Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Original Story of Christopher The Christmas Tree

Having rediscovered the Christmas special "Christopher the Christmas Tree," and learning that it was a record before it was an animated special, I set out to find out what I could about that record. Which wasn't too much, other than it had 11 songs and came out in the 80's. But I found a place that sells CD-rips of the record, so I was able to listen to it firsthand. For the first half, the story plays out as an extended version of the animated special, although there are certain differences:
  • Instead of just nine named trees, the album names 36(!) trees.
  • Tommy and Hooty never meet, and Tommy never even gets a name. Anytime he shows up, he's referred to as "the little boy who wanted to be president." (Granted, I didn't bother to reveal his name when I wrote up the animated special, so there you go then.)
  • The boy also has a sister, but she's only mentioned in passing.
  • There is no scene with the fox and weasel.
  • Everything happens pretty close together. Hooty and Christopher meet on the same day that Hooty runs away, which is also the same day the other animals show up, and Christopher is chopped down the very next day.
The album and animated special deviate quite a bit after Christopher is loaded on the truck. Once Hooty learns to fly and catches up with Christopher, instead of trying to get him off, the two of them just ride along, wondering what's going to happen when the truck reaches its destination. And once they get to the White House, there's a rather pointless sequence where Hooty flies into the George Washington Monument, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial, and then sings a song about it. It takes Christopher forever to figure out that's he's finally become a Christmas tree, even after he's been all strung up with lights and set up on the White House lawn. A syrupy chorus sings about how unsure he is about what's going on, and how he's dying. Sheesh.
But soon people filter in (including the boy who wanted to be president), and the President gives his speech about naming Christopher the official tree and lights him up. As the people leave, the boy wants to stay and look at Christopher some more, which his parents okay for some reason, and then all the animals (who apparently followed the truck on their own) show up to reprise "Christopher, We Love You," but Christopher shushes them all so he can sing to the little boy (I guess finally finding out he was a Christmas tree gave him a second wind). Here the record gets on track with the animated special once again, as Hooty laments Christopher's imminent death, and Christopher charges Hooty (in song) to plant the pinecones (and also to figure out which tree is going to be put up next year, so he can tell it what's going on ahead of time). The record ends with Hooty, overseeing the planting of the pinecones back in Hidden Hollow, imagining the pinecones growing into bigger and bigger trees, and a reprise of the title song.

The entire thing runs a little over forty minutes, and is mostly narration and songs, with all the voices (except for the little boy) performed by the same person (I'm assuming it's George T. Bowers). If you would like a copy, you can get it from

Now, the biggest difference between the record and the animated special is that while in the animated special, most of the animals were pretty annoyingly sweet, in the record all the animals are complete and utter jerks. I mean, in the special, Hooty runs away because he's tired of being treated like the Unfavorite by his family, but in the album, it's because he's mistreated by the other animals. And when those exact same animals show up to live in Christopher, Hooty tries to keep Christopher from letting them in, and then they purposefully keep a skunk from dancing with them (in the animated special, the skunk has trouble joining the dance, but he's not kept out by the other animals), but Hooty makes a point of bringing him into the dance. However, the animals learned nothing from this, as after Christopher has been chopped down, and they're all gathering around his stump, the narrator explicitly tells us, "Now that Christopher was gone, they didn't need Hooty anymore, so they pushed him to the side." And when they all go to follow after Christopher, the other animals give up after reaching a small town, so Hooty has a moment of indecision about whether to keep following after Christopher (which is seemingly impossible) or "go back and be abused by his would-be friends." Sheeeesh! It's no wonder the animated special made the animals be so annoyingly sweet; it was overcompensating for the jerkitude they display in the album.

To close, here are a couple of tracks from the album:

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas on the road

A bit late, but it is still Christmas. Happy Christmas to all of you guys, and I hope you all had a good time today. I have a post in the works, but as I'm currently spending the next couple of days with my in-laws, I may not have a chance to finish them up. Hopefully I'll get them out before the new year, though.
(The image is in honor of my husband, who managed to find volumes 2 and 3 of the Lucky Star manga for my present.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Care Bears: The Giving Festival

So, from now until the end of January, Comcast has exclusive pay-per-view rights to a new AiCaL movie, The Giving Festival. There is precious little info on this movie/special, but the preview is on Kabillion, a kind of kids' social networking site that appears to be a mashup of Gaia, Neopets, and Youtube. The preview gives us our first look at Princess Starglo, who is set to debut in the upcoming movie Share Bear Shines:

Frankly, I thought she was going to look more like a human girl, and my mental image of her included pink hair, but I think that's due to the similarity of her name and the character Moonglo from Rainbow Brite. Anway, according to the preview (voiced by the blandest trailer voice I've ever heard), Princess Starglo is prevented from attending the Care Bears' festival by Gus, some kind of wind demon. What I really want to know is, why is it that if Share Bear Shines is not supposed to be out until next Fall, then why it this apparent sequel coming out now? Why is it even done before Share Bear Shines? I'm guessing that despite it being called a movie, The Giving Festival is really more of a half hour special. But still.

Gaia's Christmas Event for 2009

I've been enjoying this year's Christmas event, which picks up where the Halloween event left off (kind of ), with the Sentinel and Overseer taking Santa's place. Like the Halloween event, it's a little tedious, what with having to donate your unwanted stuff, some of which is worth more than others, one piece at a time. And if you want to get the highest achievement, you have to donate enough stuff to be worth 250 points (and most items are only one point). But what I do like about this event is that the main event page, rather than being static, has been progressing storywise day by day. On the first day, the Overseer and Sentinel were by their makeshift airship (mostly made out of a bathtub), but on the second day, a character from ZOMG (the site's MMORPG) crashed his own airship into theirs, destroying it. Over the weekend, the NPC from the limited edition store (which seems to have vanished, come to think of it) proved them with a new airship, which the Sentinel and Overseer are riding today. There's a couple more days left for the event, so we'll probably see them take to the air and deliver presents, but who knows.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

My Little Pony - Twinkle Wish Adventure

Well, I meant to get to this one back before November hit, but that didn't happen, mostly thanks to Blockbuster not sending it to me over and over again. And then once November started I was too busy, but I suppose it makes more sense to get to it now, since it's ostensibly a Christmas Special. I just feel bad that I ended up keeping it for over a month. But here it is now, my write up of My Little Pony: Twinkle Wish Adventure.

It starts off with the theme song, but with slightly different animation from the version available on Hasbro's website, which I've covered already. However, there's an extended version on the DVD that includes the animation not used, along with even more scenes and an all-new bridge. But anyway, on to the story proper. Being as this is a Christmas special, we open with a scene of snowflakes, although once the camera pan gets to Ponyville, there isn't any snow, and a pony makes a point of saying "I wish it would snow." A random narrator begins to give us the exposition on the Winter Wishes Festival, and the core seven burst in with their favorite "holiday" traditions (parties, outfits, hairstyles, cookies, painting, skating, decorations), but the narrator insists that the best is putting the Twinkle Wish star on top of the Christmas Ever Forevergreen Tree in the town square. Sweetiebell and Scootaloo, as the youngest, speculate on the tree's name, though Cheerilee sets them straight, while the others just giggle at their ignorance. Cheerilee continues to explain about the ornament making contest, the winner of which gets the honor of placing the star, which grants everyone in town one wish, at the top of the tree. Scootaloo and Sweetiebelle make a big deal of "not being little," which just makes the others laugh, though Scootaloo is placated easily enough by being told she's cute.
With the contest coming up later that day, Toola Roola gets half an idea for an ornament, and Pinkie Pie suggests they team up, since she has too many ideas. Cheerilee suggests they all pair up, conveniently forgetting that there are seven of them, and predictably, she ends up the odd pony out. The narrator handily points out that none of the others left her out on purpose. The others propose to combine their various stuff (pink, colorful, glittery, and stuffy) and meet up at Sweetiebelle's house, while Cheerilee dejectedly goes to her own house to work on her ornament alone. Though Pinkie Pie gets the feeling they're forgetting something, it isn't all their ornaments are made that they realize just what it is. In the meantime, everyone tries to figure out how to beat the designated Artsy pony (Toola Roola), which for the Rainbow/Starsong team is more glitter and feathers, and for Scootaloo/Sweetiebelle, a lucky button. While showing off their ornaments to each other, they finally realize Cheerilee isn't there, and go to find her.
Rushing into Cheerilee's house (seriously, no knocking or anything), they all apologize profusely, and seeing her ornament is just a pinecone with a ribbon, they each offer something from their ornaments, except for Scootaloo, who is loathe to change her ornament. But with the narrator's intonation that "Sometimes doing the hard thing is ever so hard to do," she eventually offers Cheerilee her choice of something, and Cheerilee takes the button, much to Scootaloo's chagrin.
Later that afternoon, the core seven gather in the square again to await the announcement of the winning ornament. Everyone except Scootaloo is certain Cheerilee will win, though a win for her will be like a win for all of them, really. At last Mayor Flitter Flutter arrives (with a teased-up hairdo) to pick the winning ornament. Is it just me, or is she totally Scootaloo's (and by extension, Cheerilee's) mom? Nobody makes mention of this, so I'm guessing not, but come on, she's got the right color scheme and the big hair to match. Anyway, this year's theme is "Ponyville's Spirit of Friendship," so naturally Cheerilee wins, and the mayor even makes a point of singling out the button. After the ceremony, as the ponies walk home, Scootaloo is all pouty, but the others tell her "There's always next year," which she does not appreciate. The mayor rides up to them in her scooter to give Cheerilee the box containing Twinkle Wish, which must absolutely positively not be opened until the next day at sunset, which marks the beginning of the Winter Wishes Festival. The reason the mayor gives is that Twinkle Wish is asleep, and waking her too soon means she won't have enough power to grant everyone's wishes. She officially passes the box to Cheerilee, tells her "The fate of the festival is in your hands," and then rides off again. The older ponies crowd around the box to admire it, leaving Scootaloo and Sweetiebelle out of the loop, so they use a trampoline to sneak a peek while the others talk about how they want to see Twinkle Wish again, but know they have to wait.
But Scootaloo isn't satisfied with a trampoline-eye view, and bounces right on top of the table the mayor set up and snags the box. Rationalizing that "one peek can't hurt," she opens the box just a crack. Cheerilee rushes to stop her and accidentally sends the box flying. It lands unharmed, and they all breathe a sigh of relief, just before the top pops open and Twinkle Wish awakes. And, oh no, she talks with a "cute" lisp -_-. She rises into the air to chant a wishing rhyme, and storm clouds instantly roll in with lightning and thunderclaps. A strong wind starts to blow, and suddenly, a dragon flies by. Seeing Twinkle Wish, the dragon swoops in and grabs the star, then flies off, giggling selfishly. The storm subsides just as quickly as it came up, leaving everyone confused.
At first, Cheerilee is down on herself for letting this happen, but she quickly turns on her little sister, who in turn blames it on everyone not letting her get a good look at the box. Pinkie Pie breaks up their squabble to point out they're going to need to work together to get Twinkle Wish back, a plan which had not occurred to Cheerilee, apparently. Starsong flies after the dragon, but stops short when she sees it go toward Willy Nilly mountain. When she tells the others, Cheerilee takes the time to expound on the mountain, which is a mysterious place no one has ever gone to before, but is named for its weather, known to change at a moment's notice for no apparent reason. Scootaloo just rolls her eyes, used to her sister spouting random exposition. The mayor rides up again to check on the star, and the core seven swear up and down that Twinkle Wish is still in the box. The mayor then gushes about their remarkable dependability and rides off once more. With the mayor gone, the girls feel guilty about lying, but Pinkie tells them they can tell the truth once they have Twinkle Wish back. She rallies the others to go out and get back Twinkle Wish, and while her pep talk works, Toola Roola points out that mountain is pretty far, and they've only got one day. Fortunately, Pinkie just happens to have a hot air balloon they can ride in.
They reconvene at Pinkie's house later that day, dressed in stylish winterwear. Rainbow Dash tries to bring all her luggage, but Pinkie's glare of doom gets her to pare her baggage down to one purse. Unfortunately, there's only room for four of them to go on the trip, with Scootaloo and Sweetiebelle stuck staying in Ponyville (Starsong can fly herself, so she doesn't need to ride. I can't believe I actually had to think about it before I realized that). Scootaloo claims Cheerilee planned that on purpose because she's still mad, and while Pinkie tries to soothe them, the sisters stick out their tongues at each other behind her back. But Pinkie gives the two younger ponies Twinkle Wish's box and tasks them with making sure no one knows Twinkle Wish is missing, which Scootaloo takes to right away. And so the older ponies take off, as they sing a song about traveling.
Back in Ponyville, Sweetiebelle tries to think of something fun to do while they wait, but Scootaloo isn't in the mood, since she knows her sister is still mad at her. Sweetiebelle offers her cookies instead, and while they are obviously chocolate chip, she claims they're "yummy oatmeal raisin apple caramel walnut upside down surprises." Before any cookies can be eaten, the mayor shows up again, wondering where Cheerilee is. The two young ponies try to cover, and manage to convince the mayor that Cheerilee went to get decorations for the festival. Sweetiebelle then offers the mayor a cookie, but she turns it down, claiming to be watching her figure. This prompts Scootaloo to ask in all honesty, "Watching it do what?" The mayor is not amused and drives off.
Back with the balloon, the others float ever closer to Willy Nilly Mountain to the strains of an electric guitar. But as they drift near, the weather changes to a gusty gale too strong to fly in. Pinkie takes the balloon down, but once they reach the ground, they slip out of control on the snow. As they slide, Rainbow Dash suddenly remembers she has a hair ribbon in her purse, and with as much hair as she has, it's plenty long enough to anchor the balloon to a tree. They all disembark and toss their winterwear in the balloon's basket before heading into the nearby forest. But they're barely halfway through before it starts to get dark, and Pinkie suggests they set up camp before it gets too dark to see. Cheerilee, though, is very against stopping, since they've only got one day come sunset to get Twinkle Wish and get back. The narrator shows up again for the first time in a long while to tells us that Toola Roola is afraid of the dark. So, Toola Roola drums up the courage to tell this to her friends, but they don't mind, since Scootaloo is afraid of the dark, too. Why this is supposed to make Toola Roola feel better, I'm not sure. And, as is usually the case, Toola Roola can't sleep without a night light, but she is saved by that old camping standby, fireflies. Pink fireflies, even. Pinkie uses her pink connection to convince the bugs not only to stick around until they fall asleep, but to sing lullabies, too. Despite the droning of the bugs, Cheerilee stays awake to worry about her little sister until she, too, falls asleep.
The next morning, they make their way to the mountain, but the dragon's cave is near the top. So they travel up a mountain path, getting rained on for minutes at a time, before they finally reach the cave. As they approach the mouth of the cave, a voice booms out "Who dares disturb the dragon?" Before they can enter, things shift back to Ponyville, with Scootaloo pacing the floor of Sweetiebelle's kitchen, wondering where the others could be. As she asks "Could things get any worse?" who should show up but the mayor again. Sheesh, if she was going to be this nosy about it, she should have kept the box herself. Scootaloo tells Sweetiebelle to distract the mayor while she thinks of something, but Sweetiebelle just tries to make smalltalk. This does giveScootaloo enough time to wrap herself up in some towels and turn Sweetiebelle's green batter into an impromptu face mask. She passes herself off as Cheerilee-in-the-middle-of-a-beauty-treatment to the mayor, who is upset that Cheerilee isn't ready, since she's supposed to take her to the festival now. But Scootaloo says that "she" has a super special awesome entrance planned and retreats. The mayor is getting suspicious, but not enough to put her finger on what's going on.
Meanwhile, back at the cave, Pinkie takes the direct approach with the dragon and introduces them all to the (unseen) dragon. The dragon invites them in, and they enter the cave to find a regular bedroom, with Twinkle Wish in a cage in the middle. The star is pooped, but rather than let her sleep, the dragon asks for fashion advice, bounding out from behind a dressing screen wearing a sunhat. The other ponies worry for Twinkle Wish, and approach the dragon, who talks a mile a minute with a slight Brooklyn accent, but is glad for some company. She introduces herself as Whimsy Weatherby, and offers the ponies a seat, though she has to clear her sofa of clothes first. To make them more comfortable, she heats up the room using her breath, and then makes it colder with another breath. Pinkie easily deduces that the crazy weather around the mountain is thanks to the dragon, which the dragon is quite proud of. But Cheerilee cuts right to the chase: they're there for the star. Whimsy reveals that her stealing the star was all according to plan, and outlines it for the ponies: she's been on the mountain without friends for ages, and she finally figured that it was because she didn't have any cool toys. So she swiped the star, thinking it was a toy (and keeping it awake all this time), and sure enough, five new friends show up.
The ponies are left aghast at this story, but pull themselves together to explain that the star is not a toy, and they're not really friends, they're just acquaintances. So they sing her a song about what makes a friend a friend. But one things friends don't do, says Pinkie, is take each other's stuff, and she urges Whimsy to give the star back to Cheerilee. But Whimsy is not keen on having to part with the star, especially since she thinks that the ponies will never come back once they have what they came for. Rainbow Dash is quick to interject that they will come back, and Pinkie even invites her to come back with them for the festival. But Whimsy is not convinced, stating that if she has to give them the star for them to be her friend, she'd rather have other friends, and kicks them out of her cave. The ponies are all dejected, and wonder what to do now, but Cheerilee knows: she has to tell the truth, like she should have done before.
Everyone is gathered for the start of the Winter Wishes Festival, and asking for Cheerilee. She arrives in the hot air balloon just in time, and comes forward to tell the truth, taking all the blame. Hearing this, the mayor starts to faint, so other ponies bring her a chair and a fan. Cheerilee continues on, telling everyone about the dragon and apologizing to them all. Scootaloo also apologizes for lying to the mayor and adds that it was her fault as well, and the two sisters make up. The mayor commends Cheerilee for fessing up, even though the festival is now ruined. But what's that? A Brooklyn accent? Yes, Whimsy thought it over and brought back Twinkle Wish. The mayor rushes up for a quick inspection, and the situation doesn't look good: they've got to get her on top of the tree immediately! Cheerilee offers the star to Scootaloo, since it was the button that won her the prize. So Whimsy flies Scootaloo to the top of the tree, who places Twinkle Wish on the tree and tells her that it's time. Twinkle Wish starts to chant the wishing rhyme from earlier, but starts falling asleep at the same time. The mayor tells everyone to make a wish ASAP, but it's too late, Twinkle Wish is asnoozin' again. In the silence of no one getting a wish, Pinkie Pie rushes to the podium to tell everyone that they don't need wishes, since their wishes already came true. And sure enough, all the main characters have been saying "I wish this" and "I wish that" throughout this whole thing, even the mayor (she wished she knew what was going on with Cheerilee), and sure enough, everything they wished for came true.
Everyone else, though, wished for snow, and snowing it is not. But hey, Whimsy can make the weather! So she breezes on up and lets loose a snow-breath for the ages. So even Whimsy's wish for friends came true. But it seems that Sweetiebelle's wish didn't come true, since she wished for pink snow, and not even Whimsy can do that. But just then, Twinkle Wish wakes up, saying "Pink snow? Did somebody wish for pink snow?" And so all the snow turns pink, just like that, while the narrator announces that this turned out to be the most wonderful winter wishes festival ever.
Although the story is over, there's still a song, "Dreams Do Come True," which shows the core seven going through the seasons just being friends.

This really turned out to be better than I thought it would be. and a lot less wallbangery than most of the previous G3 DVDs have been. While I wasn't that crazy about the star, I really liked Whimsy and the Mayor. Not quite sure why she had that whole 'reiterate a word three times in one sentence' thing going on, but I loved her hair.

Of course, what made lots of fans happy about this DVD is the appearance of non-core seven ponies in the G3.5 style, and the apparent appearance of boy ponies. And so...
Random Pony Cameos:

Misc. Screenshots:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christopher the Christmas Tree

Starting off the Christmas season a couple of days late, but that's okay. Thanks to the power of Youtube, I was able to revist a Christmas special I remembered watching one Saturday morning back in 1993 or 1994, and though I hadn't seen it at all in the years between, a good amount of it had stuck with me. It's not that bad as Christmas specials go, but it is definitely kind of odd.

It all starts with a narrator singing about The Valley of Hidden Hollow and Christopher the Christmas tree, who got passed over year after year. Then the actual story kicks in, going back to when Christopher was but a tiny pine and all the other trees around him got chopped down to be Christmas trees. We're introduced to nine other trees by name, even though they're in this show for less than two minutes, never to be seen again. Now, all the trees are anthropomorphized, with branchy hands, and using pinecones and snow to mimic clothes and accessories, and even mammories. Seriously, one of these trees has a huge rack, which she jiggles while claiming "I'm the fullest!" when the trees are trying to one-up each other on why they'll be picked to be Christmas trees. What?! Now, it looks like our special is about to over, as a boy bounds onto the scene and goes straight for Christopher, but the boy's father insists that Christopher is too small for them to put a star on top. The boy asks why they put a star on top, perhaps hoping to get Christopher if he can convince his dad they don't need to do it, but since the star represents the one the wisemen followed to baby Jesus, there's no getting out of it. Maybe next time, Christopher. Oh wait...
Anyway, all the other trees laugh and jeer at Christopher as they are driven off in a truck, and Christopher starts singing a little song about wanting to be a "pretty tree" while crying tears that turn into ice cubes. The narrator just talks over Christopher's song, telling us that Christopher never got picked and eventually he was too big to fit in someone's home. That might be the end of the story right there, but we're only three minutes in, so the narrator goes right ahead and takes us to a family of owls, just as the dad owl is giving his youngest son, Hooty, grief for being an idiot. He phrases so it sounds like Hooty is just a noncomformist ("Why can't you be more like your brothers, Owlvin and Owlbert?"), but after Hooty runs away (immediately following this taunting), a song reveals that Hooty can't fly or talk, so yeah. He travels the whole of Hidden Hollow, but is ostracized by everyone he meets.
Eventually Hooty makes his way to the only house in Hidden Hollow, where the owners of the Christmas tree farm live. Good thing, too, since it's winter by then and he keels over from the cold. The sound of him keeling was loud enough for the boy in the house to hear it, and he rushes Hooty in and puts him by the fire. The boy's father tells him to put the owl by the Christmas tree to make him "feel more at home." Huh? This is actually an awkward segue to reveal that the father is the boy from the first scene, all grown up, as his son asks why they put the star on the tree, and he says he asked his father the same thing. Using the star, the boy wishes he could be President of the United States someday so he could help everyone, even the owl. You'd be better off becoming a vet in that case, kid.
The warmth of the fire brings Hooty back, and he stays in the house for a day? Two days? At least until Christmas, then Dad tells the son to send the owl back into the wild, since it wouldn't be fair to keep him as a pet. Hooty disagrees, having finally found a friend, but he sets off into the wide world again, hopeful that he'll see the little boy again. He wanders into the tree farm, which apparently hasn't been taken care of very well, as there's only one tree in a field surrounded by stumps. That tree, of course, is Christopher, who welcomes Hooty with open arms (well, branches) and tells him his story of wanting to be a Christmas tree, despite being the only tree around anymore. But Christopher isn't downbeat because he believes that wishes come true. He encourages Hooty to make a wish, and so, while the chorus sings about wishing on stars, the narrator tells us that Hooty wished he could talk, fly, and always have a friend like Christopher.
The next day, or who knows when, a sleeping Christopher is approached by the most annoying woodland creatures ever featured in a nearly forgotten animated special. Apparently they were inspired by Christopher's friendship with Hooty to come and live in him, so they'll be safe from the foxes and weasels. Christopher doesn't object, claiming he's big enough to be a home for all of them, even the deer, and he lifts up his lower branches like a skirt to let them in. Uh, yeah. So the woodland creatures go through various antics in him while alternately dancing around him singing "Christopher, we love you!" and making verses out of horrible rhymes. The narrator reveals that even more time passes, as Christopher gets too big to ever be a Christmas tree (or rather, he "doubts he would ever be picked"), but he doesn't mind because he's protecting all these animals now.
And then, one fateful day, all the other animals go to gather some food, leaving Christopher and Hooty alone when who should show up but the weasel and the fox. For no particular reason, they taunt Christopher for wanting to be a Christmas tree even though he's way too big now, saying he'll be chopped into firewood (or worse, toothpicks) before long. They leave, having riled up Hooty, but Christopher calms him down and sends him to get food with the others. While Hooty is gone, a flock of migrating birds bunks down in Christopher, but they are frightened off by the arrival of a big, red truck. Yes, Christopher's time has come at last, as a man with a chainsaw starts cutting him down while Christopher protests. Hooty tries to stop the man, but he is too small, and Christopher goes down. Hooty goes after the truck while the other woodland creatures gather around Christopher's stump to lament their fallen friend.
Finally motivated by his need to follow Christopher, Hooty manages to take to the sky after a few false starts, and even finds the ability to talk, as well. He manages to catch up with the truck, where Christopher tries to get some comfort in his final hours from his small friend, but when he confesses that he thinks he's going to chopped into firewood, Hooty takes it upon himself to set Christopher free. He breaks all the ropes somehow, but he's still too small to push Christopher off the truck. So he decides to go and get the other woodland creatures to help him, flying off as Christopher calls for him to come back.
By the time all the woodland creatures catch up to the truck, Christopher has already been unloaded. Hooty finds Christopher just as he's being lifted up by some ropes, and falls to his knees(?), saying "We're too late!" But no, it turns out that Christopher was taken to Washington DC to be the White House's Christmas tree. And for some unexplained reason, the kid that helped Hooty that one time is putting the star on top. No, he didn't become the president like he wanted to, as the actual president comes out to officially name the tree Christopher. Then Christopher sings a song about being "The President's Personal Tree" while the woodland creatures engage in some antics with his decorations.
Still, there is some sadness in this happy time for Christopher, as Hooty points out that this is technically Christopher's last Christmas. But Christopher tells him that this is what he was born to do, and that being a Christmas tree is equal parts faith, sacrifice, and hope for mankind. He also reminds Hooty that he dropped all his pinecones when he fell, and charges the owl with planting them, so that "there will always be a Christopher the Christmas tree." And so the narrator closes things off by telling us that Hooty and the other animals did just that, and Christopher "was the happiest tree in the whole world." The end credits roll over still images of the woodland creatures planting the pinecones which eventually sprout into little trees while the song from the beginning of the episode plays, but with a final verse about how Christopher finally got his wish.

So, all in all, a heartwarming little story. The songs are all kind of country-western, and that "Christopher, We Love You" song just will not get out of my head. If you watch this, skip that part. I also like that it addresses the mortality of a Christmas tree, because you know some kid was going to point that out to their parents at some point. The animation quality is pretty good, too, besides some strange design choices. Like why do some of the animals (Hooty and his family, the weasel and the fox) wear clothes while the rest are naked?

Now, apparently, this special started its life as a song recorded in 1969. The story was created by George T. Bower, who was a Christmas tree farmer, among other things, and was trying to get the song made into a special for years, which included expanding the one song into an album back in the 80s. You can read more about it in this article from Billboard. Also, there's an alternate version from the one I saw on youtube that includes a couple of extra scenes (like the fox and weasel setting Christopher on fire?), and Christopher being set up in front of the UN building instead of the White House and singing about being "The Whole World's Christmas Tree." And it seems that there's a full-length movie version of this special in the works, though I'm not really sure that this is something the world needs.

You know, for some reason, I remember adult Christopher was voiced by Dom DeLuise, but watching it now, I can hear that's not that case. Hm.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Good Sunday for Comics

Taking a moment from working on finishing my NaNoWriMo novel to read the comics.

My Cage explains why Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz are the same story.

From Over The Hedge. Mostly posting this because a. it made me laugh, and b. Sue Sylvester is played by Jane Lynch (and yes, she's generally the best part of the show).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs End Credits

When I first saw Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, I missed the very beginning, but when I saw the opening title, I knew it was going to be an awesome movie. However, it was the end credits that left me wanting the DVD to be out OMG NOW! But now, they've been posted on youtube, so I can watch to my heart's content:

Art of the Title Sequence has an interview with Yellowshed, who put the end credits together, which reveals that the sequence was originally going to be set to the title song from Xanadu (and there's an animatic on the page that shows an alternate version of the credits set to the song). So I've been amusing myself by playing that song while watching the actual end credits, and I think I kind of like that better. No offense to Raining Sunshine or anything.
Edit: Someone has the end credits synched to the song! You can see it here.

And while I'm talking about Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, I want to give a plug to probably the only CWaCoM-dedicated forum out there, Flint Lockwood's Lab.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Random Thoughts about Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Just a couple of things that have been floating around my head about Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. There are spoilers here, but as it's been out in theaters for over a month and will be on DVD in just about two months (January 5th! Yes!), I feel that it's safe enough to post. If you don't want to be spoiled, feel free to skip this.

Toward the end of the movie, as Flint heads off to stop the FLDSMDFR, he ends up putting together a Five Man Band of himself, Sam, Manny, Steve, and Brent, and this is how I see it breaking down:
Flint is The Hero, obviously.
Manny is The Lancer, with his cool and collected manner acting in contrast to, well, everyone else, really.
Sam is both The Smart Guy (she's the one with the Doppler Weather Radar 2000 Turbo, after all) and The Chick.
Steve is the Team Pet, also obviously.
Brent starts off as the Tagalong Kid, seeing as he basically invites himself along (and this is made especially clear when, after asking about his part in the plan, Flint tells him he can be "President of the Back Seat"), but he becomes The Big Guy with his rebirth as Chicken Brent.
Kind of makes me want to see a TV series of them going around, solving weird problems. In that case, Flint and Sam would share Smart Guy responsibilities.

I remember reading somewhere that in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, the character of Gaston was made to specifically be the Beast's opposite, not just physically but also in the sense that Gaston at first seems charming but has a hidden dark side while the Beast seems frightening at first but has a hidden softer side. I mention this because I think that this same sort of thing holds true for Flint and Brent.
First off, there's their roles in the town. At the start of the movie, Brent is effortlessly adored by the whole town, and has been since infanthood, while Flint, despite his best efforts, is not very well-liked by anyone. With the success of the FLDSMDFR, their roles begin to reverse, until the world is cheering Flint's name and the same people who once delighted in Brent now have no respect for him.
Secondly, there's the matter of their appearances. The most obvious is that Flint is a basically stick thin while Brent is...not. At all. The next obvious contrast is their hair colors, brown for Flint and blonde for Brent. Not to mention Flint has these huge hands, whereas Brent's hands are much smaller, especially in comparison to the rest of him. However, there are also a number of things that they have in common lookswise. According to The Art and Making of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Brent and Flint are the only characters built all the way down to their toes (as Flint's spray-on shoes are slightly translucent and Brent always wears sandals). They both have that crazy hair thing going on, and they both have blue eyes (granted, so do most of the characters).
I find it kind of interesting that in the first scenes of the movie, where we see both Flint and Brent as children (I'm guessing seven or so), Flint looks basically the same as he will as an adult, head-shape and hair-wise, but Brent has neater hair and a rounder head as a child. Yet, they both already have the outfits they will wear throughout their lives: Brent is wearing a monogrammed blue tracksuit, and Flint is given a professional grade labcoat, although he still has to grow into it.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Elefun and Friends?

Well, my Blockbuster blues are slightly cured, as one of my discs finally came today, the official debut of the new MLP style in animation, Twinkle Wish Adventure. I'll be blogging that one soon, but before I get to it, I'm taking a quick look at a bonus short that was included on the DVD. Titled "Elefun and Friends," it is apparently a tie-in to games like (natch) Elefun, Gator Golf, and Hungry, Hungry Hippos. At first I thought it would be your typical, run-of-the-mill, children's show, and while it does generally follow that format, it put in some scenes that surprised me.

I mean, to start off with, the short begins with Elefun and his roommate Froggio getting some breakfast, while a lighthearted tune plays in the background. Froggio gets the spoons and starts drumming along to the tune on a piece of furniture, then jumps onto Elefun's head and starts drumming on him. Elefun doesn't seem to mind, but then he suddenly trumpets, blowing the frog off his head and into a coconut bowl. While Elefun just watches, their butterfly friends pour first cereal and then milk in both bowls, right on top of Froggio. Guess Elefun wasn't so keen on being a drum after all. Shortly thereafter, Elefun goes out for a morning swim, and upon seeing the empty pond suddenly fill up with all manner of animals, he cannonballs into the pond, splashing everyone else out quite intentionally. Sheesh.
The main plot kicks off when Elefun finds a kite shaped like a dragon stuck in a tree. Rather than send Froggio or the butterflies up to get it out, he decides that following the string to its origin will help him to get it unstuck. If you say so, Elefun. As Elefun states his dedication to following the string, even through jungles and deserts, Froggio begs out, only for Elefun to fix him with a withering glare until he agrees to come along. After that, things are pretty run-of-the-mill, with Elefun following the string through different countries, picking up the occasional companion, and learning the word "friend" in different languages. It isn't until they reach the actual end of the string in China that things pick up again. That's where they encounter a purple panda trying to treebuchet using bamboo over a river to the end of the string. She only gets halfway, leading this this exchange:
Elefun: Wha'cha doing?
Pandarama: Sipping tea. What does it look like I'm doing?
Spin: Sinking.
Pandarama: Who asked you?
Elefun then goes on to introduce himself and his hangers-on to her, and when he asks if she wants to be friends, she instantly replies, "No!" although she does backtrack, as she slips toward the water, "So, let's just say I want to be friends, not saying for sure, but pretend I do. What does that get me?" That's good enough for Elefun, and he devices a plan to help her across: she can slide down Giraffalaff's neck. Giraffalaff objects to this, though not because Elefun's being awfully presumptuous here, but because he has an embarrassing secret (and amusingly, when he asks Elefun if he can keep a secret, Froggio pops up to say, "Well, no," and Giraffalaff rebukes him, "I wasn't whispering to you!"), which everyone finds out anyway: he's afraid of heights (and sure enough, he's kept his head low the entire time). He even goes off on a soliloquy about how he hates eating the brown leaves on the ground, but the green leaves are too high for him, prompting the panda, still hanging from her bamboo, to ask him to solve his lunch woes later. Eventually he sticks his neck out and rescues Pandarama. With their friendship cemented, Elefun calls her a friend, and Pandarama corrects him with "朋友", pronounced "peng you," as Froggio explains to the audience, although not to Elefun, leading to this:
Elefun: Peng You is a pretty name.
Pandarama: My name is Pandarama.
Elefun: Then who's Peng You?
Pandarama: You!
Elefun: No, I'm Elefun.
There are a few more hijinks that ensue to finish up the episode, but that's basically the end of the good stuff. Pandarama was seriously the best part of the short, and voiced by Katie Leigh, although I really wouldn't have placed her without looking. The animation is done by Renegade Studios, who also did The Mr. Men Show, which I mention because a few of the voices also come from that show (Phil Lollar, Danny Katiana, and the previously mentioned Katie Leigh). While the animation itself is fluid, the edges on the characters are occasionally choppy, most noticably on Elefun. I don't know if I would check out a whole series of this, but I would definitely make a point to watch a few Pandarama-centric episodes, especially if the writing perks up a bit.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It Just Bugs Me: The Busy World of Richard Scarry

I'm getting right down to business this time around. When I was younger, my sister and I watched a fair amount of Nick Jr., and almost always watched The Busy World of Richard Scarry. Which is why, to this day, I still burn with rage when I remember the terrible inaccuracies about different cultures and world history they fed to unsuspecting children. The show was in a "three shorts" format, and while most featured the gang from the Busytown books going about their Busytown lives, there would be the occasionally story about recurring detective characters (there were at least two different ones, if I recall correctly) or historical events. Only, as I said before, they were not anything close to the truth.
I don't remember the detective stories well enough to have that much rage against them, except for one, where the female detective went to China and had to solve the case of the kidnapped noodle chef. Only, it turned out that the guy who kidnapped the chef only did it because he always slurped his noodles and got banned from the restaurant for doing that (I think). Only, and even as a kid I knew this piece of information, in China and Japan you're supposed to slurp your noodles. It's a sign that you're enjoying your food. *headdesk*
But it's the show's attempts to tell a historical story that really brings up the ire in me. I mean, according to The Busy World of Richard Scarry, sandwiches were invented because the Earl of Sandwich's servant got distracted and forgot to wash the gloves aristocrats wore to eat food (what?), Amerigo Vespucci was a stowaway on Christopher Columbus' ship, and Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel's ceiling because he couldn't get the Pope (or maybe just a Father) to stop messing with the mural he was doing on the walls. There are more, but those are the ones I remember best.
I guess what really bothers me about these gross inaccuracies is simply that I don't understand why the show's producers thought it was necessary to completely change the story of history, or why they wanted to include historical segments anyway. It just makes no sense.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cloudy With a Chance of Whistles?

I saw Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs a couple of weeks ago, and I enjoyed it, even if the whole fathers and sons thing was too heavyhanded IMO. And I've recently been relistening to the OCR of Anyone Can Whistle, which made me realize that there's a bit of similarity between the two. Not a lot, mind you, but some. For instance, both take place in a town that's fallen on hard times due to their main industry falling flat for a rather silly reason. In ACW, the town made a product that never wore out, thus, no one needs to buy anymore, and in CWaCoM, the town's sardine industry goes down the tubes when the world realizes that sardines are "super gross." And in both, the towns are revitalized by a "miracle" (water spurting from a rock and raining food, respectively) that is taken advantage of by the mayor. Of course, in CWaCoM, the food rain is actually created by a machine, but so is the water from a rock in ACW, although the mayoress and her cronies try to pass it off as a genuine miracle. And frankly, the mayor from CWaCoM could very easily sing the mayoress' opening song, "Me and My Town," with lyrics like:
Come on the train, come on the bus,
Somebody please buy a ticket to us.
Hurry on down-
We need a little renown.
Fitting, as the mayor's first scene is him announcing his intention to unveil something to put the town on the map. Over the course of the movie, the mayor's motivation is to build himself up using the town's fame, which is what ultimately leads to the third act, and meshes nicely with the mayoress' main motivation, which is, as her song states, "Me and my town, we just wanna be loved."

The second similarity is slightly spoilery, so if you're planning on seeing the movie, feel free to skip the rest of this post (although really, it's not a spoiler that will ruin your enjoyment of the movie).

Anyway, in both Anyone Can Whistle and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, the female leads (Fay Apple and Sam Sparks) have a persona they put on to hide their true selves, which they only reveal (at first) to their respective male leads (J. Bowden Hapgood and Flint Lockwood). Sam hides her geeky self behind a perky, "dumb blonde" TV personality, while Fay uses a Wig Dress Accent to get around her rigid, by-the-book self. However, the male leads react differently to their ladies' secret identities. Flint encourages Sam to embrace her inner geek, including inverting the usual "Glasses Gotta Go" scene, but Hapgood encourages Fay to relax and be free on her own, basically to be who she is with the wig, but without it.

Other than that, though, the two stories have little to do with each other, which is to be expected, considering ACW is forty years older than CWaCoM.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sushi Pack Coloring Books

I finally got around to picking up the Sushi Pack coloring books last month, although I've put off blogging them, since there isn't too much to say about them. The second is mostly images from the first, but with different captions. Really, the only thing of note concerns Oleander. The coloring books posit that Oleander is her last name, and her first name is actually Fatima *dry laugh.* I'm not sure if this is canon or not, though, since it never came up in the show. I always assumed that she was simply going by her first name, and in my own personal fanon, her last name is White (mostly because I kept mistakenly referring to her as White Oleander in the early days). Apparently there is also a sticker book now, I'll have to try and track that down soon.

In a related note, a reader sent me a link to this doll that looks rather Kani-esque:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blockbuster Blues

Unlike those folks who use Netflix, I get my movies-in-the-mail from Blockbuster, which goes back to when I was in college and had at least five Blockbuster stores I passed regularly when traveling by bus, and I used to get two free in-store rentals per month as part of my subscription. Now, there are only two or three stores nearby (and none of them any closer than fifteen minutes drive), so I've dropped that part of my subscription. But I still get the movies by mail, and for the most part I enjoy what I see, except for the odd occasion where I completely forget why I put a movie in my queue by the time I actually receive it (not that I don't enjoy it, but I do wonder about myself sometimes).
Lately, though, I've been faced with a slightly frustrating situation. You see, over this week, I've received three DVDs, but none of them are the ones I put at the top of my queue. What bothers me about this is simply that I put two movies at the very top, so as to get them next. Both are listed as Available, so availability shouldn't be a problem. And yet, as each DVD was returned and new ones sent out, those two were skipped. I understand that there's more to the DVDs being sent than just running down a list, but still, it's very vexing. One, I could understand, but both of them being skipped three times?
Now, my subscription is the three-at-a-time variety, and yet, I was surprised to get two discs in the mail today, since I already had one and had just put one in the mail to go back. Well, earlier this week, I reported that a DVD I had returned hadn't shown up on my profile page yet, and I'd sent it in two weeks before (and another DVD I'd returned since then had already shown up). So they sent the next DVD (but not, you know, the next DVD. Or, come to think of it, the DVD of Next, although they did send that to me once by accident) that day. So now I'm guessing that the DVD I returned finally made it back there, and so they sent another DVD anyway. Except, they sent a DVD that they already sent (the same one, I think, that they sent when I reported that DVD missing in the first place). This could be an indication that the computer system over there has gotten slightly messed up, which could very well be why the two DVDs I want keep being skipped over. But really, I'd better get those movies soon.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fun With the IMDB Again

Once again, the IMDB has broken my brain. I was looking at the things Richard Horvitz (Daggett from Angry Beavers, Zim from Invader Zim) has done, and while I knew most of them (aside from a few "additional voices" credits), when I got to toward the end of the list, I just stopped cold. Why, you ask? Because he was Alpha 5 from the original Power Rangers series. And I honestly have no idea how to feel about that. At the moment it's ranging from "I can't believe it!" to "That makes so much sense now!" to "Is this really true?"
(Not relevant, but I would like to point out that it was my younger sister who was into Power Rangers, thus I saw a lot of it due to her.)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Black Adder Season One

My mother likes to say that there are only six actors in England, and they're all in everything. And there are times when I really start to believe it, like today, when I finished watching the first season of Black Adder (which I decided to check out both because there's hardly a page on TVtropes that doesn't mention it, and when you get to the third season, Hugh Laurie is in it).
Overall, I enjoyed the series, even if there wasn't any Hugh Laurie yet, but I couldn't help feeling that I'd get more of the jokes if I knew more about Middle Ages history. The DVD only has a few special features, but luckily for me, one of them is a few quick notes on some of the history as pertaining to certain episodes. Another is a "Who's Who" which gave a quick bio of a handful of the characters, spoken by Tony Robinson, who played Baldrick (and prefaces his entry with "This is the good one"), with a list of key TV and Film roles on the screen. Or rather, the titles they've been in, though not the actual role they played (the biggest are usually mentioned by Tony), so naturally I was rushing to the IMDB to flesh out a couple of them, such as Peter Cook, who played Richard III in the first episode, but was also in The Princess Bride as the Impressive Clergyman (I would not have guessed, seriously). And when I saw that Miriam Margolyes was in Little Shop of Horrors, you better believe I looked her up real quick. Turns out she was the nurse at the dentist's office, but along the way I learned that she was also Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter movies, as well as some voice acting work, such as Fly (the sheep dog) in Babe and The Matchmaker in Mulan.
The special features are rounded out with a sing-along of the ending theme, which was good for me, since I could only understand half of the lines, and there aren't any subtitles on the DVD, and a couple of trailers for other BBC series on DVD.

You know, before I knew what Black Adder was, and just heard the title tossed around as a show that people liked, I thought it was actually some kind of sci-fi mystery show. Probably because the title becomes Blackadder after the first season (which is technically called The Black Adder). It just gave me the image of a dimly lit set and strange happenings going on.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Voice Actors in the Flesh

You all know that one my great pleasures in my online life is to make all kinds of voice actor connections, finding out the different characters they've been in the course of their career (and if I actually recognize the role, so much the better). Related to that, however, is another interest of mine, actually seeing a voice actor (or someone I know primarily for their voice work) in a live action role. I have rented movies solely to see a voice actor, but more often than not I'm pleasantly surprised to find them in a movie I'm already watching. Like the other day, when I was watching Scrooged for the first time ever (I've been meaning to watch it for a while, but never got around to it, since I limited myself to waiting for Christmastime. But it was on TV, so I figured, what the hey?). And I found that Bobcat Goldthwait was in it (a complete shock to me, since he was playing a complete nebbish, and didn't sound like his usual self until toward the end) and Brian Doyle-Murray (who is Bill Murray's brother, in fact), who I mostly know as K'Nuckles on The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. And a couple of months ago I was watching The Dream Team, and was very pleased to find out Stephen Furst, who will forever be Fanboy from Freakazoid! to me, was in it.
It was thanks to Stephen Furst that I put up with Midnight Madness for as long as I did (one of the very few movies I couldn't stand enough to finish), although I didn't know he was in it until I was watching it (Eddie Deezen, aka Mandark from Dexter's Laboratory, is in it, too). I was actually checking it out because I'd read a book (not so recently at that point) that mentioned it was the main character's favorite movie, and another character dressed up like a character from it to impress her. But I just could not stand it, and I put up with a lot of movies.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Midafternoon Video - I Made Another AMV

I'm at it again, although this time my AMV is an actual Anime Music Video, using Wandaba Style and a song from Phineas and Ferb. Wandaba Style follows the Teen Genius Susumu Tsukumo, who is trying to launch a rocket into space using eco-friendly methods, with a group of Idol Singers as his pilots. I first watched it back in 2005 when it was released in the states, but I recently bought it on sale at a convention, with the thought that I might make an AMV. This wasn't the one I had in mind, but it fit so well that I did it anyway.

In the course of rewatching the series, I ended up making a page for it on TVTropes.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Unexpected SSC Merchandise

So I was at Target the other day, a different one than I usually go to, and as I am wont to do, I started by browsing the Dollar Section that most (all?) Targets have in the front. And I was just going about my business, when suddenly, I caught sight of something familiar. I swear I did a doubletake, but sure enough, this Target had 2009 Strawberry Shortcake items. After that I searched more carefully, and I found lip balms (small two-packs, and a large one of just Strawberry), Push Pencils, Hair Elastics, Blank Journals, and Socks (tiny children only, sadly). While I didn't find every character on each item, I'm assuming that one for each character exists. There may even be more items than I found, since I ended up needing to go to another Target, and this second one only had the socks. So, if you are near a Target and are interested, check and see just what your store has (and soon, since the Dollar Section changes on a fairly regular basis as far as I've noticed).

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Top Three Favorite Musicals: Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors: This one goes way back. Again, I'm not entirely sure of the year (I'm reasonably sure it was 1995, but it might have been 1994), but I remember the month quite clearly. It was a Sunday night in January, and my mother pointed out that the 1986 movie Little Shop of Horrors was on TV. Why exactly she pointed this out, I now have no idea. I mean, you'd think the title would have warned her off, but I guess the fact that it was a musical made her feel it was okay. The movie was almost halfway over by the time we tuned in, being just as the part where "Feed Me" starts up. Despite this, my sisters and I were hooked. I felt compelled to write up a synopsis of what I had seen in a letter to a friend the next day, although I left out the part about how I didn't sleep at all the night before (I was very impressionable when it came to horror stuff as a kid). Even though it scared me, I still loved it.
Either later that year, or the next year, in April, my younger sister and I came in from playing outside to find my older sister watching Little Shop of Horrors on TV again. It was already at the part where Seymour gets interviewed on the radio, but my sister had come in almost at the beginning, and told us what we had missed. After that day, I was obsessed with seeing the whole thing, and scoured the Movie Guide in TV Listings that came with the newspaper faithfully, week after week. It wasn't until October that my persistance was rewarded and I got to tape the Modified for TV version. (I'm not entirely sure why it never occurred to me to rent the move from the video store, but it didn't.) After that, things jumble together a little, but I recall that at some point we all went to see a high school production of the show, and were quite surprised to find the theatrical version has a very different ending (and I later learned that the movie originally had a similar ending, but focus groups reacted badly toward it, so a new ending was shot). Toward the end of the year, I acquired the film's soundtrack on cassette (which I still have) and the sheet music, which strangely enough had the musical's version of "The Meek Shall Inherit." Somewhere along the way I learned that the songs were done by the same guys (Alan Menken and Howard Ashman) who did The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, although I don't remember exactly when I figured this out.
Probably the biggest impact that my love for Little Shop of Horrors had on my life was that it got me into Jazz Band. When I was in elementary school, I played clarinet in the school band (5th and 6th grade), and every year, the music teacher would put together a medley of songs based on a theme for the final concert of the year. The sixth graders would play and the fifth graders would act it out. When I was in fifth grade, the theme was "Golden Oldies." I was a Village Person while the band played YMCA. And when I was in six grade, the theme was "Scales from the Crypt," a mix of horror movie themes, which included Little Shop of Horrors. I was thrilled, until I saw the clarinet part, which consisted of lots of resting with the occasional whole note. I couldn't stand for that, so after practice I went up to the teacher and asked why the clarinet part was so bad. She told me that the jazz band members had a bigger part, and wouldn't you know it, there was a jazz band opening. So I was able to squeak into the jazz band, which meant that I had to play at all three concerts (the music teacher taught at all three elementary schools in town), but I didn't mind because I got to play the part I wanted (although when we started rehearsing with the fifth graders on stage, I realized that I couldn't see what they were doing, which was a little disappointing, but you can't have your cake and eat it, too, as they say), plus my parents took me out for ice cream after each one. I continued to play clarinet in the band up through high school, and I continued to try out for (and get in to) Jazz Band through middle school, and I probably would have continued into high school if it was still offered.
I also remember one time when I was not yet in seventh grade and I was riding back home from a library with a friend and his mom. Her car ran out of gas, and while we waited for her husband to come pick us up, I pulled out my cassette of the soundtrack and we listened to it all the way through. Later, my mom's friend commended me to my own mom for being so nonchalant in that situation, but I didn't really see it that way. I had books and Little Shop of Horrors, what else did I need?
In the years in since, I've seen a couple of high school productions of the show and seen the movie that the musical was based on, but I didn't get to see the new Broadway production back in 2003. I did get the cast recording as soon as I could, though.
It was actually my older sister who got the movie on DVD, when she went through a phase of buying cheap DVDs at Walmart, whether she knew the movie or not (which is how we all got into A Mighty Wind, but that's a different, shorter story). I, frankly, had been holding out on the off-chance that I would either snag a copy of the quickly-recalled DVD that included the original filmed ending or that the copyright issues would be resolved and a new DVD would be released with the original ending. (As of yet, that has not happened, but if you're curious, you can see stills on this page a little ways down.) I had, however, rented the DVD, mostly for the commentary by the film's director, Frank Oz. I'm of the firm belief that every DVD should have some sort of commentary. But my sister did go ahead and buy it on DVD, and now that she has moved away, I'm starting to think that I really should get my own copy, original ending or no.

Bonus Section:
Do you remember the cartoon Little Shop that aired on Fox back in 1991? I only vaguely remember watching it, even though it also ran on the SciFi channel sometime in the late 90's. It was a mix of elements from the musical and original movie, but put the characters in junior high. You can read more about it here, if you so desire.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Crochet - Recently Finished Projects

Still working on the last of my Favorite Musicals posts, but what I want to say about it is not coming easily to me right now, so in the meantime, here are a few things I've made recently:

A rose potholder. The rose part gave me some serious trouble, but with some help I figured it out. Still not sure I pulled off the picots, but I like it. I feel like it came out bigger than it was supposed to, though.

Now, this waterbottle holder really comes in handy at work, but when I started making it, I just wanted to make something, and I already had the right yarn. A few people have commented on it, though, and it was fun to make.

A shopping bag, although it's not very big. This took longer to finish because the handles are made by crocheting with two strands of yarn, and with two sc in every third chain stitch. I could only put up with that for so long. And the first handle turned out way smaller than the second, so I had to make a third one. But now that it's finished, it's pretty nice.

Another shopping bag, but I'm pretty sure that this one turned out smaller than it was supposed to, even though my gauge was right. Then again, the pattern calls for crochet thread and a steel hook, but the pictures looked like regular yarn to me. so maybe that had something to do with it. The pattern (from a Crochet-a-day calendar) was missing a line, so I had to e-mail the patternmaker to ask what was up. And she got back to me promptly with the missing info. The handles were way wonky to make, though, but not because of missing info.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Strawberry Shortcake - Sky's the Limit!

So, the long-awaited 2009 Revamped Strawberry Shortcake movie has finally been unleashed on the world, and while it isn't the most awesome ever (frankly, I wouldn't have expected it to be), it does has a number of fun scenes a couple of forgettable songs, and one that will not leave your head no matter what you do.

Welcome to Bitty Berry Land
The movie opens with the same shots from the pilot episode reanimated using a bluebird this time. Instead of getting a birdseye tour of Berry Bitty City, though, the bluebird catches up with Strawberry Shortcake on the Goodies- to-Go Scooter, making a visit (with Pupcake in tow) to the BerryWorks, where the Berrykins turn berries into the juice that powers everything in the city. With the arrival of Strawberry, the Berrykin Queen Princess announces the beginning of Berry Picking Time, which heralds a song and dance from Berrykins and Strawberry alike. After the song, Strawberry candidly comments, "What would we do without berry juice?" Although she obviously meant this to be rhetorical, the Berrykins are quick to point out that without the juice, there'd be no power for the whole city, a situation most dire. Strawberry brushes off their concerns and rides back into town.
Back at the cafe, Orange Blossom has commissioned some Berrykins to build a fountain, which she proudly shows off to the others. Blueberry's a little skeptical that the Berrykins can build a working fountain, but Orange rebuffs her with her own words:
Orange: You know how you're always saying, "Before you can, you need a plan?"
Blueberry: Do I say that?
Plum, Lemon, Raspberry: Yeah!!
The plan Orange put together is not a blueprint, but a drawing of her, Strawberry, and the fountain. Lemon tries to dissuade Orange with her worries that someone will fall in, but Raspberry takes that idea and runs with it, coming up with a number of different ideas on how to keep that from happening (ranging from adding life preservers to making the fountain a skating pond), with the Berrykins running around in the background, trying to make her ideas a reality.
Inside the cafe, Custard shows off her ability to run the blender, but Strawberry does not appreciate her cat's talent. As she admonishes her pet, a shadow falls across the frame...but it's only Mr. Longface Caterpillar (voiced by Paul Dobson). He's got nothing better to do, so he's just hanging out at the cafe. Seems he does well-attended readings at the cafe, so Strawberry tries to get a little information about the next chapter out of him, but Longface is not talking. Or rather, not about the next chapter. He's all too ready to talk about his family.
While Strawberry was chatting up Mr. Caterpillar, pandemonium broke out at the fountain, as an errant lean sent juice spewing from every half-finished pipe. Strawberry is horrified at the sight of all this chaos, but the other girls have been making the most of it, running around like a sprinkler. Until Strawberry cuts the juice and demands an explanation. The girls' attempts to explain all at once are cut short by the sound of a warning bell: a storm is coming! As everyone heads inside for safety, Orange's drawing flutters to the ground, and as the rain falls, the wind carries it up above BBC...
Holed up in the cafe for the time being, the girls try to trick Longface into reading the last chapter early, but he's still tightlipped about the story. Fortunately for him, he's able to distract them by pointing out the storm is over. But while the storm may be over, their trouble has just begun. It seems the BerryWork's water supply is blocked by an enormous rock, which is held in place by a keystone.
Princess Berrykin drives off in her little car to try and find more water while Strawberry and the girls try to figure out what to do about the rock. Even if they could move it, the riverbed would give it a clear shot at the town, effectively flattening it. Orange missed this piece of information, though, and tries to push the keystone out of the way. Her efforts cause the rock to shudder, raining debris down on her, and making it clear she'd better get out of there. Strawberry declares the rock off-limits, and they settle down to wait for the Berrykins.
Evening comes with no sign of the Berrykins, and Strawberry's about to go look for them when the Princess arrives. The good news: she found water; the bad news: it's too far away, so everyone in BBC has to move. On top of that, they only have two days to get all packed, as the Berrykins have to move all the berries, too, and they won't last long without water. No one is thrilled with this turn of events, and as the girls express their dismay in the cafe, Mr. Longface shows up again and tells them of the Great Geyser Stone. This stone, he says, flipping through his book, is golden and spurts water when placed in the sun. "Is it real?" Strawberry asks, and the caterpillar insist that it lies "just south of here." The other girls press him for more information, and with each answer, they grow more sure that the thing to do is go after this stone. Strawberry is still skeptical, though, and asks the caterpillar again if he's actually seen the stone. He continues to answer in the affirmative, so Strawberry decides that they should try anything, no matter how farfetched. They decide to leave first thing in the morning, and Longface chokes on his ice cream sundae.

We're just gettin' started
The next morning, Strawberry leaves Custard and Pupcake with the Berrykins, kisses Princess Berrykin goodbye, and she and the girls, plus Longface, are off. At first, the going is easy, but all too soon they find their path is blocked. "Looks like it's the end of the road for us!" Plum Pudding exclaims, posing dramatically. From the way she laughs afterwards, I'm guessing she was reenacting a scene from a play put on by the Berry Bitty Players. But Longface insists they just need to keep heading south. Unfortunately, his compass is broken, so he tries to use the sun to navigate. But they've gotten so far undercover of ferns that the sun is completely blocked. Orange gets an idea, but after her experience with the rock the day before, she lacks the confidence to act on it. So Strawberry works her esteem-boosting magic and gets Orange to share her observation: the Banyabana flower always points toward the sun, even when it's hidden, and since there's a Banyabana flower right there, they easily get their bearings. In honor of her observation, Strawberry makes Orange the leader as they continue their journey.
As the day wears on, the girls use leaves as parasols to keep off the sun's rays. Longface takes advantage of the stretch of time to review the previous week's chapter, which the girls put up with in the hopes that he'll move onto the next chapter without noticing. The only thing he doesn't notice, though, is the inclined slope in front of him. As he slides down the hill, the girls hurry to think of a plan to help him. Orange pulls out an oak leaf and the others get on, except for Blueberry, who tries to convince the others to find a more secure plan. But time is a-wasting, and the caterpillar is the only one who knows how to get to the geyster stone, so they take off, with Blueberry reluctantly joining them.
The girls and caterpillar slip and slide, avoiding obstacles until they end up going over a leaf ramp and get launched into the air, coming down on top of a field of daisies. As Strawberry takes stock of everyone, Blueberry admits that the leaf ride was really fun. Of course, the fact that everyone is all right probably helped. Strawberry helps Mr. Caterpillar right himself on another flower, and he is quick to grab his fallen book. Strawberry insists they must be way off course, but Longface reassures her that nothing could be further from the truth. She doesn't get how that can be possible, but her concerns are cut short by the arrival of a herd of bunnies.
With flowers falling in the bunnies' path, the girls and caterpillar make a break for it across the flower tops, except for Lemon Meringue, who is frozen with fear. Strawberry goes back for her and takes her arm, jumping from flower to flower with Lemon in tow. The others see this and follow her example, laughing and hollering as they go. Even Lemon gets in the groove, laughing along with the rest of them. But all too soon they come to the end of the daisy field. With the bunnies closing in, things are looking grim, until Lemon tells them all to run in place. The running twists the flower stem, sending the flower itself spinning off and up into the sky.
The girls enjoy the sensation of flying, until it becomes apparent they're about to land in a nest of bristling thistles. Most of the girls manage to land safely, but Raspberry Torte and Mr. Caterpillar's flowers get stuck on top of thistles. Longface slips down onto the stem, with his book in his hand, but he refuses to give it up to any of the girls so that they can help him. He slides all the way down with a bump, no worse for wear. Raspberry, meanwhile, has to wriggle her way down past spiky thistles, which Plum applauds as a "hot new dance." Longface remarks that they're right on course, and they continue on.

And the whole day through
As they travel, Mr. Caterpillar mentions that they might like to settle down where they are, "should we fail to find the geyser stone." This basically comes out of the blue, and Strawberry gets Longface alone to pump him for more concrete information on the stone. After a bit of hemming and hawwing, Longface flips through his book and tells her it's in the cavern of the seven waterfalls. "And where is that?" Miss Shortcake asks curtly. Fortune (perhaps) is with Mr. Caterpillar today, as there is a cave just ahead of them. Convinced, Strawberry leads the other girls toward the cave, only to be thwarted by a deep canyon. With no way to cross, they have to head back home, disheartened. Longface tries to cheer them up, telling them there's no dishonor in turning back now. He goes on and on about how they can build themselves a new Bitty City, better than the old one, but his pronouncements don't have the desired effect, and Plum runs off in tears.
Plum wants to be alone in her sorrow, but Strawberry gently tells her not to be ashamed of crying. So Plum confesses that she may joke around, but she loves Berry Bitty City so much, another one won't do. "That's all you had to say," says Strawberry, and the girls renew their resolve to get the stone. Using a vine, they try to pull down a branch to use as a bridge, but all their pulling isn't getting them anywhere. Longface comments that this maybe too much for the girls to handle, but they scoff at him; nothing is too difficult for them! Lemon braids some reeds together to make a stronger rope, and while this makes it harder to lasso the branch, eventually they get it, and pull down a branch. Even with the branch down, Longface tries to dissuade them from crossing, but to no avail. With Strawberry in the lead, the girls cross one by one. Raspberry makes the mistake of looking down, but Lemon takes her by the hand to help her cross. Longface tries to keep from crossing, but Strawberry won't take no for an answer and practically drags him across.
Inside the cave, the girls note a lack of both waterfalls and geyster stone. Mr. Caterpillar tries to brush the latter off as thieves, but just then, Orange spots a glittering stone sitting in a pool of light. As the girls go to grab it, Longface tries to tell Strawberry the terrible truth, but he is swarmed by the girls, singing his praises. They hurry outside to test it, but Longface stops them, telling them it's too late: the sun has already set and they'll have to wait until morning. Blueberry rushes past him anyway, desperate to try and catch the last bit of sun, but it is indeed too late. Longface once again tries to bring himself to say something, but he can't get it out.
While the girls camp out around a campfire (where did they get the marshmallows?), Longface sits off to the side, munching leaves. Strawberry and the other girls try to convince him to join them and finally read the last chapter; after all, what better place for a story than a campfire? But Longface begs off, claiming to be tired and slinking off to sleep. Though disappointed, the girls respect his right to a good night's sleep, and soon turn in themselves. Later that evening, as the girls snooze, Longface sneaks over and takes the stone from a slumbering Strawberry. He intends to throw it into the canyon, but when he tosses it, it lands on a ledge, not too far down at all. In his attempts to knock the rock down with his cane, he loses his hat, and his attempts to get that back loosen the book from its place in his vest, and when he tries to keep it from falling, too, he ends up falling himself and landing the ledge. All that noise wakes up the girls, and they find him crying pitifully on the ledge.
When asked how he and the stone got down there, Longface continues to sniffle and spins a story about a thief, but not all the girls are convinced. At any rate, they have to get him and the stone back up (Blueberry suggests getting the stone first), and Raspberry gets an idea, but immediately dismisses it as being silly. Since no one else can think of anything, they all implore her to share anyway, even going to so far as to promise to still like her even if the idea stinks. Not a bad thing to secure, since her idea is to use the rope to lower one of them (Strawberry) down while the others keep hold above the ledge. Strawberry gets hold of the stone all right, but while the others pull her back up, the ledge Mr. Caterpillar is standing on starts to crumble and he falls, managing to grab hold of a root. Strawberry has the others lower her, but her lowest isn't quite low enough. Raspberry quickly ties the end of the rope around her waist and has the others hold onto her feet in order to lower her as far as they can and get Strawberry within Longface's reach. Strawberry manages to grab Mr. Caterpillar with her free hand, but as the others slowly pull them up, his weight becomes too much for just one hand. She quickly weighs her options, but there's nothing to be done: she drops the stone and grabs Mr. Caterpillar. Once they are both pulled up, Longface expresses his gratitude for Strawberry saving his life, but the others mourn the loss of the geyser stone. Strawberry breaks down in tears over the choice she had to make, and for putting her friends in this kind of danger. Plum comforts her, and Longface starts to get up, his book falling from his vest. Blueberry immediately runs to pick it up, exclaiming, "Aha!" as she does (no wonder he never let go of it). As she reads, it becomes apparent that this is not the stories of his many relatives (as he'd claimed), but a cookbook from his mother. As Strawberry calls him on this, he bursts into tears again and tells them the tragic truth: he has no family at all, and the stone they found was just fool's gold. There's a nice reversal here, with Blueberry, who has been translating Longface's sesquipedalian phrases into regular speech for the others, giving the technical explanation about iron pyrite. Longface also explains that he was only trying to cheer everyone up with the story about the stone, not thinking that they'd want to, you know, go after the one thing that might save their home. Everyone is disappointed, but Strawberry blames herself for the whole thing.

Grab a partner, Lend a hand
Skipping ahead to the next day, the girls return home where they are hailed as heroes by the Berrykins. While Longface mopes in the back, Strawberry has to break the news about the geyser stone to the Berrykins, and everyone goes to start packing. Helping out at the general store, Blueberry finds Banyabana seeds on the shelf and reminds Orange about that part of their adventure. Over at the Sweet Beats Dance Studio, Raspberry cheers up a gloomy Plum with her thistle dance, and Strawberry surveys the pictures on the walls of her cafe, dejected.
As the denizens of Berry Bitty City begin traveling to their new home, Blueberry notices Orange's drawing from earlier up against a tree. Its colors muted by the rain, it somehow gives Blueberry an idea. She maps out her plan and explains it to the others: they'll split into two groups; Group One will lasso the keystone holding the rock in place while Group Two will use a net to deflect the rock into a nearby ravine. Everyone is keen on this idea except Strawberry, her confidence shattered by their failed quest. As the others start making preparations, she tries to convince them not to trust such a risky plan, while the others keep throwing her lines from earlier in the movie back at her. She points out that she let them all down, but they counterpoint out that there were a lot of things they did during that trip that they didn't think they could do. But still, Strawberry isn't convinced. She also points out that they'll need a lot of help to pull off the plan, and Blueberry tells her to ask the Berrykins. Strawberry thinks they won't take another risk, but Orange says that if Strawberry asks, the Berrykins will listen. When Strawberry wonders at this, Raspberry tells her point blanke that she has the talent of motivation, and the girls chime in with examples from their trip. With her friends' help, Strawberry believes in them who believe in her, and goes to get the Berrykins.
The girls continue to prepare, making rope, sewing up fabric for the net, while Strawberry and the Berrykins find a suitable fallen branch. Soon almost everything is in place, but Strawberry sees Mr. Longface sulking around in the background, so she tries to get him involved, too. Her ploy is accidentally thwarted by Blueberry, though, and he sulks off again. No time to worry about caterpillars, though, as it's time to put the plan in action. Blueberry's group successfully pulls out the keystone, and the rock goes rolling down the riverbed, like some kind of crazy potato. It crashes across the scenery, felling daisies in its wake, until it hits the net. Strawberry's group holds onto the rope until just the right time, but when everyone lets go, the end of the rope, knotted into a little bow, gets caught in the crook of a tree. With the rock threatening to just break through the net, Strawberry tries to reach the bow, but it's too high! Longface appears out of nowhere to give her a boost, but it's not enough. So he gives her his book, and she whacks the bow until it comes free, destroying the book in the process. The rope lets loose and the net acts like a slingshot, sending the rock out of harm's way and into a puddle of mud. The water flows free, and the BerryWorks starts up again. And there is much rejoicing, with hugs all around.

It's time to celebrate
A short time later, Strawberry throws a party at the cafe, with a special gift to be given to Mr. Caterpillar. Strawberry explains that if he hadn't taken them on their quest, they never would have figured out how to move the rock that was blocking the water. Longface isn't sure that he can be forgiven just like that, but if nothing else, Strawberry believes in second chances, and gives him a blank book to write his stories in. To cap things off, she and the girls welcome him home.
Another short time later, Blueberry and Raspberry present Orange with the finished version of her fountain, now nicknamed The Great Geyser Fountain. While it works just fine at first, it suddenly starts gushing juice all over the place, getting everyone in the vicinity nice and wet. Again, Strawberry doesn't appreciate the chaos in her yard, and goes out to put a stop to it, but this time she's waylaid by a celebrating Raspberry, and so she joins in the celebration as the camera pans up, up, and away.
There's a bonus song at the end, which starts with Strawberry playing guitar in the cafe and singing, but then segues into the end credits. Also, the only special feature (besides printing pages) is a Cabaret Sing-a-long, which is a completely different song set to footage from the movie. The end features a quick plug for the next coming movie "Berryfest Princess" which will debut Spring 2010.

I tried to stay objective while doing the write-up, but I have to say, I do not like Mr. Longface Caterpillar. I don't like plots where a character has to try and keep a lie until they're eventually found out, and I don't like this kind of character, either. Although, while thinking it over I realized that I do like that kind of character on occasion, but usually when they're not meant to be liked (or if the other characters don't particularly like them). But Longface here is liked by the characters quite a bit, although more for his stories than his actual personality. I guess he's supposed to be a grandfather figure for the girls, but I just hope he's not a recurring character or anything.
And really, he just wasn't needed as a character. I mean, the story could have transpired just the same with, say, Blueberry reading about the geyser stone in one of her books and the girls heading off to find it, and either getting to the cavern to find it not there (taken by others who read of it, perhaps), or discovering that the book Blueberry found was a work of fiction, not a true account. There might have had to be another trial or extra tribulation on the journey, but there are plenty of things that can happen on a trip, so that really shouldn't have been a problem.
Another story point that I couldn't help noticing was that with all the talk of moving and not wanting to move, no one mentioned that, hey, they'll all be together when they go. I mean, usually in a cartoon, if someone is sad about moving, it's because they're moving away from their friends. But everyoone is going to the exact same place, so that's not really an issue. And since they're building their own place from the ground up, nothing says they can't make it almost exactly like the original Berry Bitty City. So, really, what's there to miss?
The animation gets a little wonky in spots, and there's one scene where Strawberry seems to lose her lipsync entirely. Other than that, though, I thought that everything looked all right, but I can't help but feel this would all be so much cuter if it was 2D instead of CGI.

Bonus screenshots: