How to Fix Tim Burton

Earlier this year I did posts on how to fix Superman and Alice in Wonderland. Now I am taking on a great visionary like Tim Burton. In my opinion aside from his animated films he hasn’t made a good movie since Sweeney Todd in 2007. I’m sure he is rolling in his money somewhere but if anyone were to ask my advice here’s what I would say.

tim-burton1. STOP ADAPTING THINGS!– Tim Burton comes from an animation background and his animated films (both producer and director) have still remained great. What’s unique about them? They are original properties!  They come from Tim Burton’s brain!

Let’s look at his track record with adaptations:

Planet of the Apes- clunky, awkward, boring, and aside from Rick Baker makeup Tim Burton’s visual style nowhere to be found.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- they replace all the whimsy of the Gene Wilder classic with a Michael Jackson version of Wonka. I hated this film so much in the theater.

Alice in Wonderland- long, boring adaptation that trades in the Wonderland nonsense for a prophecy and chosen one with a apocalyptic battle scene and Crispin Glover being creepy, Helena Bonham Carter screaming

Dark Shadows- based off of cult TV show feels like each performer is in a different movie. The tone is all over the place. I didn’t laugh once.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children- just like so many YA adaptations it gets bogged down in exposition instead of creating compelling characters. I was so bored.

So there you have it. STOP DOING ADAPTATIONS!!!!

2. Animate Again– I don’t know how good Burton’s relationship with Disney is after Frankenweenie but I’m sure he can find a studio to work with again. In my opinion Frankenweenie and Corpse Bride are by far the best thing he has done since Ed Wood.

You could say that’s just because I am an animation addict and that would be true but Tim Burton started in animation and some of his most personal projects have been in that medium. His short Vincent feels practically autobiographical.

vincent06The other thing is animation takes time. A live action film can be filmed in as short as a month. Animation is multiple years process and I think Burton needs that to refine his scripts and make sure they are more than style over substance.

I’m not saying never do live action again but let’s get the Burton mojo back with animation. I’m sure Laika would work with him again and that would be awesome.

3. Collaborate- In my opinion Tim Burton’s best movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas, isn’t actually directed by him. It is directed by Henry Selick. Sometimes I wonder if Tim Burton and Zack Snyder both need collaborators.

They are both visionary storytellers. There’s no doubt about it but left to their own devices the stories are muddled and boring.

ed-woodI don’t have any proof but I’ve got to imagine in the early days of Burton he was reigned in a lot more than he is now. At the very least I know Ed Wood was a very collaborative effort between writers Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander, director Tim Burton and producer Denise Di Novi.

Working with his muses such as Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter (who has evidently been replaced by Eva Green) you would think would invite collaboration but it does not appear to be the case. Perhaps you get too comfortable and that leads to uninspired work.

Animation is a very collaborative medium so it is no surprise his best work has been there.

4. NO CG-  Now I don’t really mean no CG, but I think CG has kind of ruined Tim Burton.  I can only imagine how much cooler his Alice in Wonderland would have been if he had to literally create the world.

If you think about Edward Scissorhands, Burton created an entire world. Just as an example, his version of suburbia in Edward Scissorhands is full of color and makes a statement about the life just in the color of the paint and the way the castle floats above the small houses.

edward_scissorhands_hillIn his recent Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children the suburb is just normal houses that look like any other houses.

peregrine-houseThe one part I liked in Miss Peregrine’s was the skeleton scene which is made to look like stop motion! It was like a little peak at what might have been.

skeleton5. REMEMBER THE EMOTION– Most of Tim Burton’s early films work (for me at least) not because of visual splendor but because I am emotionally attached to the characters. Big Eyes is the only one of his recent live action films I have connected with on that level (I so wish Christoph Waltz hadn’t ruined that movie with his overacting). Sweeney Todd has it because of the Sondheim music but other than that Tim Burton has had one flat protagonist after another.

Alice's expression through most of Wonderland...
Alice’s expression through most of Wonderland…

Ed Wood is a great movie because we care about Ed making his horrible movies. He is so happy doing what he is doing and that makes you root for him. Edward Scissorhands is heartbreaking. Jack Skellington is likable despite stealing christmas. Frankenweenie breaks your heart in two and I’m not even a pet owner.  The list goes on.

edward-scissorhands2Even a silly movie like Pee Wee’s Big Adventure you laugh but actually care a little bit about him finding that darn bike. I’m not the biggest fan of Burton’s Batman films but particularly Batman Returns has a lot of emotion in it. I mean Penguin’s story is a complete tragedy. I wish we could get a tenth of the emotion from Penguins funeral with the birds walking him into the water in films like Alice in Wonderland or Dark Shadows.

And you don’t have to make the character have Daddy issues to get emotion. Just have a character experiencing something that matters to them. Put on that Danny Elfman score and you’ve got my attention! Corpse Bride gets emotion out of me in Victor playing a piece of classical music. It’s a moment of human connection. That’s all it takes.

corpse-bride-victor-playing-pianoI really do think that Tim Burton is a talented man, a genius when he is on his game. I LOVE Corpse Bride. I LOVE Ed Wood. I LOVE Edward Scissorhands. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is genius. I thought Sweeney Todd was terrific. Frankenweenie made me bawl my eyes out. I want to like a new movie from him so badly!

So, that’s my opinion on that. You are welcome Mr Burton for the free advice 😉

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How to Fix Alice in Wonderland

Recently a lot of people enjoyed my piece on ‘How to Fix Superman‘ and I was thinking about it in regards to 2 movies I saw this weekend- X-Men Apocalypse and Alice Through the Looking Glass. I didn’t like either film and started wondering about what  would I do to make them better. X-Men is kind of an easy question because they already made a near perfect X-Men film in X-Men Days of Future Past. Just do that again…But Alice, now that got me thinking. How would I change Alice and make it work for a modern audience? Let me lay out it out for you:

1.Use the books!

Mockturtle_tenniel None of the Alice in Wonderland films have done particularly well at using the actual Lewis Carroll novels. The 1951 animated film is certainly the closest but it cuts out a ton of the characters and scenes in the book.  For example the Duchess and her entire plot with Bill the Lizard is eliminated.

Naturally you have to take things away when doing any adaptation but it would be nice for once to see a very close telling of Carroll’s book. In Disney’s animated version they bring in incidents like the Walrus and the Carpenter which is in Alice Through the Looking Glass and leave out the Mock Turtle and other good stuff in the Adventures in Wonderland book, so there is time to include more from each book.

The reason I think this would be a great fix to Alice in Wonderland is it would feel new while still being authentic to the world of the story. One of the many problems in Alice Through the Looking Glass is the new characters they invented (movie has nothing to do with its titled book) felt extremely generic.  There certainly wasn’t anything nearly as creative as a gryphon or Mock Turtle.

Alice in Wonderland is great because it is unpredictable. It has little plot but it constantly surprises the reader with a new creature, idea or joke (more on that later). This makes the book charming and the animated film captures this appeal but it could be expanded upon.

2. Embrace the Nonsense

alice in rabbits houseOne of the best things about the animated Alice in Wonderland is the embrace of nonsense. I love when Alice says “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”

This quote does something that Over the Rainbow does for Wizard of Oz. It gives a reason for our heroine to be seeking another world and then when she lands there let her be dazzled by the nonsense.  There is no need to explain why the Red Queen has a large head like they do in the latest film. We don’t need a story about the Hatter’s family. We simply want Alice to meet a lot of fun creatures and get home at the end. It’s as simple as that.

Nonsense at its core should be unpredictable while exposition and dopey plots are not. Alice doesn’t work unless it is unexpected.

3. Embrace the Humor of the Book

alice 1933-2One of the things the 1933 version of Alice in Wonderland gets right is the wicked humor in Carroll’s writing.  When I recently read his books I was surprised how much I laughed. It’s a kind of absurdist humor and can be very dark but that is part of its charm.

For example, I love when the Duchess’ baby turns into a pig.  This is not only funny but wickedly grotesque in a way.  Either way it is unexpected and once again that’s what we need in a new Alice.

Other funny characters can include- Cheshire cat, Mad Hatter, The King,  Tweedledee and Tweedledum and more.

4. Do not ‘YA’ it up

fairytale retellingsOne of the absolute worst trends in recent literature has been the YA retellings of classic fairytales.  I blame Wicked but then Twilight took it to a new level with their ‘new take’ on classic vampire lore. These terrible novels almost always contain a love triangle and a mysterious heroine who is bland, bland, bland.

The 2010 Alice in Wonderland didn’t go the love triangle route but it tried to YA Alice with a bland heroine who is the chosen one and is going to set everything right. Maleficent certainly tried to follow this trend. Ugh. I hate it, hate it, hate it.  Every character somehow gets turned into this mopey, annoying, brooding teenage girl and you know what that is- boring!!!

Fairytales have somehow managed to appeal to people for hundreds of years without love triangles and chosen ones and all this YA nonsense messing them up. People hate on Frozen but at least it did a few things that were different and unexpected to most people.

5. Embrace More Realistic Style and Production Design

alice in wonderland hipsterWe’ve gotten 2 movies where we have CG’d our brains out in Wonderland. Let’s try something different.  What if instead of a totally synthetic world we embraced a Wes Anderson type of sensibility for our new Alice in Wonderland? What if it wasn’t actually a rabbit but a woman with rabbit ears? That would be intriguing and different? It could be more like the fairytales of the 1980s where the dialogue and costumes did the talking rather than the special effects.

Alice could still be in a new place and it could still be Wonderland but why does everything have to be new? Having a more subdued aesthetic to Wonderland might force writers to focus on the dialogue, which is where Alice in Wonderland should really shine anyway.

moonrise kingdom2You wouldn’t have to get Wes Anderson but he is such a great writer I would love to see him work on it. And I would love to get cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki involved and his famous long takes. How great would that be?

pans-labyrinth4Another film I would point them to for inspiration is Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. This is obviously a more horror take on a fantasy world but look how real the creature looks? Like you could reach out and touch it. How neat would it be for Alice to meet a character that feels so palatable and real?

del Toro obviously used CG and special effects in Pan’s Labyrinth but never in a way that takes you out of the movie. It’s too add flair rather than compensate for lazy writing. And most importantly it was something new and totally unexpected and again that’s what we need for Alice to work.

pans labyrinth bookIn conclusion, if I had was asked to pitch a new Alice in Wonderland here’s what I’d suggest:

Alice is a young girl in the 1950s who is bored with her strict parents and teachers. One day she stumbles upon a book in the library about a rabbit and his adventures in Wonderland. The next thing she knows she is in a version of her school but everything looks different- like it has been reversed. Some people have strange costumes on and she wonders if it is a special costume day and nobody told her.  Then she see’s a boy with rabbit ears on who looks scared.  He is rushing out of the school and she follows him into a strange woods. There she meets a variety of creatures and people, some of them funny, some nonsensical, some scary. Eventually she figures out her boredom is really her own fault and there are things she needs to be doing back in her regular life. She wakes up in the library with the librarian telling her class is dismissed. On to further adventures she goes ready to live a dynamic life!

Don’t kill me that it isn’t perfect but hopefully it gives you a flavor of the kind of story I think might work very well. Either way it would be something new and visually different than we have seen in Alice in Wonderland.  It would stick closer to the book, embrace the humor of the story and avoid all that YA crap.

What do you think? Am I on to something? What would you do to make Alice in Wonderland good again?

Over the Garden Wall is similar to the type of aesthetic and combination of humor/magic/realism that I think would be great.

Alice Through the Looking Glass Review

alice-through-the-looking-glass-poster-aliceIf you guys read my response to the Beauty and the Beast trailer you might have an inkling I’m not the biggest fan of these Disney live action remakes. Even the Jungle Book I didn’t like as much as others; although I certainly enjoyed it. The only one I have really LOVED is Cinderella. It’s odd because I’m not normally opposed to remakes on principle but have found the decision making on Disney’s part to be very disappointing.

And unfortunately these bad choices all started with 2010’s Alice in Wonderland. It’s like Disney doesn’t even understand the appeal of their own properties. They certainly don’t understand the appeal of Alice in Wonderland I can tell you that. But to everyone’s confusion the 2010 film made over a billion dollars. It’s so odd because only one person I know really likes it. Alice is kind of like Disney’s version of Transformers- everyone hates it and yet it still made a lot of money?

So it is perhaps no surprise a sequel to such a hit would come. To tell the truth I’m surprised it didn’t come sooner. Many are calling Alice Through the Looking Glass ‘the sequel that nobody wanted’ and after seeing the film I must concur. As bad as the 2010 film is this is even worse.

alice bookTo begin with, don’t let the title fool you.  This movie has almost nothing to do with the Lewis Caroll book Alice Through the Looking Glass. I recently read both Alice books and found them to be delightful. You can read my review here. I actually think the novel has potential as it has a bit more narrative than the first book. Alice ends up in a chess game where she must outwit various players including Humpty Dumpty and the White/Red Queens. This could have been a nice middle-ground between the prophetic narrative of the 2010 film (ugh) and the nonsense of the animated  film but no they abandoned it for some reason. I actually wonder if director James Bobbin and producer Tim Burton have read either of the Alice books…

alice 2No, in this version you have Alice (a bland Mia Wasikowska) who has been a sea captain outwitting all the men around the world (literally…ugh). She ends up returning to Underland to help The Hatter who is heartsick over his dead family. He wants Alice to bring his family back from the dead for him. Quite the request I’d say! And the weird part is the movie assumes this great friendship between the Hatter and Alice which I don’t recall being established in the first movie. My thought was ‘why doesn’t the Hatter get off his butt and go find his family? Why must Alice do it?”. He’s even kind of cranky when she tells him she has no power over death…

alice5It turns out there is a way to help when Alice goes into a clock and literally meets Time (Sacha Baron Cohen). At great peril to all of Underland she steals a chronosphere and goes back in time to undo what hurt the Hatters family.

This all could be good but it is unfortunately very dopey. The worst part is when you find out what kept the White and Red Queen apart you won’t believe it. It’s one of those movie things that a 3 minute conversation could make right and this disagreement caused the war in the first movie. It caused all kinds of misery and all over desserts…I kid you not.

Alice-Through-the-Looking-Glass-Wallpaper

The key to a story like this working is the chemistry of the cast and the believability of the world building. Neither of that exists here. I wasn’t a fan of the artistic style of the first film but admit it was a style. This is very generic (although a little brighter).

Johnny Depp is annoying as the Hatter. Anne Hathaway deserves a Razzie award as the White Queen. Helena Bonham Carter shrieks a lot. Alan Rickman literally has 3 lines as Absolem (so disappointed this has to be his final role).  Most of the side characters are marginalized and not heard from and instead we get the dopey relationship drama between the two queens and Alice messing things up.

It’s frustrating because it has all of the pieces to make something good. I would actually love a good Alice in Wonderland movie but instead we get this.

All I can really say for it is that the costumes are well done and it is less violent than the first film, so I guess you can take kids to it. But save your money for Finding Dory. Even Angry Birds is better than this. See Jungle Book again but skip Alice Through the Looking Glass.

Overall Grade- D

Here’s my youtube review. I’d be very grateful if you gave it a watch/thumbs up. I’m nearing 1,000 subscribers and so if you aren’t subscribed I think you will enjoy the content.

In Defense of Disney Women

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for some time but I have been so busy I didn’t have time to do it justice. Let me give it a shot. Recently over on a popular blog a woman wrote about 3 Disney female “role models’ that aren’t really deserving of that title”.  I want to add my two cents of why with all due respect I think she is wrong and that the 3 she has chosen are worthy characters to emulate in many ways.

alicepic1

Her first target is Alice

She says of Alice “She always has her head in the clouds and it took seeing her wildest fantasies realized to knock some since into her. Even when she becomes hopelessly lost in Wonderland and desperately wants to leave, she still lets her curiosity get the better of her”

Hmmm… well, let’s ignore the fact that there would be no movie if she didn’t let her curiosity be the better of her. But I propose there is more to Alice than mere wild fantasies and curiosity over a rabbit.

Alice doesn’t just wander absent mindedly into Wonderland. She proposes at the start of the film that a world with nonsense would be better. The whole point of Wonderland is to then test out this worldview. She meets one form of nonsense after another whether it be philosophic nonsense in the caterpillar or a tea party that never ends with the Hatter.

There is actually something bold about the mental exercise Alice undertakes. The great philosophers and minds of our time have gotten to greater understanding because they dared to test the world out in a new way.  For example, Plato’s Republic, Dante’s Inferno, Moore’s Utopia all put on new goggles to hopefully understand the world better.  This should be encouraged and makes Alice a good role model for girls.

The thing that sucks about the Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland is they forget about this part of Alice’s character and make it a meaningless adventure with a prophecy and chosen one. Alice is escaping her own problems in that version but in the Disney animated film she is seeing the world in a whole new way.

aurora

Next up is Aurora

The writer is so bold as to say “I think it’s pretty obvious that Aurora doesn’t set a very good example for young girls”.  Her main beef with Aurora is that she falls in love with a man over a dance and she seems to think they are going to run away together. I guess this writer must not like Juliet, Isolde, Guinevere or any number of classic romantic heroines who fall in love quickly.

But where does it say that Aurora is planning to run away with the Phillip? She has plans to meet him later that evening and is twitterpated but I don’t think it is ever clear she is getting married that night. She’s excited about a dance with a boy. What’s wrong with that? She’s then sad when she finds out she will never see him again. Pretty natural response if you ask me.

Also, the author claims Aurora “is beautiful and can sing…That’s literally it”. I disagree. Animals do not take to people very easily but who do the animals love? Aurora. The Fairies adore her and feel sad when they have to turn her over to her father. Do you think they would feel this way if she was a ditzy nothing?

Then the author faults her for giving into the curse. “And the fate of her entire kingdom rests on her not pricking her finger on a spinning wheel; *sighs* you had one job!” This critique is by far the most baffling as even Merrywether an actual faerie can not reverse Maleficent’s magic. How is an ordinary girl like Aurora supposed to do that? It’s an outrageous claim!

Part of the problem with Aurora is we simply don’t see that much of her what with her being SLEEPING BEAUTY!! But what we do see is a loving, caring person who is elegant and graceful. How she is a bad role model is beyond me.

And then we get to the one that really fired me up!- Ariel!

grotto2

The author’s qualms with Ariel aren’t particularly original, but I reject them nonetheless. She says “you should never go so far as to change who you are to get what you want, especially not for a guy”

Ok. Let’s talk about this. The first time we see Ariel she is missing the concert for what? She is off collecting treasures from a ship. This is where she finds the dinglehoffer and snarfblat. Then we first see her entering the grotto and singing Part of Your World BEFORE SHE MEETS ERIC!

She has hundreds of items in her grotto and what does she tell Flounder? ‘I just don’t see how a world that makes such wonderful things could be bad’.

You can make the argument that Ariel is short-sighted when she follows the Sea Witch but why does she do it? Not to get a man but because her father has just destroyed her grotto- her one connection to the human world. Eric is simply the catalyst that gets her to make a decision she has always wanted to make.

I don’t know if it is canon or not but in Ariel’s Beginning we also learn that her mother had a fascination with human artifacts- particularly a music box, so that may explain part of it as well.

Ariel is definitely smitten with Eric but how you can say it is the reason she gives up who she is I just don’t understand. I think she has always felt uncomfortable in her own skin. Again before she meets Eric she says “I just don’t see things the way he does”.  It is no accident that Ariel has become a ROLE MODEL for many LGBT teens who also feel uncomfortable in their own bodies.

When she sings Part of Your World she says ‘lookin around here you think sure, she’s got everything” but then adds “I want more…”. Again, all before Eric. I think that’s a great thing to look up to. Someone who fights for where they belong and who they truly are. Triton recognizes this at the end and that is why he changes her over.

Even Sebastian says it is either Ariel be human or “be miserable for the rest of your life”. That’s a good role model in my book.

pocahontas-and-john-smith

This whole thing baffles me when you have such easy fodder as Pocahontas who is actually partly responsible for an innocent man’s death. She is older than Ariel or Aurora and is consistently a poor listener to those warning caution. She does selfless things at the end but if you had to pick a bad role model of a Disney woman she’s at the top of the list.

And then there are other questionable characters. How about the girl in the Jungle Book who is perfectly happy to get the water and care for her man her entire life?

As much as I love Frozen, Anna is much less developed and is manipulated by men more than Ariel.

Megura in Hercules sells her soul to the devil to get a man. That’s pretty bad and Esmeralda in Huncback dances provocatively before men.

The truth is I don’t think any of these women are bad role models because their characters have arcs that teach good lessons. With proper parenting kids can gain all kinds of lessons from ANY Disney film.

You may think I am fangirling here but I think that’s the case with Dreamworks too or Don Bluth or any film designed for children. I have yet to see one that is so bad that there isn’t something a parent can use to teach or role model off of.  Even the dreaded Chicken Little has lessons in there.

So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I’ll keep my role models to the end. 🙂

Animated vs Burton Alice in Wonderland

Many of you know I am doing a Disney Canon rewatch over on my youtube channel.  I’ve honestly been surprised how different my experience has been with several films- with my either looking more highly or slightly down on films from my 2014 watch.  I mean there are very few Disney films I don’t like on some level, so I suppose degrees of liking will vary depending on mood/situation.

Anyway, I am up to week 13 which means Alice in Wonderland.  I love Alice in Wonderland and it ended up at #11 in my original Disney Canon ranking.  This time it could end up even higher.  What struck me on this watch is how it is nonsense but nonsense with a purpose.  Alice says she thinks the world would be better if it was nonsense and all books had pictures, right was left, up was down etc.  So when she gets to Wonderland she experiences her vision of what she thinks will be better and it turns out it isn’t.  There’s something interesting there.  How often in life do we think another world/lifestyle would be better but if we walked around in our dream world it might not be so great?

Alice’s journey is non-linear as far as plot.  She meets one character and experiences their version of nonsense.  Whether it is an insane tea party, an angry Queen of Hearts or a blubbering philosophizing caterpillar.  Some people don’t like that lack of structure but I love it.

I actually just read the book for the first time and posted a review on my other blog.  I loved the book as well.  It’s funny, endearing and magical. http://smilingldsgirl.com/2016/03/29/teaser-tuesday-alice-in-wonderland/

The voice cast here may be the best in Disney history and the artwork from Mary Blair and team is geometric and rich in detail.  I love it.

So here is my youtube review of the Animated Alice.

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Now let’s talk about the 2010 Tim Burton version.  I did not like this movie when it came out in the theater but I knew I needed to rewatch it for the upcoming sequel so I tried to go in with an open mind….and boy do I still dislike this movie.

First of all, it entirely gets the purpose of Alice in Wonderland wrong.  She thinks that nonsense is better and she gets a chance to confront that belief.  In this version she is escaping a stuffy proposal because she’s a free spirit. Groan…They keep saying in the film it is her dream but what proof have we gotten of that in the real life segment?  And who dreams of these things?  It makes sense for Alice in the animated film to dream of a world of nonsense but who dreams of prophecies, battles, apocalyptic death and destruction?   That makes no sense where an angry version of nonsense does make sense.

Even if you accept a different purpose for the story, the purpose that they chose is incredibly generic and boring.  Alice is the chosen one we’ve seen in a million other movies who is prophesied to save Wonderland…oh excuse me Underland (gag me).  I mean how many movies from Twilight, Harry Potter, Narnia, Hunger Games do we see this story arc.  What they’ve done is take a bright unusual story and turn it into the most milk toast of stories.

Now about the visuals.  This film won Oscars for visual effects and costumes but to me it looks extremely flat and one-note.  Everything is gray and brown and a lot of it can feel quite garish and gross (how about the mote of heads…). I can see why they are pleasing to some palates but to me it is completely bland and seen it a million times. To me it is remarkable that Mary Blair with essentially black backgrounds gets more creativity and better world building in the animated film than all of this 2010 version accomplishes.

Then we have the performances and characters. Mia Wasikowska is completely generic and boring as Alice.  What is great about Kathryn Beaumont is she seems to have the personality of both a grown up and a child. Here she is a free spirited independent girl- yawn!

As far as the other performances, they don’t realize that in the animated film these characters are on screen very briefly so they don’t ware out their welcome.  Here Johnny Depp as the marose Mad Hatter is very annoying and nobody should want to hear Helena Bonham Carter shrieking for a nearly 2 hour movie.  It’s just awful. The one stand out for me is Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar who is perfect for the part.

I know a lot of people like this film but I really hate it.  On the rewatch I honestly dislike it just as much as Maleficent.  Just not for me I guess.

Here is my video review of 2010 Alice in Wonderland

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I know that is throwing a lot at you guys in one post but I would love to hear your thoughts on either film.  Thanks so much! And if you like my videos please give them a thumbs up and subscribe because each Wednesday I post my Disney Canon reviews. Next up Peter Pan.

Most Artistic Animated Films

So on my recent post debating the merits of CG vs Hand Drawn animation I made the bold statement ‘if I made a list of the most artistic animated movies close to half would be CG’.  Well, it got me wondering and it turns out I lied.  Only 4 out of my Top 20 Most Artistic Animated Films are CG but that’s not half bad given the medium has been around way less time.

To me each of these 20 films are artistic masterpieces and stunning however they are drawn or created.  Art is completely subjective so I thought it would be kind of futile for me to try and explain what I think is beautiful or artistic.  I will just let the images speak for themselves.  If you haven’t seen any of these movies I highly recommend it.

Since again art is in the eye of the beholder please share with me your lists instead of merely critiquing mine (I mean what am I going to say ‘I think it is stunning and you don’t and there you have it).

My Top 20 Most Artistic Animated Films
20. Secret of Nimh

artistic119. Prince of Egypt

artistic218. Book of Life

artistic317. Waltz with Bashiir

artistic416. Tarzan

tarzan and jane15. Up

artistic514. Sleeping Beauty

sleeping-beauty-woods-213. Ponyo

artistic612. Alice in Wonderland

Alice-march-hare-mad-hatter11. Ratatouille

ratatouille-paris-pixar-dvdbash10. Les Triplettes de Belleville

artistic79. Lion King

artistic88. Princess Mononoke

princess mononoke7. Persepolis

persepolis26. Tale of Princess Kaguya

tale-of-princess-kaguya-15. Song of the Sea

song of the sea24. Wall-e

walle3. Spirited Away

artistic92. Bambi

bambi21. Fantasia

fantasia

Disney Best Side Characters

Best Side Characters- This list is just the Disney Canon so no Pixar or Tim Burton included!

18. Pain and Panic (Hercules)- very clever devilish side characters that change their shape and are literally all about pain and panic.  Every scene they are in makes me laugh and they are probably my favorite villain sidekicks in Disney.

pain and panic17. Jiminy Cricket (Pinocchio) the warmth that is desperately needed in Pinocchio. Jiminy is crucial to the story as the moral compass in a morality tale.  He gets frustrated when Pinocchio won’t listen just as I’m sure God gets with us when we are stubborn.

jiminy16. Jock and Trusty(Lady and the Tramp)- Everything in Lady in the Tramp is oh so lovable including the sidekicks Jock and Trusty. The dialogue for them is very well written and when they decide to propose to Lady to make her feel better it is a sweet moment.

trustyjock15.Mushu (Mulan)- I still think it is Eddie Murphy’s best voice performance.  He is insecure and manic without being annoying.  Gets a lot of good laughs and helps to narrate throughout the film.  He starts out with selfish motives but the more he gets to know Mulan the more he grows to care for her and think less of himself.

Mushu_kh14.  Timothy Q Mouse (Dumbo) – I love Timothy.  He sticks up for a total stranger, an elephant no less, and pleads with others to understand things that are different.  It frustrates me Dumbo is discounted as racist by many when the heart of the movie is about embracing diversity.

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13. Thumper (Bambi)- There are a lot of characters you could pick from Bambi but Thumper is probably my favorite.  He is a smart alek  who always gets in trouble and has to apologize.  He introduces Bambi to a lot of new things and has a courage and general cheerfulness that is very appealing.  In a movie which is pretty sad Thumper’s optimism and cheerfulness is desperately needed and appreciated.

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12. 7 Dwarves (Snow White and 7 Dwarves)- The first Disney sidekicks that set the standard for not only all Disney but all animated movies.  The Dwarves are easy to understand yet charming and when they are grieving it is remarkably touching for characters that should be one-note.  Plus their singing is still one of my favorites.  Love the harmonies!

7dwarfs11. Sebastian (Little Mermaid) – I want to put him higher because I love Little Mermaid so much but Sebastian isn’t that varied of a character.  Most of the movie he is yelling after Ariel trying to get her to stop misbehaving.  That said it is done with a lot of humor and flare. As the reggae crab who is also a symphony conductor he is kind of a strange mixture of personalities but that makes him so charming.  When he sings Under the Sea it is one of the most joyous moments in all of Disney canon.

sebastian mouth agape

10. Atlantis Crew (Atlantis: The Lost Empire)- Yep, I know some of you will be outraged but I call it like I see it.  I loved these guys! I thought they were hilarious and I loved the diversity and their unique personalities. Moliere is so funny as the mole man always wanting to dig and Audrey is a tom boy but still managing to be vulnerable.

Vinny is great as the cynical Italian who also likes to blow things up and I liked Joshua Sweet is a doctor and not much is made about his race.  Helga is a seriously tough woman who beats the tar out of a couple people.  I just love the combination of characters for a treasure hunting movie and I thought it totally worked for the type of story they were telling. This group kind of reminds me of a more diverse older version of the Goonies and I loved it.  I know I’m in the minority on that but I don’t care! Hey it proves I’m not just spewing out what is popular but giving my own unique opinion.

atlantis crew9. Olaf (Frozen)- I love Olaf.  He has such heart and is a sweet and sincere.  He dreams of being in summer despite being a snowman. How more hopeful can a character be?  His vocal performance by Josh Gad is perfect and his song is funny and sweet. They also use Olaf just enough so he stays charming and isn’t annoying.  When he is willing to melt for his friend it makes me tear up every time.

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8. Timon and Pumbaa (Lion King)- On the surface our 2 sidekicks from The Lion King are silly characters who sing about flatulence and being lazy but they serve an important part of the story by offering Simba an alternative philosophy on life.  He can be carefree and happy or he can risk being miserable but actually do something with his life.  The choice is actually a tough one.  They are also loyal and very funny (and the only characters aside from Jeremy Irons that actually sing their songs in Lion King!).

timon and pumba7.  Gus Gus and Jaq (Cinderella)-  a lot of people find the mice in Cinderella annoying but I love them.  They are loyal and have such a sweet desire to help their friend.  They risk serious peril to get her dress made and when it is all destroyed it is one of the most devastating moments in all of Disney both for Cinderella but also for the mice who worked so hard to make it happen.

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6. The 3 Faeries- Flora, Fauna and Merrywether (Sleeping Beauty).  Watching the disastrous Maleficent made me realize how key to the story of Sleeping Beauty the faeries are.  They are the emotional heart of the film.  With the exception of maybe Phillip, the rest of the characters are kind of one note.  With the faeries we have anger, fear, jealousy, joy, silliness, courage, and hope.  Yes the scene baking the cake is comic relief but when you think about what comes after the audience needs that lightness.  They are smart and capable and the one’s who truly defeat Maleficent in the end.  The fact the new movie made them negligent idiots still burns me up!

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this scene attending to the comatose Briar Rose is so heartbreaking
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3 great ladies not given near enough credit! Fauna, Flora and Merrywether

5. Tinker Bell (Peter Pan)- Probably the most iconic sidekick of them all Tinker bell is probably the second character people associate with Disney after Mickey Mouse.  I really enjoy her own series of movies and the strong but sweet character there but I also find her fascinating in Peter Pan.  Aside from Tink dying they keep pretty close to the faerie in the original play.  She is jealous, angry, frustrated and yet she provides pixie dust and magic.  It’s kind of an interesting paradox.  In a strange way she is actually a very complex female character in an era when not many existed.

Tinkerbell Peter Pan 1953 Mirror4. Alice in Wonderland Cast (Alice in Wonderland)- I know a bit of a cheat but basically Alice in Wonderland is her meeting a series of great minor characters.  That’s the whole story and they all work equally well.  Whether it is the white rabbit, Cheshire cat, blue caterpillar, singing flowers, cards soldiers, March Hare and more they are endlessly engaging.  Some of them are mean, others cheeful, most complete nonsense and I love it! I think people that complain Alice in Wonderland has no story are missing the entire point of the story.  I didn’t appreciate it as much as a child but it is one of my favorites now and it isn’t because of Alice but all the wonderful characters she meets.

alice-in-wonderland-movie-poster-1951-10201981203. Baymax (Big Hero 6)- Call it recency bias if you want but I can’t think of a character I responded more to the moment I saw them than Baymax.  He is a symbol of the love of a brother and in many ways he symbolizes love and the need of all of us to be loved and taken care of.  That said, he isn’t really schmaltzy as you might expect.  Everything he says is simple and to the point but with great concern.  It strikes just the right note and the script allows him to be a part of humor as well as tenderness.  Most of these sidekicks I would never want in my life but I want my own Baymax.  I loved Big Hero 6 and you could certainly include the entire team as dynamic wonderful sidekicks but Baymax takes the crown!  I haven’t felt such affection for a character since the mice in Cinderella.

baymax2. Lumiere (Beauty and the Beast)- really all the characters in Beauty and the Beast are great side characters- Mrs Potts, Cogsworth, Lefou ect are all fantastic.  But if I had to pick my favorite it would be Lumiere.  He is on  one hand a smug showman who doesn’t listen but on the other he is generous, kind, and so much fun.  He definitely has Disney’s greatest sidekick song (with Under the Sea being a close second).  The voice performance by Jerry Orbach is one of the best ever and all in all he is simply charming.

Disney BEAUTY & THE BEAST 3D1. Genie (Aladdin)- The reason I picked the Genie as the greatest sidekick is he is the only one on this list that single-handedly makes the entire movie work.  Without Robin Williams manic performance in Aladdin there would be no movie.  Every other film I’ve mentioned I could take out the side character and the movie would suffer but be able to continue.  Without the Genie, Aladdin as a character never gets challenged or given an opportunity to grow.  Without Genie 2 of the songs wouldn’t exist and all the humor would be gone.  He is the magic for the story and in hoping for his freedom provides the real heart of the story.  I’d say it is not only the greatest Disney side character but one of the greatest period in all of movies. We would expect nothing less from the late great Robin Williams.

Genie-from-Aladdin-dancing

Maleficent: A Review

maleficent-posterLet’s just start this review by saying I was incredibly skeptical going into Maleficent.  The recent fairytale adaptations have been so bad.  In recent years we’ve gotten Tim Burton’s awful Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and Huntsman, Mirror Mirror, Red Riding Hood, Return to Oz have all been dark, gloomy, boring, ponderous pieces of junk.  Yep, that’s what I think.

So I was not excited about Maleficent but I always try to go into a movie with an open mind hoping to be dazzled.  And…

Here’s the trailer

It’s more of the same I’m afraid.  Maleficent basically does to Sleeping Beauty what Phantom Menace did to Star Wars.  It waters down it’s iconic villain to the point beyond recognition making her the hero of the story.  I get that people are complicated and rarely all bad but a fairytale traditionally is a battle of good vs evil.  If it is kind of good vs kind of bad than it ends up being very boring.  Imagine if Voldermort had been really a nice guy after all?  Would that have captured our interest for 8 films and 7 books?  No! Imagine if the Ring of Power was really the ring of goodness and lollipops would Frodo have sacrificed all to destroy it?  No!  In this kind of story we need evil and we need good and then the story builds around that.

So Maleficent starts out with our backstory and we find out that she is a unique fairy, a fully-sized human where the fairies from the original movie are tiny, strange looking creatures (if you thought the old fairies were annoying get ready…). Plus, they change all the personalities of the fairies.  Flora is supposd to be the leader, Fauna is silly and Merryweather is the realist.  In this they are all the same.  If you look at the original the fairies actually are the brains and heart behind defeating Maleficent.  Now they are stupid, negligent and annoying.

fairies

So Maleficent is a joyous happy girl who meets a boy named Stefan who is a human boy that she befriends.

They of course end up  falling in love in a montage and then Stefan returns to the land of the humans.

There is a battle with the king  with the tree people and Maleficent and snoozefest another battle in this type of movie.  I’m so sick of the warrior scenes.  The tree creatures felt like a copy of tree people we’ve seen in a thousand other movies.  I felt that way about most of Maleficent. Seen it all before.

The CGI throughout the movie looks dirty and incredibly fake.  When you think of the stunning artistry of Sleeping Beauty, a movie that took almost a decade to make because the layering of the backdrops and the literary quality to the characters this cheesy seen it all before CGI is an embarrassment.  It’s like with Return to Oz.  Don’t take the brightness and joy of the original and give me a cloudy, murky, CGI ridden world.

So, SPOILER)#$)#@()($)#($)#@($)#($- Don’t read any further if you don’t want to know a few things in the story)

 

So the king wants revenge on Maleficent for the battle and he tells Stefan if he can kill her and bring him her wings than he will be made King.  So we get a pretty good scene where Maleficent and Stefan reunite, cuddle (maybe more?) and then he drugs her and instead of killing her cuts off her wings.

Maleficent-king

Stefan is played by Sharlto Copley who oddly enough I thought looked like Michael Bay.  He’s terrible in the movie.  His accent comes in and out and it feels like bad neighborhood theater.   There is no chemistry between him and Maleficent at any time which is kind of crucial because it is the reason she is bad is because of her broken heart.

Then we get to the day of the christening and the blessings which are so powerfully done in the original.  Instead of a whole ballet like in the original we get a few seconds of Flora giving Aurora beauty and then Merryweather (they change their names here and  make them idiots)  gives her the wish ‘of never being blue’.

That’s not right!!!!  Fauna is supposed to give Aurora the gift of music and then when Maleficent gives the curse Merryweather gives her the gift of being asleep not dead.  In this version Maleficent is the one that curses her to sleep not death!!!

Are you kidding me?  What kind of a lame villain is this?  Cursing her greatest enemy that she will sleep until true love’s kiss?  That’s the lamest curse I’ve ever heard.  Certainly not worthy of Maleficent.

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So Fauna never gives her blessing I’m not sure why.  I guess they didn’t want to have Aurora singing?  I don’t see why not when you’ve got such a great song from the original which they only use in the credits.

So the the king hides the baby with ‘the idiots’ and they leave her alone for long periods of time where Maleficent looks in on her and is by her side.  This makes no sense.  Even if you felt some guilt if you were angry enough to curse someone you wouldn’t immediately be by their side watching over them.  Grrr

Prince Phillip is in this but very briefly but they try to pull a Frozen twist on it and it is so ridiculous.  In the original the scene where Aurora is transfixed and pricks her finger it is eery and frightening.  Here it is completely boring.  And then we find out that it is the true love of Maleficent that breaks the spell!!!!

maleficent

Are you kidding me? This is the woman who has horns on her head.  She controls minions and locks the prince up in a dungeon and tells him ‘so much for true love!’.

Even if you want to make a more nuanced character you can’t completely change said character.  At least the Star Wars prequels as atrocious as they are didn’t negate the originals completely.  It’s not like Vader was the hero at the end.  No he was very bad and you could see why he would destroy entire planets in the next movies.   This completely changes everything about the original.

I’m amazed this didn’t tick more people off.  I thought it was outrageous.   Shame on you Disney!  Wicked, which started this whole trend, told the story how the wicked witch became wicked.  It didn’t try to change her so she wasn’t wicked at all.

Now that Aurora is awaken by her true love’s kiss (Maleficent) she rules the combined land s of fairies and men in peace with Maleficent by her side who gets her wings back. Groan, groan, groan.

maleficent_ellefanning2So good things about it? Jolie is okayish.  I’ve heard a lot of people excuse her performance.  (Her daughter Viviene is cute as baby Aurora).  But I actually thought she shouted most of her lines and they didn’t sound like a real person and since the point of this movie was to create a real person it was a failure.  I never felt connected to her or sorry for her.  Also her look which everyone loved always looked like a costume not her real body.  Basically Maleficent is supposed to be like Voldemort, the epitome of evil.  She is a she-devil, horns and all.  In this it seemed like someone in a Maleficent costume.  Kind of ready to go to a biker bar with leather all about her.

maleficent2.pngSorry guys. I know a lot of you liked it but I was not a fan of Maleficent.  You cannot go back and completely change the events of a story.  Show another side, fine (although still not a fan) but do not permanently change  the events of the plot.  In the end what they did was a remake of the original and a shoddy one at that.  I honestly thought this was worse than Phantom Menace… It also looks murky and dark, the CGI sucks and the acting is really bad.

Overall Grade- F

Unfortunately it made a lot of money so the trend of butchering my favorite childhood movies is going to continue.  Next up Cinderella which I am slightly more hopeful about because it has already been done so many times since the 1950 Disney.

PS there is no dancing or singing or once upon a dream and considering the original was based on a Tchaikovsky ballet that is another unfortunate change …No sleeping spell over the town and the dragon isn’t Maleficent after all who isn’t killed by the sword of truth but the crow hurt by the evil King Stefan.  Sigh…Yes, they even changed the crow around.

 

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

He sums up how wrong Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland is very well.

My Live Action Disney Project

Alice-in-Wonderland

(If this is yourfirsttimeon this blog, I ask you to read my “About” page first! You can find a link to it at the top left-hand corner of this blog. Thanks!)

Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass” opened up a wonderful fantasy land to us, one that was driven by nonsense, rather than logic.

And people around the world fell in love with this wondrous, illogical Wonderland. The appeal of this fictional place as well as that of its characters naturally inspired filmmakers to adapt Lewis Carroll’s books to film numerous times over the years. Walt Disney was one of these filmmakers, hence he created the animated classic, “Alice in Wonderland”, as well as an animated/live-action “Alice Comedies” series 20 years earlier!

Due to the popularity of both those projects, it was inevitable that the Disney Studios would create yet ANOTHER film…

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