Marvel’s “What If?” was way ahead of its time

What If? #10 asked the question “What if Jane Foster found the hammer of Thor?” and that question was answered in 2014 when she picked up the hammer and became the God of Thunder.

Marvel’s “What If?” is a new animated series on Disney+ but it actually began more than 40 years ago in the comics. I have been reading What If? since its inception in 1977 and, to be honest, the writers were way ahead of their time. In fact, they foretold the future of Marvel Comics in more ways than one.

What If? is a comic book anthology series published by Marvel Comics whose stories explore how the Marvel Universe might have unfolded if key moments in its history had not occurred as they did in mainstream continuity. Since What If? debuted in 1977, the comics have been published in 13 series as well as occasional stand-alone issues. As in the Disney+ animated series, the stories of the inaugural series (1977–1984) feature the alien Uatu, the Watcher as a narrator. From his base on the Moon, Uatu observes both Earth and alternate realities.

These early alternate realities, for the most part, actually came true in the Marvel Universe. In What If? #1, they wondered what would have happened if Spider-Man joined the Fantastic Four (an offer made in Amazing Spider-Man #1 in 1963). Years later, Spider-Man (and Wolverine) joined a new Fantastic Four team in Fantastic Four #347, while Spider-Man also joined the roster as part of the Future Foundation in The Amazing-Spider-Man #657. Prophecy becomes reality . . .

In What If? #10, the question was asked about Jane Foster picking up the hammer of Thor, something she did 30 years later and will be portrayed in the upcoming Marvel movie “Thor: Love and Thunder” as well. The early What If? comics were way ahead of their time. What If? #2 wondered if the Hulk still had Bruce Banner’s brain, something we’ve seen both in the comics and in the movies. You can find the complete list of original What If? comics on Wikipedia, and most of them have come to pass in today’s comics or movies.

Captain Carter from What If? Disney+ animated series and cosplay at MetroCon 2021 (cosplayer unknown).

Now, we have a new What If? on Disney+, and I am a fan. Having Jeffery Wright voice the Watcher was a brilliant choice as his stoic voice lends to the character. And, we’re only three episodes in and the changes have been remarkable. We’ve already seen evidence of that as cosplayers are donning the suit and shield of Captain Carter. That’s always a sign of a successful introduction of a character, whether it be anime, comics, television, or movie. I’m waiting patiently for T’Challa (Black Panther) as Star Lord in cosplay, but I know its coming soon. That was a great final scene and tribute to Chadwick Boseman. Every episode seems to have a great sense of both the Marvel Universe and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They honor the legacy of these comics while bringing new life to the MCU.

That’s the great thing about the concept of the multiverse. It brings us a variety of characters that we know and love but in the many different forms and representations. If you thought “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” was brilliant, this series keeps getting better and better. I really think Marvel has taken a bold step forward with their Disney+ series, Loki and Wandavision both, and “What If?” is another new chapter.

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Mark Piggott is an independent author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series and other fantasy novels and short stories. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon and as an audiobook from Audible and iTunes. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers. His latest fantasy novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart is available through Lulu and other booksellers. Get ready for The Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series, coming soon, and the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates.

Marvel reimagines the lineage of the Mandarin in the new “Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings” movie

After a dismal failure at introducing the Mandarin in Iron Man III, Marvel is trying to get it right with their new movie, Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings coming to theaters, Sept. 3. As a comic book purist, especially when it comes to movies, this version of the Iron Man supervillain is a better representation of the character instead of the campy Sir Ben Kingsley attempt. But, you need to know the history of this character, as well as Shang-Chi himself, to understand the changes being reimagined for the movies.

To know that you are superior— in mind, in body, in spirit. That is everything! To know that power is your birthright— to know what untold thousands exist on this world for no reason but to serve you– to channel their powers through your empire, be it of land or of business– channeling it upward to fuel you, to fuel your glory!

The Mandarin (Marvel Fandom Wiki)

The Mandarin was created in the 1960s as a supervillain for Iron Man at a time when the U.S. was under the “Red Scare” from Communist China, the Soviet Union, etc. Comic book villains reflected the hysteria at the time, so the villains were all tied to the idea of the communist take over of the world. This time period gave us The Mandarin, Red Ghost, Yellow Fang, the Titanium Man, Red Guardian, and yes, even Black Widow. These Asian characters had over-exaggerated features, yellow skin, sharp fingernails, and were portrayed as the epitome of evil. I would call it a holdover from World War II and the animosity toward the Japanese. The Mandarin was no exception.

In the comics, the man that would become the Mandarin was born from an English prostitute in an opium den located within the small village of Habuquan in Inner Mongolia, China, where he spent his entire childhood doing forced labor. Following his mother’s death due to overdose, the Mandarin killed her procurer, whom he figured was his father, and delved into a life of crime. When the communist revolution occurred, he went on the run. While running away, the Mandarin found a cave in the Valley of Spirits that housed the wreckage of an alien spaceship. Becoming transfixed by a set of ten small cylinders spinning in the ship’s engine, the Mandarin took the artifacts. Having found them similar in appearance to rings, the Mandarin started wearing them as such, slowly studying each of them and gaining access to their powers. When the Mandarin first worn them all at once, his mind was reached by the warrior spirits trapped within the rings. These spirits influenced the Mandarin so his ultimate goal in life would be to resurrect them.

Thus began the life of a supervillain that would span the decades. From the Shang-Chi trailers, we know this will partly remain true, i.e. criminal empire, alien rings (on his wrists instead of fingers), but that’s where the similarities end. His rings seem more power-based (force blast similar to Iron Man’s repulsors) than each ring having an individual power, like it is in the comics. This will be a fundamental shift but, for those audiences not familiar with the comics, it will be easier to understand.

My father has often said to me: ‘A man may not be too careful in his choice of enemies, for once he has chosen… he has forfeited a friend.’ These are words my father has lived by, for he is Fu Manchu, and his life is his word.

—Shang-Chi (Marvel Fandom Wiki)
Shang-Chi (Character) - Comic Vine

Then there’s the updated origin for Shang-Chi. Originally created during the Bruce Lee “Kung Fu” craze of the 1970s, this “Master of Kung Fu” has been upgraded from his abilities to his lineage. In the comics, Shang-Chi was born in the Honan province of China, and is the son of Fu Manchu, the Chinese mastermind who has repeatedly attempted world conquest and had a thirst for blood. His mother was a white American woman genetically selected by his father. Shang-Chi was raised and trained from infancy in the martial arts by his father and his tutors. Once he discovered about his father’s evil empire, he broke free and fought Fu Manchu at every turn. Now, it appears, that Fu Manchu is being replaced by the Mandarin in the MCU. That’s not really a big change, as they’re both leaders of criminal empires in China, and with Tony Stark’s Iron Man dead in the MCU, it’s a way of bringing the true Mandarin into the fold.

As fans, we understand that precise interpretations of the comics is impossible. Comic book characters themselves have evolved and changed over the years. You can’t take these characters from the 1960s and 70s, with their racist overtones as originally developed, to the big or little screen. For example, people are clamoring over the Disney+ series where Loki declares himself bisexual. If you read the comics, you knew this was a possibility. I mean, he has gone from man to kid to women on multiple occasions throughout his run. We knew it was coming, but those who never read the comics are screaming “heresy” and “political correctness” at this revelation. Chill out!

If you want something to scream about, the portrayal of the Mandarin in Iron Man III is something to get pissed off at. Again, I have nothing against Sir Ben Kingsley. I love him as an actor and it wasn’t his fault. However, that version of the Mandarin was a joke, an their little one shot was done just to appeased the fans who hated that movie. At least Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will bring it back to an origin closely resembling these characters. I hope Marvel has learned its lesson in totally revamping these characters for movies.

We all know, from the 24 hour news cycle, that there are issues with China, from the coronavirus to free speech in Hong Kong to the mistreatment of the Uyghurs. That issue is with the Chinese government, not the people of China. They have a rich history which is a big part of the mythology that a fantasy reader, like myself, loves to dive into. Those are the stories that need to be told and Marvel is trying to bring it to life in the MCU.

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Mark Piggott is an independent author of the Forever Avalon fantasy book series and other fantasy novels and short stories. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides: Book 2 of the Forever Avalon Series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from iUniverse Publishing and at Amazon, and other booksellers. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook from Austin Macauley Publishing, and at Amazon and other booksellers. His latest fantasy novel, The Last Magus: A Clockwork Heart is available through Lulu and other booksellers. Get ready for The Prometheus Engine: Book 4 of the Forever Avalon Series, coming soon, and the steampunk historical fiction, Corsair and the Sky Pirates.

The best fantasy/scifi movies you never watched, but you should

There are plenty of inspirations when it comes to fantasy and science fiction. Most people have their favorites, i.e. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, etc. Me, I’m a little old school. My obsession with the fantasy and sci-fi genre began with movies many people today either haven’t seen, forgot or ignored. In any case, each one of these movies has a unique charm about them (for lack of a better term) making them a must-see for any fan or geek. These are my personal picks, so I would love to hear whether you agree or disagree. Either way, I hope you’ll take some “COVID19 down time” to watch some or all of these classics.

The Final Countdown (1980) — This is a kick-ass, “Red, White, & Blue” Hell-yah,  U-S-A, movie with a simple science fiction twist. The nuclear aircraft carrier USS Nimitz is sent back in time to days before the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. It has an all-star cast ( Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, James Farentino, Katharine Ross and Charles Durning) but the real star is the U.S. Navy. As a young man, looking to his future after high school, this movie made me want to sign up.  The filming from the flight deck to the sky above, seeing two F-14 Tomcats take on Japanese Zeroes, was epic. This is not your average science fiction movie, but the whole time travel aspect was so well done and wrapped up nicely at the end.

The Black Cauldron poster.jpgThe Black Cauldron (1985) — This is a Disney film, but its one of the darkest Disney films they ever made. The plot is your basic boy becomes hero by defeating the evil sorcerer, your usual fantasy genre yarn, but the visuals of this film are stunning. Something I didn’t know was that it was loosely based on the first two books in The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, a series of five novels that are, in turn, based on Welsh mythology. Set in the mythical land of Prydain during the Early Middle Ages, the film centers on the evil Horned King who hopes to secure an ancient magical cauldron that will aid him in his desire to conquer the world. He is opposed by a young pigherder named Taran, the princess Eilonwy, a bard and a wild creature named Gurgi who seek to destroy the cauldron. This was Disney’s 25th animated feature, the first animated film to receive a PG rating, and it doesn’t get the props like Disney’s other animated films because of the dark storyline. No matter what, this is a great fantasy movie to see.

Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) — In the age when every movie wanted to look like and have the success of Star Wars, this movie fits the bill to a “T” and then some. Staring Richard Thomas (John Boy from The Waltons TV series) and produced by the genius Roger Corman, this movie had every science fiction movie trope in it, including the kitchen sink. Corman intended this movie to be a remake of the classic The Magnificent Seven but set in outer space. It had a stellar cast, from the legendary John Saxon and George Peppard to Robert Vaughn, and the effects were as expected for 1980, pre-CGI. The story follows the expected plot… The farming world Akir is threatened by the tyrannical warlord Sador (Saxon). Sador’s huge dreadnaught has a “Stellar Converter”, a weapon that turns planets into small stars. He demands that the peaceful Akira submit to him or he will turn his Stellar Converter on their planet. They want to hire mercenaries to protect their world, but since Akir lacks valuable resources, its people can offer just food and shelter in payment. Shad (Thomas) volunteers for the recruiting mission. It is a strange movie, full of Corman’s classic sci-fi tropes,  including a Space Cowboy, half-dressed Valkyrie warrior, an elite assassin, and a reptilian slaver, but it is well laid out and fun to watch.

The Black Hole.jpgThe Black Hole (1979) — Yet another Disney film that  has been relegated to the void that is the Disney vault due to its dark and violent nature. Another great cast ( Maximilian Schell, Robert Forster, Joseph Bottoms, Yvette Mimieux, Anthony Perkins and Ernest Borgnine) fills the screen with astounding visuals of a black hole in space, before Interstellar. The Palomino, nearing the end of its deep space mission, discovers a black hole in space with a large spaceship nearby, somehow defying the hole’s massive gravitational pull. The ship is identified as the long-lost USS Cygnus. Deciding to investigate, the Palomino encounters a mysterious null gravity field surrounding the Cygnus. What they find on board is far worse… Dr. Hans Reinhardt, a brilliant scientist, and what appears to be a crew of robots. They are not faceless drones, but are in fact the human crew who mutinied when Reinhardt refused to return to Earth and had been lobotomized and “reprogrammed” by Reinhardt to serve him and his floating murder-bot Maximilian. Again, a very dark movie for Disney that was not well received by critics but earned two Academy award nominations for cinematography and visual effects.

Dragonslayer (1981) — This movie is very familiar to anyone who played Dungeons and Dragons in the 80’s, but it is not seen as a top-rated movie like LOTR and others. It should be. Dragonslayer gave us our first look at a dragon, an honest to God dragon and all its power and glory. Before there was CGI, there was GoMotion, created by Industrial, Light and Magic for The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark and other classic movies of the 80s. In this movie, we got a dragon named Vermithrax that was everything you expected it to be… Evil, deadly, and downright terrifying. Another great cast (Peter MacNicol, Ralph Richardson, John Hallam and Caitlin Clarke) fills out this epic tale of a young apprentice taking on the beast to prove himself worthy as a sorcerer against a King who for years has placated the dragon with a virgin sacrifice. This is a worthy fantasy epic and a must see movie!

Deathstalker (1983) - Rotten TomatoesDeathstalker (1983) — The last movie on my list is another 80’s Roger Corman classic, filled with your favorite fantasy genre movie tropes just like he did in Battle Beyond the Stars. It’s a very Conan-esque movie, with buff men in leather, scantily-clad women, swords and sorcerers. It spawned four sequels, but this is the one to watch. Against, a basic storyline of sword-wielding mercenary on a quest to retrieve four magical items to stop a sorcerer from destroying his world. Along the way, he meets other warriors entering a tournament to find the greatest warrior and gain control over the kingdom. It’s not Shakespeare but it has all the qualities of a sword/sorcerer movie of the 80’s. It fits right in with The Beastmaster, Conan the Barbarian, and other fantasy movies of that time. Corman is a genius of the screen when it comes to movies like these.

So again, these are far from the Oscar-worthy movies you normally think of in the fantasy/sci-fi genre, but they have all the elements you think of when you watch these movies. I would love to hear about your favorites that I might have missed in my list, please comment and let me know.

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse Publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available from Austin Macauley Publishing.

King Arthur is the legend that lives in all of us

“Yet some men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead, but had by the will of our Lord Jesu into another place. And men say that he shall come again, and he shall win the the Holy Cross.”~Sir Thomas Mallory, Le Morte d’Arthur

The legend of King Arthur, Camelot, the Knights of the Round Table, Merlin, Morganna le Fay, the Lady of the Lake and Excalibur… These stories are at the heart of the fantasy genre, the myths and legends we cling to in our stories. It can be found in books, movies, television, comic books, and anime from the United Kingdom, to the U.S., and Japan. The story of honor, courage, magic, and mystery is deep within the psyche of every human being. 

We love the tale of the boy king pulling the sword from the stone; the romantic triangle between Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot; the magic of Merlin and Excalibur; and the evil of Morganna le Fay and Mordred. These are legends ingrained in us that, in one way or or another, we can all relate to.

Image result for the sword in the stoneI first learned about the legend of King Arthur as a boy. Like any child of the 60’s and 70’s, it was taught to me through the magic of Disney. The Sword in the Stone (1967) is an animated classic, telling the story of Arthur and Merlin with a witch named Mim thrown in for good measure. It is a fun movie that taught this classic tale to kids like me. 

I think my exposure to the legend of Camelot was first done through movies, classics like Prince Valiant (1954) and Camelot (1967) to Excalibur (1981) and First Knight (1994), even Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). There has been so many re-imagining takes on this timeless story in so many forms. That’s what makes it such an integral part of the fantasy genre.

Image result for saber arthur and mordred fateMost recently, you can find the enigmatic King Arthur, Mordred, Lancelot, and Merlin as “heroic spirits” in the Fate anime series. Arthur and Mordred are gender-swapped as powerful women, both of the “Saber-class” of heroic spirits. Although it was weird at first, they actually kept the legend intact through this twist. The conflict between these two is better explained in this anime than in any other story I’ve read or watched. It’s an amazing conflict that brings out the vulnerabilities in these characters.

I used the legend of King Arthur and Camelot as the basis for the Forever Avalon series. I took the approach of “what happened next” in the story, looking at it from the perspective of our world today. The idea started with a simple question… What happened? What happened to all the magic, the mythical creatures and monsters? Where did it go? Why did it disappear from our world? The answer, in my mind, was Avalon.

Avalon has always been a place of eternal magic that will never die. Sir Thomas Malory, in his fifteenth century epic Le Morte d’Arthur, tells of King Arthur’s final moments. Bedivere took the King upon his back and carried him to the water’s edge, and there was a little barge floating there with many beautiful ladies in it. “Comfort yourself,” said the king, “and do the best you can. I can no longer help you, for I must go into the vale of Avalon to be healed.” Collins English Dictionary defines Avalon as “an island paradise in the western seas” and derives it from the Old Welsh word “Aballon” for Apple.

There are other accounts of Avalon in literature. According to Geoffrey in the Historia, and much subsequent literature which he inspired, Avalon is the place where King Arthur is taken after fighting Mordred at the Battle of Camlann to recover from his wounds. Welsh, Cornish and Breton tradition claimed that Arthur had never really died, but would return to lead his people against their enemies. Historia also states that Avalon is where his sword Excalibur was forged. This is the part of the legend I tapped into to begin my story.

tow ad7But what happens when Avalon is forced back into the modern world of today? You’ll have to read The Outlander War: Book 3 of the Forever Avalon Series to find out!

In the end, it all started with the legend of King Arthur. His story, whether based on fact or fiction, myth or legend, rings true in the mind of a writer like me. It is the stepping stone that brings you into my world. Take the journey and believe in magic again!

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Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and iUniverse Publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is available from Austin Macauley Publishing.

This isn’t your grandfather’s Disney anymore

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” — Walt Disney

There’s an old saying about how “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” right? I think that’s true in some instances, like sports. You always see the same teams near or at the top year after year. It’s very rare when someone new gets in, which makes New England Patriots fans very happy.

However, the same can’t be said of Disney. What was once the home of Mickey Mouse and friends, the Wonderful World of Disney every Sunday night, the Mickey Mouse Club, and the most “kid-friendly” animated movies out there has gone “PC” and become a powerhouse in the entertainment industry. Disney now controls the biggest genres imaginable (i.e. ABC, ESPN, Star Wars, Marvel, etc.) and its growing nonstop.

I know some of you are shaking your head and asking yourself, “okay, so what?” Well, hear me out. Disney has gone politically correct in nearly everything it does. I don’t see it as the same company that Walt Disney imagined all those years ago. Yes, they do strive for a “family friendly” environment in its shows and parks, but it’s also walking that fine line of being in step with today’s progressive ideology in what it does, but should they?

Let’s be honest… How can a company complain about laws in Georgia affecting their television and film production while, at the same time, trying to build a new Disney park in Saudi Arabia, one of the strictest countries in the world? That’s not only hypocritical, it’s wading into partisan politics.

I always strive to stay out of politics, in my books, my social media, and here on my blog. In my opinion, unless you specifically write about politics, you should avoid talking about it as you can alienate half of your fan base. Disney, and other media companies, as well as actors, musicians and other artists, should avoid politics as it could (in the long run) hurt them. Some use that platform as a stage to support certain causes, which is fine, but there is risk involved in doing so.

Take Dolly Parton, for example, a mainstay of the entertainment industry. In an interview with ABC News, she said, “I learned a long time ago to keep your damn mouth shut if you want to stay in show business.” She has succeeded in what she does because of that, because she wants to make people happy, with her music, her acting, and at her amusement park, not lecture them on how to think or what side to take in a political argument.

I miss the days when Disney meant family-friendly shows, devoid of political undertones or progressive messaging. I realize that Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck might not have the influence over kids today like Sponge Bob or Ricky and Morty have, but maybe they should. Disney needs to get back and focus on that which sparks a child’s imagination.

I became a fantasy writer because of the adventures Disney took me on as a child. From battling dragons in Sleeping Beauty or fighting evil in The Black Cauldron to flying through space with The Black Hole and deep under the ocean in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This journey into the fantastic and unimaginable is what made Disney what it is today… Disney means fantasy.

Walt Disney said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” That should be the mantra for Disney. Maybe bringing back the Wonderful World of Disney would bring about a healthier, less aggressive, atmosphere in the world today. Maybe that’s what we’re missing.



Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a paperback/ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon from Austin Macauley Publishing.

Take a trip back to your childhood through the Hundred Acre Woods

nullWe all want that magic formula for staying and feeling young. For some, it’s exercising, eating right, no smoking or drinking, etc. For me, it’s watching things like anime, cartoons, and other movies and TV shows from my youth. We’re talking about the 70’s and 80’s, so that includes the classic Winnie the Pooh cartoons. This past weekend, I did just that when I went to see Christopher Robin. I will keep this SPOILER free so as not to ruin the movie for you.

This is definitely a movie that will make you laugh, make you cry, and give you that shot from the Fountain of Youth. I felt so alive after watching this movie. It has your basic plot of man working too hard, ignoring his family, needing a visit back to his childhood to make him see the error of his ways; but this is even better because it includes Winnie the Pooh and friends.

The first thing you have to understand about the movie is the setting. We’re talking England in the early 1900s, so for a young boy its boarding school, responsibilities after a parent dies, war, marriage and family, etc. This was the world of author A.A. Milne, and it was recreated with such precision. Another thing that was done perfectly was the characters. Don’t look for the cartoon Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, etc., but rather a faithful recreation of the art of Ernest H. Shepard. They look like stuffed animals that have been left outside in the yard, but they move and sound like the beloved characters.

Along with the story, you get to hear some of the familiar songs from the original Disney cartoons, like the Tigger song and Pooh’s morning exercise song, as well as some familiar quotes made famous by the characters. That’s what will tie it back to your childhood, at least for the adults going to see the movie; but there are plenty of new moments that will make you laugh and make you cry.

Pooh is as delightful and as charming as ever. He had a certain wit about him that you come to expect from Winnie the Pooh. For a “bear of very little brain” there is a wisdom to what he says that makes him a joy to watch. Personally, I am a diehard Tigger fan, and really expected him to stand out, but it was Eeyore that stole the show. The scene where he and Christopher Robin fight of the Heffalumps is hysterical. He had some of the funniest lines that made me laugh the hardest. Piglet is as adorable as always and, believe it not, former Doctor Who alum Peter Capaldi surprised me as the voice of Rabbit. It was a great ensemble for all these beloved characters.

227679_1063370351891_734_nThe human cast was also quite wonderful. Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, and Bronte Carmichael were brilliant as Christopher Robin and his family. The whole movie was so much fun to watch, from beginning to end, that I actually called my grown-up children afterwards and told them they better go see this movie. It not only reminded me of my childhood, but my time with them too. Want proof? Here’s me and my son with our “idols” at Disney!

You may or may not be a fan of these beloved characters, but I really don’t think that matters with this movie. It such a joy to watch, you won’t be able to help yourself. This a great movie, for couples, families, teenagers, young adults, anyone! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.




Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon. The Dark Tides is available for purchase as a book/ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverse publishing. The Outlander War, Book Three of the Forever Avalon series is coming soon.


Like fantasy without magic, movies without memorable music totally miss the mark

beauty-and-the-beast2Most people remember their favorite movies through unforgettable scenes or great quotes. There are many, though, that you remember from a few notes of music or humming a tune. Add to that, there are so many memorable songs and music from movies, you don’t know where to start.

There’s a great scene in the movie The Holiday where Jack Black’s film composer character runs through a litany of movies and music and how they changed cinema. It’s what made me want to look at some of my favorite movie soundtracks, composers and songs. I hope they’re some of your favorite too.

First and foremost, I’ll start right off with John Williams who is, without a doubt, the greatest composer that movies have ever scene. From Star Wars and Indiana Jones to E.T. and Harry Potter, he has written some of the greatest movie soundtracks EVER. His music has been heard by generations who will always know the movie by the chord struck by the orchestra. He is the Gandalf of movie soundtracks.

Next thing I’ll throw out there is any Disney animated movies. Disney has a history of making the best animated films and, with it, unforgettable songs and music. From Snow White singing “I’m wishing” in that high-pitched voice of Adriana Casrlotti to Indina Menzel “Let it Go” from Frozen,  Disney has brought the best singers and songwriters together for great movie soundtracks. The best part is that these are songs you sang as a kid and with your kids too.

rocky_horror_throne_screencapNext is great movie musicals. I’m partial to West Side Story and The Sound of Music because I grew up on these movies. However, my all-time favorite has to be The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I was a teenager going out every Friday and Saturday night to dance the Time Warp, ask “Whatever Happened to Saturday Night” and wonder if we’re having Meatloaf fir dinner. The music is intoxicating and holds your heart and soul captive like a trans-sexual transvestite from Transylvania.

Lastly, I want to give a shout out to one of the greatest rock-n-roll bands of all time and the music that holds a place near-and-dear to us geeks. Queen has written songs for two classic sci-fi/fantasy movies … Highlander and Flash Gordon. If you hear the opening chorus of either one of these movies opening songs, you know exactly what it is. They are that recognizable, especially with Freddie Mercury’s incredible vocals. At the same time, I have to give a shout-out to the greatest movie singer of 80’s movies, Kenny Loggins. “Danger Zone” from Top Gun, “I’m Alright” from Caddyshack, “Footloose” from Footloose and so many more. Kenny Loggins was THE soundtrack of a generation of great movies.

No matter what your favorite movie or music, I know I only touched on a few favorites here. There are so many more to add and not enough space to write about them. All I can hope is that by reading my blog here today, you now have a song stuck in your head. Gotcha!


51nd6H6sATL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_SKU-000941753Mark Piggott is the author of the Forever Avalon book series. Forever Avalon is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The Dark Tides is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iUniverseThe Outlander War can be previewed at Inkitt.


A forgotten classic, swept under the rug by Disney

The_Black_Cauldron_posterDisney is known for its great animated movies, the majority of which take place in the fantasy genre. Classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty and The Sword in the Stone have all the right elements of a great fantasy movie:  wizards and witches, dragons and knights, good versus evil, etc. There is one, however, that was a beautiful adaptation of a classic fantasy novel that Disney decided was too dark and scary and swept it under the rug of forgotten classics. I am, of course, referring to The Black Cauldron.

Released in 1985, The Black Cauldron was adapted from the 1965 Lloyd Alexander novel, the second of the five books from The Chronicles of Pyrdain. The movie was Disney’s 25th animated film. It was the first Disney animated film to receive a PG rating and the first to use computer-generated graphics. It featured the voices of Grant Bardsley, Susan Sheridan, Freddie Jones, Nigel Hawthorne, John Byner, and John Hurt.

The Black Cauldron is set in the mythical land of Prydain during the dark ages. The film centers on the evil Horned King who hopes to secure an ancient magical cauldron that has the power to raise an army of the dead, but to do that, he needs a pig named Hen Wen who has “oracle” powers. He is opposed by a young pig keeper named Taran, the young princess Eilonwy, the bard Fflewddur Fflam, and a wild creature named Gurgi who seek to prevent him from ruling the world by destroying the cauldron.

Horned_KingThe imagery in this movie was quite dark and spooky, especially for a kid’s animated movie. The Horned King looked like a walking corpse. It had all the earmarks of a Disney movie with the boy hero, a beautiful princess, the evil villain and his henchmen, and of course, the comedic sidekick; but even with all that, Disney had problems with the film. After its initial audience screening, the Disney Studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg ordered massive edits and cuts in the film, particularly in the “cauldron born” scene where the Horned King brings his army of the dead to life. There was even scenes where one of the “cauldron born” monsters sliced the neck of one victim and the torso of another. It was very gruesome indeed.

It was scenes, like that, that gave children nightmares from the pre-screening. Though most of it ended on the cutting room floor, it left the film quite jumpy and left a certain lapse, especially in the final act. In the end, after its release, the film only managed to make $21.3 million of its $44 million budget domestically. However, it did manage to score big internationally, especially in Europe.

Rotten Tomatoes called it “ambitious but flawed” while only giving it a 55% rating. Even the author, Lloyd Alexander, had mixed feeling about the movie. He said, “First, I have to say, there is no resemblance between the movie and the book. Having said that, the movie in itself, purely as a movie, I found to be very enjoyable. I had fun watching it. What I would hope is that anyone who sees the movie would certainly enjoy it, but I’d also hope that they’d actually read the book. The book is quite different. It’s a very powerful, very moving story, and I think people would find a lot more depth in the book.”

Disney even misused the film for its initial release to home media. It was finally released on VHS in 1994. This was mostly done due to fans wanting the film released on video along with other Disney classics. It was again released on dvd in 2000 and again in 2010 for a special 25th-anniversary edition. All of this was more “fan-driven” than anything else.

The Black Cauldron may not have the love of some of the other Disney classics, but to those who love the fantasy-genre, it is a forgotten classic that deserves a little more respect. Or as Gurgi would say, “Oh, poor miserable Gurgi deserves fierce smackings and whackings on his poor, tender head. Always left with no munchings and crunchings.”

Quoting Winnie the Pooh is the key to a successful life

screen-shot-2015-02-23-at-9-13-28-pm-12-quotes-from-disney-movies-that-taught-us-important-life-lessons-png-274887I never thought that the things I learned from watching a Disney movie would resonate to being successful today as a husband, father, or a writer. I was so surprised to see that, when I did a Google search for inspiring quotes, a lot of them are from a Disney movie or something else I watched as a kid.

Even when I look back at watching these movies when my own children were growing up, you sometimes miss those inspirational moments for the laughs, the action and adventure or even through the sad story. Yet, it these quotes that resonate still today. I thought I would share with you some and see if you remember when you heard it watching a movie as a child or with your own children. It might make you think twice about some things.

“The very things that hold you down are going to lift you up.” – Timothy Mouse, Dumbo

“You control your destiny — you don’t need magic to do it. And there are no magical shortcuts to solving your problems.” – Merida, Brave

“Oh yes the past can hurt. But you can either run from it, or learn from it” – Rafiki, The Lion King

“No matter how your heart is grieving, If you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true.” – Cinderella, Cinderella

“Man has always learned from the past. After all, you can’t learn history in reverse!” – Archimedes, The Sword in the Stone

“A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.” – Eeyore, Winnie the Pooh

“Sometimes the curiosity can kill the soul but leave the pain.” – Alice, Alice in Wonderland

“Life’s not a spectator sport. If watchin’ is all you’re gonna do, then you’re gonna watch your life go by without ya.” – Laverne, The Hunchback of Notre Dame

“The things that make me different are the things that make me ME.” – Piglet, Winnie the Pooh

“If you don’t know where you want to go, then it doesn’t matter which path you take.” – The Cheshire Cat, Alice in Wonderland

Walt_Disney_1946I want to leave you with a final thought from Walt Disney himself. He said, “The more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique.” Those are words to live by. We can all take a lesson from these simple childhood memories and turn them into the passion we have for our work, our family and our life in general today.

After all, we never truly want to grow up, do we?