Monday, May 23, 2011

From Ferocious to Endearing

At times I think about how some of the most ferocious or dangerous animals, or people for that matter, have been transformed by pop culture into cuddly, quirky and endearing characters.

Who has ever hugged or cuddled a teddy bear? Come on, be truthful. Whether Paddington, a Care Bear or a no name stuffed teddy you won at a local carnival, you’ve embraced the bear. Real-life bears are quite the opposite.

Walt Disney was a pro at making surly animals, as well as dangerous humans, like pirates, well, lovable. The Pirates of Caribbean franchise originated as an attraction at Disneyland in 1967. Now more than 40 years later, this past weekend in the U.S. Walt Disney Pictures released “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tide,” the fourth film in their highly successful “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, which began in 2003 with “The Curse of the Black Pearl.”

This all ran through my mind May 20 as I chatted with Capt. Jack Sparrow amidst a band playing and swashbucklers shouting “En Garde!” On my way to Fro-Yotopia, a self-serve frozen yogurt place, I walked into a Pirate Party at Downtown at the Gardens, a shopping and entertainment complex in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. The party coincided with the release of “On Stanger Tide.” It wasn’t Johnny Depp I spoke to by the way, just so you know.

He was a friendly guy who participated in the party, and drew a crowd of children and adults wanting to take pictures with him. I wondered if the 10-year-olds smiling and posing for pictures knew what real-life pirates do. Then I thought that perhaps I was being too philosophical about kids enjoying a movie character. Their history teaches will eventually clue them in, hopefully.

Enveloped in the spirit of the evening, my friend Felicia and I decided to see the film. I would say “On Stranger Tide” is not my favorite out of the series. Though I think Depp’s performance as Capt. Jack Sparrow is good; he actually carries the film himself. The supporting characters were kind of just – there. The storyline, which centers around the search for the Fountain of Youth, is not that exciting. The most unique additions are what I call “Anti-Ariel not-so-little Mermaids.” They give new definition to the term “mean girls.” And, I must say the 3D element is not effective. If there is a fifth in the series, hopefully it will be a comeback.

Back to my pondering. Is the creative transformation of traditionally unfriendly inhabitants of our world wrong? Nah. I don’t think so. As long as you know not to embrace a grizzly bear if one shows up at your backdoor.

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