Singing in the Rainhas long been my favorite movie musical. A fun story, awesome dancing, catchy music, great gags and jokes, a wonderfully wicked antagonist, and a look at filmmaking by a film.
But this isn’t going to be a standard movie review; hopefully something deeper. I’ve been trying to wrap my head more and more around how story is told. A while back I stumbled on something I don’t think I’ve seen anybody else talk about with regards to this film. The expectation I have as I write this is that you’ve seen Singing in the Rain – indeed that you are well familiar with it. Because I want to look at the way this story was told, not the story itself.
I loved what it made me feel even thought I didn’t exactly love how I felt (WARNING: this film will cause feelings, especially if you have experienced familial loss).
I loved the themes, the animation, the music, the characters, and the voice acting.
I loved that it never felt as though the filmmakers were trying to “pander” to anybody or assume the audience was stupid. By that I mean that I, as a non-Mexican who has only limited understanding of what the Day of the Dead represents, never felt like I was being coddled nor that the subject matter was too precious that it couldn’t be shared with “outsiders”. Everything played straight.
But what I think I loved most of all was that this showed that two people/writers/groups/films can have the same story idea (on the surface at least), and yet tell completely different stories.
One of the first things that I learned from Brandon Sanderson via the Writing Excuses podcast was that often, the difference between a good story and bad story lay less in the nature of the idea and more in how that idea is implemented. To paraphrase:
A great idea written by a mediocre author will not be as good as a mediocre idea written by a great author.
The understanding that you don’t have to have the most unique, the most entertaining, the most transformative, or the most artistic “idea” to be successful was liberating.
On the surface, Coco could sound very similar to another animated film from the recent past – Book of Life. Both are about the Mexican tradition of the Day of the Dead. Both have music as a central theme, and how music relates to the protagonist. Both have the protagonists’ families as being VERY against music and trying to “force” the protagonist into the family business. Both feature visits by the protagonist to the underworld and a need to escape. Both discuss families and forgiveness. Both have prominent participation of Mexican directors, writers, and actors. Both are CGI.
But these movies are as different I think as one could get for having what seem like similar trappings.
And that’s what I love – both Coco and Book of Life are films worth seeing. Both are worth enjoying. And both have place in helping us learn to forgive our families and in teaching us to make room for the rising generations.
Writing Prompt: Write down five different story ideas in 150 words or less. Generate these ideas from these five sources:
From an interview or conversation you’ve had
From research you’ve done (reading science news, military history, etc)
From observation (go for a walk!)
From a piece of media (watch a movie)
From a piece of music (with or without lyrics)
From an interview or conversation you’ve had: What would Spiderman do if he lived in Kansas? A question that came up during a conversation I overheard and I loved the idea of Spiderman standing in a field, looking around without any buildings to swing from.
From research you’ve done (reading science news, military history, etc): Girls sci-fi adventure story (ala Heinlein Rocketship Galileo or Rolling Stones) featuring asteroid clumps held together by van del Waal forces. Was reading an Ars Technica article about van del Waal asteroids.
From observation: Story of a girl who is homeschooled on a train. Her mother has died or left or wasn’t know or something, but she travels with her father on a train (conductor or engineer or coal man) but the nature of his life is such that they have no permanent home. He lives on the train at night, sleeping in a car, paying for his meals from his salary, and ensuring that she is educated. As they travel, she experiences in real life the locations she’s learning about. Like a personal tour of the historic site in Europe or the US. Haven’t decided which.
From a piece of media: From BOM reading, the story of a man who survives the complete destruction of his people and had to integrate himself into the encroaching society. His people killed themselves off and the wanderer runs into a new civilization. Would he pretend he was mute? How would he survived?
From a piece of music: Jack Johnson song “Situations” on the In Between Dreams album. I’ve always wanted to do sci-fi story that coincides with these situations. There’s a race that lives in the Oort Cloud that does not like us that is directing comets at us to kill off our race. The way of writing the story would be to make it all seem like some natural occurrence (the situation that’s just begun, but is too late, only chance for you controlled by denizens of hate, the one that no one sees dismissed as fate.)