Wednesday, July 17, 2019

"Defunct TV: Jim Henson"

While I love the Defunctland channel anyway, they've completely outdone themselves with this fantastic six-part tribute to Jim Henson.  A wonderfully edited tribute to a wonderful man, it covers everything from "Sam and Friends" to "The Muppets at Walt Disney World".




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Art of the week:

5.25.19 - Impressionistic Geese

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The New Coke Experience

Today I'm going to take you on a journey.  A journey involving music and advertising, brand loyalty, nightmares of late-stage capitalism, and, most of all, high-fructose corn syrup.  Lots of it.

Yes, friends, it is time to talk about New Coke!  Before I do, enjoy this traditional song of my people ("my people" being "people who were preteen girls in the '90's").  I have had it in my head all week and now you will too: 



I... might have to talk about this lesser-known Coke fiasco as well, so hold that thought.  In the meantime, have a somewhat more immediately relevant song from a Maurice Starr-involved group from Boston:



In one of the weirder cross-promotions in recent memory, to celebrate the upcoming third season of "Stranger Things", Coke has brought back the notorious 1985 New Coke recipe for a limited run.  Normally, if you want to try New Coke here in the future, you'll either have to order the stuff from their website or go to an event.  But recently, Dinosaur Dracula ran a contest to win one of the cans of New Coke.  I entered on a whim because hey, why not me?


And I won!  As I held the can in my hand, a can that had already been on a heck of an adventure, I could not help but feel a wondrous sense of destiny.  First, enjoy this documentary about the New Coke fiasco:



That was a Lot.  On the one hand, I couldn't help but wonder if this is where we, as a culture, learned that big corporations will bend to our will if we scream at them loud enough.  Which, let's be clear, is a terrible terrible thing.

Except in this one case.

See, imagine if, when Disney Presents Real People "Aladdin" was released last week, somehow all our copies of the animated "Aladdin" vanished.  Unbelievable, and that's essentially what Coke did.  The change lasted a couple months and was such a spectacular debacle that to this day, Coke cans must assure us that they have the "Original Taste".  Behold:


This of course gave me a chance to taste-test, uh, Not-New Coke.  Which brings me to the thing with me and New Coke.  I have read about it.  I have heard about it.  It has been a go-to “Hey, remember that weird thing that happened in the 80’s” reference nearly my entire life.

And it is one of the very rare generation-defining pop culture events that I completely missed out on.  To be fair, I was seven at the time.  New Coke wouldn't have registered to me because, well, everything was new to me.  I might have even drank it back then, I wouldn't know.  In any case, now was my chance as a (mostly) fully-aware adult person to taste New Coke.

Two things before I give my verdict.  First, and most important, if you were about to scream at me for cracking open a can of soda and drinking it instead of leaving it in a display case or preserving it in amber or something because it is a ~*~Limited Edition~*~ or whatever, please don't.  On the one hand, full soda cans don't preserve well as evidenced by my friend whose shelf was obliterated in an incident involving OK Soda.  Also, I (barely) survived Beanie Babies and the very idea of ~*~Limited Edition~*~ anything is, as the kids say, Maximum Cringe.

Second and more important, fellow long-time fans of Matt's writing will probably have already realized something amusing.  And it's that he would have had to send this dear little can of Coke deep in the heart of Pepsi territory:


(Sadly, the old X-Entertainment Bar Harbor adventure seems to be lost to the mists of time.  I didn't have any Pepsi to compare anyway.  Nor Moxie or Captain Eli for that matter.)

So, after all this, how did it taste?!?


Um, well, hmm...

It's... okay.  Not great, certainly not changing a hundred-year-old recipe for, but not the malted battery acid I had been left to expect all these years.  For the very curious, good luck in acquiring a can.  For the mildly curious, it's not worth it.

Now about the Coke-involving fiasco I do remember:



How cool would it be to pop open a can of soda and have money pop out instead?  Well, turns out this was a good idea in theory, because many of these Magic Cans malfunctioned.  You wouldn't know you had a winning can until you'd drank your Coke.  Which would be fine... if Coke had not decided, for reasons unknown, that foul-smelling chlorinated water was the right thing to fill these Magic Cans with.  And so the Magic Summer lasted about a month.  Would I have known about this, or even cared, if New Kids on the Block weren't involved?  Probably not.

Anyway, I think I'm going to drink some water.

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Art!  A little landscape.  Or Lake-scape.

5.25.19 - A Little Landscape

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The History of Speculative Zoology

Here's a very nice three-part series by Ben G. Thomas on the world of speculative zoology.  It's a fine introduction to a topic dear to my heart, and goes over most of the major works.  Enjoy:







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Art!

I can't very well let May end without some Mer-May art, now can I?

5.3.19 - Reverse Mermaid!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

"I've been singing you songs all day! I'm not a bloody jukebox!?!" - Thoughts on "Mary Poppins Returns"

By all means, I shouldn't like "Mary Poppins Returns."

I was really dreading this one.  The whole idea of a decades after the fact "Mary Poppins" sequel left a sour feeling in my gut.  This was intensified by the fact that we got "Saving Mr. Banks" a few years ago, and in hindsight, doesn't it feel like the Disney studio was testing the waters for interest in more Mary Poppins?  A lot more Mary Poppins.  Not as much more Mary Poppins as more Star Wars but still, more Mary Poppins.

(Side note that "Saving Mr. Banks" is also, just as a reminder, an almost completely fictionalized and, so help me God, masturbatory depiction of historical events.  Where it turns out the Disney Studios version of P.L. Travers' stories is just the best and wasn't Walt Disney right all along and Travers was wrong and it's very good and right that Disney ignored all her criticisms and did his own thing despite her reservations, and by golly Travers even ended up loving the movie -she loved, loved, LOVED it!  This is true because the Disney studios say so in their movie about the making of "Mary Poppins" and that's now the version of events everyone is going to assume is true and there's nothing you can do about it!  I am not for even half of a second going to pretend that "Saving Mr. Banks" isn't gross.)

So anyway here we are with "Mary Poppins Returns".  And it's... good!  Look it was never going to be able to hold a candle (or gas lamp) to the original, but it is, all things considered, pretty good.  I'll never understand why Rob Marshall is The Musical Guy at Disney (I mean I know why, it's cause of that one weird year "Chicago" swept the Oscars, but I'll never understand why), and I cannot fathom why you'd hire Lin-Manuel Miranda and not have him write a single song (and the songs are fine, mind, they got me laughing and crying and humming along and everything), but it's all good.

For sure the reason all of this works is Emily Blunt.  The key is that her version of Mary Poppins is not different from Julie Andrews'; it's different from how everyone remembers Julie Andrews.  Even in the original film, Mary Poppins was a bit of a trickster, gently sarcastic, mischievous, magical, and terribly mysterious.  Chaotic Good, if you will.  "I never explain anything," she says.  Blunt's Poppins has a bit more of an edge though, and I can't help but wonder if it's because the adult Banks children don't seem to remember any of their wondrous whimsical adventures.  (Which is a plot point that sticks in my craw.  I don't think a tea party on the ceiling or a day out in an animated painting is something you just forget about.)

So how about the traditionally animated sequence then?  It's absolutely wonderful!  It's got a whole theater full of excellent character designs, a couple terrific songs, and it's over way, way too soon.  It left me yearning for more.  Man, some day some American studio's going to be brave enough to do a traditionally animated feature, I can only hope.

For more posts in this ongoing series, go here, or click the Chronological Disney Animated Canon tag below.

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Art!

4.29.19 - Bird Studies

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

"My God... it's full of *ads*!" - Thoughts on "Ralph Breaks the Internet"

I finally watched "Ralph Breaks the Internet", and thanks to my obligation from the early, early days of this blog to review every Disney Animated Canon feature film, I must now review it.  Thing is, I've got a lot of conflicting thoughts here, so I guess I'm going to just transcribe my internal dialogue, kind of like I did with "The Muppets" all those years ago.  Strap in...

First Thoughts: "It's good!  'Ralph Breaks the Internet' is very good!  It's as funny and heartwarming as the first film and it does everything a good sequel should do.  It brings back the characters we love, sets them off on an exciting new adventure with fun new characters, and has them grow and change and learn from their new experiences.  This is a damn good movie."

Second Thoughts: "I know right?  We know fellow Disney nerds who were wailing about the end of the world (or at least the end of this recent streak of good Disney Animated Canon films) when this movie first came out, so it's really nice to finally see it.  Goodness, this is that not-quite-as-rare-as-everybody-thinks sequel that's as good as the first movie.  Heck, we might even like it a little bit better than the first movie!

"... ... ...But..."

FT: "I'll let you get to that 'But' in a minute.  We need to talk about sequels, and Disney sequels specifically.  Even though we live in a world of franchises, there seems to be a particular feeling of dread associated with 'Ralph 2' and 'Mary Poppins Returns' and 'Frozen 2'."

ST: "We're all still traumatized by the DTV Disney sequel era."

FT: "Right, right."

ST: "A lot of that dread seems to be building off all the damn Live-Action-For-An-Extremely-Strange-Definition-Of-Live-Action Remakes.  Which, by the way, we will not be considering part of the Disney Animated Canon.  Direct theatrical sequels to films we've already reviewed here are fine, but remakes?  Ugh, no.  Anyway, this can be a nice segway into my 'But...'"

FT: "Yes, go ahead."

ST: "But on the other hand, this very funny and heartwarming movie is also very definitely what Disney has been referring to as a Brand Deposit.  So are all the sequels and remakes and whatnot.  Hell, 'Ralph 2' is particularly blatant about it: There is a whole sequence set inside the official Disney website and so help me if the opening to that sequence, taking in a vista of everything Disney owned the rights to circa last Thanksgiving, doesn't feel like 'Look upon how much pop culture we control, ye mighty, and despair!'"

FT: "I mean, that's true.  But didn't the first 'Ralph' have a lot of (ahem) Brands involved as well?  All those officially licensed video game characters hanging out?  And anyway, without that visit to the Disney website, we wouldn't have the amazing Princess hangout scene, which we loved!"

ST: "It is a great scene, but consider this dismaying observation: Disney's not only all about Brand Deposits but about Brand Integrity; the fear is that if they don't take all their property super seriously, nobody will.  That means no more 'Star Wars' characters shaking their butts to pop songs and a 'What if all the Disney Princesses had a slumber party' scene that feels like a really heckin' neutered version of a killer idea.  And it cost us a scene where Vanillope would've been all, 'Ah, shut up, Emo kid' to Kylo Ren and tell me we wouldn't do anything within reason to see that."

FT: "Oh damn.  But we still really like this movie, even with all this... this stuff that's making us slightly uneasy."

ST: "Yes, yes we do.  Still, uneasy is a good word for it.  Heck, we have 'Mary Poppins: 2 Practical, 2 Perfect' up next and, honestly, the fact that it seems to have had NO pop culture impact at all, good or bad, is worrying.  I don't think we're going to like it as much as 'Ralph 2'."

FT: "Probably not, but if it sucks, we'll have fun ranting about it."

ST: "Same format as this?"

FT: "God, no."

For more posts in this ongoing series, go here, or click the Chronological Disney Animated Canon tag below.

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Art of the Day!


I saw a trailer for another movie about video game characters getting into various shenanigans and made this regretful thing:

4.30.19 - "Even My Mama Thinks That My Mind Is Gone..."

Tuesday, March 19, 2019