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Posts Tagged ‘Henry Selick’

Return to Oz

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

June 21, 1985

Forty-six years after MGM’s beloved Technicolor musical THE WIZARD OF OZ, Walt Disney Pictures produced their own journey through the world of L. Frank Baum. Though titled and framed like a sequel, writer/director Walter Murch and co-writer Dennis Gill (WALK THE LINE) treated it more as a literary adaptation, basing it mostly on book #3, Ozma of Oz, combined with some characters from #2, The Marvelous Land of Oz. In an article by Alan Jones in the July, 1985 issue of Cinefantastique (my most quoted source in this review series, you may have noticed), executive producer Gary Kurtz (THE DARK CRYSTAL) says they “pondered at great length” whether to even use the iconic ruby slippers, since in the books they were silver.

Like its predecessor, the not-really-sequel is full of whimsical characters and underpinned with fairy tale menace, but in most other ways it’s wildly different. The colors are subdued rather than vivid, the settings are grounded rather than stagey, it stars 10-year-old newcomer Fairuza Balk as Dorothy rather than a teen like Judy Garland, and she doesn’t sing, because it’s not a musical. While WIZARD’s costumes, jokes and dance numbers come out of the vaudeville tradition, RETURN creates its world and characters with the rapidly evolving cinematic puppetry, animation and visual FX technology of the Lucas/Spielberg era. Murch told Cinefantastique, “At first I was worried about using state-of-the-art animatronics, but so many of the OZ personnel are graduates of The Muppets, STAR WARS, and THE DARK CRYSTAL that I realized it would be pointless to worry.”

The result is a classic entry in the unique-to-the-‘80s subgenre of dark, imaginative, FX-heavy fantasy for children, preceded by THE DARK CRYSTAL and THE NEVERENDING STORY and followed by LABYRINTH. (read the rest of this shit…)

Twice Upon a Time

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

lucasminusstarwarstn_twiceuponThe early ’80s were an odd time for animated features. Though Disney had somewhat come out of a slump with the successful THE FOX AND THE HOUND and Disney-defector Don Bluth had some success with THE SECRET OF NIMH, most of the releases were off-brand, slightly off-kilter and remembered now as cult films at best: FLIGHT OF THE DRAGONS, THE LAST UNICORN, THE PLAGUE DOGS, as well as cartoons for adults or teens like AMERICAN POP, HEAVY METAL, HEY GOOD LOOKIN’, FIRE AND ICE and ROCK & RULE. Into this weird landscape came TWICE UPON A TIME, a movie with an entirely unique look and that doesn’t seem to be aimed at children or adults.

The story has something to do with dreams. In a city called “Din” (portrayed by live action footage and photos of San Francisco or somewhere), people who fall asleep will have good dreams if little animated blobs jump on their faces. But an asshole called Synonamess Botch sends vultures and a magic glowing spring (?) to stop the blobs and give the people nightmares instead. Meanwhile, back in whatever the magical place that’s not Din is called, there’s a guy called Ralph, the All-Purpose Animal, who changes to different animals or combinations of animals, and has the same voice as Garfield, Lorenzo Music. He has a sidekick called Mumford who’s a guy with a bowler hat who seems like maybe he’s supposed to be funny or something, but I’m unclear what he does. These two are sent on a mission to dump some garbage, but then sent on a different mission to steal “The Cosmic Clock,” which they break and accidentally stop time. Also there’s a fairy godmother involved and a guy called Rod Rescueman who is one of those Dudley Doright type characters who thinks he’s a super hero but is actually just a dumb muscly guy. (read the rest of this shit…)