The Princess Can Save Herself, Thank You

The Princess Who Saved Herself [MP3]

The "Code Monkey Saves World" project is about to stretch itself into the world of kickass princesses. Troubadour Jonathan Coulton and filmmaker and comics writer Greg Pak teamed up a few weeks ago to launch a crowdfunding effort to raise $39,000 to create a series of comic books based on the villains and other characters from Coulton's songs. On their way to blow past $200,000 in pledges, the dynamic duo added more pages to the future comics, promised JoCo would record an album of newly recorded acoustic versions of the songs referenced in the comics, and provided other rewards, most of which existing backers get added without having to increase their pledge.

Pak and Coulton have at least one more rabbit to pull out of their jointly worn hat: a children's book created from "The Princess Who Saved Herself," the title of which explains the song.

Illustration: Takeshi Miyazawa and Jessica Kholinne

"If ever a song wanted to be adapted into a children's book, this is it," Pak said in an interview. If the project hits $250,000, the book will be created after the "Code Monkey" comics are done, and fulfilled digitally. Existing backers at $15 or higher will get the "Princess" book as well. There's no plan (yet) for a printed version of the book.

The story is along the lines of Brave rather than, say, The Little Mermaid film. Pak pointed to little girls who may play at princesses today, as that's encoded in the culture and beyond, but wear ripped jeans under the ball gown and don't need someone else to guide their adventure and control the outcome.

It's a neat model they are following as goals keep being exceeded. Some Kickstarters have been criticized because they mostly pay the creator for his or her time; why that's a problem, I'm not sure, because people who make things deserve to be paid, and crowdfunding is a voluntary operation. As far as I know, Kickstarter does not send goons to homes to threaten people into providing valid credit-card information for stuff they don't like.

But for projects that start to grow extremely large, seeing additional creative efforts included from the new funds certainly makes them more appealing to those that haven't contributed. Pak said that he and Coulton have wanted to layer on more elements to each reward level as the pool of money has increased, which also means being able to pay all of their collaborators for more work. "Because people have supported it, because so many people have come on board, the whole thing can get better," said Pak. The rising tide of funds float everyone's boats. This includes working with the team creating the "Code Monkey" comics: Takeshi Miyazawa, Jessica Kholinne, and Simon Bowland.

After quickly passing their initial goal, Pak said that he is a state of constant amazement. Though he knows that his and Coulton's work has been well received and that fans have supported their projects directly in many ways in the past, the intensity and scale of response has been a "huge amount of fun."


  1. You know, I actually think The Little Mermaid is easily a better movie than Brave, even if you are just considering the gender aspect.

    Ariel is an active character. She is clear about her desires, pursues them, and doesn’t let anyone stop her. Sure that desire happens to be a man, but how many movies with male protagonists feature a woman as the ultimate goal? Pretty much all of them. And Prince What’s-His-Name is a complete nobody. He exists only to be Ariel’s object of desire. He kills Ursula at the end, but that is pretty much his one accomplishment the whole movie.

    Meanwhile, in Brave, Princess What’s-Her-Name (seriously, what was her name?), rejects relationships in favor of being an independent free-spirit. Which is fine, not every movie needs to be about building a relationship, but why is it always the strong female heroines that have to be the “free-spirits”? I feel like in an attempt to pursue gender balance, we are establishing a false dichotomy where we tell girls that the only way for them to be self-realized is to be celibate.

    Sorry for the tangent. Super excited about these projects!

    1. All you need to get the guy is to be silent and look good?  That’s Ariels’ only tool in the box once she loses her voice.  I mean, once Ursula looks similar and has the same voice, what happens to Ariel?  She’s working a rowboat to go stop a wedding, not seen as the girl this guy fell in love with.  

      Not exactly what I’d want a daughter looking up to.

      1. She gives up her most precious possession in order to achieve her goals. It’s a story of self sacrifice. I do see what you are saying about the keep-your-mouth-shut-and-look-pretty angle. It is definitely an unfortunate cultural cliche.

        But the Prince doesn’t fall in love with Ariel because of how she looks, he loves her because SHE rescued HIM. Then, after the rescue he hears her singing and falls in love. This is why Ariel has so much trouble when all she can rely on is her looks.  And when the Prince abandons her it is because of that voice he fell in love with (and magic), and nobody’s looks.

        Additionally, Ariel is forced into that situation by Ursula against her better judgement, and the movie’s narrative clearly establishes that it is a negative, not a positive.

        And yeah, she gets in a mothereffing rowboat and rows her heart out, because she’ll be damned if an oceanic wedding and a lack of fins are going to stop her (they don’t).

        If anything, the most objectionable theme in that film is that in the end Ariel must change who she is (a mermaid) and give up her life in order to conform to her man’s way of living. Still, it’s not the major thrust of the film. The Little Mermaid is one of the first films I’d buy for my daughter. After Mulan. Brave would be much lower on the list.

        1. Yeah, it’s the unfortunate fact of having a daughter, Miyazaki is currently the only children’s movie director we have let into our house.

          1. The third act is a bit of a mess, but it’s certainly beautiful.  In heavy rotation these days around here.  Except the part in the tunnel, that’s scary.  And the part with her dad.  Any of the parts with her dad.

          2.  Ponyo is a film meant pretty strictly for very young children, which is why there isn’t a plot, it’s basically just small children running around going ‘wheee adventures!’ I have NO idea why they marketed it in the US as an ‘epic like Spirited Away.’ (I was in Japan when it came out and the marketing there was exactly like the marketing for their children’s shows.)

          3. While I was watching it, I wondered if Ponyo was Japanese for “phoned it in.”

          4. I have a lot of Brad Bird (except IM4, but we all take bad steps), but given her current worries about *any* rising tension, there’s no way she could watch it, let alone Tim Burton.  The first three minutes of Finding Nemo would result in  a refusal to watch any movies ever.  And Jennet is something that is, again, on our shelf, but come on, she’s four.

            So I suppose I should say we have a lot of other children’s movies, but she’s just not ready for them. We tried Star Wars once. Vader’s entrance was enough. The Muppet Movie? No Doc Hopper, please. Even Animal was a bit much.

          5. Just a worrier.  She pays a lot of attention to what filmmakers are telling her through foreshadowing and music choices and then gets worried about what will happen to people.  A lot of fear about mom and dad going away, so it’s going to be a number of years before she can watch Spirited Away.

            I like 2001, but there’s going to be a lot of questions at the end about that old man and the baby.  Not to mention what HAL is doing.  As much as her mom and I love movies, we’re going to just have to bring the kid along slowly.

    2. how many movies with male protagonists feature a woman as the ultimate goal? Pretty much all of them.

      Huh? I’m racking my brain trying to think of movies where “getting the girl” is the protagonist’s main goal and off the top of my head all I can come up with is American Pie and 40 Year Old Virgin. Maybe Scott Pilgrim. Not exactly cultural role models.

      Most masculine protagonists get the girl as a natural side effect of their heroic quest to save the world or whatever their principal concern is. Trying to get the girl is for schmucks.

  2. I liked Brave in that it also helped show that the daughter had something to learn from the mom’s way of thinking acting, even if she didn’t understand why at the time.  And that the mom had to learn something else well is certainly a good lesson.  I know I’ve learned at least as much as my kids have, in raising them. 

    I was so pumped when I saw this announcement this morning on my KS feed though.  Princess has become one of my favorite JoCo songs over the past few months, and I really look forward to sharing it with my daughter. 

    The code monkey book is all mine though.  My preciousssssss

    1. I’ve always liked this one:

  3. Jonathan Coulton seems to be doing a bit of XTC here. Nice! The world is a better place when we have musicians carrying a torch for Andy Partridge’s songwriting.

  4. Man, I really hope they make this stretch goal.  I have a 4 year old niece who is obsessed with everything princess, and this would be perfect for her.  If they decide to do a printed version, I’d absolutely up my pledge to get that.

  5. Still looking for the video game where the premise is that you are the princess who’s been captured and the whole point of the game is escaping. Making it a game where you don’t kill everything in sight while escaping would be a bonus, but let’s just have the core premise, shall we?


      Seriously, Mario II was the best we can get about princesses doing something for themselves?

    2. It’not really the premise, since the player character is a guy, but [SPOILER] the end of Braid has a twist (heh) in that direction.

      Also there was a Donkey Kong hack mentioned on BB not long ago that swapped Mario and Peach’s roles.

      Edit: Also, Beyond Good & Evil features my favorite female videogame protagonist, although she’s not a princess.

    3.  I suppose Portal/Portal 2 could be looked at a little bit in this light (Chell was sort of captured, and you do focus on escaping) but something a little more straightforward in this theme would definitely be welcome.

      Perhaps some small indy company should make such a game? It seems like the kind of thing that would be workable for an XBox Live/WiiWare platform.

  6. It’s a nice song, great idea, but the chord progression, production and melody are awfully similar to “Mayor of Simpleton” by XTC. Sorry!

  7. Oh. But they’ll never meet the stretch goal of approving Mario’s risk-aversion of castle-scale-slip-joint-plumbing (or fore work) to audit the Princess Salvage. That’s okay with ‘dat illo. flyin’.

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