Understanding fairy tales

Hans Christian Andersen’s immortal Snow Queen

hans-christian-andersen-y-los-cuentos-tristesA fairy tale like “The Snow Queen” is a fictional story that may feature folkloric characters (such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, witches, giants, and talking animals) and enchantments, often involving a far-fetched sequence of events.

Beautiful scenery, a classic story and great animation quality from Russian animation company Wizart ensure that their classic adventure film adaptation of The Snow Queen appeals to an international audience, and has been dubbed into Afrikaans by Rina Nienaber and released in South Africa by Indigenous Film Distribution.

Fairy tales have their roots in the oral tradition, and across many different cultures and continents, you will find fairy tales with very similar plots, characters and motifs.

Fairy tales also tend to take on the characteristics of their location, through the choice of motifs, the style in which they are told, and the depiction of character and local colour.

Stith Thompson, an American scholar of folklore, defined the fairy tale as: “a tale of some length involving a succession of motifs or episodes. It moves in an unreal world without definite locality or definite creatures and is filled with the marvellous. In this never-never land, humble heroes kill adversaries, succeed to kingdoms and marry princesses.”

While there are many definitions out there, one element that is universally agreed-upon is that fairy tales do not require fairies. As Thompson points out, talking animals and the presence of magic seem to be more common to the fairy tale than fairies themselves.

The characters and motifs of fairy tales are simple and archetypal: princesses and goose-girls; youngest sons and gallant princes; ogres, giants, dragons, and trolls; wicked stepmothers and false heroes; fairy godmothers and other magical helpers, often talking horses, or foxes, or birds; glass mountains; and prohibitions and breaking of prohibitions; long, arduous journeys’ and the setting of nearly impossible tasks.

In many fairy tales, it is common to explore human weaknesses and celebrate human strengths. Also common is the battle between good and evil, and light and dark, as well as the exploration of people’s shared experiences, deepest desires and fears.

Children subconsciously recall the messages inherent to fairy tales as they grow older, and are forced to cope with real injustices and contradictions in their lives. Some fairy tales are based on legends that incorporated a spiritual belief of the culture in which they originated, and were meant to emulate truth.

Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” (“Snedronningen” in Danish) was first published in December 1844 in the collection “New Fairy Tales, First Volume”. The story centres on the struggle between good and evil as experienced by Gerda and Kai. It is a story of trials and reward, based on a popular Norse legend of the Ice Maiden and featuring the invincible power of love, a recurrent theme in Andersen’s works.

The story is one of Andersen’s longest and most highly acclaimed stories. It is regularly included in selected tales and collections of his work and is frequently reprinted in illustrated storybook editions for children

The World of Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen was born in Denmark, on 2 April, 1805. He achieved worldwide fame for his innovative and influential fairy tales. “The Little Mermaid”, “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Princess and the Pea” remain classics of the genre. He died in Copenhagen on 4 August, 1875.

Andersen’s work first gained recognition in 1829, with the publication of a short story. He followed this with a play, a book of poetry and a travelogue. The promising young author won a grant from the Danish king, allowing him to travel across Europe and further develop his body of work. In 1835, Andersen began writing fairy tales. Over the following decades, he continued to write for both children and adults, penning several autobiographies, travel narratives and poetry extolling the virtues of the Scandinavian people.

The sources of his children’s stories were mostly Danish folk tales. As a writer, his objective was less to preserve the tales, than to create new literary works based on folklore. At first, critics and consumers overlooked volumes that included the now-classic stories like “The Little Mermaid” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. In 1845, however, English translations of Andersen’s folktales and stories began to gain the attention of foreign audiences. He also forged a friendship with Charles Dickens, whom he visited in England in 1847 and again a decade later.

His stories became English-language classics and had a strong influence on subsequent British children’s authors, including AA Milne and Beatrix Potter. Over time, Scandinavian audiences discovered Andersen’s stories, as did readers in the US, Asia and across the globe.

In 2006, an amusement park based on his work opened in Shanghai. Many of his stories have been adapted for stage and screen, including the hugely popular animated version of “The Little Mermaid”.

Andersen’s impact on children’s literature has been significant. His fairy tales are translated into dozens of languages, and his most famous characters, such as the Little Mermaid, the Little Match Girl, and the Ugly Duckling, are known all over the world. The fairy tales have been made into picture books, plays, films, operas, and merchandise, and Andersen’s life has become the subject for theatre and film.

Many children’s writers have acknowledged their debt to Andersen as model and inspiration. The significance of Andersen may be illustrated by the fact that the world’s most prestigious prize in children’s literature, the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, is named after him, and that his birthday, 2 April, is celebrated as International Children’s Book Day.

Writing an animation film based on The Snow Queen

Maxim Sveshnikov“When I started writing the script for “The Snow Queen” I never imagined that I would direct the film,” says writer director Maxim Sveshnikov, who began his career in animation features as a writer on Alyosha Popovich & Tugarin Zmey (CTB Film Company, Melnitsa Animation Studio) and later he established himself as a successful filmmaker, writing numerous scripts for feature and animated films such as Dobrynya & The Dragon, Ilya & The Robber (CTB Film Company, Melnitsa Animation Studio), “Sapsan, The Last Fairytale Hero (Era Vodoleya Studio), Kisses Of Fallen Angels (Constanta Film Company),“Star Dogs 3D (CNF Studio), and The Magic Goblet Of Rorim Bo (Renovatio Production). Prior to directing The Snow Queen, Sveshnikov worked as a director on animated features “Sapsan” and “The Three” (Era Vodoleya Studio).

”After joining the project as a scriptwriter, I worked on it daily, and the more time I spent at the keyboard, the more the details were worked out in my mind, and the more inspired I became by the story.

Characters came to life and were painted in full colour. Fascinating details of the story emerged, as did lots of witty dialogue. I was captivated by the atmosphere of this new fantasy world filled with fun, magic and secrets.

When the concept of the Snow Queen’s bewitched frozen world was bedded down, I imagined little Gerda in the middle of boundless snow-covered fields and that was when I understood that this was a story I could make real.

I wanted so much to watch it myself, and to share this touching tale on the big screen with a wide audience. That was when I persuaded the producers to allow me to work on the film as the director. Making an animated feature in 3D is definitely a challenge, but the more difficult a project is in the beginning, the more fascinating and interesting the story is at the end.”

“Many people asked me why I chose this story. In 2008, I was looking for a moving fairy tale to produce. That is when I met Maxim and Vadim Sveshnikov and asked them to write a script about the Snow Queen. The first draft was finished within a month and we formed a project team for the production,”says producer Yuri Moskvin.

”That was when the reasons for making the film became quite obvious to me. It’s a well-written, fascinating story, we had a professional team on board, and there was no other story about the Snow Queen in production.

We wanted to produce a movie with strong characters, as well as a controversial and intriguing story that evokes strong emotions. We adapted Hans Christian Andersen’s tale to meet the tastes of today’s audience: we have a new storyline, new characters and a new style.

As the story turned out to be quite international, we decided to produce it in the best traditions of world animation in stereoscopic 3D format, which is not typical for Russian animation schools.

We believe that this approach has resulted in the project’s international appeal.”

Wizart Animation

Wizart Animation is one of the fastest growing computer animation studios in Russia. Its main objective is to develop, produce and distribute high-quality, animated, family-focused feature films and animated series that are a combination of innovative technologies and excellent, touching stories for children and adults who believe in miracles.

The company’s current portfolio features a range of animation projects in different stages of production. The main project in 2012 was the magical 3D story “The Snow Queen” (co-produced with Bazelevs and Inlay Film). Wizart animation has also produced the animated feature film Sheep’n’Wolves as well as an animated TV-series currently in development.

www.wizartanimation.com

Bazelevs Group

Bazelevs group of companies was founded in 1994 by director and producer Timur Bekmambetov.

Bazelevs produces commercials and films, some of which have made it to the top of the Russian distribution list, including “The Irony of Fate: Continuation”, “Black Lightning”, “Lucky Trouble”, “Yolki” and “Yolki 2012”. Bazelevs Production is focused on action, family and comedy movies, which have been successfully distributed in both domestic and international movie markets.

Bazelevs collaborates with Russia’s major television and radio channels and such film studios as Universal, 20th Century Fox, Focus Features and many others.

In January 2010 the founder of Bazelevs Timur Bekmambetov was named “Best Producer of the Year in Film Animation” for “9” by the American Producers Guild. In 2012, at the annual American movie industry exhibition in Las Vegas CinemaCon he was announced “International Filmmaker of the Year”.

Bekmambetov directed and co-produced (along with Tim Burton) the Hollywood blockbuster “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”, which was released by 20th Century Fox.

In 2013 Bazelevs completed the production of “Gentlemen of Fortune”, a remake of one of the biggest Soviet era blockbusters.

www.bazelevs.ru

INLAY Film

INLAY Film is a full-service production company that creates, develops and produces film projects, and promotes animation content in Russian and international markets.

The company specialises in creating and producing animation features for children. INLAY Film’s portfolio includes several animation projects such as a full-length 3D animated feature film “The Snow Queen” (co-produced with Wizart Animation and Bazelevs), 2D animated feature How to Catch a Feather of the Firebird (co-produced with Wizart Animation and CTB Film Company, produced by RUSSOBIT-M), a full-length 3D project Pinocchio (produced by INLAY Studio).

www.inlayfilm.com