Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean: Mirror Mask Hardcover – 1 May 2005
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Complete with over 1,700 of McKean's storyboards, as well as the full screenplay written by Gaiman, MIRRORMASK is a fairy tale adventure that follows the story of Helena, the daughter of a circus family whose only wish is to abandon her life amongst performers and enter the real world. She engages in a heated discussion with her parents about her future with the circus, and soon after her mother falls gravely ill.
On the night before her mother goes in for surgery, Helena dreams she is in a mysterious and magical new world. In this world of two kingdoms, one land is eternally filled with light while the other is always shrouded in darkness. The balance is shifting in this new world as the daughter of the Dark Queen steals the MirrorMask from the castle of the White Queen. The White Queen then slips into a sleep from which she cannot be awakened. The only way to restore her is to seek out and bring her the MirrorMask.
The question Helena comes to ask is whether it is all a dream or is it something else entirely. She comes to believe that what she changes in the dream world will affect the real world. Thus, using the logic of dream worlds, her mother will be healed if she helps the White Queen. With the aid of the crafty juggler, Valentine, Helena sets out to retrieve the MirrorMask.
Gaiman weaves a beautiful tale where much is familiar and yet wholly new. The cast of characters is colorful and engaging, especially Valentine, who is both hysterically funny and also suspicious enough to be wary of. His writing style always has been one of great visual impact --- when reading a Gaiman work you can close your eyes and see his images in your mind. MIRRORMASK is no exception. Although McKean's artwork accompanies the text, you still can feel the visual component of Gaiman's words calling you to this new world.
Of equal interest are the letters sent between Gaiman and McKean that are included in the back of the book. These 20+ pages offer us insight into how the film came to be, from its creation in Gaiman's mind to its refining in McKean's hands. It also affords the reader the opportunity to see the editorial process as names and actions from Gaiman's initial vision changed by the time the screenplay was complete.
The germs of this tale came to life while Gaiman and McKean stayed in Jim Henson's house. Surrounded by all the magical elements of Jim's world, they set about the writing of the film. In reading the resulting book, they have succeeded in creating a world easily accessible to children and adults, and reawakened the wonder in all of us.
But in 2001, he embarked on a different kind of creative journey: Penning "Mirrormask," a Carroll-ian fantasy movie, directed by book illustrator (and Gaiman collaborator) Dave McKean. While the movie isn't yet out, the screenplay is a lavish affair with concept art, photos and background information.
Helena is a bored young girl in the circus, wanting a taste of real life. But then real life strikes: During a performance, her mother falls seriously ill and is hospitalized. Unhappy and directionless, Helena falls into another world -- a bizarre place full of masked people, griffins, orbiting giants and malevolent shadows.
She is soon told by the Prime Minister that an evil princess (who resembles her) has stolen a magical charm, sending the Queen of that city into a coma -- and her city into chaos. With the comically mercenary Valentine at her side, Helena finds herself sent on a dangerous quest to find the charm -- the mysterious Mirrormask.
Half of "Mirrormask"'s appeal is the eerie presentation, along with an archetypical heroine and opposing light/dark kingdoms. And it's a credit to both McKean and Gaiman that their screenplay is a good read on its own, letting eager fans know what to expect when the film finally sees the light of day.
What sets "Mirrormask: The Illustrated Film Script" apart from most screenplays? The fact that Gaiman and McKean included storyboard pictures with the dialogue. It's not easy to visualize what's happening in a movie just by reading the script, and so the storyboard images let the readers follow the dialogue more easily.
And of course: the photographs -- weird ones, usually patched together with surreal CGI, computer animation and wild makeup. Valentine's masklike face in particular is odd, but strangely convincing. There are even some behind-the-scenes photographs, including bluescreen shots and faux-aged pictures of anti-Helena.
To add to the wealth of information, the correspondence between McKean and Gaiman about this film, abbreviations and grammatical errors intact. "Fantasy stories rely on cliche too much, fairy stories about fairies I think are pointless, fairy stories about the people who need to believe in fairies I think are fascinating," McKean writes in one letter.
"Mirrormask" seems to be what one would expect from a Gaiman creation: Weird, strange, and surreal, yet also funny and touching. And for anyone anticipating the film, "Mirrormask: the Illustrated Script" is a must-have.
Above is an overly simplification of the delightful fairy tale plot that is some ways will remind the audience of the Wizard of Oz. The book is not a novel, but instead the film script with story boards of Mirrormask Motion Picture. This different tome is fun to follow whether Helena is performing as a sock, working at the circus as a juggler or selling tickets, or meeting strange beings in the fantasy realm as she seeks "ruby slippers' to get back home. Interesting but not for everyone, this is an intriguing picture book that tells the fun tale, but keep in mind it is a script not a graphic novel. Appendices add understanding as the MIRRORMASK -- THE ILLUSTRATED FILM SCRIPT OF THE MOTION PICTURE FROM THE JIM HENSON COMPANY is fun family entertainment with a movie to follow in the Fall.
As a painter, short stories writer, and graphic novella's author i may say that the Mirrormask is a great ''drive trough'' the world of magic, fantasy, and imagination of today's acclaimed writer Neil Gaiman, and my favorite painter, photographer, and one of a kind artist Dave McKean.
I'll make this short.
All of you that are interested in a way of making a good scenario, and a great storyboard, you SHOULD have this amazing book!
It helped me to see and to realise how to think, and how to make my own ideas come true!
Dave McKean is one of my favorite artists, and trust me, you'll like this book!
Also, i want to recommend you his earlier work, such as Violent Cases, Black Orchid, and Batman - Arkham Asylum.
So much about this now, and be well my friends!
Greetings from wounded city of magic: Sarajevo!