Vote to Invalidate a Venal Villain’s Victory!

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Remember, remember the eighth of November
The Russia-Trump treasonous plot
I know of no reason the Russia-Trump Treason
Should ever be forgot.

Good day to you, fellow readers. You may call me Vhelf, and I speak to you in lieu of our usual gracious, witty, and might I add gorgeous authoress. Allow me first to apologize for this intrusion. I do, like many of you, appreciate the comfort of everyday predictability – the milk man, the paper boy, evening TV – though suffice it to say nothing will be predictable on this day of November the Third. I thought that perhaps, before you go about on your daily routine and head down to the polls to cast your vote as is your right and duty as Americans, we might mark the occasion with a little chat.

There are of course those who do not want us to speak through the polls. I suspect even now, orders are being shouted into telephones, and hooligans with guns driving trucks with obnoxiously huge flags will soon be on their way to various sites and drop-off boxes. Why? Because while the floor is always open to deep, meaningful conversations about important issues, actions speak louder than words. Words open the door to the truth, and for those who will watch and listen, deeds will enunciate that truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, think, and speak as you saw fit, you now have people screaming at you for being a snowflake and to consider their feelings while suppressing your own and soliciting your submission as they parade about on the necks of those they view as beneath them.

How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well, certainly there are those more responsible than others, and God willing they – and one vile man in particular – will be held accountable, but truth be told, many of you need only look in a mirror.

I know why you did it. Some of you bought the rhetoric of returning this country to a better time from your past without considering that the past might not be as great as you remembered. Some of you simply didn’t trust his more qualified, rational female opponent who had only a philandering husband and a slightly dodgy internet history against her. Some of you were fed up with the constant bickering between both parties and stayed home in the misguided belief that your indifference would somehow make a real difference. And, in the case of certain people mistaking NPR tweeting the Declaration of Independence as “promoting liberal rebel propaganda”, well, some of you were just plain stupid – and bolstered by the man affirming your outdated and disgusting views of the world. Fear, disinterest, and racism got the best of you, and you turned to the orange-dyed egg teetering on his border wall, Trumpty Drumpfty.

He promised you greatness, he promised you security. Instead, he separated immigrant families and stuffed children into cages like animals, gutted women’s, LGBT and civil rights back to the medieval period, openly attacked any voices of dissent, allowed a pandemic to put the entire planet on hold for three-quarters of a year, barely lifted a finger when his own people called for aid, defied safety regulations when he himself became a victim of his own incompetence (and incontinence), and openly encouraged a rise of white supremacy not seen since a certain mustachioed lunatic came to power in 1930’s Germany. And all he demanded in return was your constant effusive praise, and silence where everything else was concerned.

One week ago, I sought to end that silence. One week ago, I cast my early vote for Joe Biden to remind this country of what it has forgotten. Joe was not my first choice initially, not even among my top three, but compared to the gibbering germ-spreading geriatric currently holding office, he is our best shot at making fairness, justice and freedom more than just words. That kindness, empathy and inclusion are stronger than selfishness, greed and fascism. With Kamala Harris at his side, we have a chance at bringing this country back from the brink of war and turmoil, and restoring the equality and peace that had been stolen from us. At the very least, we won’t be spending our days under the covers with a stockpile of booze hoping to ride out World War Three or quarantine through sheer inebriation.

If you’ve seen nothing, if the crimes of this administration remain unknown to you, don’t let this third of November pass unmarked. Do the research and open your eyes. And if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, if you seek what I seek, then I ask you to stand in line at your registered voting location, no matter how long it takes, vote blue all the way, and together we shall give them a third of November that shall never, ever be forgot.

VOTE BLUE AND VOTE TODAY. OUR LIVES DEPEND ON IT.

Planning Ahead for the Holidays

I know I just put out the first review I’ve written in months, but as the great Groucho Marx once said, “Hello, I must be going!” December will be here sooner than you think, and I’m ready to get back to the annual tradition of reviewing one short, one special, and one movie that befits the most wonderful time of the year. There’s no shortage of classics and time-honored favorites to choose from on the Christmas Shelf. Last year’s charming 2-D animated hit from Netflix, Klaus, is there, and Home Alone has just turned 30 (it’s as old as I am and that makes me feel so much older for some reason). And if you just can’t get enough of Frozen, I’ve gone and added Olaf’s Frozen Adventure too.

This pandemic has also given me time to catch up on television I’ve put aside for too long, and several of the shows I’ve watched have had some fun Christmas outings that I’ve added to the list. All the holiday episodes of the beloved comedy Community are there, as well as Phineas and Ferb’s “Christmas Vacation!” and Milo Murphy’s Law’s “A Christmas Peril”. If you’re feeling a little nostalgic, there’s The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh‘s “The Wishing Bear” or Teacher’s Pet‘s “A Dog For All Seasons” and “The Blight Before Christmas” (Disney+ is really on the ball when it comes to the obscure toons). Speaking of, it’s pretty likely Disney+ will add more holiday content on to their service in the near-future, so keep an eye out because you might be able to vote for them here as well.

Anyways, you know the drill: check out the Christmas Shelf and let me know the short, special and feature film you want me to review in the comments or by emailing me at upontheshelfshow@gmail.com . Patreons get extra votes among other perks, and I’d like to thank them now for their contributions during this trying time: Gordhan Rajani, Sam Minden, and Amelia Jones, you guys are the best!

October Review: Corpse Bride (2005)

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Picture of Corpse Bride

A long time ago in Russia, a young Jewish man was on his way to his wedding accompanied by his friends. As they passed by an old tree in the woods, the groom noticed to his amusement a stick poking from the ground that resembled a bony finger clawing its way out of the earth. In jest, the groom placed his wedding ring on the stick and recited his vows to his “wife”, performing the wedding ritual and making his companions roar with laughter. Little did he know that he made a grave error indeed.

The ground began to shake beneath them. A enormous hole opened up, out of it where the stick once lay rose a horrifying corpse! She was little more than a skeleton wrapped in bits of skin and a rotting wedding dress with a spider’s web for a veil. The bride had been murdered on her way to her own wedding years before by anti-Semitic Cossacks. Now that the groom had made his vows to her, she claimed him as her own.

In terror and desperation, the groom and his friends fled to the rabbi for help. Surely the wisest and most learned holy man in the village would know what to do. The groom presented his dilemma (as a hypothetical question, of course), but as the rabbi pondered it, the doors of the synagogue burst open, and there before them stood the corpse bride. Once again she laid claim to the young groom, this time with the whole village – and the groom’s living bride – there to witness it. With the situation blown wide open, the rabbi gathered other rabbis from the surrounding villages to consult with them. The village waited anxiously for their outcome, the groom’s living bride most of all. Finally, the rabbi presented his answer:

“It is true, you have put the ring on the finger of the corpse bride and recited your vows, which constitutes a proper wedding – however, the vows state that you must seek a life together hallowed by faith. Since the bride is already deceased, she has no claim upon the living.”

The groom and his living bride were relieved. The poor corpse bride, on the other hand, wailed and collapsed to the ground in tears. “My last chance at a happy life, gone! My dreams of love and family will never be fulfilled, every thing is lost forever now.” She was a pitiable sight, a heap of bones in a ragged wedding dress sobbing on the floor – yet who should show her compassion but the living bride herself? The young woman knelt and gathered up the corpse bride, holding and comforting her like a mother would a crying child.

“Don’t worry,” she murmured in her ear, “I will live your dreams for you. I will have children in your name, enough for the two of us, and you can rest knowing our children and children’s children will be taken care of and never forget you.” The living bride tenderly carried the corpse bride to the river and dug a grave for her, decorating it with stones and wildflowers, and laid her in there herself. At last, the corpse bride knew peace, and she closed her eyes. The living bride and her groom were married, and she kept her promise to the corpse bride: she had many children, and those children had children, and they always told the story of the corpse bride and the kindness she was shown so she’d never be forgotten.

This is a semi-abridged version of an old Jewish folktale that would have remained in obscurity if it hadn’t reached the late Joe Ranft, storyboard artist for Pixar and a little movie called The Nightmare Before Christmas. He passed it on to his good buddy Tim Burton and big surprise, this rather macabre love story clicked with him. Corpse Bride debuted in 2005, the same year as Burton’s Willy Wonka remake, and it’s safe to say that this my preferred film between the two. Obviously, comparisons between this and the previous Tim Burton stop-motion musical (which he did NOT actually direct, see the opening of my Coraline review) will be inevitable, but Corpse Bride is a fine companion piece to Nightmare in nearly every way.

…Then I watched The Princess and the Scrivener’s video on the film (do check out their channel by the way) where they raised a highly pertinent question. If you’ve seen the movie already, I’m sure you’ve noticed one major difference between this and the story it’s based on:

So because Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride changes the setting of this Russian-Jewish folktale to England and made the characters Christian (as well as taking Burton’s own dodgy history when it comes to diverse casting into account), does that make it guilty of Jewish erasure?

Steven Universe GIFs | Tenor

Look, events this past year have made me re-evaluate many of my views and privileges as a white person. I want to be as woke and supportive of as many marginalized voices as possible, and that includes reassessing media I previously assumed was harmless or at least fair for its day. I truly want to see more Jewish characters and stories in mainstream entertainment that aren’t overused stereotypes or victims (the only Jewish movies I can think of that don’t involve the atrocities of World War 2 are Fiddler On The Roof and Yentl). After seeing Scrivener’s video, I sometimes wonder how much more we could have gotten if they kept the film more grounded in its Semitic roots. In fact, wouldn’t there be far more tension and a greater commentary on marrying outside of race, class and religion if they kept Victoria Christian but made Victor Jewish? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a thoughtful, questioning rabbi to counter Pastor Gallswell’s narrow-minded austerity?

That being said, however, I still don’t have much of a problem with the changes made in Corpse Bride. Folktales are meant to be retold with changes naturally evolving through the centuries. Sometimes the true strength in a story lies in how it well it can be told through different ethnic lenses. HBO’s animated series Happily Ever After is excellent in this regard, giving us creative cultural retellings of familiar stories ranging from an Inuit Snow Queen to a Rastafarian Rumpelstiltskin. The fact that so much of the grimness and heart of the original tale remains after its conversion to Christianity is a testament to how well they managed to pull this adaptation off.

Continue reading

To The Pain

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trumperdinck

“So, China virus -“

westleyvirus2

“I’m not Chinese, you racist, vomitous mass.”

trumperdinck

“My experts say we’ll have a vaccine for you by the end of the year! To the death!”

westleyvirus2

“No. To the pain.”

trumperdinck

“…I don’t think I’m familiar with that phrase.”

westleyvirus2

“I’ll explain, and I’ll use small words you’ll be sure to understand, you warthog-faced buffoon”.

trumperdinck

“That may be the first time in my life someone’s dared to insult me.”

westleyvirus2

“Then you haven’t been paying attention these past four years.”

westleyvirus2

“To the pain means the first thing you lose will be your sense of taste and smell. Then the aches creep in all over. Next an increasing fever alternating with chills.”

trumperdinck

“And then I rinse and spit you out with some bleach. My advisors said telling the public that was a mistake but listening to them is a mistake I won’t duplicate tonight.”

westleyvirus2

“I wasn’t finished. Then comes the feeling of acute pneumonia. The next thing you lose will be the ability to breathe without a respirator.”

trumperdinck

“And then I go blind and deaf, right? Let’s get on with it!”

westleyvirus2

“WRONG! Your eyes and ears you keep and I’ll tell you why – “

westleyvirus2

“So that every hacking cough and wheeze that erupts from your chest and slowly brings you closer to the same death you condemned 200,000 people to will be yours to cherish. Every former supporter who escapes your thrall, every person calling for your arrest, every human being victimized by your weaponized racism, every man, woman and child who cries out ‘Dear God, what is that thing we put in office?’ all while you lie there helplessly, will be burned in your eyes and echo in your perfect ears.”

westleyvirus2

“That is what ‘To the pain’ means. It means I leave you in anguish, wallowing in sickness and misery forever, fighting for every single breath you will take for the rest of your unnatural life.”

trumperdinck

“…I think you’re bluffing. You’re a hoax! You were made in a lab! I’ve been taking hydroxychloroquine every day! I don’t need a mask, I’ve got herd immunity!”

westleyvirus2

“It’s possible, fascist pig. I’m only lying here because you undermined all scientific research and your party lacked the strength to stand up to you and for the people they claimed to represent.”

westleyvirus2

“But then again, perhaps I’m not a hoax after all…”

the tweet

westleyvirus

“WEAR. YOUR. MASK.”

Vote For October’s Movie Review!

  • I know this isn’t the fifth anniversary review, but I feel all the other reviews have been held up long enough. I’m going to try to get it out by the end of the year (hopefully it’ll end this disaster of a year on a high note) but for now, I’m moving ahead to October…which is in a few days, I know. It may not be ready by the first of the month, it’ll be there in time for Halloween! Just take your pick:
    • Phantom of the Opera (1989)
    • Bram Stoker’s Dracula
    • Hocus Pocus
    • Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic
    • Poltergeist
    • Corpse Bride
    • John Carpenter’s The Thing

    You can leave your vote in the comments or email me at upontheshelfshow@gmail.com. Remember, unless you’re a Patreon supporter, you can only vote once. Supporters get perks such as extra votes, early access to certain posts and adding movies of their choice to the Shelf. Special thanks to Amelia Jones, Gordhan Rajani and Sam Minden for their contributions!

    May Review: The Great Race (1965)

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    1965_film_the_great_race_poster

    “Push the button, Max!”
    – Professor Fate, usually before a catastrophe of his doing strikes

    To say things have gotten tumultuous since the last review would be a gross understatement. But we’re not here to discuss today’s upheavals, important as they are. Let’s just take a moment to reflect and laugh. Lord knows we could use a good one right now.

    Directed by esteemed comedy director and Hollywood bad boy Blake Edwards, The Great Race is a loving pastiche and send-up of silent comedies and melodramas from the early days of cinema (classic Laurel and Hardy in particular; the film even opens with a dedication to them). Thankfully the movie itself is not silent. What kind of genius madman would try to make a silent comedy in the late twentieth century?

    Believe it or not, The Great Race was inspired by a real automobile race from New York to Paris that took place in 1908. Some of the more outlandish elements of the race like floating on icebergs across the sea were even based on genuine ideas that were proposed for the race but wisely ruled out. Despite its star power and a huge budget, The Great Race was a flop on release and quickly fell into obscurity. Critics assumed it was trying to ride off the popularity of Those Magnificent Men And Their Flying Machines, another big-budget all-star comedy with a similar premise. I’m more inclined to believe that its failure was due to the roadshow phenomenon that boomed in the late ’50s dying out at this point. It would be several more years until the epic format of a three-hour film with an overture and intermission faded from theaters completely, but audiences were already losing interest, and that rung The Great Race’s knell. Regardless, it’s garnered something of a cult fanbase from automobile aficionados (the original cars are still displayed at conventions), fans of classic cinematic comedies, and it even inspired the wildly popular Hanna-Barbera cartoon Wacky Races.

    So if it wasn’t for this –

    1965_film_the_great_race_poster

    – we wouldn’t have this.

    Dick | Scooby-Doo | Know Your Meme

    Continue reading

    A Long-Overdue Apology

    I’m sorry.

    There’s no other way to put it.

    I’m sorry I’ve fallen so far behind in my reviews that nearly four months have gone by since I’ve published one. That’s not to say I haven’t been working on them, heavens no. Unfortunately, the stress of trying to balance responsibilities and creative standards left me with a severe case of burnout. And that’s on top of everything else that’s gone on since, for good or for ill:

    • Putting together everything for the storyboard class I would be teaching, including mastering Google Classroom and putting general paperwork in order was exhausting.
    • I was asked to teach another online art class, this time by the folks who run an annual city-wide art show I’ve been a part of for the past two years.
    • I’m partaking in SCBWI’S Summer Conference since they’re holding it online instead of Los Angeles this year, which meant revamping my portfolio again, completing new artwork and preparing to meet and query new contacts in the field.
    • My sister got (legally) married in my backyard the first week of July and I stood in as a witness/Maid of Honor. Fun! Not so fun was the large amount of people she invited for the barbecue afterwards who didn’t wear masks or abide by social distancing rules. I suffer from allergies and spent the following fortnight thinking every cough and scratchy throat meant the end was near.
    • I had to marathon the entire first season of The Umbrella Academy in less than a week in order to edit a full video review of it for Krimson Rogue before Season 2 premiered. (On the plus side, now that I’ve finally watched the show for myself, I’m excited for the next season!)
    • I got into the top ten of the Mx Disney editing competition and I’ve been going into editing overdrive near the end of each month to meet the crazy deadlines.
    • Anxiety. That is all.
    • And no, I have not watched Hamilton yet. I will once I finally have two and a half hours to fully invest myself in something that doesn’t directly involve me shaping it.

    So here’s how it’s going to go. When it comes to this blog, I’m still going in the order things were meant to, even if they are horribly off-schedule. The next review finished will be The Great Race, followed by the (very late) fifth anniversary review, and then I’ll be taking some time to kick off the series of Faerie Tale Theatre reviews, which should be out by the end of the summer at the latest. My original plans for the fifth anniversary was to revisit the live-action Beauty and the Beast remake and share my thoughts on it, but two things happened:

    1. I have A LOT to say about the remake which means it would be a very, very long read; so long in fact that I may have to split it up. Also I wasn’t entirely looking forward to watching it again and didn’t want to mark such a momentous occasion by nagging in 6000-plus words.
    2. This past weekend I finally got some down time to myself and wound up revisiting a classic that has long been a favorite. It’s resonated with me at the best of times, yet none more so than at that very moment. Maybe I was in the right frame of mind, maybe it was the timing, but after everything that’s happened in my creative pursuits up until then, I was so moved by this picture’s simple message that I was compelled to write about it.

    And there you have it. They may not be excuses, but they are something. One plan I also had for the rest of the year was to look at the first five movies I reviewed and see if they (and what I initially wrote about them) held up, though that might have to be swept off the table too unless you really want to them also.

    Hope you’re all having a safe and fun summer, and hopefully I’ll see you soon.

    It’s Raining Sunshine (Awards)

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    Rebecca Deniston of Taking Up Room has nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award! Yay! Let’s get ready to Q&A!

    First things first, the rules:

    • Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
    • Answer the eleven questions from the blogger who nominated you.
    • Nominate eleven bloggers.
    • Create eleven new questions for your nominees to answer.

    NOTE: I’ve looked at some other bloggers’ Sunshine posts and they each have different amounts of questions/bloggers tagged, so feel free to alter the number if you can’t get to eleven.

    Thanks Rebecca! I really appreciate your shout-out. People, go check out her blog once you’re done reading this. Now on to the questions:

    1. Have you picked up any new skills since being in lockdown?

    I learned Google Classroom to teach an online class, does that count?

    2. What kinds of unique experiences have you had in lockdown, if any?

    My sister organized a drive-by with my friends and neighbors for my birthday, and it was a wonderful surprise.

    3. You can do a podcast with anyone, living or dead. Who would it be, and what would it be about?

    I want to say I’d love to talk animation with Walt Disney focusing mostly on what he would think about what his studio’s put out since his passing, but that feels too easy an answer for me. I’m going with Mary Blair and Tomie dePaola, two of my favorite artists/illustrators who I wish I could have met. I’d love to discuss how they developed their styles, their influences, careers and legacy, and any tips they’d like to pass down to the next generation of creators.

    4. Is there a movie or a TV show you feel should never be remade ever?

    Frankly, every time I find out a movie’s being remade I think “Really, they’re remaking that?” I’m all for retelling stories, but some are classics for a reason, and stuffing in current A-listers, modern effects and moving the setting up a notch doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an improvement. You’ll see what I mean when I get to the review I’ve planned for the blog’s fifth anniversary…

    5. Which historic site would you most like to visit?

    I’d love to tour Italy and most of Europe seeing the places that shaped the culture and inspired artists everywhere. Oh, and Notre Dame de Paris once it’s rebuilt, God willing.

    6. Which song describes you best at this moment in time? Don’t overthink it–just whatever pops into your head.

    Don’t hate me for picking a Pogo song (the guy’s said some cringey things I can’t really condone though his music is amazing) but his most recent remix of Fiddler on the Roof just feels so relatable right now, and not just because it utilizes one of my favorite movies/musicals. It’s upbeat despite being in an uncertain place, takes the drama unfolding and turns it into something beautiful, but near the end reveals a vulnerability in the wake of injustice (if you can’t already tell, it’s been helping me through everything going on in the world as of late). It also utilizes lyrics from the songs wonderfully in regards to the latter: ” You stand around/I stand with him” “My father and my mother said we’d learn to love each other” “I don’t understand what’s happening today…” It’s just beautiful.

    Oops, I may have overthought that one after all. Sorry, Rebecca!

    7. What film genre do you think we need to see more of?

    Honest to goodness musicals. No cheap gimmicks, snide self-awareness or snark to try to appeal to those “too cool to enjoy this”, just ones that fully, passionately, and honestly embraces what they are. Remember what a sensation La La Land was when that came out? That’s because it was something we hadn’t seen in years, especially in musical films. Also, I’d love to see more upbeat fun horror-comedy-adventures the whole family can get into like Ghostbusters or Coraline.

    8. Do you have a YouTube channel? Do you think you’d ever start one?

    Yes, some of you who knew me from before I started this blog came from my YouTube channel, TheITinFIT. If you ever watched a Disney Random Craziness video, yep, that was me. I still make silly mashups and edits there sometimes.

    9. Finish this sentence: “Never have I ever…”

    …ridden a roller coaster that goes upside-down. Maybe one day I’ll work up the courage to go on one!

    10. Do you have any favorite film critics?

    I’m fond of Siskel and Ebert’s reviews, even if I don’t always see eye to eye with them. Most of the other critics I enjoy are on YouTube and far too many to name.

    11. You can have your own version of Mary Poppins’ carpetbag. What are you going to stuff in it?

    The question is what WOULDN’T I put in there? I’d be prepared for every situation with a bag like that.

    And now, the lucky nominees:

    Congrats, everyone! Here are my questions for you:

    1. What performance in film, tv, theatre, etc. has moved you the most?
    2. What is your all-time favorite movie-going experience?
    3. What property that hasn’t been touched yet would you love to see adapted into another medium?
    4. Are there any acclaimed movies (Oscar winners, anything on AFI’s Greatest Movies or 1000 Movies You Need to See lists, etc.) that you’ve seen but wished you hadn’t?
    5. If you could switch out one actor with a totally different one in any movie, who would it be and why?
    6. Is there any particular work that inspired you to follow the path you are on now?
    7. Pick a movie you’d love to see a reverse live-action remake of, ie. a live-action movie remade as an animated movie.
    8. If a loved one was to serenade you, what song would you want them to sing?
    9. What genre mashups do you enjoy (horror/comedy, fantasy/sci-fi, etc.)
    10. What story do you believe deserves a proper continuation?
    11. Where do you consider your home to be?

    And there you have it. I hope you have fun with these questions. Thanks again, Rebecca, and I hope you all have a great day!

    Movie Review/Blog Updates AND The New Series Reviews Winner

    Hello, everyone. It’s a funny thing about this social distancing/quarantine we’ve all hopefully been partaking in these past few months; one concern that briefly crossed my mind was running out of things to do before boredom or cabin fever set in. It turns out the opposite has happened: so much to do and not enough time in the day! All this to say that unfortunately, May’s movie review isn’t ready yet (spoiler warning: it’s The Great Race, one of the most underrated comedies ever filmed). I sincerely apologize and will try to get it up as soon as I can.

    gollum3

    “She said, knowing full well how long it took the last time she promised that.”

    Okay, so in order to complete May’s review without collapsing under my workload or burning myself out, I’m afraid I’m going to have to forego June’s movie review. That way I can still have the energy to finish the May movie review, work on the new series reviews, and prepare a review I’ve long had in mind for the blog’s fifth anniversary (it’ll five years come July, holy fishpaste…) I assure you, these delays and work piling up is due to some pretty major things I’m currently doing with my life. It all ties back to a certain conversation I had a few weeks ago with my mother (my mother who, by the way, is a blonde progressive hard-working passionate woman I owe much of my personality to):

    mary-poppins-disneyscreencaps.com-828

    “Hi honey, you remember the dean of the college you graduated from that I also taught at for over thirty years, you knew her since you were three, practically your godmother?”

    caricature self

    “Yes, mom, what about her?”

    mary-poppins-disneyscreencaps.com-828

    “She’s heading an online summer program and she thinks YOU would be a great teacher for one of the classes.”

    caricature self

    “Me?! I barely had any patience teaching you Microsoft Word, why would you both think I’d be able to teach a class?”

    mary-poppins-disneyscreencaps.com-828

    “She said it would be geared towards younger kids as a way of getting them interested in the arts.”

    caricature self

    “Well, it’s one thing if it’s for kids, but I’m still not sure if I’d be the right -“

    mary-poppins-disneyscreencaps.com-828

    “She wants you to teach them storyboarding for animation.”

    caricature self

    “…Mother, you had my curiosity. Now you have my interest.”

    So yes, I got a summer job. As of this June you may refer to me as Professor Shelf, storyboard emeritus. It’s my first time teaching a class, if it wasn’t obvious enough already. I’m excited because it’s a topic I’m more than well-versed in, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous also. Though I’ve got my hands a little extra full making the preparations, learning Google Classroom and such, I promised you that I’d be reviewing a new series again, and I’m holding myself to it, though I hope you can forgive me for delaying it a bit while I square away my syllabus. You voted, I counted, and I’m here to announce what show I’ll be covering next. Drumroll, please!

    And the winner is…

    Continue reading

    March Review: Sleeping Beauty (1959)

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    sleeping beauty poster dvd cover

    Whenever I discuss Sleeping Beauty with someone who doesn’t share my enthusiasm for Disney, they have an irksome tendency to get it muddled with Snow White; their excuse being “it has the same plot”. I’ll admit, there are some surface similarities that even the most casual viewer can pick up on: a fairytale where a princess is forced into unconsciousness and wakes up with some necking, the comic relief and villain being the most beloved characters, a little frolic in the forest with animals, the antagonist plunging off a cliff, you get the idea. In fact, Sleeping Beauty even reuses some discarded story beats from Snow White, mainly our couple dancing on a cloud and the villain capturing the prince to prevent him from waking his princess. Yet despite that, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are two wholly different movies shaped by the era and talents of the time.

    I’ve discussed how Walt Disney was never one to stick to a repeated formula, no matter how successful it was. He must have noticed the parallels between his first movie and this one, but decided to make one crucial change for Sleeping Beauty that would forever differentiate the two: the look. We all know the traditional Disney house style: round, soft shapes, big eyes; charming as it was and still is, Walt was sick of it after several decades. Meanwhile, artists like Mary Blair and Eyvind Earle were producing gorgeous concept art that rarely made a perfect translation into the Disney house style.

    Favourite Artists: Mary Blair & Eyvind Earle | Topical Musings

    Walt wanted to make a feature that took the pop artistry of their designs and made the animation work for it instead of the other way around – which brings us to another animation studio that was doing well at the time, United Pictures Animation, or UPA.

    UPA didn’t have the kind of budget Disney normally had for their animated projects, but what they lacked in fluidity they made up for in style. Watch The Tell-Tale Heart, Gerald McBoing-Boing and Rooty-Toot-Toot to see what I mean. UPA were pioneers of limited animation, taking their scant resources and creating some striking visuals with bold geometric designs. Through this, they defined the look of 50’s animation. Though perhaps unintentional, Sleeping Beauty comes across as Disney’s response to UPA, or what would happen if UPA had the funds they deserved. The characters’ contours are angular but effortlessly graceful, defining their inherent dignity and royalty. And the colors, ohhh the colors…

    Because of the immense amount of work required to animate in this difficult new style (and in the Cinemascope ratio, no less) as well as story troubles and Walt barely supervising the animation studio now that he had his hands full with live-action films, television, and a theme park, Sleeping Beauty had a turbulent production that lasted the entirety of the 1950s. For a time, Chuck Jones of Looney Tunes fame was set to direct. Director Wilfred Jackson suffered a heart attack partway through production and Eric Larson, one of the Nine Old Men, took the mantle from there before Walt Disney replaced him Clyde Geronimi. And even after that, Wolfgang Reitherman teamed up with Geronimi as co-director to get the film finished after no less than three delays. Also, Don Bluth got his foot in the door as an assistant animator for this feature, beginning his short-lived but impactful tenure at Disney. Did all this hamper the movie, or did they succeed in what they set out to accomplish?

    Well, one of the reasons why this review took so long was because I had a hard time not repeating “MOVIE PRETTY” and “MALEFICENT AWESOME” over and over. Make what you will of that.

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