Sunday, February 24, 2019

Stop-Motion Animation: A Creaky Artist's Studio and a Little Clay Girl "On the Other Side of the Woods"

A small clay girl is lost in a creaky artist's studio, meets a wolf... and it's exactly as "fairy tale" as it sounds.

Gypsy shared this on Twitter the other day and we realized we had never posted it on OUABlog, which we should have. It's possibly our favorite stop-motion animated fairy tale short film.
"On the Other Side of the Woods" is "a beautifully realized stop-motion fairy tale about a small clay girl lost in a creaky painter’s studio."* It's a tale of art retelling a folktale, using the fourth-wall of an artist's space, commenting on itself & its story. Created, shot and directed by Estonian director Anu-Laura Tuttelberg (with animator Olga Bulgakova), it's the sort of film that stays with you and continues to delight, long after seeing it. It's not only beautifully done but it comments so well on the art of storytelling, on fairy tales, and on those who tell them & the resulting new tale variations.
It's short, sweet and beautifully shot.
Take a look:
One of the beautiful things about this film is that the deceptively simple presentation gives the viewer lots of room to consider different things it could be commenting on: the confusion, naïveté, and vulnerability of childhood; the artist's process and the life the creation has separate from its maker; the monsters of wolves and also of time; the nostalgia and inevitable passing of childhood; seeing our stories in our creations; the wilds of the creative process and the struggle to make a work that survives it; the contrast versus the interconnectedness of fantasy and reality; the different paths retelling an old tale can take...

“I didn't want to separate the two worlds,” says Tuttleberg, “but to make them fit together instead. I wanted to unify them all into one world and atmosphere. The black and white photography is very graphic and I like that kind of character of a visual, plus I started my studies in art with photography, with black and white analog photography and I find it beautiful and intriguing.” (source)
The description - and appreciation - below of the film, while focusing on the materials used, shows yet another aspect of this lovely film. This is from the Dragonframe website (Dragonframe is the industry-standard software used for stop-motion film):
Directed by Anu-Laura Tuttleberg, “On the Other Side of the Woods” is the story of a little girl made of clay who awakens and brings everything she touches to life. The films aesthetic is special because of its unique use of materials for its sets and puppets. The textures are extremely satisfying to watch. Wet clay becomes hardened, pools of water evaporate and replenish, and light slides across every scene . Shot using only natural lighting, both time and the animators touch are very present throughout the piece. “On the Other Side of the Woods” is a great example of what is so special about stop motion. It is a true labor of love and an enchanting and thoughtful film.
We love how the materials for each set and character are very specific and form part of the commentary on, not just the characters but the story itself, as well as being a commentary on the artistic process. Director Anu-Laura Tuttelberg writes:
"“Teisel pool metsa” / On the Other Side of the Woods is a poetic fairytale shot in an old house in the centre of my hometown Tallinn. The atelier where the story takes place used to be the working space for a famous Estonian painter Ants Laikmaa and is now giving inspiration for my works. The film studies different materials for puppet making and sets using such contrasting materials as wood and clay to bring out the differences in the film characters.  
The materials for puppets were chosen to express their characteristics. The girl for example is made of moist clay to express her dynamic and free personality. She is always flowing along with any event that she comes across in life. I used real clay for making her, and asked the animator to move the surface of her body in every frame so that it is visible that she is made of soft wet clay. The technique was quite time consuming as the clay deforms easily while animating and I had to make a new puppet for each shot.
The film is shot with natural light which makes the viewer aware of the stop motion technique and also shows the passing of time in the film."
If you think about the character of Little Red Riding Hood as you read the above description. doesn't it feel like subtext for this classic fairy tale character?

There's so much contained in this little gem!

And now, ever since seeing this film, we fully expect to stumble across other little characters living out their artistically-fairy tale lives in other busy ateliers, don't you?

* Quoted from a review by This Is Colossal
- Additional source: Anu-Laura Tuttleberg portfolio -

Friday, February 22, 2019

Henson's 'The Storyteller' Is Getting A Gaiman-Assisted Reboot & Reimagining (O Happy Day!)

Yes, it's true. The Storyteller - that inspired and beloved anthology series that fairy tale folk recommend at every turn - is coming back to the small screen (ie. whatever device you currently watch TV or stream on). It's going to get a little updating and "reimagining", thanks to Neil Gaiman and a new generation of Henson Creature Shop folks, and to cater to the new (lucrative) world order of binge-watching/streaming viewers but we are being promised that it will still recognizably be Jim Henson's original vision.

Deadline had the exclusive when the news broke on February 19, 2019.
In the new incarnation, written and executive produced by Gaiman, The Storyteller will create a mystical world combining various fairy tales and folklore. It will be updated to work “for the binging kind” of viewer of today, Gaiman said.
We might be getting more of a backstory on the Storyteller himself too...
“Part of what fascinates me about The Storyteller is the stuff that we don’t know.,” he said. “Who was the Storyteller, why was he telling these stories, was he a goblin, what kind of creature? What I’d love to do is an inside story that’s as long as the outside story. We’re going to find out a lot about who the storyteller is, we’re going to find out things we don’t even know that we don’t know. We’re going to begin in a Northern kingdom where stories are forbidden and where the act of telling a story is liable and can get you imprisoned or executed. If you put a storyteller into that situation, things would need to start getting interactive.”
But never fear. This won't "devolve" into a drawn-out character story and ignore the tales it originally meant to highlight. We're going to be treated to brand new "old tales" from around the world. 
“The original Storyteller was a brilliantly written, directed and told set of stories. It’s a terrifying and inspiring task to reinvent what Jim Henson did for the golden age of television we are in right now, and I’m honored that The Jim Henson Company would entrust me with the task of bringing back the storyteller and his magical stories, and sending him out into the world for a whole new round of tales,” Gaiman said. 
Gaiman and Henson would not say which fairytales they are planning to tackle. “We have our eye on lots of them and one of the things that was brilliant (about The Storyteller) was, they would take little known versions of well-known fairytales because every story comes in various different versions, and I think that’s definitely something that I would love to keep going,” Gaiman said.
That makes us heave a huge sigh of relief! The unique and memorable retelling of lesser-known tales is the whole reason we adore The Storyteller and it would seem that both Lisa Henson and Neil Gaiman intend to keep this core intact. (Yay!)

Within that frame, the aim is to create new and innovative directorial methods for blending puppetry, tales and live action with a variety of unique directors - a risky, but needed move to breathe life back into the series and reach a whole new generation in the making. 
Lisa Henson whose studies in folklore and Greek mythology at Harvard university inspired her father, Jim Henson, to create The Storyteller series, is well qualified to develop a folklore-related project.  Folklore, myth and old fairy and folktales are an interest she and Gaiman not only have in common but have bonded over since they met in 1991, so this project is personally important to both of them with regard to using integrity in bringing old tales to life again. Regarding how they would approach this for an audience that has a very different view of the world to the original Storyteller audience and consumes entertainment very differently, Lisa elaborated a little on their new approach:
“I think that we’re looking to do the same thing here, (Ed: a.k.a. use non-linear shooting with impactful imagery like music video directors do) work with the directors who can do the most innovative work with puppetry technologies to marry it up in that truly innovative modern way with word crafting.”

What tales - and cultural variants - would you like to see be brought to life in the new Storyteller series?
If you would like to read more of the production details currently available, you can read the whole exclusive article at Deadline HERE.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Frozen II Teaser Trailer Drops With Fairy Tale Vibes In Full Force

Confession: we have not been keeping close tabs on Frozen II's development. With the Frozen shorts being underwhelming (despite lots of artistic effort evident behind the scenes), we haven't held out much hope for a film for which the biggest hype seems to be "Will Elsa get a girlfriend?", rather than actual story* or any fairy tale associated content (as opposed to just fantasy).

Enter today's teaser release, full of fairy tale feels and allusions. You have our attention again now Disney!

Check it out:
See what we mean?

Have to mention that we are quite tickled that the internet is including this speculation about the two new characters below:
"What if these two are supposed to be Gerda and Kai from the original Snow Queen story?!"
Heh. We would be delighted - but surprised - if they were.

What we'd really like to see is the Little Robber Girl (from Andersen's original story - who, by the way, is representative of the Land of Autumn/Fall in Andersen's multi-part fairy tale) making an entrance. Apart from being a favorite character from The Snow Queen, the Robber Girl would be an interesting character to (eventually) explore for a potential Elsa-love-interest, though please note, in this teaser the new girl character is still a child. Check the original text describing her and you'll see that potential as one way to interpret her.

In the meantime, what do you think of the trailer? Does it capture your fairy tale radar's attention?

We'll remain tuned as updates from Frozen II continue in the remaining nine month countdown till it hits theaters in November...
A new snowflake design with different symbols - lots for fans to speculate over

*Now if someone mentioned 'Frozen II' was doing a take on 'The Girl Who Pretended to be a Boy', then you'd have our attention!

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Timeless Tales Announces 3 Rapid-Fire Poetry Submission Windows

Devoted readers of Timeless Tales Magazine may know that we've only been accepting poetry since 2016. While poetry may not have the same mainstream readership of fiction, I've always felt that a truly great poem offers the same depth and complexity of a short story, but in a more compact vessel. Writers are born loving words and therefore, it takes so much discipline for an author to restrain their ever-flowing thoughts into such a tiny package. Once we started publishing poetry, I can't help but feel like it's a gap in our older issues.

I've also found times when an idea for a retelling has occurred to me, but none of the stories I receive  fit into that particular gap. I think, "Wow, I wish someone would send me a Puss & Boots retelling about a tiger!", but none magically appear in my inbox. I usually just shrug it off and move on. Until now.

We're trying something new this year. A normal full-size issue usually takes over 4 months to release (hence why we've never managed more than two a year!). So instead of a brand new issue this Spring, we are going to revisit our old themes and add one poem to each. And I'll even give some hints about what I'm hoping to read and what writers should avoid.

NOTE: If you have a great poem retelling that doesn't fit my hints, that's totally fine. As long as you're thinking outside the box, I can't wait to read it. But for goodness sake, please read through the original issue before you submit to make sure you're not repeating an idea we've already published. It could really save you time (or might inspire you with a new idea).

These submission windows will come and go fast, so don't blink or else you might miss them!

To submit, please read our submission guidelines. We will follow all the usual guidelines, but we will only be accepting ONE poem (okay, maaaaaybe two) per theme. Here are the deadlines:

  • Puss in Boots: Deadline EXTENDED to March 4

    • Hints: 1. I'd love to see a retelling where Puss isn't a house cat. Lions, leopards, griffins, and sphinxes are all encouraged. 2. Something that focuses on the often overlooked ogre encounter would be great. 3. A crossover with the Count of Monte Cristo (just because I think "The Cat of Monte Cristo" would be a fun title). 4. A crossover with The Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz . 

  • Pandora's Box: April 14-19

    • Hints: The seven deadly sins concept already has a story in this issue, so unlikely to publish a poem with that angle. I'm kind of surprised we didn't have more submissions about the biblical counterpart to this myth (Adam and Eve), so you could try that as a potential twist. No promises I'll love it, but it's an idea. Oh, or what about the box being a volcano?
  • Twelve Dancing Princesses: June 9-14

    • Hints: Don't send me poems from the shoes' perspective, please. Or a poem with a ballet setting. We already have stories with those angles. What about mixing the tale with some Bluebeard elements? Or the 12 tribes of Israel? How about a crossover with Bluebeard?

Good luck and I cannot wait to see what you send me!

Timeless Tales Poetry Submissions

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Celebrate the Lunar New Year with 'Dragon Dancer'! - Interview with author Joyce Chng

Joyce Chng is a Chinese-Singaporean author who is passionate about diversity in publishing, particularly children's fiction, werewolves (especially when spotted in urban Singapore and space), and damn good writing, no matter where in the world it's written. 

She has also written a GORGEOUS tale for Lunar New Year with a touch of fantasy. 

Edit added Feb 5th: Take a look at the new book trailer below!

Isn't that stunning? But it's not just the illustrations that make this book special. The prose is so wonderful, reading aloud transforms the room you're in and takes you to a magical place. The illustrations support the story so well they seem to dance off the page. We love it here so much it's become a tradition to read it every Lunar New Year. 
Google doodle for 2019 Lunar New Year - produced by Elaine Zhu
This is actually part of an AI shadow puppet game you enjoy playing HERE.
The dragon, Shen Long (also the name of a spiritual dragon from Chinese mythology) is a character we all fell in love with instantly. The first time we read it, our youngest member spontaneously applauded at the end of the book! Now, older, he still looks forward to it, and requests multiple read-throughs, asking about all the various aspects of Lunar New Year traditions and what they mean, so we are doubly thrilled to be able to ask Joyce a few of his questions on celebrating Lunar New Year in Singapore, and add some questions of our own about her fairy and folktale influences and loves.

Note: all the illustrations for 'Dragon Dancer are by the amazing French artist Jeremy Pailler. You can find more of his work at his website HERE. In the meantime, enjoy a sampling of his work through this interview with the very gracious Joyce Chng.

~ * * * * * * * * ~
Thank you so much for taking time out of your celebrating to talk about 'Dragon Dancer' today Joyce.
JC: Thank you! I am honored to have this opportunity to talk about Dragon Dancer and Shen Long. :)

OUAB: Your writing is very atmospheric and truly dances through the descriptions and story. Having a strong dance background (albeit a different discipline), we were impressed by how much movement you evoked through your text! What was your inspiration? Have you ever been a lion dancer or apprenticed as one? (Could we have caught you acting out the movements as you wrote the text?) 
JC: I love lion and dragon dances. No, I am not a lion dancer nor was I apprenticed under a sifu. I just love the art form and the martial art behind it. I also watch a lot of lion and dragon dances. So I have theoretical knowledge, hehe. :)

OUAB: Is there a Chinese folktale or legend that the sky dragon, Shen Long, is based on?
JC: I don't know if there is a Chinese folklore or legend. But Chinese dragons are known to be benevolent and often are harbingers of great news. 
OUAB: Does Shen Long and Yao's dance describe a similar ritual to that which traditional lion dancers are enacting (seen more often in Western cities than the long dragon performance), or is it unique to dragon dances? (Do dragons also eat lettuces?)
JC: I think the dragon dance has its ritual though it overlaps with the lion dance. The dotting of the eyes symbolizes waking the dragon or lion. (They don't eat lettuce!)

OUAB: What else is included in the book (in words or illustrations) that represents other important cultural customs of a Lunar New Year celebration that people not familiar with the culture and symbolism would miss?
JC: The importance of family and the continuation of tradition. The mention of Yao's granddad. It's during Lunar New Year we also honour our elders (grandparents and parents).
OUAB: What Chinese fairy tales do you wish were better known around the world? (Any you're planning on retelling at some point? Hint, hint!)
JC: Chang' E flying to the moon. (Hopefully... One day...)

OUAB: What is your take on POC authors retelling popular fairy tales, such as Goldilocks, with a (for example) "Chinese twist"? 
JC: I think that's perfectly fine and awesome. That as POC and non-white folk, we view such tales with our own lens and perspectives. 
"I believe mythology and folklore gives us the space to re-myth or re-tell the story in our own terms."  Joyce Chng
OUAB: Apart from buying (and therefore supporting) tales retold by POC authors,  and reading them to diverse groups of kids, how do you suggest folk without an Asian heritage, who dearly love Chinese fairy tales and folktales can help tell and spread these tales? Any do's or don't's?
JC: Ah. I am grateful for the enormous appreciation and respect for Chinese fairy tales. Signal boost and highlight POC telling these stories. Let them tell them. And many of us have grown up in diverse backgrounds (many of us hail from the diaspora). So we bring many perspectives to the table.
OUAB: Are you ready for a lightning round - or should we call it a firecracker round - of questions?
JC: Yes please

OK - Go!

Two of your favorite folktales and/or fairy tales?  Chang'Er flying to the moon. Yang women generals.

Two favorite fairy tales/ folktales from any other culture?  The Firebird. The Little Mermaid.

Favorite Lunar New Year food?  Peng cai.

Favorite Lunar New Year custom?  Collecting red packets.

Favorite dragon ever? (After Shen Long of course!)  Draco from Dragonheart.

And... time!
Wow. What a lot of awesome insight you've given us here! 
Thank you so much for being with us today Joyce. 
Wishing you good luck, continuing success in your publishing and health for you and your family in the New Year!
~ * * * * * * * * ~

And readers, if you're wondering what any of these answers are referring to, let us wish you good google-fu as you do a little digging and discover for yourself. ;)
JUST A FEW OF MANY GLOWING REVIEWS:“A visually lush and stunning selection that is textually atmospheric and evocative. A fresh take on one of the most iconic symbols of Lunar New Year. Pailler’s intricate watercolor illustrations truly stand out. They gorgeously complement and elevate the text as Yao and the dragon slither and dance across page spreads and make striking use of white space. – Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington County Public Libraries, VA, for School Library Journal 
‘This is a book that celebrates the power of the imagination and the traditions of another culture. The illustrations waft darkly across the page, never revealing the whole picture but disclosing more the longer you look. The language is evocative and rich; it is a great book to read aloud. Together the illustrations and words compliment each other beautifully creating a dreamlike story that would also be an excellent educational springboard for exploring New Year festivities.’ – Seven StoriesNational Centre for Children’s Books 
‘I burst into tears the first time I read it, both when Yao and Shen Long triumph over bad luck, and when Shen Long, as both ancient sky dragon and grandfather, expresses his pride in Yao’s dance. This is exactly the kind of story that I wish I had been able to read to my children, but it’s just as powerful to me as an adult.’ – Jen Zink, Hugo award-winning podcast The Skiffy and Fanty Show 
‘Dragon Dancer is a gorgeous book that draws on ancestry, legend, and tradition for Lunar New Year reading. The text pulses with the energy of the dragon dance, the art coming alive from the page as the dragon writhes, corkscrews, and spins away misfortune and welcomes in prosperity. The music in the story urges dragon and dancer on, and draws the reader into the narrative: you can feel the drums pounding, the cymbals clashing, the crowds cheering. A note from the author provides a bit of personal experience of the New Year celebration. This one’s a definite purchase for my holiday collection.’ – Mom Read It
'Dragon Dancer' is available through many online retailers. We suggest you buy your local library a copy and donate it to be read for the next Lunar New Year!
Joyce Chng is also one of the editors of a unique collection of stories, titled 'The Sea Is Ours - Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia' (edited by Jaimee Goh and Joyce Chng). It's on our 'to read' list. Here's the description:
In The Sea is Ours: Tales of Steampunk Southeast Asia, technological wonder merges with the everyday: children upgrade their fighting spiders with armour and toymakers create punchcard-driven marionettes. The fantastic has always been part of our landscape: large fish lumber across the skies, aswang represent diwata to faraway diplomats, boat people find a new home on the edge of a different dimension. Technology and tradition meld as the people adapt to the changing forces of their world.Steampunk takes on Southeast Asia in this anthology, infused with the spirits of its diverse peoples, legends, and geography. Delving into local alternate histories, we will introduce you to a dynamic steampunk world quite different from the one you may be familiar with.
You can find Joyce Chng in the following places around the web:
Twitter (most days!)