July 6, 2009

THE WAY OF THE WRITER: Nothing New Under the Sun

So I was all set to get excited about Tim Burton's new Wonderland movie, assuming it, like Willy Wonka, was going to be an adaptation of the book.

I was wrong.

Here's a description of the plot, from Slashfilm:

"The film is actually a sequel to the original story, and follows Alice, now 17 years old, as she escapes from a snooty party and follows a white rabbit down a hole, back to Wonderland. The White Rabbit is convinced that he has the right girl, the one who had visited the magical land ten years prior. But Alice doesn’t remember her past visit to Wonderland. The creatures of Wonderland are ready to revolt and are hoping/waiting for Alice to help them, but will she? Can she?"

The problem? It's not a problem, really. Just that it sounds a lot like the plot of this comic book:

The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles #0
Cover by Casey Heying

The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles, published by BuyMeToys.com. (I'm the writer of the book.) Issue #0 came out four years ago. Issue #4, wrapping up that first story arc, will come out this year.

The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles #1
Cover B by Phil Noto

The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles is a bit different from Burton's Wonderland, in that both Dorothy from Oz and Alice from Wonderland have grown up and gone back to Oz and Wonderland, after not remembering their past visits to those magical lands. And in The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles, the creatures ready to revolt are from OZ, not Wonderland (although the creatures from Wonderland are certainly going to help), and they are waiting for Dorothy to help them.

The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles #1
Cover A by Joe Jusko

So, yeah, they're not exactly alike. But they are similar enough to make me feel a bit uncomfortable. I mean, our story and Burton's, on a surface level, are very similar.

The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles #2
Cover A by Joe Jusko

Please don't get me wrong. I have no doubt in my mind that Burton and his team have NEVER seen The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles, nor have they heard of it. I'm certain of this. I'm not suggesting that they have stolen/plagarized anything.

This is just a great example of the "there's nothing new under the sun" concept of writing.

The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles #2
Cover B by Boris

In truth, there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to story telling. I mean, once you boil stories down to their core, you're left with just ONE story:

"Somebody wanted something, and something got in the way."

Seriously, apply that to ANY story. 99.99999 out of 100 times, it'll fit. (The other 0.00001 times out of 100, when it doesn't apply, are just because we weren't creative enough in the application. :) )

The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles #3
Cover A by Joe Jusko

But there's nothing new under the sun. What makes something NEW is how the story is told.

For example, I sincerely doubt that Burton will use the "sword in the stone" motif that we used in Oz/Wonderland #3. That's something "new" that I brought to the "new Wonderland story" table. It separates Burton's story from ours, because while on the surface our stories are similar, underneath you've got two very different people with two different backgrounds doing two different things.

Of course, in doing so I've ripped off a classic fantasy image. Hopefully, what we turn around and do with it also takes it to a different place than the original, and countless imitations, do and did.

The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles #3
Cover B by Glen Orbick

"There's nothing new under the sun". It's somewhat depressing, especially in a situation like this, where someone HUGE, like Burton and Disney, are doing something so similar. I was involved in another situation like this, when I worked on the series Auto-B-Good a while ago. I wrote one episode of the series about anthropomorphic cars, and the weekend I flew out there to meet with the producers about some other things, the Pixar movie Cars came out . . . about anthropomorphic cars.

I had a concept called Quantum Mechanics that I was going to develop, but ended up combining the characters with another concept of mine called Timeflyz. The marriage worked well, and not long after making the change I saw a comic book come out called Quantum Mechanics. Good thing I changed the title!

It happens all the time, though. Two asteroid movies the same summer, two volcano movies the same summer, two Robin Hood movies the same summer, etc.

Truly, there's nothing new under the sun. There's not much that can be done about it, other than this: tell YOUR stories, tell them to the BEST of your ability, and tell them NOW . . . before someone else does. Someone like Tim Burton!

~ Ben

1 comment:

Ben said...

Heh. My whole post in just three words:


~ Ben