Strange Magic (film)
Strange Magic is a 2015 American computer-animated jukebox musical fantasy romantic comedy film directed by Gary Rydstrom, produced by Lucasfilm, with feature animation by Lucasfilm Animation and Industrial Light & Magic. The film's screenplay was written by Rydstrom, David Berenbaum and Irene Mecchi, from a story by George Lucas inspired by William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The film stars Alan Cumming, Evan Rachel Wood, Kristin Chenoweth, Maya Rudolph and Alfred Molina. The score was composed by Marius de Vries and includes contemporary songs, such as "Love Is Strange" and "Strange Magic".
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Gary Rydstrom|
|Story by||George Lucas|
|Music by||Marius de Vries|
|Edited by||Chris Plummer|
|Distributed by||Walt Disney Studios|
|Box office||$13.6 million|
Lucas had been working on developing the project for 15 years before production began. The first Lucasfilm production to be distributed by Walt Disney Studios, after the parent company's purchase of the studio in 2012, Touchstone Pictures released the film on January 23, 2015. The film received generally negative reviews from critics and was a box office bomb, grossing $13.6 million worldwide and losing around $40–50 million.
A realm is divided between a land of fairies and light, and a land of bog creatures and darkness, living in the dark forest. Primrose flowers, which are a crucial ingredient to love potions, mark the border between the lands. Marianne is a fairy princess and heir to the throne of the Fairy Kingdom, and is engaged to be married to Roland, a handsome warrior who disappoints her when she discovers him kissing another fairy on their wedding day. Marianne vows to never fall in love again. As at the dark forest, the Bog King also shared the same view on love, despite his caring mother Griselda's protests.
Sometime later, her sister Dawn, who frequently says she is in love, is desperate regarding the upcoming Spring Ball over which boy she could meet there. Her best friend Sunny, an elf who has a crush on Dawn, tries to cheer her up with a song, but they are nearly devoured by a giant lizard before a hardened Marianne rescues them. Sunny, having fallen through the border of the dark forest, finds a Primrose petal, which he subsequently hides when fleeing the forest.
At the ball, Roland tries to assert his intention to marry Marianne, who refuses and humiliates him out of the dance. He encounters Sunny and tricks him into returning to the dark forest to convince the Sugar Plum Fairy, who had been captured years ago by the Bog King, to create the love potion. Sunny acquires the petal he had hidden and with the help of a curious imp, ventures into Bog's castle, eventually finding the fairy and promising to free her in exchange for the love potion.
Their escape rouses Bog, who manages to recapture Sugar Plum while Sunny escapes, followed by the imp, and Bog is enraged when he learns that Sunny has a vial of love potion. Sunny returns to the ball and tries to hit Dawn with the love potion during his musical number. Bog interrupts the celebrations and captures Dawn just as she is sprayed by the love potion and the imp steals it in order to spread it throughout the forest. Bog orders them to deliver the potion to him by moondown or he would harm Dawn. Defying her father's order, Marianne flies off after her sister while he grants Roland a small army to head off on foot to Bog's castle.
Meanwhile, Dawn falls in love with him due to the potion, and Bog has her imprisoned for his own sanity. Marianne arrives and fights with Bog to return her sister. When she realizes the severity of the situation, the two of them begin to find common interests. When they consult Sugar Plum for an antidote, she explains that true love will negate the effects of the potion, recounting a time where Bog fell in love with another female in the forest who left him despite his use of the love potion on her, as she was in love with someone else at the time he used the potion on her. A mutual attraction begins to develop between Marianne and Bog, but it is only Griselda who sees it.
Sunny recovers the potion from the imp and gives it to Roland as they march on to the castle. Bog sees this and suspects that Marianne had set him up, breaking his heart again as he leaves her stranded in a spider web. She escapes and joins in the battle taking place at the castle. Sunny frees Sugar Plum, Dawn, and (at Sugar Plum's insistence) the love-stricken forest creatures that the imp had hit with the love potion.
In the escape, Bog seemingly sacrifices himself by holding the mouth of his den open long enough for everyone to escape. He survives, to Marianne's relief, and Sunny reveals his true feelings to Dawn, who then reciprocates them, breaking the love potion's spell over her and they kiss, to her father's surprise. Roland sprays Marianne with the love potion, who pretends to fall in love with him, only to suddenly punch him and send him off the chasm, being hit by the love potion in the process.
Bog and Marianne, at the insistence of Dawn and Griselda, finally admit their feelings for each other and kiss.
In the last scene credits, Roland has apparently fallen in love with an ugly insect due to the potion, and two of Bog's servants (who spy on people and whisper to others that lead back to Bog on what they heard) are whispering that it's the end of the movie, but one of them, who has horrible hearing, accidentally says 'Tea Blend.'
- Alan Cumming as Bog King
- Evan Rachel Wood as Marianne
- Kristin Chenoweth as Sugar Plum Fairy
- Sam Palladio as Roland
- Maya Rudolph as Griselda, The Bog King's mother
- Alfred Molina as The Fairy King, Marianne and Dawn's father
- Meredith Anne Bull as Dawn, Marianne's sister and Sunny's love interest
- Elijah Kelley as Sunny, an elf
- Bob Einstein as Stuff
- Peter Stormare as Thang
- Kevin Michael Richardson as Brutus
- Llou Johnson as Pare
- Robbie Daymond as Fairy Cronies
- Brenda Chapman as Imp
- Tony Cox as Plum Elf
- Gary Rydstrom as Angry Gus
George Lucas had long wanted to make a film for his three daughters, with the original idea for the movie being generated 15 years prior. He described the film as Star Wars for a female audience stating "Star Wars was for 12-year-old boys; I figured I'd make one for 12-year-old girls." On the film's plot, director Gary Rydstrom stated, "We pitched it as a Beauty and the Beast story where the Beast doesn't change." According to Rydstrom, Lucas "really wanted to make a beautiful fairy tale with goblins and elves, and do it in a way that only this company can do. He had been working on it for a long time." Rydstrom mentioned that Lucas emphasized that the story should be about "finding beauty in strange places". Rydstrom also stated "It was important for him to tell this story where you saw the beauty in something you didn't expect to see—that it looked ugly on the outside but you saw the beauty underneath." The film was in the works for 15 years including, at one point development alongside the Star Wars prequels. Before The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm in late 2012, production on Strange Magic was already well underway. Rydstrom and his crew screened the film for Disney executives. Rydstrom stated, "We're not Pixar or Disney Animation, so in some ways George was our John [Lasseter] on this one ... I like the fact—not that I don't like advice from all over—but this is our own thing, this is a Lucasfilm project ... I remember when Labyrinth came out and how exciting that was. There was a magic to that, this has the same vibe to me."
One of the biggest inspirations for the film's soundtrack was another Lucasfilm production, American Graffiti (1973). For Strange Magic, Lucas revealed: "I had a lot of Beatles songs in there originally, but we couldn't afford them." Many of the songs that did make it into the film were tweaked to help tell the story such as "Bad Romance", which became a march for an invading army, and "I'll Never Fall in Love Again", which was made into a warrior anthem for Marianne. According to Lucas, the main message of the film is that "A real relationship rests in a much deeper place, where you love somebody and you've thought through it carefully as you've been carrying on conversations and doing things. You fall in love with their mind and everything else more than just the way they look." At one point during production the crew experimented with the idea of having the entirety of the dialogue sung.
The hair design of sisters Marianne and Dawn went through several revisions. According to Meredith Anne Bull, the voice of Dawn, "[The sisters'] hair has changed a lot since the beginning, we used to have long, brown hair. It was red for a while and now it has ended up short and blonde! ... There's a lot of work that goes into creating the hair of an animated character. There are actually groups of people where that's their only job, to do the animation of hair! That was really cool, learning that." On the subject of voice recording, Bull stated, "There's just a lot of really cool stuff [that our director] would show us—tricks and stuff to do when we were recording: Special effects with our mouths, or by chewing stuff. One time I watched Peter Stormare chew an entire pack of gum while he was trying to record!" Bull also noted that while recording she did not have many visuals to reference, "For the first year of production, I really had no idea, sometimes they would have drawings, but other than that I just had to use my imagination of what was going on!"
In its opening weekend, Strange Magic opened at #7 and grossed $5.5 million. It had the lowest ticket sales of any animated film released in over 3,000 theatres. The previous animated films with lowest opening weekend gross were The Wild Thornberrys Movie (2002) and Quest for Camelot (1998). The film closed on April 16, 2015 and had earned $12,429,583 in the domestic box office, with $1,173,870 overseas for a worldwide total of $13,603,453.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film had an approval rating of 17%, based on 58 reviews, with an average rating of 3.9/10, as of February 2019. The website's critical consensus states, "Like most modern animated movies, Strange Magic is lovely to look at; unfortunately, there isn't much going on beneath the surface." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 25 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". According to CinemaScore, audiences gave the film a grade of "B−" on an A+ to F scale.
Alonso Duralde of The Wrap gave a negative review, writing "That terrible character design, combined with a painful lack of laughs and a crushing plethora of ghastly songs, makes Strange Magic perhaps the worst animated feature ever to come out of Disney." Conversely, Drew Taylor of Indiewire gave the film a B-, stating in his review "Strange Magic does manage to enchant you (mostly) with its oddball charm." Justin Chang of Variety gave the film a negative review, saying "This noisy, unappealing children's fantasy fails to distinguish itself among January's many, many reasons to steer clear of the multiplex." Alan Scherstuhl of The Village Voice described Strange Magic as "the best Lucas film in 25 years: funny, idiosyncratic, hippy-dippy, packed with creatures and visions worth beholding." Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter called the film "A shrill, garish hodgepodge of familiar elements from other animated vehicles (most evidently 2013's Epic), there's virtually nothing about this forced, fractured fairy tale that feels remotely fresh or involving." Michael Ordoña of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film one out of four stars, saying "The plot movement feels very much like an unpleasant formality, shoved forward by tiresome devices." Claudia Puig of USA Today gave the film two out of four stars, saying "Strange Magic is strange all right, but hardly magical." Jesse Hassenger of The A.V. Club gave the film a B, saying "The movie maintains its own level of oddball invention that at least feels pleasantly removed from the grind of big-studio cartoon manufacturing." Rafer Guzman of Newsday gave the film one out of four stars, saying "A noxious cauldron of ingredients that shouldn't have been mixed: fairies, Shakespeare and classic rock."
Lou Lumenick of the New York Post gave the film one out of four stars, saying "If Lucasfilm had bought Disney instead of the other way around, the smash hit Frozen might have turned out like Strange Magic, a jaw-droppingly terrible animated musical that mismatches George Lucas’ inane story about a pair of fairy princesses to an oddball selection of the Star Wars creator's favorite pop tunes." Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a negative review, saying "Strange Magic, the new animated musical fairy tale from the mind and the mixtape of George Lucas, is indeed strange. What's missing is the magic." Ben Kenigsberg of The New York Times gave the film a negative review, saying "Said to be inspired by A Midsummer Night's Dream, the film plays more like Avatar scored to a karaoke competition." Bilge Ebiri of New York Magazine gave the film a negative review, saying "The problem with Strange Magic isn't so much its derivative story as it is the odd, half-complete way it unfolds. You can sense the weird mixture of tones, influences, ideas—as if the whole thing were still in its planning stages." Glenn Kenny of RogerEbert.com gave the film one and a half stars out of four, saying "Strange Magic is essentially a jukebox musical so song-laden as to practically be an operetta, and the songs are so eclectic that they never quite fit into the movie’s flying-insect world, which is divided into dark and light forests." Keith Phipps of The Dissolve gave the film one and a half stars out of five, saying "Strange Magic certainly isn’t an ordinary sort of mess, and the personal nature of the project is still evident in the finished film."
|Strange Magic (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
|Soundtrack album by |
|Released||January 20, 2015|
|Studio||Air Lyndhurst Studios, London|
Berry Drive Studios, Los Angeles
Downtown Recording Studios, NYC
Nightbird Studios, Los Angeles
MSR Studios, New York City
The Fan Club, London
|Genre||Rock, pop, soul|
The film's soundtrack includes cast performances of new versions of pop and classic rock songs which were chosen for the film by George Lucas. The soundtrack was released by Buena Vista Records on January 20, 2015, followed by a physical release on February 17, 2015.
|1.||"Can't Help Falling in Love"||Evan Rachel Wood & Sam Palladio||2:53|
|2.||"I'll Never Fall in Love Again"||Evan Rachel Wood||2:48|
|3.||"Three Little Birds"||Elijah Kelley & Meredith Anne Bull||2:46|
|4.||"I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)"||Marius De Vries||1:00|
|5.||"C'mon Marianne / Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"||Sam Palladio and Evan Rachel Wood||3:32|
|7.||"Love Is Strange"||Kristin Chenoweth||2:53|
|8.||"Say Hey"||Elijah Kelley||3:04|
|10.||"I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)"||Meredith Anne Bull||3:05|
|11.||"Straight On"||Evan Rachel Wood and Alan Cumming||3:05|
|12.||"Strange Magic"||Evan Rachel Wood and Alan Cumming||4:15|
|13.||"Tell Him / Wild Thing"||Meredith Anne Bull, Maya Rudolph, Evan Rachel Wood and Alan Cumming||3:39|
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