Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"The Little Engine that Could": film version connects two "universes", real and dreams

Universal’s animated adaptation of the children’s story (by Charles Wing) “The Little Engine that Could” (directed by Elliot M. Bour) certainly enriches the fable about optimism and hard work, something that puts me back into early memories of being five years old.  In fact, I believe that the “I think I can” idea occurs in Disney’s “Dumbo”.

The film stitches two universes: a “Real World” with a little boy Richard (Dominc Scott Kay) who winds up in “Dreamland” (populated by anthropomorphic trains) when he hitches a freight train to get away from playground bullies, rides through the tunnel, which then collapses, trapping him in, well, “rem sleep”.  The Dreamworld looks like a very interesting model railroad to be sure, very complex, with lots of nooks and crannies, and trains with personalities.  It compares well to “Roadside America” in Pennsylvania.  The trains decide that the way back may be to find the old tracks over the mountain. That sounds like driving the Pennsylvania Turnpike around the Laurel Hill or Sideling Hill tunnels.  Or maybe it’s like the Cass Scenic Railroad in West Virginia (or the Mt. Washington cog railway).
In the movie, the way up the mountain has its own little tunnels.  And trestle bridges (one that reminds me of “The Cassandra Crossing”).  Then the boy meets his metaphorical enemy, the Nightmare Train. He winds up inside a boxcar, which could be taken to have particularly disturbing historical implications.
Jodi Benson, Corbin Bleu, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Whoopi Goldberg also “appear”, as voices.
In the concept of the movie a take-off of "Inception"?  Or maybe "The Polar Express"? There is a short film on the story made in 1991 in Wales. 
"I think I can" becomes "I know I can."

Bu the way, the idea of the boy's stolen watch (of his grandfather) is what started the downfall of Alan Turing.  
Best line is, "Nobody can do that, not even me!"    
Some viewers on the web report that three-year-olds love this.  But should children that young watch movies?  Will they forgo learning to play baseball, or piano? 

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