Maleficent: A Complicated Villain

by Amy Kraft on June 7, 2014



Olive had a day off from school this week and on a whim while we were killing time between appointments we went to see Maleficent. I had shown Olive the trailer a while back and she said she wasn’t interested, but I had been reading about it being a great feminist film so I talked her into it.

I fear in our current climate where discussions of feminism lead too quickly to accusations of misandry that I might turn some off by saying that, which is unfortunate. It’s a fine feminist film indeed, and while it hates a man, it certainly doesn’t hate men. It passes the Bechdel test with flying colors, but gives us a host of interesting, well-rounded characters, great action, and great storytelling that should appeal to everyone.


I’m a sucker for stories told from unexpected points of view, so it’s logical that I would like Sleeping Beauty as seen through the eyes of its villain. And a hundred and fifty viewings of Frozen have not dulled my desire for fairy tales that focus on the women and girls in them.

I don’t want to tell you too much about this movie because it’s nice to be surprised watching it unfold. I’d rather tell you about the conversation Olive and I had leaving the theater, a conversation about how hard it is to label someone as a villain, how the world is not so black and white. She asked me if it was OK to murder a murderer. Whoa. I was all set to answer but then realized the better path might be to ask her what she thought. She thought for a long time. “I don’t think so,” she said, “because don’t you become a murderer then, too? Couldn’t someone murder you?” We went on to talk about justice versus vengeance, and even talked for a while about Hitler. (PS: thank you BrainPop for giving her a primer on all of this.) It was one of the deepest talks we’ve ever had, inspired by a Disney princess movie. If Disney keeps this up, I’m never going to be able to hate on them and their princesses again.



Last weekend the family and I were invited to a blogger day at Field Station: Dinosaurs in Secaucus, NJ. It’s one of those things I’ve heard about and thought, yes, one day let’s get a car and go do that dinosaur thing in New Jersey, so I was glad to get the invitation as a nice fire lit under us to go.

[PS - Keep reading and see how you can get free passes!]


Field Station: Dinosaurs is very much like going to a zoo, only the live animals have been replaced with animatronic dinosaurs. They’re nestled in cool ways into the rocks and foliage of the park, giving you a less-terrifying Jurassic Park sensation. The animatronics are really well done. I was captivated watching the giant stomach of the Apatosaurus as it breathed, and Ozzie started shouting every time it’s tail hit the trees. More than any museum exhibit, these dinosaurs really give you a sense of the scale. I thought about how the kids and I could fit inside the legs of the Argentinosaurus, and how we could, if necessary, run through the legs of the T. Rex.


Some of the backgrounds were beautiful, too, with the natural rock formations of the park forming a prehistoric landscape. Of course, there’s also the distopian view of the @Jerseysaurus who appears to have climbed up after trampling Manhattan in the background.


In addition to the dinosaurs, there are live shows featuring the vocal stylings of the Dinosaur Troubadour (I’ll be singing “The Mighty T. Rex” forever), game shows where kids try to decide if they’re looking at pictures of paleontologists or New Jersey governors (I’m not proud of the Chris Christie jokes we may or may not have made), a chance to pet the baby Hadrosaurus, and some incredible puppetry of a T. Rex. We loved that part especially.


Of course, ask the kids what their favorite part was and they’ll tell you “DIGGING!” You can grab shovels and brushes to play in a fossil-filled sandbox. I would have loved for them to be able to discover some actual tiny fossils to bring home, but the same giant plastic bones get dug up by the kids and recovered with sand by the park workers. (We were in the sandbox a long, long time.)


You can make it through everything in about two hours, which make the prices seem a little high. Tickets start at $20 for adults, and $17.50 for kids 3-12. If you’ve got any dinosaur fanatics in your house, though, it’s totally worth it. At 4, Ozzie’s just the right age for it and he loved it. At 9, Olive still had a great time, too. It’s also worth mentioning that if you’re carless like us, it’s walkable from NJ Transit. If you have a car (or a Zipcar), it’s super easy to get to off the turnpike.


And here’s the giveaway! I’m giving away a Family Four Pack of day passes, good for any day of your choosing this season. There are two ways to enter, and you can enter both ways (I’ll take up to two entries per person):

1) Leave a comment on this post (they’re moderated, so don’t fret if your comment doesn’t show up right away.)

2) Give my Facebook page a Like and leave a message there that you’d like to hang with the dinosaurs in New Jersey.

The giveaway will end next Friday at 8:00 Eastern, and I’ll pick a winner at random.

UPDATE: Congrats to Jamie Green, you are the winner of the Family Four Pack!


Interview with a 9-Year-Old

June 4, 2014

It’s hard to believe my wee little girl is now a beautiful 9-year-old. What an amazing age… still so interested in the world around her with little of the snark that goes so week with tweendom. And yet, she gave me answers to my annual interview questions with no interest in expanding on those thoughts. So, […]

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Happy Birthday to Meeeeeeee

May 22, 2014

Six years ago I had an idea to start a blog as a way of keeping up with the world of kids’ media. And while there have been times life has pulled me away from blogging, I love having this platform to share the things that I love. Thanks, as always, to everyone who swings […]

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My Favorite Thing About Zita the Spacegirl

May 21, 2014

I couldn’t be happier to be a stop on the “My Favorite Thing About Zita the Spacegirl” Blog Tour in celebration of the release of the third book in Ben Hatke’s amazing Zita the Spacegirl trilogy. Olive and I have formed a very special relationship with this particular heroine. For the uninitiated, the story begins when […]

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Minecraft: Beginners Don’t Stay Beginners for Long

May 19, 2014

If you’re an average human being who exists anywhere near computers, you’ve most likely heard of Minecraft. Now, if you’re a game designer who works on games for kids, you’d better know it. Until I had a kid who reached Minecraft age, though, I didn’t motivate myself to give it a go. I just faked my […]

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Interview with a 4-Year-Old

May 7, 2014

Unbelievably, my baby turned 4 this week. That means it must be time for a roundup of his favorite things from the past year. Of course, this is still an age of unreliable witness, so I added some family thoughts as well. Favorite Book: Too Many Toys by David Shannon It’s hard to argue with this […]

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Kickstarting Your Little Game Designer

April 17, 2014

I recently reaped the rewards of two board games that I backed on Kickstarter, both of which caught my attention as a game designer mama. The first is Robot Turtles. With a goal of $25,000, the Kickstarter for this game closed at $631,230. Not. Too. Shabby. That money shows incredible support for a game designed […]

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10 Things I’ve Been Doing Instead of Blogging

April 17, 2014

Dang, I’m seeing that I’m about to hit two months without a post. Sorry ’bout that! Here’s what I’ve been up to while I’ve obviously not been blogging. [UPDATE: This post mysteriously vanished from my blog, so I am reposting it thanks to my lovely Feedly archive.] 1. The biggest thing going on is that […]

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Pterosaurs Take Flight at AMNH

April 16, 2014

Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs is a great new show at the American Museum of Natural History, great for dinosaur lovers young and old. I recently attended a preview of the exhibit, where paleontologist curators Mark Norell and Alexander Kellner talked about pterosaur fossils and the formation of this new exhibit. The first […]

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