Saturday, August 6, 2011

Hello Again


It's three months and fifteen days short of a year since my last post! Two New Years ago I posted a photo of Dorothy just stepping onto the yellow brick road as a symbol of my resolve to post more regularly. This time I'm starting out with an image of Dorothy a step further... because I haven't come too far as a person since then but I still like the picture? Whatever it's symbolism.

Ok, so before more excuses, some content.

This fall I am entering college - two years after graduating highschool - and it bears mentioning that my application's personal essay (which I might include here) spoke of my obsession with The Little Mermaid (the ensuing film adaptations, etc.) and its bearing to feminism and multimedia - in short, this blog.

Yes, I have been researching my butt off to find anything on how Hans Christian Andersen's tale has effected our culture in the past 174 years, 4 months and 30 days.

Surprisingly, it's a lot of work. Nothing much organized is out there, apart from e-texts and fan sites for Disney's Ariel. My life-long dream has become to create a user-friendly and informative website about "Little Mermaid" culture and history, but for now, I'll give you an idea of what I've dug up.

Here are the adaptations that almost make the list - but don't:

You see, I figure my research isn't your typical picture of historical archiving. Sure, everyone knows that the amount of documents or projects or evidence ever made throughout time on earth is finite. However, the pursuit of finding and exploring and explaining history is a blissedly impossible art - as is pretty cutely analyzed in this book I've been reading, History: a Brief Insight by John. H. Arnold.

But I figure since film was only discovered in the 1920s or something, I have a real fighting chance of finding all the versions of the Little Mermaid ever made (or of knowing some to be lost). See I figure if my generation is in the singular position of knowing black and white photographs means grandma and grandpa (which will never be true again), then film being such a new expression in our minds is likewise a peculiar imprint on our ways of storytelling, or something like that. I don't know I haven't really bothered to think it through.

Anyhow I think the various little mermaid film adaptations have a lot to say about what film-makers try to do as film itself has progressed. Sort of like the mermaid story is the control and the development of film the variable. And since the story itself is about pushing boundaries and crossing mediums, I figure that film is well suited to the story as well.

It's not that simple of course; when you read Hans Christian Andersen's writing you'll notice, I think, that the Little Mermaid herself is very quiet and thoughtful, and that as much of the story lies in her thoughts as in the avant-garde breaking of bonds from mortal water to temporary human to daughters of the air or what have you. This (her silent thoughts and nature) is a very precious element (haha) of the story that is easily lost in film. But that makes it twice as fun! How does an artist who works with film deal with that?

I have a feeling this is one of the main concerns that led Disney to fundamentally change the personality of The Little Mermaid in their adaptation. Ariel wants the prince as much as Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid does - the unrelenting concept of "want" is still there - but they made her more fierce, more smile, more blatantly an embracing figure, and by far more adventurous and assertive. But I'll discuss more of that later if I ever get around to publishing my entry on her.

Then there's the female question (you've probably been wondering when I'd get around to this, since I keep insisting this is a feminist blog). Is it the woman needs a man, or is it that people think it is unfeminine for a woman to chase a man? Is it a story about becoming a woman - since literally the "little" mermaid was not only young and lacking full maturity, but was in fact inhuman and therefore in-woman for a great part of the story. Is there a latent implication that it is the province of women to dream from the sidelines, or hope without hope, or love without love, or fight without success, or yearn without need? For the last one - you've got to admit she was a princess of the ocean. She had it made. Why did she want more? (Of course there was that whole, "we don't have a soul" thing but give me a minute I'll get to that.)

But how could it be a latent implication that it is peculiarly a woman trait to yearn unecissarily or dream a vapid dream, since this story was written by a man well known to be shy himself, to have gone through unrequited love himself, unfinished dreams himself (lost career as a singer hellooo), to feel he was a stranger in a new world himself (a writer amongst the gentry, however successful, was at that time in that place still to be a serviceman)?

Of course then there is the rumor - or fact, I haven't read enough - that Hans Christian Andersen had homosexual tendencies so some might say he was getting in touch with his inner woman or something, but that's a whole other can of non-kosher non-politically correct worms, indicating that sexual orientation and sex (gender) are somehow related...

What was I talking about? Oh, my quest with the story, and how it effects and has effected film and people over time. And how I think my quest is especially cool because film is new and - I didn't mention this yet - the story itself is one story from one author, unlike other fairytales. (This isn't completely true in the sense that it was inspired from at least two old folktales I can think of right off the bat - The Legend of Undine and Dvorak's Rusalka, - but run with me here.)

Okay so my opening thoughts were I think these ingredients (mermaid, film, history, woman, writing) are curiously intermingled and that's cool and special.

Okay cool! Done with my short opening remarks. haha.

By the way I haven't included the 1987 Shelley Duvall "Fairy Tale Theatre" version because I haven't been brave enough to try watching it yet - the fan effect to make the hair look like it is underwater looked more like the creatures were trying to have a conversation in a whirlpool. However, I have sources that say it's worth watching so we'll see.

Ok so since my opening remarks were so long I'll make my middle and end remarks nice and short. I want these entries to be shorter so I can post more often.

ooo! I promised more excuses. Here we go. Why I haven't posted but still keep proudly calling myself a blogger.

I've continued to obsess and collect all information about Disney's Tangled (and how it's discussed and portrayed in the media of course).

(a revised edition of a Disney Princess book that includes Rapunzel. One of the new 2D designs for her in the Disney Princess consumer product line. I love how all the princesses are dolled up past recognition XD)

(left to right: older, newer)

(left to right: new, newer)

I think I might have mentioned a while back that I find Rapunzel the second most important fairy tale behind the Little Mermaid when it comes to issues with women and issues with the Self. So the most famous feature-length film adaptation has become a source of major fascination. Plus the way it was made, technologically, is about the marrying of artistic vision and technology, perhaps for the first time at this scale ever ever ever, so that as you might suspect is very personal to me.

(concept art by Claire Keane)

Plus I figure every five years or so you should find something to be fiercely addicted to and obsessed with. For your health and vitality or something.

Though I've kind of been losing sleep and seeing less people because of it, so maybe I should rethink that.

(fan poster-thing made by me. funny right?)

Starting September of Last Year, I have been trying to write a comprehensive series of entries on this movie - that was two months before it came out. The first entry was "Tangled - Can I Marry This Movie?" For these entries I uploaded One Hundred and Thirty-Four images - detailed screencaps from trailers to discuss the choice of the depiction of her body, the tower, etc. Hopefully I'll get around to touching those entries up.

Here's an example of the level of detail my scrutiny of Tangled has become.

The top moving image is from the first trailer. The lower image is from the movie (I had to flip the image so they'd be easier to compare). The trailers and choice of promotion focal points or whatever were very controversial, because Rapunzel was barely seen in them and the character Gothel was left a mystery - some thought the main character was going to be a glib theif amongst a shadow of a Shrek film. It was NOT, but the change of title from "Rapunzel" to "Tangled" made it seem like Disney was pandering to audiences to try and lure unsuspecting little boys to watch a princess film. At least that's what lots of critics said.

Anyhow you'll notice annoyed Rapunzel from the trailer's hair is differently shaped and colored from annoyed Rapunzel from the movie, and her lips pout more (perhaps to exaggerate the modern sexiness they wanted to get across?). Trailer Rapunzel's hair frames her face more and there are more distinctive highlights of pink. Not to mention they chose to enhance the color scheme to maybe make the trailer "pop" more. Also movie Rapunzel smiles in a moment of confusion before she raises her frying pan in a huff. Were they shortening the clip for trailer time purposes or did they want to emphasize the "spunk" of the character in the commercial?

Maybe they made these changes because they were still fine-tuning her character. Maybe the hair is different and pinker in the trailer because they were still debating how distracting it would be for 70 feet of screen hair to have pink highlights.

Maybe I should be doing better things with my time. haha.

(concept art by Glen Keane, current desktop picture)

But seriously, food for thought. Some animator made these changes and they did it because they cared, it's a career decision for them. The more I learn about Disney the more I realize how damn seriously they take themselves and their work. And as a non-diagnosed obsessive compulsive and workaholic I like that in an art company.

P.S. - This next moving .gif was always my favorite part of the trailer. It still feels a lot like the finished Rapunzel. A part of me wishes it made it to the movie, but I see why they couldn't fit it in (she'd have to be too comfortable with a strange human's presence in her isolated tower too fast and THAT doesn't fit the character).

By the way I made this moving gif. image to discuss how they squished her body and the use of under-eyelids for expression we are accustomed to see in 2D animation -
- as well as a pontificating discussion of what they might do with her (Rapunzel's) sexuality. yeah.

Of course the eyelid thing for these two characters are especially similar because the animation for both Ariel and Rapunzel were headed by Glen Keane.

- Okay so now I'll classify that as my MIDDLE remark(s). Now for the end remarks.

Um, I like to watch films with tea and pretend they are pouring coffee...

...I've been thinking I should try to articulate why the show Daria is appealing beyond the solidarity for the intelligent female shut-in, not that that's nothing... if you don't know the show, I'll clue you in...

... I've noticed the beginning of the Hobbit (I'm rereading it) makes you quite hungry (all that talk of cold chicken and pickles and seed-cake and coffee and cheese and mince-pie).

... did I forget to mention I've spent as much as $70 in the past week trying to purchase from Amazon Japan certain Little Mermaids I have been looking for, neither of which were what I wanted, one of which was borderline bootleg of terribly done cheap animation? UGH the risks and hardships one takes for the cause... I did find the original audio for one of the Japanese ones so the last month hasn't been a total loss...

... ooo and I've been working on videos. Animated Fan Music Videos. One which I hope will be done very soon, is my attempt to emphasize the darker tones of Disney's Rapunzel and the story of Rapunzel in general through Emelie Autumn's "Lady Shalott," some color scheme changes, and some playful editing... I'll keep you posted on that...

...Futurama's back for another few seasons, which is great. I should do a Leela entry... they really push the boundaries of her likability, which I really admire... those writers have balls... (haha stereotypical male metaphor on feminist blog!)

Futurama Thursdays 10/9c Get The Ball
Bender plays fetch with Mr. Peppy, Fry's alien pet. Video Clip, Airdate 8/11/2011Comedy Central
grrrr I want one of those as a pet.

... and with that cute little tidbit I think I will leave you. A Very Un-Birthday to you! (yeah I went there.)

Hopefully a new post sooner than a year from now! (It's my un-birthday wish.)


  1. Yay! Loved this post. Very entertaining and thought-provoking.

  2. Nice post, but I did have one question. On the page with the multiple Little Mermaid adaptations you selected as good, what is the one on the top, third from the left, where the mermaid is on the statue with the purple tail and flower in her hair from?