Tags: circus

piranha - No!

Cirque du Soleil: The Beatles Love

So as you know, the Beatles are pretty much my favorite band in the history of music. I have also never seen a Cirque du Soleil show before. What better introduction to the contemporary circus than through the music of the legendary lads of Liverpool? Seanie and I have been wanting to see this show for years, ever since we first learned it was coming to Las Vegas.

Now, I was under the impression that Cirque du Soleil performs to live music. I was expecting singers and a rock band and all that good stuff. Instead, Cirque du Soleil worked with George and Giles Martin – George Martin produced nearly all of the original Beatles albums, and Giles is his son – to remix previously unknown or alternate versions of Beatles songs with classic tracks to create an exclusive sound for the show. Pretty cool, right? I thought it was amazing! All my favorite songs were there, from “Eleanor Rigby” and “Yellow Submarine” to “Lady Madonna” and “Blackbird”.

There is no linear plot to the show. It's very loosely based on the time periods of the Beatles' lives, so it starts in WWII's London. After a symbolic Blitz and a quick dash through the 1950s, the stage explodes into a psychedelic mess of trapeze artists, clowns, acrobats, and other performers. There are a million things happening at once, making it impossible to see everything.

I suppose there are characters, of a sort. During the song “Eleanor Rigby”, for example, a tottering old woman and a mad-looking priest appear during the appropriate lyrics. The Queen of England, a grotesque parody of Elizabeth I and II rolled together into a single being, appears sporadically to remind her citizens of duty to the motherland. A “nowhere man” seeks love throughout the entire show, offering flowers to women only to be ignored or turned down when a better offer comes along. I guess he's the closest thing to a hero or main character, but I think I'm trying too hard to force a narrative onto this show.

It's very frenetic and all over the place, but there are some great moments. I think my favorite scene was a mad roller derby thing where guys in striped suits were shooting up and down ramps, doing flips in the air like they were competing in an extreme sport to the tune of “Help!” while overhead there's a devil on a swinging platform. Really cool. The acrobats hanging from a single rope are always quite lovely; in Love “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” hangs overhead while a man in a fat suit – I assume it's a fat suit, it looked like he was wearing tires! - tries to reach her by bouncing on and around a ladder with wheels on one end.

Obviously, I couldn't take pictures during the show, but here are a couple of random images from around the 'Net:

kid - shuu-chan.

Disney Movies: #4 Dumbo (1941)

Entry #26 in the 'Watch all the Classic Disney (Animated) Movies' Challenge


A young circus elephant's oversized ears makes him a target of ridicule.  Children taunt him, other elephants shun him, and when his mother tries to protect him they are cruelly separated.  Nicknamed "Dumbo", the miserable little elephant's only friend is Timothy Q. Mouse.  One morning, the two of them awake high up in a tree, and Timothy figures out that Dumbo flew them up there.  If Dumbo can master flying and bring it to the circus ring, he'll become a star and be reunited with his mother.

Everything about Dumbo feels reduced in scope.  The world is concentrated in a traveling circus, and Dumbo only leaves its confines briefly.  The majority of the movie takes place in tents and train cars.   Our hero, though an elephant, is always portrayed as diminutive.   Background art and character design are streamlined and simplified; there's no scene with the magnificent detail of Geppetto's workshop in Pinocchio or the Queen's transformation in Snow White.  The film isn't even that long; it's barely over an hour in length.  The simplicity and brevity of Dumbo is actually the film's greatest strength, and I suspect it all came about because of the colossal expense (and subsequent box office failure) of Pinocchio and Fantasia.  The tightly controlled budget forced Disney's storytellers to minimize extraneous details and expense, and this created a tightly plotted film that has become one of Disney's most enduring classics.*  

There's some controversy about the "Jim Crow**" and his cronies.  Some people consider the crows a racist portrayal of African-American stereotypes popular at the time.  As a kid, I always thought the crows were just playful and fun...and as an adult, I still hold this view.   They're some of very few characters who are sympathetic to Dumbo and seek to help him.  In a world populated with buffoons, they're also some of the cleverest characters, animal or human.  The song they sing is full of puns and wordplay, and it is the crows that come up with the idea of the 'magic feather' to boost Dumbo's confidence.  Considering this is America in the late 1930s, when lynching was still happening in the South,  I have trouble condemning the movie for racism when the crows - although portrayed in a "stereotypical" way - are some of the most positive characters in the film. 

On the other hand, what is up with the faceless African-American circus workers and their 'happy-hearted roustabouts' song?  I think that if someone wanted, they could make a much stronger case for racism with that song than with the crows. 

Moving on.

When I was a kid, the thing I always remembered from Dumbo was the "Pink Elephants on Parade" sequence.  You know the one.  Dumbo accidentally gets a little drunk and hallucinates hundreds of crazy pink elephants.  The animators were clearly having fun, and it is probably the zaniest five minutes to come out of a Disney studio.  I was kinda frightened by it, to be honest.  Now I think it would make a kickass dark ride at the Disney parks, preferably in roller coaster form.

Dumbo doesn't talk at all.  It's so unusual to have a silent main character.  Works for me, but it's weird.

Honestly, I think this movie's pretty good.  It tugs at the heartstrings and showcases all the little cruelties people indulge in, often without realizing it.  There are so many memorable scenes, like Dumbo being rocked in his mother's trunk or cowering at the top of a burning tower.  Seanie might not agree with me, though; he fell asleep halfway through.

8/10 stars.
Marked down because even though the movie's only 64 minutes long, there were a couple of times I thought it felt a little slow.

* Fun fact: Dumbo was the first Disney animated film released on VHS, and has never been discontinued or gone out of print up through the present.   There are five different versions of it on VHS and three different DVDs.

** Although the leader of the crows is referred to as 'Jim Crow' in the script, the name is never spoken in the film.