Thursday, August 25, 2011



Hollywood. Clock'in dollars. Not keeping it real. So what's new? That is what Hollywood is doing according to Professor Jack Zipes in an interview by  Salon, describes Zipes as "an emeritus professor at the University of Minnesota and prolific author whose books include "The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales" and "The Enchanted Screen: A History of Fairy Tales on Film".

With three 'Snow White' movies about to be released within the next two to three years as well as other fairy tale stories, Zipes was asked what he thought about what Hollywood is doing with the stories.

There was no filter on his opinion. He believes Hollywood does not take fairy tales seriously.

{This is where we could have made this piece an editorial or placed it under our "You've Got to Be Kidding" heading but decided to let him have his say because the tongue lashing is just too good to interrupt.}

He calls Americans "stupid" and questions the intelligence of directors. In other words, they're stupid. Writers are.... well you get the picture. Zipes' pomposity overtakes some of the good points he makes. But his pretentiousness is just so overwhelming it gets lost. Overall, Zipes needs to understand two words: Show Business.

According to Zipes, Disney has ruined the fairy tale story by commercializing the stories that were originally meant for adults:

"Thanks to the theme parks and the commodities that are produced [and the strength of the Disney brand,] you can't help but think of fairy tales in light of the way the Disney Corporation has interpreted them. And in my mind, once you've seen one Disney film, you've seen them all: They repeat the plots; their self-produced animated films tend to be very conventional; and I think there's no experimentation whatsoever, no breaking away from the plot formulations ..."

Zipes' analysis of Disney and Hollywood's take on fairy tales becomes even more scathing.

"It's just boring, at least for me, to see these films ..."

There is no research that could be located that shows Disney's projected marketing is based upon middle-aged adult males. However, one can agree that if a story is a good story, everyone should be able to enjoy it.

Hollywood is in the business to make money even if it perverts a story to do so. It is called "show business" for a reason. With remakes of classics such as 'Footloose' and 'Psycho' and with 'Dirty Dancing' in the production wings, nothing is off limits as long as it makes money, or so they [Hollywood] think. Fans took to Twitter enraged hearing that "Dirty Dancing" was being remade. But when does Hollywood really listen to a fan's outrage? When it hurts their bottom line i.e. George Clooney's 'Batman and Robin'.

But fairy tales are a little bit different. Although they are classics, these stories can be made to fit any era unless you are just a purist who does not believe the stories should be changed in any way.

Zipes continues:

"That doesn't mean that one should write off all the Disney films -- I don't mean to dismiss these films [entirely] -- but they represent the worst aspects of capitalist, corporate productions."

Professor Zipes even takes down 'Twilight' director Catherine Hardwicke regarding her movie 'Red Riding Hood':

In terms of films that I dislike, [there's] "Tangled" [Zipes thinks the film was so bad, it ought to have been called "Mangled"]; that, I think, represents the worst aspects of animated fairy-tale filmmaking in America. I also think the "Hoodwinked" films -- "Hoodwinked!" and "Hoodwinked Too!"-- are ridiculous and stupid, and should be banned from screens. And of course, I hope that Catherine Hardwicke and her company keep losing money on the "Red Riding Hood" film that they did, which is really an insult and offensive to anyone who thinks seriously about films."

There are a few animated fairy tale films that are not in the professor's cross hairs and that have impressed him such as 'Pan's Labyrinth' and 'How to Train Your Dragon'.

So what is the professor's opinion regarding the current group of fairy tale makeovers which includes 'Snow White and the Huntsman' which is said to be a "darker" version of the original story. Zipes states:

"You know, all they're doing [with these films] is trying to stir your prurient interest. Really. They're trying to titillate you, to say that this is going to be the film that will expose the deep darkness, the profound darkness of these tales. And by chance, they might, you know. But [first of all], this is a paratext. They're preparing discussion already to get you ready to buy a ticket to see this film -- and this could go on for years, depending on whether they get the funding for the film."

Did he take the fun out of the film or what? He continues:

"Obviously, depending on the writer, the screenplay -- depending on how intelligent the director is, despite the fact that [the producers] are gunning for profit only -- they might indeed produce a really interesting film. For instance, Disney produced Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland", and aside from the ending, which is stupid, it's excellent ... I don't know whether Burton was forced to add the terrible ending, but here's a case where the Disney Corporation, which generally produces crappy animated fairy-tale films, really lucked out, because Burton is such a great artist, and he was able to really seriously contemplate how one could adapt "Alice in Wonderland" for the screen ..."

With that being said, one wonders in the world of fairy tale lore what would Dr. Bill Gray, who is the historical consultant on SWATH and literary folklore expert, say about Professor Zipes' theories. Please lock these two in a classroom and allow us to geek out on the fairy tale debate. Don't forget to bring your pocket protectors and penny loafers to this battle. Who knows, Gray may "concur".

You can read the interview in its entirety here.

via @palakspatel

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