How To Train Your Elephant

The climactic final scene of Dumbo, with the song “Test Drive” from How To Train Your Dragon.

I watched Dumbo last night with my daughter, and I thought of this. I assumed someone else had done it already, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. So I made this.

And then Disney had youtube block the video, even though the footage came from youtube in the first place…

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Jem and the Holograms, the movie

Jem: The Movie

I didn’t grow up watching Jem, because that was for girls, and I was busy watching Transformers and GI Joe.

I started watching it on the Hub a few years back with my young daughter, and it turned out to be a really cool show.

To the makers of the new film, here are my thoughts on a Jem film:

* It should be family friendly, not just for teenagers. That means romance, but not characters sleeping around and swearing.

* Don’t be so embarrassed about all the old fashioned 80’s stuff that made Jem unique and try to update it to be modern-day “cool.” That would end up pleasing no one.

* There have to be music videos. Preferably in the film itself like the show did, but if it seems too cheesy then at LEAST the entire credits need to be music videos.

* I’d really recommend just being audacious and not apologizing for what makes Jem, Jem. If you do it right, people will still think it’s cool.

* These are musicians, they can and should still dress in outrageous costumes when performing. No, it doesn’t have to be 80’s style clothes though. But don’t go for subtle or classy.

* Make Jem’s songs a little better than the Misfits. The show had a strange problem where the Misfits’ music was actually better… Jem’s music is all about optimism, the Misfits music is about selfishness. Selfishness can be edgy, but optimism can be made cool, and ultimately Jem’s music should mean something and the Misfits might SEEM cool, but the audience should prefer Jem’s stuff.

* If you keep the love triangle with Jem/Jerrica and Rio, try to make him seem less like a cheater somehow… he can be attracted to Jem, flirt with her, have some internal struggle… but not just make out with her and not tell Jerrica. And try to come up with a GOOD reason that he is kept out of the secret in the first place.

* It doesn’t have to be a big part of the story, but Jem taking care of the orphans is a huge part of who she is. Her success is to help others, not herself.

* Stormer of The Misfits is an important character. She’s the conscience of their group, although often doesn’t get listened to. She goes along with them but doesn’t approve of their evil stuff. She’s weak in the face of pressure, but struggles with doing the right thing. Not all villains are just evil for evil’s sake, and Stormer really helps show that. Not that we want her TOO sympathetic.

* Pizazz, leader of the Misfits, has serious daddy issues, because he both spoils her and neglects her. This doesn’t excuse her behavior but it explains why she’s so selfish and borderline sociopathic.

* Kimber, Jerrica’s sister, struggles with jealousy issues, and is susceptile to inadvertantly betraying her, especially if Stormer connects with her, and especially if BOTH of them are being manipulated by the other Misfits.

* To be honest, the rest of the Holograms are pretty interchangeable.

* It wouldn’t bother me if the character names are changed, although I’d suggest keeping Jerrica Benton, and Starlight Records.

* I hope for the casting of the Holograms that there is an ethnically diverse cast, as in the show, for aesthetic reasons if nothing else.

* Synergy represents the hardest element to update for the modern day. She’s a sentient AI. Will part of the plot be wondering if she’s friendly or going to go all Skynet on the world? If not, then you may want to establish her trustworthiness early on so people aren’t waiting for her HAL moment.

* Synergy is too powerful to just be in charge of making holograms for rock musicians. How did Jerrica’s father build her? How about his foundation was working on a supercomputer designed to, say, analyze the world economy and eliminate world hunger or something philanthropic, because that was his schtick. Science-fiction handwave: she becomes self-aware when her components grew to a certain size… but only reveals her existence to Jerrica.

She is kept a secret because the world isn’t ready or something… but she will help Jerrica become Jem, because it provides income for the Starlight Foundation, which helps orphans and is tackling other issues as well. That’s what she gets out of it. She lives to help. Originally the hologram stuff was part of Starlight Records R&D, and Synergy is part of Starlight Foundation, its Jerrica that hooks them together.

I think the whole thing can be made plausible without too much time wasted on exposition, and further Jerrica’s character goal: she’s doing what she does to help others, not because she personally wants to be a rock star. That contrasts with the Misfits who are just in it for money and glory.

* If you need to amp-up Eric Raymond’s villainy, I suppose he could be responsible for Jerrica’s father’s death, as part of his takeover of Starlight Records, but make sure the Misfits don’t know about it. The climax of the film could be the discovery of this fact, and Jem takes him down with horrifying holograms, and the Misfits pitch in to help as well (although it’s just a temporary alliance, leaving them as antagonists for the sequel).

* Normally I like to have the actor also provide the singing, but that’s not always feasible. In this case I think it’s VERY important to pick singers that will commit to not just the music in the film, but also new Jem albums, voicing for toys, etc.

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How to Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular

Ticketmaster may suck, with all their stupid fees, but this show was worth attending. I’m sure any seat in the house would be good, but we ended up getting row 4 which was actually the front row because the first three were blocked off. We got a GREAT view of the dragons. We were also on the side, instead of the “front.” In my opinion, it is far better to sit on the side in the middle because of the way the stage is set up.

If you sit in the “front” at the end, you will probably have the best view of the two major “flying” scenes. But all the rest of the show is probably best from the side.

No technical missteps at all. The guy that played Hiccup was a little whiny for my taste, but the humans are not the stars of this show.

My five-year-old daughter was scared at the initial blast of (real) fire that was 10 feet right in front of us. Very hot on the eyeballs. But after that fright (and who could possibly blame her? It makes sense to be afraid of surprise fire!) she just LOVED the show. She loves the film and loves Toothless and Meatlug (the Gronkle dragon).

My wife had never seen the movie but she also loved the show.

I ponied up $10 more for the program, and that was worth it, because she really got a lot of enjoyment out of that as a souvenir.

There’s some cool merch, toys and such, for sale, so if you bring your kids, either expect to spend another $20 each on a toy (yes, pricy!) or make sure you get them some merch somewhere else FIRST so you can say, “Honey, you already have a Toothless toy! You don’t need another one!”

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