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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mirrormask - Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean

Read for the Dream King Challenge.

The illustrated script to the movie Mirrormask features Dave McKean’s storyboards for the movie alongside the script. There’s also a forward by Neil Gaiman, as well as an appendix containing the original back and forth conversations between the two that formed the basis for the movie idea.

The movie is the story of Helena, the daughter of a couple that runs a traveling circus, a life that the teenage Helena is rebelling against for the moment. Helena likes to draw pictures, and has drawn an entire city of fantastic buildings and strange creatures.

One night, Helena and her mother have a fight before a show, and during the show, her mother falls ill. Things are very bad, and the show grinds to a halt as her mother lies in the hospital, her prognosis uncertain. Without going into the whys, since that’s part of the story, Helena is drawn into the world of her drawings, a world ruled by a light queen and dark queen, both of whom look like her mother. The light queen has fallen asleep, and no one can wake her, and the dark queen is taking advantage of the situation. Helena therefore sets out to wake up the light queen.

This movie is an amazing visual journey, especially considering the low budget they were working with. You can see the basis of this journey in the meticulous storyboards throughout the book. They’ve also apparently added back scenes and dialogue that didn’t make it into the movie, but it’s been long enough since I’ve seen it that the extras weren’t anything that jumped out at me. What you do notice is the humor injected into the script. My favorite passage in the entire book is the following scene set up:

We hear the QUEEN roar.

Down the steps come hoards of creatures. Everything that the budget will run to. Thousands upon thousands of Orcs and mighty Uruk-hai, their weapons glinting as they prepare to do the bidding of the evil Saruman…Sorry. Got a bit carried away there. Wrong movie. No budget.

Whatever we’ve got comes down the stairs.

It’s little gems like that that make this movie companion worth a look through.

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