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The premise of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, ABC's spinoff of Once Upon a Time, is that the human, non-magical protagonist goes on a quest through a magical land to reunite with her boyfriend, who is being held captive by a power-hungry magician who is in cahoots with the power-hungry queen of the magical land. The protagonist uses skills and knowledge gained during a childhood trip to this magical land; also helping her is a thief who is also the queen's ex. Distractingly enough, the protagonist is Alice, the boyfriend a genie, the magical land Wonderland, the power-hungry magician Jafar, the power-hungry queen the Red Queen, the thief/queen's ex the Knave of Hearts. Sprinkle liberally with iconic Lewis Carroll creations; season with threadbare fairy tale tropes, including plenty of sappy bilge about True Love [tm], and serve. Yields at least 15 episodes.

I've just watched the first three episodes of the latest Disney concerted marketing effort of various properties TV show, and I remain uncertain. Once I suppress all my objections to the unholy mashup of bastardized Alice + bastardized Aladdin, I find the Heroic Quest motif interesting enough to follow, especially since it features a female protagonist, which Heroic Quests hardly ever do. It's nothing original, but it's entertaining and less stodgy than the recent live-action Alice in Wonderland, for which we can also put the blame on Disney.

The show will succeed or fail on the strength of its performances, I think. Sophie Lowe does well as an Alice in her teens who accepts nonsense with the same calm aplomb as she did when a child. In the episodes that I've seen so far, she always has her wits about her and always has a plan, usually involving violence and force, rather than cunning. In fact, I kinda wish she'd stop thinking with her weapons, although I do appreciate the portrayal of a young woman as calm, confident and competent. Michael Socha, as the sarcastic, self-interested Knave of Hearts, plays well off Lowe and adds a lot more interest to the proceedings. Alice and the Knave's relationship is one reason I'm continuing to watch the show.

Naveen Andrews, as Jafar, clearly enjoys himself as he strides and lurks and swirls his cape; at the same time, though, he portrays his character as dry, coldly calculating and truly menacing, having already racked up a score of nonchalant murders. Emma Rigby, as the Red Queen, enjoys her power more ostentatiously and hammily, preferring to get her way through manipulation, rather than indiscriminate slaughter. The uneasy collaboration between the Red Queen and Jafar, who have similar goals, but dislike and distrust each other, I find fascinating and yet another reason to keep watching.

Unfortunately, the relationship most central to the show's plot -- that between Alice and Snore Cyrus the genie -- bores me. That's because, over three episodes in which all major players have developed a bit, Snore still remains a cipher. You'd think that being magically enslaved to a series of fickle whims would do an interesting number on a guy, but Snore doesn't seem particularly affected. All he does is exist as a prop to Alice: teaching her swordplay when she asks, making her an origami rose because he loves her, telling her not to rescue him because Jafar has threatened to kill Alice to torture Snore, etc. Now this could be an interesting avenue for development if Alice told him that she would prefer that he actually get a life of his own, rather than become a codependent appendage, However, Snore remains a crashingly dull love object/damsel in distress who has yet to say, do or think anything significant. It sure doesn't help that many of Snore's scenes occur with him + Jafar, and Andrews camps it up in circles around Peter Gadiot, who plays Snore.

The show could really help the vacuity of Snore -- and the character of Jafar too -- by giving them some more backstory. We have extensive history on Alice, and we're learning more about the Knave and the Queen through their past relationship with each other, but our main players of color [don't think I haven't noticed the conspicuous absence of speaking roles for people of color, ABC/Disney!!] have little background. Flashbacks tell us that Jafar has been stalking Snore for years, even when they were both back in PseudoArabianNightsLand Agrabah, and we know how Snore got from there to Wonderland, but we don't know why Jafar is so hung up on this particular genie and also how he got to Wonderland. [Interdimensional flying carpet?] I will gladly stare at Naveen Andrews striding and lurking and calculating and menacing and offhandedly slaughtering for hours because he does so in a talented and sexy manner [despite the unfortunate pencil mustache], but I will not be fully engaged unless we get some history on his character. Until then, I'm going to assume that Jafar pursues Snore because he wants him for his power and his pretty face. :p

P.S. Speaking of tragic facial hair, Snore needs to shave. He looks like a 16-year-old trying really hard to generate a beard.
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Disney makes a bunch associated with Tinkerbell and all her groupies. Cheap!

Do you know how hard it is to find 2-inch [1:36 scale, i.e., 1:6 scale for 1:6 scale] figures?

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And by "everything," I mean "humanoid characters from their animated films." Interestingly, a lot of these dolls have basic articulation [head, shoulders, elbows, wrists, waist, hips, knees]. The cartoony style of the headsculpt actually agrees with my stylized, exaggerated aesthetic, so this information could be relevant to my interests.
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I previously pronounced Pixar's upcoming Brave as bilge. I stand by that statement, despite the awesomeness of the protagonist's hair.

Remind me against why I'm supposed to be excited about a headstrong princess defying restrictive standards of femininity and charting her own destiny, thus proving that she's just as good as a man? That trope just reinforces the idea that a female character with self-knowledge has to be an egregiously ass-kicking iconoclast in order to determine her own life. It's a form of exceptionalism that dismisses the much more interesting [and common] stories of the ways that women create their own stories in more ambivalent, less flagrant fashion.

Pixar/Disney clearly thinks it's so great for doing Brave, like they're supposed to get feminist cookies for pushing tired stereotypes. This movie irritates me so much, and it's not even out yet!

Brave

Mar. 7th, 2012 12:26 pm
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Merida is a nice name, but I think Pixar's latest outing, coming in June, will be shite. Pixar's overcompensating. If they really wanted to earn my respect, they would have had important female characters in their movies from the beginning.
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Disney's upcoming animated pile of bull hooey, The Princess and the Frog, apparently takes my subject line as a thesis.
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What do you think of these ads over on SocIm? Frankly, they creep me out. This is what I said over there:

People of color as backdrop! Gun as penis! Murder as victory! YAAAAAAAY!

Beyond these things, I’m trying to articulate why this series is disturbing to me, perhaps because it brings cartoon characters into the non-cartoon world and gives them realistic remains. Most of the characters shown are heavily anthropomorphized, which adds an extra layer to their death. The trope of “big game hunt” doesn’t really fly for me when I see a tree with a sad humanoid face with its limbs amputated. What do other people think?


I'd like to hear opinions from other people.
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Johnny Depp signs on to do Pirates 4. Stop beating a dead horse to death, Disney.

Also, we get a preview of Disney's horrid Princess and the Frog [previously discussed here], with a princess of color, and ohhhhhh...it's sick. Why in the squackity squack is the firefly missing teeth and talking like Jiminy Cricket in blackface? Also, "Tiana's" very stretchy face and wide mouth make her a knock-off of Ariel. It makes me want to PUKE kick my heels up and PUKE throw my hands up and PUKE throw my head back and PUKE... [Apologies to the Temptations.]


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Part I is here.

Okay, I've argued that Breaking Dawn is structurally flawed, for which I loathe it deeply. More serious, however, is its thematic bankruptcy, for which I find it philosophically objectionable. To all those twits who read this review and criticize me for taking a mere teen romance too seriously, let me tell you something: 

 

 
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Little T-shirts! Ostensibly air fresheners for the car, these shirts have been tested by MWDers and proven good fits from male and female figs. The following appeal to me: "0% Angel," "Chicks Rule!," "God Bless America," "Hottie," "Naughty," "Princess" and "San Francisco." I can see Baozha in "Hottie" [just to piss off Chow], Mark in "God Bless America" [when he's not wearing his "I Love Cactus" shirt], Rori in "Chicks Rule!" and Will [or one of my Frank dolls] in "Princess." 

There are some more little T-shirts here about the same size. I can't really tell if they are complete shirts, but they seem to be.  I think I need some with Disney Princesses on them, if only to pervert.
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So I was flipping through the "Orlando Official Vacation Guide 2008," a glossy publication of the Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau. Most of the pages cover conspicuous consumption, such as resorts, golf and shopping, although there are 6 pages about "Heritage," including a pitch for the Orange County Regional History Center, which tells the "story of Orlando -- from the Seminole Indians to Mickey Mouse -- through interactive exhibits."

Anyway, the "Attractions" section is fronted by a two-page spread that tries to guilt readers into consuming said attractions. I've scanned the pages below because I'm most interested in the way that the ad copy defines childhood, the supposed "problems" of childhood and "Attractions" as the cure.
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In her comment on my previous entry, katranna notes that Disney actively avoids black characters. This is true, but they used to be a little less avoidant. For example, the original version of the animated Fantasia had a little black centaur girl in the Beethoven's Pastoral section. The little black centaur girl, Sunflower, was being a sycophantic slave to the white centaur girls. Sunflower has since been cropped out, denied and otherwise suppressed during Fantasia theatrical and DVD re-releases. See here for a still of Sunflower and even a clip! The rest of the article [about Disney's most racist characters] is worth reading as well. 

The subject line comes from the #3 most racist characters, the Indians in Disney's Peter Pan [admittedly based on J.M. Barrie's stereotyped Pickanninny tribe, which, in a confusing stew of racism, are named after a derogatory term for African-Americans]. They sing a song with that title.

P.S . The list at Cracked.com forgot Stromboli, the fat yelling Italian stereotype in Pinnochio, as well as the eeeeevil slanty-eyed suck-uppy Siamese cats in The Lady and the Tramp who don't speak grammatically ["Now we looking over our new domicile / If we like, we stay for maybe quite a while"].
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As the stepparent of a 6-year-old, the Disney princess marketing machine is old news to me. This article by the always-behind-the-times Newsweek pisses me off, though. Here's part of the concluding paragraph:

Considering that "What's Love Got to Do With It" attitude, it's no wonder that Disney is modernizing its princess formulas.

 
P.S. For bonus nausea [and possibly VOMITING!!!!!], note that the 2009 Princess and the Frog is set in New Orleans. Cue the sassy Southern mammy stereotype, the comic and subhuman speaker of Cajun creole, not to mention the stupid, ignorant, stereotyped jokes about voodoo [more properly called Voudon, I think]. Extra bingo points for gratuitous depiction of New Orleans as some sort of swingin' place full of cheerful Stepin Fetchits just groovin' to the wild rhythms of that racy, "uncivilized," "wild" jazz. 

P.P.S. For a bonus bonus, read Deborah Siegl's review of Enchanted, which uses the movie as a case study to argue many of the points I bring up here.
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Very rarely am I generally impressed with a movie, but that's my reaction to the latest Pixar effort, Ratatouille.
I also just have to mention that we saw a trailer for Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium,
Wake me up when Stardust comes out. Despite my fear that it will be a thoroughly formulaic, thematically light fairy tale [Neil Gaiman is not notable for significant depth], it does have some good actors in it and possibly some nice swordplay. Alternatively, I'll check into The Golden Compass, just to see how much of a compressed turd they make out of a good book by putting a Scientologist nutball as one of the lead characters [unless I'm wrong and Nicole Kidman swore off the space aliens Ponzi scheme religion once she broke off from Mr. "Not Gay No Way" "Big Nose" Cruise].
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I want to see Zoo because it sounds like an unusual treatment of bestiality. I do not want to see Teeth because it sounds like a stupid, stereotypical treatment of vagina dentata. I wonder how long I'll have to wait before Sundance films hit either the theaters [hah!] or the video stores [more likely].

In other news, it's "BESTIALITY," people, not "BEASTIALITY."

In even more other news, I still want to see Casino Royale and Arthur and the Invisibles. I'm curious about The Last Mimzy, which is coming out in March and which has an Escape to Witch Mountain atmosphere, especially from the trailer. Penelope, with a limited release in April, looks interesting, but will probably be a turd because Hollywood couldn't do an affecting, realistic and powerful fairy tale even if Jack ZIpes walked them through the process. 

And don't forget Spiderman 3 [hooray!], coming out in early May. And then there's Shrek 3, the franchise juggernaut for which should be hung, drawn, quartered and pulverized on high speed in an industrial blender because it ran out of ideas and humor right around the end of Shrek 1. Also coming in May is Pirates of the Caribbean 3, which I'm sure will be a ponderous and thunderous headache of a movie, but which contains Johnny Depp and Keith Richards [!], so I might have to see it.

There's a Nancy Drew [!] movie coming out in June, and it will probably be a neutered PG stinker.

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I finally saw Pirates of the Caribbean 2 last night! Spoilers and criticism ensue. Read more... )

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