Archive for September, 2009

Mermaid Knife-Fight

THREE WILL ENTER… AND THREE WILL PROBABLY STILL LEAVE: Seriously, a knife fight between three mermaids would just be silly, unless it was this mermaid:

But that is completely out of the scope of this blog post.

As you may remember from my last post, I wrote:

If this plot sounds somewhat similar, it should. It is loosely based off of the Little Mermaid, but is actually slightly closer to the original story than the Disney movie that everyone knows, but that is a topic for another day (Thursday, actually).

If this is the only version you know, shame on you.

See, I did write that! But as you may have already guessed, I will be comparing Ponyo to it’s original source material and the 1989 Disney animated-film.


To start this comparison, I need to make sure that everyone knows the original story written by Hans Christian Andersen, becuase the original story will definitely be unexpected to anyone who hasn’t read it, due to it’s sheer darkness (the summary was lovingly ripped from Wikipedia):

The Little Mermaid lives in a utopian underwater kingdom with her father the sea king; her grandmother; and her five elder sisters, born one year apart. When a mermaid turns 15, she is allowed to swim to the surface to watch the world above, and as the sisters become old enough, one of them visits the surface every year. As each of them returns, the Little Mermaid listens longingly to their descriptions of the surface and of human beings.

When the Little Mermaid’s turn comes, she ventures to the surface, sees a ship with a handsome prince, and falls in love with him from a distance. A great storm hits, and the Little Mermaid saves the prince from a near-drowning. She delivers him unconscious to the shore near a temple. Here she waits until a young girl from the temple finds him. The prince never sees the Little Mermaid.

The Little Mermaid asks her grandmother whether humans can live forever if they do not drown. The grandmother explains that humans have a much shorter lifespan than merfolk’s 300 years, but that when mermaids die they turn to sea foam and cease to exist, while humans have an eternal soul that lives on in Heaven. The Little Mermaid, longing for the prince and an eternal soul, eventually visits the Sea Witch, who sells her a potion that gives her legs, in exchange for her tongue (as the Little Mermaid has the most intoxicating voice in the world). Drinking the potion will make her feel as if a sword is being passed through her, yet when she recovers she will have two beautiful legs, and will be able to dance like no human has ever danced before. However, it will constantly feel like she is walking on sharp swords, and her feet will bleed most terribly. In addition, she will only get a soul if the prince loves her and marries her, for then a part of his soul will flow into her. Otherwise, at dawn on the first day after he marries another woman, the Little Mermaid will die brokenhearted and disintegrate into sea foam.

The Little Mermaid drinks the potion and meets the prince, who is attracted to her beauty and grace even though she is mute. Most of all he likes to see her dance, and she dances for him despite her excruciating pain. When the prince’s father orders his son to marry the neighboring king’s daughter, the prince tells the Little Mermaid he will not, because he does not love the princess. He goes on to say he can only love the young woman from the temple, but adds that the Little Mermaid is beginning to take the temple girl’s place in his heart. It turns out that the princess is the temple girl, who had been sent to the temple to be educated. The prince loves her and the wedding is announced.

The prince and princess marry, and the Little Mermaid’s heart breaks. She thinks of all that she has given up and of all the pain she has suffered. She despairs, thinking of the death that awaits her, but before dawn, her sisters bring her a knife that the Sea Witch has given them in exchange for their long hair. If the Little Mermaid slays the prince with the knife and lets his blood drip on her feet, she will become a mermaid again, all her suffering will end and she will live out her full life.

The Little Mermaid cannot bring herself to kill the sleeping prince lying with his bride and, as dawn breaks, throws herself into the sea. Her body dissolves into foam, but instead of ceasing to exist, she feels the warmth of the sun; she has turned into a spirit, a daughter of the air. The other daughters of the air tell her she has become like them because she strove with all her heart to gain an eternal soul. She will earn her own soul by doing good deeds, and she will eventually rise up into the kingdom of God.

I believe that the next step is to do a character comparison.

  • The Little Mermaid is of course, Ariel in the Disney film and is Ponyo in her respective film. The biggest departure goes to Ponyo due to her incredibly young age, but both stories don’t have the aspect of the Mermaids traveling to the surface at age 15. In both the Disney film and Ponyo, Ariel and Ponyo are both forbidden from going to the surface by their overprotective father.
  • The Little Mermaid’s sisters have never really had any part in either film adaptation. In the source material, they tell stories of the world above, but in the Disney film, they’re just sort of there. They don’t really do anything that progresses the plot except for one line that informs Triton that Ariel is in love, but they at least get names. Ponyo’s sisters (none of which are named, but that’s more due to the fact that Granmamare seems to breed like a fish) actually do something. They are genuinely helpful (and adorable) characters, but just like the Disney film, they don’t tell stories of the human world. They actually seem to be much younger than Ponyo herself, which is a pretty big departure.
  • The Sea King is Triton in the Disney film, and is somewhat separated into both Fujimoto and Granmamare. Fujimoto is closer in personality to Triton, with the whole over protectiveness thing, but also has some aspects of the sea witch in that he is a wizard and makes deals with people to change them.
  • The prince is Eric in the Disney version and Sosuke in Ponyo. The prince didn’t really have much of a character in the source, so there was a lot of room to expand it. Disney pretty much took his character directly from the story, so he’s incredibly milk-toast. Sosuke, on the other hand, actually has some substance to him. He actually feels like a person.
  • The Sea Witch is a fairly benevolent character in the original story, her potion has a downside, but she’s not malevolent. This is a complete opposite of the character of Ursula, who is, of course, the villianess of the Disney movie. She obviously takes on a larger role and is the reason that the ending to that version is so different from the source. The sea witch in Ponyo is split up the same way the sea king is, with aspects of her character being in both Fujimoto and Granmamare. Granmamare’s test at the end of Ponyo is what makes that movie feel much closer to the source for me. Her test is that if Sosuke truly loves Ponyo, that she will turn into a human permanently and they will live happily ever after, but if he doesn’t, Ponyo will turn into sea foam. The movie ends happily, but the seriousness of the consequences lets the darker side of the original story shine through, but I have found that that lets the film shine in a better light.
  • The Temple Girl is a character that has sort of appeared in the Disney film, but is not nearly the same character as she is in the original story. This character is weird due to the fact that she is the reason that the source material does not end happily, but she isn’t a villain. In the Disney version, her character is basically who Ursula changes into in order to force Ariel to fail at their deal, but she isn’t a princess and Eric hasn’t met her before, she’s a “normal girl” who hypnotizes Eric in order to marry her.

If it sounds like I am hating on the Disney version of the story, I’m not. I love that movie to death (despite it’s flaws), but I do believe that Ponyo is a better film overall. I would like to see a straight up adaptation of the source, though, it’s so delightfully twisted that it would make a great film for adults (of course, I could easily say this about any fairy tale), but I doubt that it will ever happen.

Thursday will not be the final trip report (I know, I just keep stretching this out), it will be a massive news post, so be prepared.

Also, if anyone sees any glaring mistakes (whether it is grammatical or factual, I don’t care), please speak up. It would be greatly appreciated.


The Cliff by the Sea Seems Like a Pretty Cool Place

I really want this poster, it's so classy.

FROM RYAN’S MOVIE ADVENTURES: I saw Ponyo with some friends on the night it came out (14/8/09) so this article is a wee bit behind, unfortunately. I need to get better at keeping my articles more relevant.

But anyway, Ponyo (also known as Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea) is the acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki’s tenth feature length film and it is a stunning piece of cinema. For those of you who are a fan of him, which I’m expecting most of my few readers to be, this is most definitely more on the My Neighbor, Totoro side of his film spectrum. The film is very light and fairly fluffy, but don’t let that description stop you from seeing it. It’s most definitely going to be nominated for the Best Animated Feature at the 82nd Academy Awards (and will probably lose to Up, but that is definitely not a slide against Ponyo).

Disney did not do a very good job on advertising this film (which is really surprising, due to Disney’s mastery of the art of advertisments), all they had to say was that it was based off of the Little Mermaid and that it starred Hannah Montana’s little sister and every little girl in America would have instantly dragged their parents to the cinema to see it. Disney could have made so much money off of it, but they missed the boat (ha ha, nautical humour!).

Ponyo and Sosuke admiring Ponyo's unintentional handiwork.

Now if my inane ramblings are (theoretically) over with, maybe a short plot synopsis would be in order. Don’t worry, people who haven’t seen it (what’s wrong with you?), I’m not going to spoil the ending. I’m not going to give too much away, so cool it. Ponyo (Noah Cyrus, yes Miley Cyrus’ little sister, ugh), a little goldfish, lives in the ocean with her father, Fujimoto (Liam Neeson, it’s Qui-gon Jinn!) and her hundreds of little sisters. Fujimoto is a human sea wizard who is a very snappy dresser, but wears very visible face make-up including rouge and eye shadow and looks like he’s trying to be a transvestite, but is failing horribly in the clothes department. No, must stop getting side tracked! Blog post! Blog post! Ponyo is your fairly standard, young, female character: she wants more than what she has and is damn well going to get it. She, of course, escapes and ends up getting caught in some trash (oh noes, blatant environmental message! I wonder if there’s going to be as much ire for the shallownes

s of this message as there was about the message in Wall-e?) and is saved by Sosuke (Frankie Jonas, and yes, he is related to the Jonas Brothers). What follows is an adventure that has Ponyo using her magic to transform into a little girl, she falls in love with Sosuke, and unintentionally causes the major “antagonist” in the film, a massive storm that floods most of the island that Sosuke lives on. She receives help from her wizard (and human hating) father and her pseudo-goddess mother, Granmamare (played by Cate Blanchette) to set things right.

Ponyo (in her goldfish form) and her many, many sisters.

One scene of the movie I would like to go into some depth on, though, is the running on the waves scene. In the film, after Ponyo uses her magic to turn into a little girl, she uses more of her powers and creates massive waves (that are actually fish made of water) that swarm towards the small island that Sosuke lives on. Throughout this scene is some of the best animation I have ever seen in a cel-animated film. Everything is so seamless and fluid. Ponyo jumps form wave to wave with such grace and dexterity and it is quite the sight to behold. I think that this is the Miyazaki film flying scene of this movie (becuase there wasn’t an obvious one), but I could be wrong (but that rarely happens).

This is my new desktop.

If this plot sounds somewhat similar, it should. It is loosely based off of the Little Mermaid, but is actually slightly closer to the original story than the Disney movie that everyone knows, but that is a topic for another day (Thursday, actually).

There was two nagging doubts in my mind when it came to this film when I read the dub cast list, and that was the inclusion of a Jonas and Cyrus sibling as the main roles. I wasn’t suspicious just because they were related to four musicians that are completely destroying music like a cancer (okay, that’s a lie. I was suspicious), but more because they didn’t have any sort of major acting roles before, let alone any dubbing experience. All they had been in before this was their siblings respective television abortions, but I was pleasantly surprised that someone of relative talent came out of both the Jonas and Cyrus clans. I guess they can’t all be terrible. The rest of the cast was fantastic, here’s the cast (minus the additional voices) for your reading pleasure:

Cate Blanchett – Granmamare
Noah Lindsey Cyrus –  Ponyo
Matt Damon – Koichi
Tina Fey – Lisa
Frankie Jonas – Sosuke
Kurt Knutsson – The Newscaster
Cloris Leachman –  Yoshie
Liam Neeson – Fujimoto
Jennessa Rose –  Kumiko
Lily Tomlin – Toki
Betty White –  Noriko

Granmamare is pretty cool.

The most interesting aspect of the film is not the story, but the art style that was used for it. All of the backgrounds look like they were done in coloured pencil and it makes for a very nostalgic feel. They are absolutely stunning and a beauty to behold, and what makes it more interesting is that Miyazaki himself drew all of the backgrounds! Talk about commitment! The characters are beautifully animated, but they don’t stand out as much as the backgrounds.

The only other aspect of the film I would like to mention is the abosolutely atrocious remix of the film’s song.

Here is the real version:

Here is the version you want to stay away from:

Sosuke really likes his boat.

Now, I am not a weeaboo (some people may argue with me on this, but they are wrong and I am right). I don’t instantly think that the Japanese version is better (even though it usually is) and I am perfectly fine if the dubbing is done well, like all of the Miyazaki films I’ve seen. What I have a problem with is when the song is remixed into a crappy pop and over-synthesized shell of it’s former self. The original song is adorable and one would feel perfectly fine with it being stuck in their head, the other one would just make you wish for death in a brutal fashion.

But seriously, Ponyo is fantastic and everyone should see it. It’s great for children, it’s a perfect date movie and it seems that it has a wider release than any of the other Miyazaki films have had previously. Go see (and love) this movie.

One last thing, when I first saw Lisa’s driving, there was Eurobeat blasting in my head and I was getting way too pumped up. She could seriously be a character in Initial D and would fit in perfectly.

It Feels Like I Did Nothing But Watch Parades

FROM THE CONTINUING ADVENTURES OF A DISNEY GEEK: You would be surprised at how long it takes me to prepare these articles, especially considering that the articles are already written (I wrote them while on location). The Magic Kingdom is easily my favourite of the Walt Disney World parks, it has both of my favourite attractions (though one of them is a bastardized version, more on that later), it is the closest American park to Disneyland

Day 3

Situational music is hilarious.

8:07 AM: Just got to the Magic Kingdom. Main Street looks as beautiful as ever and the castle is immaculate.
8:10 AM: Huh, looks like The Hall of Presidents is out of it’s refurbishment scrim, but there is no marquee up yet, interesting. It would be pretty nice if they had some secret soft opening going on today, I want to see the Barack Obama audio-animatronic!
8:14 AM: I got my FastPass for Splash Mountain, and it’s only a 10 minute wait. Might as well ride it while I wait until I can get one for Big Thunder.
8:39 AM: God, I am soaked.
Of course, that’s what happens when you sit in the second row of the log on Splash Mountain! The guy in front of me lost his hat on the way down into the brier patch. I wonder if he will be able to get it back later, can’t help but feel sorry for him on a hot day like this.
8:49 AM: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is fun, but I’ve heard that it’s better at night, I will have to study this further. Preferably, in a lab coat. Back of man, I’m a scientist!
8:52 AM: There are not a lot of people here.

The Haunted Mansion is the greatest Disney attraction ever. If you don't agree with me, then get the hell off my internets.

I’m very surprised considering the massive crowds yesterday. There is still only a 10 minute wait for Splash Mountain, might as well ride again! I hope I don’t get as wet as I did last time. Watch this, I’ll get the front.
8:56 AM: I was right.
9:11 AM: I got hit at every single point that you can get wet at (the first little drop, the waterfalls, the cannon that shoots off as you ride past the final drop, the Slippin’ Falls, and the final drop). I’ve never had to use the paper towels in the bathroom to dry off before, so this is going to be an experience. They really need to refurbish the audio-animatronics, the syncing is off and the hopping Br’er Rabbit effect hasn’t been seen for years. I think it might be time to leave Frontierland. I do believe it’s time to go meet with Master Gracey again, I frightfully enjoy our meetings, and I do hope that he will let me in, considering that I’m drenched to the bone. It would just kill me if that were to be the case.

Goofy decided on my pose, so... word!

9;42 AM: I love the additions they made to the Mansion, they definitely make the experience much creepier. I’m definitely going to do a separate article on the Haunted Mansion at a later time, but don’t hold your breath, I wouldn’t want you to leave prematurely. Oh, and be sure to look for Mr. Toad in the pet cemetery, it’s a nice send up to the premature death of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Well, considering I didn’t catch my death of cold while touring the Haunted Mansion, might as well finish the job and go to the symphony.
9:56 AM: Heh, opera glasses. They look just like the 3D glasses for every other Disney 3D movie. Oh god, who put Goofy in the position of stage manager?
10:09 AM: Mickey’s PhilharMagic is definitely the best 3D film on property. The Imagineers definitely took everything they learned about immersion and put it to excellent use here. From the alluring scent during the “Be our Guest” scene, to the water in the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” it makes the experience seem more real. One thing I noticed is that the Ariel in the film looks like she would be more at home in the Incredibles than her own movie.
10:21 AM: Oh mans, a Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride shirt! Damn you Winnie the Pooh! I love your attraction, but you took away the best iteration of the Mr. Toad ride and don’t even get me started on the closing of the Country Bears in Disneyland, that’s fodder for a whole other Journey Into Imagination style rant.

Yes, this view was the fuel for the canon rant.

10:26 AM: It’s interesting that Timothy Mouse from Dumbo is the approximate size of a mouse in real life and that Mickey is supposed to be about 2 to 3 feet tall. It seems that all of the Disney characters inhabit the same universe, so this brings up an interesting bit of canon error. I guess I can follow the Kingdom Hearts approach to the universe and just write he issue off by saying that each set of characters live on their own separate world from the other sets, but that they have the ability to cross over (as shown in obviously Kingdom Hearts, but also the somewhat short lived House of Mouse show on the Disney Channel). Wow, I just realized as I stand in line, by myself, at Snow White’s Scary Adventures and arguing Disney canon, that I don’t have a life. Maybe they sell one in one of the thousands of gift shops in these parks. Ooh, I got the Dopey car!

I haven't been to Mickey's Toontown Fair for years, so seeing these pumpkins and walking through the cartoon-y houses really brought me back.

10:40 AM: The Imagineers could definitely use what used to be the submarine lagoon across from the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh to put in some new Dark rides. Maybe they could put in either Pinocchio’s Daring Journey or Alice in Wonderland in. The relative closeness to the Mad Tea Party would suggest the latter, but the close proximity to Dumbo the Flying Elephant would suggest the addition of the Casey Jr. Circus Train. While I’m doing some armchair Imagineering, I would like them to finally do away with the “Tournament Festival” look of most of Fantasyland and make it look more like Disneyland’s.

EDITOR’S NOTE: There is a rumour (and leaked blueprints that are possibly fake) circulating the interwebs saying that Disney is actually going to use the space to put in a Beauty and the Beast attraction similar to the Enchanted Tiki Room (themed to the “Be Our Guest” scene), the Little Mermaid attraction being put into California Adventure, a Cinderella attraction, a Sleeping Beauty themed area, Pixie Hollow, and move Dumbo the Flying Elephant to the back of this new area and add a second set of elephants. This is just a rumour and should be regarded as such, but it would be super awesome if it wasn’t just another unfounded claim. I wants me some more Fantasyland.

It's completely ridiculous that I have to see a parade to see the Mad Hatter. He's the only walk-around character I really wanted to get a picture with this trip!

10:57 AM: I feel the same way about the old Fantasyland skyway building as I do about the ex-submarine lagoon. Use the space for something besides stroller parking! Whoa, a wait for the Haunted Mansion? What is this world coming to?
11:31 AM: I just saw a Max walk-around character! I haven’t seen one since I was a kid!
11:42 AM: Just got pictures with Gideon, Pinocchio, and Terrence the Country Bear.
12:19 PM: It seems that the only way to enjoy the Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management (which is to drink/eat a Dole Whip) is now not allowed. When the cast member told me I was afraid that I would have to throw away my overpriced (but delicious) frozen treat. By the way, the show is as terrible as ever.

The Move-it, Shake-it, Celebrate-it Street Party (I know, stupid name) has colours so loud and gaudy that they just work. I don't understand why.

12:50 PM: The Move-it, Shake-it, Celebrate It Street Party is a lot of fun if you don’t mind looking like a total dork shaking you’re tail feathers. It was a highly enjoyable experience. My opinion may have been influenced slightly by the inclusion of the Mad Hatter, Mr. Incredible, and Frozone.
1:00 PM: I got my picture with Max and Goofy with an added bonus of Baloo. Mission accomplished.
1:20 PM: The wait-time for Pirates of the Caribbean is supposedly 40 minutes. I remain unconvinced due to it’s ridiculously high guests-per-hour count. The queue for the attraction is exquisitely themed, much more so than the Disneyland version, but the drawback is that they took up to much space for the queue and the length (and overall quality) of the attraction suffered, making the original much better than the second (much like the Pirates of the Caribbean films). The caverns are practically non-existent, so there aren’t the funny/macabre scenes with the
skeleton pirate crew (like a skeleton drinking some rum that you can see going down his rib cage).

Why is Mr. Incredible wearing Mardi-Gras beads? That invokes way too many horrible images for me.

1:57 PM: I stand corrected, the line did take 40 minutes.
2:30 PM: Dream-Along With Mickey is very similar to all of the other castle forecourt shows, an amalgamation of ideas that really don’t come together to form any sort of story, so nothing special. The worst part is that there is absolutely no cover, so the blasted day-star is right upon me! Man, it’s hot. Some ice cream sounds good. Really good.
2:48 PM: Mmm… raspberry sorbet… and a parade! Second new parade of the day!

I miss the Aladdin parade...

3:20 PM: I think I’ll hit the Haunted Mansion and Mickey’s PhilharMagic again. I need to spend some quality time with air conditioning. Oh wait, the parade that I just watched us going in that direction. Damn.
4:03 PM: Mickey’s PhilharMagic has a 40 minute wait, so that definitely isn’t happening. Let’s see… indoor attraction… long indoor attraction… air conditioning… Carousel of Progress!
4:34 PM: I love the Carousel of Progress. The theme song is catchy. The audio-animatronics are highly advanced and relatively lifelike and it was one of the last attractions supervised by Walt Disney. My feet hurt, time to rest.
6:58 PM: Back in the park, this time with the Reisfelds in tow. We’re heading to Adventureland.
7:21 PM: Where did this rain come from? It’s lasting longer than a normal Florida shower and I left my umbrella at home! I hope it stops soon.
7:43 PM: Rain finally stopped. We have FastPasses for the Jungle Cruise, so that’s next on the chopping block.
8:12 PM: I love the Jungle Cruise, but Disney has to do something about the audio on the boats. Unless you are sitting right next to the skipper, or they’re exceptionally loud, you can’t hear them over the sound of the boat’s engine!

I have never seen an Abu walk-around character before this moment. I was both creeped out and in a state of awe.

8:57 PM: I went back to Splash Mountain, sat in the second row and didn’t get wet. Great success!
9:57 PM: The fireworks are about to start! I’m so excited!
10:23 PM: I like Wishes, but it’s the red-headed stepchild of Remember… Dreams Come True. It just doesn’t live up to the ridiculously high expectations set by the latter.
10:35 PM: Daniel wants to ride the Mad Tea Party. God, I haven’t rode that since I was a kid. My mom gets sick after riding them, so it’s never high on our to-do list.
10:41 PM: The Mad Tea Party is super fun, now excuse me while I regain my balance.
10:57 PM: I’m going to let you in on a little secret, the real reason to stay in the Magic Kingdom at night isn’t the fireworks, but rather the SpectroMagic parade. Oh, and the song WILL get stuck in your head, just so you know.

11:12 PM: I think what I love about SpectroMagic the most is that it is basically two parades, the white light version and the coloured version.

This float is absolutely gorgeous. I don't even care that it's a Princess float, I like it.

11:15 PM: Holy crap! The castle is open! I can actually see the murals inside the castle!
11:23 PM: Those murals are beautiful, it’s a damn shame that you can’t see them during the day. I can bet you that most people that just can’t see the murals because of the castle forecourt show.
12:00 PM: The “Good Night Kiss” is kind of cool. I’ve never actually seen it before, and it’s a good way to end the day. Good night internet!

Next week is going to be devoted to Ponyo related articles, so the next trip report will be in two weeks. Just thought you should know.