Monday, June 6, 2016

What Happened to the Wonder

Going along with my previous post about movies in our ever-constant CGI era, I was happy to browse on Pumpkin Rot's blog: What's Brewing, to find a recent and relative post discussing  practical special effects. Couldn't agree more with his point of view too! 

    As I mentioned before, I think CGI can be great when combined with practical special effects, but these days the industry relies only on CGI and it's a real shame. There's something to practical effects in that they give us, as children, as viewers, and as horror/Halloween fanatics, a sense of wonder. We wonder how these effects were done, and when we watch them enough, study them enough, learn about them enough, we feel a sense of hope that one day we can be creators too. That we can envision our own monsters, manifest them, and present them to our viwers, whether they are a theatrical audience or our dear trick or treaters on the block.

    The complaint I hear from people my age is that "old" movies have special effects that look "fake." In my opinion, it is that fakery that is the magic. That stage craft and artistry that made me curious as a kid. I suppose the first movie that made me wonder was Nightmare Before Christmas. I was eager to know how stop-animation was done from every angle, literally, and years later I too made a few stop-animated shorts which I have shared here on the blog several times. In fact the older I get, the more I appreciate and admire practical effects.

    I watch Beetlejuice, for example, and again am taken by the bizarre and out-there stop-animated "sandworms," everything behind the brick wall, and of course "the wedding clothes" scene. Sometimes I just appreciate the fact that Edward Scissorhands' had actual scissor-hands. Or how about the blood spilling from the elevator in the Overlook Hotel? Or Regan crawling backwards down the stairs? Church's guts and glowing eyes. Just the fact that Michael Myers' mask was originally a William Shatner mask - and you'd hardly know it. Johnathon Brewster's face in Arsenic and Old Lace. The chocolate syrup in Psycho! The corn syrup in Carrie (as opposed to computer blood in the remake)! The fin, alone, in Jaws... the list goes on. And it can only keep going on, if the industry could just incorporate more practical effects alongside their CGI obsession. All we can do is be creators ourselves.

For more on the set photos, view my board: On the Set!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Terror or Terrible Ideas?

"You unlock this door with the key of imagination, behind it is another dimension. A dimension of commercialism. A dimension of carelessness. A dimension of disappointment. You are moving into a land that lacks taste and substance of things and ideas, you've just crossed over into the Disneyland Resort!"

    Recently, many rumors have circulated regarding the ever-popular Tower of Terror at Disneyland. Apparently, being a renowned attraction (one with plenty of thought and taste put into it, not to mention its major following) isn't enough anymore as Disney supposedly plans to change the attraction into a Guardians of the Galaxy-themed ride. I'd read several articles on this proposed plan before visiting Disneyland last week where I bought this little goody, in honor of the potential end of the Tower. Another rumor circulating is that Disney will be filming another Tower of Terror movie soon too (What? Steven Guttenburg isn't good enough for you?), so I don't know what would make them think it's a good idea to get rid of it now, of all times!

    While there however, I was disappointed once more with another change: the entire Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree, Big Thunder Ranch Petting Zoo, Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue, and (as far as I could tell) Miss Chris' Cabin as well - that whole end of what was Frontierland - is dust. Pure dust. All for the upcoming Star Wars land. 

   Although I knew this was happening, this one hit close to home. As I was once as Disneyland cast member (not to mention one who spent most of her time at the Jamboree), I'm well aware that things change and change often at the resort. However, it's what is changing lately that really breaks my heart. I can't help but feel concerned for all the other parts of Disneyland that are iconic and loved by all, because if the decision makers behind these plans are in charge (and they are) let's not be surprised if they just decide to demolish the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, or even the castle itself. After all why wouldn't they? Can't you just see them making Pirates into something Captain America-themed? Or the Mansion into a Thor ride, or how about the Castle as Tony Stark's lab? (They couldn't just turn ToonTown into dust? No one likes ToonTown!) What I'm getting at here, is that I'm simply tired of a trend that doesn't seem to want to die - and this is because it more than a trend now, it is a change in the entire film industry, a change that is worsening things all together, in my opinion. 

   Honestly, there's nothing wrong with making a superhero movie. Comics have been around for ages and we are a culture that loves them. As a film student, one of my favorite courses was adaptation screenwriting, so I do have a strong appreciation for it. That being said, there is a level of integrity that shouldn't be forgotten when it comes to story-telling, film making, and screenwriting. That integrity comes with originality, whether it be from original pieces of work (something we rarely see in theaters these days) or just original ways of re-telling an existing story/entity that becomes a film adaptation. Unfortunately, the mass trend of these on-going superhero movies (Marvel, DC, etc.), even the mass commercialism and expansion of Star Wars, is constantly diminishing this integrity, and Disney, along with other studios, is also at fault for making them into what they are: essentially piles of CGI.

   Think about it, when you go to the movies today, you're not watching films. In fact, you haven't been watching "film" for years as digital has become the standard, but now more than ever, you're not watching a movie. You're kind of watching a video game, because these mass produced "movies" - and I use quotations because we're dealing with projects that are all-form-and-no-content, highly lacking originality - are so packed with CGI that the CGI isn't even for special effects, it is literally for everything you see on screen. It's a wonder there are make up artists and prop artists still. Again, I want to reiterate that I'm not against comic book movies, and not against CGI as a whole - I just think too much of anything is a terrible thing. Just like too much sugar and junk food will make you fat - superheroes and CGI are making a film industry with no opportunity for anything but movies like these.  

   Take the newer Alice and Wonderland films, for example. Alice in Wonderland is one of those insane stories that can be adapted in so many terrible ways or so many great ways. When Tim Burton took on the iconic tale, we were genuinely excited, expecting him to leave his great stamp of original style on this story, as he has with many adaptations before. What we got instead was another CGI filled mash-up of wackiness. I like to think Disney took most of the control of these films and just used his name on the poster. I also like to think of what he could have done: imagine a real and true Tim Burton style Alice in Wonderland, imagine if he used stop-animation like he used to, imagine it being similar to Jan Svankmajer's Alice, but with the old-school, dark Tim Burton twist. I notice that I now like to imagine many poorly done adaptations done well, with just the right amount of CGI. 

   So what does all this CGI/superhero trend talk have to do with the Tower of Terror? It has to do with the fact that we are most likely saying goodbye an incredibly designed, well-thought out ride with a story and theme all its own, and welcoming another Marvel movie attraction. For whatever reason, it cannot seem to just stand alongside Guardians of the Galaxy (but Bugsland can?!) instead Marvel wins again - as they, and others like them, always do, even if it's over an iconic ride/story/film, apparently anything at Disney is replaceable. The same, of course, can be said about the loss of Big Thunder Ranch as a whole - again, Star Wars wins. 

   Generally, it'd be great if filmmakers and studio heads could appreciate the integrity that comes with originality and explore that. But it seems they won't. It's cheaper to make movies out of comic books people already like than it is to be risky and write something new. It's apparently cheaper to make the same movie just over and over again like Spider Man... All in all, now that I have vented, it is time to put these thoughts to rest. I shall stop complaining - and start writing (since no one else seems to be)!

Here are a few shots of some characters and me at the ever-fun Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree:

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Who's The Baddest Witch In Town?

What better way to celebrate Friday the 13th than adopting a Halloween-colored kitten?! Meet Fiona. Fiona Goode, of course. My little Supreme. 

    For months my mother and I have been missing our cat, Trouble, who passed away just days before last Halloween. We grieved for months, but soon felt the urge to give the love we had in hearts to a new kitty (or two). As I now live with my parents for the time being, I felt it was important for us to at least have one sweet kitty about the house, but my mom brought up the idea of the two of us each adopting our own, that way when I move out I'll have a kitty I can take with me. So last Friday, we brought home these two precious little beings: Fiona and Cocoa. 

     When we went into PetSmart the other night (great adoption program, with all rescue cats), I had originally planned on adopting this adorable black cat I'd had my eye on for weeks. However, the night we arrived, she had already been adopted. Although I was devastated, my mother encouraged me to give the other cats a chance, and I'm beyond grateful I did. First, my mother was drawn to Cocoa, a sweet, loving, and cuddly gray and white kitten of five months - shy at first, but a fun and joyful sweetheart as soon as she gets comfortable with you. Then, when I came in to meet the cats, I  met Cocoa's best friend (who she had been fostered with and loved dearly), my soon-to-be Fiona. The first interaction I had with her, she licked my hand, and sat on my lap purring - right then, I knew she was mine! 

     At first I struggled to name her. I wanted to call her Salem - my all-time favorite name. Sure, it's the name of Sabrina's cat, and the town of the Salem Witch Trials (which I'm obviously obsessed with), but it's also a beautiful name that means peace and love - so, let's be honest, I'll probably use the name for one of my future children. In which case, I didn't want to overuse it. Soon, I got to understand my little Halloween-colored Torti cat and the extent of her personality and attitude - and boy is there one! She's a complete badass with a mind of her own - much like my favorite AHS character, Fiona Goode. Once I realized how much she reminded me of a tough and fearless Fiona Goode, filled with character, the name just stuck. Overall, I'm so in love with Fiona and Cocoa and all the joy they are experiencing in their new home! 

(Clearly irritated I interrupted nap time...)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Who Wants Butterbeer?!

 The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has officially opened at Universal Studios Hollywood! 

    Out of all of the circulating videos introducing us Californians to the magic, this is the one I felt was most worthy of sharing, not only for its beauty (trust me, as a previous Disneyland cast member who has seen Fantasmic dozens of times - Disney ain't got nothin' on this), but also for all of us haunters and nerds alike who can't get enough soundtracks in our collection, here's John Williams himself, welcoming everyone to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: 

    For those of us waiting for the crowds to die down over the next few months to a year, before we can attend, or even for those who may not make it out this way to visit, we can still enjoy this delectable "Adult Butterbeer" recipe via Pottery Barn in the meantime!


Funnies: Faceswap

My best friend, and co-producer on Avery Parrish Thieves, Lily, posted this yesterday. Literally laughed out loud. 


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Goodies and Gifts

    While recently browsing through my favorite Etsy artists, I gladly visited Dame Darcy's shop. Over the years this artist has been one of my biggest inspirations when it comes to the rare, yet intriguing genre of southern gothic. She is a talented, witchy, and a one of a kind artist who performs, illustrates, and sells incredible handmade goodies!

View today!

When I saw her 2016 Witch Calendar, I had to indulge...

    I was so excited when I purchased this gem, I decided to send a short heartfelt message to the Dame herself, just to say hi and remind her that her art is just as amazing as ever. I also thanked her for allowing my film crew and I to use her version of Down in Willow Garden, "Mercury Wine," in the credits of our film Avery Parrish Thieves. For more of her tracks, indulge here!

     Soon I received a response that made my heart leap! Dame Darcy was flattered and in turn shared both Avery Parrish Thieves and Séance on her social media sites, along with personally complimenting my work. As if I wasn't already feeling so flattered and happy, I became even more so when I received the witch calendar... along with an adorable gift...

There's nothing more rewarding than making great friends through great art. Cheers to all who agree, in the mean time, when it comes to Dame Darcy: Like, Follow, Read

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Rod Serling; A Man of Meaning


     Been watching some of my favorite The Twilight Zone episodes lately, and it got me thinking about Rod Serling and all of his genius. I found this interesting Mike Wallace interview with Serling on censorship, content, and commercial vs. quality. Throughout, you can really tell this is a man with dignity, a man with passion, and a man who believes in the use of entertainment to teach, question, and progress. Quite fascinating how Wallace questions Serling about superficial intentions as a television writer, where Serling keeps having to remind him it's about quality.

"I don't want to fight anymore. I don't want to have to battle sponsors and agencies, I don't want to have to push for something that I want and have to settle for second best. I don't want to have to compromise all the time. Which in essence is what the television writer does if he wants to put on controversial things... I stay in television because I think it's very possible to perform a function of providing adult, meaningful, exciting, challenging drama without dealing in controversy, necessarily."