A genre so obscure that it hides inside almost every form of entertainment.
Does the word steampunk confuse you? Curious about how the term came to be?
Move your mouse and press play to see the video I made.
Steampunk is usually set either in a Victorian or american wild west setting with futuristic gadgets powered by steam. If you were born during the ninetees, then Disney snuck steampunk into your childhood (unless you were one of those weird kids who preferred the outside instead of watching Disney). In 2001 they published the animation film Atlantis: The Lost Empire. The plot is Jules Vernes 20,000 leagues under the sea with a quirky scientist who believes in the lost city of Atlantis. Enter a weird cast of crew, an eccentric rich old man, the brute who goes greedy, a tribal princess without a mother, and some fancy futuristic gadgets that wouldn’t have worked in 1914.
In my head this is how the movie came to be.
Steampunk+Jules Verne+Tarzan+Pocahontas= Atlantis.
But the steampunk Disney crumble train didn’t just stop there, it continued with Treasure Planet which came out in 2002. Treasure Planet is a futuristic retelling of the classical novel Treasure Island. It was heavily unappreciated although you should wonder why when even the theme song is preformed and written by The Goo Goo Dolls frontman John Rzeznik. After that the steamtrain stopped a bit until they released the Tinker Bell franchise. But there are even someone who took the steam toolbox further than disney when it comes to animation.
Miyzaki is someone who has taken steampunk ideals and aesthetics even further than Disney. He uses a kind of technofanasty aspect of steampunk. Take for instance the “Howls Moving Castle”. The castle which looks like what was left of a tiny 19th century small village ontop of something between a submarine and ship. However the whole ship is driven by a small fire demon called Calcifer. Miyazakis use of technofantasy is even present in his earliest feature “Narusicaa of the Valley of the Wind” which is presumably, a commentary between technology and the environment. Techno fantasy is basically the use of combining technology with magic. This use of steampunk has become a kind of linchpin in most Hayaou Miyazaki’s works. But what fascinates me most is the fact how surprised people are when they know it belongs to the steam plot.
There are probably a lot that you have seen which belongs in this obscure genre. Probably a lot more than when you first think about.
Golden Compass (2004)
Oh excuse me, you thought this was fantasy? Buzzz! You were wrong. Sure it has it’s magical talking polar bears, however what about the way too scientific machines. That probably run on steam. The setting is in a Victorian world. Wait, a device that has gears inside hum and is unusual well, yes Steampunk. Did you notice the zeppelin? That should have been a clue. And yes, the book was better.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
A movie where there is an alternative version of Victorian Britian. Where famous literature characters live like Mina Harker (Dracula). The technology in the movie is advanced and coexist with the supernatural.
Wait was that my kettle boiling? Because this sounds like, yet again, steampunk.
This television show features Nikola Tesla and a doomsday device? Do I need to say more?
Well by now you have probably realized that steampunk has been a part of pop culture for quite sometime and is finally beginning to get its respect as a standalone genre. If you feel inspired then take a look at my favourite steampunk works by clicking on the pictures down below.
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