Do Movie Critics Hate Authors?

The answer is no, movie critics don’t hate authors. At least not as far as I can tell. What many movie critics hate is fact checking, which is another reason why film studios shouldn’t bury the name of a story’s creator deep in the mile-long credits at the end of the film. (See “Does Hollywood Hate Authors?” for my previous rant.)

Because the marketing for the new movie Coraline plays down the Newbery-winning, Hugo-winning, Nebula-winning, Eisner-winning author who wrote the story, lazy critics across the country are assuming that only Tim Burton could combine dark themes with feature-length stop motion animation. Assuming to the point of printing their opinions on “Tim Burton’s Coraline.”

One of my old Superguy buddies, Randy Milholland, imagines that Neil Gaiman isn’t happy. He also imagines that Neil Gaiman has access to a sniper rifle. In the world of Randy’s webcomic, “going postal” has been replaced with “going authorial.”


Panel from February 9th "Something Positive" webcomic by Randy Milholland

Update: Actually we don’t have to imagine Neil Gaiman’s reaction to such critics (or to the above webcomic) because Neil has a frequently-updated and incredibly popular blog.

Neil isn’t upset for himself, recognizing that the small credit he gets in the marketing material is already more than most authors receive. He’s upset for the director, Henry Selick, for reasons going back to The Nightmare Before Christmas.

A couple of days ago the front page at CBC (Canadian Broadcasting) website announced that it had interviews and reviews about Tim Burton’s Coraline. Which I saw moments before I saw a piece on the Chicago Tribune print edition front page announcing its reviews of Tim Burton’s Coraline. And my hackles started rising.

The hackles were, I should point out, not on my behalf, but for Henry Selick, who directed The Nightmare Before Christmas: he worked on the story with the screenwriter, Caroline Thompson (another person whose contribution tends to be forgotten), and the songwriter, Danny Elfman, to turn Tim’s character sketches and poem into a film script, then he spent years in a warehouse in San Francisco overseeing people moving dolls around a frame at a time, with Tim off making fine movies; and, then, a couple of weeks before the film came out, the title was changed to Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Which tends to mean that people assume that Tim made the film and if they even notice Henry was involved as director, they assume it was in some strange kind of junior role. (Nope, he was the director. He grew Tim’s poem and character sketches into a movie. Tim produced it.)

Injustice and disrespect abound in movie credits, marketing materials, and reviews alike. Sixteen years ago Henry Selick got a raw deal that still overshadows his career on entirely unrelated projects, like Coraline. But I’m still outraged on behalf of Neil Gaiman and the larger majority of authors who get even less credit for their work.

Gaiman got his revenge, by the way, without the use of bullets:

So I was already not impressed with the CBC website or the Chicago Tribune, and then someone sent me a link to an online newspaper in which the reviewer’s first paragraph explained Tim Burton’s career and then went on to explain, in an extremely dim sort of way, why Coraline was a Tim Burton film, and I twittered about it. And then watched the delighted twitterverse pile onto the poor gentleman in the comments page with surprise, realising that this power must only be used for good.

I never thought I’d say this but… Hooray for Twitter!

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1 Comment

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One response to “Do Movie Critics Hate Authors?

  1. Parker Peevyhouse

    After all this talk, I really want to see this movie now. Nightmare Before Christmas was really good, so I’m hoping Coraline will follow suit. Plus, I love Gaiman’s YA novels.

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