Friday, March 4, 2011

‘Gnomeo & Juliet’, ‘Red Riding Hood’ show the value of public domain works

Hollywood studios have a love-hate relationship with the public domain.
They love to adapt literary and artistic works in the public domain because they’re free to use and have a built-in audience and recognition factor. At the same time, they hate the idea that any of their properties could fall into the public domain and be adapted by others.
So media conglomerates like the Walt Disney Co. and Time Warner continue to press governments for longer and longer terms for copyrighted works. This is wrong and needs to stop. Our culture is built on the ideas of others and the public domain needs to be refreshed with new works of art for others to create from.
I post articles regularly citing current examples of entertainment based on public domain works.
Here are the latest examples:

‘Gnomeo & Juliet’

“Gnomeo & Juliet” is very, very loosely based on William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” (1597). It’s an animated comedy featuring garden gnomes. It takes the young lovers and feuding families of Shakespeare’s tragedy and puts a family friendly, feel-good spin on it. By playing off the familiar literary title, “Gnomeo & Juliet” lets audiences know basic plot and that it has a sense of humor
Audiences seem to like it. The movie, distributed by Disney's Touchstone Pictures, raked in more than $76 million in U.S. theaters since opening Feb. 11.


“Beastly” is the latest retelling of the traditional fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast,” first published in 1740. This version is aimed at tween girls. It stars Alex Pettyfer as a New York teen transformed into a hideous monster because of his arrogance and must find true love to break the curse. It also stars Vanessa Hudgens and Mary-Kate Olsen. It opens today.

‘Red Riding Hood’

The traditional folktale “Little Red Riding Hood” is the springboard for a new movie about a werewolf starring Amanda Seyfried. It opens March 11. “Red Riding Hood” was directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who also directed “Twilight” (2008). The movie is co-produced and distributed by Time Warner's Warner Bros. unit.

To be continued.

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