April 26, 2018

Popular Culture || The Star Wars Toys Controversy

c3po-r2d2-last-jedi-premiere-facebook-starwarsmovies
Facebook/StarWarsMovies
Watching YouTube for me leads to a recommendeds list filled with Star Wars videos. Lately there's been a trend of slating Star Wars toys, because they are not selling, because the sequel trilogy is terrible, and the toys are, too. I did some reading and discovered that, though these reasons may be a contributing factor, they aren’t entirely the reason: it all boils down to business.

Note: This post was originally posted on my Tumblr, which is unashamedly FILLED with Star Wars stuff (Reylo in particular).

If YouTubers are to be believed, it’s because of:

1. Poor quality of toys. Many of the movie tie-ins have basically been called pieces of drutash castings.
2. Lack of innovation. The Force Link brand, for example, contains tech that isn’t a new concept, and also does not perform well in practice.
3. The poor storytelling and character development in ‘The Force Awakens’ and ‘The Last Jedi’, even in ‘Rogue One’. Arguments include that Rey has no depth, for example, and that Disney is depending on her role as a ‘strong female character’ to inspire loyalty, or that Rose Tico is a whiner and no one would look up to her, (Many times they criticise the latter’s supposed lack of sexual attractiveness. Because, you know, that’s important in a toy.)
4. No one can invest in these characters because they don’t capture children’s and fan’s imaginations, nor are they compelling.
5. The movies are just so bad no one wants the toys.
6. The push for diversity and representation has hurt the franchise, because, you know, the original trilogy was super diverse.

Some of these reasons are the same for why fans (supposedly) dislike the new films: the push for representation and diversity, the introduction of social justice issues, poor storytelling and character development…

There are also many who say the films have ‘bastardised’ favourite legacy characters.

Now I’m not saying that some of these concerns aren’t valid for a lot of fans out there. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I just wanted to find out if these could be considered the 'business’ reasons for the supposed decline in Star Wars toy sales. It turns out there are a lot of environmental factors at play.

According to a Forbes report at the end of 2017, Star Wars toys were the top-selling brand in 2015 and 2016. It seems 2017 is where a snag came along. The article suggests that Toys'R'Us filing for bankruptcy could hold some blame. ‘Rogue One’ could also be to blame: it was a darker film, possibly not endorsed by a lot of parents as it resulted in the death of all the main characters, which may have made the toys less appealing to children (who wants to play with a dead hero, right?). This also meant that a lot of these toys were still hanging around, translating to poor retail orders by buyers who may not be Star Wars fans or aware of the different films at all. The toys were also not amazing, as there were some material issues making the figures’ faces less realistic. An AT-ACT Walker was released but was too pricey, meaning it’s likely Hasbro decided not to make any similar toys. Also, ‘The Force Awakens’, released in 2015, was the first Star Wars film in a decade, resulting in a lot of excitement and a lot of purchases, a purchase rate that certainly could not be maintained.

It adds that the character design for ‘The Last Jedi’ vs ‘The Force Awakens’ sees the core group of characters wearing basically the same outfits, so there's not really any impetus to purchase a toy from the new film that looks the same as the one from the last film. The new ships and vehicles are also arguably too big to sell as figure toys (think of the Dreadnought and the Finaliser).

Another interesting problem is the spoiler issue. Disney is simply afraid of our spoiler-culture (I mean, we seriously can’t even wait for the next season of ‘Game of Thrones’ without someone leaking the script), which means toy designers have very little to work with ahead of a film’s release if the toy's design may reveal a potential plot point. Basically, it resulted in Finn being marketed as the lead for ‘The Force Awakens’, and no toys of Snoke or Luke Skywalker were available before the plot was common knowledge.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that movie-tie-in toys were suffering across the board. Consumers are possibly just tired of all the memorabilia that can be had. Called it movie-tie-in-fatigue. Think of all the massive franchises currently in the mix: The Avengers, Justice League, at least two major Disney animations a year… and the list goes on. After all, we can’t all afford to purchase every single item from all our favourite fandoms. Bloomberg even says a problem may be that children are tuning in to YouTube, Netflix, and even social media for their entertaining fixes instead of actually playing with figures. Even movie attendance has dropped.

I would personally just like to add though: the toys are for children, first of all, so they aren’t going to match impossible collectors’ standards; the toys may be cheap to make them more accessible - not every child gets a lovely allowance, and if they do, they’re likely spending most of it on data; and, some people will never be happy.

The. End.

{Lead image credit: Facebook/StarWarsMovies}
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April 15, 2018

Movies || My Favourite Disney Villains

favourite-disney-villains-header
Walt Disney movies are in my blood. Well, really animated films are, because I only became familiar with Disney when I was six and it was anime films like Nausicaa (my favourite anime EVER - if you haven't seen it, you simply MUST!) and series like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, My Little Pony, Brave Starr, and even The Smurfs that were my bread and butter. One of the things I love about animation is that they have the most inventive villains; villians you can hate, villains you empathise with, and villains you can just laugh at. I will stick to Disney films for this piece, because a) let's face it, Disney is a monster, and b) they have created my favourite villains of all time.

"Now, my dear, you're going to find the big shiny, diamond for your Auntie Medusa, aren't you?"
Posted by The Rescuers on Thursday, December 10, 2015

1. Madame Medusa

The Rescuers' title song always makes me cry. I knew because of this film that I was lucky to have a family, that I would never be as lost and alone as poor Penny. And the film also has a truly memorable villain: Medusa.

She is based on The Diamond Duchess from Margery Sharp's novel Miss Bianca, but the character design was also inspired by Cruella de Vil, from 101 Dalmations. The original idea was that Cruella de Vil would come to Devil's Bayou for some reason, but the plan was scrapped and Medusa came to life, some initial sketches showing her with alligator skins like Cruella. She and Cruella have a lot in common, including vanity and anger, but Medusa was made unique with her sagging breasts, extravagant makeup, and pet alligators.

Why she is a favourite: She is truly cruel. My little five-year-old heart couldn't imagine being treated as badly as Penny: told no one would want me, thrown into a watery cave, have my favourite teddy bear (my only friend) held for ransom, and having to depend on wild creatures for my salvation instead of the authorities who I had once had faith in. Heartbreaking stuff.

Interesting fact: She has a similar facial structure to Ursula. Which leads me nicely to -->

Feeling Friday fabulous.
Posted by The Little Mermaid on Friday, May 20, 2016

2. Ursula

I think Ursula from The Little Mermaid may be at the top of everyone's list of Disney villains. She is frightening and creepy, half octopus and half witch, squeezing the blood out of poor sea creatures for her lipstick and turning mermaids into seaweed. She also has a theatrical demeanour, making her utterly charming, and if it weren't  As a villain, she is manipulative of necessity, but she cheated when she used Ariel's voice to enchant Eric. She is vain and power hungry but also so smart that she knows exactly what her victims want, how to get it for them, and how to take it away.

Why she is a favourite: I really liked her songs :) I'm a simple gal. Her theatrical demeanour makes her so charming, and if it for those asides to Flotsam and Jetsam during Poor Unfortunate Souls, we may have believed she was truly interested in helping Ariel.

Interesting fact: She only has six tentacles. Although add her arms and she would have eight limbs...

Watch this exclusive Robin Hood clip featuring a deleted storyline: http://di.sn/dHM
Posted by Robin Hood on Tuesday, August 6, 2013

3. Prince John

Robin Hood is not one of my favourite Disney films for nothing: Prince John is hilarious, and Peter Ustinov was the perfect choice for his voice. Like all Disney villains, he is vain, but he is also self-indulgent, doing whatever makes him happy, even sucking his thumb when he thinks of his mother. His immaturity is a wonderful character flaw and I can't think of another villain who pulls it off so well, making it tragically funny.

Why he is a favourite: He is unforgettable. I think of him and immediately think of the scene where Robin Hood is pulling a money bag away from Prince John as he tries to keep his thumb in his mouth, or his wriggling toes teasing Hiss, or wrapping Hiss around a pole. He's just the funniest, meanest villain.

Interesting fact: In the early stages of character design, there was a plan to make Prince John a tiger, which was scrapped because obviously a tiger couldn't be a brother to King Richard the lion. Some say this may explain his lack of mane.

“These are NOT Joanna eggs!” -McLeach
Posted by The Rescuers Down Under on Thursday, August 23, 2012

4. McLeach

McLeach, from The Rescuers Downunder is an absolutely horrible person, there is no doubt about it. He poaches animals for a living, selling them or their hides on the black market. He is cunning and manipulative, and even sadistic and abusive. I think he even suggests he may have had something to do with Cody's father's disappearance. I think he may be Disney's most evil character. Well, I am biased when I say that: I've always been interested in nature conservation, so seeing someone disrespect wildlife and plan to kill of an entire species for monetary gain always sickened me.

Why he is a favourite: He is truly hateful. Those are the best villains. The ones you can really hate.

Interesting fact: His full name is Percival C. McLeach.

"Uh, guys...Olympus would be that way."
Posted by Hercules on Tuesday, February 6, 2018

5. Hades

Voiced by James Woods, Hades is the best thing about Hercules. The actor jumps at every chance to play Hades, and he actually changed how the character is portrayed in the film after the filmmakers saw his audition: Hades was meant to be a threatening villain, but Woods' rendition changed their minds and he turned into this sort of salesperson that is excellent at manipulating people.



Why he is a favourite: He's a real personality. I also feel as though you can empathise with him to some degree, more so than any of the other villains on my list. He just wants absolute power, to be appreciated like his brother. What sibling doesn't want that? Sure, he goes about it the wrong way, I mean he is the villain after all, but through it all he never gives up and takes the positive out of any situation.

When your boss asks you to work over the weekend:
Posted by The Emperor's New Groove on Friday, March 16, 2018

6. Ysma

Now Ysma is a rare jewel. She is villainous because she covets Kuzco's throne, because when she does sit on it she doesn't really care about the subjects who come for assistance, and because she tries to poison the Emperor (who is accidentally turned into a Llama). But she is in a strange position in relation to Kuzco because he is just like her: vain, uncaring, selfish. Her villainy in fact aids in Kuzco's personal growth. She never truly does anything evil, and often offers more of a position of comic relief as she clearly has no understanding of how to deal with people.

Why she is a favourite: I am a bit biased, I'll admit, because The Emperor's New Groove is (also) one of my favourite Disney films, and I just love how off-the-wall everything about it is. From Kuzco's narration of his life and the squirrel popping a balloon in a den of jaguars to Kronk's squirrel language skills and jumping rope while Pacha's wife is picking up a cup, it is so ridiculous and so memorable. I cannot help but love her. And Yzma's interaction with her minion is just hilarious.



Who are you favourite Disney villains? I'd love for you to let me know in the comments!

{Lead image sources: Facebook/DisneyTheRescuers; Facebook/DisneyTheRescuersDownUnder; Facebook/DisneyTheLittleMermaid; Facebook/DisneyHercules; Facebook/DisneyRobinHood; Facebook/EmperorsNewGroove}
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April 11, 2018

DIY || Make a Quilt from Your Baby's Old Clothing

diy-baby-clothing-quilt
What to do with all those baby clothes? Well, you could give it away to a worthy cause, or you could turn it into something of a talking point!

I used some of my favourite of Emma's old baby clothing and turned them into (hopefully) an heirloom piece.


What you need:

Iron-on interfacing
Baby clothes
Ruler and scissors
Iron
Backing fabric to fit the finished quilt

How to do it:

First off, you'll have to come up with a layout for the quilt, so that you have the correct measurements.

Mine looked a little like this:

quilt-layout

So let's begin!

cut-up-baby-clothing

Cut the baby clothing up into squares and strips according to your layout. Make sure to coordinate colours.
iron-interfacing

Iron interfacing onto the back of every square.

baby-name-on-square

If you'd like to make a square with the baby's name on it, print out the letters in a font that you like. Cut them out from paper and use them to cut the letters out of fabric.

appliqued-letters

Applique them onto the square. If you like, you could iron interfacing on before cutting the letters out to keep them stable on the quilt.

Sew all the squares together one at a time, ensuring that you iron the seams open with every square.
If you have motifs from some of the clothing, applique or straight stitch them on to blank squares.

Lay the quilt onto a flat surface and cut the backing fabric to fit. Place the pieces together front sides facing and pin them together, sewing all the way around but leaving a 20cm section open so you can turn the quilt inside out.

Once you have the quilt right sides out, lay it on a flat surface again and pin all four sides of every square to the backing fabric. Top stitch around the edges to keep the quilt in place.

giraffe-baby-quilt-square

If you have any motifs that you'd like to save as well, you can straight stitch around them on the plain squares.

Top stitch all the way around the quilt.

And you're done!

This is the full quilt:

completed-baby-quilt-from-old-clothing

I'd love to see your end-result! Please share it with me in the comments below!

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