Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Honk, Honk, Goose!: The Movie

Once an English major, always an English major. Now that Garrison Keillor has made our geeky selves rather cool (at least to each other,) I can publicly admit how much I love to dive into books and pick them apart. And when I read Rosalyn Schanzer’s delightful post (April 7, 2009) Coming to the Theater Near You! and April Pulley Sayre’s stunning Honk, Honk, Goose! Canada Geese Start a Family (illustrated by Huy Voun Lee,) I couldn’t resist taking a dive.

[Full disclosure: April is a good friend of mine, which did not influence this review in any way! I’ve never met Huy Voun Lee – so that proves my objectivity. Besides, I’m just tagging behind the critics who are giving this book stars and more stars.]

So, back to Rosalyn’s movie talk…. As a
Screenwriter Sayre has written a tale of romance, danger, and heroic vigilance. Our hero, Father Goose is handsome, assertive, brave, romantic, and good with children – every female’s dream. But his is not an easy job. Predators lay in wait to harm his family. He sometimes fails to avert trouble, but he never gives up. Sigh. What a guy.

Co-directors Sayre and Lee work together to give this story passion and drama. Lee’s stunning cut-paper illustrations give us a stylized but realistic rendering of the world of Canada geese – habitat and predators, as well as details of domesticity. Danger abounds, which Lee shows us in many spot illustrations, but Father Goose is ever-alert. Sayre, as always, uses nature sounds and rhythms to dramatize her story.

Casting Director April chose to make Father Goose the protagonist. Many animal books focus on Mama, but Papa gets the spotlight here. Huy Vuon emphasizes his protector role by showing him with wings spread, neck stretched forward, tongue extended as he speaks his lines boldly: “Honk, hee-honk! Hisssssssssssss!”

Costume Designer Lee exquisitely uses her cut-paper medium to give us finely-cut feathers on the wings which, when spread, dominate the page. She uses downy-textured papers for the geese and goslings’ bodies. Thus we “feel” the power of their bodies and the fineness of their down feathers.

Lee serves as
Set Designer with help from Sayre. Lee shows the geese’s habitat of open grassland, (plain green paper with cut-out dark green ridges to show contours and elevation,) and a pond (two-tone mottled blue paper.) This dreamy blue covers the entire double-page spread of the couple’s courtship. We are immersed in the setting as they do what needs to be done to start a family. Sayre’s sounds enhance the setting: “Dabble dip” as they paddle, “Pluck, pull” when they feed, “Stretch, curve, their necks danced.”

Father Goose’s stunts are set up by both author and illustrator. As
Stunt Co-coordinators, Sayre describes a raccoon invading the nest and breaking an egg. Father honks, hisses, and lunges. Lee shows us a scary goose in profile, wings reaching beyond the page, neck crossing from one page to another. I’d run away too, like the raccoon.

Cinematographer Lee alters her angles throughout the book: wide establishing shots in the beginning, close-ups for intimate moments, then wide shots showing the new goose family, leading up to the final extreme close-up of Father Goose staring at us and giving us his loudest ever “Honk, hee-honk, honk! Hisssssssss!”

These are Sayre’s
Special Effects that bring her hero and the story to life – a sound design that begins with lots of honks, followed by splishes and splashes, flap flaps, more honks, crack crick peeps, still more honks, plop plops, peeps and yawns, and ending with Father’s triumphant Honk. Well done, Father Goose. Well done, April Pulley Sayre and Huy Voun Lee.

Hollywood, are you watching?

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