tisdag 16 juni 2015

Making magic

As I've mentioned before, many people view Disney with mistrust. And in a way, I can understand how the continued efficiency of the Disney brand can be unnerving. I don't think their "ordinary" motion pictures are always a hit, but their animated films are and remain the heart of the Disney franchise. Despondent and grumpy, as I often am shortly before a holiday begins, I settled down before Big Hero 6 last Sunday, confident that I was in the most capable hands imaginable when it came to improving my mood. I was right. Roughly one and a half hours later, I was sobbing like a child while feeling predictably warm and gooey inside. For me, Disney is the "dream factory" rather than Hollywood, and even their animated duds are a lot better than most popular entertainment on the market. There are times when I've caught myself thinking that I'd actually rather fancy seeing Atlantis or Treasure Planet again, and regretting that they are not for hire. It's eerie, I can see that. Disney, the multi-million dollar company peddling dreams, would certainly be the villain in one of its own films.

Big Hero 6 is far from being a dud, and hits home with admirable precision. I'm not sure whether it kids superhero-crazed children into seeing a moving film about friendship and handling loss, or whether it kids the rest of us into seeing a superhero film. Maybe a bit of both. The superhero parts left me fairly cold, though the playing with the genre clichés was fun, and the members of the nerd gang who try their hand at superheroism are endearing, if lightly sketched. (I'm still not sure whether the name of the obligatory English butler in the obligatory castle where one of the gang lives is a sophisticated in-joke or not. He's called Heathcliff - like one of the fictional characters from the English canon who's least likely to make a success of butlering.) What got me was the development of the relationship between the hero Hiro and Baymax, the healthcare assistant robot his brother has been working on before tragically perishing in a fire (hey, it's as well that you know). While we grown-ups - or as grown-up as a Disney fan ever gets - sniffle over their scenes, the little ones can get on with enjoying the chases and gadgets. Clever. Maybe a bit manipulative, even. But it works.

It has to be said that strictly speaking, I'm more of a Frozen girl. I carol "Let it go, let it gooo" as enthusiastically as any six-year-old, and appreciate Disney films with a fairy-tale touch and some romance (be warned: there is absolutely no romance whatsoever in Big Hero 6). Nevertheless, I'm very satisfied with this year's Disney helping - the Mouse is still on top.

Magic of another kind is to be found in the lunch read I've just finished, The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett. Yes, I thought it was high time to give Pratchett's Discworld novels a go - maybe more than high time, seeing as Death (also a character in the book) recently grabbed hold of the author. The first Discworld novel proved to be the perfect lunch read. It was slim, it was funny, and the characters were unexpectedly likeable. I can certainly see that Pratchett's books must have inspired Jasper Fforde, who works in much the same genre. In fact, though Fforde's Dragonslayer novels have improved a lot from the first rather annoyingly moralistic one - the latest, The Eye of Zoltar, ended with a real cliff-hanger - I'm a bit sorry that he entered the dragons-and-wizards field at all, seeing as humorous but affectionate debunking of pompous fantasy clichés has clearly been done before. But ignore me - if it were up to me, I'd put a spell on Fforde which obliged him to produce nothing but Thursday Next books, and that once a year. There's certainly enough material in the affectionate fantasy-debunking way to be going on with, especially if the author is inventive enough when it comes to shaping his own world.

As for Pratchett, I liked The Colour of Magic, but I'm yet to be as bitten by his fictional universe as I am by Fforde's. For one thing, I'm not certain I'll keep the novel for re-reading. Nevertheless, I'll buy other Discworld novels, and am especially looking forward to the follow-up to The Colour of Magic, The Light Fantastic. I really want to know what happens to Twoflower (naïve, kind-hearted tourist) and Rincewind (his guide, a failed, cowardly wizard with a genius for survival - my favourite) now.