Monday, February 23, 2015

Living in the Woods

I grew up in the woods.  Not the real woods.  The woods of Into the Woods.  My post before last discussed some of the differences between the movie and the play of Into the Woods.  One of the things I missed from the movie and loved about the play was the sense of the woods not just as a fairy tale world, but of a place of liminality--it is the place of the in betweens in life and the place to change.  It exists outside our world but heightens our lives.  It is a place of moments.

I grew up in a liberal, artistic household in a city renown for great parks, the world's largest man made waterfall, and symphony and a community college the largest walled prison in the world, and currently the growth economic industries are pot and happy ending massage parlors.  It was a conservative place in the real world.  But I didn't live there.

My parents created a world where we had school chalkboards on the walls and dry ice for our games.  I had a trapeze swing inside.  My mother wrote novels and poetry.  I went to art classes.  The world breathed creativity, intellectualism, and good natured debates.  My father worked at and eventually became the regional bank president all while running around town in a flannel shirt and a pink bandana on weekends.  We had pets from dogs and cats to birds to a four foot long monitor lizard with mouth rot.  We brought home stray animals.  We brought home strays.

When I went out in the world, my mother and father had taught me etiquette and how to work the school system so that I functioned.  I was bright, and never aware there was a box to think outside of in the first place.  I collected the odd friends.  The ones who didn't quite fit.  Maybe they read too much.  Maybe they played elaborate pretend games at lunch.  Maybe they were the ones who had to eat alone at lunch.  I enticed them home.  Most of them never really left.

My parents made our house a haven for neighborhood kids as children to all my brother and my friends as we grew into our teen years.  They talked to us like we were adults.  Unlike the outside world, gayness didn't matter and masturbation was a positive concept.  My mother spooled worlds of feminism.  The world was at once a haven for childhood and experimentation for adulthood.  My parents left us alone in the evenings as we grew older, retreating to their room so we could "have our space".  We ran our own world in that house.  It was a place to change.  It was a place to come to in times of trouble.  We were generations of local theater brats.  We experimented with drugs and alcohol.  Those who ended up with problems found them in reality.  We experimented we sexuality like Little Red Riding Hood.  We learned ourselves.  So many comings-of-age happened there.

The difference between the woods and The Davies House was that the woods were dangerous.  And yes, what we worked through there was dangerous.  But the Davies House supported us.  My parents were accepting and generous to a fault.

Once they went to bed, I became the overseer of the House.  You want food?  Go find it for yourself.  I'll guide you through the kitchen the first time.  You lost your hat?  Here is the lost clothing basket.  You get a little too forceful when drunk.  I smash the tension if I have to.  I take care of you in all of your problems.  I might not be good, but I was nice, and right, whether or not I was listened to.  I picked up.  I stayed sober so that I could stand between my friends and drunk driving.  My parents didn't want anyone driving home drunk, though anyone was welcome to stay anytime.   I mothered so much I felt like a den mother instead of a friend sometimes.

But of course I fought my own demons as I came into my bipolar disorder.  My depressions I felt so guilty about.  How could I be unhappy when I had the perfect family?  The manias I did not have the vocabulary to explain to anyone, including myself.  I kept my pain to myself but felt safe that when I needed it, people would return the favor and help me out too.

Eventually, a friend helped me fuck picking up and taking care of everyone else.  I had a summer of mania and tequila and pot and a friend who listened to me talk of depression.  I talked of wanting to kill myself.  He talked of how his father killing himself had effected his life.  I swore no matter how bad it got, I would never do that to the people I left behind.  I lived in a summer of moments.  I fell in love.  Too bad he was gay.

The Baker's wife sings in Into the Woods "If life were made of moments / even now and then a bad one / But if life were made of moments / Then you would never know you had one."  I grew up in moments.  The only reason I knew anything different was because I had to visit the outside world.

The Davies House wasn't just a place to party.  My parents challenged our thoughts.  We dissected plays and music and movies together.  Though everyone was welcomed into the Davies House, my friends were discerning about who they brought over, whether they lived up to Davies people standards.  They appreciated and respected my parents.

No one ever wanted to hang out anywhere but at our house.  That group of friends still holds onto each other today, though we are spread as far away as Italy.  Late night conversations still return to the Davies House (it was not me or my brother that our friends visited.  They visited the whole house, as a concept).  They use it as changes in their own lives.  They remember the changes it wrought then.  Some of them even use some Davies House concepts to raise their own children, as their own children visit, on occasion, the Davies House.

Not to say we didn't have our bad moments.  One of my friends used to joke that to hang with us, you had to be fucked up somehow.  Together we dealt with substance abuse issues, grown men dating teenagers.  Love, and loss of love.  On more than one occasion someone truly came to live at our house for a while after their parents had kicked them out for being gay or were being abusive.  On one occasion when one of us swallowed a bottle of pills in a suicide attempt, all she wanted to do was come the the Davies when our friends found her.  It was our bad moment to talk her into going to the hospital.

Leaving for college is supposed to be a liberating experience, but I was horrified.  All of the freedoms the dorm bequeathed on newly freed youth, I had already had at home, and I didn't live in a cell.  I have never gotten used to reality.  I always will belong in the woods.  Perhaps that is why I write.     

Monday, February 2, 2015

battle scene antipathy

I hate battle scenes.  All right.  That last scene where you bring together every thread in the book can be cool.  But your average battle scene is boring as hell.  You would think they would be exciting, right?  I know writers who live for them.  Short of those scenes where you are trying to set up a lot of shit and not sound like the exposition queen, battle scenes suck.

When I lived in Oakland, Ca, a writer in one of my one of my writing groups lived for them.  She had crazy battle plans where flanks moved in at strategic points and the other side responded to this maneuver with its own.  In fact, I may be in the minority of fantasy writers here.

But I'm the character girl.  And battle scenes have limited options for character meat.  The scene has to move quickly.  I can't slow it down with a lot of emotions.  The characters have to react quickly to a fast moving situation.  They have time for a line or so of emotion before the next act of violence hits them  I keep in straight limited third person as well.  That means that the reader only experiences what the point of view character experiences.  That means I have to know everything happening around them.  I have to plan out who moves where when and who does what to whom.  But the character has little chance to look around and see what is going on beyond their immediate conflict.  That's a fine line to walk.  You want to give the reader some sense of what else is going on, but it makes no sense for your point of view character to be standing around and checking people out during a battle.

I must say there are also only so many ways you can kill people.  I suppose I could go all James Bond with hats that slice your head off, but in a remotely realistic fight, every death is not going to be as spectacular as a decapitation.  So that is another reason it gets a little dull.  Even in fantasy where I can use trees that's branches turn into nooses and things like that.

My fights also don't contain much in the way of Robin Hood daring-do.  Nobody prances about and kills people in expert and dashing ways.  Even the people who know how to kill don't do it with a gleam in their eye and a twirl of their mustache.

So that pretty much limits me to harried and gross.  That's where I want to be anyway.  Some of my characters, like Jamie in the sequel to Weaver's Web, Will-o-the-Wisps Warp, are expert fighters and do so with little fear or horror.  There are even occasional scenes with Laurel and he, especially when feeding, where I can take a slight comedic twist.  But most of the time my characters don't know that much about fighting, and are freaked out and disgusted by what is going on around them.

I am a fan of the after battle fights.  Especially the first few battles someone is involved in.  Then lots of character development happens fast.  How do they handle the fact they have just killed someone?  That people were trying to kill them?  That their friends or themselves might be hurt?  How do they deal with the smell of blood and half digested food and shit that will accompany many battle scenes? These things are more interesting to me.

I also like, as I said, my climatic fight at the end of the book.  Except in series, I am finding, where this fight may not resolve everything.  The cool thing about those last fights is that yes, I usually do a lot of character wrap ups before and afterwards, but to me the point of those final fights is to bring together the themes and character arcs that I have been building towards the entire book.  That is fun. It takes pacing so that your point of view character can register actions and have emotional build up.  It takes, in my experience, some sort of conversation with your Big Bad in order to get these last threads tied up, and because it would be quite anticlimactic if the Big Bad never got to have their moment, but just got shot with an arrow and that was that.  However, you really have to watch that pacing, because no one likes a James Bond evil monologue.

As Dr. Evil's son, Scott, points out in Austin Powers:  International Man of Mystery, just shoot him.  Boom.  No prolonged gloating.  No lasers that will split him up the crotch.  All of these things make your piece unwieldy and your villain look like an idiot.  Okay.  I have one villain who gloats.  But I set up that he is the gloating type way in advance.  And havoc is still happening while he maniacally gloats.

Lead ups to fights can be quite interesting.  Scenes directly after a battle can carry a lot of development.  But except in the case of those final, theme uniting scenes, battle scenes are dull.  You have to plan out a sequence of events ahead of time so that your chaos will be orchestrated, and then there is nothing left to do but plod through it.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Into the Woods

Into the Woods (the movie)

Okay, Stephen Sondhiem's (lyricist and composer) masterpiece musical here still relates to me personally.  This play got me through being eighteen.  The themes in it kept me going.  Nobody is alone.  The difference between good and bad, right and wrong, nice.  Of how we listen to those we love, but not to the things they think they are telling us, but what we see of them.   If you go back far enough in my blogs, you will find a post about the play.

In Into the Woods fairy tale characters such as (cast as in movie) Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) and Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) from "Jack and the Beanstalk" must enter the woods in order to complete their stories.  The stories are woven together by the tale of the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt).  In order to get the Witch (Meryl Streep) to reverse a curse making it impossible for them to have children, they must gather items associated with various fairy tales, such as one of Cinderella's shoes.  The witch uses these items in a spell.  The fairy tales closely follow grim Grimm brothers, and even taints of the stories before the brothers got a hold of them.

Screenplay and musical by James Lapine and directer by Rob Marshall, I expected this Disney interpretation to fall down.  This is a complex and rich play.  I have to say it was fun to watch.  I'm not going to tell you not to go see it, but I was right about the let down.

Disney's movie lost all the themes.  It was a movie with the occasional song as an afterthought, not a musical.  Songs were cut in favor of an obsession with explaining what was going on rather than letting it happen.  Disney's movie was a fun mish mash of fairy tales, but lost the finer points.

The woods became fraught with large, twisted trees as the characters moved farther in.  It did invoke an idea of differentness than the village.  For some reason the director was obsessed with mud.  The entire place was wet.  The characters came from a very average village in peasant's or king's clothing as was fit.

However the movie lost the true magic of the play and the woods in particular.  The world in the play is a stylized one.  The world is one of fairy tales.  Mud, depressing homes, dreary clothes--reality in general plays no part.  The idea was to have this world change as they entered the woods, but as the woods were also dreary, it gave the movie a dank, dark quality completely inappropriate to a movie made of fairy tales and their undoing.

I had heard that Johnny Depp made for an annoying wolf, but I have to say he was one of my favorite parts.  I used to be a huge Depp fan from the era of such as Ed Wood.  Even the first Pirates of the Caribbean:  Curse of the Black Pearl--he stole the film with a character of his own brilliant creation.  Unfortunately after that it was as if he got stuck on Jack Sparrow.  His usually impeccable taste in choosing roles went down hill.  Every character was some reiteration of Jack Sparrow.

But as the Wolf, Depp echoed his old days working with Tim Burton.  His stylized hungry and sexualized wolf in anachronistic clothing represented the outlandish and stylized world that should have represented the woods.  Little Red Riding Hood is not a central character, but her story has always been one of my favorites.  The direction, though not Depp, underplayed the fact the story is about the loss of virginity.  Marshall made a poor choice in representing Little Red Riding Hood as young as he did.  In all versions I have seen, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack are teenagers.  Here they were children.  This was problematic for Riding Hood's story as an already mixed set of feelings for the metaphor of a loss of virginity became disturbing due to her age.

Of course, Disney undercut the sexy quality beneath all aspects of the play.

The woods are more than a place were magic happens.  They are the liminal space.  A place of borders crossed.  A place were lives could change.  Where the subconscious became conscious.  The concept of the woods as a world of metaphors and archetypes, only to become broken archetypes--this was one of the things I always loved about this piece.  I sorely missed it here.

The play is a complicated one, I will give you that, and the need to simplify must have been strong.  The choice to nix songs for explanations to beat the plot into the audience's head did not work.  The songs that were left out, the screen time given to the Baker, the hero of the piece, sidelined him as a plot device to keep all the stories intertwined.  Two choices had an especially bad effect.

The first was to remove the Baker's father as a character.  I can see how he might have been thought of as a complication, but without him, the Baker does not sing his duet with his father.  That song is the pivotal piece in the Baker's character at the end.  Without it, his arc clunked.

The other was to have the narrator as a voice over instead of a character.  It must have felt natural to make the narrator narration, but he plays a critical role in the play.  Without him, the devolution of the fabric of the fairy tales in the second half makes no sense.

The Witch's two heartbreaking songs--"Lament" and  "Children Will Listen " were undercut by the change of Rapunzel's (Mackenzie Mauzy) role and the fact the second song was done as a soaring voice over instead of giving Meryl Streep the chance to go all out on her acting.  Also, I love Meryl Streep, but Bernadette Peters created the role, and in my mind it still belongs to her.  Meryl Streep comes in second class.

Most of the problems were not due to the actors, but to the rewrite of the script and especially Marshall's direction.  Again, if you want to go see a show about fairy tales going wild, this is a fun fluff piece for the most part.  You'll probably have fun.

But if you want to understand Sondheim's vision, go watch the play.  Barring chances to do that,  the TV show American Playhouse, which shows tapings of plays, has a great version directed by Lapine.

In the meantime, I hope to see you in the in-betweens.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Tortured Artists

There is little that I hate more than the myth of the tortured artist.  It nearly killed me.  When I descended into depression and soared into addictive mania, I took them as my goddesses.  They were part and parcel to me being an artist.  The drugs I did trying to unsuccessfully control my moods were just part of being an artist.  I didn't invest in my recovery even when I knew what was wrong.  I was afraid if I lost my "eloquent" depressions and "productive" manias that I would lose my creativity.  Artists were supposed to be crazy, right?

Okay, most of us are eccentric but the myth that self destructing is artistic destroys people.  It can kill people.  It is bullshit it.

Scientists have found a genetic correlation between mood disorders and creativity.  That is correlation not causation.  I got a tattoo and wrote the story that got me into Mills to remind myself of the difference.

Here's the tattoo.  People call salamanders fire lizards.  In fact, they are delicate and beautiful amphibians.  But in medieval times, people thought salamanders were born of fire.  In fact, salamanders like to hibernate in damp logs.  People would light up a log in the winter.  The salamander would wake up, the heat making it think spring had come.  So it would crawl out of the log and onto the hearth.  Shocked people would see a salamander crawl out of a fire.  They thought the salamanders were born because of fire.

In fact, there's no causation there.  Salamanders aren't born out of fires.  They hibernate in logs.  It is a correlation that salamanders quit hibernating when it gets warm in the spring, and that they quit hibernating when a fire warms them up to make them think it is spring.

My tattoo is of a salamander crawling out of an old school medieval wood cut.

See the thing is, even if there is a link between mood and creativity, it is only a correlation.  That means I know lots of people who are creative and have no mental illnesses, and people with mental illnesses who are completely uncreative.

There is nothing creative about a mood disorder in and of itself.

When you are depressed the world is like decaying plastic.  Your mind descends in a glue of failing cognition.  I'd get lost in my own dorm.  All I wanted to do was sleep.  I hurt like hell.  The only thing stopping me from killing myself was that I was too depressed to figure out how to do with it.  Depression is static.  Depression descends your brain into a tar of emotional hell.

I will give you that there is this perfect hypomania (small, not very high mania) where the whole world interconnects and your brain dances and you can create like hell.  Mania is the most seductive drug I have ever met.  It is the pure neurotransmitter form that drugs attempt to replicate.  In comparison to a good mania, a euphoric mania makes ecstasy look like a rainy, Monday morning when you have a cold and there is too much paperwork.

Treatment for bipolar disorder is fairly advanced.  The illness can be deadly because people become addicted to the manias.

The problem is like every drug addiction, you can't control it.  You can't keep that perfect mania, even if you force it by losing sleep on purpose or doing other drugs or any of the ways you can push yourself into a mania.  That perfect mania speeds up.  All of the sudden you can't sit still.  The thoughts that raced through your brain with such synchronicity now speed so fast they break apart into fractions of of images and words.  Your thoughts jump so fast you start out saying or writing something in one paragraph, and finish the sentence with half a thought from paragraphs later.  You can't sit still.    Like the little girl in the red shoes, you feel like you are now dancing till you die.  You try everything to slow down, but without the proper medication, the only thing beyond a mania is a drop into depression.

Unless depression already entered the stew in a mixed mania.  In a mixed mania, your thoughts still race.  The world is unrelentingly barrages you with images and movement but instead of coming with euphoria, you are depressed and manic at the same time.  Every unrelenting emotion tells you the same awful thing about yourself that depression does, but instead of slowing you down till you can hardly move, you speed in your horror, and have more than enough energy to kill yourself.  Mixed manias are the most dangerous times.

Still, people want to keep all of this because they are afraid of losing their creativity, just like drug addicts justify their addictions by being "artists", and how artists justify their drug addictions.   Being stable has been the best thing for my creativity.  I have a steady supply of inspiration.  Instead of working when I am "inspired" and living in hell the rest of the time, I write like any working artist--on a regular. scheduled basis, and as a much happier healthier people.

This myth of the self destructing artist is insidious.  The salamander image originated in a memoir short piece about an experience I had with a group of intellectuals who worked at a used bookstore with me and one who ran pub trivia every week.  There we were, sitting around playing Risk.  I despise Risk, but I had only started working and the store.  I respected and liked this crowd and wanted to be friends with them.

I zoned out to the boredom of Risk, when I tuned into the conversation.  Philip K. Dick never would have written the way he did if he wasn't a drug addict.  Wasn't he brilliant?  I quickly lose small ability to small talk in this debate.

Maybe did never would have written the way he did if he weren't an addict, was it worth him being an addict?  What if he had written differently, but as well, and maintained a long career?  They don't think so.

Sylvia Plath.  Let's take the destructive and depressive goddess herself.  If Sylvia Path had never been depressed, she never would have written The Bell Jar.  Which was worth more, Sylvia Path, or  The Bell Jar?  Say she had never written that particular piece of novelized memoir about suicide attempts and depression.  Say she had written something different, on an even keel.  And since then she wouldn't have stuck her head in a fucking oven and killed herself, she would have had a lot more time to write splendorous things.  What if she never wrote at all?  What was the entire cannon of Sylvia Plath worth next to the games Sylvia never played with her children?

Some of them still said Sylvia's writing was worth more than Sylvia.

After a knock down drag out debate that left me shaking with anger, I had the sudden feeling of being alone in a room.  No.  I wasn't alone  I was hanging out with the myth that had almost killed me.  Surprisingly, I still became their friends.  I never did agree with them on Sylvia though.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Out of the Attic

So I disappeared.

When your brother tells you the last class he took for his law degree would be something you really could do and it wouldn't be that hard, he's lying.

All the same, I am glad I did it.  I took Intro to Mental Disability Law. at New York Law School online.  New York Law School is on the forefront of mental disability law and one of the few schools that offers a degree in it.  Mental Disability Law basically covers those in state run programs like institutions, out patient programs, and group homes, and those in the prison system, and discrimination issues.

In my undergrad years at the University of Michigan, I was devoted to a group, Mentality.  We were fighting stigma and promoting education and awareness of mental health and illness through creative expression.  We wrote skits.  Had dancers.  Singers.  Art.  We had open performances, but we also did workshops, the most gratifying of those being high school classes.  We always had a facilitated discussion afterwards.

Mentality was one of the most meaningful experiences in my entire life.  We only did work that we had direct experience with.  So, someone who had gone mental health issues could write about themselves.  Someone who had gone through someone they had known going through a mental health experience could write about that.  Someone with no direct experience could write from the angle of how mental illness was treated in the culture or be involved in one of the group improvs we used to form skits.  Anyone could perform anyone else's work with permission.

I wrote from all perspectives.

I'm bipolar--or manic depressive.  So you see, I came by Amber in Rebirth honestly.  I am still refining my memoir about growing up in a supportive and eccentric family, and how despite the fact I had all the advantages in the world, I still fell to pieces under the weight of an undiagnosed mental illness.  I am well under control now.

I wrote a testimonial.  I wrote skits about my experiences. I also ran the gamut of bad coping mechanisms from substance abuse to my drug of choice, self harm.

.  I wrote skits about interacting with people I knew.  My friends had been through suicide attempts, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.

Going up on stage was a powerful and validating experience.  I had a woman tell me she had never known anyone else self harmed besides her before.  One woman told me she understood her sisters depression for the first time after hearing my testimonial.  Subsequently, she joined Mentality and did her own testimonial about dealing with her sister's depression.  I once had someone who had seen the show strike up a conversation with me in the grocery store line when I really just wanted to buy my tampons and go curl up in a little ball.

I made the decision some months back that I wanted to re-enter mental health education and advocacy.  My dream would be to start a new Mentality, hopefully as a job.  But in making this decision, I realized the mental illness I was most familiar with was that of the privileged.

Mental disability law is a new and not well represented form of law, despite the constitutional issues involved.  And it is really motherfucking depressing, scary, and infuriating.  The largest mental institutions in the entire world is the U.S. prison system.  It is not set up for and does not want mentally ill patients.  The entire system is severely underfunded.  The staff/patient or prisoner ratios are appalling and often mean medication versus therapy is the go to.  Violence towards the mentally ill is not uncommon.  To make this clear, the insanity defense takes up one percent of mental disability law.  A quarter of those who try it win.  That's .25%.  They, along with all other involuntarily committed, are then relegated to an institution without a maximum sentence.  They are there as long as the staff believes they need to be.

Some admirable group home and half way house situations exist.  However, they are underfunded, and do not represent near the population who could make use of one.

Never have I felt more privileged than when I took that class.

That said, I had never taken a law class, and it was not an introduction to law class.  It ate my life.

All the same, I finished another draft of Will-O-The-Wisp Warps, the sequel to Weaver's Web.  I still have to do some pretty-fying.  But the draft is solid.  Now that I am back in my natural element, you will hear more updates on how it is going along with my general blathering.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Id--The Greatest Fusion Fantasy

Yeah, I am back!  Really this time.  After a discouraging diagnosis of fibromyalgia, i went sideways on traditional medicine and took a class on Mind Body Syndrome.  Unlearn Your Pain by Schubiner is the basic text/workbook.  It uses lost of ISDT methods.  Stop pain cycles triggered by emotions.  It's a little cult but there is a lot of good stuff in there and I am in much better shape

What the fuck? How could I not know? Until its recent web surging, the manwah Id--The Greatest Fusion Fantasy by Kenny A.T. and KIM Deawoo, art by Kenny A.T. did not show up on our great, wide web. Or at least my obsessive searches when creating my blog and web page. I was fusion fantasy. I came in right at the top if you googled "fusion fantasy" To my chagrin, I google myself out of habit and find myself confronted with Id. The Korean comic date3s back to 2006, when I had formulated my fusion fantasy, but had yet to get it together to get a webpage and blog and be something that irritated people I knew.

The manwah (comic) is adapted from the book of the same name.  It is a mixture of traditional swords and sorcery and traditional Chinese elements.  So, in a limited way Id is a form of my fusion fantasy.  I invented fusion fantasy when I was writing Rebirth in 2006, but didn't start up my blog or website till later.  That someone else came up with the term "fusion fantasy" is actually kind of cool.  This may merit further research.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Disney's Beauty and the Beast

After an excruciating two weeks when Willie went to live with my parents on vet orders of hoping to break her of thinking of me as a mate, she is home, and growing feathers. She is dealing better with the no petting than I had hoped, but she likes the tricks she makes up the best. I have been watching Disney's Beauty and the Beast several times a day as it is currently Willie's favorite, so of course it's ingeniousness and genre benders have been on my mind.

So first off: Am I obsessed with the story of "Beauty and the Beast"? Once more, a resounding yes. The story turns on love and understanding. But best of all, it turns on the decision of the girl. The Beast may ask her to marry him, or act his best, but in the end it is Beauty who is the active agent in this story.

In fact, I have my own novelization of "Beauty and the Beast" waiting in the wings. Ah--you see in my bio that I said I had five fantasy books written, and I now have five fantasy books published. So am I twiddling my thumbs? No. I have the next two books in the Weaver Series written and passed through on editing a few times. All right, that's in part because I am new to writing series and originally thought Will-o-the-Wisps Warp and Wooden Weft were the same book. I still have two more books to go (I tell you, I am already beginning to feel these character's are trapped in No Exit in my skull. I also have another "Tam Lin" adaptation and an urban "Red Riding Hood"

Back to Beauty and the Beast. Where to start? The Little Mermaid marked the return to Disney's traditional animation beauty after going cheap for a while in the sixties and seventies. Lush overlaid cels created a three D universe while the use of many small movement drawings create lush life. Who do I even begin to credit? Directors, animators, those who worked on the story? I'm going with Howard Ashman, executive producer and song writer along with Alan Menken on the lyrics and music.

This was Howard Ashman's child. The movie is dedicated to him having created the character's souls. It is dedicated to him because he died of AIDS before the film was finished.

For now, I will leave that and talk about what made this an exceptional adaptation. The characters, of course.

Belle--Beauty--(, voice)is a Disney character like no other. She comes across as older than most, perhaps twenty. Instead of being a well loved princess she is considered artistic and odd in her provincial town. Reading and helping out her father on his inventions, she doesn't feel as if she fits in, and she wants more out of life. Her expressions are wry. She has the Disney aberration of a main female character in that she is sarcastic. Rather than innocent, she comes across as driven by her own decisions. She makes the decision to trade her father being a prisoner of the Beast for herself. Her father and the Beast do not ask it of her.

She has to be the single interpretation of "Beauty and the Beast" I have seen (and as we have discussed I have seen and read a lot) where Beauty runs away. Faced with a frightening and monstrous Beast, she attempts to run away home, screwing her promise. When she is caught in the woods by wolves, she whacks one upside the head with a branch before becoming overwhelmed. As she makes the decision to run, she also makes the decision to go back to take care of the torn up Beast who saved her. She and the Beast begin to come to terms with each other when she stands up to him.

The Beast (Robby Benson, voice)takes on his own character arc rather than a passive figure that Beauty must come to terms with. He may be handsome for a beast--but that is what he is, not a monster. Through the beginning of the movie, he is often seen as walking on all fours. What makes the Beast ugly is his personality, not face. Having despaired of ever being anything but a monster, he has fallen deep into depression that manifests as sudden lashes of anger and misplaced pride. When Beauty stands up to him, yet is kind and funny with him despite his appearance that he can't get over, he learns to be a good person. That is what changes him from being a Beast.

As much as any character in this film, Ashman brings life to Gaston (Richard White)as much as anything else in this film. At the beginning of the movie, Gaston is almost a figure of fun. He is a handsome but boorish, vain, strutting idiot who only highlights what Belle does not want of life. As the movie progresses, however, Gaston becomes a more and more nefarious character in his attempts to control Belle. He is mirrored against the Beast as the Beast becomes more and more human and Gaston becomes a beast.

In the culmination of the movie, Gaston finds out about the Beast, and is jealous of Belle's attachment to him. Gaston creates a scare in the village, convincing them the Beast is dangerous and must be killed. He whips up a fury of mob fear and violence that has nothing to do with the Beast or even Gaston's true ideas about the Beast.

Aptly called "The Mob Song", (Howard Ashman, Alan Menken) one cannot help but feel Ashman knew something about blind persecution as a gay man living with AIDS in 1991 when he created a song far beyond the scope of a children's movie:

"Praise the Lord and here we go!
We don't like
What we don't understand
In fact it scares us
And this monster is mysterious at least
Bring your guns!
Bring your knives!
Save your children and your wives
We'll save our village and our lives
We'll kill the Beast!"

The lesson is that we want to destroy what we do not understand, and that is wrong. The fact that Ashman and Menken have the mob invoke God, misguidedly believing that He is on their side, provides an eerie echo of many real life occurrences. In this movie the Beast may be a big, furry monster, but the lesson this song teaches us isn't just for children, and yet so many of us never learn it. The strident mob mentality lyrics strip bare fear that turns to hate, and the beliefs that we can justify protecting our own when they were never in danger in the first place. The song fits seamlessly into the the character arcs and overall theme of the movie, and instead of standing out as soap boxing, Gaston's mob stands out as perhaps the most frightening villain Disney has ever created.

Like the song, the movie, like all good children's art, is meant for adults as much as children. When Disney set out to make Snow White, the first feature length animated movie, it was not touted as a children's movie, but a work of art. In Beauty and the Beast Disney rises again to this true glory.

The only things that I find annoying in this twice Oscar winning movie are meant for kids, and kids probably like them. Jerry Orbach and Angela Lansbury are among the celebrity voices that round out the supporting cast without intrusively pushing to center stage. From the beautifully handled reprises to the send up to classic Hollywood musicals in "Be Our Guest", the movie shines.

As much as Beauty and the Beast brings us one of the most complex, well animated films Disney has ever made, it also marks a death knell. Beauty and the Beast is the first Disney feature that resorted to computer animation in the title song when Beauty and the Beast dance in an elaborate ballroom.

At the time it was hailed as a great success, and a sequence Disney never could have performed without computer animation. In stark contrast to Belle and Beast's fluid dance, the overly shiny and stiff ballroom offers soaring views of the event, but not much else. Maybe they couldn't have gotten the angles they did with normal animation, but then again, maybe they shouldn't have.

To me, the computer animation is clunky and out of place compared to the grace of drawn animation. Here, it is only a mar in what should be a beautiful and tender sequence. By Aladdin, computer animation was relied on for all the major, epic moments that would have been more amazing and not dysjunct against the characters if they had been done by hand.

I know I said I wouldn't pick, but this isn't a pick. This is a punch to the heart for me. What can I say? I am old school. Computer animation has yet to beat out drawn or claymation for me.

This one jarring moment cannot beat out what is a tenderly rendered movie, and one that I am glad is Willie's favorite.