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Posted: Jul 12 2015, 03:00 AM
So you've decided to join, Elias Island. Great! We'd love to have you! New and old members are like the life blood of a site and it's really amazing when you decide to be a part of the family we've got growing here. The more the merrier. But you've decided to join and now you're a little lost. That's all right. You've got plenty of people on the site already who are willing to lend a helping hand, plus this guide that will give you a little push in the right direction to getting accepted on Elias Island. As a disclaimer, this is definitely not the only way to write an app, rather one of many, but it might be helpful to those who need it. So take from this what you can and really make your app shine. I'll be using some of the already accepted apps for some examples throughout the guide.
STEP ONE: PICKING A CHARACTER
This is really the main step. You can't start your app until you know the kind of character you'd like to play. While we don't accept originals, we have a huge canon list to choose from with hundreds of characters. We've got from heroes and heroines to villains and villainesses and everyone in between. But you do have to take a small look at the kind of characters you're good at playing. If your favorite character is an iconic Disney villain, but you know you're not that great at writing villains, maybe there's a better choice for you and that's all right. The important part is picking the just the right character for you, someone you can really turn into a well-rounded and truly wonderful addition to our lovely cast of characters. For Sam, the choice was a pretty easy one. Treasure Planet is one of her favorite movies and she has a pretty deep love for Jim Hawkins as a character. She's written teenage boys with some issues fitting in before and she has a pretty decent handle on his voice. She also had the capability to watch his movie a few times (thank you Netflix!) to refresh her knowledge of his character.
"But, I really just want to play Mulan! She's my favorite!"
All right, Mulan is an excellent choice, especially if you really love the character and the movie, because throughout this application process, you'll probably be watching that movie at least once, if not more. So you've chosen your character by the sort of voices you're good at and from the movies you either know really well or are okay with watching for the first time or second time. Awesome! This leads us to our next step.
STEP TWO: DECIDING ON A NAME
Since you've got to decide on a name before you can even register, this is a really important step. We're a little different than some other Disney Personified sites, in that you are essentially taking the animated character, giving them a more modern and realistic life and sticking them on Elias Island. So, that being said, if the animated character you've chosen already has a name that could fit easily into a modern day setting, why not keep it? I know I'm going to sound like a really big stickler for details, but if you love the character enough to want to play them on a site, why should you want to change something that's already perfect? Take Jim for example. His name in the film is James Pleiades Hawkins. The first and last name are acceptable for modern day, but the middle name is a little off as Pleiades is the name of a group of stars called the Seven Sisters and comes from Greek Mythology. Unless his parents were huge mythology fans, the name doesn't really seem to fit. Taking that into account, Sam decided on Louis for Jim's middle name because it was the middle name of the author of the original story, Treasure Island, and the inspiration for the movie.
"I was thinking about naming her McKenzie though. Could that still work for Mulan? It still starts with a M."
Well, when you look up the meaning of McKenzie, behindthename.com tells us that McKenzie means 'son of the fair one', which doesn't really fit with Mulan. In addition, McKenzie is a name of Scottish or English origin and use, while the character is Chinese. While there are definitely reasons in some circumstances for a POC to have an Anglicised name, especially for a character like Mulan whose name would be perfectly fine as-is, you'd have to have an explanation that fits beyond 'it starts with the same letter'. So McKenzie is out. Why not just keep Mulan? It fits the character and the incredible people who designed the character obviously gave it to her for a reason, as Mulan is the name of the character from the original story the Ballad of Mulan. The story even gives her a last name as well, Hua. Though her name from the movie 'Fa' could still work too, since they are both pronounced similarly, though 'Fa' is Cantonese. As for a middle name, you could realistically do without one, middle names don't traditionally exist in Chinese culture.
"But what if my character doesn't have a real name? My friend wants to join as the Magic Carpet from Aladdin and he can't be named 'Carpet', can he?"
You're right. Carpet isn't the sort of name anyone in their right mind would give their child, which means you have the opportunity to create a name from scratch. There are plenty of sites out there where you can search for names by origin, meaning and gender. Carpet is similar to a Persian rug, so maybe look for some names that are Persian. If you can't find any that you like, try looking for a meaning that ties into the character instead, like searching for names that would describe the color/personality/characteristics of the character. It might take some work but finding that perfect name will really be worth it in the end.
STEP THREE: CHOOSING A PLAY BY
Just as big as picking a character and deciding on a name, choosing a play by is a huge step too. Since this is a Disney Personified site, we're looking for real-life people to fill the spot of the play by, which means no animated characters. They can be actors/actresses, models, or even musicians, so long as they fit the face you're trying to fill. For the play by, you're looking for someone who's as close to the animated character you're applying for as possible. From past experience, I know it's pretty difficult sometimes to find that perfect play by, but I assure you, they're out there. If you're having trouble finding someone, pop into the cbox and ask some people's opinions. We won't go off into the internet and find a play by for you while you sit around, but we can definitely provide you with some resources that might help you or even help broaden your search a little bit. With Jim, again, the choice was a pretty easy one, which was really just a pleasant surprise. Sam had used Cole Mohr on another site a while back and, in thinking about who could capture Jim perfectly, stumbled upon him again. Now, Francisco Lachowski and Lou Taylor Pucci are other popular choices for Jim on Disney sites, but neither of them really fits his looks. Francisco Lachowski doesn't have the bright blue eyes (not to mention he's Brazilian, which Jim is not) and while Lou Taylor Pucci does, neither of them look particularly like Jim. Cole Mohr on the other hand, could be the character's clone. He's got the same thick, dark eyebrows, bright blue eyes, expressions and, in some pictures, the same haircut. He's also got that rebellious teenager look down pat.
"Okay, but I really like Dianna Agron for a play by. Can I use her as Mulan?"
Everyone who has seen the movies knows that Mulan is definitely not white. She is Chinese. Dianna Agron definitely cannot fit into that category. A better choice would be Liu Yifei. She is a Chinese actress and has the same face shape and smile like Mulan. She might not have pictures of her with short hair, but that could always be remedied by finding a male play-by to be her alternate play by. If Liu Yifei isn't your favorite choice, there are plenty of other women who could fill the role beautifully, like Liu Shi Shi, or even Katie Leung. Really, a quick search on Google or any of these resources, can easily find you someone who looks more like Mulan than Dianna Agron. The same goes for any other POC characters on the canon list. Disney white-washes their casts of characters enough without you doing it too. So please, just be considerate and thoughtful when picking play by for character who is a POC. We'd really like to try and have a more diverse cast of play bys on Elias Island, instead of an all white cast.
"Well, what if the character isn't human?"
That's a good point. We only accept real-life play bys, you definitely can't use a dog for Pongo from 101 Dalmations or a panda for Po from Kung Fu Panda (as much as this site could use some more pandas around c: ). However, you CAN choose a play by that has a similar look to the non-human character you're applying for. You could find someone who has the same long and lean body structure for Pongo, or someone with a rounder physique for Po. Take Sebastian from the Little Mermaid for example. Obviously you aren't going to be able to use pictures of a crab or find someone who looks like a crab. But his accent is Jamaican, so that gives us a place to start. Jamaica is 92% Black, so a play by of any other ethnicity would be stretching it. Our current Sebastian is played by Michael Obiora, and while he doesn't look like a crab, he has Sebastian's large eyes, prominent jaw, and expressive brows. He even has pictures with the same sort of expressions as Sebastian does, making him a really good choice for a play by. But if their general physical characteristics don't give much to go on, take a look at where the non-human character is from, or what ethnicity they could possibly have. Carpet doesn't have any facial expressions (despite being a very expressive rug), but Aladdin is (as best as anyone can tell) set in a fictional Saudi Arabian-esque world, so looking for a MENA pb would be a good way to go about it.
STEP FOUR: CHOOSING SUPERPOWERS
Since we're a little different than your average Disney Personified site, all of the characters on Elias Island have been given supernatural powers. Your character can have up to two powers, but if you'd prefer they only have one, that's fine too. A really great resource to finding powers is the Superpower Wiki. It's literally got thousands of powers to choose from, with ones that are your everyday superpower package to ones that are much more obscure. If your character is fairly well-known in media, you could even try searching for you character in their search bar. Chances are you'll find a power they already have or get ideas for others.
"But my character doesn't have any powers in their movie. Do they have to have powers?"
Yes, they do. Everyone who comes to the Island will eventually get powers, whether they like it or not. Powers for some characters are easy. Like Ariel basically already has Siren Song, but her best friend, Flounder is a little lacking on the supernatural skills. Since he doesn't have any obvious ones, look a little closer at his character. He's a fish, so Aquatic Respiration could work really well. Or perhaps even better is Aquatic Adaption which would make it easier to keep up with someone like Ariel, should she go on any kind of undersea adventures. The latter power even encompasses the Aquatic Respiration and it makes sense for a character whose Disney counterpart is a fish.
Characters who don't have an obvious power give you some room to get a little bit more creative with the powers you pick. However, it's also really easy to fall into some stereotypes. Not all of the Disney Princesses should have the ability to talk to animals, and neither should they all have enhanced beauty or supernatural singing voices. All of the princesses are individuals and their characters are all unique in their own ways, so don't clump them all together. The same can be said for characters who are animals. Just because they were a dog or a lion in the Disney movie does not mean they should have the ability to turn into an animal. The could have some characteristics of their specific animal, like enhanced Reflexes for a cat, or Enhanced Smell for a dog. Really though, just be creative. There are literally so many of them out there that you can really do a bit of digging and find one that will really make you character special.
STEP FIVE: PLANNING
"I've got a character, name and a play by now. That means I can jump right into the app, right?"
Sure! That's one way to do it. However, depending on the character you've chosen, you might need a little refresher. I'd definitely suggest watching the movie again if you haven't seen it in a while. Plus, it gives you a good reason to watch a Disney movie, which is never a bad thing! If you've seen the movie a thousand times, maybe just watch one more time, and this time, take some notes on the character. Listen to how they talk and write down some quotes. Make notes on what personality traits they display. Think on how their history could be translated into a more modern and realistic setting.
It also greatly depends on whether or not you want to do a traditional or freestyle app, since we accept both on Elias. Some people find traditional apps a lot easier because what you need to have in your app is already laid out for you. With a traditional approach, you can easily outline the character's personality traits and give a straight-forward account of what their background and history look like. Freestyle apps, as the name suggests, gives you a lot more freedom in how you'd like to portray your character in the app. You can tell their story however you want, whether it's journal entries, specific memories, letters, etc. We want to see creativity and characters with depth. The only thing we ask with freestyle apps is that you give us the same amount of information as you would find in a traditional app. Which means we still need to get a good feel for what their personality is as well as the major events in their lives.
"What if the character is a really minor one and doesn't have a lot of backstory or screentime?"
Well, that's where you get to enter the realm of imagination a little bit. Minor characters are a little different than the main ones, given that there is so little told about them in their respective movies. On the one hand, this leaves the gates wide open for you to create your own ideas on how they came to be the way they are and how the came to Elias Island. Minor characters afford the creator a lot more freedom in determining backstory and personality, but there's a lot to be drawn from characters with little screentime. The one slight downfall is that we expect minor characters to be fleshed out as much as the characters who are fully developed in their movies, which means you might have to do a bit more research to really make them pop. One thing to think about: animated movies already have a lot of orphans, so if you want to kill off the parents of a character who isn't an orphan in canon, please have a very good reason for it.
We seriously suggest watching the movie with your chosen character at LEAST once before you start writing the app. However big or small their role in that movie is, it's always nice to take the time to really analyze what character traits we do get to see and turn those traits into a really well-rounded and interesting character here on Elias Island. We also expect that whatever choices you make in creating your character connect back to the animated character in some way. Maleficient isn't going to suddenly drop the evil act and start a foundation for saving puppies, just like Ariel isn't going to be a prim and proper girl who always does what her father tells her. Remember, you're trying to take the animated character and stick them on Elias Island, so the closer in personality and history to their animated counterpart, the better. Everything should be able to be connected back to their part in their respective movies.
STEP FIVE: WRITING THE APP
"So, I've watched the movie like three times and written down everything I can possibly think for the character. Am I good to go?"
Absolutely! If you haven't already jumped right into an app, there's really nothing more to be done than to write it. Depending on which app you decided to go with, take all the information you collected or anything else you can think of and just go for it. Sometimes, even if you're lacking in a certain area, you'll learn a few new things about your character as you write it. Personally, I have a pretty love-hate relationship with apps. I love having all the information I've gathered about my character all in one place, but I also really hate sitting down and compiling it all into one app, so I tend to flip flop on what style app I like to use. Sometimes it just feels easier to write a whole bunch of memories and scenes from my character's backstory to show why they are the way they are. Other times, it just feels like there's too much information to show in a freestyle app and having it outlined in a traditional one just works better. Basically, write the app in the way that feels the most comfortable to you. It will be a lot more fun and less like a chore if you don't force yourself to conform to one, single way to write an app. So long as you give your character real depth, I'm sure you'll be fine.
"What specifically are you looking for in my app? How long should it be? Is there something I need to make sure to include?"
First off, as cliché as it is, the rule of quality over quantity holds true. If you can get everything you need in under 2,000 words, great! If you need 6,000, go for it! If it helps, the Elias admins are statistics nerds and have actually calculated this: the average word count for the accepted apps are about 3,200 for freestyle and 3,500 for traditional. However, we have an app that's less than 1,000 words and one that's over 8,000. Do whatever it takes!
The application is our way of seeing that you understand the canon character and that you will play them in-character. Obviously this is a different world than any of the animated movies, but the core of the character should still be there. More than that, it should be enough to show us that you not only understand that, but you know how to write that! It's one thing to get that Jane from Tarzan is a bit of a worrywart, a huge intellectual, and an all-around nerd who gets very enthusiastic and passionate, but if you can't get a good enough handle on that to show it, that doesn't help. But in addition to letting us see that you get the character, we also need you to show us your take on the character! If it's a major character with a lot of screentime, make sure we understand your version of them. If it's a minor character who's barely seen, let us get a good view of who your character is! We're not mind readers. We can't see the long history and elaborate personality you've created for your character if you don't tell us. Especially in the traditional, there may be sections you find silly or pointless, but we promise you, they're not there just to be padding. Everything there can tell us something important about your character and give us a better look at who they are.
In the end, there's not a checklist of specific things that you have to include or you automatically fail. Just make sure you've filled out the application to the best of your abilities. Give us enough of your character to understand them, and also enough that we're excited to see more of them! Nothing's more frustrating than a humdrum but not awful app.
STEP SIX: BEING PENDED OR DENIED
We know that everybody hates seeing a pending or denied post slapped onto their apps, and after all the work you probably put into the app, it can seem like a punch to the gut and a serious blow to the pride. But that's really not what we're trying to tell you. We don't like to pend or deny anyone, especially the latter and we only deny an app when we feel like more than half of it would have to be redone.
"What exactly did I do wrong to get denied? All I really want is to be able to join your site!"
There are a couple reasons why we deny or pend an app:
It's also important to remember that there are no fantasy worlds or fairytale kingdoms. Your character should NOT be a mermaid who got legs and came to live on Elias Island, though she can be a girl who really likes to swim and maybe has a part-time singing job. Your character did not come from a kingdom far, far away, and escaped to our little Island, there are other sites for that. It's also highly unlikely that your character is actually a prince or princess, or even in the royal succession of some country, though they could have parents who are the CEOs of businesses or having positions of power in the government or within their state. Though in the case of some British/European/Asian characters (though there are a number of countries that have abolished nobility), there are a bunch of peerage titles that apply to people today. Your character might be the child of a Viscount from England, a Baron from Scotland, a Duke from Belgium. This won't mean nearly as much in the US, which could have interesting consequences for your character, though even that borders a little on the unrealistic.
We will always try to give you a straightforward idea of what we felt should be changed and possible ways to make the character fit with the canon a little better. We never pend or deny anyone just to be mean, and we will always strive to give critique that is helpful instead of demeaning. If there are just some things we feel need to be changed, we will go with a pend, but if there's enough that we would want changed that it would require a complete overhaul of your app, we will probably err on the side of denial. A denial doesn't mean you're denied from the site entirely, or even that you're never allowed to app that character again. Just be aware that if you do want to try for that same character, we will be looking for major revisions based on what we sent you in the denial PM!
"What if I don't agree with what you've suggested?"
That's perfectly fine. We are aware that not everyone envisions a character the same way and there are going to be some differences in interpretation. If you feel very strongly about something concerning your app, all we ask is that you PM one of the admins and discuss it with them there, instead of starting drama in the cbox. We're pretty reasonable around here and we're definitely willing to work with you to find a compromise that everyone can live with. If one can't be reached, it's always your choice to stay or go. We'd hate to see you leave, but it's also no fun to play a character that doesn't work for you anymore. If you do decide to leave, please do so gracefully and don't go out with an explosion of name-calling and general immaturity. There are humans on the other side of your computer screen and we don't try and hurt anyone's feeling intentionally. We're trying to build a community here that is both welcoming and open to helpful critique. So long as everyone is kind and courteous to their fellow members, we can preserve that goal.
AND THAT'S IT!
Yep, that's all the helpful advice I can provide to you on how to get accepted on Elias Island. You can pick and choose what bits of this are helpful to you and which aren't, but congrats to you if you read through all of this. So get out there and start applying! <3
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