Gaiman spat has makings of a freaky fantasy movie

  • Article by: JON TEVLIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 7, 2011 - 5:50 PM

When Colin Covert reviewed the movie "Coraline" for this newspaper, he called it a "creepy wonderland of giant bugs, dancing flowers and acrobatic mice, along with a few hair-raising hobgoblins."

Covert may as well have been describing the Minnesota Legislature, particularly in its current fight with the author of "Coraline," horror/fantasy phenom Neil Gaiman.

To summarize: The Twin Cities regional library system used Legacy Fund money to pay Gaiman the phantasmagorical sum of $45,000 to speak to 500 people.

Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, has criticized the size of the payment and called Gaiman a "pencil-necked little weasel." Dean's mom later told him to apologize. Gaiman eviscerated the Legislature in tweets to his 1.5 million Twitter followers. Another legislator, Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, stomped his feet and moved to punish library patrons by slashing budgets by exactly $45,000.

Outlandish! Surreal! Otherworldly!

Sounds like the makings of a horror/fantasy movie.

With apologies to Gaiman and fans of "Coraline," here goes.

Our characters:

The White Marble Palace: Scene of the drama is a character in itself. It exists in a parallel universe with reality. There are two distinct sections, each with visions of Utopia opposite the other. On one side, money falls from the sky like manna, equally to all. Men marry each other, liquor stores are open all night and everyone is the color of a rainbow.

On the other side, wealth is accumulated through a magical hedge, but only to those who know the hedge is not real. The hedge allows the "Topsiders" to reap the wealth of the "Bottomsiders," who are never seen. The walls of the Topsiders are made from black walnut culled from parks used by the Bottomsiders. Festive gunplay keeps everyone happy.

The Pencil-Necked Little Weasel: Clever, mop-topped and wide-eyed, he is full of "vim" and "vigor." He's irritated by crazy adults, particularly those in official capacities who are envious of the Weasel's popularity and riches. Talks funny.

Dellwood: An impish scrooge, Dellwood scurries about the forest scrounging for nuts while his bounty rots. Known for fanciful, ill-advised utterances that are nevertheless kind of funny.

The Urdahl: Petulant chucklehead, harmless unless rattled. Survives on nothing but fast-food cheeseburgers, though they magically never cause him to gain weight. He periodically travels the land, decreeing phantom edicts banning all who would dare raise their voice against the mighty burger.

Mr. Forcible (Also called "The Cornish"): Walrus-like character who strikes fear, but only into chipmunks. Loses his power when unarmed.

The Rukavina: Lilliputian sage who is at once wise man and court jester. Would give equality and vote to wood worms. Legend says The Rukavina will remain at the White Palace forever.

The Librarian: Keeper of knowledge and gold coins, which she dispenses willy-nilly. Easily tricked by The Weasel.

Minor characters: The Crazy Old Man Upstairs, The Other Mother (Misses Majority), The Draz, The Kahn.

Plot summary:

The Weasel follows a black cat into The Palace and discovers a baroque Otherworld filled with improbable inhabitants with implausible hair and glistening teeth. Many are affixed, Siamese-twins style, to another whole person. These creatures are called "lobbyists." They all have buttons for eyes and cannot see.

The Weasel follows a hallway made of cotton candy and sunshine until he meets The Librarian, who showers him with gold coins, and The Kahn, who tells him he will be immortal, like her.

The Weasel sees a small door, but everyone warns: Do not go there.

The Weasel enters the second chamber, made of steel and logic, until he is mugged by Dellwood and The Urdahl, who take his gold coins. Dellwood yells obscenities until The Other Mother threatens to replace his mouth with a zipper. The Draz orders The Weasel out because he only speaks Weasel and doesn't have a proper ID.

Once again, The Weasel sees the tiny door. Thinking it must be the den of The Rukavina, he enters.

Instead, it is the lair of Mr. Forcible, aka The Cornish, who has just passed "shoot-first" legislation. The Weasel tries to run but dies in a hail of bullets.

The Weasel wakes in a pool of sweat from the horrible nightmare of the White Marble Palace. Then he digs through his pockets and smiles.

He still has the gold coins.

jtevlin@startribune.com • 612-673-1702

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