Fantasy films are that of a supernatural, magic themes – usually consisting of things that don’t exist in our world and unlike science fiction, can’t be explained.
There are many sub genres of fantasy, and a lot of things you might deem as fantasy actually aren’t – most common being High Fantasy – which can depict medieval settings and the more typical fantasy settings we’d imagine in the genre.
Most fantasies are set in alternative realities or an earth that… doesn’t really resemble earth. Some aren’t even set on earth. Most fantasy genre films can alsooverlap with adventure and sci-fi due to the themes in typical fantasy films – which more often than not involve some sort of quest from A to B to retrieve an item or reach an individual. Most main characters are regular people in irregular situations.
Some of the more famous fantasy films are from directors such as Tim Burton, Jim Henson, and Steven Spielberg can classify as Fantasy.
Well known fantasy films are the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Spirited Away, and Labyrinth.
DIRECTOR/INNOVATOR/BODY OF WORK
Jim Henson (born September 24, 1938) in Greenville Mississipi. Jim Henson is known for his work with puppets – works such as the Muppets and Fraggle Rock are main examples of his more famous work with his puppeteering. He ventured into other more mature works later once he’d established his role as a pupeteer and directed works such as Labyrinth and Dark Crystal, which still contain the puppets he loves and the fantasy themes he carried through all his work.
WHAT FANTASY DEVELOPED- (NEW/INNOVATIVE AND IMPACT ON TECHNOLOGY
Through his work with puppets and other similar devices he advanced the technology of both and specifically animatronics which he used avidly in his more mature works such as Labyrinth, and rather than forming these characters out of more conventional means such as those in Muppets and Fraggle Rock. His film Labyrinth forced them to explore animatronics more than they had before and sophisticate the new technology. “It’s the most technically elaborate face we’ve ever done – there are 18 motors inside the face.” a member of the team working of Labyrinth was quoted saying about the second lead in the story, Hoggle, a goblin-like character who follows Sarah through the entire film.
What made his work unique was his approach to puppeteering. Within the fantasy genre, he brought characters to life in ways never thought possible. His venture into animatronics advanced the technology and was a first in the genre/industry at the time.
He’s also unique through solely the fact he uses puppets in his fantasy storytelling. This method might have been popular before the 80’s, but it was slowly by that point fading as it was replaced with methods like CGI and animatronics (which he did also use in conjunction) to achieve the same effect. His work is unique because despite an easier route into CGI, he kept with the puppeteering he’d grown learning – in a way, sticking with old outdated methods but brought new life to the concept.
Unique aspects to the fantasy genre include the use of modern technology to portray things that can’t be done realistically any other way. Eg, dragons in a fantasy movie. There are no real living dragons… right? So this has to be done through CGI.
What’s also unique to the fantasy genre is the amount of sub genres that these films can be classed as – high fantasy and steampunk. There are roughly 45 well known fantasy sub genres. This amount of sub genres isn’t seen in many other genres and shows despite the genre appearing limited at first glance, it is a broad genre that requires just so much sub genres.
What also makes fantasy unique are the story lines – a lot of the time, there’s a journey, an adventure, a discovery. In nearly all fantasy films you can think of. In films of other genres, this isn’t as nearly as much the case.
The fantasy genre was responsible/new/innovator for the increasing CGI technology when it was first used, because it was a genre that would in the future rely heavily on it. Compared to other films, fantasy films are technologically rather complicated.
Jim Henson as mentioned before was responsible for setting up the Jim Henson Company which also ties him in as a key innovator in Fantasy due to their role in the development of CGI and other such technologies for the genre as well as producing/directing some of the most recognised films in the fantasy genre.
The films Labyrinth and Dark Crystal, both from the same director, as similar because they both go through a very similar typical storyline of the Fantasy genre – discovery, adventure, resolution, happy ending. In the Labyrinth the MC discovers her baby brother has been taken by the Goblin king who has always looked over her and done everything she has ever asked. She now then has twelve hours to solve the labyrinth, reach the centre, and take back her brother. She does so and of course as with any movie gets into danger, meets new characters, etc. The resolution is when she finally gets back her brother after finding Jareth the Goblin King and her happy ending is coming back home with a new attitude to her life, her baby brother, and her family.
The Dark Crystal has a similar idea going on – it follows a young Gelfling – a dying race – as he adventures to find the shard to stop the evil race Skeksis taking over their world. He battles through his adventure and in the end a resolution is met when he does finally find the crystal, the Skeksis are defeated, and the world is at peace.
These two movies are also comparable in the fact they rely heavily on Puppeterring and animatronics. While Dark Crystal features no ‘human’ characters and the main characters are in fact puppets, the Labyrinth does but many of the other characters are in fact puppets and animatronics. Also having been made by the Jim Henson Company they are similar in design, designed/influenced by famed fantasy illustrator Brian Froud. While fantasy genres do rely heavily on these, not all, and that’s why these two movies are comparable.
The movie Spirited Away is an Animated 2001 fantasy film about a young girl named Chihiro who’s moving to a new town with her parents. They stop off on the way and stumble upon an old traditional Japanese village but no one’s around. Her parents soon engorge on the food left out on the stall and as the village comes to life with strange hooded characters she runs, only to find when she returns that her parents have turned into pigs. During the movie with the help of another character she finds a job at a bathhouse in order to convince the owner to turn her parents back into humans. The fact that it’s animated sets it apart from other fantasy films because most fantasy films – or popular ones that is – aren’t animated. The film was produced by the famed Studio Ghilbi and could be the reason why it became so popular but it’s take on the genre with its story line was just as impacting. The story featured has influences from traditional Japanese culture and folklore, rather than using fantasy story lines that usually use a fictional land, alternate universes, etc etc and therefore are limited to how much inspiration they can take from a certain countries history, legends, etc. Besides all that, Japanese animation is quite fantasy based but not usually in this sense – works such as Naruto, Princess Monoko, etc. take place in an entirely fictional alternate universe that has limited influences from Japanese folklore/culture. Spirited Away is about a normal girl from our universe who ventures upon a fictional fantasy land heavily inspired by Japanese myths and legends. In the end she returns home.
The film Pans Labyrinth could arguably be compared to this movie but I also think it can be contrasted. The movie is a 2006 Spanish dark-fantasy film. It’s about a young girl, much like Chihiro who’s moving home after the Spanish Civil War to live with her mothers new husband – a captain. The story connects two different people together as one – a fictional fantasy princess who ventured into the sunlight and died and our female protagonist who wants to escape her new life with her evil and sadistic step father. There she comes across many creatures who lead her into a labyrinth where she then meets a faun who tells her she must complete a set of tasks to become this princess Moanna and reach immortality. Battling struggles with her family life while living with her father who’s murdering rebelling citizens right next door, she pursues these task but a lot of other events unravel in doing so. The fantasy elements aren’t influenced particularily by any history, mythology, or culture but the setting of course is.
Like Spirited Away it’s set both here and in a fantasy land and with both could be described as a coping method developed by the characters to escape their realities, both with deeper meanings that aren’t blatantly obvious.
Spirited Away is completely animation, and Pans Labyrinth is a Live Action that relies on CGI, Animatronics, and heavy Make Up on human actors to achieve the same effect.
Another contrast is how Spirited Away is influenced heavily by Japanese culture and mythology, but Pans Labyrinth seems entirely fictional and from the mind of a writer with the exception of a historic backdrop.