Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rapunzel, Rapunzel! Let Down Your Hair!

When I read a few days ago that the “Tangled” trailer had been posted online, I was very excited and immediately watched it. I’ve been a Disneyphile since I was a child and spent every summer watching every Disney classic in chronological order, starting with “Snow White.” So when Disney started this new film initiative under John Lasseter’s direction, I was elated. While “Princess and the Frog” did not perform as well at the box office as may have been hoped, artistically it did not disappoint.

“Tangled,” however, seems rather mediocre, at least judging by the trailer. Maybe it’s the comedic tone that causes me to think this, as I prefer my fairy tales to be the romantic sort. Flynn really reminds me of Tulio and Miguel from “The Road to El Dorado…” Come to think of it, his horse resembles El Tivo, as well, and from the trailer, this seems to be an adventure comedy, rather than the typical fairy tale fare that Disney is known for.

Now, I don’t mind such films. I like “El Dorado,” and I thought “Bolt” was quite enjoyable. But, those films also weren’t fairy tales. They were completely original films. “Tangled” doesn’t seem to follow its source material at all, save from the idea that a girl with seventy feet of hair has been locked in a tower her whole life. I had very high hopes, especially with Glen Keane’s involvement, but this vision of Rapunzel is quite different from what I was expecting.

I think what bothers me the most is that Rapunzel is barely present in this trailer. In a marketing move attempting to entice more boys to see the film at the theatre, Disney has rebranded the film as "Tangled," and appears to be naming Flynn Rider as the central character and Rapunzel as a sidekick he gains later in the film, probably somewhere before the half-hour mark. What happened to the empowered female protagonists of the 90s? Rapunzel seems like a vapid valley girl from this trailer, although that may simply be because of her ignorance about the outside world (I have my fingers crossed).

I will certainly give it the benefit of the doubt when it’s finally released in November – the only Disney film I ever skipped was “Home on the Range,” which I still haven’t seen – and I hope to be pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

To Remain? Or Return?

In May, my book club selection was Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Now, I have been a fan of Mr. Gaiman’s work ever since I discovered The Sandman. However, I had neglected to read this, his first novel. Reading something he wrote in 1996 after having read his more recent works made every blemish in this work apparent, creating some difficulty for me in completing it. I’m not writing this to focus on his writing, though. One of the questions asked at our club meeting rather intrigued me, but in order to progress, I need to explain a bit of the book’s plot first.

The main premise of the book is that there is a world below that in which we dwell, where those who slip between the cracks wind up. Being that this particular book is set in London, its counterpart is London Below, and our protagonist, Richard Mayhew, finds himself there after rescuing an injured girl. And, despite spending the vast majority of the novel trying to find a way home, trying to regain the sense of normalcy he had before the whole adventure began, once he has gotten his life back, he almost immediately seeks his way back to London Below.

Now, London Below is not some amazing Neverland, where one’s problems seem to disappear and every wish is granted. Rather, it’s a dark, dreary place where one must fight for his very survival day in, day out. And yet, our hero chooses to return there, after returning home to a promotion!

This prompted someone at book club to inquire, “Would you return to London Below?” Unsurprisingly, the vast number of those present said they would not. I wonder, though, how many people would return if it had been Neverland? Or Narnia? Or Oz? Or any number of other fantasy worlds? The primary reason so few of us wished to return to London Below was because life there is so very difficult. Why ever would one give up a good job and nice home to live in squalor? I certainly don’t understand it, although it was suggested that after having lived through such an adventure that Richard couldn’t settle into a desk job again and remain happy.

Personally, I would never want to go to London Below. Even as a child, I hated going outside and getting dirty, so I would be miserable wearing the same patchwork garments everyday, dirt and soot smudging my face. Eating pigeons and cats is also something I’d prefer to avoid! Not to mention all of the shady characters skulking about who might want to kill me for fun!

However, I might very well consider staying in a place like Neverland or Narnia, so long as it wasn’t always winter and never Christmas. It seems logical to remain in a place if conditions there are better than the life one would be leaving behind (which they certainly would be for me at this current point in time). Never having to grow up would also be an added bonus. So, what would you do? Remain, or return?