Robert Downey, Jr., is ‘Dolittle’

Featuring a trove of Harry Potter film franchise stars as animal voices, the new Dolittle movie features Robert Downey, Jr., in the title role. I read the twelve books to my children before we met the Boy Who Lived and they loved them so much that they named every vehicle we owned then and in coming years — cars, vans, even a used RV — after favorite Dolittle animals. I don’t recall offhand anything like the adventure the Dr Downey-Dolittle film is about (he is searching for a cure to a disease Queen Victoria has) but the high seas moments evident in the trailer above are a Hugh Lofting signature.

I had to laugh when I saw that MuggleNet asked in its article about the film and its Potter connections, ‘Is Dr Dolittle a Magizoologist?‘ Louise Freeman, Hogwarts Professor and Dolittle authority, asked and answered that question back in 2016 in a brilliant piece called ‘Could Fantastic Beasts Be Dr Dolittle with a Wand?‘ I highly recommend it and look forward to Dr Freeman’s revisiting the subject in light of the new film.

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War

The trailer above is to a five part documentary film series that the movie makers hope to sell to Netflix or Amazon. It is the adaptation for the small screen of Joseph Laconte’s history, A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-1918. Judging from the participants in this trailer, most notably Malcolm Guite and Michael Ward, and from the quality of the recreations shown, it looks to be a series well worth watching.

I have learned, though, that the film-makers need money to finish off Part One and to make the sale to the streaming movie platform owners. If you wish to contribute or just to learn more about the project, check out the on-line pitch here.

If you’d prefer to hear the author speak on the topic of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and how their experiences as soldiers in WWI shaped their lives and their friendship, not to mention the Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, you can just watch the talk below. Enjoy!

Shared Text: Generation Hex Marketing

My alma mater, sometimes called ‘Chicagwarts’ because of the Indiana limestone castle-esque buildings on the main quadrangle, is pulling out all the stops to convince Generation Hex students (well, that generation’s younger brothers and sisters) who are applying to college to look their way. This promotional video, ‘Fantastic Feats,’ is a straight take from the Marauder’s Map first shown in the Warner Brother’s adaptation of Prisoner of Azkaban:

The ‘Fantastic Feats’ title and image, of course, are lifted from the Fantastic Beasts films as conceived by Warner Brothers.

File this, then, under ‘Shared Text,’ Mina Lima file. There simply is no other set of books and film adaptations that marketers can use with equal confidence that everyone seeing them will get the allusion (and enjoy it). Please share in the comment boxes below any ‘Shared Text’ references you have seen in the college admissions field or elsewhere!

Harry Potter, Live in Concert!

From the SnitchSeeker press release:

The Harry Potter Film Concert Series returns to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 in Concert, the second to last film in the Harry Potter series. On May 30 at 7:30 pm, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra will perform Alexandre Desplat’s incredible score live from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 while the entire film plays in high-definition on a 40-foot screen.

In 2016, CineConcerts and Warner Bros. Consumer Products announced the Harry Potter Film Concert Series, a global concert tour celebrating the Harry Potter films. Since the world premiere of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Concert in June 2016, more than 2 million fans have enjoyed this magical experience from J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World, which is scheduled to include over 1,000 performances across more than 48 countries worldwide through 2019.

Talk about retro! Watching a film with live music being played… Has anyone seen one of these concerts? How did it differ with the usual metroplex viewing experience?

A J. K. Rowling ‘Beasts’ Revenge Theory

On the thread discussing ‘J. K. Rowling Still writing Fantastic Beasts 3 Screenplay,’ David Llewellyn Dodds, wrote, “What about the possibility of an analogue of ‘director’s cut’ in the form of ‘Rowling novels following movies’?” I started to write a reply but it soon became post length. In brief, I think this is a wonderful possibility and at least as unlikely as it would be both delightful and characteristic of Rowling the Subversive.

I trust David to correct me if I misunderstand what he is suggesting, which in my version goes something like this:

Novelists have their popular stories ‘adapted,’ which is to say ‘transformed, changed, and diminished,’ by movie makers. The original creators usually have little say in these medium metamorphases which are done by a screenwriter or a team of such, and, much more often than not, the new story is what most people remember of the work rather than the original creation and point which was the book. Nabokov was asked to write the screenplay for the first Lolita adaptation, he complied, they ignored his work (!), and he eventually published his ‘adaptation.’ Only Nabokov scholars, of course, have read it or are even aware of it.

So what do novelists get? They get a huge payday both in the form of payment for movie rights and from royalties (a successful film even if a bad or distortive adaptation, and, again, due to the opposing nature of the media, imaginative vs straight sense perception, all adaptations are inherently distortive and diminishing – will revive interest in a book indefinitely).

What they lose is larger public understanding of their work. Readers who come to the original work after seeing the film inevitably ‘see’ the film imaginatively in light of the screened images they have already consumed which supplants their capacity to envisage what the author has written. Hence the resistance of some novelists and their estates — think J. D. Salinger and Catcher in the Rye and the Tolkien estate — to Hollywood perversion of their creative visions.

Is there a way out of this bind except refusing the Tinsel Town galleons? Not really, especially if the author is beholden to charity commitments as Rowling is, or if the film rights to a work have been sold long ago as with Fantastic Beasts (with little thought perhaps given to its adaptation), or if an Estate faces family members who crave film gold and royalty revival (I think, forgive me, of the C. S. Lewis group, alas).

David’s suggestion, though, is that Rowling has a way of exacting creative revenge. Her reverse play, if I understand David, would be to take part in the screenwriting collaborative process and submit to all the changes and cuts the director and various Executive Producers insist are necessary. Something approximating her original vision makes it to the screen and she (her brand as well as her Volant and Lumos charities) gets a huge payout.

Then — and this is the defamiliarizing twist on the usual formula — Rowling publishes the novel versions of these stories. This publication-post-film-making has the following effects:

(1) A Dickensian ‘New Edition’ Payday: Dickens famously sold his novels in three chapter bundles as he wrote them, then repackaged and sold the complete book, and then came out with various ‘Collector’s Editions,’ all of which issues of the same book gave him a new income stream. Rowling, by publishing her truly original novels after the film screenplay collaborations, gets paid twice for her work. And, forgive me, these novels would sell the way the Harry Potter books did because they are Wizarding World stories from the hand of the One and Only.

(2) Exposure of the Screenwriting ‘Sausage Making’ Process: By giving us the true story, readers who have seen the movies (which, frankly, is ‘all readers’) will inevitably be saying as they read, “Oh, wow! That was isn’t the film! Why did they cut that out? That’s really important….” Rowling will exact revenge for all novelists who cannot believe what was cut from their stories in the film making and what made up in conformity with film-making formula (“A chase scene or two! In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe!”) but who cannot complain because they took Babylon’s money in exchange for rights to their work. Writing or just publishing the true stories, ‘true’ in the sense of fidelity to the original vision of the author of course,after the films shows just how little of that vision survives the inane demands and story-butchery of film making. Which is genius, frankly, and a characteristically Rowling-esque subversive twist on the power holders. Think Hermione and The Quibbler.

(3) Revelation to Film Devotees of Media Reality: The follow-up novels, more importantly if much less obviously, might also expose to the more thoughtful reader the inherently diminishing and distortive effects of film adaptations. Movie lovers are — without exception in my limited experience — blissfully unaware of the iconoclastic quality of the medium they prefer, a story-telling medium that serves and reflects the materialist and inherently secular ideas defining the historical period in which we live. By reducing by transforming imaginative immersion to sense perception, all that films can communicate in the end is fear or emotional sentiment, hence the importance of physical beauty and the inevitable chase. Rowling’s reverse-play, by giving the reader of the true story a much greater experience than the film version, would be revealing the paucity of the movie medium.

Unfortunately, this last falls victim to the same trap that the usual sequence of novel-to-film gives readers. Rowling’s feast for the reader imagination and the much broader spectrum of interior experience and transformation in Newt Scamander stories will inevitably all be restricted in reader minds to their mental pictures from the films of what Newt, Jacob, Queenie, Tina, Gellert, Albus, and Company look like and behave.

There’s really no winning here, in other words, on that score; the Salinger Option is the only way to retain control and its ascetic quality is all but anathema in this time period.

But what a delight if Rowling would publish her Scamander-Grindelwald stories as novels ex post facto the film versions! We readers would get the real thing and Warner Brothers would be exposed as the corporate story prostitution factory that it is. I have to doubt very much Rowling will do this as characteristic a rwist as it certainly would be, but I can imagine few more exciting possibilities. Thank you, David, for the idea — and forgive me if this idea is not what you meant!