Monday, February 17, 2014

A Disney Spectacle

You know, Mondays aren't so bad when you have a chocolate milkshake...and an amazing new blog header and design! Both the milkshake and the remodel came from my mom, so she's awesome and y'all should all think she's awesome. Let's just take a moment to think she's awesome.

Okay! Now onto the post!

I'm plotting and outlining Story D right now, gearing up for the rough draft. I'm pretty excited about it, but I've run into some interesting roadblocks. Not bad necessarily, just...interesting.

In my head, Story D has a very different feel than my Leverage series. It's much more contained-almost the entirety of the story taking place in one little town whereas Ember and co. traveled everywhere- but it also feels much... larger. I couldn't decide what I meant by "larger" until I was re-reading a screenwriting book. In film and plays, there needs to be something filmmakers call spectacle. Spectacle is the "thing" in movies and books that dazzles our eyes. It's the extreme and exaggerated additions, like dramatic weather during a battle scene or the sinister shadows that seem to follow the villain everywhere. I like to think of it as the unneeded, yet completely needed, additions to a movie.

In novels, there ought to be some form of spectacle. The Hunger Games wouldn't be the Hunger Games if all Katniss did was hide in a tree and eat squirrel. A wall of fire comes barreling towards her, wolf muttations chase her around the Cornucopia, the weather conditions change at extreme rates. All of these were created by the Gamemakers so the repulsive Captiol audience would have spectacle. But spectacle is not just from external variables, it comes from the characters too. The Hunger Games does a very good job with this as well. Katniss singing to Rue and putting flowers around her body, along with the three-fingered salute. Katniss choosing to drop the tracker jacker nest on the Careers. Katniss firing an arrow at the Gamemakers during her private session.

I've noticed that books don't often have too much of either of these spectacles. The Hunger Games trilogy is a rare exception, and perhaps that's why (in my opinion) it makes for better movies than it did books. But then, books don't need as much spectacle as movies do. Books are internal; we picture the actions and characters in our head, and often we know the character(s) thoughts. The cogitation required in reading a book removes the need for over-the-top dazzlement.

Movies need it though, because you don't need to think while watching a movie. You need to keep your eyes entertained, so screenwriters create extreme reactions and exaggerations...sometimes to help portray a character's thoughts, which you can't get in a movie.

To get off my rambling, Story D has a LOT more physical spectacle than the Leverage series does. My characters seem to take way more extreme actions (especially Miss Dacey...sigh...) and the emotions and reactions are more exaggerated. I don't want Story D to be unrealistic, but I need to write it true to my "movie" in my head for it to turn out right. So the solution? Research spectacle. And what better place to do it than Disney, the definition of extreme!

I'm a Disnerd. Always have been, always will be. I love Disney. One of the things that makes Disney amazing is their extreme spectacle. So I started looking through all my favorite Disney scenes to see what I could find.

First off, my favorite Disney scene EVER!

The weather and light were used to show the characters, Ariel and Eric's, thoughts and feelings. From Eric's POV, the bright light surrounding Ariel as she sings shows that 1. He's been unconscious and is just coming too, so his light perception is wrong and 2. that he his perception of Ariel shows her as perfect and angelic. The extreme light helps make his obsessive search for the "singing girl" less creepy and more romantic.

And then my favorite part, Ariel on the rock, is just incredible. It seems to demonstrate so much: her determination to live on land, her desire to be "above" the ocean, her reluctance to let the water wash over's beautiful and incredible and I've always loved this scene.

So to me, this scene shows that spectacle can be used to show a) a characters thoughts without telling them b) emotions without telling them and c) symbolism. Not to mention it just adds to the overall drama of the scene.

Okay, onto the next scene!

Sorry. I didn't want to make anyone cry. :'(

This clip used the same things 'The Little Mermaid' did (weather, light, etc) but they did some different things too. I liked how they used big empty spaces to show how empty Anna's life is without Elsa, and I liked how they used closed-off, claustrophobic rooms to show Elsa's loneliness. This contrasts their personalities perfectly. Anna wants Elsa to come out of her room to fill her light with love and fun again, while Elsa desperately wants to let Anna in, but she can't because she has to protect her. I think it adds to the painfulness of the scene in general. Also, Anna's personality is very extreme (riding her bike with one foot, sliding across the halls, bouncing excitedly, giving big hugs, "tick tock, tick tock, tick tock") which contrasts Elsa's not-extreme personality (tight curtsy, tiny gasps, the quiet whimper at the end that always kills me...) perfectly.

I love so much about this scene. First, which you don't see in the clip, is how the same spectacle shifts to different meanings. Right before this, Simba is in an epic battle with Scar and the rain is pouring. The rain adds to the drama and the tension of the battle. But then, in this clip, the rain is no longer a threat, but a "cleansing". It is cleansing the pridelands of Scar's tyranny, preparing them for Simba's rule.

I love how Simba is mostly expressionless during this scene, except for a thoughtful pause, and then the very Simba-ish smirk. It is the expressions on Zazu, Timon, Pumbaa, and Rafiki that demonstrate the conflicting emotions Simba must be feeling at this point. And then of course, the "circle of life" ending is perfect and awesome.

It's also unlikely that the pridelands, after so much devastation, could be returned to their former glory so quickly, but that is just to demonstrate how great a king Simba turned out to be.

Some of my other favorite clips include the Beast's transformation scene in 'Beauty and the Beast', 'Mother Knows Best' from Tangled, and the scene in 'The Jungle Book' when Bagheera and Mowgli think Baloo is dead.

These clips and others have helped me determine what the "spectacle" in Story D needs to look like for it to work. If y'all have any thoughts about spectacle in these clips, other Disney films, or just in general, feel free to share them! :)


  1. spectacle is such a fun element

    1. It really is! I love how it adds so much to the writing! :)

  2. Yes, your mom is awesome! :) Love the new blog look!

    And I very much enjoyed your commentary on spectacle.

    1. Thanks! Mom is so good with computers and techie stuff. She's so cool! :)

      I thought about your novels as I wrote the post. I considered mentioning the part where Oraeyn dumps Kamarie in the river, which is an awesome, spectacular scene. Or the part where Oraeyn finds Llian's sword. But since the title said 'Disney' I had to leave it out.

    2. :) Awww.

      I loved the Disney examples! :)

  3. Your mum is awesome! I really like the new layout! And the idea you have for your new story.
    (I started Ember Flame the other night and am REALLY enjoying it. It kind of reminds me of the Avatar cartoons, kind of the same feel almost. It is really good so far.)

    1. Thank you so much for telling me! I'm glad you are enjoying it so far! ^_^

      This morning before English class, I downloaded a certain novel called 'Haphazardly Implausible' onto my Kindle. I can't wait to begin reading it! ;)