Artist: Arthur Rackham (1867-1939)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Freeform’s April Harry Potter Weekend

Freeform's Harry Potter Weekend starts Friday. Copyright Warner Bros. Motion Pictures.
This weekend is Harry Potter Weekend on Freeform. This one is nicknamed “Voldemort Weekend.” In other Potterverse news, the producers of   Fantastic beasts and Where to Find Them 2 announced recently that Jude Law has been cast as Albus Dumbore. The second movie in the Harry Potter prequel series is set for a November 2018 release date.

Back to Harry Potter Weekend, this marathon will not include Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix because the TV rights for the fifth film in the saga currently belong to HBO/Cinemax. As a reminder, Freeform will lose the rights for the Harry Potter movies in July of next year. After that, the rights to all of the Potter films, and the Fantastic Beasts franchise go exclusively to NBC Universal networks which include NBC, USA, and Syfy. Syfy sure would be a good home for Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts movie marathons, if they care to put the effort into it. NBC also owns Universal Studios theme parks, the home of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Hollywood, and Japan.

Here’s the schedule for Harry Potter Weekend on Freeform. Freeform says that scheduled programming is always subject to change. Times listed are for the Eastern Time zone:

Friday, April 28:
3:30p – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
7p – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Sat., April 29:
7a – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
10:30a – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
2:30p – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
5:30p – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
9p – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Sun. April 30:
7a – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
10:10a – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
1:50p – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
5:30p – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
9p – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Mon., May 1:
1:30p – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
5p – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

As always, fans can tweet along with Freeform on their official Twitter account (@Freeform TV). Follow Freeform on Facebook to post, comment, and interact with Freeform and other fans. For more information, including possible programming changes to the above Harry Potter Weekend schedule, visit Freeform’s official website.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ Blu-ray Combo Pack: The Fairy Blog Review

Eddie Redmayne is Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them takes us back to Harry Potter’s magical world of Faerie, only this time to the streets of 1920s New York city. The story follows the adventures of magizoologist Newt Scamander, author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, one of Harry Potter’s textbooks at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Newt is a stranger in a strange land who arrives in America only to find himself in a foreign wizarding community existing in secret, living in fear of discovery by a hostile non-magical society. As if that wasn’t enough, the international wizarding world is on high alert because murderous dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald is at large.

Fans of the Harry Potter films were on pins and needles, wondering if Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them would be able to live up to their beloved fairy tale saga. After all, unlike the Potter movies, there was no beloved book series on which to base this new film series, plus, J.K. Rowling had never written a screenplay before. Well, Rowling and the rest of the production team outdid themselves. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the best wizarding movie since the enchanting Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s stone, the film that started it all. And Fantastic Beasts is the first Harry Potter movie to win an Academy Award.

After 35 years in the business, and previous Oscars, costume designer Colleen Atwood proved she’s not sitting on her laurels with her exquisite costume designs. Attwood elevates her art, and the actor’s performances with her visionary creations, garnering her a 4th Academy Award for Best Achievement in Costume Design. Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter himself, expressed his envy of Newt Scamander’s great coat. The costumes for each character from the leads down to the extras are spot on, helping to create the spell of this fairy story.

This production contains lots of magic, as well as talent, hard work, knowledge, creativity, and loving care. It’s so rare to see this kind of attention to each and every detail of a movie, even a big budget one like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The writing, directing, acting, production design, sound, cinematography, special effects, and CGI are all artistic triumphs. James Newton Howard’s musical score is pure magic, the best since John William’s brilliant score for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is out now on Blu-ray combo pack.
The Blu-ray combo pack comes with a Blu-ray disc, a DVD, and a digital HD copy. The quality of the picture and sound are excellent. The difference in the dreary non-magical world vs. the rich, vivid colors of the wizarding world show up as beautifully on this home video edition. The sound is exceptional as well. That’s not easy to do in a movie with so many layers of sound. This is a top quality product that immerses the viewer in J.K. Rowling’s world of wizards and beasts of Faerie.

Verdict: Fairytastic! Buy it. 5 out of 5 stars. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is available online and in stores now. Click here for my review of the movie.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Dana Simpson’s ‘Unicorn Crossing’: The Fairy Blog Review

Cartoonist Dana Simpson is author/illustrator of the Phoebe and Her Unicorn book series.

Unicorn Crossing: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure is the fifth book in Dana Simpson’s New York Times best-selling Phoebe and Her Unicorn series. The books follow the adventures of nine year old Phoebe Howell, an awkward fourth grader, and her magical best friend, a unicorn named Marigold Heavenly Nostrils. The series is based on Simpson’s nationally syndicated comic strip Phoebe and Her Unicorn.

Phoebe was pretty lonely until she met Marigold. One day she was alone by a lake, skipping rocks, when one of the rocks accidentally hits the unicorn. It turns out that Marigold was trapped by the loveliness of her own reflection in the water, and the rock snapped her out of it. Grateful for being rescued, the fairy creature offers Phoebe a wish. Phoebe wished for Marigold to be her best friend. Eventually, the unicorn decides to become the girl’s best friend just because she likes her.

In Unicorn Crossing, the girls’ friendship continues to grow as they discover more about each other’s worlds. Marigold shows that even a unicorn with magic powers isn’t spectacular at everything when she throws a Halloween party for Phoebe; mean girl Dakota is still picking on Phoebe, and manages to use her popularity to turn goblin friends into a fad; and Todd the Candy Dragon and Lord Splendid Humility both make appearances. Phoebe goes through Unicorn withdrawal when Marigold visits a unicorn spa with her sister Florence Unfortunate Nostrils; and Marigold learns there’s a down side to over-using the Spell of Forgetting.

Unicorn Crossing by Dana Simpson, Andrews McMeel Publishing.
This award-winning series has something for everyone, from kids to adults. It’s funny, warm, enchanting, and completely unique. Along with the laughs, fun, and wonder, it features the charming ongoing story of a beautiful friendship between two very different beings from different worlds who love and appreciate each other for who they are, just as they are, flaws and all. And that is the true magic of this smart, funny fairy story.

Verdict: Fairytastic! I give it 5 out of 5 stars. Other books in the series are Phoebe and Her Unicorn, Unicorn on a Roll: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure, Unicorn vs. Goblins: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure, and Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure. Unicorn Crossing: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure is published by Andrews McMeel Publishing, and will be released March 28, 2017.

The Phoebe and Her Unicorn comic strip is available online at GoComics, where the daily strips go all the way back to the beginning of the story. Fans can follow Phoebe and Her Unicorn on Twitter and like the official Phoebe and Her Unicorn page on Facebook.  


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Disney’s New ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Shines

Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" is in theaters now. Copyright Walt Disney Motion Pictures

I’ll be honest, I did not enjoy Disney’s live action remake of “Cinderella.” That added to the reviews I saw on TV yesterday and this morning, made me apprehensive about seeing “Beauty and the Beast.” Boy were those reviews wrong, I loved it! Everyone else in the packed theater did too – we laughed, we cried, and we applauded at the end.

Let’s address the focus of the less than stellar reviews: the two leads Emma Watson and Dan Stevens. Yes, their singing was underwhelming, yes, Emma Watson’s voice is small, and was highly Auto-Tuned, but it didn’t ruin it for me. They gave engaging performances, and I truly cared for these characters.

Now, as for the other performances, they couldn’t have been better. Luke Evans almost stole the show as Gaston. He gave a terrific musical performance, and he was funny, vile, and evil – a great villain. Also of special note was the wonderful Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts. This is only the second musical the Oscar winning actress/writer has done since her professional career took off back in the 1980s, and I can’t imagine why. And what can I say about four-time Tony award winner Audra McDonald as Madame Garderobe? She’s one of the greatest musical theater performers of all time. Her voice is beautiful, rich, resonant, and luscious, and she gets to use her upper register which is sparkling and full of color.

Director Bill Condon, and his production team have created a visual feast. This movie is stunning, with vibrant colors, and gorgeous sets and vistas. Real love was put into this enchanting tale of fairy. I can’t say enough good things about the acting, directing, visual effects, design, music, 3D effects, and cinematography.

Verdict: Fairytastic! 5 out of 5 stars. Get to the theater and see “Beauty and the Beast;” you’ll be so happy you did. Click here to visit the official “Beauty and the Beast” Facebook page, and here for the official website.  

Monday, March 6, 2017

Introducing the Flower Fairies Secret Garden

Daisy Fairy. Copyright Ultimate Source
Fans of fairy artist, author, and poet Cicely Mary Barker can now bring her flower fairies into their homes and gardens for themselves or their children. The Flower Fairies Secret Garden is a brand new line of flower fairy figurines and accessories from Ultimate Source that children (and adults) can collect, play with, and use to create their very own imaginary or real fairy garden. The flower fairies will be available starting March 2017.

I spoke with Joyce Sprau, Senior Project Manager at Ultimate Source, and creator of the Flower Fairies Secret Garden, about the new products and how they came about.

FB: Where did the idea for the Flower Fairies Secret Garden come from?

JS: The idea came from me. I’ve been a toy designer for 20 years. I’m always looking for an opportunity in the market to design something new for kids. I watched the miniature garden category grow over the last couple of years, but there was no good product out there for kids. I first saw the Cicely Mary Barker books at a nursery. I fell in love with the story, the artwork, and over 150 different fairies. I contacted Penguin Books licensing team with my interest and presented my ideas to bring the characters to life and specifically designed for miniature gardening and collecting. I was lucky enough to go to the Victoria & Albert Museum to see Cicely Mary Barker’s original artwork in the archives.

FB: What’s the difference between the Flower Fairies Secret Garden figurines and other Cicely Mary Barker fairy figurines?

JS: The new figurines are made out of durable plastic and safety tested for kids. We went to create a consistent scale and world around the Flower Fairies which has never been done before.

Ms. Sprau further shared that the Cicely Mary Barker Flower Fairies figurines that were made by Add an Accent are no longer being made. That makes the Flower Fairies Secret Garden the only Cicely Mary Barker figurines currently in production. She said that the relationship between Ultimate Source and Penguin (who own the copyright to Cicely Mary Barker’s flower fairies) will be long term. She says that Penguin’s been a great partner.

Buttercup Fairy shown with door accessory. Copyright Ultimate Source
There are twenty-three items in the line, including eight flower fairies plus accessories that can be used either indoors or outdoors, plus silk flowers and moss landscape for creating an imaginary fairy garden. There will be new fairies, fairy houses, and accessories coming out each year. The next fairies will be introduced this fall. They are also working on Christmas fairies.

Teeter Totter accessory shown with flower fairies. Copyright Ultimate Source
Ms. Sprau kindly sent me a selection of Flower Fairies Secret Garden fairies and accessories. They come in beautifully designed, sturdy packaging, perfect for gift giving. The fairies and accessories are well made, and slightly rubbery in texture, so they won’t break easily. They’re really sweet and charming, just like Cicely Mary Barker’s paintings. They’re safety tested for ages three and up, even though the packaging reads ages six and up.

They're designed for kids to carry around and take with them wherever they go. They’re great as collectibles, toys, and for real or imaginary fairy garden design. If used for outdoor gardens, they do need to be brought in over the winter, and there will be some fading of color from exposure to the elements over time.

You can click here to visit the Flower Fairies Secret Garden website. The website is still a work in progress, but there will be a “Where to Buy” page soon. Look for these delightful Cicely Mary Barker flower fairy figurines and accessories at garden centers and specialty gift shops. They’re currently available in the U.S., Canada, and Australia, but will eventually be available in other countries as well. You can click here for more information about Cicely Mary Barker’s life and work.