Posts Tagged ‘Wicked’

TwistedIf you loved their tongue-in-cheek love letters to Harry Potter (A Very Potter Musical, A Very Potter Sequel, A Very Potter Senior Year), Science Fiction (Starship), and DC Comics (Holy Musical B@tman!), then boy are you in luck because Team Starkid have focused their wonderfully wicked eyes on Disney with Twisted: The Untold Story of a Royal Vizier. Yes, it’s the beloved Disney classic Aladdin as seen from Jafar’s point of view. In the world of Team Starkid, however, Jafar isn’t as evil as he appears.

Agrabah is on the brink of economic and social collapse due to the incompetence of the Sultan. The only hope the kingdom has is a royal marriage between Princess Jasmine and a wealthy prince. Unfortunately, Jasmine is more concerned with bucking the system, setting her tiger on prospective suitors until one finally misconstrues the attack as an act of war. Jafar has tried everything he can to fix Agrabah, but his only hope lies in a common oil lamp hidden within the Tiger-Head Cave and a sociopathic, horny thief named Aladdin.

Team Starkid has always been very clever about reinterpreting beloved characters of fiction. Harry Potter is a self-involved egotist who eventually mans up to be the Chosen One everyone says he is, virtually all of the characters in Starship are parodies of science fiction tropes, and the heroes of DC Comics are depicted as well-intentioned, yet somewhat incompetent man-children. In Twisted, it’s very clear who writers Matt and Nick Lang side with when it comes to the story of Aladdin. Jafar was once a dreamer, a man with ideas that could fix the kingdom and as he takes his position as the assistant to the royal vizier, he meets the love of his life, Sherrezade, a woman with 1001 stories to tell of fantasy and faith. Jafar, however, is a man of science and reason, but the years begin to take their toll as the decadence of Agrabah’s Sultan robs him of everything he loves, leaving him desperate to save what’s left of the kingdom while guiding Jasmine towards being a thoughtful and just ruler.

JafarTwisted is also an opportunity for Team Starkid to parody most of the Disney Renaissance of films through the lens of Wicked, which provided much of the musical’s beats and story structure. The opening number is a perfect parody of Beauty and the Beast‘s opening and even features a cameo by Belle who treats Jafar about as fairly as the rest of the kingdom. Many Disney characters show up in the story, including a whole slew of Disney villains like Ursula, Maleficent, Gaston, Scar, and Captain Hook who give their own perspectives on the movies that turned them into the bad guys. There are also plenty of call-backs to the actual movie Aladdin with characters speaking lines of dialogue that are actually quotes from the movie’s songs. They even take the opportunity to poke fun at Pixar, naming the rival kingdom of Prince Achmed, the unfortunate recipient of a lashing from the Princess’ tiger, Pik-zahr.

Though Aladdin is one of my favorite Disney movies, it’s just as fun to watch Team Starkid turn him into the ultimate villain of the musical while making Jafar a sympathetic and tragic figure. The Starkids may love their parodies, but their sincerity shines through as well with gut punching songs delivered superbly by Dylan Saunders as Jafar.

If you have the time to spare, spend it getting reacquainted with the royal vizier we all love to hate!

Advertisements

Jolie as MaleficentThe first trailer for Walt Disney Pictures’ Maleficent has dropped and I can’t say that I’m entirely sold on the movie thus far. A prequel and quasi-reboot to Disney’s animated Sleeping Beauty (1959), Maleficent tells the story of the titular character, played by Angelina Jolie, who lives a peaceful life in the forest until an invading army forces her to become a protector of her enchanted homeland, ultimately leading her down a path that changes her pure heart to one of evil. But Maleficent may be able to find redemption in Aurora, the child she cursed who holds the key to peace in the kingdom.

Maleficent is, by far, one of the most popular Disney villains and I think the reason for this is the theatricality of the character, not just in her design, but in her personality. The animated Maleficent is an evil fairy who appears to revel in her position of power that inspires fear in the people King Stefan’s kingdom and other fairies like Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather. She has personality coming out of her horns, whether it’s her anger at her minions or taunting Prince Philip with a glimpse of his future self wearily riding to the tower after 100 years to “save” the ageless sleeping Aurora. And we all know that third act battle between Maleficent the dragon and Prince Philip is the highlight of the entire movie.

Maleficent from Sleeping BeautyBased on the description for the film and what little we get of Maleficent, I can’t say that I’m excited to see it just yet. I don’t mind sympathizing with the villain of a story, or in the case of this movie, the “villain”, but retooling the whole thing in order to justify a “she wasn’t really evil” story takes away from what made Maleficent such a fun villain. Isn’t it enough that she’s evil? Do we need to have a back story for that? Maleficent is like the Disney villain version of The Joker; she’s evil because she likes being evil. Yes, I’m sure something led her to that moment, but is it so important that we have to explore her origin story? This is a woman who got offended that she wasn’t invited to a celebration in honor of Aurora’s birth and cursed the girl because of the poor manners of her parents. End of story. The stakes are fairly low when compared to the live action movie’s intention to turn Maleficent into some kind of warrior fairy who falls from grace. True, Aurora’s life hangs in the balance, but it’s only Aurora’s life that’s at risk, not everyone and everything in whole world. This feels very much in the vein of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and Snow White and the Huntsman where a studio and scriptwriters try to epic-ify something that doesn’t need to be altered so drastically. Again, Sleeping Beauty ends with Maleficent as a dragon surrounded by thorns and green fire!

But this is all based on my bias towards the animated film, which is my mother’s favorite Disney film and was always on at some point when I was a child. The trailer itself isn’t bad, save for Elle Fanning’s (Aurora) rough British accent. We don’t see a lot of Jolie as Maleficent, but when we do she definitely looks the part minus the green-toned skin. A lot of people have pointed out that giving her green skin would create too many Wicked comparisons. Maybe so. Wicked is more culturally prominent than Maleficent, at the moment, but you’d think Disney would have some faith in Jolie and the character to maintain her classic look in its entirety. The green skin marks her separation from the other fairies just as much as her black robes and horned headdress. It is possible that her skin color could change during the film to indicate her fall, but I’m sure that won’t be revealed until the movie comes out. As far as Jolie’s few lines of dialogue…they’re fine. Her last line is more chilling and reminiscent of her animated counterpart and I hope that in the trailers to come, and there will be, that we get to hear more of her dialogue. I’d hate for them to reduce a vibrant and charismatic villain into a subdued, smoldering anti-hero. It’s going to take a lot for Jolie to match Eleanor Audley‘s performance.

Until such a time when they release the next trailer, or when the film comes out May 30th, 2014, enjoy this compilation of Maleficent’s scenes from Sleeping Beauty.