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Copyright The Rogue Imagineer 2010

On June 18th, 2010 Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure debuted the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to muggles the Earth over. A month later, The Rogue Imagineer,  got the opportunity to experience the Harry Potter’s world first hand…

Hogsmeade, the general aesthetics, products, shops and Hogwarts castle are all covered in part I of this review. This, Part II, will cover the meat of The Wizarding World: the rides.

Ride 1: Flight of the Hippogriff (Hippogriffs)

Formerly the “Enchanted Unicorn”, this mini-coaster is a gentle, breezy ride that is perfect for those not prepared for larger fare,  afraid of heights, small children and those families who wish to do something together without having to split-up.  It is smooth, longer than it seems and singlehandedly offers the best views of Hogwarts Castle in all of Orlando. The cool parts of this often overlooked family coaster are two fold: 1. Hagrid’s hut in the queue line, which is very, very well done complete with the voices of Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane) and faithful Fang. & 2. The way neat and totally unexpected animatronic Buckbeak that you “bow” to as your train departs the station. Unfortunately, the ride is fairly short, only operates with one train (which jacks up the wait time and slows the movement of the queue ), is pretty mediocre fare considering the other attractions in the park, and the queue, beyond Hagrid’s Hut, is all outdoors and pretty much bare themeimg-wise. My personal opinion is that if you’re going to spend the money to erect a perfect replica of Hagrid’s Hut and a realistic Buckbeak, why wouldn’t you spend the money to properly theme your line? (or at the very least put some fans in it… 105 degrees is awfully hot to wait in line outside without so much as a breeze. Especially for families with young children.)

The GOOD: Excellent views of Hogwarts.  Hagrid’s hut. Animatronic Buckbeak. Only family friendly ride in WWHOP.

The BAD: Inefficient ride system. Slow moving queue. Barren, hot queue line.

Ride 2: The Dragon Challenge (Dead Space)

Overview: Formerly the Dueling Dragons (an unrelated Potter-name but FAR better than the truncated Dragon Challenge… I think it’s the alliteration that does it for me…), this ride is simply a re-masked version of an Islands of Adventure classic. I’m going to warn you…I don’t have very much nice to say about this, because, in my opinion, Universal actually took one of the coolest concepts in the theme park industry, not to mention one of the coolest queues in history, and turned it into something really depressing….like a finless fish…

The Dragon Challenge experience begins as you walk through a stone archway that leads to the stadium grounds of Hogwarts. Walking towards a dilapidated turret, one sees the hanging banners supporting the three champions of the TriWizard Tournament. These banners are, quite frankly, not very well done. I understand that it is to appear as though students made them to support their school’s champion, but these are not believable even with that in mind. Upon entering the turret, guests are greeted with a replica of the contestants tent from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in which sits the flaming Goblet of Fire itself. The Goblet itself and the stand from which it emerges are impressive, but unfortunately, the flame effect is done, rather archaically, through the use of simulated ‘mist’ flames that are then lit with dimming/brightening blue LEDs. Normally, this effect is at least passable, but on the day I experienced it, the mist was not diffracting enough of the light to even signal that there was an effect there at all (much less the roaring flames fans come to expect from the legendary chalice). I blew this off at the time as a fluke, but unfortunately, it turned out to be an omen of what was to come…

Continuing through the line, you meander through a series of corridors until you come face to face with the glowing TriWizard Cup. This prop looked stunning! It was truly beautiful and meticulously detailed, sitting high above the heads of the queue line, invisibly lit as though it was glowing (which it appears to do in the film at times). From here, you enter a strangely bland series of queue turnstiles, separated only by slats of wood planks and broken rock work, as though this part of the queue was destroyed in a battle. Of course, the implication is that dragons destroyed it, but this area is so bland it is painful (not to mention HOT). When guests look up expecting to see a continuation of the themeing, they are instead treated to an assortment of wood pieces and a black ceiling, complete with visible can-lights. It’s boring, it breaks the story and is a no-no in Immersion 101.  Moving forward, the queue enters into a soaring cathedral space that is very dark with floating candles above. This is of course Universal’s nod to the Great Hall of Hogwarts and the floating candles that sometimes inhabit its ceiling. At first, the effect, although obviously not complicated, is enchanting…however, Universal should cut this portion of the line down considerably, allowing guests to pass through only one turnstile round at most, because anymore and the guest’s eyes dilate to the point of being able to see the wires holding the candles and the otherwise fun effect is ruined. Sadly, this is the last room where any level of themeing is present. Upon reaching this point, realize that you, the guest, are only about half way through the queue and the rest of what lies ahead is simply a series of dark tunnels and caves that are  claustrophobic and bland and seemingly unending with air conditioning that is comes in sporadic doses to boot.

Upon reaching the end of the queue, you are faced with the decision between two different dragons: The Hungarian Horntail and the Chinese Fireball, both of which have really fun fiber optic banners representing their respective sides of the loading dock. Once a decision is made, you enter into a very large space that is done up like a tent (very much in the same fashion as the tent at the beginning of the queue), and here you can either get on immediately, with an attendant assigning you and/or your party into rows, or you can opt to wait a bit longer and ride in the front seat of the train. This room is in-line with the rest of the queue: lots of nice rock work but with nothing else to support it/enhance it. That is, of course, except for the ceiling, which has a very cool effect…IF you are able to catch it…of a dragon silhouette passing overhead as it roars thunderously. Unfortunately for this effect, the line moves too quickly and the loading dock is far too loud for many people to even see or hear this effect at all. It is at this point that you board The Dragon Challenge and if you have ever been to Islands of Adventure before you will quickly notice that, surprisingly, the coaster treatments have NOT changed, they are, in fact, still themed to the old Fire/Ice dragons in all of their late nineties fabulousness. Now, while I have been excessively tough on this ride so far, I can assure you that the ride experience itself, as a coaster, is an AWESOME one. Regardless of which dragon you pick, the coasters are smooth, exciting and well layed-out with surprises coming at every turn. This ride is made even more awesome when the operators do their jobs and actually sync the two coasters…creating a ‘have to be experienced to be believed’  near-miss(es) (yes, there are SEVERAL) with the other coaster as the dragons dodge and fight one another. This is hands down one of the best roller coasters in existence ( and I have been on every rollercoaster in the current top ten except for Kinda-Ka…yes, these really ARE that good). However, as I have criticized over and over again, Universal seems to continuously have problems with ‘breaking the magic’, because when you ride this roller coaster, you are treated not to a darring, rocky-stadium floor as is seen in the film…in fact, you’re not treated to anything but a front-row view of the backside of Universal Studios…complete with very magical busses, cars, service vehicles, fencing, etc. The ride area itself is also complemented by a lovely weed garden that has grown up through the cheap gravel that covers the ground beneath the riders’ dangling feet.

AGAIN, with all the money Universal has put into this project, you would think they allocated some to build a wall that would hide the backside of Universal Studios or even cover the hill/initial descent of the roller coasters, and then, at the very least, theme the area the coasters meander through to the already barren stadium floor from the film/books, which ultimately would have only required some gardening, some new colored gravel, a fence and some bland, barren rock work that they are so fond of! What a huge difference it would have made!!!! Not to mention, if Universal really wanted to get competitive with Disney, they could have added in some simple sensor-triggered pyrotechnics and a soundtrack with F/X. It is inexpensive (especially for an entity like Universal) and it would have upped the ante on theme park roller coasters.

The GOOD: GREAT roller coasters. The TriWizard Cup (trophy). Loading dock.

The BAD: The Queue. The Queue. The Queue. No themeing around the roller coasters themselves. Shells unchanged. Grungy/overgrown ride area.

Some things to remember:

1. Height Requirements.

Your children (or possibly yourself) ABSOLUTELY MUST MEET THE POSTED HEIGHT REQUIREMENTS to ride any of the attractions at Universal Orlando. Ultimately, if you proceed to try and get on a ride, even after waiting, and you do not meet the requirements, you and/or your child will NOT be allowed to ride. There is a zero tolerance/leniency policy on this. Know yourself, know your children, if they are not tall enough, just abstain from even entering the line and enjoy something else. Please, please, PLEASE don’t be another parent/person who thinks they can cheat the system or that their child is going to get on no matter what. These are false frames of mind and will only get you in trouble (and maybe even ejected from the park). It’s the law, it’s the manufacturer’s guidelines, it’s Universal policy. NOT TALL ENOUGH=NOT RIDING. PERIOD. Don’t become another sad, annoying statistic…(HA! That ending made this whole tip seem like a bad public service announcement…)

2. NO CARRY-ONs.

Much like above, don’t try to fool or beat the system on this. If it can’t be secured in a pocket, it MUST go in a locker. PERIOD. END OF STORY. You’d be SHOCKED at how many people think they know better or try and avoid this rule, only, of course, to be slapped in the face with it as they are about to board. Don’t be one of those people, as Rogue Imagineer readers, you know better than that (plus, it’ll save you some money as the locker option they have available for those last minute items is a PAY locker…you’re welcome…and it’s not like Universal didn’t warn ya!)

3. Open-heeled Shoes (sandals, flip-flops, etc. – Dragon Challenge specific tip).

You’re probably wondering what to do with those sandals/flip-flops of yours while you’re riding The Dragon Challenge, because if you wear them, they WILL fly off and there is no recovering them, not even after the park has closed. So what do you do? Honestly: I don’t know. This situation is insanely common and presents an interesting dilemma: A. You HAVE to wear your shoes in line and on the loading dock to get on the coaster, if you don’t have shoes on, the attendant WILL stop you and make you put some on and then return to the queue. It’s the health code, deal with it.  B. If you wear your shoes, you WILL lose them. Frankly, you just have to figure out a plan for yourself once you get buckled into your seat. My personal solution is to put my hands through the flip-flop straps and hold onto them while riding. Some people sit on them. Others put them behind their back. If it works, GO FOR IT! Just know that your shoes absolutely cannot interfere with the harness, so putting them through the belt-strap is not permitted and if you do this, you’ll be unstrapped and asked to re-secure them. Just a heads up!

Okay, so you’re probably wondering where the big tamale of this review is: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Well, quite honestly, the review for the Forbidden Journey I realized is a beast of its own, so guess what?? It’s getting its own review!!! YAY!!! Watch for my in-depth, wholly magical, completely exhaustive review of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey this Wednesday!

Thanks for reading! If you have a comment or question, let me know in the comments section below!

WWoHP: Review Part I

WWoHP: Review Part III

WWoHP: Review Part IV

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Copyright 2010 The Rogue Imagineer

June 18th, 2010 – Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure officially debuts The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to public fanfare and delight of muggles the world over!

July 18th, 2010 – I, The Rogue Imagineer, get the privilege of experiencing the park for myself…what I see, feel, taste and touch excites me, baffles me and somewhat shocks me. For the better AND for the worse…

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is truly an immersive gem in the theme park industry…for the most part. Upon entering Islands of Adventure, you can see Hogwarts castle towering in the distance, a sight I was very much excited to see. Unfortunately, the forced perspective used on Hogwarts does not work from this vantage point. AT ALL. To put it bluntly, the castle looked like something out of a really expensive miniature golf course  when viewed from that distance. However, skew my opinion I let it not! Continuing on, I made my way to the gates of Hogsmeade, which is where the ‘magic’ truly takes off. Here, the Hogwarts express greets you with steam billowing from its engines as the conductor ushers you further into the ‘world’. And let me tell you, at this point, what a magnificent world it is! Hogsmeade is PERFECTION. It simply has to be seen to be believed. The detail? Extraordinary. The shops? Pristine. The artistry? Infallible. From the cobble streets to the costumed workers, the entire ‘world’ is insanely realistic. Standing amongst the bustle of Hogsmeade, one looks up and sees Hogwarts as it was designed to be seen, and let me assure you, it is quite a sight! From the craggy, rocky base to the soaring towers, the fabled school is a dream to behold. Not at all a competitor to Disney’s Cinderella castle at Magic Kingdom, which still induces tears from guests as they enter, but then again it was never designed to be and it is magnificent in its own right, particularly at night!

Copyright 2010 The Rogue Imagineer

Walking through Hogsmeade you pass the muggle filled shops of The Owl Post, The Three Broomsticks, Honeydukes, Zonkos, Ollivander’s, the Hogs Head and Dervish and Banges. These stores, inside and out, from the animated props in the windows to the atmosphere of each, are jaw-dropping. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same thing for the products contained therein. Perhaps the thing I was looking forward to the most was the merchandise that would be available, after all, who wouldn’t love to experience a chocolate frog? Well, turns out, I didn’t…seeing as the 8oz piece of molded chocolate was being sold for a staggering $9.99. Yes folks, that’s right, ten buckaroos for a piece of candy in Harry Potter’s world! I thought to myself, “It’s a theme park! The prices are high! Something else will be more reasonable!”…I was wrong. Every single thing in Honeydukes is insanely overpriced, to the point that many entered the shop, but the checkout lanes were empty with employees just standing there. $10 for a jar of gumballs? $10 for a 20 count of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Bean?? It was disheartening, and a bit infuriating, to say the least.  Unfortunately, things only got worse price-wise…A robe? $100. A flimsy, light-up, plastic broom that is not even to scale? $30.00. A REAL broom stick? $300 or higher. A house-colored tie? $60.00. It was extortion and many around me were commenting not only in sticker-shock, but some in revulsion that Universal would price-gouge like that. Again, I know it’s a theme park. Better still, I know it’s an ORLANDO theme park, but these prices are astronomical even at those standards. The only things that I thought were reasonably priced were the two most popular and highly anticipated items (Surprised? Neither am I). A wand from Ollivander’s was a palatable $30 and a Butterbeer was a decently standard $4.00.  I bought a wand and I am very happy with its accuracy and quality! Universal obviously paid immaculate attention to detail and sought out J.K. Rowling’s help with these, and believe me, you can tell. Especially with Voldemort’s wand, which was insanely well done! Unfortunately, I wish I could say the same for the Butterbeer…

Now, many of my constituents are praising Butterbeer for any number of reasons…and I seriously question the validity of their reviews now. Butterbeer, after much excitement and anticipation on my part, turned out to be, truly, nothing more than frothy cream soda. I am a huge cream soda fan/connoisseur, and trust me, this was cream soda if I’ve ever drank it. So much so, that I questioned whether I was going insane due to heat stroke…nope. I said aloud to myself “THIS IS JUST CREAM SODA!” while in line for Honeydukes and immediately several fellow Butterbeer drinkers in line around me started busting-up laughing. After questioning them and many, MANY other guests throughout the day, the consensus seemed to be that ‘Butterbeer’ (aka cream soda) could be obtained at any local drug store or grocery store and has, in fact, been in existence far  longer than Harry Potter has.  (Just for the record, I tried both the frozen and regular Butterbeer. The regular is better, but ultimately just buy some IBC Cream Soda and sadly, you’ve got a much cheaper, much better alternative…)

Moving on, Ollivander’s itself is a neat experience, but definitely not worth the 3 hour long wait it was commanding consistently throughout the day. Using my previous know-how of theme parks, I simply held-off and rode the Forbidden Journey once more, which put me out just 15 minutes after the park closed. Sure enough, Ollivander’s was relatively deserted! I walked right in, looked around, bought my wand and left. 20 minutes total and that is with ample ‘gawking’ time at theming. During my visit, I heard several guests grumbling about and even asked a few

Copyright 2010 The Rogue Imagineer

about what they thought of Ollivander’s. The general thought: NOT GOOD. I liked my experience, but I didn’t wait at all. You must consider that these who reviewed it so poorly waited upwards of 2 1/2 hours to get into a glorified theme park store. I wouldn’t be happy either. And as for the experience, generally speaking, it is only one person who gets to participate, it is almost always a very, very YOUNG child and it lasts less than five minutes after which everyone is crammed into the tiny Ollivander’s main store. As you can imagine, in 97 degree weather, after a 3 hour wait, it was a somewhat lackluster experience for them…thank the Lord I waited.

In conclusion of Part One of this review, Hogsmeade is a very expensive dream that while stunning to look at and behold, ultimately never sells the idea that you are actually ‘there’. I was constantly very aware that I was at Islands of Adventure the whole time, just in an insanely, meticulously designed land.  In my opinion, this is not at all a bad thing…it just contradicts the purpose of immersion, something Disney is far more successful at creating. This is not to say my dear, beloved Disney is perfect…oh no, far from it… but that  review is coming soon as well!

WWoHP: Review Part II

WWoHP: Review Part III

WWoHP: Review Part IV

The Rogue Imagineer reviews the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE…coming July 15th!

BioShock is the propety of 2K Games.

Hello intrepid thrill-seekers! Part II of my conceptualization for the new ride proposal BIOSHOCK: RETURN TO RAPTURE is available in the IMAGINEERING section! PART II features a brand new set of storyboards that illustrate the first 30 secs to 60 secs of the ride itself along with some of the script written into the captions! Go check it out and leave me a comment telling me what you think!: BIOSHOCK: RETURN TO RAPTURE

BioShock is the property of 2K Marin

I’ve just posted the first two of MANY images (hopefully significantly improving as I advance) of my concept for BioShock: Return to Rapture, a ride proposal for Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando. Overall, the concept is that this will be the start of a new undetermined land that could possible replace Marvel Superhero Island (seeing as Universal no longer owns the rights to the Marvel Franchise once their contract expires). These aren’t great, but I hope you guys enjoy them! More importantly, pay attention to the description before the photos as to what will be occurring during this part of the Queue! That, for me, is the truly cool part (and not something I can really render effectively on paper…I’m just not that good yet with idea translation. I do believe, though, that my concepts are groundbreaking…hey, you got to know your strengths and weaknesses, right?)

I hope you enjoy and leave me some comments telling me what your thoughts are!

Go to the Imagineering page to check it out: BioShock: Return to Rapture

UPDATE : I have posted the successful Fontaine Futuristics queue house rendering. Let me know what you think!

Courtesy of IMDB.com

3. Casablanca

Director: Michael Curtiz

Productions Designer: Carl Jules Weyl

This 1942 cinematic legend proves that while color can certainly help the visuals in a film, black and white can be just as stunning. The visuals in this film draw their impressive quality not from CGI (which of course didn’t exist), elaborate sets or even abnormally inspiring costuming (although the costumes are beautiful), but rather from the simple way it is filmed and how it tells the romantic tragedy of the two most famous lovers in cinematic history. As with most films of the time, the camera movement is slow, but calculated and unlike today, every single shot is used to convey some aspect of the story line, with the care taken to establish the frame and actors in each scene apparent from the very beginning. All this considered, you don’t see many films like this today with the level of visual excellence and production design of Casablanca. Yes, it is slow, yes, it is black and white, but if you can put away your cinematic inhibitions for a bit, you may just be surprised by Casablanca‘s abnormally modern look and feel, especially considering when it was made.

3 Scenes to Watch


Courtesy of IMDB.com

4. The Golden Compass

Director: Chris Weitz

Production Designer: Dennis Gassner

The Golden Compass, based on the book The Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman, the first installment in the His Dark Materials series of books, is one of those rare exceptions where few liked it, but those who did, LOVED it (myself included). It failed financially (domestically) due to heavy protesting by American conservative Christians and a dramatic, fatal last-minute edit by New Line, who feared the film was too dark and that the ending was too sad for a film aimed at children. The result is a film that is too short for the subject matter, disjointedly edited and wholly unfinished feeling at the end. If you don’t know how it ends, I won’t ruin it for you, but suffice to say it takes about 30 minutes longer than the film currently ends, the bad guys get away, a main character dies and Lyra is left in a situation that to say is bleak would be a horrible understatement…and no, that is not giving away much at all. Visually though, the film is probably the single most impacting of any on this list. A mixture of steampunk, art nouveaux and victorian aesthetics make this fantasy a visual piece of candy. Mix this with CGI (particularly the Magisterium zeppelin, the Alethiometer and Iorek Byrnison) that is mind boggling and some of the coolest costumes ever seen in a movie (designed by Ruth Myers) and you are set for an experience, that while not emotionally fulfilling, will leave your brain’s occipital lobe abuzz.

3 Scenes to Watch

(Left: Any Scene Involving the Alethiometer. Center: The Sky Ferry/London Sequence. Right: Lyra in Oxford)

Casablanca and The Golden Compass, and their images, are the property of Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Pictures respectively.

What are your most visually stunning movies of all time?  Leave a comment and tell me below!

Photo is Property of Paramount Pictures

Racebending.com needs to walk the walk

It is the summer season and now is the time for butt-kicking blockbusters and good, no-nonsense fun at the movie theatre. But this season’s glut of Blockbusters is plagued by a movement that has reared its ugly head just this last year, a movement that seriously needs to take a look at itself in the mirror and ask what it is TRULY fighting for… Racebending.com.

This site and grass roots movement was born out of rage from Asians and Asian-Americans concerning the casting for M. Night Shyamalan and Paramount Picture’s film The Last Airbender, and has since spread to Disney and Bruckheimer’s new film Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.  The interesting subtext to the criticism of both of these films is that they are: 1. Two of the most expensive movies of the year and 2. Based on pre-existing, popular material. For those who don’t know, I’ll elaborate.

The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is an action/adventure/epic based on the first installment of the wildly popular video games series Prince of Persia. The Last Airbender is also an action/adventure/epic based on Nickelodeon’s television series, Avatar: The Last Airbender (Avatar was dropped from the title so as to avoid confusion with James Cameron’s film), and was created by Michael Di Martino and Bryan Konietzko.

Both films are based in fictional realms, with Prince of Persia taking place in a romanticized and fantastic version of ancient Persia and The Last Airbender taking place in a wholly  fictionalized realm with Asian/Nomadic/Western influence driving the storyline, but primarily Asian culture influencing the aesthetics of the world.

Both films have been lauded as visually capturing the aesthetics of their respected worlds, so where does the controvery come from? Simply put: Casting. Now before I continue, I should note that what follows is purely my own opinion based on the information that has been presented to me, unlike my counterparts at Racebending.com, I do not claim to know the minds of the creators/filmmaker/cast/producer and will do my best not to make any assumptions heretofore beyond what has been confirmed by either Paramount, Shyamalan, Marshall (producer) and/or Konietzko/Di Martino.  Despite this disclaimer, I realize my own fallibility and biases, I must and do recognize this for the sake of professional fairness.

Racebending.com’s general qualm with both of these films is that, put simply, since they are influenced by Persian and Asian culture respectively, they should have cast Persian/Asian actors in the lead roles. The logic in this argument is sound, you would be a fool not to recognize it. However, just because the logic of the argument is sound, doesn’t mean the argument itself is sound. Which it isn’t.

Racebending.com asserts that since both films are confirmed by their respective creators (for the record, all of who are caucasian in both camps, but this argument I realize holds no water, it is a point, though, that I feel needs to be acknowledged) as being heavily influenced by Persian and Asian culture, art, mythology and theology. This fact is incontrovertible, as Racebending.com recognizes and tauts. The problem with Racebending.com’s argumentation comes with the WORDING of this fact, namely, ‘influence’. The whole of Racebending.com’s argument is based on the confirmed fact  (and blatantly obvious representation) of these respective influences. They assert that since a film/world/etc. is based on a culture or aesthetic, then the corresponding people who are usually (and mostly stereotypically) asso0ciated with the specific culture/aesthetic in question are the only people suitable to fill the roles of the stories taking place in the worlds in question.

This is where the problem lies with Racebending.com. To say that simply because a film/story/world is based upon a realm/culture in the real world they (the filmmakers) should cast individuals who sometimes correspond to the aesthetic presented is, in and of itself, completely and utterly racist. Especially in today’s world of acceptance and understanding, saying that because Persia and/or Airbender have Buddhist/Hindu/Asian/Middle Eastern influences constitutes the restrictive casting of individuals who are racially connected to these influences is not only a contradiction of its own proclaimed message, but it is the very definition of racism.

Let me review (I realize the long-windedness of the previous, for which I apologize), 1. Confirmed Asian/Middle Eastern/Western influences. 2. Logically, Influence =/= Race.  Now, again let me reiterate that this is simply my opinion and mine alone, but Merriam-Webster (dating back to 1933) gives a chilling definition of racism, one that when considering Racebending.com’s argument, should send a sickening chill of familiarity down the spines of anyone who is reading:

Racism: 1: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

Yikes. This is exactly what I thought when I first read Racebending.com’s doublespeak filled website. I was raised to believe that no human being is different from another and that any cultural differences we have as a species should be recognized, honored and respected in all instances, even when used fictional and/or humorous outlets (I believe in the ability to poke fun at and laugh at one another’s cultures, beliefs and stereotypes, including my own, but that is another blog and issue entirely). Essentially, I was raised to be colorblind, but not culture blind. The problem is most people believe that culture and color go hand in hand. For example, because I am white/caucasian, my primary language should be English, I should be Judeo-Christian in religious orientation, live somewhere in a westernized country and wear khakis and polos to work…ridiculous right? Insulting right?  While this is admittedly an exaggeration, it is the quintessential argument that Racebending.com is making.

If calligraphy, asian iconography and martial arts and the fact that some characters were drawn with darker skin, different eyes, different clothes, etc. means the film has to feature asian actors in its main roles, then by the same exact logic, films that occur in a fictionalized version of England can only feature pasty white/caucasian, tea-drinking, bad-teeth touting, english accented prigs in fancy hats/dresses? All because that is the cultural association? Insutling, isn’t it? Racist, isn’t it? This sounds ridiculous, and it is, but it is absolutely no different from what Racebending.com is asserting about The Last Airbender. If I were a member of the asian community, which admittedly I am not, I would be downright embarrassed by what the people who claim to speak for me are saying, much less willing to rally behind their cause. If you want to see  an example of racism wearing a different hat, look no further than Racebending.com.

Additionally, apparently the casting of multiple actors/actresses of Middle Eastern/African American/Asian descent or heritage in pivotal/key roles does not constitute a culturally/racially diverse film for the supporters of Racebending.com. Why? Because they are not strictly Asian, a point that is reiterated over and over again on the Racebending.com webpage (Don’t believe me? Go read for yourself: http://www.racebending.com). Not culturally diverse just because it does not exclusively cast asian/nomadic actors/actresses in the lead roles? That is racism at its ugliest if I have ever seen or heard it.

A few things to note:

I am very hard on Racebending.com, because I DO believe that while their intentions are noble, which they most certainly are, their views and methods are inflammatory and increasingly verging on libelous.  They also do this, in part, because many of them are fans of the original show, something we most definitely share as I followed the show since its very first season and it, its story of hope, love, friendship and quest for peace, has enriched my life. Lastly, I do recognize their frustration concerning the lack of casting of asians in films, as well as their point regarding the third-party casting agencies poor choice of words on their casting call, saying “Caucasian or any other race”, for which there is absolutely no excuse. However, these frustrations taken into account, going about it by boycotting films that increase awareness of asian influences/culture (despite the casting) and may possibly break ground for more films like it is not, in my opinion, at all the way to go about it. I equate it to the Christian community’s boycotting and protesting of The Golden Compass. Now the film’s inadequacies notwithstanding, the Christian community’s protest and eventual success (again, in my opinion) in ruining the financial success of the film did not do anything in the end for the Christian community. It did not increase the number of Christian/Christian-based films in the mainstream market, increase awareness of the Christian message and/or cause, and it did not stimulate conversation between believers and non-believers. At the end of the day, all that movement did was destroy the American box office success of a film that could have potentially stimulated questions and the opportunity for conversation/ministering to non-believers, not to mention unfairly discounting a story as “satanic” and ‘dangerous” that touts poignant messages of hope, courage and love. I am a Christian, and it was sad what my own people did to The Golden Compass, and I would really hate to see the same thing happen to The Last Airbender and by unavoidable extension (whether right or not) the Asian community.

I would never dare tell you what to think. I can only voice an opinion. You, my readers, must ultimately make the decision for yourself. I, nor Racebending.com, has the right to tell you that either one of is definitively right or wrong (who am I to judge?). What I can offer are my primitive observations and one seriously passionate opinion. In the end, it is your choice and that is the one thing no one can take away from you.

Thanks for reading and leave a comment below (disrespectful or hateful comments, directed at myself, Racebending.com, Paramount, or anybody else, will be deleted, at my subjective discretion, without warning or explanation, so please think before you write).

EDIT: For those who read my blog (all ten of you), note that I realize that this is not at all in tune with my normal pieces of writing and I will return to my normally light hearted writing. Regardless of what people think or say about the above entry, I just had to say something or I knew I would regret it. I’ll be back this week with more fun blogging! Thank You to everyone who reads!