Tuesday, August 15, 2017

How to Create A Fairytale Crossover Classic

By Doug Vehle
For The Daily Bosco

It's probably a good metaphor for accomplishing anything in life, but you're going to encounter great resistance if you really do create a better mousetrap and expect the world to be beating a path to your door. There's a counter in the world of technology that says new technology succeeds when it either supports and/or is supported by existing technology. Hence the horse did not fall by the wayside with the advance of the railroads, canals and steamships in the 19th century. In fact the use of horses increased as people not only needed to travel to meet their train or ship, but railroad cars needed to moved around the stockyards and required horses for the job. The horse population in industrial countries actually peaked in the early 20th century before yielding to the automobile. Then the unneeded equestrian population of Europe found its' way to Germany, who conquered the continent using far more horses than mechanical vehicles. Tried and true only fails when you stay with it after it's already proven to not be true anymore.

I think about that a lot when it comes to writing. There's an old saying in Hollywood, (Film and Television) "I prefer to do it second, not first." First means taking a big chance, while second means you consider it tried and true by the time you start. Far greater chance of success. Yet it's also true that for every joke of 'How many writers does it take to change a lightbulb?' ("Change? Who said anything about CHANGE?") There's one about the executives; 'How many development directors does it take?' ("Oh, gee, does it HAVE to be a lightbulb? It's been done so many times.") I'm sure New York and Chicago (Publishing) feel the same way.

So when you're writing your dilemma can be summed up with the question of how to repackage the same old hash so people think it's steak? Before you get started about how that's some bitter statement, keep in mind you boil a lot of water into rice to make it edible, imagine trying to eat a raw potato, etc. Writing is a value added activity. One of the first things I learned as an English major at Cal State Fullerton is the concept of 'After Shakespeare, it's all been done.' Get over the idea that you're going to make something all that original, first we have to recognize the human emotions as our own. Had their never been feuding families with children coming of age, would anyone have cared about 'Romeo and Juliet?' During the era of the Hatfield and McCoy feuds, how many family member intermarried? There will always be a place for this, you just need to keep it from being the same old thing.

So out of curiosity over pent up demand, I've turned my attention to fan fiction. Give the reader what they want. It seems the number one thing they want is 'Star Trek.' On the page, on the screen, new stores with the old casts or with completely new characters, the world is awash with unauthorized 'Star Trek' stories. Not all of it cheesy, you can find how to video on youtube illustrating set building by showing the very professional construction of a starship bridge by would be professional set builders completing a set for, say, 'Star Trek: Axanar,' the controversial series of films that raised over $1 million from fans and inspired a lawsuit from Paramount, who felt themselves in competition. (Maybe if they'd make BETTER films than the current 'Reboot' series they wouldn't have to be insecure.) Fans wouldn't be coughing up all that money if they weren't seeking something they weren't getting at present. The fans are really afraid of the upcoming 'Star Trek: Discovery' show.

Another highly sought after tale would involve 'The Jungle Book.' Not so much the original as the Disney Film. In fact, in crossover with other Disney films. From their 'Tarzan' film, we see Jane trying to photograph a large snake, only to have the snake turn it's attention on her. In fact, it is Kaa, You might remember him trying to eat Mowgli in the Disney film. This is a friendlier Kaa. In fact, he is reinvented.

If you were to actually READ 'The Jungle Book,' you would see Kipling depicted Kaa as friendly, actually standing off the monkeys as Mowgli escapes. Here we see Don Juan Giovanni reborn, all in snakeskin leather. The Beast proves no competition for the attention of Belle. Nor does Shaggy from Scooby Doo, as Daphne succumbs. Someone created an illustration of the ill tempered Tinkerbelle giggling as she falls into Kaa's grasp. Followed by Wendy who, after returning home, looks longingly out the window until she turns to see Kaa has been awaiting her. Peter is instantly forgotten.

And that's part of the fun of this: Someone creates a story, someone else decides to illustrate it. Whether it's Gadget from 'The Rescue Rangers' or various Japanese Manga characters, Kaa is so often in fine form. But the best are the Disney Princesses, such as Princess Jasmine from 'Aladdin.' Dang, these are the girlfriends of serious fantasy/action heroes What does he got that they ain't got?

In a word, CHARM. I think there's an underlying desire for these guys creating and reading these stories to see Kaa, for all his unattractiveness, able to make this magic with his trademark "Ssssssay now. . .What have we here?" So how many times you suppose some of these guys reading and writing these stories have been CALLED a snake? Usually for no more reason than they DARE to not realize how unappealing they are. There's only one hero to win the princess in these Disney movies. Most guys realize they compare more to Kaa.

I especially relate to where Ariel is acting mad while Kaa puts his tail on her nose. I remember the moment with the old girlfriend winding up to do some yelling while I just kept touching her nose. Which seemed to take the fight out of her. Confirmation that Kaa really has some style, right?# I can only guess that this apparently started with a Yahoo Group by the name of 'Kaa vs. the Ladies.' Versus meaning, much like 'The Jungle Book' film, Kaa intends to swallow his victim. The group of course is long gone, yet I found some stories that the author says he posted elsewhere to save it as Yahoo closed out most of the groups. I don't know if this occurred within the original group or sprouted up later, but at some point the inspiration shifted from antihero to underdog. Could there really be hope for Kaa?

By far, I'd say the most popular object of Kaa's affections would be Ariel, 'The Little Mermaid.' If you read the original story, (As always, I seem to be the only one) you realize that sea creatures are born without a soul and mermaids have a way of aspiring to gain one by making a human fall in love with her. If you're familiar with the myths of the Scandinavian Hulders, Hans Christian Anderson would seem to have drawn on them. Like most Anderson fairy tales, it has an unhappy ending: The Prince likes her well enough, but when the princess intended for his arranged marriage arrives he quickly loses his heart, Ariel then dissolves away when she might have lived another 300 years luring humans to their deaths as mermaids enjoy doing in the story. So this is a kids' tale, you say? Obviously Disney changed the ending around.

I just wonder if any of the readers of such fan fiction really do know the original story, if that adds something to it. Ariel herself, like the Hulders, is not going to love the one she uses. Oh, maybe they really do only know the movie. But it's such a novel idea to see The Little Mermaid as apparently unwooable when Kaa goes to work. And yet, somehow. . . .

Now, if you take it in your head to track down these stories to read for yourself, I want to warn you this is not great writing. I like it better for the strength of the ideas, some of these people don't know what to do once they have an idea, no matter how good it is the story won't tell itself. Often they have depicted Ariel as going off to find the bear she'd befriended years ago (At the reunion she and Baloo don't immediately know each other in one depiction) and she falls in with Mowgli, Bagheera, the absent from the film Riki Tiki Tavi (My favorite 'Jungle Book' character) and of course, the ever lovin' Kaa. But I find myself laughing at the situation of Mowgli kidnapped by the monkeys and Ariel tries alone to free him and is taken prisoner. So it's Baloo, Bagheeri, Riki, the usual subjects of the heroism off to the rescue. Joined of course by the one who must rescue his beloved. I laughed so hard at some of these scenarios it almost didn't matter when the writing was bad.

Ah well, I suppose not one of the stories merits a $100 million dollar movie. But a lot of the $100 million dollar movies don't merit it, either.

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