The Pagemaster is a 1994 film that features both Live Action and Animation, one of only two made by Turner Entertainment's animation unit before Warner Bros. took over (Cats Don't Dance was the other). The Pagemaster tells the story of a young boy named Richard Tyler (Macaulay Culkin), who is — to his parentsí annoyance — timid to the point of neurosis. He is tremendously afraid of heights and generally obsessed with quoting the statistical risks invovled in countless everyday actions, which, of course, explains why he isn't the most popular guy. One day his father runs out of nails while building him a tree house and sends a very reluctant Richard to buy more.On his way to the hardware store, a storm suddenly breaks out, and Richard seeks shelter in a huge and luxurious but rather sinister library. The only person there is its extremely enthusiastic and slightly creepy librarian, played by Christopher Lloyd, who is disappointed that Richard merely sought shelter from the storm and isn't looking for books, but affably points him towards the public telephone so he can contact his parents. While wandering deeper into the library in search of the phone, Richard enters a magnificent rotunda painted with gigantic scenes from classic novels which surround the image of a blue-robed wizard holding a scroll.The paint descends on Richard, transforming him and the library into an animated world of illustrations where the mystical wizard, the eponymous Pagemaster (also voiced by Lloyd), tells him that in order to get home, the boy must face three challenges: The lands of Horror, Adventure and Fantasy. He is assisted by three books which personify those genres(colourfully voiced by Frank Welker, Patrick Stewart and Whoopi Goldberg respectively). Along the way we see references to many classic books such as Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, along with a goodly heaping of Incredibly Lame Puns, while Richard learns to confront his fears and to lead a life of bravery.Beloved childhood classic to many children of The Nineties.
This film provides examples of:
Action Girl: When the situation calls for it, like in the Long John Silver section, Fantasy can be one very dangerous book.
And Your Little Dog Too: The dragon deliberately goes after Richard's only friends, the books, first. This forces him to try and stand up to his fears.
Animation Lead Time: There were trailers coming out for this movie FOUR YEARS before it was released!
The Assimilator: The dragon shape-shifts into a monstrous painting abomination that absorbs Richard into the worlds of Horror, Adventure and Fantasy. Changing him into an illustration, just so it can devour him later.
Hilariously, the Pagemaster even talks about it, telling Richard he's triumphed over it. Hello?He hasn't vanquished it!Its. Right. OUTSIDE!
Everything Trying to Kill You: In the beginning of the movie, Richard has one of the most death-defying bike rides ever, encountering heavy rain, harsh winds, exploding street lamps and falling trees. Of course the scene is from his point of view, meaning it all seems terrifying to him. Played straighter when he enters the Library, where everything is trying to kill him.
Fantasy Helmet Enforcement: Averted, when Richard first sets off on his bike he has a ludicrous amount of safety gear, but loses it by the end of the film as another nod to his character development of growing past his neuroses.
Genre Blindness: As the characters approach a frightening mansion in the Horror section, Fantasy reads the names of the residents: "Dr. Jekyll...Mr. Hyde...(Beat)...Must be a duplex." Then again, It's not Fantasy's genre, so OF COURSE she wouldn't realize the rules of a horror story.
Ghost Butler: The door of Jekyll's mansion closes after Richard ventures in, trapping him inside.
Hypocritical Humor: After his dad is hit on the head with a bucket and falls from the treehouse, Richie says "Can't argue with statistics, Dad!" despite him being the one that set the accident in motion.
Kind of clever when you consider the dragon is supposed to be Richard's fears incarnate and manifested into physical form. Get it? He was consumed by fear?
Kids Are Cruel: The other kids in Richard's neighborhood who make fun of him for his cowardice when he sets out on his bike to buy nails at the hardware store.
Kill It Through Its Stomach: Adverted. After Richard is eaten by a dragon, he makes a beanstalk appear by opening a book entitled Jack and the Beanstalk that was also inside the dragon's stomach, and uses it to escape. The implacable fiery beast does not die however.
Logical Fallacies: "8% of all household accidents involve ladders. Another 3% involve trees. We're looking at 11% probability here". First, he's ignoring some overlap between the 8% and the 3%. Secondly he's assuming that an accident will happen, in which case the probability that it involves ladders is 8%, but that doesn't tell us anything about the chances that this specific ladder-climbing event will lead to an accident. What he needs is a statistic in the form of "X% of the time somebody climbs a ladder, they have an accident" rather than "X% of all accidents involve ladders."
Oh Crap: Adventure gets one of these, when he realizes that the dragon was right behind him.
Omniscient Morality License : The eponymous Pagemaster takes a cowardly child and subjects him to all sorts of deadly situations. To all appearances, there was a real chance that the kid would either die or develop severe mental trauma as a result of this. But instead he learns to be courageous, and the Pagemaster gets off the hook because apparently he's just so darn wise that he knew it would work out like this from the beginning.
Shout-Out: Many classic books are referred to during the course of this movie, from full sequences to quick moments like a raven cawing "Nevermore!" while swooping down from a bust of Pallas above the archway in Dr. Jekyll's manor.
Don't forget the dozens of covers of the various books that we see during the film.
The satyr with the panpipes and the little dancing blue fairies are respectively references to the Pastoral Symphony and the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy in Fantasia.
The film' poster has an image of Frankenstein's Monster right under Mr. Hyde. Originally, the creature was to appear after the struggle with Hyde, leading to a chase up the roof, ending with the monster falling off.
From old storyboards, the enigmatic dragon was supposed to shape-shift after them again, upon leaving the realm of adventure. It forcibly takes over a mere frog's body to transform into a rampaging monster. However, Fantasy now at full power in her native realm, easily defeats it by changing it back. Adventure loses his sword in process. Unfortunately this causes a Plot Hole when he recovers his sword from the real dragon's mouth, who has decided to get serious this time.