Monday, 22 April 2013

The Nightmare of Franchising

All opinions are my own, and I expect you to respect them - but, whatever you do is up to you. Just don't be an awful git.
Okay, sure, for a J-Pop-orientated blog that hasn't seen the light of the day for a month or so, this is a bloody weird post to come back with but it is a thought that has been eating away at the back of my head for a bit. I've been studying Tim Burton's films lately, for school, so this whole situation, though it has nothing to do with any of the three films I'm studying, kind of came to my attention.
Anyone who's seen Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas will know it as the tale of a conflicted skeleton who is simply bored to death (oh, the irony) of doing exactly what is expected of him - I don't know, maybe that was supposed to reflect Burton's own feelings towards his work at Disney at the time of writing the original poem. The film is generally branded with this image as being a darker kid's film, due to his Hallowe'en-y theme and, doubtless, the fact that the protagonist is a skeleton. It's not traditonal kid's film fair, I'll give you that. But, traditional doesn't really mean anything. In terms of content, theme and tone, it's a family-friendly film - I've loved the film dearly since I was very small and I never once found it even remotely frightening, as the higher-ups at Disney seemed to assume children would. Take out the skeleton and the Hallowe'en, and you've got a charming story about a man, sick of forced expectations, trying to find his own in a whole new field - but you have to add the removed elements back in straight away or you've got no real plot. The theme, however, is entirely universal and is purely another example of Burton portraying the outsider trying to come into his own. That is the entire point of the film.
For those who may not know so much about the sweet stop-motion film, it follows Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King and ruler of the quaint little establishment, Hallowe'en Town, and his newfound boredom in regards to being the man responsible for terrifying people year after year. Of course, being known for one thing and one thing only, and being expected to live only according to that image, is boring, that goes almost without saying. Curious to find out what the rest of the world has to offer, Jack comes across the dreamland that is Christmas Town, singing out in joy, 'Oh, I want it for my own'. He becomes immediately obsessed and devises an innocent-enough plan to 'kidnap Mr Sandy Claws', or Santa, as he is more commonly known, with the intention of taking his own stab at this whole Christmas thing. Naturally, this doesn't go entirely to plan and Jack is forced to overcome a number of obstacles, some pretty standard and some slightly bizarre, though what way round that works probably depends on your perception of things.
Jack's biggest obstacle - dealing with Oogie Boogie who is, admittedly, kinda creepy
The film has become somewhat of a goth cult classic, along with other Burton films (namely Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands, though the idea of the latter being that baffles me too), because of its rich, dark visuals and the inclusions of various typical Hallowe'en ghouls and goblins. Jack himself has become a popular emblem of gothic tastes with young teenagers, with far too many of them wearing big-ass hoodies with his image smashed on top. It's all rather tacky, actually, considering the source. To me, this strange merchandising tool betrays the film entirely. Maybe I'm just being pedantic, but I feel like there's something wrong there. Something really wrong.
I mean, the whole point of Jack was that he was sick of being this scary, ghoulish guy - 'Yet year after year, it's the same routine/ And I grow so weary of the sound of screams' he sings, distressed that he seems to be stuck in an eternal cycle of terrifying children. The whole thing about him finding Christmas Town and being so fascinated was pretty important. It was his way out of that cycle. I don't know, the idea that his image is sold off like that seems to contradict the film's whole message. It's, like, 'Sure, it's good to go out and find yourself but your opinion isn't the one that brings in the cash so we're just going to go against your whole point'.
I haven't got a cue it bothers me at all. Maybe it's because I've loved this film since I was very small, because Jack's story was actually pretty touching. I mean, my life thus far has been a mix of me not getting stuff and people not getting me so (and not in a whiny teenager kind of way - I mean, I'm Autistic, that's sort of how it works), maybe, I could kind of associate with the situation. There was also this kind of purity that I saw in the film and it stuck with me. In my eyes, most of the merchandise is kind like a big, fat shit in the face of what I believed the film to represent.
That being said, I don't hate the merchandising as a whole - just those few naff lines of stuff. Some of the merchandise is actually pretty nice, particular the stuff that involves either Burton drawings or film screenshots. These don't really argue with what the film's about, I find. I mean, most of Burton's drawings of Jack depict a more pleasant looking Jack but, even if they don't, the right kind of tone is there. It's just a lot less...soulless, I find. I actually had a lunchbox once - a tin one with screenshots of the film on it. I think I had it in Primary 6 or 7, maybe, and I really loved it. I don't know where it is now, my mum probably binned it but I just remember really liking it. I actually remember that part of the reason for me liking it was the fact it was a lunchbox of the film and not this character that didn't really seem to match the image I had in my head of Jack. My best friend had some stuff, like notebooks and things, that were more like the latter, cause she had a stage where she was pretty into the film, but I still preferred the other stuff. It seemed truer to the source, I guess.
The lunchbox in question...I found the picture on Google, though
I think it's just a personal thing because I had this very specific idea of what the film was about. I think it's also probably to do with the fact that it kind of shows that people aren't, maybe, taking in the actual meaning of the film. It's to do with people's perception of things, I suppose. It's just that there is a deeper context to the film, without reading too much into it, that people seem to ignore. I don't know. Maybe I'm reading too much into it. I mean, Jack has a pretty nice design - he's a pretty distinct character. But, hey, who said franchising had to be good? Franchising is just a giant money-making scheme, that's the point. I mean, it's Disney franchising too. Why am I surprised?
I do have to say, however, Kingdom Hearts portrays Jack qutie well. I haven't actually ever manged to play a Kingdom Hearts game long enough to get to that level (my sister took the PS2, my DS is dying of death and it's not in the PSP game) but, from what I've seen, their depiction of him's quite honorable. He seems to have the right amount of optimism and cheeriness - they make him out to be a nice guy and that's what's important. He's got the right kind of hopeless Ed Wood-y optimism about him (though, that probably only makes sense if you've seen Ed Wood - I mean the Tim Burton film, not the actual guy) in that regardless of how much he fails, he's still this really positive guy. Oh, Nomura games, can you do any wrong? (seriously, though, Nomura and Burton - what a combo)
Oh, Goofy is scarier than normal

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