Pantona

You want to know what’s the most fun about writing Athena, rather than Marina and Annalise?

She is much less in her head. This chapter is a perfect example of that.

The Marina Chronicle

I haven’t spent much time in the midlands before. but I can see why so many people are drawn to it. The fields are green, and the orchards are beautiful and people, with their pink skin and auburn hair are thrilled to come out and greet their Lady.

The hills are even nice. Not the mountains and foothills like home, here they roll and split the horizon, they’re small, and comfy and coming over one to see another farm or village feels like a thrill.

Tristan is unsettled. He has been since we started moving. I never would have thought that he’d be more attached to Dovetail than I am.

“There it is,” Countess Olivia smiled as we crested a hill. A small village, surrounded by farms, headed by a large, though not as large as I would have thought manor house. “That is Pantona.” I exhaled.

“It’s beautiful,” I…

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Magical Movies Tour: Oliver And Company

There’s a definite thematic connection between Oliver And Company and 101 Dalmations. If the older film captures the feel of everything going on in London in the 60’s, there’s some real true 80’s NYC vibes.

It also happens to be the first Disney movie I can really remember falling in love with. We had both the soundtrack cassette, with those great songs, “Once Upon A Time In New York City” sung by Huey Lewis, “Why Should I Worry” by Billy Joel, “Perfect” by Better Midler, and the less high profile but still excellent, “Streets Of Gold” and “Good Company,” a read along Golden Book cassette featuring actual sound samples for the dialog, (“Yeah, yeah! When we gonna get those hot dogs?!” was oft repeated by the Nayden children) and the movie itself on VHS. Mary had a stuffed Oliver, we knew the movie by heart.

Retelling Oliver Twist with animals, casting Oliver as a teeny adorable kitten was a stroke of genius, and since most of America knew Dickens’s novel best as a musical anyway, that also follows. As an adult I have some questions, but they’re the kind of thing that I can brush off in a children’s film. Things like, “Fagan is definitely a heroin addict, right?” “Is Sykes with the mob, or a drug dealer? Like, what’s his deal?” “Did 5th Avenue types have butlers still in 1989?” Regardless of these niggling questions, the movie is a great watch.

Look, in the coming weeks I’m going to have trouble evaluating these movies with any kind of clear critical eye because I adore them so much. We’re into the Renaissance now, the movies that defined my childhood and lifelong Disney fandom.

Yes, next week we dive deep into nostalgia, with The Little Mermaid. 

 

Better Than It Has Any Right To Be: The Legend Of The Three Caballeros

Remember back when time had meaning and I watched The Three Cabelleros and Saludos Amigos and was completely and utterly charmed. Well, this week, in an attempt to escape from just you know, life in general, I rewatched Gravity Falls(On second viewing, still totally rules) and then the first season of Duck Tales, and then a few episodes of season 2, until I got to “The Town Where Everyone Was Nice” which is where Scrooge, Webby, the boys and Donald go to Brazil and meet up with Jose and Panchito, who in this story were in a band with Donald in college. (They’re also, like Donald, lovable losers.) (They have an episode in season 3 as well, “Louie’s 11” and it is a delight) (So much Caballeros this week you guys!)

Then I remembered that the long whispered about in the corners of the internet where we all talk about how Duck Tales is better than it has any right to be, that The Legend Of Three Caballeros was also better than it had any right to be. I could have this conversation about Duck Tales infinitely, because Duck Tales is incredible and I love it so much. (Also I miss Aless and our morning after a night of fun ritual of ordering breakfast sandwiches and watching Duck Tales.)

But hanging with Jose and Panchito again, I decided to check out their show.

And it is, indeed, better than it has any right to be, and suiting The Cabelleros, it doesn’t make a lot of sense and is super silly. It subtracts the racism for the most part so, yay! The idea is that Donald, Panchito and Jose’s ancestors were mystical adventurers and it’s their turn to take up the mantel. There’s also a whole thing with a trapped goddess named Xandra, a villain who has been transformed into a magical staff, Daisy’s nieces, April, May and June. (They are fine, but I miss my boys).

The animation is great, and the story is bonkers and the jokes are good and you get to hear “The Three Caballeros” 13 times, because that’s how many episodes there are. (There are a few other songs too.) Donald gets angry a lot, a Jose flirts with every woman they meet and Panchito dives into adventure without thinking and it’s great.

Because I love those stupid birds and their dumb guitars and their absurdly catchy song.

“THEY SAY WE ARE BIRDS OF A FEATHEEEERRRR…”

It’s on Disney+ and I think people should check it out.

Magical Movies Tour: The Great Mouse Detective

For an Anglophile, I’ve never cared much for Sherlock Holmes stories. They’ve just never hooked me, and hearing everyone talk about they’re the best detective stories (when Poirot exists!) always bothered me. But I’m a sucker for stuff like The Great Mouse Detective, as we learned during The Rescuers and Robin Hood, the secret parallel world of animals, is going to get me.

The Great Mouse Detective is also just a very good movie. The story is fun, Basil, our Holmes stand in is a manic bit whirlwind of a her. Professor Ratigan is a wonderful villain, the music  numbers are delightful vaudeville confections.

I also like Olivia, the little girl who seeks out Basil to find her kidnapped father, and Dr. Dawson, our Watson stand in. Just in general, it’s a lovely little movie. I don’t have much more to say, it’s just a quality little flick, which despite my lack of enthusiasm for Sherlock Holmes in general, really got to me.

Sorry this is so short.

Next time, it’s Once Upon a Time In New York City, and my nostalgia goes into overdrive with Oliver And Company. 

Countess Olivia

First of all, I promise Athena is on the road to “reformed mean girl” my absolute favorite favorite character trope in teen stuff. (Kelly Taylor, Brooke Davis, Veronica Lodge, *SWOON*) But the mean girl stuff is SO FUN TO WRITE.

Anyway, there’s some Olivia backstory that leaks out here. It’s been alluded to vaguely and gets spelled out a bit more here. (Albeit, second hand and extremely biased, because Athena will always take Martin’s side. In everything!)

The Marina Chronicle

“She gave you a handkerchief?” I said with a loud laugh as we rode out of the city. Tristan scowled at me. “You cannot be serious? Like in a fairy tale about knights and ladies?”

“Don’t make fun of her,” he said. “Ma-Lady Marina care about me, about us, and our mission.” I sighed and rolled my eyes.

“She’s in love with you,” I said. He frowned.

“Don’t tease, it’s cruel,” he whispered.

“I’m not the one being cruel in this situation, Tristan,” I said softly. He frowned. “If you don’t have feelings for her, it’s wrong, cruel to use your word. She’s young and silly and she might be our queen one day.”

“It isn’t like that,” he said, “between us. You don’t know her, you’ve never bothered to try.” He had me there. “And maybe I do I have feelings for her.”

“If you say so,” I said…

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Magical Movies Tour: The Black Cauldron

Note: These are the only things I’ve felt like writing for the past two weeks, so I’m going to start posting two a week. I’ve gotten way ahead of myself and want to share my thoughts! Hooray!

Well, that was better than I expected.

Everyone always talks about what a tremendous failure The Black Cauldron is, as a film on it’s own, and as an adaptation of the wonderful The Chronicles of Prydain, and in reality it is perfectly fine as both. The movie takes on the first two books in the series, The Book Of Three and The Black Cauldron, and omits so reasonably important characters, (Wither thou, Gwydion?) but it does an OK job by them.

Taran’s relationship to Hen Wen is perhaps given a bit more weight, (Hen Wen is an oracular pig, in case you forgot.) and Gurgi is given a bit more weight. (To be fair Gurgi is kind of a perfect Disney character.) Eilonwy is pefectly sketched as in Fleudeur Flam (though his true self, a king in his own right, is never revealed). The Horned King is terrifying and clearly the portion of the film the most love was given to.

I’m not saying The Black Cauldron is perfect, and you can certainly see how many of the people working on it moved on to work with Don Bluth, because it reminds me much more stuff like Thumbelina and A Troll In Central Park than anything else Disney’s ever done, but it’s wasn’t the awful mess I was expecting. It got the characters right, at the very least, and inspired me to purchase the books for Kindle. (This was another Quarantine Watch)

Next week, the awakening begins with the light stirrings of The Great Mouse Detective.

Magical Movies Tour: The Fox And The Hound

When we were in Kindergarten, my friend Bailey and I used to go to her house and watch movies at least twice a week. Bailey was the youngest of five and her family had a big new construction house, a bunch of pets and a landscaped pool in the back yard, so I basically thought her house was the coolest place in the world, and I have fond memories to this day of the time spent there. (Also, she had a baby this weekend! Congratulations Bailey!)

One of the movies we would go back to over and over again was The Fox And The Hound so I was really looking forward to watching it again.

Um, how do I put this in a way that doesn’t disgrace my six year old memories and nostalgia?

The Fox And The Hound is not particularly good.

“The Best Of Friends” is a sweet song and sequence, and there’s some kind of race relations parallel to be had when you talk about Todd and Copper’s friendship. (Certainly something about how healing doesn’t happen all at once, but slowly, over generations.) But it’s all a little half baked. The animation isn’t all that good, and the story needs work, and the characters are more like sketches.

It’s such a let down even from The Rescuers which was a step down even from it’s predecessors.

Look, I know this is generally considered on of the dark times for Disney Animation, and I so get that after watching this movie. It’s just such a bummer to not enjoy a movie I loved so much when I was little. But it’s not a good movie. The animation is not up to par, the story is slow, the characters are dull, the songs (save one) aren’t memorable.

Next week we’ll talk about The Black Cauldron, which I am fully ready to be completely let down by given how much I absolutely loved The Chronicles Of Prydain. 

Training

Athena has no patience for creepy weirdos.

I am very much enjoying writing her. (And even though in the author’s note I pointed out Kara Thrace as her “guide” rewatching the Arrowverse and having Sara Lance around has been helping a lot too)

The Marina Chronicle

Just because we’re supposed to be leaving in a day doesn’t mean that I can rest. First of all it would give us away, and also, leaving Dovetail always makes me antsy. It has every since our parents died.

I’m out in the training yard, kicking the ass of some new recruit from the coast. He can’t keep up with me, and Tristan is looking on from the other side of the training field. He’ll say that me wiping the floor with this boy is bad for morale.

As the boy lands on on his back, he finally squeaks,

“I yield, Lady Athena,” I smile and help him up.

“You did well, Everett,” I said, “you’ve improved.” He frowned. “I’m serious, I didn’t expect the blow on the left side and the staff clearly suits you better than a sword. Keep working. You may even beat me one day.”

“I…

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Magical Movies Tour: The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh

The first time I watched these Winnie The Pooh stories they were broken up individually on video cassettes, so I watched some of them more than others. But I watched all of them, over and over again.

In fact as I rewatched this, all the way back in March, from my Quarantine Couch was rocking back and forth humming along to “I’m Just A Little Black Rain Cloud,” and I felt like I was home from kindergarten again, my mom throwing Winnie The Pooh on to give her another 30 minutes to wrangle Mary in the afternoons. (We were both half-day kids)

That’s been a big bonus of this project, getting into the nostalgia of the thing. The coming weeks are going to just be more and more of that as we enter into the movies that I remember seeing in the movie theater and then watching over and over again on video.

Anyway, Winnie The Pooh, which tells some of A.A. Milne’s stories in delightful animated fashion. I’ve mentioned before that charm goes a long way with me, and oh boy are these shorts (stitched together as chapters in a book) charming out butt. It helps that the characters are so broadly and yet specifically sketched, and their interactions are always surprising. And Pooh himself is lovely, really a perfect child’s hero, kind hearted, a little selfish, and always does the right thing, eventually.

Christopher Robin also made more of an impression watching as an adult. We’re in his little world here and he’s the grown up, oddly enough. The animals all need his help with almost everything, the way a child would with an adult. It’s a sweet fantasy for kids, and I think part of what has made Winnie The Pooh endure for as long as it has.

Next week we return to the water works, with The Fox And The Hound. 

The Series Series: The Bone Witch Trilogy by Rin Chupeco

We aren’t supposed to judge books by their covers but the cover of The Bone Witch looks like THIS:

The Bone Witch

So…yeah. That’s that.

The Books

The Bone Witch

The Heart Forger

The Shadowglass

The Author

Rin Chupeco began her career as a technical writer who was obsessed with horror and fairytales and now blends them together.

I will be reading everything she’s every written, because I loved this series. Did I give away the end of this blog? Seriously though, this was a delight.

Series Structure

This is a trilogy, three books that tell the story of Tea Pahlahvi, a Bone Witch or Dark Asha, magic users who’s role in society feels like something in between university professors and geisha, in the society of 8 kingdoms in the book. Tea’s power allows her to raise the dead as well as commune and subdue legendary creatures known as daeva that often threaten her world.

The story alternates between Tea’s telling her own story and a bard (who is more than he seems) who she has engaged to tell it for you. Tea has done terrible things and she is ready to reshape the world, if she has the strength to do it.

Themes

Oh there’s a lot at work here, responsibility, accountability, civil inequality, the redeeming properties of true love (and all true love, not just romantic.)

Favorite Book

It’s probably The Heartforger although The Shadow Glass grew on me as it went along. But I devoured The Heartforger which answered a lot of questions and mysteries from the first book and did actually have me thinking that we were watching the birth of a supervillain. (We weren’t, but in the interest of spoilers, I won’t elaborate)

Least Favorite Book

The Bone Witch was lovely and sucked me into the world, but Chupeco has a lot of world building and character introduction to do. This is where the two timelines and narrators came into play as important. I wanted to know how Tea got to where she was in the flash forward sections, so I was willing to get through, “This is how I found out about my powers, this was my training” even when I wasn’t overly invested

Favorite Character

There are, alas, not direct pop culture paralells this time around for me to default into love, but I was deeply fond of Tea’s great True Love, Kalen. He’s a stalwart captain of the guard type…he uh, reminds me of someone…a little…can’t put my finger on it…anyway.

Reread Possibilities

I don’t know that I’ll reread this, but I’m not opposed to it. I very much enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to Chupeco’s other work, but I don’t know that I’d pick up this series again.

Our next series will be Throne Of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, I’m already halfway through it. Waiting on Book 5.