Friday, June 29, 2012

Toy Story 3: Mr. Potato Head vs Mr. Pigeon

Title: Toy Story 3
Year:  2010
Director:  Lee Unkrich
Running time: 103 min.
Country: United States

This film was a nice surprise. When I started watching it I had few expectations but after a while I started enjoying it. The second surprise that I had was to find a pigeon appearance:

Close to the end of the film, Mr. Potato Head uses a Mexican tortilla as his body. This allows him to slide through narrow places and start a night escape from his prison. However, he doesn't take into account that bread is one of the favourite foods of pigeons. Unfortunately, during his escape, he meets one of these birds. There is a lot of tension in the scene depicted below:
We can see Mr. Potato Head and Mr. Pigeon face to face:

The pigeon is probably thinking: is this bread with some attached extras (nose, mouth, etc.)?

The pigeon takes initiative...

But Mr. Potato Head defends himself very bravely....

Finally the pigeon flies away leaving Mr Potato Head with some injuries on his bready body.

Details of the pigeon starring 

  • Source: Toy Story 3. Starring moment: 1:06:13
  • Pigeon activity: It is a sweet tooth pigeon that hunts Mr. Potato Head. This behaviour is incoherent because pigeons don't like to roam around at night. It is too dangerous for them. Maybe this one was too hungry to wait for the next day.
  • Symbolism: None.
  • Relevance: Medium. The pigeon almost ruined everything: if the pigeon had finally eaten all of Mr. Potato Head's body he wouldn't have been able to complete his duty and the complete escape would fail.
  • Training level: Not applicable.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pigeons from Hell: the dark side of the pigeons

Title: Thriller. Pigeons from Hell
Year:  1961
Director:  John Newland
Running time: 30 min.
Country: United States

In previous posts I affirmed that pigeons are peaceful and innocent creatures whose major fault is not being aware where to poo or to nest. Now, after watching this episode of Pigeons from Hell, I realised that I was wrong because pigeons are not as innocent as they are supposed to be.

In this episode pigeons are souls that leave Hell during night and roam around a deserted plantation mansion. This is quite perturbing, but when we discover that they just not leaving Hell for a short excursion, but they actually enjoy causing suffering to humans, we realise that we are facing a dreadful horror situation.

The sign on the left warns us about the undesirable side effects of feeding pigeons. The author probably tried to be polite by avoiding mentioning nasty pigeon actions. However, if we re-read it in the context of this episode, we realise that these things include actions like murdering or zombification (by means of voodoo). Dreadful. The following pictures correspond to an artist's conception about the contrast between angelic and evil pigeons.

Artist's conception of the contrast between pigeon angels and an evil pigeon from hell.
Regarding Pigeons from Hell, the original story was written in 1934 by Robert E. Howard, and first published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales in 1938. Later, in the 60s, it was made it into an episode of the Thriller horror TV series. At the beginning of the episode, the narrator (Boris Karloff) warns about the evil nature of the pigeons. The video can be seen here. This is a fragment of his tale:

The swamp is alive. Crawling with creatures of death. Creatures that lurk, camouflaged in the undergrowth waiting patiently for an unsuspecting victim. And our young friend was alarmed by a flight of pigeons. Harmless, you say? Well, you'll see that he has good cause for alarm. For those were no ordinary pigeons. They were the pigeons from Hell. That is both the title and the substance of our story. Spirits come back from the dead to guard their ancestral home against intruders. Spirits that in life fed on evil, and now in death, return to feed upon the living

I think that it is a creepy presentation that doesn't prophesy good human-pigeon relationships. Pigeons appear at the very beginning of the episode. John Branner and his friend Tim Griswell are traveling by car and it breaks down close to a deserted plantation mansion. John decides to explore the area and when he approaches to the building he finds a flock of pigeons that mysteriously attack him.

John approaching the old plantation house. We can see the flock of pigeons in front.

John is scared by the pigeons.
When Tim reaches John, he asks him about what happend and John says:

John: There were  pigeons  all of  a sudden…they came right at  me, right at my face!
Tim: Pigeons! You sounded as if somebody were trying to kill you!
John: That’s just it! … It was like they were attacking me!

Due to low budget and old recording technology, this film doesn't have good special effects and the pigeons don't look very scary. However, there is some very good sound engineering work that makes the pigeon's cooing sound dreadful. The best example is when John wakes up, apparently under hypnosis and he goes upstairs to face his death. At this time, the pigeon sound is really horrific. John seems to be a nice boy, but after the pigeon's influence he transforms into a murderer zombie. This sequence can be seen here. I spent many years close to pigeons. More specifically, they were on the roof above me. I know what it's like to wake up by loud pigeon noises (probably mating songs). But the noise in this episode is different, it's a dreadful definitive sound... coming from the hell.  

In this film there is another important pigeon performance. When Tim returns to the mansion with the Sheriff, they found his car completely populated by these evil creatures. In the pictures below, you can appreciate the sheriff's face full of suspicion. 

Details of the pigeon starring 

  • Source: Thriller. Pigeons from hell. Starring moment: 0:02:35 and 0:41:15
  • Pigeon activity: They are evil and they try to cause pain and suffering to humans.
  • Symbolism: The symbolism is very important. They represent evil souls that roam around.
  • Relevance: High. Pigeons are one of the key elements of the plot.
  • Training level: Low. It is difficult to feature pigeons as evil-deadly creatures and it was even more complex in the 60s, without computer-aided special effects and a low budget. This is why the pigeons don't really seem scary. Actually, they usually seem to be more scared than the characters themselves.

Special thanks to Skelton Knaggs from The Classic Horror Film Board for this suggestion.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Pulp Fiction pigeon tribute

When I saw a picture of a couple of curious pigeons I couldn't resist comparing them with the famous boot shot of Mr. Vincent and Mr. Jules.

This is my small contribution to the National Pigeon Appreciation Day Celebrations!!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The rebound: pigeons over the world

Title: The rebound
Year:  2009
Director:  Bart Freundlich
Running time: 97 min.
Country: United States

This film tells the story of a romance between Sandy (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Aram Finklestein (Justin Bartha). Sandy is over 40, recently divorced with two children, while Aram is only 25 years old. After meeting on several occasions Sandy and Aram hit it off. Soon, Aram is fully integrated in her family, taking care of Sandy's children. At this point it would be perfect to discover that Aram is a psycho criminal and start a bloody slayer film. However, the writer decided to preserve Aram's innocence and good intentions and record a romantic film with important deficiencies in the plot.

After a while, a sincere romance starts between both characters. Nice and believable. What is more difficult to understand is their reason for subsequently breaking up. Aram decides to live a solitary life and starts a big trip around the world. He visits France, India and try to figure what he meets on this trip... yes, some pigeons.

 This romantic film contains two short pigeon appearances. The first one is in Paris, while he walks upstairs in front of Le Sacré Coeur he crosses with a pigeon and ignores it. The second one is in an Indian temple. In the scene we can see several pigeons outside observing the protagonist.

Aram stares at the Le Sacré Coeur while a pigeon approaches him.

In an Indian temple we can see the small silhouette of a pigeon standing outside on an arch.

Details of the pigeon starring 

  • Source: The Rebound Starring moment: 1:20:36 and 1:22:31
  • Pigeon activity: Two common pigeons from different parts of the World.
  • Symbolism: there is no special symbolism. It is interesting to see that originally both Sandy and Aram live in New York and not a single pigeon appears there. However, close to the end of the movie, when Aram travels, these feathered creatures make an appearance.
  • Relevance: None.Actually Adam didn't realise about the existence of these pigeons.
  • Training level: High. The Parisien pigeon is a highly trained specimen that does its duty very well (a perfect diagonal flight). Regarding the Indian pigeons, I suspect they are wild animals that appear in the film by chance.