Movies & TV / Columns

Ten Deep 3.7.13: Top 10 Fantasy Lands

March 7, 2013 | Posted by Mike Gorman

“Top Ten Fantasy Lands”

This week the much anticipated prequel to The Wizard of Oz, Oz the Great & Powerful, hits theaters and with it once again theatergoers will be whisked away to that colorful fantasy land full of munchkins, talking animals and witches of all sorts. This got me thinking about the other lands that films have taken us to over the years. This week I have mapped out ten of these fantasy realms for your perusal. Some might be fun to visit and others would be a real nightmare.

10. ToonTown in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

In Who Framed Roger Rabbit? we discovered that all of our favorite animated characters were really alive and living in the animated world of ToonTown. The most mindblowing fact of all as a kid was that the characters from different studios, genres, etc. all appeared to be living and interacting together. Any place that brings together Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse is pretty spectacular in my book. There are rumors that a new Roger Rabbit film featuring Mickey is in the works. I think that would also be cool. Check out this scene from the live action/animated classic.

9. The Matrix in The Matrix Trilogy

It is the fantasy world that will hurt your head if you think too much about that little kid and his bending spoon. The Matrix was the all too real seeming virtual world where humans’ minds wandered as their bodies were used as batteries. The reality of the situation was pretty harsh but within the Matrix itself things got to be a bit more fun, like when the realization that you are in a construct allows you to alter the rules a la “bullet time” and Neo flying, which can be seen in detail in this clip.

8. Narnia in The Chronicles of Narnia series

A fantasy world that you get to at the back of your closet and will lead you to all kinds of adventures sounds awesome to me. Of course Narnia turned out to be much more than just a fantasy for the Pevensie children. What I think really stands out about Narnia is that the kids don’t just have wacky antics with wild creatures, they learn about becoming leaders and fighting real battles. There is an edge to this fantasy and that is what earned it a spot on this list. Below is Regina Spektor’s “The Call,” a song off of the soundtrack to The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and I feel it perfectly captures the mood and feeling of this series.

7. The Grid in Tron

In a way it was the original “Matrix” though it was less about the domination of humanity and more about the Master Control Program (MCP) dominating the then unnamed internet. Computer programs and games come to life with personalities and actions in this neon world. Of course the coolest element of all was the light cycles. They formed around the participants from a rod, left a solid light wall in their wake. Though they were deadly these vehicles looked to be an awful lot of fun. Check out the original light cycles from the first Tron here.

6. The dreams in the Nightmare on Elm Street III

Now the dream world of Freddy Krueger is a pretty awesome fantasy land in all of the Elm Street films but to me it really stands out in the third installment, the Dream Warriors. We already know by this point that in the dream world, Freddy is pretty darn powerful but in this film we learn that the Elm Street children can pack a punch of their own in this place. In their dreams they each have a special power or talent they can use to battle Krueger. It was also in this film that the intensity and creativity of Krueger’s attacks developed. The dream world became about a lot more than a rusty boiler room this time around.

5. The Chocolate Room in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory

If you’re a long time reader you probably know that I was a pretty fat kid (and adult until recently!) so it should come as no surprise that one of my personal favorite fantasy lands was that of Willy Wonka. To get more specific, the Chocolate Room in Wonka’s factory was always fascinating to me. You could literally eat everything there and ride a magic boat down a chocolate river. Sure the reality of this place would give every visitor a nasty case of Type II Diabetes but in realm of “pure imagination” it would be a nice place to spend the day.

4. Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films

The magic of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts was just that, the magic! In this institution of learning you will find out that all of the magical creatures from every storybook you’ve ever read are real, and that you yourself are a wizard. Hogwarts offers a nice sense of escapism and wonder to all of its visitors. The creators did a fantastic job translating it to film bringing to life it’s quirks and details like The Room of Requirement, the moving staircases, and the Quidditch field. It was one of the most beloved parts of the novels and became one of the films too. Personally I always enjoyed the Christmas scenes at Hogwarts and here they are gathered together.

3. Oz in The Wizard of Oz

When we first got to see Oz on the big screen it literally came to life in full Technicolor. One of the very first fully realized fantasy lands in film history, Oz still stands out as a place of both dreams and nightmares. Everything was not perfect in the Emerald City but that is what gave Oz its charm and mystery. Dorothy had to visit this fantastical realm to learn there was no place like home, and I am glad we got to experience it with her. Oz is a land rich with detail which makes me excited for the new film this week. There is still much for us to learn about the land of the yellow brick road!

2. Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings films

There can be no discussion of fully realized, detailed fantasy lands brought to life on film without mention of Middle Earth. This sprawling world was vividly presented to us in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Jackson paid particular attention to detail in sculpting this world that could have been too overwhelming to present on film yet he somehow succeeded, with the help of an amazing team of people. The greatest success of this production was making Middle Earth and its inhabitants seem real. Something I think they did very well. You can see Middle Earth in all of its glory in the four films it has been featured in now, or if you’re in a hurry you can catch a glimpse below when The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King is summarized in 5 seconds.

And lastly…

1. Fantastia in The Never Ending Story

The land of Fantastia in The Never Ending Story earns the top spot on this week’s countdown because it a fully crafted fantasy land that truly inspires dreams of escaping to a place of adventure while keeping the outcome of those adventures very real. As a kid, the idea that a world I was reading about in a book could spring to life was a mind blower. Did the actions in Fantasia dictate the book, or vice versa? It is a conundrum I still happily puzzle to this day. If you have not seen this film I encourage you to check it out immediately! Not everything in Fantastia is sunshine and rainbows, as can be seen in this moment from the film when the fate of Artax, the horse, is decided in the aptly named Swamp of Sadness.

Did I forget to include your favorite fantasy land on this week’s travel itinerary? Let me know and maybe we can visit it next time!

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Mike Gorman

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