Sunday, 31 October 2010

Youse guise

Now, here is a song I wish I'd known about when I was a kid. I mean, I was familiar with the voice of Bing Crosby from Christmas records, and I was certainly familiar with Disney cartoons (see pretty much any post tagged "personal" and/or "kidhood")... and vaguely familiar with the concept of a headless horseman. But not quite as familiar as I would become...

From Ichabod and Mr Toad, the Disney package-feature with the non-chronological title. This is therefore from the second half of the film, and if you want to know who animated what in this sequence... well, you're in luck, because the draft can be found right here. By the way, anyone got any idea what "black or white or even red" refers to? The obvious answer is hair colours, but the use of "black" and "white" rather than, say "brown" and "blonde" makes it sound like they mean skin colours.

I did once dress as a headless ... man of some sort one Hallowe'en, and went around the neighbourhood with my younger sister, who was dressed as Casper the Friendly Ghost. I mean, she sang the Casper theme (transcribed by the whole family from a video, and containing one or two mondegreens), it's a shame I couldn't have sung something appropriate as well.

The costume included an over-large sweater, with a bow-tie around the top (to keep it from falling down and exposing my real, attached head... thereby destroying the illusion), and a papier-mache head with a wig on top and a gloomy expression painted on the face. It was a fairly last-minute idea and (Could have just used a pumpkin and saved myself the hassle... the shops would have been full of them, and being a traditional Scottish family, it's not like we'd have had any other use for one...)

No, there's no photos. Well, no digital ones anyway. If people are really interested, I could scan something. However, for the past decade or so, may Hallowe'en costumes have usually been variations on the following theme: "barbarian", "renegade knight", "warrior"... or, with some facial make-up, "orc", and rely on some handy pieces of sacking cloth, the fact that the majority of my clothes are black, and some arms and armour I picked up at a costume shop a while back.

Yeah, both of these photos are from the same year (for some reason they were all I could find), but they may as well not be.

Friday, 22 October 2010

In this post, I shall follow in the footsteps of Matt Groening

In the Simpsons comics, Matt Groening would often write some editorial (maybe he still does, I stopped getting them a few years ago... are they still running, actually, or is it all reprints? I mean, the ones I got were *already* reprints, of the American versions. Anyway...), sometimes related to The Simpsons but often just about his life. One of those was "Things which frightened and disturbed me as a kid." And that's kind of the approach I'd like to take to this post.

Sometimes it feels like my defining childhood moments involve watching something on TV which disturbed or haunted me. Usually they seem to be animated. There is one I remember which involved a ship which was overheating... the furnace was overloaded or something, and it was burning up. The main things I can remember are the scene where the characters escape by helicopter or something, and watch the ship blow up in a sort of mushroom cloud, and the fact that one of the characters had an unshaven face. If I saw it again I don't think it would have much of an effect on me, but at the time... well, let's just say I felt the need to leave the room any time The Simpsons was on - Homer's unshaven face brought back the unpleasant memory.

I'd love to find out what TV show that was, though.

Anyway, I think there can be something genuinely unsettling about the stark look of some of those 70s/80s animated TV shows, with their gloomy colours. One of them I am glad to say I was able to find. Say hello to... The Valley of the Dinosaurs, episode 5 "Volcano"!

Yes, it's only the second half. You're experiencing it the way I did. The first half isn't too hard to find if you're curious, and you want to know why this 70s family is hanging out with these cave-dwellers. Why these prehistoric Ama-zon inhabitants are white (or maybe slightly Asian) or why they speak in the same dialect as the 1970s family, only slower and with no inflections, remain mysteries.

So, anyway, this was a TV series that was on before Saturday morning Disney cartoons. So I invariably saw the last few minutes of it before the cartoons I wanted to see came on. This "Volcano" episode was being shown on the first morning I started seeing Saturday morning cartoons, and I must say that in spite of all the tackiness I see before me now, for a young kid like I was at the time, that volcano... referred to at 03:53 as "Devil's Pudding" for some reason... was High Octane Nightmare Fuel.

And, this was followed by an advert for some sort of superhero-based pasta shapes... which was animated, and involved a tidal wave of spaghetti sauce flooding through a city. I think I assumed this was the preview for the following week's episode: "Next time... the lava reaches the city and kills a lot of people!"

And then... the first cartoon on the Saturday Disney show was the Donald Duck classic "Good Scouts", where Donald and his nephews visit Yellowstone National Park... and begins with them all crossing a mud spring called "Devil's Stew Pot". Oh... and the fact that Donald later winds up on top of a geyser, which *erupts*, didn't exactly put the Hanna-Barbera Nightmare Fuel out of my head.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Dumboards - Part One

With Mark Mayerson's Dumbo mosaic drawing to a close I realised I should post my impressions on the story sketches Michael Sporn posted on his "splog" back in May. They're a really interesting look at some unused (or changed) ideas the story-men came up with.

Casey Jones Jr

First of all, Casey Jr, "slow asleep" as Jerry Colonna would have it, in his shed. Notice the full name "Casey Jones Jr" which never appears in the film. (I remember a Little Golden Book or something which referred to the loco as "Casey Jones" though) The name comes from the American legendary figure of Casey Jones, who would later inspire Jack Kinney's short "The Brave Engineer".

Dumbo, Mrs Jumbo, and "friends"

Here we have the other elephants surrounding Mrs Jumbo, with Dumbo resting at her back end. Human figures can be seen in the foreground, and the backdrop (with coconut palm trees) suggests an outdoor setting. The elephants are arranged in the same semi-circular position they are when they complain about Dumbo in the film, but their expressions appear to be kind and indulgent. I'm not sure if this is meant to be a version of Dumbo's birth/delivery, but he already has the big ears.


Here we have Casey Jr (deliberately) scaring Dumbo and Timothy. Casey doesn't really behave in this manner in the film, where "he" doesn't do anything as humanised as his annoyed finger-drumming in his Reluctant Dragon segment.

Giant of the Jungle

Monarch of the Jungle

Now, these two are the big'uns. People have often wondered who Dumbo's father is. His mother is referred to as Mrs Jumbo, with a married woman's title, and Dumbo himself is originally named "Jumbo Jr." So, who is Jumbo Sr? The fact that Dumbo is delivered by a stork shows that, in this fantasy world, childbirth (and conception) doesn't really work the same way it does in our world, so we just generally assume he doesn't have, or need to have, a father.

But, these drawing suggest he was originally going to have one. Quite a famous one too, identified as "Jumbo, Giant of the Jungle", advertised on a poster for "...ingling Bros" circus. The elephants comment that Dumbo "belongs right alongside his daddy" and that "he'll be there soon". What does this mean? Are the other elephants encouraging him to go on to a greater circus? Was this before their personality/ies had been decided on? Or are they just wanting him out of their circus?

Following Pinocchio and with Bambi in production, it seems to fit the mold that Dumbo, as a young male protagonist, would have a father out there somewhere, if not by his side, and it seems that one of Dumbo's themes was, at one point, going to be about the little elephant trying to live up to his father's success. In the second sketch, look at the size of Jumbo Sr's ears! Were the storymen making these sketches even thinking there was to be anything "un-natural" about the size of Dumbo's own ears?

Keep watching this blog for more thoughts on these story sketches, and thanks to Michael Sporn for posting them up! I would be posting these as comments on his blog, if they were a bit shorter (and, if I hadnt waited until so long after he had posted them up in the first place...)