Monday, May 25, 2009

Songs with a Girls' Name in the Title #21

21. Mustang Sally - Wilson Pickett

There is nothing deep about “Mustang Sally.” She’s got to slow her mustang down, simple as that. When you’ve got Wilson Pickett delivering the vocals you don’t need to waste time trying to analyze it. Just sit back and let Mr. Pickett do the driving.

Songs with a Girls' Name in the Title #22

22. Proud Mary - Credence Clearwater Revival

Another song with a girls’ name in the title that isn’t about a girl. Proud Mary is a riverboat and John Fogerty’s exceptional musical talents do create the feeling of a giant paddle boat making it’s way down the Mississippi River. Though the CCR original is what I list, this song should probably get double billing for Ike and Tina Turner’s equally classic rendition as well.

Songs with a Girls' Name in the Title

Sorry for the delay in continuing this series of posts. Remember I said I was having some computer issues, still am to some degree, but it's kept continuing this series a challenge. But, for now, some of the bugs may have been worked out. So here's a refresher of the songs we've covered so far...

40. Come on Eileen – Dexy’s Midnight Runners

39. Jezebel - Chely Wright

38. Iris - Go0-Goo Dolls

37. Maggie May - Rod Stewart

36. Mandy - Barry Manilow

35. Walk Away Renee - Left Banke

34. Brandy (You're a Fine Girl) - Looking Glass

33. Oh Sherry - Steve Perry

32. A Boy Named Sue - Johnny Cash

31. Rhiannon - Fleetwood Mac

30. Wake Up Little Sussie - The Everly Brothers

29. Valerie - Steve Winwood

28. Runaround Sue - Dion

27. Elvira - The Oak Ridge Boys

26. Lucille - Little Richard

25. Barbara Ann - The Beach Boys

24. Lola - The Kinks

23. Veronica - Elvis Costello

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cartoon a Day: Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom

Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom
Directed by Ward Kimball and Charles A Nichols
Available on: Walt Disney Treasures - Disney Rarities

Today's short is one of my all-time favorite cartoons. I was in either kindergarten or first grade when I saw it for the first timein the library at Clifford Elementary School. "Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom" is an educational short about music, but it is also one of the Disney studio's most creative shorts. Others must've thought so too, since it won an Academy Award. And to top it all off, it's in beautiful widescreen.

The film takes place in a classroom full of birds led by an owl. He takes the class on a history of music, tracing it to four basic elements...the toot, the whistle, the plunk and the boom.

This short is one that really proves Disney wasn't all about cute little woodland creatures. The characters in this short have that great 50's geometric design. I love the character designs in this short and they have influenced the way I design my shadow puppets a great deal.

The film serves it's purpose, it is very educational, in fact it still used in classrooms today. The film is also very funny, though. The "plunk" sequence is my favorite from a comedic standpoint. They demonstrate several different types of string instruments in this sequence...from violins to hammer dulcimers and more...each one of them ends up breaking a string which hits it's player. It's a very funny sequence.

I'll just close by letting a bunch of this film's creative images speak for themselves. This is another one of my desert island cartoons.

Superman Graduates

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cartoon a Day: All A Bir-r-r-rd

All A Bir-r-r-rd
Directed by Friz Freleng (as I. Freleng)
Available on: Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol 2

In this Tweety and Sylvester cartoon the duo are aboard a train. Both are riding in a luggage compartment and, as usual, Sylvester is trying to make a snack of Tweety.

There are some great gags in this cartoon, more of Freleng's great sense of timing at work. Freleng makes great use of two sets of running gags in this short. The first involves Tweety pulling an emergency brake cord to stop Sylvester's attacks.

The second is a hilarious use of a bulldog who also happens to be on the train. He and Tweety manage to switch places with each other several times, so much so that you can predict that last gag, but the gag fits so well you would'nt have it any other way.

Cartoon a Day: The Hare-Brained Hypnotist

The Hare Brained-Hypnotist
Directed by Friz Freleng (As I. Freleng)
Available on: Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 2

"The Hare-Brained Hypnotist" is a Bugs Bunny / Elmer Fudd hunting picture, but one with a bit a of a twist. It begins with Elmer reading a book on hypnosis. He plans on trying to hypnotize the animals he is hunting.

As the short moves along, Bugs hypnotizes Elmer and convinces him that he's a rabbit. So for half of this short Elmer plays the Bugs Bunny part. Bugs doesn't know what to make of it and it's very funny watching him get frustrated with this.

Freleng was an expert when it comes to timing, and he may have been best suited for having a well known character suddenly take on the traits and mannerisms of another. This short is a great moment for Elmer, as he actually comes out on top.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

10 years of The Phantom Menace

This Tuesday marks the 10th anniversary of the release of "Star Wars Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace." It's hard to believe that it's been that long. I remember going on the opening day. My office pretty much shut down and we all went to an afternoon show together. It was such a thrill being in a packed theater and having every single person in the audience cheer when the words "Star Wars" appeared on the screen. The look of the title and the "a long time ago..." lead in were exactly the same as the three original films. I didn't fully believe I was seeing a new Star Wars film until the words "Episode I" scrolled up.

Many people were less than thrilled with this new creation from the mind of Lucas. I had a great time at the movies that day, and I still enjoy the film today. I admit it is probably the weakest of the Star Wars films, but the way the current generation has responded to this film and it's sequels over the last few years I think proves that it is not the films that changed, but the audience. Simply put, the children of the 70's grew up and many were unwilling to approach these films as they did when they were young.

So, in celebration of the film's 10th anniversary, here are a few of the things I love about The Phantom Menace:

- Giant Monsters

It must be the Godzilla fan in me, but I loved the giant undersea creatures that Qui Gon, Obi Wan, and Jar Jar encounter during their underwater bongo trip to Theed. Giant monsters are a Star Wars tradition, so it was fun to meet some of the aquatic variety.

- Watto

Watto, the junk dealer who owns Anakin and his mother, is a great character. I love his design...pot bellied, unshaven, broken teeth that won't fit behind his mouth...he looks like a guy who's spent too much time at the race track. He's also got one of the best character voices of the series. I wish we we could've seen more of him as the saga progressed.

- Pod Racing

The pod race sequence is one of the best action scenes in any of the Star Wars films. This is Lucas' imagination working on all cylinders. Just the idea of racers being dragged along by two giant engines at dizzying speeds is wonderfully insane by itself, but there's so much more to like about this race. The cast of alien drivers make this Episode 1's version of the cantina scene. The nods to the other Star Wars films are great...buzzing by some Jawas, Jabba the Hutt falling asleep at the race, and best of all, Tusken Raiders taking pot shots at the racers. Ingenious! But as good as the pod race is, it may not be the film's best moment, which leads us to...

- Duel of the Fates

It turns out that after all those years we really had no concept of what a real lightsaber battle was like. The moment when Darth Maul ignites his double-edged lightsaber had appeared in the first trailer for the film, so fans had played and replayed it hundred of times in the six months leading up to the film's release, yet there were still audible gasps in the audience when the moment came. The battle that followed was beyond what anyone had imagined. You've got to hand it to Lucas for not giving Darth Maul the same sort of sword fighting chit chat that Darth Vader was fond of in the original trilogy. It helped make this villain a creature of pure rage. I think my favorite moment of the duel is when, to open a door, Darth Maul points at an object on the floor, then points at a control panel to send the item hurling into it, thus opening the door. The music for this sequence also represents on of John Williams' finest moments in either of the trilogies.

So happy 10th anniversay Phantom Menace! Everyone grab your double-edged lightsaber and party like it's 1999, or at least watch the movie again.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Cartoon a Day: Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp

Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp
Directed by Ub Iwerks
Available on: Cartoons that Time Forgot - The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 1

"Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp," not to be confused with the famous Popeye two-realer "Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp," is another Ub Iwerks cartoon from his post-Disney days.

Iwerks tended to be an innovator and there is a lot to like here with the creative use of color. A lot of the character design is very interesting as well, from the genie to the scrawny villain to the Betty Boopish princess. So one of the weaknesses of this short is the pretty boring design of the main character. He's just not that interesting.

You've got to give Iwerks some credit though, this was an ambitious project for 1934 and it's obvious that a few elements may have even inspired the creators of Disney's feature length "Aladdin" decades later.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cartoon a Day: A Clean Shaven Man

A Clean Shaven Man
Directed by Dave Fleischer
Available on: Popeye the Sailor 1933-1938

Several of the Popeye shorts feature some very simple but memorable little songs. Such is the case for "A Clean Shaven Man." As soon as I started watching this cartoon I was singing the title song in my head from having watched the short many many times as a child.

In this one, Popeye and Bluto head to Wimpy's barbershop to get a shave so they can impress Olive. However, Wimpy is out, so the two decide to take turns shaving the other. Of course, Popeye lives up to his end of the bargain, but Bluto makes the one-eyed sailor look worse than when he started.

This short comes several years into the Popeye series, so there is a lot more detail in the character and background designs. Olive Oyle is even starting to show some degree of's not much, this is Olive Oyl after all, but it's definitely there.

The best moments come after Popeye has had his spinach. I love when he is beating up on Bluto in a classic fight cloud, all the while muttering along with the music of the film's soundtrack. The final gag is also great in which Olive ends up walking down the street on the arm of a long-bearded man. The man actually looks like he could be Mr. Geezil from the comic strips which Popeye is based on. A rare appearance from one of the the many other characters that appeared with Popeye in print.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cartoon a Day: Yankee Dood It

Yankee Dood It
Directed by Friz Freleng
Available on: Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 6

This is an odd Looney Tunes short that can be described with 4 words that aren't usually used to describe Looney Tunes..."It Just Ain't Funny."

Now, truth be told, this is really more of an educational short. It uses the story of the elves and shoemaker to teach about business. Seems the shoemaker needs to look to new technology and get past using elves. Elmer Fudd is cast as the head elf. Sylvester the cat is the only other classic character to appear.

There are some great designs that are classic 50's style animation. But, the complete lack of humor and some convoluted plot points (apparently elves turn into mice when the word "Jehosophat" is uttered) make for a disappointing film.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cartoon a Day: Motor Mania

Motor Mania
Directed by Jack Kinney
Available on: Walt Disney Treasures - The Complete Goofy

Goofy is an interesting character if you look at his history. In many of his later cartoons he doesn't really play himself. He's used to play a variety of different characters. In fact, in several cartoons, every character is based on his design. One of those cartoons is "Motor Mania," a cartoon that addresses the problem of road rage before it was ever fashionable to do so.

Goofy plays "Mr. Walker" who is a normal, peace-loving member of society when he's a pedestrian. However, get him behind the wheel of a car and he becomes the maniac driver "Mr. Wheeler." This cartoon has it's funny moments, but it's a bit jarring to see the lovable goof as a raging menace of the highway. It's also interesting to note that Goofy doesn't have ears in this cartoon, which in some ways helps separate him from the lovable character he usually plays.

The art is very crisp looking. You can definitely see the difference between the Disney style of the 50's and the Warner Brothers style in this cartoon. There's nothing wrong with the WB style, but this is what animation looks like when every "t" is crossed and every "i" is dotted.

H.R. Pufnstuf on iTunes

All fans of the crazy psychedelic puppetry of Sid & Marty Krofft can rejoice that their quintessential series, "H.R. Pufnstuf," is now on iTunes with every episode available for download. Now I'm a still a guy who feels the need to own an actual DVD, but for those of you who want your iPod to trip out, well here's your chance.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cartoon a Day: Tom and Jerry in the Hollywood Bowl

Tom and Jerry in the Hollywood Bowl

Available on: Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collection

We've talked before about how there are certain scenarios that most major cartoon characters seem to cover at some point in their career. Don't wake the sleeping neighbor is one of them. The bullfight is another popular one. And then, of course, there is the conducting an orchestra bit, which leads us to "Tom and Jerry in the Hollywood Bowl."

Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse have both conducted orchestras, so why not the cat and mouse? They are actually somewhat better suited for the job than some other characters. One of the keys to this type of cartoon is the timing of the gags to the music. Tom and Jerry cartoons depended on excellent timing in this way all the time. Since there was rarely much dialogue to deal with, a strong music track was essential.

It is a bit strange to see Tom and Jerry step out of their normal roles. I mean, Bugs or Mickey can pretty much step into any role, but you don't expect Tom to suddenly be the featured conductor at the Hollywood Bowl. Still, it works here and you actually end up sympathizing with Tom for once as Jerry is really the one causing the problems in this short.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Cartoon a Day: The Shooting of Dan McGoo

The Shooting of Dan McGoo
Directed by Tex Avery
Available on: Tex Avery's Droopy - The Complete Theatrical Collection.

If, God forbid, there were ever a great calamity and only one of Tex Avery's cartoons from his time at MGM were to survive, "The Shooting of Dan McGoo" may as well be it. Just about everything that defines Avery's style during this period is in this cartoon.

This is the second outing for the character Droopy, and it isn't a cartoon that was a part of the kid show rotation in my hometown. Make no mistake, this is not a kids cartoon. Why the very first gag of the film involves a pun on some mature language. What follows are scenes of drinking, gambling, gun play, and a scantily clad dancing girl...and it's all very funny too. Avery's three great MGM era characters all appear in this cartoon, Droopy, the Wolf, and the dancing girl often known as "Red Hot Ridding Hood," here referred to as "Lou."

The sight gags are hilarious in this short. I love the little signs that speak directly to the audience, like the one that declares "Noisy, isn't it" as the camera pans across the violent saloon.

Another great sight gag involves a strategically placed bartender standing in front of a painting of women reclining. That gag seems pretty risque at first but actually has a pretty innocent payoff later in the film.

Of course, the highlight of the short is the performance by Lou, and the extreme reactions of the wolf as he watches. The animation of the wolf is so over the top, it's impossible not to laugh. What's even more amazing is that Avery's crew managed to pretty much remake this scene with even more extreme reactions in shorts like "Little Rural Ridding Hood." The animation of Lou the dancing girl is incredible. Yes, it is very adult in nature, but you will be hard pressed to find more believable looking dancing in the annals of animation history.

"The Shooting of Dan McGoo" may not be for younger viewers, but it's one of Tex Avery's quintessential works.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Cartoon a Day: Stratos Fear

Stratos Fear
Directed by Ub Iwerks
Available on: Cartoons that Time Forgot: The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2

Ub Iwerks was Walt Disney's top animator and co-creator of Mickey Mouse. After several years with Disney, he ventured out on his own, but most of the films he made have pretty much faded into obscurity. One of the characters he created during this time was a portly kid who told unbelievable stories named Willie Whopper. Today's cartoon, "Stratos Fear," is a part of the Willie Whopper series.

In this adventure, Willie is visiting the dentist. He's given some gas which blows him up like a balloon and causes him to float off to space. While in space he encounters a wide variety of strange space creatures.

This cartoon reminded me a lot of Bob Clampett's classic short "Porky in Wackyland." Although, it should probably be the other way around, since this cartoon came five years earlier. This cartoon doesn't have the comic moments that "Wackyland" does, but the odd creatures give us a lot to enjoy. Made at a time when many cartoons were populated primarily by rubber limbed animals, this cartoon is quite surrealistic and combines many of the best qualities of Iwerks' more popular competitors at the Disney and Fleischer studios.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame with Denise Richards!!?!?

Two of my good friends have a teenage son who is a big sports fan. He's been known to come up to me and say things like, "Hey Todd, the Cubs suck this year." Even when that statement has been true I've just reminded him that there is nothing you can say or do that can hurt a Cubs fan. This, however, comes pretty close. Here is the former Mrs. Charlie Sheen, Denise Richards, singing "Take me out to the Ballgame" at Wrigley Field last Friday.

The best part of this video has to be the expressions on the faces of the fans. They just can't believe what they're hearing!

Sorry for the blogging Delay

Hey folks, sorry that there's been a bit of a lull in activity here at "Squonk." I've been dealing with some weird computer issues the last week or so which has made it tough for me to blog. Hopefully we'll be back to normal here now.