Saturday, February 26, 2011

Once Upon A Time...

A Tale from the Decameron by John William Waterhouse
Today (February 26th) is National Tell a Fairy Tale Day! I couldn't let this day go by without giving it a mention, considering my absolute love for fairy tales and storytelling.

According to Wikipedia, a fairy tale is a type of short narrative that typically features such folkloric characters as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants or gnomes, and usually magic or enchantments. However, only a small number of the stories thus designated explicitly refer to fairies. The stories may nonetheless be distinguished from other folk narratives such as legends (which generally involve belief in the veracity of the events described) and explicitly moral tales, including beast fables, although a moral lesson is usually conveyed.

Back in the day, when I used to babysit, I would make up fairy tales and tell them to the kids. It was the only way I could get them to go to bed. Of course, I firmly believe that fairy tales aren't just for children. So, here are a few suggestions on ways you can celebrate today, whether you're around little ones today or not.
  • Read a fairy tale out loud to your kids or your favorite friend. This is a no-brainer and the whole point of the holiday.
  • Read one of the original Grimm's fairy tales. You'll be surprised at how different they are from the Disney versions.
  • Go to a book store or library and check out some of the current fairy tales. Thankfully there is a small group of modern authors who enjoy writing in the genre and even re-telling or finding new twists on the old themes.
  • Make up a story with your kids. You don't have to be an author. It doesn't have to be perfect. I just saw the film The King's Speech last night and there was a wonderful scene with the king making up a story on the spot to tell his two daughters before bedtime. Such a sweet moment.
  • Play dress up with your kids. Part of fairy tales is imagination, so dress up in some fun costumes and let your kids help you make up the story collaboratively or they can act out the story as you read it.
So, what's your favorite fairy tale? Leave me a comment and let me know. May you find a fun way to celebrate imagination and storytelling today and may you live happily ever after!

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Very Merry Un-Anniversary to Alice!

Today I'd like to wish a very merry un-anniversary to Disney's Alice! To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the release of Alice in Wonderland, Disney has released the film on Blu-Ray this month. Disney's Alice was orignally released on July 28, 1951, so that's why I called this post an un-anniversary, because the actual date is in July.

Lewis Carroll's stories don't easily lend themselves to the cinematic treatment, but I think Disney took the best of both stories and combined them in a way that was faithful to the original works and celebrated the wit and silliness of the characters and wonderland, as well as Alice's plucky personality, yet made it more approachable for a wider audience. Not only that, it was some of the most stunning animation that Disney has ever produced, under the art direction of Mary Blair. What's odd is that Alice was probably one of the most negatively reviewed and criticized films in the Disney cannon, especially during its original release. Most of the criticism came from Lewis Caroll devotees, literary purists, and British critics who accused Disney of "Americanizing" the story.

To celebrate this un-anniversary, I thought I'd provide some fun diversions for you, on this lazy Friday afternoon. Below is a list of links, with more information about the film, as well as a list of the Blu-Ray special features, and even a link to some crafts and coloring pages for your kids (or for you, if you're a big kid). Cheers!

An overview and fun facts about the film can be found at the Disney Archives site here.

Click here to watch a "making of" video discussing the creation of the Alice soundtrack.

You can find games, downloadable coloring pages and crafts on Disney's site here. (Disney's site really is massive and has a ton of free stuff, if you're ever looking for a new desktop wallpaper, or something for you and your kids to do on a rainy afternoon.)

Click here to see preview clips of the Blu-Ray version of the film. Below is a list of the special features included on the Blu-Ray.
• Blu-Ray Features:

o Through the Keyhole: A Companion's Guide to Wonderland - View the movie in this special mode and discover references to the original Lewis Carroll classic - introduced by the voice of Alice, Kathryn Beaumont.
o Disney View - Watch the movie in this expanded viewing experience with new Disney art in the wings of the screen
o Painting the Roses Red game - Help paint the roses red in the Queen's garden. Careful, or someone could lose their head
o Walt Disney color TV introduction (1959) - A never-before-seen color TV intro by Walt
o Reference Footage: Alice and the Doorknob - Kathryn Beaumont provides an introduction to this newly discovered reference footage of Alice talking to the doorknob
o Pencil Test: Alice Shrinks - Kathryn Beaumont introduces a newly discovered pencil test of Alice shrinking
• PLUS, Classic DVD Features:
o Reflections on Alice
o Operation Wonderland (now in hi-def)
o "I'm Odd" newly discovered Cheshire Cat song and intro
o Thru the Mirror - Mickey Mouse animated short (now in hi-def)
o One-hour in Wonderland
o An Alice Comedy: Alice's Wonderland
o Original theatrical trailers (1951 and 1974)