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Soviet style retroscripting in Hollywood?
June 1, 2003 2:33 PM   Subscribe

Pixar's newest kid flick good enough for adults, Finding Nemo was proceeded by a "classic" Pixar short, KnickKnack. The weird thing is that they felt compelled to change 2 characters (the "bathing beauty" and the mermaid) from a ridiculously geometric, cartoony bosomy shape to flat chested. What gives here? This reminds me of the changes Spielberg made in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and of course, the regrettable Greedo shooting incident in Lucas' Star Wars: A New Hope. My question is: When is it right to change an existing work, for whatever reason?
posted by jpburns (30 comments total)

 
Prove it.
posted by jjg at 2:45 PM on June 1, 2003


What amazes me is that they went to the trouble to rerender those scenes in KnickKnack (there's an updated copyright)...

My thought is, if you deem large breasts somehow wrong for small children (and I thought they were, indeed, for very small children...), then don't show the short.

And who's making these decisions, Pixar, or Disney?

I call puritanism.
posted by jpburns at 2:46 PM on June 1, 2003


Prove it.

I can capture a frame from my VHS copy of Tiny Toys, but I don't thing that's required...
posted by jpburns at 2:48 PM on June 1, 2003


I think it's necessary for you to bring something to the post beside your own assertion. Apart from seeing the film (not yet, not yet), is there any way of backing up what you assert? We have no evidence except what you tell us, no link to follow, nothing to see for ourselves. We can't even tell if you're right or wrong; we simply have to take your word for it. If there isn't anything to link to, this is essentially a linkless post; the links here are tangential to your point. It'd be like only linking to Google's home page while talking about some specific business practice of theirs that we haven't event heard of except via you. JJG is right: you do have to prove it.
posted by mcwetboy at 3:02 PM on June 1, 2003


i haven't seen the short so i can't comment on the specific changes that were made, but you're essentially talking about two different films (albeit with characters reintroduced). like any other medium, the creators are well within their rights to adjust things to fit their audience. i would assume that pixar's KnickKnack flick was targeted towards a particular finite audience while the current blockbuster 'finding nemo' is geared towards children, adults, the mainstream audience. it's always about the audience.
posted by poopy at 3:04 PM on June 1, 2003


Is the visual medium at issue here? Novelists and poets have often transformed their published works, sometimes over and over again. A random sampling might include the multiple versions of Alexander Pope's The Dunciad (with different chief "dunces"), Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure (changed drastically from serial to volume form, and then again as new editions came out), Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (also changed from serial to volume form), and Edward Bulwer Lytton's "Newgate novel" Eugene Aram (revised to make the protagonist innocent). Robert Browning revised his published works all the time. The list goes on. When it comes to one person revising another's work, that too has a long tradition, especially when it comes to Shakespeare: in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries you have upbeat endings for the tragedies and a straightened-out version of the sonnets. (For that matter, today's productions of Shakespeare are almost always edited, as in the recent Peter Brooks/John Caird Hamlets.)

Ergo, my question would be: why worry about changing films? Is that somehow more "wrong," aesthetically or otherwise? (Particularly given the rise of DVDs with deleted scenes.) Artists changing their own work would seem to be the norm, if anything. Outside intervention seems more problematic, although it isn't always clear in film what "outside" means--someone not the director?
posted by thomas j wise at 3:13 PM on June 1, 2003


Screencaps of the original characters: the mermaid and the bikini girl. (Screencaps courtesy of Patrick Sun of the Home Theater Forum.)

I don't have screencaps of the girls post-digital-breast reduction, but having seen the clip before Finding Nemo yesterday, I can vouch that there have been some changes — from D+ cup to A- cup, roughly.

I think it's a little silly and unnecessary, but not horrid. The cup size of the animated girls doesn't affect the story of the short piece at all, it just makes it a bit less obivously suggestive. Not all that surprising when put in front of family fare.
posted by djwudi at 3:22 PM on June 1, 2003


Interestingly, the character descriptions on the Knick Knack page describe a "disproportionate blonde" — apparently they haven't updated that for the new version yet! ;)
posted by djwudi at 3:27 PM on June 1, 2003


As for documentation, I can't help you there, but what jpburns is saying is corroborated elsewhere. For instance, here (7th paragraph).
posted by Hildago at 4:26 PM on June 1, 2003


For what it's worth, I think the big boobs look kind of dumb in the screencaps posted above. Haven't seen Finding Nemo yet, but man I really want to.
posted by Hildago at 4:28 PM on June 1, 2003


Oh Please: "My thought is, if you deem large breasts somehow wrong for small children (and I thought they were, indeed, for very small children....)"
I have news for you, small children... infants in fact, have very large breasts pushed in their faces, from day one! Every day!

They are their life-support mechanism, for chrissakes!

I just can't comprehend why anyone would think breasts of any size, or shape would be "wrong" or inappropriate in any way whatsoever for human beings of any age.

Incredible.

(And this not directed entirely at you JP, but at Pixar, and people who make decisions like this. Puritans, perhaps?

Ridiculous.
posted by Blue Stone at 4:33 PM on June 1, 2003



posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:48 PM on June 1, 2003


When is it right to change a work? Who knows? I don't have a problem with altered cinema, fiction and so forth as long as the original is as freely as available as the altered version and there's some way of discerning between the two. This is rarely the case today.

Novels are abridged, movies are released with "updated scenes and special effects!" I assume people know what abridged means, but cinema still needs a pithy phrase to let us know what's going on.
posted by raaka at 4:59 PM on June 1, 2003


They own the copyright. They can change it if they want to. It's not some kind of Orwellian scheme to defraud or deceive you, it's just business.

I have a feeling that if you asked Pixar, "Hey, did you guys actually go to all the trouble of rerendering those scenes just to remove the boobies?" they would answer "Yeah, we didn't want people to complain about it when their kids went to see Finding Nemo and saw that." (Because they would get complaints, and you know this.)
posted by RylandDotNet at 5:14 PM on June 1, 2003


My question is: When is it right to change an existing work, for whatever reason?

I think you make the best movie you can make with whatever limitations there are (financial, technical, whatever) and when you're done, that's the movie. The original version of the movie, as it was released in the theaters, should always be available and any subsequent alterations should be explicitly referred to as special editions. So I don't like the idea that the original as-released-in-1977 Star Wars isn't available on DVD. Ideally I'd like to have the original version and the special edition on the same DVD.

Prove it.

jpburn's links for E.T. and Star Wars supported the point of the post, but I agree it would've been better to link to something specifically about the KnickKnack boobie issue.

Screencaps of the original characters: the mermaid and the bikini girl.

Finally, I can say "cartoonishly large breasts" with complete accuracy.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:14 PM on June 1, 2003


"I have a feeling that if you asked Pixar, "Hey, did you guys actually go to all the trouble of rerendering those scenes just to remove the boobies?" they would answer "Yeah, we didn't want people to complain about it when their kids went to see Finding Nemo and saw that." (Because they would get complaints, and you know this.)"

Let them complain!
I mean, let's respect rascists complaining about the "negro" in a film, or something!

Let's let the fucking lunatics run the fscking asylum!

Any parent complains, ask them if they breast-fed their child, and if so, ask them if they think that was offensive/damaging to the child. Then tell them to go get a frikkin clue.
posted by Blue Stone at 5:26 PM on June 1, 2003


No need to make young girls feel even MORE inadequate.

It's probably a good idea.
posted by cinderful at 5:28 PM on June 1, 2003


"I just can't comprehend why anyone would think breasts of any size..."

"And this not directed entirely at you JP, but at Pixar..."


Blue Stone: Read my post again. I said that I couldn't understand why anyone would object, and asserted that "they were, indeed, for very small children..."

Meaning: infants.

Geez. I am not anti breast.
posted by jpburns at 6:41 PM on June 1, 2003


JP, some confusion.

I read "My thought is, if you deem large breasts somehow wrong for small children (and I thought they were, indeed, for very small children...),"
as
"I thought they were [wrong] for very small children [seeing the film]"
rather than
"I thought they were [meant] for very small children [in the first place.]"

Your "I call Puritanism" should really have cleared it up for me, but it didn't.

My boobie.
posted by Blue Stone at 7:05 PM on June 1, 2003


The only real effect it has on the work is to make the snowman's quest seem less lascivious. I think the new version is more charming (a quest for friendship vs. tchotchke sex) and although I'm all for toons with boobs, this seems like a silly thing to get worked up about. I can think of a hundred more insidious examples of "puritanism" in America today-- like the number of half-dressed teenaged 'starlets' singing about sex vs. actual nonsexual contextual nudity (show My Neighbor Totoro to a midwestern housewife and watch her squirm at the familial bath scene)...
posted by kevspace at 7:12 PM on June 1, 2003


My question is: When is it right to change an existing work, for whatever reason?

My answer is, whenever the person who owns the work damn well feels like it.

Especially among bloggers with their own web sites, I would think there's an understanding of the desire to re-design that which you previously considered a "finished work." George Lucas isn't obligated to provide the original version of Star Wars to the public any more than I'm obligated to keep online the very first website I ever made when I just learned HTML.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:09 PM on June 1, 2003


Yeah, but we aren't obligated to refrain from criticizing it either, especially when the change affects the quality of the work. (I know this is going to sound ridiculous considering the specific subect at hand.)
posted by saltykmurks at 11:46 PM on June 1, 2003


Oh, sweet suffering Mickey on a matchstick: we're talking about Knick Knack here. Those of you with your diapers in a bunch over this would do well to remember Knick Knack is first, last, and always a commercial product, not some Great Work of Art (tm). Pixar choose to flatten the bathing beauties boobies - so what? I'd never seen Knick Knack before last night and I neither noticed that the bathing beauties were mammarily challenged nor do I care now that I know...
posted by JollyWanker at 5:40 AM on June 2, 2003


Oh, sweet suffering Mickey on a matchstick: we're talking about Knick Knack here.

No, we're talking about an abstract concept here, using KnickKnack as an example. Yes, it doesn't matter in the great scheme of things, but the concept of changing an existing work is a valid topic.

Do you have an opinion or something to add to the conversation?
posted by jpburns at 6:10 AM on June 2, 2003


What kevspace said.

The control that Lucas used to kill off the old versions of Star Wars is being taken away from directors and producers by digital technology, so I don't think it will be an issue much longer. Once we can all fire off perfect digital copies of movies, it will be very easy to preserve the version of the movie you like the best and ignore any versions you don't care for.

I think Pixar's main talent is making animation that appeals to a very, very broad audience. Kids and adults, males and females. I think removing/reducing the boobs was a wise decision towards achieving this for Knick Knack.
posted by frenetic at 6:59 AM on June 2, 2003


this whole thread is very titilating

that appeals to a very, very broad audience.
frenetic, you sexist!
posted by Peter H at 8:20 AM on June 2, 2003


Frankly, I was just disappointed that Finding Nemo didn't have a brand spankin' new animated short. Last year's oscar winner For the Birds was great.
posted by IndigoSkye at 10:16 AM on June 2, 2003


I recall seeing the premiere of the orginal Pixar short of Knick Knack during Spike & Mike's Festival of Animation. (It was in 3-D, no less!) And it just so happens that John Lasseter & co. were sitting behind me during the show. I was 12 years old at the time, and they didn't seem too concerned that I was watching it. Besides, the busty characters are rather innocuous, being the focus of desire from the snowman.

However, I'd say that this short was in an audience of mostly adults, whereas the short before Finding Nemo would likely be shown before children and their concerned parents. I'm sure it was an executive decision to change the bust sizes, if only to dodge the parental complaints.
posted by Down10 at 11:23 AM on June 2, 2003


I can think of a hundred more insidious examples of "puritanism" in America today-- like the number of half-dressed teenaged 'starlets' singing about sex vs. actual nonsexual contextual nudity (show My Neighbor Totoro to a midwestern housewife and watch her squirm at the familial bath scene)...

No kidding. I can think of maybe three people I've shown that scene to that didn't squirm, or giggle, or have some other tee-hee-look-it's-sex reaction. Three, out of something like twenty people.

What does it say about our society when an idealized representation of familial warmth is almost universally regarded as titillating?
posted by vorfeed at 11:34 AM on June 2, 2003


Vorfeed, it means we generally don't get naked with people we aren't hooking up with. Do a google search for cultural relativism.
posted by Samsonov14 at 7:32 AM on June 3, 2003


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