#313. Grimm Fairy Tales

With the resurgent popularity of fairy tales having reached its apex a few years ago, it was interesting to note that many of these children’s stories were collected together by only a handful of people. Originally, these stories were meant to scare children into obeying their parents, but over time they evolved into less violent plotlines. While we might consider Hans Christian Andersen to have penned many of these classic fairy tales, like The Little Mermaid, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Snow Queen, and The Ugly Duckling, Andersen actually came after the Grimm brothers. Despite not necessarily being the original authors of their collected fairy tales, these brothers were the first to bring these stories together in a single, cohesive format. This week’s two films highlight a few adaptations of these Grimm fairy tales.

The Brothers GrimmThe Brothers Grimm
Year: 2005
Rating: PG-13
Length: 118 minutes / 1.97 hours

Most people will know that the fairy tales we are told when we are children aren’t real. The characters and scenarios that once taught a lesson were manufactured for education on how to behave. Once they were collected together and written down for commercial purposes, these fairy tales became quite a bit more entertaining and much less terrifying. But what if these stories were based on something that actually happened? It has been said, “write what you know,” so if these Grimm brothers had actually experienced some of these fairy tales, it would then stand to reason that they would know about them and know how to transcribe them into a written form. This is the interpretation taken by the Terry Gilliam-directed film The Brothers Grimm (2005), combining together a number of known themes and motifs from the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales.

Both the Grimm brothers, Wilhelm (Matt Damon) and Jakob (Heath Ledger) don’t believe in supernatural forces. Of course, that doesn’t stop them from tricking villages out of their savings to rid the area of curses and witches. So, it comes to their surprise that a village where young girls are vanishing is actually due to a real paranormal entity. The evil Queen (Monica Bellucci) holed up in her tower has been absorbing the youth and beauty of many girls over her 500-year lifespan by drinking their blood. Each time the ceremony is performed, twelve girls are needed. With ten girls missing already, the Grimm brothers find that one of the girls of the village is the daughter to the werewolf woodsman (Tomáš Hanák) who has been placed under the Queen’s curse. In breaking his curse, Will manages to fall into an enchanted sleep that only Jake can reverse.

TangledTangled
Year: 2010
Rating: PG
Length: 100 minutes / 1.67 hours

In 1937, Disney began their long history of adapting fairy tales into feature-length animated movies. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937) was pulled from the Grimm fairy tale about Snow White. Even though they used fairy tales from other sources (like Hans Christian Anderson), they would return to these classic stories for many years to come. Cinderella (1950), Sleeping Beauty (1959), and The Princess and the Frog (2009) were all influenced at least in part by the fairy tales the Grimm brothers collected centuries ago. Up until 2010, these movies had maintained similar titles to their Grimm counterparts. What would have normally been titled Rapunzel ended up being renamed Tangled (2010). They took a similar naming convention three years later with Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen being titled Frozen (2013) and five years after that with the upcoming Gigantic (2018).

Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) has lived for more than 500 years due to a plant she found that was grown from a single drop of sunlight. Since this plant has restorative powers, the nearby kingdom searched for it in order to save the Queen, who was ill during childbirth. Consequently, the flower’s powers were transferred into the hair of their daughter: Rapunzel (Mandy Moore), whom Gothel kidnaps and hides in a solitary tower. Years later, Rapunzel wants to see the world, unaware that her uncut hair is the only thing keeping her “mother” alive. As fate would have it, rogue thief Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) finds this hidden tower and uses it to escape some palace guards. Rapunzel uses the opportunity of her first and only visitor to escape the tower to see the lanterns being released on her birthday in memory of her kidnapping. Will she find out who she truly is before Gothel captures her again?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 great Grimm fairy tales

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#233. Best Animated Feature

In the almost 90 years that the Academy Awards have been held, most of the categories have been established early in its history. By 1950, the Oscar categories that we’ve come to know were pretty well established. Since then, only two categories have been added. Best Makeup and Hairstyling made its appearance in 1981, but the most recent award for Best Animated Feature has only been around for a mere fifteen years. That’s not to say that there haven’t been great animated films before 2001, it’s just that there wasn’t much competition. A few won special, technical Oscars for their efforts, but Disney’s animated films would have won many of the previous years’ Oscars just by default if the Award existed before the 21st century. This week’s two films look at some winners in the up-and-coming Best Animated Feature Oscar category.

ShrekShrek
Year: 2001
Rating: PG
Length: 90 minutes / 1.5 hours

As I’ve written about before, DreamWorks was able to make the first dent in the monolithic Disney animation empire. Partly because they provided some competition in a very narrow and difficult field of film, DreamWorks essentially made it so the Best Animated Feature Oscar could be possible. Almost in recognition of this feat, four years after their first feature film, DreamWorks would walk home with the very first Best Animated Feature Oscar for Shrek (2001). Up until this point, only Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), and Toy Story (1995) had even been given any Oscars for their animated efforts, and only because they had been trailblazers of the craft. Still, Shrek set the stage to show that technology had advanced to a point where animated feature films could be produced in a much shorter timeframe, thus giving Disney a run for its money.

It is almost fitting that Shrek was able to win Best Animated Feature, considering how many Disney films it parodied by placing all of fairy tale-dom in a single universe (much like what Disney has since done with the TV show, Once Upon a Time). While there are references to Peter Pan, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Sleeping Beauty, and Pinocchio, the main thrust of the film is a classic adventure of a damsel in distress. However, the “knight in shining armor” is that of the eponymous Shrek (Michael Myers), an ogre trying his best to keep his life in an isolated swamp in a state of status quo. While Shrek and the now-rescued Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) couldn’t be any more different, a secret event that happens to Fiona at night threatens to reveal that they might in fact be more similar than initially thought.

UpUp
Year: 2009
Rating: PG
Length: 96 minutes / 1.6 hours

One of the qualms that many critics have with this new Oscar category is that it essentially hamstrings the film nominated for Best Animated Feature from winning Best Picture overall. Now, an animated film being nominated for the top award is exceedingly rare, but it had happened before the Animated Feature category was even established. In 1991, ten years before Shrek won the unprecedented award, Beauty and the Beast was nominated for Best Picture, losing out to The Silence of the Lambs (1991). However, when the nomination procedures for Best Picture changed in 2009, we suddenly saw an addition to the nominee list: an animated film. With ten movies now able to be in the running, Up (2009) was nominated for both Best Picture and Best Animated Feature, only managing to win the latter. A year later, Toy Story 3 (2010) would repeat this feat to the same result.

Following a beautiful, touching, and speechless segment detailing the lives of Ellie and Carl Fredricksen (Edward Asner), we find the elderly widower planted firmly in the way of a new construction project. In a final, last-ditch effort to accomplish the goal to live next to Paradise Falls, Carl outfits his house with a plethora of colorful helium balloons, lifting it away to South America. Unfortunately, an accidental stowaway by the name of Russell (Jordan Nagai) is taken along for the ride. The young child just wanted to help Carl so he could earn his last Wilderness Explorer badge: assisting the elderly. When the house lands, the two of them soon realize they have nearly made it to Paradise Falls. As they take the house to its final resting place, they must deal with a strange bird and the former hero who has been trying to catch it.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Academy awarded animations