By Matt Patches, Hollywood.com Staff
The latest animated film from Dreamworks arrives in theaters this Thanksgiving weekend and touts a theme essential to the holidays: the joy of believing. Rise of the Guardians assembles Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Sandman, and the too-cool-for-school Jack Frost for the ultimate holiday movie, a superheroic adventure that pits the team against the nefarious Boogeyman. The stakes are high; Pitch (as Boogey is referred to in the film) aims to fill the minds of children across the globe with nightmares, stripping them of their beliefs in the iconographical heroes. Without that collective power, Santa and co. are reduced to mere mortals.
Guardians' setup makes perfect sense as a mythological creation that's spread across nations and generations, Santa is a powerful image that can still be shaped. Why not as a comic book hero? The other characters, while not as universally embraced, are easy to slip in with Santa around as an anchor. Over years, ""the Holidays"" have been branded in the same vein as Marvel Comics. Little explanation is needed as to why the colorful cohorts would team up.
But Rise of the Guardians makes sure to explain everything, which raises some concern for anyone hoping to bask in the warmth of holiday magic. There's a mystery to Santa Claus that makes him appealing to Christmas: he lives in the tundra of the North Pole, he has a factory that makes every gift imaginable, he delivers his presents all in one night, he has an insatiable hunger for cookies. How? Who cares! It's charming. The Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are in the same camp, accomplishing their tasks covertly so that children can only dream of how the delight they experience is delivered to them. That belief is the force that shapes a young person's imagination and curiosity. By digging into how the holiday characters really work, Rise of the Guardians brushes away some of that mystique. The belief they want the children in the film to feel isn't blind, but instead, trust in a protector that is always looking out.
Our interview with Guardians producer Guillermo Del Toro digs into the filmmaker's delicate process of making Santa into Super Santa. He explains that they didn't want to invent anything, that his powers are born from the preexisting idea of Santa. The team behind the movie also wanted them to be the epitome of joy. ""We wanted to make them really earnest, romantic guys who love what they do. But make them so big that kids could say, 'I believe in them,' and not feel uncool.""
You absolutely see and feel that approach in Guardians. Santa is Santa, full of heart and passion for making kids happy. But he does it while wielding cutlasses and obliterating Pitch's demon smoke horses. When kids walk out of Guardians, are they going to appreciate the Santa that has given helped so many children of the past or is the figure veering in a new direction? Is belief in a superhero the same as a belief in a person we teach kids to appreciate, only to later divulge that, no, they aren't real?
As with every shifting landscape, the young people of today are radically different then even the children of 10 years ago. They experience different types of pop culture. They soak up detail that technology has allowed them to fill their brains with. They have more questions because the world around the chaotic world around them demands it. Today's multiplexes are filled with superhero movies, the wiz-bam-pow of caped crusaders and special effects that set a high bar for the realm of action and adventure. A magic sleigh seems a bit more conceivable (and a lot less high-octane) than Iron Man's armor. With the fantastical fully realized and now in mediums like video games and TV the suspension of disbelief is harder to achieve. Perhaps the only way you can get a kid these days to invests in ""Santa"" at all (or any mythological figure) is to pump him up into Superhero Santa. It the answers the questions and might be the way to preserve cultural tradition at the same time.
Has the process of getting kids to ""believe"" and embrace the holiday spirit changed? You tell us answer the poll below and share your experiences in the comments.
&amp;lt;a href=""http://polldaddy.com/poll/6708777/""&amp;gt;Does Rise of the Guardians Get ""Believing"" Right?&amp;lt;/a&amp;gt;
[Photo Credit: Dreamworks Animation]
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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