STARLIGHT EXPRESS: Perfect for Animation?

STARLIGHT EXPRESS

STARLIGHT EXPRESS

Don’t you think that Starlight Express would work brilliantly as a CGI film? I think it’s possibly the only way to imagine an effective film adaptation of the show, especially if it was produced by a company like PIXAR who is able to develop remarkably fleshed-out characters from stock character types.

For me, one of the fundamental problems with Starlight Express is that we never get deep enough into the characters – even for a piece of “fluffy” entertainment. One should want to care about what happens to Rusty, understanding what the specific and universal stakes are when he wins or loses the race. There is an attempt here, as in Cats to place an entire mythological way of life onto the stage and, for me, I think the exploration could be a little more intense. The narrative is never going to become more complex, but the world in which it exists can.

PIXAR, in particular, makes animated films that transcend the child/parent entertainment boundaries and that their films have a mass appeal to all ages. The folks at PIXAR are also not afraid of telling their stories from the point of view of the older/adult characters in the plot and I think that Rusty’s rites-of-passage/coming-of-age narrative in Starlight Express would be a perfect vehicle for them.

The basic framework of the child playing with his trains could also be retained and possibly fleshed out slightly so that there is a reflection of the main plot in the bookend segments (which would take care of the child’s experience when viewing the film, the way that the “Nemo” sections of Finding Nemo does). And I think that there should be free use of all the material created for Starlight Express in the main body of the film (which would be akin to the the “Marlin/Dori” sections of Finding Nemo, which bring the teen/adult viewing experience into focus) so that the best songs can be used to tell the best possible version of the story.

I think this would also offer the opportunity to make use of really good singing voices for the characters, as I often feel that there are compromises made in Starlight Express – which certainly become evident on the cast albums – so that a proficient skating cast can be assembled.

A neat idea, no? Even if it is a highly improbable one…

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7 Responses to STARLIGHT EXPRESS: Perfect for Animation?

  1. I think the only way to effectively film Starlight Express would be to put cameras on a live production.

  2. David Fick says:

    I don’t see what the point of that would be, other than as a record of any given production of the show. The stage show is made to be seen live. I don’t think that recording the show could effectively capture the thrill of the experiencing the show live unless, maybe, it was exclusively an IMAX release (and then there would only be a limited market). Look at how the effect of Cats was diminished in its video version. I think the only way to adapt something to a new medium is to try and envision the piece as if it was originally made for the medium in question.

  3. Roller Boy says:

    I personally think a Starlight Express-inspired movie would be fun, if it was just inspired by Starlight Express and not trying to be Starlight Express. Perhaps even a animated traditionally feature?

  4. David Fick says:

    I think that animation is definitely the right medium for putting this show on film. I suggested CGI though because it has a kind of sheen to it that I think would work well with the metal of the trains and so forth. I think that traditional 2-D animation might end up looking a bit juvenile – a bit too Thomas and the Tank Engine – for my taste. Especially if it was produced by an American or British animation company.

  5. Roller Boy says:

    Oh yes, but i was thinking Miyazaki-esque Mecha Nihon style. Asian animation style would really kick major butt!

  6. David Fick says:

    It would. But Asian animation companies have their own wealth of material, drawn from their mythology and their own contemporary daily lives. I think, given the success of the Japanese/Australian tour that an Anime Starlight Express would appeal to audiences in Japan as well as here, but would it appeal to Japanese filmmakers? Would they have stakes to invest in such a project?

    Although, now that you’re mentioning Miyazaki, I think he could turn Starlight Express into something spectacular. Of course, there is plenty of room for the fantastic machinery he loves to incorporate into his films; it would be easy enough for him to slot in his noble obsession with the environment, the debate around sources of power tying in nicely with this; and the idea of magic, also prominent in the Studio Ghibli films, is already there. So perhaps it could be a successful anime-style film.

  7. Roller Boy says:

    I know it’s not possible and will most likely never happen, but isn’t it a neat thought?

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