Behind the Scenes of “Sinbad”: Something to Say

By: Dr. Ted Baehr; ©2003
Dr. Baehr reports that the writers and directors of the movie Sinbad: The Legend of the Seven Seas deliberately included some wonderful moral lessons for children. However, he cautions that parents may still need to speak to their children about some of the mythological elements.

Behind the Scenes of “Sinbad”: Something to Say

Sinbad: The Legend of the Seven Seas is a surprisingly worthwhile, redemptive, and moral movie! Better yet, a day of discussions with the animators, directors, and writer showed that its entire moral content was intentional.

Tim Johnson, one of the two directors, said, “Working in animation is an excuse to thematic” because “kids use stories to live.” Therefore, Tim tries to say “something positive” in every one of his movies. His co-director, Patrick Gilmore, brought his Eagle troop to the screening. He said he was happy that the young boys loved the movie, but even happier that their fathers loved the moral messages of the movie.

Writer John Logan (Star Trek: Nemesis and Gladiator) says that he wanted Sinbad to “look in the mirror to find out who he was and who he wanted to be.” Sinbad sees that he’s been selfish, cold-hearted, cruel, and irresponsible. His epiphany leads him to choose the truth. Other themes portrayed in the story are self-sacrifice and moral virtues.

Logan weaves these moral themes expertly into the plot. Although MOVIEGUIDE® thought that Logan’s Gladiator was too violent, we are grateful that in the animated “Sinbad”, John felt that it was very important to tell “a story of personal redemption.” “Sinbad” is indeed, as John intones, “a compelling story that examines what is friendship and what are values.”

The script is possibly the best part of “Sinbad”. Some of the animation is sketchier than a Disney movie. John Logan says he likes the classic Aristotelian script structure, which clearly shows in the motional wallop of the movie. Children cheered at the end. That is exactly what happens when you get the story structure right.

John said that, when he took the project, he thought there was just one Sinbad story. Instead, his assistant came back with over 100 books. He found out that there were Ara­bian, Persian, Greek, and Roman stories about Sinbad. Evidently the story itself had trav­eled throughout the Mediterranean. John chose the Greek version of “Sinbad” because the philosophy of the story was more comprehensible to him.

It should be noted that one of MOVIEGUIDE®’s complaints with Gladiator was its historical inaccuracies. For instance, there are longbows in that movie, which did not ap­pear in a battle until hundreds of years later, when Henry V used the longbow to win his amazing victory at Battle of Agincourt (1415). Also, historically, a third of the Roman Senate was Christian at the time, and the Emperor’s common law wife was a Christian.

“Sinbad” also has a lot of anachronisms, but, as an animated movie, it is less likely to be used in advanced history classes, which is just what’s happening with Gladiator right now. John said that he is not remotely concerned with historical accuracy. He is a drama­tist. However, as a married man, I think perhaps he should visit some of the schools where Gladiator is being shown as an historical movie, and then help them understand the difference between the movie and history. In the final analysis, he is in the best position not to inculcate children’s minds with revisionist history.

Actually, you can be true to both history and drama. John seems to have a good heart and a concern for redemption and morals, so we pray that he’ll also be concerned for history and the youth that see his movies, especially since one of his forthcoming movies is a biopic on Abraham Lincoln.

It is worthwhile to note that the three key men in this production are married, and that the directors were very concerned about their children. Patrick Gilmore especially said that his life is on the line for his children.

In the final analysis, interviewing people at DreamWorks for “Sinbad” and at Pixar in­volved with Finding Nemo, all of whom are concerned about personal redemption and presenting moral values, one might conclude that animated movies have become the heart and soul of Hollywood. Or, as the L.A. Times once noted, animated movies are telling the great stories.

IN BRIEF:

Sinbad: The Legend of the Seven Seas is a delightful surprise, a very well-written animated movie with exciting sequences that rival big screen epics. The movie tells the story of Sinbad of Arabian Nights fame. In this version of the oft-told tale, Sinbad is a pirate, trying to cap off his career by stealing the Book of Peace. Eris, the goddess of chaos, impersonates Sinbad, however, and steals the Book of Peace herself. Sinbad is blamed and condemned to death, but Proteus, Sinbad’s friend, says that he will take Sinbad’s place, freeing Sinbad to go to the edge of the world to retrieve the book from the satanic goddess. Many harrowing adventures occur before this mythic tale comes to an end.

The problem with “Sinbad” is that much of the mythology seems all too convincing, and there are some sexual innuendoes and scary monsters and situations. There is a strong Christian allegory running underneath the story, however. Sinbad lays down his life for his friends. He also chooses honor over selfishness, truth over falsehood, and trust over irre­sponsibility… all those Christian virtues set forth so clearly in the Bible, the real Book of Peace.

This update is published by the Christian Film & Television Commission (http://www.movieguide.org). You’ll find subscription information for DR. Ted Baehr’s MOVIEGUIDE® eNewsletter on our MOVIEGUIDE® website.

For more information from a Christian perspective, order the latest MOVIEGUIDE(R) magazine by calling 1-800-899-6684(MOVI) or visit our website at <www.movieguide.org>. MOVIEGUIDE® is dedicated to redeeming the values of Hollywood by informing parents about today’s movies and entertainment and by showing media executives and artists that family-friendly and even Christian-friendly movies do best at the box office year in and year out. MOVIEGUIDE® now
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