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Marvel Musings: The Future Options of the MCU

It is the end of the era for the MCU. Far From Home concluded the Infinity arc. And naturally there are already people calling doom and gloom on the MCU. But despite all the claims of “comic book fatigue” the MCU is still in full swing. Hell, the audience is currently so into Comic book movies, Venom and Aquaman blew all box office expectations right out of the water.

And by now the MCU has laid out some of its plans for the next years. Which makes it an odd timing to do an article about the future of the MCU, but, well it is pretty much always an odd timing for this. No matter when one writes an article like this, there always seems to be some news which just dropped or is right behind the next corner. So I’ll start with some random observations regarding the announcements, continue with some speculations what Marvel might be aiming at narratively and finally finish with some sort of personal wish-list.

1. The Announcements

Well, the MCU has laid out its slate for the next three years and there were little surprises in it. Sure, nobody expected that Natalie Portman would be back,  but overall, those were mostly projects which were already rumoured. Still, by having at least some definite idea in which direction the MCU will move, there are some conclusions to be made. And there was at least one news, which didn’t please the fans at all.

1.1. Spider-man no more?

That was the “shocker” between all the news which dropped in the last weeks. But it is not one I intend to discuss at the moment because I am personally convinced that the last word about this hasn’t been spoken yet. I am sure that the MCU will manage to with or without Spider-Man, I am equally sure that it would be a win-win for everyone if they would work even closer with Sony than beforehand and I am deeply sad about the notion to lose Tom Holland in the role. In any case, I am still in a “wait and see” mode. I am not in the mood to jump the gun and make a list of predictions about something which might be old news next month, no matter how much Sony currently insist that the deal is over.

1.2. What wasn’t mentioned

Before I get into what was announced, I have to point out that what wasn’t mentioned was maybe just as interesting. I.e I was kind of surprised that they didn’t announce a Captain Marvel sequel but then, I am pretty sure that one is in planning and they don’t see a reason to put themselves on the clock. Announcing projects for the next two to three years might be smarter than bragging about what one plans to do five years in advance.  I was not surprised by the lack of date for GotG Zun3 (I have no idea if they will call it that, but until there is an official title, I will use that one), because the project was thrown out of whack and they now have to figure out a new schedule for it. The lack of Ant-man related announcement worries me, though. Ant-man is currently the lowest grossing franchise the MCU has, but I would still be sad if they just end it without a proper conclusion. I would really like to explore how the years of the snap affect the man who wanted nothing more than be there for his daughter, but ended up missing most of her childhood.

1.2.1. The Fantastic Four

To be fair, I didn’t really expect any announcement related to the Fox-properties just yet. There is no need to rush it. But if Marvel had mentioned something, I would have thought that it would be The Fantastic Four. After all, they keep saying that they want to go cosmic, and The Fantastic Four is a very cosmic property. So I keep expecting an announcement which is somehow Fantastic Four related within the next year or so.

1.2.2. The X-men

Again, I didn’t really expect anything X-men related just yet, but I am also not sure if there will be anything related to them anytime soon. The X-men are an oddity in that the last X-men movies didn’t really do all that well, but there is still a high demand for the characters turning up in the MCU, at least from comic book reading fans. Thing is, I don’t think that they would be a good fit into the current time-line of the MCU. Due to the fact that the continuity in the MCU is way tighter than in regular comic books, it would be nearly impossible to sell the general audience the notion that the same world which has the Avengers is also hunting mutants with giant robots. The only way to include the X-men into the current MCU would be if you toned down the whole “mutants are second class citizen idea”, but then you run into the problem that the very centre of X-men lore is lost. I honestly think that they would better off in their own time-line and universe. I mean, it is not like this would preclude Marvel from doing a dimension hopping cross-over event town the line, and it would allow the X-men way more freedom to be what they are meant to be.

1.3. The role of the Disney Plus shows

Let’s be honest here, the announcements for Disney Plus are currently just as if not more exciting than the movie announcements. Which somewhat worries me. Disney is currently pulling all the stops in order to get as many people as possible subscribed as fast as possible, hence it looks as if they put a decent budget into all of those shows. But what will happen when the first “boom” of subscribers stops? Eventually they will have every MCU fan who would and can afford the service on board. Since people are less likely to jump ship once they have a subscription, will Disney eventually do less Marvel shows (just enough to keep people interested) or cut the budgets? Hard to tell now.

The is also the fate of the “other” Marvel TV shows to consider. They are left kind of in the lurch. But then, most of them are ending anyway or have already been cancelled. What is left is only Runaways and maybe Cloak and Dagger. And they seem to exist in their own little universe anyway. But there is also a Ghost Rider show announced (which I can’t wait to see) and I am also hoping that Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. might morph into a new show. I am certainly not ready to say completely good-bye to those characters.

Meanwhile though, it looks like Marvel intends the Disney Plus shows to be tighter connected to the MCU than the previous Marvel shows, with characters not just going from the movies to the streaming shows, but their action there also impacting the movies. It will be interesting to see if that works, but I am positively salivating about the possibilities. In this format, they can basically mix and match characters at will. We already had this in some degree in Phase three, when Ironman guest starred in Homecoming and Hulk paired up with Thor in Ragnarok, but I expect to see more of it. We already know that Scarlet Witch will play a role in the Doctor Strange movie. There are also persistence rumours that Namor will turn up in the next Black Panther movie. I believe this when I see it, since fan wishes have created rumours before, but it is certainly possible that Marvel will use established franchises to introduce new characters.

A lot about the role of the streaming show will depend on how successful Disney Plus is, and how many people end up watching them. It is difficult to tell, because Netflix tends to be stingy with numbers, but the convenience of being able to watch a movie on a flexible schedule at home seems to lead to a bigger audience. It is entire possible that in a few years we will perceive the cinematic movies as something we watch in addition to the Marvel streaming shows instead of the other way around. Though there is a danger that the audience will feel overwhelmed eventually. On the other hand, the trick of the MCU was always that you don’t really have to watch everything which is a part of it. But once you start, there is always the feeling that you have to seek out all of it, and streaming makes this process very convenient. Having the complete MCU at one place will help to keep people in the loop and interested.

2. But what next?

What the MCU needs, though, is something new to work forward to. In phase one it was the notion of a big crossover event. Then it was the threat of Thanos. Now for the first time we are largely without a clear direction. There are certainly a few options Marvel could pick, but I have picked the three I consider the most likely.

2.1. The Kree/Skrull War

Considering how much importance they assigned to Captain Marvel going forward, all this talk about the MCU going cosmic and the teases we got in Far from Home, I think it is save to predict that we’ll get something involving the Kree and the Skrull in the future. And regarding this particular conflict, there are a lot of comic book stories which involved either the Kree, the Skrull or both to draw from. Having heroes we know involved in this conflict could be a good way to raise the stakes without the need to destroy a city on earth every other movie. And the option are endless, including having fractions within those two groups going up against each other. Or a secret invasion.

2.2. The Young Avengers

Is it just me or is there an effort to work towards some sort of “next generation” set-up? Spider-man aside, they have aged up Cassie enough that she could become Stature or Stinger any time, the Hawkeye series seems to be about him training his replacement and there is a Ms Marvel series in the making, too. Then there is WandaVision which could potentially be used to set up Wiccan and Speed as characters. I can also think of a way or two to explain the presence of Hulkling in the MCU, with a few tweaks to his backstory, naturally. In short, there are now a lot of options to introduce young characters and a cross-over event with them could cause an excitement similar to the excitement about the first Avenger movie. Provided, naturally, Marvel manages to make them just as popular from the get go.

2.3. Thunderbolts

For those who don’t know, the Thunderbolts are a team of villains who under the leadership of Zemo decided to act like heroes for a while for their own gains, but then some of them started to like being heroes and switched sides for real. There is actually little reason to think that Marvel will go there outside of them using Zemo again in Falcon and the Winter Soldier. While the survival rate of Marvel villains has been slightly improved, it would be difficult to put a team of them together. Still, I would be very surprised if the idea isn’t at least thrown around in Marvel’s writer’s room. There have been multiple hints that the world is looking for a new version of The Avengers in Far From Home, so this would be the perfect moment to present a version of an Avenger team which has gone (or always was) bad, thus mixing ideas from the Thunderbolts with ideas from the Dark Avengers.

3. My not so small wish list

Honestly, I am pretty much open for whatever comes next in the MCU. In general, I hope that there will be new genres, which are explored, and new characters introduced. Those which are constantly talked about by the fandom will most likely turn up sooner than later. My own wish list is a little bit more obscure.

2.1. A Silver Surfer Origin Movie

The Silver Surfer in itself is not THAT obscure, but my specific wish is. I don’t want him to be introduced as a side character, I want to see specifically him starring in his own origin story, simply because he has one of the most tragic origin story out there. Usually those are about a flawed character raising to heroism. But his story is about an already heroic character managing to rescue his planet but also paying a high price due to being perverted into a tool of destruction, dooming multiple planets in order to rescue one. This is a movie which has to happen. If for no other reason than that it would make any clash between him and the heroes we know and love so much more suspenseful.

3.2. Amadeus Cho

Between all the young heroes which are currently waiting in the woodwork, there has been no mention of Amadeus Cho so far. But he is a character I really want to see. No his Hulk version, no, I want the overly smart team who manages to fight with his mind alone. I just like the idea of a character who doesn’t have specific powers or weapons but still manages to stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the most powerful people in the world because he knows how to use the abilities her does have to full advantage.

3.3. A Silverclaw movie

Now, this is a character really nobody is talking about. But they should. Because there is so much potential in the character.  For one, her powerset is completely different from what we have seen so far, and could create some cool visuals and unusual battle scenes. Two,  her backstory is a little bit more unusual than most. I certainly wouldn’t mind a movie about someone reclaiming their cultural heritage. And three, she does represent a minority which is currently nearly invisible in the MCU, and I am always for more diversity. Not in order to fulfil some sort of invisible checklist, but because it makes things more interesting in my book. Different perspectives open up new story options which in turn helps the MCU to stay fresh.

3.4. Exploring the Savage Land

Honestly, why isn’t Savage Land already a franchise? This is a comic book property which features freaking dinosaurs. Considering how well Jurassic World did one would think that Marvel would take it into consideration at the very least. The only explanation I have for no movement on this front so far is that the rights might have been in the grey area between Marvel and Fox, but that is just a suspicion on my part. Hutch Parker once stated that both Marvel and Fox could have made a Savage Land movie, but I take throwaway statements like this with a grain of salt. In any case, while Ka-Zar and Shanna aren’t the most compelling of characters, and there are some potential minefields in using either of them, the world itself is practically made for a big screen adventure. Just the opportunity to throw together a bunch of prehistoric creatures without having to worry about the question if they actually existed around the same time would be a lot of visual fun.

3.5. Dazzler

Yes, I know, I said that I expect Marvel to wait with the X-men. But then, I don’t think that Dazzler necessarily needs to be a mutant. To me she fits better into the world of the Avengers than the world of the X-men anyway, considering how openly she uses her power from the get go. And that is part of the reason why I really want to see a movie featuring her: Usually we get to see characters who want to use their newfound abilities for good. It would be kind of refreshing to see a character who uses it for her career, without having any ambitions to be an actual heroine. Plus, she is the perfect character for a musical which isn’t crack.

And this was my obligatory “thoughts about the MCU” article. Maybe it is time to talk about something else for a while. I love the MCU, but it is not the only franchise out there. So, which one of my series should I continue? More By the Book? More Double Takes of Disney movies? Maybe something more lyrics related? Or something completely different? I am open for wishes and suggestions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Disney Tarot: The Devil

Well, to me there was never a doubt who would represent The Devil in my deck. After all, there is only one “Mistress of all Evil”. Maleficent even has the horns. And this time around I tried to add as many elements as possible for the original card. The result looks like this:

15-The-Devil

Well, there are some changes in the details. While there are two figures bound in front of the throne in the original card, their bonds are really lose, indicating that they could slip their chains if they truly wanted to. This is not the case with Phillip, he is pretty much trapped. But then, the fairies are right around the corner ready to free him.

The Devil is one of the few Tarot cards which are some sort of warning. Upright it is often seen as a symbol for attachment, addiction and restriction, but other readings interpret it as a sign of jealously and resentment, self-delusion, selfishness and violence. In a way I have put both meanings in my card, with Maleficent standing for the resentment and violence and Phillip standing for the restrictive aspect of the card.

One better hope that the card turns up in reverse, because then it stands for the release of limiting beliefs and detachment from whatever tied someone down.  In other words, it indicates that the fairies are right around the corner of your own soul.


Disney Tarot: The Balance

In case you are wondering why you have never heard of this card: I decided to not go with the usual name of The Temperance. Mainly because I don’t quite like the religious undertones of it. Especially since I picked Mulan as the perfect representation for the card. Mulan might be religious, but not in a Christian sense. And nobody fits the card as well as her.

14-The-Balance

Usually Temperance is depicted as a person pouring liquid from one cap to another. It is a historical reference to the cardinal virtue, representing the dilution of wine with water. In many decks the person is a winged angle of unspecified gender, standing with one foot on water and with one on land. In the background is a path and a crown, which might show the attainment of a goal, the mastery of one or the ability to stay true to one’s life purpose.

I think at this point it might be pretty clear why Mulan is the perfect choice for this card. Her story is all about about finding a balance in order to fulfil her life’s purpose. In her movie we see her trying to fit into the role of a woman and the role of a man, but it is only when she stops worrying about expectations and focussing on her inert abilities that she succeeds. The moment when she sits on the top of the pole is a triumph in more than one sense. She has connected strength and discipline in order to fulfil the challenge set to her, but she has found balance in herself.

Since the card symbolises in its upright position balance, moderation, patience, purpose and self-confidence, it logically warns of imbalance and excess in reverse, pointing to the need of self-healing and re-alignment. Emphasis on “self”. This card is all about the inner balance, of figuring out what your goal is and patiently go for it. Just like Mulan did.

 

 

 


Disney Tarot: The Death

The Death might be the most feared card in Tarot, but frankly, there are other cards which have way more negative meanings than this one. I was therefore tempted to go for a more cheerful design, but ultimately decided to stay as true to mood of the card as possible. The end result looked like this:

 

13-The-Death

The elements are very different from the original card, which features an apocalypse-style skeleton on a horse, judging a group of people of all ages and different status. In the background, a boat floats down the river, akin to the mythological boats escorting the dead to the afterlife, while the sun sets between two towers one the horizon. I aimed more to capture the mood of the card while also adding elements which would properly symbolize its meaning.

The skeleton as the messenger of death is here represented by the Evil Queen on a mission to deliver death to someone else. Though she doesn’t really stand for death itself, since she is not armoured against the same fate she wishes on Snow White. Everything and everyone is fated to end, regardless of age, status or power. I have reflected this in the card by adding the two vultures, already waiting for an opportunity to feast on what is the dominant figure of the card. As powerful as the Evil Queen is at the beginning of the movie, at the end of the day she is unable to escape death (by heavenly intervention no less).

But the core meaning of The Death is always change, transformation, transition, something has to end to make room for something new. Well, the transformation aspect is shown in the card very literally by referencing to the transformation the Evil Queen undergoes to reach her goal, but also suggested figuratively if you consider that her ending Snow White’s life will eventually lead to Snow White waking up to a new beginning for her.

The Evil Queen also symbolises perfectly the reverse meaning of the card. In this position it stands for the inability to move forward, the repetition of negative pattern and the fear of change. The Evil Queens obsession with staying the most beautiful above everything else instead of accepting the passage of time and the existence of Snow White is what leads to her downfall in the end. She had everything, and she lost it because she couldn’t accept reality.

To summon this up: The Death doesn’t stand for a literal death, and frankly, it would be utterly irresponsible to read anything along the line out of the cards, ever. I can’t stress this enough. Tarot can be a tool of reflection, but it can do serious harm to people who attach some prophetic meaning to the cards. Telling such a person that they are fated to die will have a huge psychological impact on a person. Nor would it in any way reflect the spirit of the card.

 

 

 


Disney Tarot: The Hanged Man

For The Hanged Man, I didn’t pick a picture which is from a Disney movie. Instead I went to the promotional material. Because the card immediately reminded me of this:

 

12-The-Hanged-Man

The only thing which doesn’t quite fit is Eugene’s impression. The Hanged Man is supposed to look serene, like someone who chose his fate rather than a martyr. Serenity isn’t exactly in the nature of the great Flynn Rider. But he also happens to be the character who fits the meaning of the card the best, since The Hanged Man indicates someone being at a crossroad. Often it is about letting go of a goal or way of life you have in favour of something new. I even put the two options Eugene faces into the card: The crown stands for his old life as Flynn Rider, which is all about becoming rich eventually, the lanterns stand for his new dream, being with Rapunzel. They also happen to reflect nicely the halo from the original card, which symbolises new insight, awareness and enlightenment.

Ironically when you see the card in reverse, The Hanged Man tends to look even more trapped. The bonds which previously kept him from falling are now just looking restrictive. In this position the card stands for delays and for indecision, for someone holding onto a fantasy and hence overlooking what is truly desirable in life. Or, to put it differently, it says: “Your dream stinks!”

 

 


Disney Taro: Justice

So, high time to finish my Tarot cards, continuing with Justice.

There was one element I was keen to preserve from the Justice card: The Sword.  The scales are often getting more attention, because they portray the balance which should be in Justice, but I feel that it is overlooking the judgement aspect of it. And speaking of judgement, a particularly scene immediately sprung into my mind. Hence the card ended up looking like this:

11-Justice

Basically I used the emperor as a symbol for the scales, while Shang gets the role of the judge. Together they symbolize justice, fairness and law. But they also show how difficult it is to find a just balance between the written law and what is morally right.

When Shang discovers that Mulan is truly a woman, there are no less than three aspects pulling at him. There is the law or the convention regarding women in the army – most likely more a convention, because who would write specifically a law about this? Then there is his own feeling of betrayal. He trusted Ping and suddenly Ping doesn’t even exist. And finally there are his own morals, which win out in the end.

When the emperor encounters Mulan, his choice is easier. Because he is the law, he can change and reinterpret it at will. He can ignore her embracing him (which, btw, would in reality be a death sentences), and can elevate her to the respect she deserves due to her actions. He represents the fair and just ruler which frankly, is more prevalent in fiction than in real live.

Upright the card stands for justice, fairness, truth and lawfulness. In reverse it stands for lack of accountability, unfairness and dishonesty, all elements present in the scene between Shang and Mulan. Mulan is the one who has been dishonest, due to a society which is unfair and she is now judged by Shang, who might be feel be bond by the law, but is in this moment the sole power. As the heroic general whose troops stopped the Huns, he could get away with more or less everything at this point. And his decision is not following the law at all, it takes the situation into account and hence he ends up with a more merciful ruling. Though arguable, the truly fair ruling of Mulan happens towards the end of the movie, through the hand of the emperor.

Hope you all like my interpretation of the card. Next update is scheduled for in a week.

 


Disney Tarot: The Traveller

Sorry for the delay. I had to deal with some very stressful RL issues which simply didn’t put me in the right mind-set to delve into Tarot of all things. But hopefully the situation has evened out enough to that I’ll now be able to go back on schedule.

Anyway, the card I’ll discuss today is The Chariot which I renamed The Traveller. Mostly because there is no picture of John Smith riding a chariot and I feel that the ship is a better fit for him anyway. So the card ended up looking like this:

07-The-Traveller

A few elements of the card are missing. There are no sphinxes, but then, a ship doesn’t need to be pulled by anything. Though I did add the shadow of an eagle on John Smith’s armour (btw, what is the deal with it, it is as if the animators couldn’t decide if it was an armour or a shirt). The cards also has usually a canopy of stars above the charioteer’s head, indicating celestial influences, but I felt that there is enough sky in my take on it to replace it, even if is is stormy sky.

What was really important for me was to find a picture of John Smith which both indicates his status as a Traveller, someone who is constantly on the move, but also expresses control, willpower, success and determination. Him as captain at he helm of his own ship was perfect for what I had in mind.

In reverse the card usually stands for opposition and lack of direction – which actually works better with a ship than a chariot, because a ship can literally be “adrift” while a chariot can’t. But I would add another reverse meaning to this version of this card: harmful overconfidence. Not harmful to yourself, but to others, people whose life you impact without truly thinking about what you are doing.

And that is all for today. I should be back on schedule now. So, until next week.

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By the Book: Peter Pan

Technically Peter Pan isn’t really based on a book because the first version of the story was a play. But: This play was so successful that Barrie also published a novel based on it. Plus, while the play made the figure Peter Pan well known, he actually turned up first in the novel The Little White Bird. See? Not cheating at all when I discuss the movie as part of this series. But it would be naturally strange to ignore the play – I’m a little bit at disadvantage here, though, because I’ve never seen the play, and in my experience, it makes a big difference if you read a play or actually see it. But I’ll try my best to include the most important aspects of it.

1. The Setting

One of the changes most adaptions, including the Disney version, make is that they draw a clear distinction between Neverland and the real world. In the novel the lines are a little bit more blurred, for example the Lost Boys are still sometimes flying after they come back with Wendy. Personally I think a clear distinction is necessary, because if the “real world” described in the book is already unusual (well, more unusual than having babysitting dogs), it makes it harder for the audience to believe in Neverland, since it then become a fantasy world in a fantasy world instead of a concept which could exist right behind our own reality. peter-pan-disneyscreencaps_com-2264

Disney creates a convincing version of Neverland, basically the land of imagination and childhood plays. It has a secret tree house, Mermaids, Pirates and Indians. Yeah, the Indians. I guess I should address the elephant in the room from the get go: If you see the Indians as Native American stereotypes, they are downright offensive, and the only excuse for them is that those stereotypes are not only en par with what was written by Barrie but also more or less akin to what was shown in the very popular western movies which were made in the 1950s. But I think you should see them as what they are supposed to be, not Native Americans, but the kind of Indians which tend to life in the imagination of children. Don’t blame Disney or even Barrie for this one. Blame Buffalo Bill with his Western show, blame Karl May, blame everyone who ever wrote a story about the “Wild West” without really knowing what he is talking about. I don’t think that the Indians would look or act like that if the movie were made nowadays, they would tone it down a bit. But I also think that realistic Native Americans wouldn’t fit into Neverland. It’s not like the Pirates are anything like the real ones either.

Another difference between the original and the Disney version is that in the novel, Neverland is treated like a real place. The children are gone for months, and when they come back, they bring the lost boys with them, who are all getting adopted by their parents. But in the Disney movie, it’s strongly suggested that Neverland is born out of Wendy’s imagination. Not only does the narrator states from the get go that all children have a Neverland, Wendy also tells stories about Peter Pan before she even meets him (and then notes that he looks exactly like she imagined him). And when she “comes back” (after just one night) she is initially found sleeping at the window by her parents.

2. The Animation

Of all the Disney movie from the Romantic era, Peter Pan is in a lot of ways the least distinctive one, even though Mary Blair did work on the designs. What is still noticeable are her typical colour schemes, with a lot of primary colours creating a bright world. But there is something about the designs which is also very 1950s. With most Disney movies it is easy to forget when they were made, but Peter Pan somehow betrays the era it was made in, especially in the design of the main character.

But what is truly remarkable is the character animation, especially the crocodile. Doesn’t speak one word, has basically the same role every time it turns up (terrifying Hook) and yet it might be the most popular character in the whole movie. Part of it is the score connected to it, but also the expressive gestures it makes. I think my favourite moment in the whole movie is this one:

tumblr_n0odynwe881s2wio8o1_500

Do I have to say more?

3. The Characters

Barrie never described Peter Pan, nor did he specify his age. The Disney version has rather elfish features, and he wears green clothes instead of a dress made of leaves. And, like he is supposed to do, he is the embodiment of childhood. He is selfish, convinced of his own invincibility and has no sense for consequences whatsoever. Especially the scene with the mermaids drive this across, when he doesn’t see much harm in them trying to drown Wendy.

I guess this is the right moment to say something about the female characters. We have here a movie from the 1950s based on a story from the 1910s whose secondary main character is mostly praised for her motherly qualities. In this combination the best one would expect a fair for its time portrayal of the females. But when it comes to the novel, it was more than fair. For example the reason there are only Lost Boys and no Lost Girls is because supposedly girls are too smart to get lost. Wendy’s motherly traits are revelled, as are the other females. Aside from Peter Pan himself and naturally Captain Hook, the female character also get way more attention than any of the male characters. This is, after all, mostly Wendy’s story.

And the Disney version isn’t that bad either. It keeps the aspect of honouring the mother role, but it also allows Wendy to draw the line. Looking out for her little brothers? Sure. Getting treated like some sort of servant while the boys are allowed to party? Now you are trying her patience. And when it comes down to it, the female characters in the movie are the truly brave ones. Peter might be the one who fights, but since he is convinced that he will win in every encounter, there isn’t much bravery behind it. Wendy on the other hand would rather go of the plank that betraying her principles. Tiger Lily would rather drown than giving away anything, even though she knows that this way of dying would keep her from reaching her afterlife. And Tinkerbell nearly dies when she rescues Peter from a bomb.

When it comes to the lost boys and Wendy’s brothers – I can take them or leave them. They have just enough character to be not interchangeable, but they are neither particularly memorable nor important in the grand scheme of things. Same for Nana, though it’s certainly fun to watch her react to the situation in the family (and trying to rebuild the castle again and again). This character is just made for a Disney movie (though I never really got the point of a dog which acts like a nanny…it’s just odd…).

Mr. Darling is an example of unintentional symbolic by the writer. In the original play, he and Captain Hook were portrayed by the same actor. The reason for this was simply economic use of resources, since the characters don’t share a scene, they needed one actor less this way. But since there is an undeniable symbolic meaning in this arrangement, it has become tradition. In the Disney version the character designs are different, but the voices are the same. It also lays more emphasis on the father than the mother, by making his role of the “kill-joy” more extreme and his intention to remove Wendy from the play room the central conflict.

In the original story the mother is the more important character. One symbol in the novel I was never really able to figure out is that she has a hidden kiss in the right corner of her mouth which Wendy could never reach. It’s apparently reserved for her husband. But at the end of the novel, Peter Pan takes this kiss with him. 14 Captain Hook

Disney’s version of Captain Hook is easily one of the funniest villains in canon. His whole relationship with Smee and how they constantly play off each other as a comedic duo is entirely Disney (in the novel Smee is mostly notable because he is one of two pirates who survives, telling everyone that he was the only pirate Captain Hook feared). My favourite part is when Smee hammers a “don’t disturb sign” on the door because Hook has a headache (and everything which follows). But Hook is also one of the most threatening villains. Partly because of his design and actions. Causally shooting one of his men, kidnapping and nearly killing Tiger Lily, how he fools Tinkerbell meanwhile pretending that he is all honourable (naturally he isn’t), there is no doubt that Hook is a dangerous man. In the play and the book, Neverland is a dangerous place in general. In the movie though, the source of danger is usually Hook, even if it’s only indirectly.

4. The Plot

When it comes to the broad strokes of the original, the plot is more or less the same. Wendy discovers Peter, attaches his shadow, the children learn to fly (fun fact: the only reason pixy dust was eventually included by Barrie was because originally children got hurt when they tried to fly after seeing the play), they travel to Neverland, experience a few adventures. Wendy nearly dies due to a scheme by Tinkerbell, Peter Pan rescues Tiger Lily, and eventually Wendy and her brothers want to go home again but get captured. Peter survives a murder ploy by Hook thanks to Tinkerbell, and there is a final battle on the pirate ship. After this Peter brings Wendy and her brothers home.

The details though are sometimes fundamentally different, and not just because Disney naturally takes full advantage of the different medium. Memorable scenes in the play include a misunderstanding between Wendy and Peter which makes him believe that a thimble is a kiss (and the other way around), Tinkerbell drinking poison for Peter and surviving if the audience claps in the hands and shows that they believe in fairies and Hook getting eaten by the crocodile in the end because the clock stopped ticking. In the movie, Wendy simply says that she wants to give Peter a kiss instead of a thimble (in both cases Tinkerbell interferes), instead of poison the murder ploy involves a bomb, how Tinkerbell survived isn’t quite clear since the clapping scene is omitted because Walt Disney didn’t think that this would work in a movie, and Hook doesn’t die, instead he is chased away.

The adventures of the children in Neverland have, especially in the novel, a very episodic character. The Disney animators basically picked what they liked and rewrote is in a way that it works as an “it all happened in one night” story. The biggest change is that Wendy and the Lost Boys barely interact with each other in the movie. Peter introduces them to each other after they nearly killed Wendy due to Tinkerbell scheming against her, but then the group immediately splits up. Peter and Wendy explore the island together, while the boys (lost and otherwise) search for their own adventure. The only scene in which there is meaningful interaction is when she later reminds them how great it is to have a real mother.

I already mentioned that the Lost Boys and Wendy’s brothers are not really that important. In the original they are mostly just along for the ride, the focus is on Wendy and Peter. That’s true for the movie too, and to be honest, I never enjoyed the part when the boys go “hunting Indians”. The song is annoying, there doesn’t really happen all that much and while the stereotypes don’t bother me unduly, the very idea that hunting people is an acceptable game (especially since John believes that this is for real) does. Even as a child I always felt uncomfortable watching this part.

14 SmeeThe best scenes are naturally the ones with Hook. No matter if he interacts with Peter, Smee, the Crocodile or Tinkerbell, no matter if he is funny, threatening or both, whenever he turns up he owns the screen. If Disney’s depiction of him has one weakness than that by playing his fear of the crocodile (and by extension the ticking clock) for fun it distracts from him being basically afraid of time.

Disney simply ignores some of the symbolic aspects of the play and the novel, the odd ones as well as the more straightforward ones. In the play and the novel Peter Pan is a somewhat tragic figure. He is trapped in childhood, not being able to move forward, partly because he keeps forgetting his past, because otherwise his mind would grow up. A part of him is constantly searching for some sort of mother figure, and his desire for one is so strong that he initially plans to convince Wendy to stay in Neverland through trickery, and changes his mind only when he sees the grief of Mrs. Darling. The play allows the audience to revisit the perspective of their youth, but it also makes clear that nobody can stay in Neverland forever. The play as well as the novel is very clear that Peter Pan is the only one who will never grow up (it’s also suggested that all the other inhabitants of Neverland eventually die, too – meaning that while Peter remains unchanged, the world around him moves forward).

The Disney version omits this tragic aspect. There the idea that Peter Pan will always be out there is more a comforting one, as if a part of our childhood will always be there, no matter how old we are. Disney also lays more emphasis on the conflict between Wendy and her father, ending it with them both changing their mind by her accepting the need to grow up and him realizing that there is no need to rush it. This leads to his wife and daughter embracing him, a far cry from the way he is treated at the beginning of the movie – yes, he acts a little bit like a dick, but it’s also very hurtful if you fall through the whole room and your family only cares about the dog getting hurt. So while the “growing up” aspect is still there, there seems to be an even stronger message that one should never wholly forget his childhood perspective, no matter how old you are. Well, you are never really too old for Disney movies either, right?

5. The Soundtrack

The songs in Peter Pan are quite a mixed package. The slow paced title song which is typical for the 1950s movies has a nice enough tune, but the other songs have a childish aspect to it, not just in tune, but also in text. It’s not a bad fit for the movie, though, not at all, this is a children’s world after all, epic songs would just overwhelm it, but they sometimes slip too much into triviality.

Ironically the song I consider the best is the controversial “What makes the red man red”. Just hear me out: I think it’s the best partly because it has a drive to it the other songs lack, but mostly because the mind-set behind Neverland is hit spot on in this. The question which are asked in this are typical children’s questions (along the line of “Why is the sky blue?”) and the answers are children’s logic. It’s not unusual for children to make surprising leaps of logic, making connections between things which are not connected at all, and the song transports this perfectly.

Though there is one other song which is even better, but doesn’t really count because it is not quite in the movie. Well, it’s score is. I already mentioned it when I was talking about the crocodile. “Never smile at a crocodile” is one of those songs with a text which doesn’t really make much sense, but has a tune which is a relentless earworm. You can practically hear the ticking of the clock in its rhythm, and it is used to great effect in the movie. We always hear the song before we get to see the crocodile.

All in all the soundtrack is serviceable with flashes of brilliance in it. It doesn’t quite compare to the best of Disney soundtracks and has become a little bit dated at parts, but overall it fits the movie and has its memorable moments.

6. Merchandise14 tinkerbell-the-pixie-with-dust-picture-by-milliesky-520904

Yeah, I normally don’t have this category in my reviews, but I guess I should say something about Tinkerbell. For a classic Disney character she is unusual. Not only is she jealous, she also acts on this jealously two times. In the novel, those actions as well as Peter’s willingness to overlook them are explained with fairies not being able to have conflicted feelings. Since they are so small, they have only place for one feeling, meaning weather they love or hate, they always do it with full force.

The movie omits this explanation, therefore Tinkerbell becomes quite a vindictive character. While her betrayal mostly happens because Hook manipulates her, she is very aware that it’s dangerous to deal with him. That she insist on Peter’s safety being part of the deal, but doesn’t seem to care for anyone else, is a very callous move. Tinkerbell’s willingness to do everything for Peter but also to act against everyone who seems to get between them, makes her unique in the Disney canon. Normally those are character traits you would find in a villain, not in a sidekick. That she oozes sexuality on the other hand is not that uncommon, not really. Disney was never above getting crap past the radar, she is just another example of this.

But one thing for sure: The Tinkerbell in Disney’s fairy franchise has nothing to do with the one in the original movie. Thus said, I don’t think that the franchise hurts anything. I guess it’s enjoyable enough for little (really little) children and easy enough to ignore.

5. The Conclusion

All in all, this is a solid but overly simplified take on the story. From today’s perspective the movie certainly has its problems, the character designs as well as the music are so clearly 1950s that it does look a little bit dated. But the strong point of the movie is the humour, and I’m saying this as someone who is usually not into slapstick at all: The comedic timing is just perfect, it’s impossible, not to laugh, and the best part is that none of the jokes are in any way referential, they are in-universe funny.

The downside of the movie is that it lacks depth, since the message is too anvilious and the plot too simple. It’s the play broken down to its very basic and never ventures out of the safe zone of family friendly entertainment. Therefore it’s more fun for children to watch then for adults, even though they might enjoy the nostalgia, not just the nostalgia of watching something from their childhood, but also experiencing the mind-set of a child again.Bildschirmschoner-TickTock


The Swanpride Award: Top Ten

Well, those are movies still in the competition:

The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) by Lotte Reiniger, Silhouette

Fantasia (1940), Walt Disney, Traditional

Sleeping Beauty (1959), Walt Disney, Traditional

Yellow Submarine (1968), Georg Dunning, Traditional

Watership Down (1978), Martin Rosen, Traditional

The Secret of Nimh (1982), Don Bluth, Traditional

The Great Mouse Detective (1986), Disney, Traditional

Grave of the Fireflies (1988), Studio Ghibli, Traditional

The Little Mermaid (1989), Disney, Tradtional

Beauty and the Beast (1991), Disney, Traditional

The Nighmare before Christmas (1993), Skellington/Disney, Stop Motion

Ghost in the Shell (1995), Mamoro Oshii, Traditional

Princess Mononoke (1997), Studio Ghibli, Traditional

The Iron Giant (1999), Warner Bros, Traditional

Time to narrow the list down to ten. Let’s start with the easy choices: I said that Yellow Submarine wouldn’t have won in any other decade and I stand to my opinion. No matter which movie I would have picked for the 1960s, it would have been fallen out of the competition at this stage for sure.

And speaking of Yellow Submarine, one of the main reasons I consider it inferior is the quality of the animation. I therefore decided to use this as my first criteria and scratch movies off the list which don’t manage to shine through animation. Those which are struggling in this regard, usually because of budget issues, are Watership Down, The Great Mouse Detective, Ghost in the Shell and The Iron Giant. Only one of those four can make it to the next round.   Now, they all have something good about their animation. In the case of Watership Down and Ghost in the Shell, it’s artistic elements, in the case of The Great Mouse Detective and The Iron Giant it’s technical achievements. Technical achievements are impressive, but artistic elements are time-less. So I have to make a decision between Watership Down and Ghost in the Shell.

Mmmm…..I go for Watership Down. Mostly because I think that the gory moments in Watership Down are actually making a point, while the gory ones in Ghost in the Shell often feel a little bit too indulgent. This leaves the following Top Ten:

The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) by Lotte Reiniger, Silhouette

Fantasia (1940), Walt Disney, Traditional

Sleeping Beauty (1959), Walt Disney, Traditional

Watership Down (1978), Martin Rosen, Traditional

The Secret of Nimh (1982), Don Bluth, Traditional

Grave of the Fireflies (1988), Studio Ghibli, Traditional

The Little Mermaid (1989), Disney, Tradtional

Beauty and the Beast (1991), Disney, Traditional

The Nighmare before Christmas (1993), Skellington/Disney, Stop Motion

Princess Mononoke (1997), Studio Ghibli, Traditional

 

So, let’s take a look at the reader choice…at the moment I am writing this, Snow White, Cinderella, Aladdin and The Jungle book have the most votes and fall out of the competition.

I added a few more to the list (strangle nobody voted for the year 1995, but there was a comment vote for Toy Story, so I added it). Same deal as before: Five possible choices and you have to pick the movies you don’t want to win.

 


The Swanpride Award: Time for a Recap

Well, we have rushed through decades and have now reached the 1980s. Here is what I learned so far.

  1. This is really difficult. I thought that at least in the beginning the winners would be fairly obvious. To be fair, they would be if I had gone by year, and not by decade. But still, I somehow expected that there would be at least one obvious winner each decade. But so far that has only been true for Fantasia.
  2. I really like the movies which try something different, as well as those which have visually a lot to offer.
  3. Animation was really in the process to kick off big, not just in America. But the war really derailed the process, which resulted mostly in some propaganda productions and then mostly nothing at all. Perhaps also because a lot talents ended up either in the US or behind the Iron curtain. It is a shame.
  4. The 1950s were thoroughly Disney dominated. It is also, artistically speaking, Disney’s strongest era so far. Which wasn’t exactly news to me, but looking at the movies put the point across yet again.
  5. The 1960s were a horrible decade for animation. I am still in shock. No wonder Disney made so much money with rereleasing the old movies to theatres again and again. But it is also the decade in which the list of animated movies released every year started to get long. The quality was just not quite there yet.
  6. The 1970s is the period which finally makes it worth again to look at obscure movies. There is a good chance to find a fairly unknown gem if you take the time to look through the various titles.
  7. It is really worth it to shift through the non-American production. To elaborate, the American movies usually find an audience if they are good, so they land on the best lists sooner or later. But the foreign movies are often only known in their own countries and are therefore automatically less mainstream. And if they get translated, the quality of the dubbing vary.
  8. Surprisingly, the 1980s is the decade I need to catch up on the most. There are still a number of movies on my consideration list I need to watch, just to be sure that I don’t overlook a gem.
  9. Real live can be very inconvenient.
  10. But plans can get adjusted.

To get to the point, my original plan was to cover the early 1980s next. The 1980s is the time during which what I once called the “Multi-Age” starts, meaning that there are suddenly enough high quality movies from various companies that you could put together a proper list of nominees is some years. But not in all of them. I therefore planned to take 1985 as the starting point and then go forward in two year steps. But there are still a number of movies from the 1980s I need to watch (or watch again) in order to write properly about it. And I simply don’t have the time to do so currently. I thought I would be able to do all of it, but first the list ended up longer than I expected and then real life got in the way.

So I’ll do the following. For now I jump forward to the 1990s, because I am further along with those articles. I’ll try to keep up the daily schedule, but I might miss out a day or two. And when I have covered the 1990s, I’ll hopefully have managed to catch up enough to discuss the 1980s.

Sorry that I can’t do this in the way I originally planned, but I promise, I’ll cover the whole century this month.