Sunday, July 28, 2013

Thoughts concerning Monsters, Rats, Toys, and more...

“You’ve got a friend in me” …The cymbals clang… “You’ve got a friend in me…When the road looks tough ahead and you’re miles and miles from your nice, warm bed… You just remember what your old pal said…you’ve got a friend in me…” Randy Newman crooned to me as I sat in my normal chair thinking about what to write. This song brought classic Pixar images to my mind. Mike Wazowski and Sulley. Buzz and Woody. Dory and Marlin…the list goes on and on…

            (If none of these names come to mind, then I highly suggest that you make a hot cup of coffee and sit down and watch every single Pixar movie ever made. 24 hours. It will definitely be worth it. )

            As I thought about these different Pixar friendships, I began to think of the different Pixar characters. Monsters. Robots. Toys. Cars. Fish. Rats. Retired superheroes. Bugs. What was it that all these characters had in common? Well, they weren’t Disney princesses or soaring superheroes. These were the characters that we, the audience, don’t always hear from. Sure, monster movies began with Frankenstein and Count Dracula, but when has there really been a movie from the monsters’ perspective? Or the toys? Or the rest of the Pixar characters?

            Pixar sneakily took the characters that usually play supporting roles and gave them their own stage and spotlight. That’s why you are able to see a rat cook or a robot fall in love. I can just picture John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Pete Docter sitting around a table like King Arthur and his knights of the round table. After a tall pile of crumpled idea papers heightened, one of the three probably voiced: “ What if we came up with a character who hasn’t had a movie of his own? An underdog character?” Someone else probably had the great animation muse whisper in his ear: “TOYS”. Yeah, maybe more of a scream. Thus was birthed Toy Story—a movie from the toys’ perspective. Sure, toys have had other movies, but not many from their own perspective.

And toys were just the beginning. Next came a bug circus followed by comedic monsters and then by lost fish. Suddenly a retired superhero was revamping his career and a rat cooked in the top French restaurant. Pixar took normally ignored characters and gave them a story—a purpose. Now, you and I (as the audience) can become friends with these underdog characters. For the child, the monster under the bed will become a funny friend and not a horrifying scarer. Rather than thinking of a robot as a meaningless piece of machinery, we can see that it is still capable of love despite its pre-programming. Not only is Pixar giving its audience a new look at characters, but it’s also planting creative seeds within kids.

Maybe the next time you see a child scribbling down his own story or coloring in his little green monster, you can think of the writers who inspired him. The writers who taught those children to take a second glance at characters—that there is more that meets the eye to their little dinosaur toy or the chubby caterpillar on their windowsill. So, when you see one of these children, encourage them, rather than rolling your eyes. And rather than snickering, inspire them. Don’t underestimate their imagination.

            And, that’s how magic is made. 


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Contemplations of Wee Hobbits

        Just recently, as I was trailing through one of my favorite Lord of the Rings movies, The Fellowship of the Ring, I was caught off guard by a certain scene. Thus was birthed deep thought. Thus was birthed this blog post. Enjoy!

         The scene that really caught my eye was when Frodo and the gang first arrived in Rivendell. This is the first time that Frodo is able to speak with Bilbo, since this whole ring ordeal started. As the viewer, you’re wondering what this hobbit conversation will entail. Will Frodo give the ring back to Bilbo, since Bilbo was the one who placed the burden on him originally? Or maybe Bilbo will snatch the ring from Frodo’s neck and take off with it? Well, since The Fellowship of the Ring came out on DVD a few years ago, rather than yesterday, you most likely know what happened. But, I think that we can revisit this scene and learn so much more.
        Frodo is caressing the map of the Shire with his fingertips. You see the aching in his eyes. That’s where he wants to be. Why isn’t he?
 “ I miss the shire,” Frodo turns to Bilbo, “I spent all my childhood pretending I was off somewhere else. Off with you on one of your adventures. But my own adventure turned out to be quite different. I’m not like you, Bilbo.”

             But, that wasn’t just Frodo speaking. It was me.

           How many times do you catch yourself saying, “I want an adventure. I want to live big. I want to do something with my life.” I mean…who doesn’t? I don’t know when the last time was that I spoke with someone who said he wanted to do utterly nothing with his life. Some of us want adventure. Why do we even read or watch movies to begin with? We all want to journey with a character through whatever he or she is going through or pretend like we are there. Not many of us can deny having done what Frodo said. We spend our childhood pretending we are off somewhere else. Not just our childhood, but also our youth and our adulthood.  I know that I still do. I picture myself living off in London or gallivanting around China. White water rafting in the Redwoods. Mountain climbing on the Alps. Hitchhiking through Romania. Taste testing authentic Middle Eastern foods. One of the main reasons that I watch Doctor Who is because I still haven’t found my own doctor and blue box to travel in. I crave adventure.
         Yet, this isn’t a classic speech about how Frodo wants an adventure or wants to do something with his life. It’s just the opposite. Frodo misses the shire. As non-adventurous as it was, Frodo wanted to be back there, surrounded by the clean calm air where wraiths were absent. He yearned to smoke his pipe without seeing his orc sword turn blue. The calmness and serenity of the Shire is what Frodo wanted. He wasn’t like Bilbo. Frodo’s adventure was much different.
I can’t even count how many times adventures are claimed for the sake of adventure. Now, I don’t condemn that whatsoever. What if Alice thought practically and ignored the adventurous tug of her heart? Well, in that case—good-bye Cheshire cat, goodbye white rabbit with a waistcoat, and goodbye talking flowers! 
But, Frodo’s case is much different. Following a rabbit down a rabbit hole is much more appealing than standing above the grim malice that boiled within Mordor. And if Frodo had the same intention as Alice (for adventure and curiosity), then he would have never taken the ring in the first place. See… why was Frodo not like Bilbo? Bilbo, like Alice and many other characters, journeyed for an adventure. Bilbo never wanted an adventure at first until he went on one. Then, that became all Bilbo wanted. He had to be taken from the quiet life he knew and had to learn to want an adventure. Frodo never had that issue. Frodo grew up pretending he was off on one of Bilbo’s adventures.
However, Frodo had to take the next step. He was still going to complete an adventure, but he couldn’t go for the purpose of just an adventure. His reasoning had to be deeper than that. He had to go for the purpose of doing what was right. Like Frodo, I must develop a similar purpose—completing adventures for more of a reason than just wanting a good adventure. Suddenly, gallivanting through China turns into helping the Chinese people. Hitchhiking through Romania means talking to the Romanian people and being one of the few to listen to them. All of us want a Bilbo adventure with big spiders, slayed dragons, and dwarf songs. But, not many of us will willingly take a Frodo adventure. He barely made it out in the end.
That is a tough pill to swallow. Frodo wasn’t a young rebellious teenager wanting to get away from the clutches of his small town quiet home, in order to seek adventure. He was going to face more evil than most people had faced and all he wanted was the familiar brush of the Shire’s cool grass or the laughter of the hobbits lighting up the air.
Now, many of you who are reading this may not be choosing whether to go slay a dragon or destroy a ring of evil in the fires of Mordor. Most of you are just like me. An ordinary person making ordinary decisions. But, even you can relate.
As a girl I would dream up what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it. Now, as those major life decisions come near, I yearn for the days of old. Like Frodo, I yearn for the shire. Why is there such a difference? Because one is real and one is imaginary. In my youth, I could choose whether I would marry that person or not. As a woman, I make that decision. Now, it’s not a “Hmm…never mind” decision. It is a decision I will live with and honor till the day that I die. Frodo understood that. He understood his childhood fantasy of adventure. He also understood the adventures and the decisions connected that trailed behind his every move.
Yet, seeing Frodo’s decisions shows that there is still hope for the ordinary person—you and me. Despite how desperately Frodo wanted the Shire, he moved on. Not only for the sake of an adventure, but also for the purpose of doing what was right. He wasn’t a child imagining he was on an adventure with Bilbo anymore. This was real life. Real decisions.

See how helpful listening to a hobbit is. Even the smallest people can teach you the greatest lessons.