Theme Parks and Alternative Film Forms

Disney Hollywood Studios' Fantasmic

When going on a vacation to the Disney Parks there is less time to take in movies, Disney or otherwise, however, that does not mean there isn’t fodder to sate your cinematic thirsts while there. Here are some of the sights I saw that met that requirement.

The Magic Kingdom

Mickey’s PhilharMagic

3D is a theme at many of these cinematic attractions, I stumbled upon this attraction with little knowledge of what it was but I absolutely loved it. It’s a great mix of new and old of Disney and music and it’s brilliant.


Disney 360 presentations is the preferred mode of conveying the aural-visual message crafted by each nation’s tourism board that so chooses to have a film in the park.

With the 360 the name is very indicative: there are projectors and screens above you that surround you on all sides. At times the visual you get is panoramic at others these screens show different imagery, which encourage you to turn yourself about such that you don’t sit to watch said film but rather stand in rows with a bar to lean on should you need it. I certainly tried to take in as much as I could here. The countries in Epcot with 360 films are China, Canada and France.

The only country offering a tourism film not in 360 is Norway whose 5 minute short is added on to the end of their water ride. Ironically, it’s also my favorite of the films because it’s the most artistic and least hey-this-was-commissioned-by-the-tourism-board film of the bunch.

Yet this isn’t the only place Epcot incorporate moving imagery. In Mexico there’s the Gran Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros (Panchito, Jose Carioca and Donald Duck) where in they appear animated on screens many times, in all directions during your boat ride which is a great way to get a chuckle and cool off.

Disney Hollywood Studios

Star Tours

Is clearly one of the more popular attractions at the park being a Star Wars flight simulator. The imagery is great and there’s little actual motion needed to suggest the movements.

Another example of this if you’re really park-hopping can be found at Universal in the Spider-Man ride.

Muppet-Vision 3D

Is a great little show with jumping out at you 3D imagery mixed with live performers (i.e. Muppets) in a wonderful theater which is built to replicate the Muppets’ performance space.


Is the night-time spectacular that closes the park. It features one of the largest conglomerations of characters you’re likely to find and features many images both old and new projected onto a wall created by water jets.

There are also live-action shows like some stunt demonstration shows Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular and Lights, Motors, Action; a great car stunt demonstration show.

Then in this more film-centric park there are more literal films and exhibits like Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream and The Magic of Disney Animation.

This is all just based on what I saw while I was at the park, there were a few things I missed that likely qualify. Ultimately, yes, it is a getaway but that’s not to say there aren’t alternate film forms that can be observed and admired both here and at other parks. Be on the lookout for them.

Short Film Saturday: The Brothers Quay

Here again I present to you one short, somewhat representative work of brilliant, bold, experimental, surrealist animators. This short is the results of a BBC commission that was subsequently rejected. No doubt it was a case of not truly understanding who the artist are.

For more information on them visit their Wikipedia page. If interested there are several collections of their work. You can purchase, rent or look them up online.

Short Film Saturday: Jan Švankmajer

Yet again I’d prefer to introduce you to an animator through one quick example of his style rather than a barrage. Should you enjoy it there are many examples of his works on Youtube and elsewhere on the web.

Below you will find some biographical information on Švankmajer, which accompanies the YouTube video:

Švankmajer (born 4 September 1934 in Prague) is a Czech surrealist artist. His work spans several media. He is known for his surreal animations and features, which have greatly influenced other artists such as Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, The Brothers Quay and many others.

Švankmajer has gained a reputation over several decades for his distinctive use of stop-motion technique, and his ability to make surreal, nightmarish and yet somehow funny pictures. He is still making films in Prague at the time of writing.

Švankmajer’s trademarks include very exaggerated sounds, often creating a very strange effect in all eating scenes. He often uses very sped-up sequences when people walk and interact. His movies often involve inanimate objects coming alive and being brought to life through stop-motion. Food is a favourite subject and medium. Stop-motion features in most of his work, though his feature films also include live action to varying degrees.

A lot of his movies, like the short film Down to the Cellar, are made from a child’s perspective, while at the same time often having a truly disturbing and even aggressive nature. In 1972 the communist authorities banned him from making films, and many of his later films were banned. He was almost unknown in the West until the early 1980s.

Today he is one of the most celebrated animators in the world. His best known works are probably the feature films Alice (1988), Faust (1994), Conspirators of Pleasure (1996), Little Otik (2000) and Lunacy (2005), a surreal comic horror based on the work of Edgar Allan Poe and the Marquis de Sade. Also famous (and much imitated) is the short Dimensions of Dialogue (1982), which shows Arcimboldo-like heads gradually reducing each other to bland copies (“exhaustive discussion”); a clay man and woman who dissolve into one another sexually, then quarrel and reduce themselves to a frenzied, boiling pulp (“passionate discourse”); and two elderly clay heads who extrude various objects on their tongues (toothbrush and toothpaste; shoe and shoelaces, etc.) and use them in every possible combination, sane or otherwise (“factual conversation”). His films have been called “as emotionally haunting as Kafka’s stories[1].”

He was married to Eva Švankmajerová, an internationally known surrealist painter, ceramicist and writer until her death in October of 2005. She collaborated on several of his movies including Faust, Otesánek and Alice. They had two children, Veronika and Václav

Short Film Saturday: Jirí Barta

Rather than another marathon I will give you one example of the work of Jirí Barta. If you enjoy it an entire collection of his shorts is available on YouTube (at the moment). Below is the description found on Vimeo. Enjoy!

”Laid-off old mannequins spend their cracked and broken lives in an old, abandoned warehouse. New mannequins are brought to the warehouse. They are old as well, but from a younger generation. The two groups must live together, but it’s not easy at all.” written by Anon, taken from IMDB

Jirí Barta- Klub odlozenych (The Club of The Laid Off) (1989) from off the text on Vimeo.

Short Film Saturday: Guy Maddin

On occasion on these posts I think it would make sense to feature a filmmaker who excels in the short film form. Therefore, I figure who better to start with than Guy Maddin.

This is not to say Maddin’s feature work isn’t brilliant, it certainly is. I have not yet seen all of it but I started with Brand Upon the Brain and didn’t expect that to be exceeded and then it was by My Winnipeg. For my reaction to a few other features go here.

Yet I’d have to say I almost prefer his short works because they can be that much more explosive and consistently brilliant and for those unfamiliar with Maddin it is here that you can get a sense for his style and see if its to your liking before investing your time and potentially money in them.

So below you will find many of Maddin’s short films culled from many locations about the internets enjoy! Before proceeding please note that quite a few of these films are NSFW (Not Safe for Work) and Parental guidance is suggested. Also, since I found so many this post also constitutes a Make Your Own Film Festival entry which is a series I’ll add to quite a bit soon.

The Heart of the World

Sombra Dolorosa

Spanky: To The Pier and Back

Zookeeper Workbook


Sissy Boy Slap Party

The previous films I first viewed thanks to a blog post by Roger Ebert. The film below is available on The National Film Board’s (Canada) site.

Now here are some I found through YouTube searches:

It’s My Mother’s Birthday Today

Hospital Fragment

Fancy, Fancy Being Rich

Odilon Redon or The Eye Like a Strange Balloon Moves Towards Infinity

Send Me to the ‘Lectric Chair

A Trip to the Orphanage

Odin’s Shield Maiden

Weird Wednesday #2- Guy Maddin

So in digging through Netflix one day I found out that one of the most idiosyncratic, unique and creative filmmakers in all the world, Canadian Guy Maddin, has quite a few films available to stream.

Now it is rather difficult to encapsulate Maddin’s style but I will attempt to do so as to get a brief understanding of who he is and what he’s about in part to understand my disappointment in the first film.

Maddin’s films usually employ voice over, they are typically shot and styled like an antiquated film whether it be a silent, early sound or other classical techniques are employed, the films cuts quickly and chaotically at times like dreams, films may be tinted or in black and white, in terms of cinematography strange angles and overexposed imagery is not uncommon. Story-wise some sort of family drama is taken to the nth degree and the strange is commonplace and treated as such and not exploited. Due to the emphasis on technique and narrative there is usually not a dependence on performance.

Twilight of the Ice Nymphs

Pascale Bussiéres, Shelley Duvall, Ross McMillan and R.H. Tomson in Twilight of the Ice Nymphs (1997)

First, a disclaimer: Netflix claims that they stream both this and Archangel as one, they do not. Now the observations I made on Maddin’s usual style are based on viewing many titles long and short. This film is a departure from that formula, however, that is not why it fails to compel in my estimation.

In terms of camera-work and editing the film has a very simplistic zero degree approach most of the time. The camera does not draw attention to its presence, however, the cinematography does manage to be bothersome. You’ve heard of desserts being too sweet, well the same applies for eye candy. The colors are lush the sun-like light is plentiful but the palette is too crowded with brashness and boldness and blown out images such that its hard to look at.

Maddin’s dialogue, as well as his narration, can be quite poetic and beautiful as is evidenced by My Winnipeg, however, while the text of this film on the surface read wonderfully it is rarely performed as such. Furthermore, when your text is quasi-Shakespearean in terms of imagery and few of the actors carry it off convincingly it also becomes an assault on the ears.

Granted there are good performances (Krige and Duvall) and the narrative which starts non-existent does eventually reveal itself, however, it takes far too long and at that point interest has been lost.



Now, before proceeding I have included video links to some shorts below which will give you a taste of this man’s style and why it’s so easy to fall in love with it.

Careful is the kind of film that plays right into Maddin’s wheelhouse, for lack of better words this is the kind of film you expect from Maddin. The tale is a strange one taking place in a fictional Teutonic village in the Alps wherein all loud noises are frowned upon lest they cause an avalanche. This reserve permeates the fabric of the city and infiltrates the private lives of its people.

All the families seemingly have skeletons in their closets which are slowly but surely brought to light. However, things don’t play out in a typical fashion. there is heavy usage of tinting, odd angles and a decidedly 1930s approach and technique to all aspects of the film.

The film starts off with the narrator talking over cuts in a mock-educational film wherein life in the town is described. The tale ends up being split into a part one and part two despite only running 99 minutes. Yet with this throwback style the narrative is not reserved as there are severed limbs, murder, suicide, incest and more.

Despite how disparate in quality and style I found two films Maddin is always exciting and is worth getting to know if you have the stomach for his brand of weird.

My Winnipeg (trailer)

Sparky: To the Pier and Back

Maybe the best illustration of how his mind works. A simply concept, shot uniquely and cut frenetically.

Sombra Dolorosa