NR: Finding The Magic In The Kingdom

James here with Wednesday’s News Reflections.

Screenrant recently posted a piece on ‘Iron Man’ director Jon Favreau and his work on Disney’s new ‘Magic Kingdom’ project.  The article is definitely worth a read, so head on over to Screenrant and give it your attention.  Then come back, for I have a few words to add.

Director Jon Favreau

Magic Kingdom's Centerpiece

There are rough waters ahead for Mr. Favreau. ‘Magic Kingdom’, a film based on a theme park, could all too easily be a shallow spectacle, a comedy misfire, a self-indulgent debacle or worse. But it’s clear Favreau believes that there’s potential for a rich, exciting narrative. I quote Mr. Favreau via Screenrant (emphasis mine):

“When Walt first set out to do it there was something very nostalgic and forward looking at the same time about Disneyland. When you went down Main Street it was the turn of the century, it was days gone by and Tomorrowland was the future. There is such a weird shared experience that any of us who’s ever gone to Disneyland feels that I don’t think has really been mined yet. It’s this collective subconscious that we have and there are these archetypes that are so strong that there’s a fun way to present something that is family entertainment but still will take you through the experience that you had [growing up].”

Favreau wants to mine nostalgia, which when properly harnessed is a powerful cinematic force.  Many of the great films of the late 20th century run on nostalgia fuel.  ‘Star Wars’, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, ‘The Godfather’, ‘Pulp Fiction’, ‘Dark City’ — all mined from the cinematic and cultural heritage of their creators.  All of them present worlds that fuse the auteur’s nostalgia with their unique vision.  Favreau’s opportunity is to reinterpret Disney’s legacy in his own image, which, if it works, could deeply influence its future.  ‘Magic Kingdom’ is not just another theme park ride adaptation ala ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’.  It’s the whole park, and therefore symbolic of Disney’s heart and soul.  The tactile juxtaposition of the mystical past and the incredible future, with today’s family caught in the middle, has delighted and inspired millions.  There’s obviously a great story there.  How does a filmmaker turn this into an emotional arc complete with action and suspense without succumbing to cliché?  It’s a daunting, though tempting challenge.

I believe Favreau is up to it.  He has the arms and the oars for this whitewater ride.  His ‘Iron Man 2’ could serve as the proof.  Not for the film’s main story, which suffers from Marvel’s insistence on setting up ‘The Avengers’, but for the Stark Expo that anchors it.  With music and production design deliberately reminiscent of the World’s Fair and the Magic Kingdom’s own Tomorrowland, there is exactly that same nostalgia-future collision that so attracts Favreau to this new project.  He can now fully explore this concept and hopefully conjure up the cinematic magic necessary to save Disney’s kingdom from ending up on the rocks.  I wish Favreau, his team, and Disney the very best of luck.