Shrek the Musical headed to Broadway

Shrek the Musical!

Personally, I’m a longtime fan of the Shrek franchise, and let’s just say that I had my doubts about this one. I did. But apparently it was a huge hit this summer in Seattle, where the show debuted. Here’s a taste:

And here’s Larry Osterman, who saw it in Seattle and predicts it will be a Broadway smash:

This show’s going to be BIG when it hits Broadway. I’m talking Hairspray big.

It’s one of the funniest shows I’ve seen in a really long time. The main characters are brilliant, and the writing is very funny.

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One very nice touch in the show is that just as the movie of Shrek had lots of clever references to classic fairy tales, the musical version of Shrek is filled with clever references to other Broadway shows[1]. For instance, there’s a scene where the fairy tale characters are all interviewed by Lord Farquaad (the villain). The characters all stand in a line on stage and Farquaad interviews them using the “G_d Mike” (as Daniel calls it). The characters then sing a clever song about how they want Farquaad to pick them. It’s a pastiche of A Chorus Line.

(Osterman’s commenters disagree, but he certainly seems sold….)

Previews begin on Broadway on November 8th, 2008. You can get ticket information online, if you’re so inclined.

Don’t forget to visit the Shrek Store here at Ty’s for all things Shrek!

And don’t forget—you have until Saturday to enter to win Teddy Ruxpin from Ty’s!

The “new movie classics” include animated faves

It always cracks me up, a little, when someone decides to call something modern a “classic.” I mean, I guess everything—even the classics—were new at some point, but aren’t classics supposed to be old? Are we even allowed to come up with new classics, at this point?

Whatever. I guess it’s possible to have new (old) classics. I may just need another cup of coffee to properly process it.

Anyway, Entertainment Weekly just did a piece on the “100 New Movie Classics,” and they started it off with The Top 25. These are the films which they feel are stand-outs that will withstand the test of time.

What I find notable on this list is that of twenty-five films, three of their picks are animated. Shrek comes in at 25, The Lion King at 20, and Toy Story was number 5. In the grand scheme of what makes a movie a classic, I think three out of twenty-five is pretty impressive. It certainly proves the point that animated films are managing to be true “family films” that the whole family will enjoy, rather than the so-called family films that parents silently suffer through for Junior’s sake.

Then again, I’m not entirely sure I trust this listing, given that they rank both The Matrix and Blue Velvet—two movies I have watched several times and still fear I’m too unhip to truly “get.”

I guess I’ll stick to Toy Story; I’m pretty sure I have a good grasp on that one.

Kid movies no longer for kids?

Personally, I’ve thought it quite nice that “modern” kids’ television and films have had enough adult-worthy content to keep us doting parents from falling asleep while the kids enjoy them. This is hardly a new concept; even back in the early days of Sesame Street there were little jokes and asides and gags inserted specifically for the amusement of the double-digit set.

But last week The Guardian’s Michael Hann officially took issue with children’s films, insisting that they’re missing the mark entirely:

Now, however, too many kids’ film-makers spend too much time worrying about their adult audience, and make movies that pass the kids by. We remember the successes – the likes of Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Shrek and The Incredibles – and forget the many failures, such as 2004′s Shark Tale, which required a working knowledge of mafia movies to negotiate the sub-plots, something surely beyond pre-teen punters.

He goes on to point out movies which “require” (his word) knowledge of purely adult matters to comprehend in their entirety, then takes issue with the most basic of metrics—the run-time:

Even last year’s big animated crit-hit, Ratatouille, failed at the most basic level (not that those handing out the plaudits noticed): it was nearly two hours long, a good 20 minutes more than most of its target audience can comfortably sit through. (For comparison, Finding Nemo clocked in at 100 minutes; Toy Story at a merciful 81 minutes, offering viewers no chance to get bored.)

I’m not sure I agree, here. I mean, what age of kids are we talking about? My kids can sit through a 2-hour movie, no problem. And they’ve been able to from a very young age, I think. As for me, I do recall a couple of lousy kids’ films which shall remain nameless (ahem) during which I wished I’d lied to the kids and told them the theater was closed or the movie was sold out. Now, if I get bored, I just sit there and feel bored; if a child gets bored, maybe he acts up or cries. I guess that’s more problematic from the theater-goers point of view.

But honestly? I don’t know a kid—of any age—or a parent who didn’t love Ratatouille. Isn’t that the point, for the whole family to love it…? I’ve yet to meet the kid who says, “Oh, yeah, I liked it but it was too long!” I guess I’m saying I find Hann’s criticism a little broad.

Tis the season for classics

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and hopefully you got some good shopping in (and don’t forget that you can still get some great deals today only at Ty’s), and now it’s the season for holiday movies on television.

That’s right; it’s time for Charlie Brown’s pitiful Christmas tree; it’s time for everyone to warn Ralphie that he’ll shoot his eye out; it’s time to carve the roast beast; it’s time to watch the Heat Miser and the Cold Miser duke it out. It’s time to watch the movies that herald the magic of the holidays and remind us of the traditions of our childhoods.

Shrek the Halls is coming up this Wednesday night, a new contender for “classic” status. I’ve written about it before, and since then I’ve actually seen it. (ABC was kind enough to send me a screener copy.) We sat down and watched it as a family this past weekend and it was… fine. Not great, no, but okay. Much of the problem lay, I felt, with it only being half an hour long; there really wasn’t time to do any sort of plot development. But if you’re a Shrek fan (we are) it may be worth catching. Will it become a “classic?” I sort of doubt it.

The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik was less charitable in his assessment:

And, so, the entire 22 minutes (running time without commercials) is more or less a primer in how to celebrate Christmas as a family: Decorate the house, get a tree, hang the stockings — with Daddy reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas to the three baby ogres.

But just as the reading starts, Donkey, Puss in Boots, Gingerbread Man and a cast of dozens crash the intimate gathering. Now, after Shrek explodes in anger, he has to learn another lesson about the meaning of family — mainly from Donkey and Fiona.

While the story line speaks to loneliness and celebrates community belonging, the episode ultimately feels as flat and superficial as a mass-produced holiday greeting card. There is nothing nearly as daring or deep as the exploration of existential angst in the landmark Charlie Brown special.

The rest of his piece is an interesting exploration of why the various “true” classics like Charlie Brown have endured, and is worth the read. I’m not sure I ever thought about the role of existential angst in the appeal of the Peanuts gang, but he has a point.

If you want to do your own compare-and-contrast, stay tuned to ABC this week: Tuesday night at 8:00 pm will bring A Charlie Brown Christmas, while Wednesday night at 8:00 pm will debut Shrek the Halls, followed by How the Grinch Stole Christmas at 8:30 pm. No matter which specials appeal to you, do take the time to sit down and watch them with your children. That’s the part they’ll remember, not whether or not the cartoon itself was really any good. At least, that’s what I always remember. And what I tell my kids they’d better remember. Heh.

Imax and DreamWorks teaming up

I was well into my 20s before I saw my first Imax film, because I led a deprived childhood. Also, possibly, because Imax didn’t exist when I was a young thing, and then there was no Imax theater where I was living, so it wasn’t until I was on a business trip to Vancouver that I first got to experience the joy and wonder of a really big screen, surround sound that just about blew me out of my seat, and—of course—those cool plastic glasses that made everything 3-dimensional.

I fell immediately and deeply in love with the entire experience, even though one of the movies I saw was about Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition. I’m not sure that it’s less horrifying to watch freezing men slaughter and eat their dogs when everything is super-huge. (To its credit, that one didn’t have any 3D effects, at least.)

Anyway.

What was my point here? Oh! Yes! I remember now. My point is that Imax is cool, and there’s about to be a whole lot more Imax coolness, because last week DreamWorks signed a 4-movie deal with Imax:

Imax and DreamWorks have agreed to release the studio’s first three 3D motion pictures worldwide in Imax 3D: “Monsters vs. Aliens” in March 2009, “How to Train Your Dragon” in November 2009 and “Shrek Goes Forth” in May 2010. A fourth DreamWorks title, “Kung Fu Panda,” will be released in Imax’s 2D format in June 2008. The films will be distributed by Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc. (VIA).

Earlier this year, DreamWorks announced plans to release all its computer- animated films in 3D starting in 2009. It was welcome news for all that had a stake in the emerging 3D film industry, such as privately held Real D, the leading provider of digital 3D projection technology. At the time, DreamWorks made no specific mention of Imax and its giant-screen format.

“Obviously, DreamWorks is placing a large amount of strategic focus on 3-D and we’re gratified to be part of their launch platform,” Richard Gelfond, co-chief executive of Imax, told Dow Jones.

The piece goes on to discuss how Imax “is now on the threshold of a transition to digital” and looking to secure as many studio deals as possible, which, obviously.

As a parent who still lives in a town without an Imax theater (clearly I just keep setting up camp in the wrong sorts of towns), I wonder what this will mean for “regular” theaters. Will this deal (and similar ones) have any effect on the play time these animated movies—the ones my kids want to see—get at conventional theaters? Will these Imax deals herald the increase in Imax theaters? Because I have to tell you, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings one bit if there was an Imax theater ’round here. It already costs an arm and a leg to go out to the movies—it might as well be a total sensory experience as long as we’re dishing out the bucks.

But I’m going to go on record right now with this: Monsters vs. Aliens in 3D? I will drive to my nearest major city for that one, because that sounds like all kinds of awesome. Erm, I mean, according to my kids. Yeah.