Understanding Life Through Stories

Tag: storytelling

Snow White and Me: A Reflection on the 80th Anniversary

Once upon a time, I wrote a letter to my younger self’s favorite Disney Princess: Snow White.

Originally, I wrote it on a whim, to deal with worries I was dwelling on at the time. Since then, it’s become one of my favorite pieces that I’ve written.

Snow White’s Legacy

Despite being the foundation of the entire line of Disney Animated Movies, not to mention animated movies in general, Snow White, the film and the character, can be hard to love these days.

Since the film was already taking a risk on the animation, the plot and character development were incredibly simple. 80 years on, it’s very much a product of its time. I’ve heard people who just can’t stand the old animation or the princess’s high-pitched Betty Boop soprano.

Snow White

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tom-margie/2063134998

Yet, the film and the character alike were a welcome escape in 1937 for people struggling with the Great Depression and the looming conflicts in Europe and Japan- a “tonic for disillusion,” as the New York Times called it. Some have even said The Wizard of Oz, which came out two years after Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, took significant inspiration from the Disney film.

More recently, seeing all the love around the 80th anniversary (December 21, 2017), from Saks Fifth Avenue Christmas windows to Funko Pop Figures, I feel I was wrong, when I wrote that letter, to think her the unfavorite of the Disney heroines.

Still, with plans for a live action remake in the works, I worry the best parts of her character and story will be lost in trying to make her appeal to a modern audience.

So, to celebrate, here again is why I see good and potential in this character:

Harry Potter as Stress Relief

When stress kicks in, we all have different ways of coping. Some go for yoga, some for frozen yogurt. Some need a tearjerking song, some need a series of cat videos on Youtube. Some brew a cup of soothing tea, some throw back a beer.

Me? I grab Harry Potter.

Specifically, I grab my battered copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, bought on a trip to Canada (when my original Sorcerer’s Stone was lent out and never returned), in times when I’m stressed about a life transition.

Harry Potter is a big part of the reason I’m a storyteller. Unlike other Potter fans, I did like to read before I ever saw those books (as my Bio Page will attest to). But it was the fantasy, the humor, and the intricate plots of the Potter novels that lit up my imagination and made me want to write stories, not just read them. And it’s been a huge part of my life in other ways. The series as a whole, book and film, has seen me through elementary school, high school, college, and now with the new play and companion films, my adult life. I could go on and on (and on and on).

But to get to the point, I found my thoughts turning back to the first book last night as I was meditating on what I had to do to get ready for the Startup Institute program. It just popped in there: ‘I should read Philosopher’s Stone again.’ As if I didn’t have other things I should be doing.

Which made me think of the other times I’ve turned to this volume in the midst of stress: My first week of high school, my first year of college, studying abroad in Spain, the week before graduation.

All life transitions.

But why did I instinctively choose this book in those times of stress? Was it just because of the nostalgia factor? Escapism? Why not the film?

Storytelling: A Musical Guide

Christian Borle as Will Shakespeare in Something Rotten <
So for this first post, I thought I’d do something fun.
Musical theater is for me a powerful form of storytelling. It is live and in your face, it is imaginative and experimental, and it requires a contract of sorts with your audience in a way that books and film don’t. As the Doctor of Doctor Who once said,
Oh yeah, but the theatre’s magic, isn’t it? You should know. Stand on this stage, say the right words with the right emphasis at the right time. Oh, you can make men weep.
So often in fiction we see writers writing about writers, or the art of storytelling in general. Think of Shakespeare in Love or Becoming Jane for example. This is no different with theater writers. And musical theater writers get to do it not just with words, but with song.
Storytelling in fiction is of course different from telling about yourself or your company from a business standpoint. But not as different as you think. The stories we’ve read from the time we were children shape us, they give us a vehicle with which to reflect on and share our own stories.
To me, these songs speak to the importance of telling your story  – the triumphs and the pitfalls, the ways we understand our life story in the scheme of stories we love. So take a listen, and see what you can learn:

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