Thursday, February 03, 2011

What's In A Gnome?

Everybody knows that Gnomeo and Juliet is coming. What I want to know is, do you care? How much? You could see this as a warning sign of the apocalypse, I suppose - animated musical Shakespeare with talking garden gnomes?

Not me. As I'm sure everybody realizes, I'm downright irrational about this. It's Disney. Talking about Shakespeare. In wide release. This is the dream! I first mentioned Disney adaptations of Shakespeare back in March, 2006. I absolutely positively dream of a world where children from the time they can be plopped down in front of a television set can watch, over and over again, a DVD of Midsummer Night's Dream or Tempest or Twelfth Night....or yes, even a tamed Romeo and Juliet. Long time followers of the blog know that I've been pursuing that dream down whatever avenue I can. Sure, I think that The Tempest is a much better choice (among other things you can embrace the ending instead of rewriting it!!), but I digress.

Nobody, but nobody, teaches Shakespeare to three year olds. It's madness. Well, duh, obviously not nobody because you all know that I'm doing it so by definition there could be others as well, that's not my point. My point is that my kids, at this age, will in all likelihood never meet another child their age that has the kind of Shakespeare exposure they do. As they get older that's obviously changing, but remember I've been at this game for 4+ years now, and when my 4yr old son runs up to one of his friends and says, "Hey Matt! To be or not to be!" I've yet to see another little 4yr old say, "That is the question!"

But imagine a scenario where you get to lead with this, instead: "Hey, have you taken the kids to the new Disney movie yet?" Now imagine how many Yes answers you get. Now take every 4 yr old that saw the movie and ask them what it was about, and listen to them tell you how Gnomeo and Juliet want to be together but their parents won't let them. Well, being 4yr olds they're more likely to remember the various fart jokes that I'm sure abound, but once you buy the inevitable DVD and they've had a chance to watch it 20 times? And buy the merchandise? My 4yr old can tell you the story of Buzz and Woody or Shrek and Donkey at the drop of a hat, so I have no reason to think that the story of Gnomeo and Juliet would be any different.

I know, sadly, that this is almost certainly not going to happen. I may know that this is a Disney-backed production, but that doesn't mean that they're leading with the Disney brand. I don't see a Magic Kingdom logo and Tinkerbell giving that little sparkly blessing. It's Touchstone. Touchstone is good, don't get me wrong. But Touchstone isn't a merchandising machine, and my kids certainly don't know their Touchstone from their Miramax. I expect that this movie will be average, at best. And when you ask if people have seen it, maybe you'll get half the number of Yes answers that you would if it was a true Disney production. I highly doubt that we'd ever see merchandising. My kids are unlikely to get stuffed garden gnomes.

....but just imagine if they *did*. It makes me happy to dream about that.


Cocoa_Fisch said...

I am so in love with the concept of this film! Having been exposed to diluted Shakespeare at an early age made it much easier for me to grasp it when I started reading the real thing. I think this will open up the magic of Shakespeare to so many people, young and old.

Alexi said...

My 6-year old sister watched "Shakespeare: The Animated Tales" versions of Twelfth Night and Macbeth last night. She really liked them, and seemed to follow the story for the most part, which is impressive given that they use actual Shakespeare lines for the most part.

It's not Disney, I know, but it IS high-quality animated Shakespeare that is accessible to young audiences. If you haven't seen them, Duane, I suggest you check them out. (I haven't looked, but I bet kj has reviewed them on Bardfilm, so forgive me if you knew about them already.)

Duane said...

It's not about the animation, Alexi. It's about that direct line to broad scale cultural acceptance that Disney can provide. Think about it. Cinderella. Pinocchio. Winnie the Pooh. Wizard of Oz. How many people out there know those stories? Most. Most of them will have fond childhood memories of those stories, as a matter of fact. But how many will have read the books? Some, sure. But far from all.

Why can't Shakespeare be in that pantheon? Why can't my kids talk about Beatrice and Benedick in the same way they talk about Shrek and Fiona? Why can't my kids beg me to go to McDonald's every week to get the new Happy Meal toy, and collect all 6 Gnomeo toys? I would *love* that world.