Rev up your appetite for the upcoming Festival with some films that celebrate storytelling. At the end of this article is a list of movies that pay homage to the art of oral storytelling. If you want to find out about upcoming movies and get scholarly with your study of film and storytelling, read on. If you would rather just look through the movie list, skip forward. Either way, enjoy the celebration, and we’ll see you at the Festival!
Story as performance art began with oral storytelling, which is still the most immediate, intimate and communal form of conveying stories. But storytelling has branched out to include many genres such as dance, music, visual art, theater, commercials, video games, and film. Many of these genres have embraced and celebrated the elements of the traditional story such as the archetypes, story arcs and themes that we see in our fairytales and folktales.
In fact, the film industry has had an obsession with fairytales in the last few years. Not only have we seen animated movies such a “Frozen”, “Tangled”, and “Brave”, but also live-action adaptations such as “Snow White and the Huntsman”, “Mirror Mirror”, and “Maleficent”. And the trend will continue with films that are in production, including “Into the Woods” starring Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp due out at Christmas, and a new Disney version of “Cinderella” directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter due out in 2015.
While some films adapt familiar fairy tales, others are based on original fairy tales such as “Shrek”, “How to Train Your Dragon”, “Ladyhawke”, and “Willow.” And others draw upon storytelling motifs. “The Croods” is a retelling of the Greek legend of Prometheus. Arguably, some of our most epic fantasy films such as “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit”, and the sci-fi fantasy “Star Wars” draw from elements of fairy tales, folktales, myths and legends. J.R.R. Tolkien once said that “The Hobbit” was inspired by Grimm’s “Snow White” (1) and it can be argued that the story is basically a retelling of the Old English poem Beowolf. “Star Wars”, in turn, draws upon mythological elements such as oracles, prophesies and mentorship.
Not only do many films borrow from classic story elements and archetypes, but many also pay tribute to the art of oral storytelling itself. In “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” there is an animated sequence where Hermione is reading aloud an old and familiar fairy tale told to wizard children. While she reads, the scene is brought to life with shadow puppets. This story within a story serves not only to explain the origins of the Deathly Hallows, but is also a stunning reminder of the beauty of story. J.K. Rowling once stated that this folktale was inspired by The Pardoner’s Tale of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.(2 ) In an interview published in the LA Times on January 28, 2011, animation director Ben Hibson explained, “In a moment that takes our central characters to a world of ancient fables, the titular tale of the Three Brothers, found in the book ‘The Tales of Beedle the Bard,’ has an eerie undertone, reminiscent of the timeless Grimms’ fairy tales, which I found particularly relevant for us.” (3)
Our tradition of oral storytelling and our literary canon has created the platform in which modern film makers can build their craft. Let’s look at some of the family friendly films that pay homage to this tradition. Perhaps you will find one to peak your interest and get you excited about the Festival coming up at the end of this month.
10 films that celebrate the art of storytelling:
- The Big Fish
- Secondhand Lions
- Bedtime Stories
- A Prairie Home Companion
- Fried Green Tomatoes
- Forrest Gump
- Life of Pi
- The Notebook
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
10 films that celebrate classic fairytales and folktales:
- The Princess Bride
- Jack the Giant Slayer
- The Brothers Grimm
- Finding Neverland
- The NeverEnding Story
- The Emperors New Groove
Multiple movies based on a single fairy tale:
- Cinderella movies: Ever After, Ella Enchanted, A Cinderella Story
- Sleeping Beauty movies: Maleficent, Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, Sleeping Betty (a Canadian short film)
- Snow White movies: Snow White and the Huntsman, Mirror Mirror, Sydney White
- Red Riding Hood movies: Hoodwinked , Red Riding Hood
- Beauty and the Beast movies: Edward Scissorhands, Beastly, La belle et la bête
Is your favorite storytelling movie on the list? Tell us about it.
1 Tolkien, J. R. R. (2003) . Anderson, Douglas A., ed. The Annotated Hobbit. London: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-00-713727-3.
3 Bloomsbury Online Chat, http://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/. Retrieved 30 July 2014.