Sunday, June 24, 2012

Novelizations: Why a Book Is Not a Disney Movie

A few weeks ago I noticed a new display in Barnes and Noble. It may as well have screamed Brave: The Adaptation, featuring not one, not two, but SIX different versions of Brave in book form in front of the usual children's books. One even included a watercoloring set for illustrating the pictures beautifully.

The display first inspired irritation and then fury in me. How dare they release a book adaptation of a Pixar film that hadn't even been released in theaters? Hadn't they heard of spoilers, or why spoilers were given that particular name? Did they WANT kids to skip out on the movie?

Then another thought occurred to me, and I started reading the different books. One was a "junior novelization" told from Princess Merida's point of view as she went through the movie, reading like a teenage fantasy novel. I tried, but I couldn't "see" the witch and her house of wood carvings. Another was a miniature encyclopedia, like an Eyewitness book of Brave's world. Yet they had no background music, voice acting, or visual movement; the book thus felt incomplete. It would be like trying to watch How to Train Your Dragon on mute, without hearing Jay Baruchel's sarcasm or John Powell's Oscar-nominated soundtrack.

That same week I was reading The Lion King, the picture book we have at home, with my younger brother as well as watching the movie five days in a row to prepare him for the stage play. Even though the picture book had dialogue ripped from the movie, reading it wasn't the same as running with Simba and Nala as they sang Elton John's entertaining songs. The words didn't have life or vigor, the reason why we watch the movie and sing along. Nor does this travesty happen to the Lion King, or even Disney exclusively; it happens with any picture book or novelization of an animated movie. Live action can get away with novelizations because we can see real people in the story, not cartoon ones.

One critical complaint of movies, especially animated movies, is that is deprives viewers of imagination, unless you're watching the original Fantasia. When a person goes to see a movie, there are few visual blanks to fill in because the movie provides visuals and sound, which appeal to our strongest senses.

Is that a bad thing?

We don't go to a movie to exercise our brains. We go to a movie to have fun, escape from our problems for two hours, and get immersed in someone else's life. Sometimes a book can't cut it because regular books don't have memorable soundtracks or sarcastic voice actors, even when you're listening to audio. A movie builds a new world for us to jump into.

I still read books, but I don't think I could reread Brave without seeing the movie and hearing the bagpipes firsthand. I won't be able to judge Merida as harshly for making a foolish wish instead of showing her mother why she shouldn't get married to a bore. Now that I've read the books, I'm even more excited and realize why the novelization were released two weeks in before the big premiere.

Pixar wants us to watch the movie, even it has princesses and curses and a controversy with Brenda Chapman. By teaming up with Barnes and Noble, they have succeeded beautifully.

Brave: The Junior Novelization. N.d. Photograph. Target. Web. .

1 comment:

Matt Anderson said...

I don't really agree with the idea that we watch movies to 'turn off our brains'. I agree that we watch it to 'get away', as you say. Adventure, Fantasy & Fun are too much for day-to-day lives.

But the thing is, I write stories. Do you know what I like to do when I'm running out of ideas? I watch movies.
Often there will be a moment, when I'll be watching something and go 'What if the witch said this?'; 'What if he HADN'T made that jump?' or 'What if there was a zombie outbreak RIGHT NOW?!'
Stupid, simple stuff, but it's a jumping off point. That's why I never go to the movies without a notepad and pen. Those simple ideas can go a long way.
In fact, if you REALLY want to get an idea, watch Bad Movies. The number of times you find yourself screaming 'WHY DON'T YOU STOP ACTING LIKE A MORON?!!' is perfect fodder for coming up with much better ideas.

My point is, watching all kinds of movies stirs my imagination. Either by suggesting new connections, or illustrating concepts in a new way. If someone dares to tell me 'watching movies is a great way to switch off their brain,' I'll gladly tell them:
"When your brain turn off, you die. I learned that from The Matrix."