Did you guys know that back in, like, 1982, Tim Burton did a retelling of Hansel and Gretel
I did not know! At least, not until obopolsk
and I went to check out the Tim Burton exhibit at the NY MOMA on Sunday. Now . . . I kind of wish I did not know. (Then why am I telling you about it? Because apparently Tim Burton has destroyed the only other copy - and one can see why - so unless you go to the MoMA you will never get to see it, and some trauma must be shared.)
They were showing the film on one of those small art museum screens in a little alcove and there were a bunch of people of varying ages apparently riveted, so we wandered over. By the time we got there, Hansel was being held prisoner in a white room and menaced by a terrifying small two-dimensional clown puppet explaining that it was made out of gingerbread and Hansel should eat it. (The clown did not look like it was made out of gingerbread.)
Hansel looked dubious, but took a couple of bites of the clown and then rebelled. The clown flew into a rage, gyrated, and sang, "DO YOU WANT MY BODY? EAT ME!" Hansel looked justifiably traumatized and SO DID WE.
We flashed briefly on the witch (a man in drag) informing Gretel that she was going to eat her brother. The set here was also white, with one very Tim Burton-ish cardboard stove. The clown head yelled at Hansel some more to finish eating him; Hansel threw it on the ground and it shattered, to everyone's great relief. Then Hansel got pulled up to the other all-white set and Hansel and Gretel and the witch suddenly got into a swordfight. The white walls started bursting and splattering multicolored pus all over everyone. "Why are they now playing paintball?" asked obopolsk
. This was an excellent question to which there appeared to be no answer.
(All the actors, by the way, were Japanese. This may have been a laudable early attempt at Disney diversity, or it may have been because Tim Burton wanted to have the witch's broom turn into a pair of nunchucks. Which happened.)
Eventually the witch charged into the cardboard oven. The house started collapsing and there was a lot more multicolored goop. The kids ran outside and shuffled behind a two-dimensional cardboard boat that carried them back to their father; he apologized for kicking them out of the house and sending them out into the woods to be eaten by a cannibalistic witch and traumatized by a terrifying clown puppet, and suggested he make it up to them by making spaghetti. We did not think this seemed like adequate amends. Then everyone started floating in the air and making stoned and beatific expressions.
"I think this is a metaphor," I said, "for how high everyone at Disney must have been when they green-lit this film."
In conclusion: Tim Burton, I do not blame you for destroying this film, and I am going to have nightmares. WHAT GINGERBREAD CLOWN PUPPET?