When the movie begins, we meet Richard Tyler (Macaulay Culkin). He is obviously very educated, talking about statistics and probabilities. What better person to embark on a wild adventure into fiction?
After entering the creepy library, the first “challenge” Rich faces is horror. He runs into Horror (Frank Welker) in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’s (Leonard Nimoy) house. Obviously, this is a direct reference to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Rich must face the duality of people, both the good and the bad.
The next reference we see is the raven flying down screaming “nevermore”. So Edgar Allan Poe, who is most definitely associated with horror, is ever present in this land with The Raven.
Then there are the “ghost stories” floating around. These are incredibly scary. Rich has to literally run passed them to keep searching for “the exit”.
The second world he faces is Adventure’s (Patrick Stewart) land. Even the very first book pulled off the shelf in the library is 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. The point of releasing this terrifying sea monster is to get Rich to climb the ladder. He has a “thing about heights”. But after the monster appears with an ocean, the height is the least of his worries.
In the land of adventure, the first reference we meet is Moby Dick. We see Captain Ahab (George Hearn) hunting the great, white whale. Rich has to swim in shark filled water to save himself and his friends.
Next, Treasure Island is represented with the pirates. In this adventure, our hero faces his fear (Long John (Jim Cummings)) and learns how valuable friends can be. All four team up to defeat the pirates and, Rich overcomes his fear of bullies.
The line between adventure and fantasy lies with Gulliver’s Travels. Horror gets trapped by the little people and nailed to the ground. This is more of a moment for Adventure to realize that being mean to Horror is not going to help anything. He is not a fan of being nice, but he does feel bad when he thinks Horror is dead.
Lastly, he embarks on a journey through Fantasy’s (Whoopi Goldberg) land of magic. The references in this part of the movie get a little stretched. There are many things that could be claimed to be referenced. Mother Goose is an obvious one, especially when she flies by. Most children associate fairy tales with her. We even see Humpty Dumpty.
The fairies could be William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Peter Pan. Rich has to realize that things can be real that he doesn’t even know about. The yellow brick road he follows to the cave is The Wizard of Oz or Wicked.
The dragon, honestly, I have a hard time putting a specific reference to. The Hobbit is of course one option. The Grimm’s fairy tale is another option.
Fantasy turns to Arabian Nights for help when Rich is on the dragon’s nose. She brings a flying carpet in to save the day.
After Rich climes up the book mountain to the exit, he has to make the decision to go back and save his friends instead of himself. He puts on the suit of armor and the sword. I would argue this is a representation of the King Arthur legend.
When he is in the stomach of the dragon, he “looks to the books”. Alice in Wonderland doesn’t seem to help. He settles on Jack and the Bean Stalk as a clever way to raise himself out of the dragon’s belly.
Talk about classic literature, the Pagemaster (Christopher Lloyd) says “God speed to you boy”. The Bible had to work its way into this movie.
If we know classic literature, we can get through any adventure, especially one inside a library.
Not much on the internet about this movie. However, I love this website. It maps out every trope or metaphor found in movies. And it does it with few words and no confusion. Have a look for the ideas about this movie. I personally like Drunk on the Dark Side.
Planning for an anime next week. See you then!