Frankfurt Book Fair: 5 Reasons To Go

If Disney’s Belle lived in our time, she would probably visit the world’s biggest book fair held in Frankfurt, Germany. One of the most iconic book-loving heroines in animated history would definitely be a chick who kept up with developments in the industry, and therefore I’m sure she would expand her reading experience horizons beyond the local bookshop or library.

A few facts and figures for you and for Belle. The 2017 event took place from October 11 to October 15 at the Frankfurt Trade Fair complex, housing several thousand exhibitors of wide-reaching sectors that all still find their way back to the book publishing industry. Both professionals and private visitors such as Belle and myself are invited to attend, with the weekend reserved for us bookworms.

But why should we go, besides the fact that there is a strong possibility of multiplying the amount of feels experienced simply when looking at a book?

Here’s my pick of 5 reasons the Frankfurt Book Fair deserves your bookworm time.

  1. A trip (hopefully) won’t blow your budget. OK, so this is more probable for those travelling in Germany, but still, practical and financial pros are on the list. The Deutsche Bahn offers round trip discounts for those getting to the fair by train. Just make sure to buy your fair ticket in advance, as you are required to have it on you when your train ticket is checked. Speaking of the fair ticket, private visitors pay a currently doable price of 19 euros. The event website is extremely informative in terms of travel routes and finding accommodation. Provided you don’t live too far away from Frankfurt, you might not even have to stay overnight. I did a day trip and caught up on sleep during the four hours there and back on the train. Belle might be able to find a sensible route from France as well.
  2. The event is very well-organized (of course it is, it takes place in Germany, the country where people make a plan to be spontan). The venue is enormous, but numerous strategically placed signs with arrows and readable directions in German and English ensure easy navigation. Not to mention you get a map upon arrival and there is helpful staff everywhere. Phew.
  3. Bookworms will immediately feel at home. Even those of us who are more introverted than others. A crowd provides anonymity and the venue is so spacious that it’s possible to get through without hold-ups. Do your research in advance on which sections you want to visit. For me this was the children’s and young adult area. Who says today’s youth doesn’t read? I saw a line stretching the whole length of the cavernous space I had lost myself in. It’s entirely possible to spend several hours excitedly browsing one booth after another, listening to presentations and maybe even getting a book signed. And of course, everywhere you look, there are books. Rows upon rows of them, shining like their own spotlights on shelves, and you just can’t get enough.
  4. There is something for everyone to see. While in most cases the finished product of all the many-layered work that goes on in the publishing industry is a printed book, the fair also has sections devoted to publishers, literary agents, illustrators, international publishing houses, media and technology professionals, to name but a few.
  5. If you dream about writing your own book, no matter which stage you are at, this fair is for you. You can count on an extensive self-publishing area with an active program spanning all the relevant topics and questions that pop up in connection with this relatively new, but quickly expanding sector of the publishing industry. I was surprised at how many companies already exist in Germany alone, and there are probably even more than the bigger players I saw at the fair.

Sensory overload? Yeah, me too. Cafes and sitting areas follow each other every few minutes of walking, but if they are all full, take heart. There is usually a stretch of carpet behind the booths along one wall, where many of us eventually find our way to sit down and revel in the excitement surrounding us.

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Beauty and the Beast: 5 Reasons Why I Loved Seeing It 5 Times

Minor spoiler alerts

…and enjoyed my visit to the movies every time as if it was the first. How does that work? It’s simply the mark of a very good film and excellent work from all those involved.

So what is it about this dazzling success of a live-action remake that’s got me enchanted?

  1. They kept the goosebump-inducing, heartstring-tugging, sweeping opening theme that takes us right in to the Beast’s castle and that “hidden heart of France”, and we never look back.

2. Casting Emma Watson as Belle was sheer genius, and she delivers in such a way that her Belle simultaneously takes the best from the original Disney story and becomes a fleshed-out, complete and winning heroine in this version. I cannot imagine any other actress in this role. The door of Belle and Maurice’s house opening on a morning in Villeneuve, as Belle steps out and launches in to Little Town was, for me, one of the many wonderful moments in the film. Oh yes, and there’s the fact of all that other brilliant casting – luminous Dan Stevens and all he gives to the Beast, Emma Thompson lovingly recreates Mrs. Potts, Kevin Kline conveys a father’s love with depth and dignity and Luke Evans brings all of Gaston’s brutal sociopathic tendencies to life.

3. All that bibliophilia, educated quoting  and reading of literary works while walking together on gorgeous castle grounds (or watching over a temperamental Beast as he convalesces), the joy that seems to light Belle up from inside when she first steps inside the castle’s mind-blowing library is indispensable in conveying one of the main messages in Beauty and the Beast – the transformative power of knowledge, stories and feeding the mind.

4. Belle’s face standing in front of an enchanted book as the Beast tells her, “Think of the one thing that you’ve always wanted. Now find it in your mind’s eye, and feel it in your heart…” shows in one look the burning longing and sadness that still exists within her, apart from wanting “adventure in the great wide somewhere”, the “one story Papa could never bring himself to tell.” In addition to disclosing a tragic secret and helping Belle move on in her life, the whole sequence was beautifully acted and significant in developing Belle and Beast’s trust in one another (after the magnitude of saving each other’s lives, of course). This part also containes another new musical bit sung by Emma Watson, and her voice perfectly carries both sadness and tenderness.

Easy to remember

Harder to move on

Knowing that the Paris of my childhood

Is gone

5. Well, it would be strange if I didn’t mention Tale as Old as Time here, wouldn’t it? No further words necessary.

Bittersweet and strange

Finding you can change

Learning you were wrong

Disneyland Paris as an Adult, Day 1

“Everytime I come back, it’s like becoming a kid again,” a French colleague of mine said to me dreamily when I shared my weekend plans. “I think I never really stopped,” I replied.

I thought about this some more in the RER train en route to Disneyland Paris, making my fluent in perfect French sibling laugh with my literal English pronounciation of the Noisy-Champs station we passed. It translates as nutty fields, by the way. I don’t know which I enjoy more. But hey, to quote Daria, it’s a nutty, nutty world, and maybe with Walt and Mickey’s help I could escape it for a while.

I want to remember her as well, I realize. The child who discovered herself, not just the adult. I want to carry the things she found out then inside myself, because they still make me who I am. And she is me, just independent, bill-paying, more knowledgable about polite sarcasm and prone to sentimentality.

Somehow I felt this trip would round up all these thoughts anew, since Disney animation was such a big part of my childhood and continued to be so later on in life, coloured by a special sense of memory and appreciation for discovering the stories from an adult point of view.

Trekking along to our hotel independently at first with the aid of Google Maps proved fruitless, as despite Google’s encompassing power, the Maps failed to recognize the high rows of trees blocking our progress as impenetrable. But we were already essentially in Disneyland, with Disney thinking and Disney music inflitrating our brains, so off to the bus shuttle we went, which just didn’t arrive for a while – one of the easiest things to do if you want to make someone who’s lived in Germany for years twitchy.

Once we reached Hotel Cheyenne it was truly like stepping back in time.

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Except we were larger and the security check in the lobby was a painful reminder of current events. What I notice is also how I automatically switch to accommodating this necessary procedure in my daily routine for the moment, while simultaneously thinking it’s just sad.

Hotel Cheyenne is one of the affordable accommodation options at Disneyland Paris. Family-friendly and spacious, many buildings with apt names like Billy the Kid or Calamity Jane spread beyond the main one with the lobby, lining a broad street built like a typical scene from a town in an American Western. Not only do they look the same as I remember from the one time I stayed here as a child, but so does the interior of our room. It’s almost bizarre to see the exact same table lamp with a cowboy boot for a holder, or the horse-patterned stripe of wallpaper just below the ceiling. A short attempt to climb the ladder to the top bunk proves that this is a) painful and not advisable in socks; b) silly as the bunks are too small for us now anyway. There’s also a weight limit I’m pretty sure I exceed nowadays.

If you can walk from your hotel to the park, do! The surrounding area is green and wide in the summertime, otherwise bus shuttles from the hotels actually are frequent. As for booking the travel package and all that practical stuff, two words: in advance!

One more predictable security check and we were strolling towards the gorgeous, prominent and posh Disneyland Hotel. I was still having trouble believing where I was, so I settled for the dreamy state of acceptance.

Little girls dressed like Belle and Snow White skipped past me along Main Street. Bachelorette party (or hen do) groups from England popped up every few minutes in a flurry of sequinned Minnie Mouse ears and young sisters holding hands dashed in to shops overflowing with Elsa and Anna dresses, some emerging as two Elsas or two Annas. Yes, Frozen was being marketed very heavily indeed, despite being released all the way back in 2013.

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Lunching and snacks immediately and predictably wander in to the fast food area, especially if your weekend budget revolves around the € and not the €€€. Service is efficient and quick, though, and visitor traffic moves fast enough so that seating opportunities don’t require major waiting time. The Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlour beckons from accross Casey’s Corner, bringing back memories of reading The Langhorne Sisters by James Fox, but the hot dog and fries I had don’t leave room for more.

Leaving the beautifully decorated shop window displays on Main Street behind us, we proceed towards Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Blush pink and blue-capped, just as I remember, it’s animation come to life without being overdone and the elegant landscaping around it reminds of the various aspects of hard work connected to putting Disneyland Paris together.

A major point of excitement was exploring the castle inside, where I promptly went Disney crazy with my camera among all the carefully reproduced scenes from the eponymous animated classic.

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And then off to the Dragon Lair we went. The wailing I heard inside confirmed what my Disneyland Paris app said – some of the scenes could frighten younger guests. While I wasn’t one, I still clutched my sibling’s hand simply because it was so dark in there.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant was the first ride stop on that day and the slight nerves I had about going up and down (I know, pathetic, it’s a carousel that kids go on) dissipated as soon as I took in the view seated atop our little soaring elephant.

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I’ll just have to suck it up and watch Dumbo to the end, because when I was little the scene with him and his mother in separate cages broke me and I couldn’t continue.

My logically thinking sibling successfully took us through Alice’s labyrinth, leaving me only slightly dizzy, but not late.

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A quick dash in the Mad Hatter’s Teacups (no, we didn’t want to turn the wheel in the middle of our cup to make it spin when the WHOLE PLATFORM of the ride was already doing so) made us laugh. And then, like any self-respecting Disneyland visitors, we set off for the Princess Pavillion, me singing along loudly to various instrumental Disney soundtracks wafting from hidden speakers around us.

While waiting in line I busied myself with my camera once more, particularly enjoying the glowing Disney artefacts displayed behind glass panes and accompanied by a short snippet from the relevant story in French and English.

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“Is there anyone else here without kids?” My sibling whispered. “I don’t know,” I replied, “But look, it’s from The Little Mermaid, it’s the shell, the shell!” I succeeded in getting the lady in front of us to turn around and give me a look, though I didn’t care. The shell! Yes, the Princess Pavillion is essentially for kids, but once we were there, I wanted to see it through. Snow White was lovely, by the way, and she said she liked my earrings. She also compared us to Elsa and Anna, so a good day’s work for us, I say.

The boat ride through Storybook land followed all this princess excitement – a ride I thoroughly enjoyed, with all the recognizable details in the careful miniature reproductions of some of Disney’s most iconic animated features.

To shake things up and with more memories running through our minds, we lined up to go on Pirates of the Carribean just as it started to rain. Savvy! Deeper and deeper we ventured until we reached our boat. Even my limited French was enough to understand the dad seated in front of us saying excitedly to his kids, “Descente!” and I screamed my head off even if it was a short drop, because I’m a scaredy cat. Points out of ten to this ride in terms of atmosphere, though, and I could understand the British teenagers dashing past us to line up again. “We’ve already been three times!” Due to the movie(s) having already come out since I last visited as a child, scenes of looting pirates laughing were all the more impressive and for a few minutes you forget where you are.

One more stop was on our list and as we rounded a corner, the Phantom Manor suddenly came in to view.

During my last visit I was successfully scared in to not going inside, and I said I would come back. Convincingly draped cobwebs adorned the lamps above our heads and the darkness in the antechamber we entered was immediately intimidating. My feverish visual scan of the premises strengthened the hope that this house didn’t include hidden roller coasters, as did the presence of small children around us. I don’t want to include spoilers, of course, but I will say that the wait of many years was worth it and the interiors are fantastic. Surely fun stop at Halloween.

Sated with impressions and walking as we already were, there was one more special point of the evening left to attend to – Disney Dreams, the evening show. Darkness was starting to settle as we approached Sleeping Beauty’s Castle later. People were lining Main Street as we grabbed some hot chocolate and found a good spot.

Music began to play and the castle became an illuminated mesmerizing stage for a medley of Disney animation and music. With the rest of the crowd I sang my heart out to Elsa’s Let It Go amid one of the most beautiful fireworks I have ever seen.

A truly enchanting end to a special day, not without “adult” thoughts (How much does it cost to put on such a display? How eco-friendly are those flames? Is all the merchandise produced under the same unfair employment conditions we read about so much?)

But I do still remember her, the girl I was thinking about on the train ride here.

 

More Beauty and the Beast

The French movie directed by Christophe Gans and released in 2014, that is. I remember the Disney animated classic practically by heart, and yes, of course I will watch it again, and again, and again. This version grabbed my curiousity and it coincided nicely with the reignited enthuasiasm for all things Beauty and all things Beast after the teaser trailer for the upcoming Disney live-action film came out.

So, first thing’s first, it’s very different from the Disney interpretation, as it should be. While the story is scary enough, touching on plenty of serious topics if you stop to think about it, this movie was still darker and sometimes gloomier than I expected. There are, of course, familiar sights – an overgrown, dank, forgotten castle. A sense of impending menace before we really know who or what lives there, which transfers from Belle.

It was much harder to relate to the Beast in this adaptation, and however hard I tried to tell myself he was “real”, with “flaws”, the character had some very unattractive qualities indeed, not to mention a very serious sin on his hands. I was constantly scared he would tear Belle to bits, even when she started falling for him. And that’s the crucial point of dissatisfaction with the movie for me, unfortunately. How Belle starts to open her heart to the Beast skipped my understanding. One moment she is resisting his attentions, even while steadfastly accepting her fate, the next all she wants is to remain with him forever, it is her “only wish”. OK, so he did redeem himself by saving her life, and he doesn’t hide who he is from her. Love is all-powerful etc etc.

Nope, still can’t convince myself.

But the cinematography and costumes are stunning. While Belle’s dresses are somewhat too opulent for all that running around she does, the design is amazing.

There are still many ways to tell stories, including well-known and long-established fairy tales, which is heartening and inspiring. The enduring fascination with this particular genre seems to be showing itself in a myriad of new interpretations in entertainment and culture, and I am constantly watching to see what else will come, how characters we have known forever will find their way in to creative projects.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast with Gifs

Gifs, gifs, gifs, glorious gifs! Yes, it has been almost a week since the teaser trailer for Disney’s 2017 live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast dropped and fans everywhere have been exploding with giddiness ever since.

I could watch the trailer again, and I have. Then the ever-reliable giphy.com provided some lovely gifs from the teaser trailer. They help fill the time while waiting for this movie to hit theaters (2017 is still a bit far-off, after all) and provide some extra fodder for an extended analysis of that which we see before us. Let’s begin. In the order of appearance:

castle 1

“And all who lived there.” Yes, Disney, we know it’s you, nice work there tying in the usual opening castle and logo scene with the story. I still can’t stop remembering Hogwarts in the winter time when I see this. But it’s nice to already get a view of the whole castle, or at least its front facade. That’s a lot of towers.

castle

A circular room with what looks like a domed ceiling, sunlight shining through the windows and illuminating the most likely crystal parts of numerous festive chandeliers waiting for their moment. Gold, white, grey, maybe light-blue dominate what we can see of the interior here and a sleeping piano stands alone. Could this be the ballroom, and if yes, could the iconic dance scene accompanied by Mrs. Potts singing Tale as Old as Time take place here? Dimensions are a bit hard to tell, but judging by the number of chandeliers in this take alone and the several windows, the room must stretch on beyond what we can see. Of course, maybe it’s just the morning room or something like this, where the prince used to play piano regularly in his happier, selfish days, but then he stopped, and it’s been gathering dust ever since, until Belle came along, and as they start to thaw towards each other, they sit down at the piano together and he plays her a long-forgotten tune… My imagination is clearly more than fired up.

castle2

The entrance? The front hall? What Belle sees first as she sets foot inside this forsaken castle? Brown leaves flutter in through the open double doors. Swirling patterns on the powder-blue or white floor echo the curving gold and white molding on the walls. Brown and cobwebs continue on the upper level, though it’s obvious the castle is beautiful (with a good scrub or just some magic once everything is alright again this will actually be visible) and the interiors, while glamourous and speaking of nobility, also have something understated about them, stopping short of being gaudy or ostentatious.

castle3

More gold, and more candles, so many candles! This breathes a bit of Phantom of the Opera and the Phantom’s underground lair, Music of the Night etc. Luckily the castle is actually on the surface of the Earth and Belle is not descending in to the dwellings of an obsessive and murderous dude with a traumatic past and complicated history. She is entering the dwellings of an angry and lonely dude with an as yet unknown past and complicated history. She just doesn’t know what awaits her at all. But there are lots of scrolls here, and a desk, so maybe the people living here used to be interested in things and active in their pursuits.

portrait

A hint about the maybe once happy family who used to live here. We see more gold and curved lines, though the walls and interior around the portrait seem to have absorbed the oft present darkness and stillness that now inhabit the castle. Unlike the room above, a stronger sense of heaviness is apparent, accentuated by the weighty and slightly tattered curtain on the right of the painting. However, candles still burn in their high gold holders, giving sufficient light, because this corner is clearly visited regularly and provokes repeated strong feelings, judging by that make-you-jump growling slash across the canvas. Of course the green-blue eyes and blonde hair of the boy in the center of the portrait are immediately reminiscent of both the animanted prince’s and Dan Stevens’ own luminous peepers…

rose

“It’s a girl!” – “I know it’s a girl!”- “She’s the one, the one we have been waiting for! She has come to break the spell!” What a gorgeous shot. The rose is, of course, perfect, the so far only thing among the preceding interior views that looks truly alive and well. We can tell that Belle is wearing blue, and a ring on the pinky of her right hand – wondering if there’s any story behind that one. Well done, Disney, making fans wriggle some more. Emma Watson bends down and tentatively reaches out a hand towards the rose. Her lovely visage becomes focused, while the rose blurs, but successfully blocks almost half her face as she is level with it. The perfect blend of the known and the mysterious.

But at least we are already invited. My RSVP is ticked off the list.

guest

 

Beauty and the Beast Teaser Trailer

“For who could ever learn to love a beast?”

As far as I’m concerned, the feverish anticipation phase of waiting for Disney’s further upcoming live-action remake of well-known and well-watched animated classic Beauty and the Beast has officially begun. And it began for me the moment I read yesterday that the teaser trailer for the movie was out. A glimpse it is, but oh, what a glimpse!

As far as teaser trailers go, it is gorgeous. A hint of stunning, sweeping cinematography, and doesn’t that castle in the beginning, with the snow swirling around it, remind you just a bit of scenes with Hogwarts in the winter time in the Harry Potter films? I don’t mind at all. And then the sounds from the piano keys one knows so well from the opening score of the soundtrack begin to weave around the images, and my heart almost skips a beat. Such a illuminating blend of the sure-to-come drama, the sadness in the sleeping grandeur of the castle and Belle’s mix of curiousity and caution as she steps inside.

Nothing will ever be the same!

To say I’m looking forward to this is an understatement. To say I’m wildly curious myself doesn’t begin to describe my feelings. One thing is for sure – Emma Watson is one of her generation’s best actresses to portray a young woman with “her nose stuck in a book”, and she is certainly well on her way to creating memorable film portrayals of iconic characters. She can also hold her own with acting based on material that has won millions of fans the world over and continues to endure through time. Playing Hermione, and now Belle, is more than enough pressure. But Hermione is firmly established as a character in her own right, and I hope the same will be true for this new Belle. Emma Watson’s own attentiveness and intelligence will hopefully contribute in the best way to put her own stamp on Belle, yet keep the essential qualities which make Belle who she is.

Remembering Dan Steven’s piercing blue eyes and wonderful diction in Downton Abbey, I also have high hopes for the Beast, aka Prince Adam.

To be released in spring 2017…