Friday, March 9, 2018

Timeless Tales Opening Soon for Snow White Submissions

Written by Tahlia Kirk, Editor of Timeless Tales Magazine

Writers, sharpen those pencils and polish those keyboards! In just a few short days, Timeless Tales will be open for retellings of Snow White...

Guys, can I be honest for a sec? I've already written around a dozen versions of this announcement, and I'm getting kinda bored with repeating the same info over and over again. So buckle up, because I'm launching into sassy know-it-all editor mode.

Normally, we don't have a slogan for our themes, but Snow White is so famous that I felt the need to remind writers that we do NOT want submissions that are in any way traditional. Even more than a glass slipper is a mascot for Cinderella or a dying rose for Beauty & the Beast, the bright red apple is the symbol that represents Snow White. I didn't even have to use the word "apple" in my google search and this graphic still only took me 5 minutes to throw together.

A selection of the ubiquitous Red Apple cover (Twilight not included)

And even though it embodies the story's delicious tension of innocence, jealousy, and temptation, we want to devour those themes in a completely new package. Don't serve us another apple pie. Instead, ask yourself what would happen if you put apples and parsnips a soup!* Or I guess if we're talking fairy tales, apples and pumpkins would be more appropriate, heheh.

More so than ever, I'll have my eyes open for experimental settings and plot twists. Just the other day on Twitter, Gypsy was discussing the idea of a Snow White/Mary Poppins mashup. That's the sort of brilliance I'm looking for (and yes, feel free to steal that idea for your retelling).

Poets, don't think this excludes you! I will be one cranky editor if I have to read a pile of flowery ABAB rhymes about pale skin, ruby lips, and magic mirrors. So much of Snow White's imagery has become cliche that I'm going to really hold the bar extra high this time.

Oh, and don't forget about the Prince! As much as we adore female-centric stories, the one thing about our Rumpelstiltskin issue that I was bummed about was how few stories gave the King any sort of backstory, so I'm hoping to see a few submissions who make the Prince a well-rounded character. I expect many people will merge him with the Huntsman, but be aware that you won't be the only writer to think of this twist, so he still needs to have a personality versus being a cookie cutter romantic lead.

Alright, time to rein in the snark and remind writers that I'm not a big scary ogre over here. My goal here isn't to make anyone afraid to submit because they're worried their story isn't good enough. One of my greatest joys is when a writer tells me that Timeless Tales is their first time submitting to be published. Your publication credits are not always an indication of your writing talent. I understand that your writing is a little piece of yourself, so if you pluck up your courage to send it to us, I promise to treat it as an honored guest until it's either published with us or sent back home to you.

Information on how to submit to Timeless Tales Magazine's Snow White issue can be found at

*Err, thanks internet for that bizarre idea

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Baba Yaga Tales Old & New, Uniquely & Chillingly Told - An Interview with 'Horrible Little Fables' Podcaster Keef

Vasilissa the Fair by Ivan Bilibin
"She went into the other room to sharpen her iron teeth..."

Did we get your attention? Well, be prepared for a whole lot more where that came from.

The best storytellers know how to build atmosphere and Keef, of Horrible Little Fables has been experimenting with soundscapes, voices and blending different texts, to create a unique podcast storytelling experience we haven't heard before. It reminds us of some theater we've seen, except that this is all 'theater of the mind'.

Here's Keef's 'pitch-tweet' for it:
It's a 42-minute block of bizarro storytelling, analog synth made specifically for the podcast, and strange sound collage. It is weird, and dark, and creepy, and I very much hope that some of you out there dig it.
We will admit, not normally having time to listen to an average podcast, we balked a little at the amount of time we were going to have to listen for, but it was Baba Yaga and Vasilisa, a favorite tale group of ours, so we started anyway, then ended up making time to make sure we heard the rest.

Here's an excerpt from some of the text used, of a traditional tale section (which can be read on the background of the podcast page):
(Click on the text to read it full size)
The presentation includes a number of Baba Yaga stories, both traditional and not, all with wonderfully descriptive wording. It also includes Keef's original story The Forest Gym, which complimented the traditional tales so perfectly; we loved it! (And it has the most darling little girl voice as one of the characters to bring it immediately to life...)
"Where the wind blows; being ten fairy-tales from ten nations."
1910, by Katharine Pyle, illustrated & embellished by Bertha Corson Dav. 
You can hear the whole podcast on the web for free HERE.

Keef kindly agreed to an interview to give us some insight into his fascination with twisted tales, why he was drawn to Baba Yaga and his process for creating this unique form of Story. Why don't you pull up a chair and join us for tea?
Hi Keef

Thank you so much for agreeing to chat with Once Upon A Blog today about your new podcast 'Baba Yaga'. We're delighted to have you here. You probably know by now that we adore this fairy tale and folklore character here, in all her iterations, so we're keen to learn what it was about her that grabbed your attention, and how that developed into the unique storytelling podcast you've created.

OUAB: *Sets out an odd assortment of irregularly shaped tea cakes and Oreshki on a vintage hand painted plate. Pours tea from a strange, beaked teapot into two mismatching cups with chicken legs. Once full, they strut over to some paper doilies made of foreign and yellowed newspaper, squat, then plop awkwardly down on their bases, splaying scaled legs and feet out in front. A small splash of tea trickles over the edge of one of them.* Heh. I'll take that one. *hurriedly catches the drip with a napkin, then indicates the food plate* Please help yourself. We know you're a writer of, as you fondly call them, 'Horrible Little Fables', all of which have a fantastic or wondrous element to them ('wondrous' in this case often meaning 'not normal'). What is it that draws you to creating and telling these sorts of stories?

Keef: There isn't really a lot of choice in the matter. I grew up reading and loving fairy tales, weird fiction, horror, and magical realism, and those particular flavors offer possibilities that others can't provide. I also have a hard lean toward postmodernism, leaving some questions unanswered or subverted.  With the horrible little fables in particular, my goal is to be unsettling, sad, sometimes funny, strange, and inclusive. Some of them work better than others. I've also been fortunate enough to work with some truly wonderful artists on pieces to accompany the text. 

Baba Yaga by Tin Can Forest
OUAB: Oh yes! We must admit we were immediately drawn to the Jes Seamans piece you used for your Horrible Little Fable, 'Laquinda and the Vértéktie'. In fact we could see that vértéktie hanging out in the same neighborhood as a certain chicken-legged hut we're fond of... But what was it about Baba Yaga that caught your imagination?

Keef: Oh, Jes is absolutely wonderful. I'm glad you agree about that! And I've loved the Baba Yaga forever. I went to the library every week with my mom as a child-- thanks, Mom-- and I remember finding Blair Lent's Baba Yaga, a beautiful children's book with these chunky woodcut-style illustrations. It was spooky in the most delicious way, and I had to know more about her. The Baba Yaga is a truly remarkable woman-- she doesn't slot into any real archetype. She's not a wicked witch, she's not a helpful fairy godmother, she's unique and individual. Jack Zipes, in his book The Irresistible Fairy Tale, has a great line about the Baba Yaga and how hard she is to define: 
"A Baba Yaga is inscrutable and so powerful that she does not owe allegiance to the devil, God, or even her storytellers... she is her own woman, a parthogenetic mother, and she decides on a case-by-case basis whether she will help or kill the people who come to her hut." 
She's brilliant, and deviously clever, and sometimes beautiful, and she approaches each person based on what they bring to the table.

OUAB: What do you think it is about her walking hut... -- *The teacups begin drumming their little legs excitedly on the table, dangerously sloshing the undrunk tea* -- Stop that! My apologies. My teacups haven't been allowed to help host an interview before and they're a bit lax in their manners... *glares at the cups, who stop drumming* Ahem. Baba Yaga's chicken-legged hut: it's a very curious construction. Why do you think people love it so much?

Keef: How could you not? It's such a weird and otherworldly vision! Chicken feet scratching in the dirt, the little hut surrounded by a fence made of human bones. It can pick up and move anywhere-- in any wooded area, you could turn around and find it right behind you, waiting expectantly. The possible intrusion of this ancient spooky structure, with clear links to pre-industrialized culture, engenders fascination, respect, and fear immediately. 

Faith Jaques’s illustration of Baba Yaga’s hut, from “The Red Fairy Book”
OUAB: You've kindly listed your resources in creating the podcast (see below for the books, with more resources listed under the podcast), but where did you begin your research? Did you use any resources you would recommend for folks wanting to tell or create Baba Yaga stories?

Keef: A lot of the readings in the podcast come from the old skakza themselves, many of which are freely available online: and Project Gutenberg both have a number of them. In terms of historical background, I mentioned Jack Zipes' The Irresistible Fairy Tale before, which has a wonderful chapter on the Baba Yaga. Dubravka Ugresic wrote a great book, Baba Yaga Laid an Egg, the last third of which is a fictional response from a Baba Yaga scholar to the first two-thirds. It's packed with history and insight. Oh, and there's another book called Baba Yaga: The Ambiguous Mother and Witch of the Russian Folktale, by Andreas Johns, that both of the sources I already mentioned cite. I've got it on order.

OUAB: Us too! There always seems more to learn, more stories to read... and to tell. Speaking of telling, literally - as in using vocal and auditory senses - at what point did you decide "this has to be a podcast"? *Raises teacup, takes a sip, then has difficulty putting it back as the legs begin air-bicycling on the way down. It's given a little tap and it settles on the table, standing in a lop-sided stork pose.*

Keef: This particular Baba Yaga recording started life as a two-hour broadcast in January on KVRX, but the recording method failed. I couldn't let it go, so my friend Dan and I re-created it as a podcast, which allowed us greater freedom in making sure things converged, creating and tailoring the music more specifically to the needs of the pieces, and cutting it down for greater impact. Then we figured, hell-- let's keep making these. I've also got two decades' worth of recordings that I can whittle down and intersperse with new episodes, so that should be fun.

Lacquer miniature by Nina Babarkina
OUAB: So how did you go about putting together the 'script' or text? Did your choices come from the soundscapes you were wanting to build *both teacups begin sloshing their remaining tea...* and, ultimately, hear, *... until they're in sync..* or did the text come together first, in a more typical writing fashion? *throws a 'Stoppit!' look at the teacups. They stop. Mostly.*

Keef: Honestly, a little bit of column A, a little bit of column B. The wonderful thing about these stories is that they've been retold and reinterpreted dozens of times, and translated from the original languages even more. So I asked my readers to read ALL of the stories, and then I just selected chunks from each recording to follow the original plots. 

OUAB: Did you write your original short story "The Forest Gym", which you've included, before beginning production on the podcast, or after?

Keef: After the initial broadcast recording failed, I had extra time, so I wrote "The Forest Gym" specifically for the podcast. The recording of that one is unique and was a family effort. I'm the voice of Daddy. My daughter is the voice of Stefania, and the Baba Yaga is an amalgam of her mother, both of her grandmothers, her step-grandmother, and her great-grandmother. All the extended family members were gracious enough to call me and leave their lines in my voicemail, and from there I could edit it into the podcast. The sound quality is a little rough-- cell phones aren't known for their high fidelity-- but it all came together pretty well. The cat meows and purrs are all courtesy of our cat, Nora. 

OUAB: Oh wow. That is the best family keepsake ever! And a lot to put together. Actually, you have a lot going on in the whole podcast. Storytelling, different voices, overlapping voices, voices with effects, atmospheric sounds and effects, music... It must have presented quite a technical-juggling challenge! 

Keef: Oh, tracks and tracks and tracks and tracks. It eventually reached the point where I had to curb my perfectionism and call it complete, because otherwise I'd still be working on it. 

OUAB: Let's talk a little about the soundscapes. How did they become a key component of the storytelling? How did you decide what to create and include? What was your process?

Keef:  I grew up listening to old-time radio shows, which are really master classes in immersive audio environments. Really, I want these things to be as consuming as possible, really just put the listener in another world. That started on the radio-- my two favorite records of all time for the show are an LP called "The Language and Music of the Wolves," with a B-side consisting solely of wolf noises, and an LP called "Steam Railroading Under Thundering Skies," which is just rain, thunder, and steam trains. It's calming and beautiful and strange, and when you start adding other things in it gets quite bizarre, but it never loses that draw.

Logo for UHID created by Natee Puttapipat
OUAB: You mentioned growing up listening to old-time radio shows. When did you evolve from just listening to wanting to create your own podcast? How did they influence the way you build your immersive storytelling? And, wait a minute: is that your logo? How seriously cool - and topical - is that?

Keef: Yes! That's our new logo, kindly created by the crazy-talented Natee Puttapipat, whose work you may know from, well, everywhere, including The Folio Society edition of Andrew Lang's Red Fairy Book. We love it too.

The Baba Yaga podcast has its roots in a college radio show, called "The Union of the Hideously and Improbably Deformed." (UHID) The name was taken from David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest." There’s a weird radio show hostess in the book who reads bizarro texts and interacts with her audience in interesting ways. I started doing it on KRUI in Iowa City from '99-'02, and then at KVRX in Austin from ‘05-'07, and then on KVRX once or twice a year since then. I always wanted it to be weird and strange and unpredictable. It started with the idea of often playing at least three things simultaneously, which often meant instrumental music, sound effects, and spoken word recordings. Doing it on the fly, on the radio, sometimes it would fall flat on its face; sometimes, it would turn into these beautiful bits of convergence where the whole was much more than the sum of its parts. Eventually, the show incorporated live music, and that's persisted through the last ten years or so: my compatriot and co-creator is Dan Butler, a bona fide musical genius, and I'm perpetually thankful for him.

OUAB: You have a HUGE cast of people who helped with voices and sound layers! Where did they all come from? Were they mainly readers of yours, or did you send out a call for voices? Was it a collaborative thing or did you have specific roles for them all in mind? *The teacups have wandered over to the food plate and are attempting to pull off a tea cake with their claws*

Keef: This was such a wonderful and beautiful experience! I am so incredibly indebted and grateful to everyone who read for the show. I posted, on my personal social media, "hey, I’m doing a UHID show about the Baba Yaga, would anyone be willing to lend me their voice?" Immediately, ALL these people volunteered. Some could only read short bits, some wanted to read longer passages. Some people read stories in the original languages, which I buried deep in the mix in places. Some people got their children involved!  It was an honor and pleasure to work with all of them. I have hours and hours of unused stuff that I just couldn't squeeze in. Everyone who read did an amazing job, and some of them have complementary tones and voices that layered absolutely wonderfully. 

Baba Yaga and Vasilisa, also by Natee Puttapipat
OUAB: Because we love hearing about different creative processes: is there anything you wish you'd been able to include, some bit of research - or story text - you found fascinating that didn't quite fit in the end?

Keef: Oh, sure. Two things in particular: 

Jeremy, one of my readers, hollers "TWO BOTTLES OF VODKA, AND A NEW BRIDE!" in the "Uncle Ivan" story (which is based on a beautiful comic book by Tin Can Forest). When he gave me that particular line, he submitted about twenty different readings of it, which totaled to about a minute and a half. Just over and over, "Two bottles of vodka, and a new bride!" It was hilarious. During the radio broadcast, Dan and I just went on an extended riff, like a dance remix, with thumping EDM beats and rhythmic samples of Jeremy's line. It went on for about four minutes. We just couldn't get it to gel for the podcast. 

There's also a story in the podcast about a woman who encounters a fortune-telling Baba Yaga hiding in a tree. It's based on a wonderful short story by Rachel Kadish called "The Governess and the Tree," from an issue of Ploughshares*. It's a wonderful and beautiful and sad story. It's also about three thousand words. I adapted it down to about half that, and then asked my readers to read the adaptation. The reading of that ended up being about fifteen minutes long, and that was broadcast in full on the radio. When it came time to do the podcast, I realized it was just too much-- so I took the existing recording and cut it down again, to about five minutes. I think it still works, but it excises a lot of beautiful material that I was unable to include. I highly recommend the story. Rachel Kadish is a genius. 
*(Ploughshares, Vol. 37, No. 4 (WINTER 2011-12), pp. 83-90)

OUAB: We are definitely looking up Rachel Kadish when we're done here! How long did it take you to create the podcast, from inception to upload? *teacups are now playing football with a tea cake, which is quickly becoming more crumb than cake* And, more importantly, is there any chance of you doing another fairy tale-ish podcast anytime soon? We'd be happy to offer a list of potential macabre tale-candidates for you...

Russian lacquerwork, artist unknown
Keef: Oh goodness. Making this took hours and hours and hours and hours. You can't really take shortcuts with audio, which means listening to everything in real time over and over and over again. I spent two eight-hour days with Dan working on the music, and I'm sure he spent twice that working by himself. It took me about two weeks before the broadcast to get just the storytelling bits layered and edited down, and another week working on "The Forest Gym" and the edit of the fortune-telling, tree-bound Baba Yaga. Then, adding some sound effects, mixing, editing, and making everything come together. I'll also happily tell you that of the two of us, Dan's the genius when it comes to sound recording and production. Any shortcomings in the recording quality are mine alone. Dan's extremely busy at the moment getting ready for SXSW, but we fully intend to keep this up. I'm already gathering versions of stories about La Llorona for another long one of these, and I'm planning some shorter ones that are dramatizations of the horrible little fables.

OUAB: La Llorona? OK we're sold! Thank you for your time and, er, patience today... *The remains of the tea cake land inside one of the cups, splashing leftover tea over the table. Both bounce up and down happily as your host hastily attempts to mop up the soggy mess with extra doilies* One last question: do you have any funny - or spooky! - anecdotes you'd like to share from your auditory journey through Baba Yaga tales? We know she has a mind of her own and, well, odd things tend to happen when we pay attention to her stories... *attempts to corral the teacups that are now randomly hopping and swirling around the table top, barely avoiding the edge*

Keef: Heehee. I shared some small portions with the contributors as I worked on it. One of them told me that they were gathered around the computer, listening to one of these previews, and right as one the story ended, their power went out. They were left in the dark, feeling very unsettled. I love that.

OUAB: Where can folks find you on the web these days and do you have anything in the works we should be keeping an eye out for?

Keef: My sort of catch-all page is, and from there you can access my blog, the Horrible Little Fables, the website for the podcast, and my twitter. Also, I've just added the podcast to iTunes, so if you want to subscribe, you can search for the Union of the Hideously and Improbably Deformed. Updates will not be frequent, however, especially early on.

OUAB: Thank you again for sharing your process with us Keef! We hope to hear more from your neck of the woods in the future. And you're always welcome to drop by for tea, anytime. *there's a distinct SMASH! of breaking porcelain* I'm sure we can rustle up another cup if we need to.

Keef: This has been an absolute delight. Thank you so much for listening!

Here are the quick links to Keef's lurkings on the web. Be sure to wave "hi" if you drop by!
Let the Union of the Hideously and Improbably Deformed enfold you within its embrace. Allow the bizarro soundscapes to subsume you. Enter a world of magical realism, fairy tales, horrible little fables, samples, and sound effects, all with a delicious original analog synth music base. It's going to get weird... we're going to make this weird.
To further entice you to make the time to listen to this, we're including Keef's list of book resources used, that he so wonderfully included on the page:
"Where the wind blows; being ten fairy-tales from ten nations."
1910, by Katharine Pyle,
 illustrated & embellished by Bertha Corson Dav. 
Russian Folk-tales. W. R. S. Ralston, Smith, Elder, & Company, 1873 
Folk Tales From the Russian. Verra Xenophontovna Kalamatiano De Blumenthal, Rand McNally & Co., 1903. 
Wonder Tales From Many Lands. Katharine Pyle, George G. Harrap & Co., 1920. 
Baba Yaga: A Popular Russian Tale. Rose Celli & Nathalie Parain, Pere Castor, 1935. 
Vasilisa the Beautiful: Russian Fairy Tales. Irina Zheleznova (translator), Raduga Publishers, 1964. 
Baba Yaga. Ernest Small & Blair Lent, Houghton Mifflin, 1966. 
Vasilisa the Beautiful. Thomas P. Whitney & Nonny Hogrogian, MacMillan, 1970. 
The Kingdom Under the Sea and Other Stories. Joan Aiken & Jan Pienkowski, Jonathan Cape, 1971. 
Lovely Vassilisa. Barbara Cohen & Anatoly Ivanov, Atheneum, 1980. 
Bony-Legs. Joanna Cole & Dirk Zimmer, Scholastic, 1983. 
Russian Fairy Tales. Gillian Avery, Alfred A. Knopf, 1995. 
Hellboy: The Chained Coffin and Others. Mike Mignola, Dark Horse Comics, 1998. 
Baba Yaga and the Wolf. Marek Colek & Pat Shewchuk, Koyama Press, 2010.The Governess and the Tree. Rachel Kadish, in Ploughshares, vol. 37, No. 4, Winter 2011-2012. 
Angela Carter's Book Of Fairy Tales. Angela Carter, Little, Brown, 2015. 
Vasilisa the Beautiful and Baba Yaga. Alexander Afanasyev, Post Wheeler, & Ivan Bilibin, The Planet, 2017.The Forest Gym. Keef, 2018.  
Vasilisa the Fair by B.Zvorykin

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Making Timeless Tales More Writer-Friendly

(Written by Tahlia Merrill Kirk, Editor of Timeless Tales Magazine)

Contracts are probably the most tedious parts of the publishing process to discuss. If you're a freelance writer, you'll know all too well how verbose contracts are-- often to the point of being indecipherable. When I started Timeless Tales, I didn't really understand what most of the legalize meant, so played it safe by using lots of standard boilerplate language. Most of that has surprisingly stood the test of time, but other sections have needed reevaluation. 

As we've been ramping up for our Snow White submission window (coming up March 12-22), I've been researching ways to tweak it. Specifically, I'm looking into the possibility of providing Kindle versions of TT directly on Amazon...but that's still a work in progress, so don't get too excited. As I was re-examining our contract, I started thinking about this phrase:

"Exclusive Worldwide Rights"

I think it's assumed within the publishing industry that preventing writers from sending their story elsewhere will keep the supply/demand curve in the publisher's favor. This is certainly true when it comes to books. You'd never want to publish an author's novel if there was a chance another company would publish it too--that would be a disaster! Following this logic, we've always requested exclusive rights for 6-12 months after publication...

But now we're trying something new.

The more I considered it, the more I concluded that the impact of loosening our rules would be minimal to us. I seriously doubt our site will lose readers just because a story/poem can be found in two locations. In fact, I actually think it's a perfect opportunity for us to indulge in some mutually beneficial cross-promotion on social media as we celebrate the author's good fortune.

So we're changing the "exclusive" to "non-exclusive". 

Plus, let's be honest: We're a pretty niche market. And while our flat $20 per piece rate is excellent for poetry, it isn't exactly full market rate* for the fiction we receive. It seems only fair that, until we can raise our rates, we should allow our writers to sell their pieces to other markets without restriction. After all, what is a small impact on us might be a significant financial impact for a writer.

So that's a summary of the changes upcoming writers will see in our new contract. If you have questions or would like to see our template for yourself, you can always email me at .

*Not yet, at least! If you want to help us raise our rates, becoming a Patreon supporter will get us closer to making that possible.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

On 'Mary Poppins Returns', the Issues of Being Practically Perfect & Time Lords

Mary Poppins has a lot of those things we love: arriving (and leaving) by unconventional means (umbrella, or, more technically, the East Wind), a magical carpet bag you can fit anything into, a talking umbrella-bird, paintings you can jump into, floating tea parties, sliding up bannisters, having unlikeable people/nannies being blown away (by the wind - natural consequences!), talking to (and with) birds, a mirror with its own personality, dancing on rooftops, and so much more. It's clear this classic takes its cues from fantasy and fairy tales.
The original carpet bag... not made for carrying carpets (though it probably could).
But before we continue, have you seen the new trailer? No?

We'll let you watch before we weigh in:
So we're a little disappointed that she floats in on a kite, although that gives kites yet another magical connection, and it is, after all, the mode of conveyance in the book Mary Poppins Comes Back (the sequel to the first Mary Poppins volume.) The trailer is - obviously - supposed to underscore the melancholy state of, well, everything, without Mary there but there is a lot of that despair on display in this teaser before we get to the sunny breakthrough/arrival of the magical nanny. Generally speaking, we adore all the concepts of and around Mary Poppins, as mentioned above, but...

OK. Full disclosure:

We were always more-than-a-little disconcerted by Disney's Mary Poppins. She creeped us out, being so "practically perfect". The books didn't communicate quite that sense at all; she was clearly quite vain. (The references to this flaw in the books are many. Check the link to have an online read of just how many!) We loved Travers' books but the thought of having a '"jolly holiday with (the Disney) Mary" gives us the willies!

The following excerpt is from a very old post of InkGypsy's, (on a very old and defunct blog), from over ten years ago, and still holds true:
The new carpet bag
(can you imagine what that
carpet would have looked like?)
A character that's always bugged me is Mary Poppins. From the first time I saw that Disney film I was disturbed by this apparently perfect, almost emotionless, amazingly powerful woman with an agenda that's never revealed. She seemed alien to me and not at all comforting. If she'd been my nanny I would have had nightmares. As it is I just find her disturbing. Even with all that singing and dancing I was always aware of the ice in her eyes and the strangely perfect precision of all her movements and actions. I felt like Bert was under a spell, and not a good one. Oddly enough her arrival in the sky with the umbrella was like a black cloud appearing and it didn't go away until she blew away too. Despite this, umbrellas - and their potential to fly you away to distant places - are a wonderful image for me, as are dancing on chimneys and sidewalk paintings you can jump into, but my enjoyment of these is greatly disturbed by the shadowy, threatening presence of Miss Poppins. It's the cold perfection that I find completely inhuman and ultimately dangerous. I always felt she was really a personification of the Snow Queen and that the film was only ever Act I of the story. Act II, in which her sinister plan is revealed, was never completed and I was quite happy that we never saw her (that way on screen) again.
And now, behold Act II!

This new teaser trailer, with Emily Blunt as the new iconic and magical nanny, gives us a few of those same vibes... and a 'quick google' has let us know, we're not alone in this!

Even with all the creepy possibilities, we must admit we really are looking forward to this one. With the different awareness of how women are portrayed now, and Disney having done a bit of soul searching to produce the quite decent movie Saving Mr. Banks, we have this on our watch list. 

It is interesting to note that, from the brief glimpse we've had, this second movie, does indeed take its cues from Travers second Poppins book (just as the first movie did). We're curious to see how well it follows along with it. Here's a summary of that book from Wikipedia:
Mary Poppins Comes Back, published 1935
Nothing has been right since Mary Poppins left Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane. One day, when Mrs. Banks sends the children out to the park, Michael flies his kite up into the clouds. Everyone is surprised when it comes down bringing Mary Poppins as a passenger, who returns to the Banks home and takes charge of the children once again (though she'll only stay "'till the chain of her locket breaks"). This time, Jane and Michael meet the fearsome Miss Andrew, experience an upside-down tea party, and visit a circus in the sky. In the chapter "The New One" a new baby girl in the Banks family is born to the name of Annabel and concludes the family of now five children; three daughters and two sons. As in Mary Poppins, Mary leaves at the end (via an enchanted merry-go-round), but this time with a "return ticket, just in case" she needs to return.

There are other directions the problems of being "practically perfect" can go, too. While our Newshound was "researching" she ended up on Twitter, discussing two paths, that, interestingly, ended up converging. Here's the conversation thread that began with a fairy tale comparison:
Seriously, that mirror image, in both the original movie and in this teaser trailer, fairly beg to make the comparison. And it's not a stretch to have Snow White say, on her box being opened, "No thanks, just regenerating...".

Let's be honest, especially now that The Doctor has finally acknowledged the femme side, the movie we really want is to see is:
Mary Poppins: Time Lord
by Karen Hallion
Fairy tale bonus of the day:
Many years ago, someone edited together a trailer for Mary Poppins, as if it were a horror movie. Although it was a (great) exercise to show the power of editing, it also cuts a little close to being possibly true...

DO NOT WATCH if you're not interested in seeing the dark side of Mary Poppins!
(You'll never be able to see her the same way again.)

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Fairy Tale Oscar Watch 2018

One thing you may have missed in the all the Oscars advertising hype:
Best Picture is (very likely) between two fairy tale related films:
"The Shape of Water" and "Get Out".

The 90th Academy Awards  have quite a large representation with regard to folklore and fairy tales this year. With the Beauty and the Beast-like The Shape of Water up for a slew of awards (13!), including Best Picture and Best Director, the 'flipped' Beauty and the Beast/Bluebeard thriller/horror Get Out also up for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay (4 in all), the not-at-all-revolting Revolting Rhymes putting fairy tales front and center in the short film category, Disney's live-action Beauty and the Beast getting noms for costume and production design, and the highly folkloric Coco up for best animated feature, fairy tales are likely to be a strong theme at the awards show this year. 

There's a good possibility there will be lots of water and beast type imagery, musical numbers, spoofs and jokes...
Illustrator Yoshitaka Amano (famous for character design of Final Fantasy) created a collaborative art piece for The Shape of Water, directed by Guillermo del Tor. Amano commented "I imagined he wraps himself in his cloak of water".
(Click for full size)
Fairy tales and fantasy have been in high demand the past year, meaning that in a year of great social unrest and confusion in the US (and inevitably, due to being a major world power, the rest of the world), fairy tales (and fantasy) are being turned to for many and varied reasons. They're a source of distracting - and positive - entertainment, they're used as a method for processing confusion and challenges and as a medium for expression for hope, anger, despair, and a call to change. From newly-desperate wishes for a happily-ever-after in a time of extreme difficulty and stress for many, to reflecting on simple truths that can cut clearly through a swath of fake news, to a beacon of creative inspiration that connects to human truths, fairy tales are surfacing everywhere. Fairy tale themed ads on TV tend to be split between sorting truth from fiction and being an inspirational element of hope despite various circumstances. Fairy tale based books, while always prolific, this past year have been hitting the bestseller lists when exposing their teeth, their dark underbellies and their smart, wily and take-no-prisoners heroines. 

Fairy tale films, in particular those with a happy ending, have caught the imagination and attention of the general public. While a film like The Shape of Water would be considered excellent at any point in history, we believe it's appearance at this time, has helped boost its profile, as this is the type of triumphant story of love winning over all odds, and the little people beating 'the big machine' that has resonated so strongly. It's the inspiration - and reassurance - people are searching for. Once again, a film's popularity has risen to meet its excellence in filmmaking, and it's a joy to see that being recognized at the Academy Awards - doubly so because its not at all shy about its fairy tale roots.

Here's the rundown of fairy tale and folklore-related films that are in the running, and for which category:

Film: The Shape of Water
Fairy Tale/Folklore Tie-ins:
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • The River God of the Amazon (Brazilian folklore meets The Creature From the Black Lagoon/Gill-man pop culture/urban legend)
  • The silent heroine/hero and those keeping secrets [ATUs: 451 (eg. Six Swans), 442 (eg. Old Woman in the Forest), 533 (eg. Goose Girl),  945 (eg. Princess Who Couldn't Laugh/Speak), 923 (eg. Love Like Salt), and The Little Mermaid/Undine/The Fisherman and His Soul]
  • There are even parallels that can be made with Sleeping Beauty (ATU 410) 
  • There's even a little of the Moses story - both fishman and found in a river, grows to become savior of enslaved people, *spoiler* (highlight to view) disappears behind a wall of water to destiny *spoiler over*
Nominated for:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director
  • Best Actress
  • Best Supporting Actress
  • Best Supporting Actor
  • Best Original Music Score
  • Best Original Screenplay
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Costume Design
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Sound Mixing
  • Best Production Design
  • Best Sound Editing

Oscar Favorite? Yes - especially for Best Picture, Best Production Design and possibly Best Director

Film: Get Out
Fairy Tale/Folklore Tie-ins: Beauty and the Beast, Bluebeard
Nominated for:
  • Best Picture
  • Best Director
  • Best Original Screenplay
  • Best Actor

Oscar Favorite? Yes - contender for Best Picture, Favorite for Best Original Screenplay (Note: this film appears to have Maria Tatar's vote)

Film: Revolting Rhymes
Fairy Tale/Folklore Tie-ins: 
  • A mix of classic fairy tales
  • Red Riding Hood
  • Snow White
  • Three Little Pigs
  • Cinderella
  • Jack and the Beanstalk (etc)

Nominated for: Best Short Film (Animated)
Oscar Favorite? Yes

Film: Disney's Beauty and the Beast (live action)
Fairy Tale/Folklore Tie-ins: Beauty and the Beast (Villeneuve as well as Disney's animated classic)
Nominated for:

  • Best Production Design
  • Best Costume Design

Oscar Favorite? No

Film: The Breadwinner
Fairy Tale/Folklore Tie-ins: Afghan storytelling and fables
Nominated for: Best Animated Feature
Oscar Favorite? No

Film: Coco
Fairy Tale/Folklore Tie-ins: 
  • Mexican Day of the Dead/Land of the Dead
  • Mexican spirit animals
  • Dante (dog's name)
  • Aztec gods
  • Alebrijes (Mexican folk art imaginary creatures - newish 'lore' dating back to 30's)

Nominated for:
  • Best Animated Feature
  • Best Music (Original Song)

Oscar Favorite? Yes - both for Best Animated Feature & for Best Song

Fairy Tale Bonus of the Day:
Check out this wonderful essay by Dr. Jeana Jorgensen:
This essay (available to read online for free) explores the use of silence in fairy tales, for both female and male heroes, discussing the many aspects of silence/mutism (voluntary, non-voluntary, tasks, spell-breaking etc) and looks at the variations from different cultures and eras.
Highly recommended!

In that vein, we bring you a timely reinterpretation of Oscar statues for a group of people long silenced in Hollywood: women. These re-visioned statues were created this year by A-list artists, especially in the wake of the #MeToo era. (If only we could see more of these on the red carpet as opposed to the 'casting couch' statue, that appeared days before the Oscars*, making a similar, but very differently focused, statement.)

The Oscar Statues Reinterpreted by A-list Artists for the #MeToo Era

*Only to be removed two nights before due to inclement weather. Reports are that it's unlikely to be reinstalled in time for the Academy Awards for the same reasons.