can be tricky to find that balance of building up enough energy to throw myself into performing or teaching, and make sure I have adequate re-energizing time afterward. There are those times, too, especially when things get rough, that you can be gone from normal social circles so long, it feels really difficult to re-enter. I almost didn't want to read the answer to this question, my shell is precious to me!, but was encouraged and relieved by what Baba Yaga had to say.

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

"...nibble on a green thing"! Ha - yes! And the picture of Baba Yaga's hut that I fortuitously chose for this post, before looking at the question, is perfect. That's exactly what it feels like when you perform, or teaching goes really well or people become inspired to create or do better in being with you! And it's a huge relief to know you don't have to go and do that performance the whole time either. (Notice there is no audience above to watch either - it's a private-revelry thing.) No breaking! But I can bend a little. :)

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.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Northlore Series Open Call for Submissions!

We just recently posted a review by OUABlog reviewer, Leena Naidoo, HERE, for the first volume in this series, "Folklore" and now an exciting opportunity from Nordland Publishing has arisen.

Here's the announcement from the official website:

Open Call for the Northlore Series 


We are pleased to announce the second open call of the series: Myth. 
We are looking for short stories between 3-8000 words and Poetry of any length.
This collection will contain the secret history of the Norse gods.
“Over a period of 400 years, Christianity came to the Scandinavians, sometimes at the point of a sword.  
Slowly it spread, until only small pockets of the old religion persisted. 
The gods of the North understood their time had come. They withdrew from the world, disappearing into the realm of myth. 
But they did not die. This is their story.” 
Three books, three themes, one vision: Northlore.
Before you submit your work, please be sure to follow the publication guidelines.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

D23 News: Live Action "Beauty and the Beast" Update

"Love Blooms in Winter" - Beauty and the Beast
by Heather Theurer
The image above doesn't strictly have anything to do with the upcoming movie, or the movie news, BUT it is a fairly new print, created this year, inspired by Disney's Beauty and the Beast, by the amazing oil painter Heather Theurer.  She does the most incredible interpretations of Disney characters I my have ever seen (we have a few of her other paintings you can see HERE). The reason I love these so much is not just because of the gorgeous and classical technique, but that they send you right back to the original stories. How perfect is that? It's one of the reasons I couldn't resist showing you full since since it almost fits in the blog. (!)

Anyway - onto the news most people want to learn, an update on the live action version of Disney's Beauty and the Beast:

Unfortunately, there really isn't much to see (image wise on the web) and the information is more gleanings and teasers than anything else, possibly because principal filming isn't quite done yet, and this is a movie that even then will need a LOT of CGI and special effects to pull off that "Disney magic". However, here's the little we have to share:

Fans of Emma Watson and the Disney Classic, “Beauty and the Beast”, will be delighted to learn that the first look of the movie has been revealed.  (Edit FTNH: Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the rest of us will get to see what D23 attendees did anytime soon but I'm sure we'll be getting a poster teaser at least in the near future.) At Disney’s D3 held on August 15, fans received a sneak-preview of Watson leaving her mark as the book-lover, Belle, on-screen. As reported by MTV, the clip from the movie showed Belle gracefully walking down the stairs in her trademark yellow gown. (source: HERE)

Though nearly done filming, there wasn't any complete footage shown from this one -- save for a shot of Emma Watson as Belle in her now infamous gold dress, coming down the stairs to dance with the Beast. Let us just say that she looked GORGEOUS and seeing that moment brought to life brings chills.
In some behind-the-scenes footage shown, we got a look at the village set, which looks almost exactly like it did in the animated film. Belle is seen in her blue and white dress as well, while Gaston (Luke Evans) can be seen singing and dancing around a bar in his famous red costume and long ponytail. Sorry, nothing with the Beast in it just yet.
The crowd was told that the final film will include two new songs from Alan Menken.
"Beauty and the Beast" won't roar into theaters until 2017. (source: HERE)
BWW message board poster jacobsnchz14 shared:
I'm here at the expo and everything I've seen from BATB looks stunning, including Emma in the dress. They also showed the title treatment artwork which reminds me of Into The Woods' mixed with the original one with the Beauty in nice type with an eroded Beast. The crowds went wild for it. The set, visuals, costumes, etc. were beautiful. No footage of the objects or the beast.Can't wait for everyone to see the footage we saw! Plus, we were treated to a video of Luke Evans and Josh Gad singing a few bars of "Gaston". (source: HERE)
There is also part of the video message from Emma Watson to D23 fans, which you can see HERE. Unfortunately, the video finished before we get a look at anything we really want to see...
Art shown at D23
with prints available for purchase

Cyclops Print Works Print #8: She Really is a Funny Girl by Mark Englert
Size: 12”x36”
Technique: Serigraph | 9 Colors
Edition size: Limited Edition of 275
Features: Hand-Numbered | Varnish Finish |Authenticity Seal
Price: $60
Printed by: Eclipse Workshop
Officially Licensed by Disney

FULL DESCRIPTION (of the sizzle reel) by (D23 attendee) ahundredteas:

Belle in the forest
  • Quick shot of Belle in the forest before she ends up at the Beast’s castle
  • It’s dark and blue (reminded me a lot of “Into the Woods”) and you can see snow on the ground.
  • Belle is in a cloak so we can’t see what her outfit is. I’m 95% sure that the cloak is navy blue but with how blue the shot was I can’t be 100% sure.
  • She looks FREAKED OUT but not hysterical.
Belle on the stairs in the Iconic Yellow Dress
  • Quick shot of Belle stepping down the stairs.
  • Staircase is gold and whimsical, very similar to Cinderella’s carriage from the latest “Cinderella” movie.
  • The yellow dress is more of a sheer fabric than the heavy material in the cartoon version. The skirt is less full. Still stunning. Top looks similar to “Once Upon A Time” Belle’s yellow dress but not as poofy.
Belle looking up
  • Last shot is Belle in the yellow dress looking up at (I’m assuming) the Beast.
  • She looks like she’s kneeling or in a deep curtsy.
(Source: HERE)
And that's about all we've gleaned to date. But it is exciting. It would appear that the live action movie is going to follow the look of the animated film fairly closely from random reports here and there about the glimpses given from the "infamous gold dress" to the village and castle so that should keep Disney Beauty and the Beast fans pretty happy.

So that's about it for now, though you might be seeing an image or two floating around the internet saying "this is the first looks!" It's not. They're excellently done fan made images and we've had the main one on OUABlog before but I hadn't seen this fan made poster below, which is wonderfully creative and shows Emma Watson in more of a designer-type gown than the animated movie princess dress, which is very tasteful.
Fairy tale bonus of the day:
At D23, ABCs Once Upon A Time also did a Beauty and the Beast reveal, featuring the famous enchanted (Disney) rose in the very first episode of the upcoming season.
You can see the teaser screen grabs below:

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Ask Baba Yaga: How Can I Help My Summertime Depression?

Baba Yaga's Forest by Rima Staines
I'm definitely one of those people for whom Summer is the worst time of year. I don't manage heat well, (and the 100 to 110 degree temps this last week have been a full-on physical challenge with heat-related illness - hence irregular posts sorry!), but it's isn't just being heat-sensitive that can get me down. So much sun I can find depressive (even oppressive), and, much like people who sometimes get Winter blues, I can get a Summer version, counting the days till Winter which is my most wonderful, creative and happy time of the year. I've been relieved to find out I'm not the only one but it is still difficult to know how to manage, when many people are at their most social and most motivated and you're just not up to it. What to do? Thankfully, someone else thought to ask Baba Yaga for some insight.

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

Yes. I need a creek. Preferably many! So if I'm not here for stretches this Summer you now know: I'm looking for a creek. (I'm not kidding.) And if I don't find a creek, at least it's not a forever state. Plus it's kind of awesome to look forward to morphing. I do love a good transformation... #fairytale101

For inspiration I've included some of the 'in progress' pics that Rima Staines shared on her blog HERE in creating this marvelous Baba Yaga's Forest backdrop for a special storytelling event with a Russian fairy tales theme in 2012. I do so adore what she and Tom Hirons are doing in their traveling 'vehicle of imagination', Hedgespoken. (The event this was created for appears to be a pre-cursor for their off-grid theater and storytelling project.)

Note: If you're wondering if your feelings are due to more than just a bad day or two, know that you're not alone. There is such a thing as "Summer SAD" (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and there are things you can do to help yourself (see HERE) as well as doctors than can too. 

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.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Disney's "Gigantic" News From D23 Today!

This is just breaking as I'm typing the post and people seem more excited about this news than anything else, including any news about Frozen 2, Moana (although that's a close second and I'll bring you up to date on that shortly), Zootopia, Winnie the Pooh or Once Upon A Time.

What is this, you're wondering? 

This is Disney's long-awaited Jack and the Beanstalk project Giants, now renamed Gigantic,  and news has been announced at the currently-running annual Disney fan expo, D23, in Anaheim California.

The story initially broken by Deadline, here's the gist (emphasis in bold and underlined is mine):
Disney said today at the D23 fan expo in Anaheim that its toon studio’s next project will be Gigantic, a Spain-set take on the Jack And The Beanstalk story.  Nathan Greno, who co-directed 2010’s Tangled, will helm the Disney Animation film with Dorothy McKim (Meet The Robinsons) producing. The film will hit theaters in 2018. 
“We want to make the definitive version of Jack And The Beanstalk,” Greno said onstage at D23. 
(Edit FTNH: Inserting official description below, rather than the paraphrased version) The director said: 
Set in Spain during the Age of Exploration, Disney’s “Gigantic” follows adventure-seeker Jack as he discovers a world of giants hidden within the clouds. He hatches a grand plan with Inma, a 60-foot-tall, 11-year-old girl, and agrees to help her find her way home. But he doesn’t account for her super-sized personality—and who knew giants were so down to earth? 
And it’s not just one Big Person at the top of the beanstalk but an entire world of giants from lots of different cultures, he said. The bad guys are the Storm Giants.
The premise isn't exactly new, though it will be interesting to see a grown-man Jack and giant child pair up. There's been more than one adaptation of the fairy tale that has multiple giants in the clouds. The 'set in Spain' part has sort of been done too, but still, this is the Disney version and soon people will have trouble remembering that. Let me rephrase that: this is the Disney FEATURE-LENGTH version. This will actually be the Disney company's FIFTH adaptation of the English fairy tale, including the animated versions in 19922, and the next in 1947, the Once Upon A Time version (in which Jack was Jaqueline and not-so good-of-heart) and the recent Disney movie version of Into the Woods, directed by Rob Marshall.
Did we mention that the music is being written by the duo who created Frozen's wildly successful soundtrack? They're far enough along in the process that they played (and sang) one of the songs at the D23 presentation - after Jack meets the giant girl Inma. Apparently it was "aw-dorable!" Being that the giant is 11 years old, we shouldn't be treated to any teenage angst songs like the infamous Frozen ballad, but there's a lot of warning about getting tugs on the heartstrings and the need to bring tissues so you never know.
And here's additional tidbits reported from various places.

To add some cultural flare to film, it is actually set in Spain during the Age of Exploration, so expect Jack to be something of a Christopher Columbus of the skies. 
In addition to the officially released news, our own Eric Eisenberg is reporting from D23, and from what info he's gathered there, it sounds like Gigantic will include entire societies of different sorts of giants, including Storm Giants, who will act as the villains of the story, and will be twice as big as the girl Jack makes friends with. The character of Jack will be a grown man, as opposed to the youth that he is often portrayed as, which will be important to the interaction between Jack and Inma as the film will focus on the relationship between the adult, yet small human, and the young, yet huge, giant.
From InsideTheMagic:
As the announcement was made, a giant green beanstalk emerged on the D23 Expo 2015 show floor in the Walt Disney Animation Studios pavilion, surrounded by sound effects of a cow mooing and a giant grumbling. Artwork was (also) shown during the presentation. (Edit FTNH: I've inserted the main pics throughout this post.)
The definitive version, hey? I just can't imagine that, even if they do include the famous "Fee Fi Fo Fum" line. 

Dreamworks did an impressive homage to the fairy tale in their Puss In Boots film, but it wasn't the main image of the movie, so tends to be forgotten (worth a look if you haven't seen it - the whole film was far better in the use of fairy tales than I expected, for many reasons).

Oh and check out the cow in the clip below of the giant beanstalk 'prop' that appeared during the presentation, as well as a good look at the storybook Spanish village as well:

But no matter how this pans out, I'm excited to see this classically boys' fairy tale come into the Disney feature length canon and am curious to see what they do with the tale. More than that, though, I'm curious to see how people then re-discover and discuss Jack and the Beanstalk, which, if you read this blog, you'll know is one of my favorites. (Plus, my son's name  - yes my love of fairy tales had a BIG influence on his name choice - is going to have a whole Disney styling he can call his own! Sort of... Yes I am particularly biased in being excited about Jack and the Beanstalk things and there's no way it's going to be like Jack the Giant Slayer that, um, 'happened' a couple of years ago. At least some of those beanstalk posters were seriously awesome, [especially THIS one] even if the movie was... not.)

OK. I will admit this one thing: this movie is going to come complete with a ton of beanstalk products I am going to NEED (yes NEED I tell you!) and I am starting to save this very minute..! A giant beanstalk, along with a red hood, is one of the universal symbols for all things fairy tale. I don't care that it's been done to death, is well known etc etc. The sight of a giant beanstalk always sends me to a happy place. Expect more greenery in the Once Upon A Blog offices the moment merchandising and dollars collide.

So what do you think about all this? (Beanstalk product awesomeness or not?)