Angelina Jolie and David Oyelowo appear in “Come Away,” directed by Brenda Chapman. (Courtesy Hilary B. Gayle/SMPSP/Maginot Line, LLC)

Angelina Jolie and David Oyelowo appear in “Come Away,” directed by Brenda Chapman. (Courtesy Hilary B. Gayle/SMPSP/Maginot Line, LLC)

Brenda Chapman takes to live action in ‘Come Away’

New Alice-Peter Pan fantasy has 21st century family

.

With its mixed-race family, Brenda Chapman’s “Come Away” has become a movie of the moment.

“That’s been the kind of bizarre thing about it all,” Chapman says via phone from her Mill Valley home, where she’s riding out the pandemic. “When I read the script and first started casting for it, I had this moment where I thought, ‘Wait! Why can’t I do it this way?’”

Written by Marissa Kate Goodhill, “Come Away” is a family-friendly, fantasy-drama that imagines what might have happened if Alice (of Wonderland fame) and Peter Pan were brother and sister.

In the movie, which opens in theaters and on demand Friday, the children have a white mother (Angelina Jolie) and a Black father (David Oyelowo), and the children are dark-skinned.

“For some reason, when I was looking at the list of women, it was all white,” says Chapman, “but when I got the list they were suggesting for men, there was a plethora of color in there.”

At first Chapman felt stuck, but then she had her revelation. “When I saw David, there was something about him that just felt right. So I approached the producers and said, ‘I think this will work without changing one thing in the script.’”

She’s extremely proud of the result. “What a wonderful thing to open up this story for a whole other audience! Now they can see themselves in these stories!” she says. (Coincidentally, this year’s “Wendy,” which Chapman says she hasn’t seen, featured a Black Peter Pan.)

Chapman’s name may be familiar to Bay Area audiences as the initial writer and director of Pixar’s Oscar-winning “Brave.” She’s also the first woman to direct an animated feature, the excellent “The Prince of Egypt,” for a major studio.

During her long career, she has worked in virtually every other capacity in the world of animation, from “lip-sync checker” on made-for-TV cartoons, to an “inbetweening” artist on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and contributing to the story of “Beauty and the Beast.”

“My first love is animation,” she says. She admits that, while she has read “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Peter Pan” books by Lewis Carroll and J.M. Barrie, she was more familiar with the Disney animated films.

“I never actually thought I’d direct a live action film. But I got this script, and I thought, well if I’m gonna do one!” She laughs. “It all spoke to me so strongly.”

But “Come Away” does have animation, as well as beautiful sequences of imaginative play as Alice (Keira Chansa), Peter (Jordan A. Nash) and their older brother David (Reece Yates) pretend to be pirates and attend tea parties.

Sticks magically turn into swords and a broken-down rowboat becomes a full pirate ship!

Chapman says she initially planned to use very little visual FX in the movie, simply showing a stick, cutting away, and then showing a sword, but she likes how imaginative the scenes are now. “It’s so childlike!” she says.

Fans of Wonderland and Neverland will delight in subtle Easter eggs and homages sprinkled throughout the movie, such as a pair of urns that resemble Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

In addition, live-action characters bear a resemblance to the classic book and movie characters. (Derek Jacobi’s character is the tortoise.)

Aside from giving a warm hug to people of color, “Come Away” is a perfect 2020 movie for another, profoundly simple reason: “Right now I think it’s a good thing to have imaginations to get lost in while the world does all this crazy stuff,” says Chapman.

She adds, “I hope we can find a way to keep going to the movies alive after all this is over. There’s something about that communal event and feeling that wash of laughter or dread or sadness. There’s something you just can’t get sitting by yourself.”

Meanwhile, with the movie’s release imminent, Chapman has a plan. She says, “I’ve been doing some reading, but I think it’s time to dive in and watch some films.”

IF YOU GO

Come Away

Starring: Angelina Jolie, David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Caine

Written by: Marissa Kate Goodhill

Directed by: Brenda Chapman

Rated: PG

Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes

Movies and TV

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Oracle Park on Thursday. (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
In praise of Johnny Cueto, who confuses, confounds and delivers

I heard his name just as I was leaving the parking lot,… Continue reading

San Francisco Giants second baseman Donovan Solano (7) scores on a double by San Francisco Giants pinch hitter LaMonte Wade Jr. (31) in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Oracle Park on Thursday, July 29, 2021. (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
Will the Giants make the playoffs? Five arguments, for and against

By Chris Haft Special to The Examiner You’d be hard-pressed to find… Continue reading

A prescribed fire at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks was conducted in June 2016 to reduce hazardous fuel loading, increase watershed health, and restore the natural fire cycle in the Redwood Canyon area ecosystem. (Photo courtesy Rebecca Paterson/National Park Service)
Experts, UC scientists discuss wildfires in the state’s riskiest regions

Wildfires are nothing new in California’s history, but the magnitude and frequencies… Continue reading

Fourth-grade students at Lucerne Valley Elementary School don masks and Western wear for a “Walk Through California” history day during in-person instruction. (Courtesy of Krystal Nelson)
Confusion over mask mandate for California schools sparks tension between districts and parents

By Diana Lambert EdSource Shifting rules around mask mandates at schools are… Continue reading

Diners at Teeth, a bar in the Mission District, on July 9, 2021. Teeth began using digital menus based on QR code technology in August. (Ulysses Ortega/The New York Times)

Most Read