Sunday, December 16, 2007

Raging Rudolph

(Note: the YouTube link below has animated violence and should not be viewed by young children)

I was visiting Blog Hero! as he lamented the advent of parody in the name of base commercialism -- welcome to America, Blog Hero! The cause of his lament was an AFLAC commercial that shows Rudolph and the gang in the original Rankin/Bass stop action animation. Rudolph has a cold and the possibility of not being able to pull Santa's sleigh weighs heavily in the air -- until, that is, Santa (still pre-Christmas fighting weight) comes in to say , "Rudolph with your nose so stuffed, AFLAC will take care of us!" Okay, Santa doesn't really say that, but that's the import of his message, however.

I love the old Rudolph -- in fact, we're going to huddle up with some hot chocolate tonight (it's finally getting a little chilly in our part of the terrestrial universe) and watch it. We have resisted the urge to purchase the whole Rankin/Bass ouvre, because of the temptation for off-season viewing. Since we don't have cable and don't watch much broadcast TV to begin with, we've most likely missed the annual showing of these classics of my childhood. Luckily, we have a well-stocked library and was able to get a copy of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, and The Little Drummer Boy.

Destiny's Child apparently does a sooped-up version of the Rudolph song on the DVD we have, and hopefully it will be on some tucked-away, special feature track. If they're going to commit sacrilege with Rudolph, they might as well use Joan Jett's version of "Little Drummer Boy," as well.

But that's not the point of this point. The point, if there must be one to show this demented little gem, is in counterpoint to AFLAC's cynical take on this sacrosanct childhood favorite to sell insurance. Cynical? You want Cynical? I got your cynical.

"Raging Rudolph" was originally shown on MadTV sometime in the mid-90's and became an instant underground hit. The only thing I can say in the AFLAC abomination's favor is that their animation is way closer to the original. Watching "Raging Rudolph" again in preparation for this post I realized that it was a lot funnier in 1995 or whenever it first premiered than it is in this post-millenium morass of popular culture taken to the limits of reflexivity.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Hang your head in shame, Gatchaman

I've been meaning to update on our Gatchaman-watching activities since...when was the last time I posted? September 1st -- wow! Anyway, over the course of the fall we've gotten through 9 out of the 18 volumes and then I lied and told DJ that V9 was the last one in the series. It was just too full of cuss words. I realize that ADV Films was trying to be faithful to the original Japanese version, but I just couldn't continue to let DJ be exposed to words we never use in our home (well, at least not in front of our son). I didn't experience the deleterious effects of this exposure, but the old man did. He and DJ were talking and DJ just suddenly uses "dammit" in a sentence. The old man told me later and that was the last straw. But, I'm still getting the volumes from Netflix, just watching them when DJ is asleep.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Gatchaman and Cowboy Bebop

Okay, I totally didn't blog about watching the entire run of Cowboy Bebop this summer, including the movie. It was totally freakin' awesome. That said, there were a couple of times while watching Bebop where I was like, "is that...? Could that be a reference to...?" After watching Samurai Champloo I sussed that Watanabe is referencing many other classics of Japanese media culture. I caught only a few of them, however, being the dreadfully clueless gaijin that I am. However, there was an episode around halfway through the 26-ep run -- dang it, and I wish I had a screenshot of it to put up -- where Spike and Faye are in space gear ready fly out of the Bebop in their ships, and they TOTALLY look like Ken and Jun from Gatchaman! You heard it here first, folks! I googled this reference and I am totally the ONLY ONE who caught it! Nyeh! I am so going to get a screenshot and post about it at a later date.

Battle of the Planets or Gatchaman?

Most definitely, Gatchaman totally rocks and rolls over Battle of the Planets, the watered-down, weird U.S. transposition of this totally cool anime from the early 70's. You know, leave it to the Yankees to screw up a totally good imported cartoon. I am reminded, of course, of the New Line Warriors of the Wind fiasco, where Roger Corman bought the U.S. distribution rights to Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and edited it so badly that it made absolutely no sense. It would be another 10 years before Miyazaki would trust us with another of his movies.
I grew up watching Battle of the Planets and so watching the original source anime, Gatchaman, is like watching a whole different story. I recognize the characters and the music, but the stories are completely different. For one thing, the stories in Battle of the Planets all take place in space, while Gatchaman's stories seem to occur more often under water.

The nice thing about finding all the original Gatchaman episodes on DVD is that I get to introduce DJ to this important cartoon from my childhood in its original, unadulterated form.

Check out the very cool Gatchaman fansite by Veronika Henkels which has a link to Tatsunoko's website (not for easily culture-shocked Gaijin). It was totally not a surprise to me that this was the same studio that put together Speed Racer, and in fact just before I left for work the old man and I had a discussion about the music from Gatchaman. He said it sounded a lot like the music from Johnny Quest and therefore was a total rip-off because Gatchaman came out 8 years after JQ; I said the music sounded just like Speed Racer. Back and forth until I said, "well, honey, I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree," to which the old man said, "yeah, to agree that I'm right and you're wrong!" We have such intellectual discourses in our house. In your face, old man!

And another thing about Liberty's Kids

DJ and I were watching an episode from the DVD of Liberty's Kids that we have at home, "Give me Liberty." It has only three eps on the thing which is a criminally small number to put out on a DVD. The other thing that is irksome is that they only have, like, three or four sets of these things and they are by no means anywhere close to being in order or to being complete. I saw a complete 6 DVD set of Liberty's Kids at an educational media website, for $500.00! That's insane! The Producer of this cartoon, DIC, is probably making money hand over fist because a lot of stations (like the pass-through digital station we suddenly get on our analog set) play Liberty's Kids to satisfy their federally-mandated educational content quota for the kiddies. And what about the adults? Don't we get a federally-mandated educational content quota? Or maybe that's what American Idol and Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? are for.

The other thing I wanted to mention was that there were a buttload of movie stars who did voices on Liberty's Kids. For instance, Liam Neeson did the voice of John Paul Jones on the episode we watched the other night. But there are a ton of big names on this show (including the velour fog, Mr. Cronkite) like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dustin Hoffman, Annette Benning -- Ben Stiller??? Huh? And I could go on and on. The only other show that could match that Hollywood body count is The Simpsons, and their DVDs cost less and have more eps per!

Here's a good article at Common-place about commercial fare that caters to teaching children about American History, like History Rock, a part of Schoolhouse Rock that taught a bunch of us the Preamble to the Constitution with a catchy tune. You have to scroll down a bit to read the Liberty's Kids part but the whole thing was very balanced and pleasurable to read.

Here's a so far great (I haven't read too far into it yet) online encyclopedia on cartoons that seems pretty darn complete, called Toonarific. Go there and poke around -- it is totally worth it!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Liberty's Kids

I've been wanting to post about Liberty's Kids for awhile. When DJ was a baby, it was on the local PBS station as part of its morning lineup on the weekdays. I didn't pay much attention to it other than as background noise while I changed diapers and did transcription work, but as DJ got older it became apparent that he was keenly interested in American history, specifically the Civil War. There are few videos or cartoons that discuss this part of our history in a fundamental way for children so I decided instead to purchase a DVD with 3 of the Liberty's Kids episodes. DJ watched them over and over which is a good sign that he found it interesting. We don't watch the DVD too much these days, being supplanted with A Pup Named Scooby Doo and episodes of Scooby Doo/Dynomutt Hour, but DJ likes to watch Liberty's Kids on the pass-through digital station when it comes on Thursday and Friday mornings.

I like Liberty's Kids because they gives ME a fundamental look at American History -- I feel like a dumbass sometimes trying to answer DJ's questions about our nation's history, so Liberty's Kids helps me at the same time. And who can resist the smooth, silky voice of Walter Cronkite breathing life into one of America's greatest patriots, Benjamin Franklin. The "kids" of Liberty's Kids, well, I could definitely leave them but they do provide a bridge to explain the events in a relate-able way to children, so if watching an ep has DJ running around the house screaming "give me liberty or give me death!" it's had some positive effect, right? Um, right?

Here's a link to the lyrics from Liberty's Kids from Blackcatter's World of TV Theme Song Lyrics. Not really sure why I'm posting that except because I swiped the pic from them and to point out that they neglected to point out that the song, "Through My Own Eyes," was performed by Aaron Carter (who?) AND Kayla Hinkle as referenced in the Wikipedia entry about Liberty's Kids.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Ultra-Nationalist Patriotism, Cartoon Style

My son has been obsessed with this WWII-era Warner Bros. short, "Scrap Happy Daffy." I had never seen any of these Looney-Tunes cartoons, produced as a strange, ultra-nationalistic propaganda for the US as we entered WWII. This one, featuring Daffy Duck, is not only strange but oddly jingoistic even for a cartoon -- especially one by a beloved animation studio like Warner Bros.
The thing that freaks me out the most is that the boy doesn't want to just watch the whole thing in its entirety 50 times an hour, it's that he only wants to watch one scene over and over -- the old man finally had to go off and do something and taught DJ how to rewind the DVD himself. It's the scene in which Daffy is almost defeated by the Nazi-sympathizing billy goat and he is given a "pep" talk by his American foreducks that "Americans don't give up," and "America is in to win." Daffy then summons the strength to fight and defeat the Axis!
What I found most interesting was that right before the visitation by, among other poultry, a Lincoln-esque Daffy, Daffy says "What I would give for a can of spinach now." The first time I heard that I thought, "is he referencing Popeye?" And that was even more bizarre than Daffy being this ultra patriot.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


There was an older kid at the playground once who asked my son if he watches Avatar -- my son said "huh?" and I told the older boy that we didn't have cable, which is code for, "I don't let my child watch crap." But then I thought later on, "hey, wait a second, of course I let my child watch crap!" And proceeded to put the first season of Avatar in the ol' Netflix queue. I'm not going to go all out and say that this show is awful, anime-wannabe pap, but it does rip off from Miyazaki a lot, and doesn't even do it right. Where Miyazaki was trying to convey the idea that wild animals are not for the amusement of humans, Aang seems to think that all these exotic animals in the four kingdoms are part of some x-treme sporting ritual. And Aapa, his flying bison? Totally the catbus! But with less legs.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Snuffy Smith: Victim of 21st Century

"Snuffy Smith no longer makes moonshine," my husband lamented this morning on the way to work. "Huh?" was my puzzled, initial response and then recovered with, "oh, that's too bad?" Which of course peaked our son's curiosity -- "Daddy, what's moonshine?" We spent almost the rest of my part of the ride to work discussing the ins and outs of making illegal liquor and who Snuffy Smith was/is, that effervescent Appalachian American. Here is Dan Markstein's Toonpedia entry on Snuffy Smith. I never knew about the Barney Google/Snuffy Smith connection!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Tale of Two Anime: Saiyuke and Samurai Champloo

First of all, these two are not something I would let my son watch -- both are way too violent and at least Saiyuke had way too many cuss-words to make it even palatable for me. However, I got to view both almost side-by-side and my vote is with Samurai Champloo.

Saiyuke, based on the popular manga by Kazuya Minekura, tells a reconstituted tale of the Monkey King saga but puts more emphasis on a journey to defeat the demon controlling all of the other demons in the alternate-earth that this story inhabits. In the story humans and demons have lived together in harmony for generations but suddenly the demons have decided to revolt and try to take over the world. The main character is Genjo Sanzo, a priest, who sets out to India to stop the resurrection of Gyumaoh, a demon bad-ass who is apparently behind the demon revolt. He is aided by three demons who have kept their cool and are allied with the humans.

It is an interesting story line that incorporates elements of the Monkey King story (priest on a quest, staff-wielding "Monkey Boy") but ultimately is its own creation. I got kind of bored because it seems like the same demon attacks take place over and over and the plot seems to bog down in the endless fighting. Maybe I'll try again -- why not? I've got mucho animeo in the Netflix queue, already.

Samurai Champloo, however, I took an immediate liking to even though I was skeptical about the hip-hop and pop influences. Also, the main girl character in the movie, Fuu, is running a close second in my list of favorite shojo (let's not forget Misty!). It's another "alternate Japan" story and takes its cues from the Samurai slice-and-dice films. I like the fact that it takes a lot of scenes from historic Japan (primarily the Edo period) and plays around with concepts of Japanese culture and takes a few swipes at American culture, as well. The only thing that gets my paranoid up is that I like this anime too much, which makes me suspect that it's being marketed to my western sensibilities. Ah well -- Feed me, Seymour!

Sadly, I haven't seen Cowboy Bebop, which is the first break-through hit for director Shinichiro Watanabe, but have it in the Netflix queue. Thank you, Netflix, and thank you Wikipedia, for without you both I would be sadly in the dark and this blog would probably not exist.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Scooby-Doo blog

Happy Valentines day everybody! Here's a link to the shown valentine, which you can print in color or black and white (to color in your own self).
Okay, this is getting creepy. If this isn't the dead animator's obit blog, it's the Scooby-Doo blog. Honestly, that's all we've been watching now since I started this blog. Brief, wonderful interludes are filled with Spongebob and 1-dollar Popeye DVDs (Fleischer and Paramount). We're even watching "A Pup Named Scooby-Doo," which I would blog about (and may still do so) but it is just too pathetic.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Iwao Takamoto dies, too!

It's some kind of Scooby Doo curse, or just being old. Good bye to another great of the animation world. Here's an AP photo of the Scooby-Doo balloon in the 2006 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.