Sometimes readers ask questions about the scary themes in The Wingfeather Saga. The Black Carriage, something dreadful and sad and frightening, shows up right away in chapter 1, and many scary things happen throughout the series after that. One of the questions asked during the Kickstarter was about how these frightening scenes will be depicted on screen. Will they be too scary for younger viewers? When a question (about casting toothy cows!) came up during the countdown party, here’s what Andrew said:
“I’m not excited about scaring your children, but there was something that was important to me with the Wingfeather Saga books. In order for the light in the stories to be shown as being powerful, the darkness needed to not be a straw man. It needed to not be a weak darkness; it had to be something that was actually formidable. That meant, from early on in the stories—the opening scene where Janner’s laying in bed and he can hear the sound of the Black Carriage—that was my attempt at telling the parents that were sitting down to read this story, ‘This is not Dr. Seuss. This is going to be a story that’s going to deal with some scary, scary stuff.’ But the point is, one of the things that’s important to me, that makes this series different from the other things made for TV, that’s going to give it its weight, is that the world needs to feel real. In order to make the world feel real, bad things have to happen.
“Your kids know that the world is a broken place. They have walked through the room and seen the news on. They’ve heard their parents argue. They’ve been to school. They know the world is a broken place. So what we need to do is tell a story that shows a broken world. That means that characters die, that there is war, there are real battles that happen, real things that happen—ultimately, not to disturb your children, but to comfort your children. That’s the idea. When the light triumphs over a real darkness, then—this is my dream—the kid goes to sleep with this warm glow inside, that ‘Yes, there is a great good in the world.’
“I can’t think of another animated series, a show that fits into this category, where there’s going to be a long story where you don’t know whether—where there’s something real at stake, where characters just might die, because the Fangs are actually evil. We’re going to be very careful. I have children, Chris [the producer] has children; we get it. We’re not looking to just do violence for violence’s sake, but the story is going to deal with some of those things.”
Ultimately, not to disturb your children, but to comfort your children.
Andrew has spoken to this concern in his Note to Parents, also. One of his favorite quotes is, “Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be beaten.”
Just last week, Andrew’s friend and fellow author N.D. “Nate” Wilson wrote an article in The Atlantic called “Why I Write Scary Stories for Children.” Here’s a snippet:
I write violent stories. I write dark stories. I write them for my own children, and I write them for yours. And when the topic comes up with a radio host or a mom or a teacher in a hallway, the explanation is simple. Every kid in every classroom, every kid in a bunk bed frantically reading by flashlight, every latchkey kid and every helicoptered kid, every single mortal child is growing into a life story in a world full of dangers and beauties. Every one will have struggles and ultimately, every one will face death and loss.
There is absolutely a time and a place for The Pokey Little Puppy and Barnyard Dance, just like there’s a time and a place for footie pajamas. But as children grow, fear and danger and terror grow with them, courtesy of the world in which we live and the very real existence of shadows. The stories on which their imaginations feed should empower a courage and bravery stronger than whatever they are facing. And if what they are facing is truly and horribly awful (as is the case for too many kids), then fearless sacrificial friends walking their own fantastical (or realistic) dark roads to victory can be a very real inspiration and help.
This is a great article which Andrew really appreciated, and we hope you will too. Read the rest of it here.
We’d love to hear your thoughts, too, whether you’re a parent, a kid, or a writer or reader of any age. If you’re interested in talking about this, feel free to post a comment below or visit our forum.