Early this morning I awoke from an unfinished dream with a powerful urge to record it in my journal. So much so it propelled me out of bed in a flash of insight. I had to write like lightning to get this down before its substance disappeared in the light. It was a wondrous journey cut short by the time sensitive dilemma that the dream situation posed.
Despite the chosen title for this post, I have not seen Disney’s Frog Princess (2009) even though I know it was in development for decades.
I found myself in an enchanted village of creatives, the likes of which I haven’t felt since working in story development for Disney Animated Features. We were tucked in a non-descript warehouse on a plain Glendale street. Strictly ‘b’ real estate (and barely that), just a few doors down and across the street from Imagineering, a hotbed of creative geniuses equally disguised behind the window-dressing of the ordinary.
We were a group of hand-picked young writers and artists, humming like a hive in drab surroundings and under intense pressure to perform. We were tasked to create fresh, modern, magical takes from tired old tales and obscure children’s literature or ferret out new gems for adaptation. All the while, the artists toiled away at conjuring colorful worlds out of nothing but ink and paint. What a thrill!
How my dream self landed in this unexpectedly magical place was much the same. I’d stumbled into their midst out of sheer, desperate stubbornness and the time was ripe. The resigned grind of daily work life with its routines and predictable, average outcomes seemed a hellish, slave existence. I simply couldn’t accept it even though I felt the hopeless sameness eroding into my valiant crusade to break-through.
The dream staged the story in merry old England. A village of wattle and daub shops with quaint thatched roofs, arranged around bumpy cobblestone walkways and patches of grassy green. Somebody’d quit the publisher in a tizzy and I just happened on the scene. They gave me a writing assignment with an imminent deadline. I had an hour to spin a frothy tale about a frog.
Using the deadline coupled with my passion for a juicy writing spot in a creative collaborative, I wrote as fast as I’ve ever done before. It was taking every last bit of wit and focus but just as I neared the finish, five of the magazine’s employees found me scribbling madly on the green and peppered me with questions. I felt I had to answer. It split my focus and drove me off course just long enough to run out the clock. Blast!
I was forced to hand in the unfinished story. Near tears in frustration and disappointment, I toured the charming village with my sister, half hoping the unfinished story might be somehow perceived as cleverly intentional – a to-be-continued stroke of genius. A tongue-in-cheek way to buy more time and perhaps a meeting with the management.
When I stopped back around the Typesetter informed me there had been a mistake in the layout. He thought my unfinished story rendered it disingenuous but it didn’t matter. I got another shot to make it right. It turns out the publication was a modern twist on the 19th century Penny Dreadful – sensational pulp fiction for the common man.
The publisher built a cheeky but popular and profitable enterprise by adapting bits of local folk lore and marrying it with current news. Thus, an Ogre was cast as a dirty fighting politician and the meek Frog I’d been hired to write about were intended as companion pieces to render the broad cartoony presentation with a sense of fairness and balance.
Although I was horrified to learn all this after-the-fact, I set to work reframing the story in the proper context and genre which was, of course, satire. And so, much like the Frog who’d been bewitched by an Ogre and hoodwinked by a gang of ne’er do wells, Providence bestowed a second chance at a once-in-a-lifetime thing and I became a Princess again.