Thursday, November 30, 2017

Jim Nabors is Way Cool

This is the time of year where I list what I'm thankful for. Right now, I'm thankful that I'm alive, have a job, and a roof over my head. And buffalo wings, they're always good.

The news of the world lately can make someone feel pretty powerless. Every day, President Stupid says something stupid, and it pushes the thing he said the previous day out of the public consciousness. I feel like all I do is scream into an ether (which, technically, I am thanks to stuff like this and Twitter), and the people who should be listening either aren't, or don't care.

Just this morning I was thinking "You know what we haven't had in a while? A big celebrity death that takes everyone's minds off of the madness in the news."

Well surprise, surprise, surprise when I read that Jim Nabors passed away earlier today. 2017 is relentless.

Yep, TV's Gomer Pyle left us to join the Mayberry in the sky, leaving Ron Howard as the last heir to the Andy Griffith Show fortune. I'll be honest, like Monty Hall, I thought he died years ago, but thankfully I seemed to check IMDB every now and then and get reminded that he was still alive. I don't think he did all that much in the past few years, but really, he didn't need to.

When I first heard the news, like most things in my life, my mind immediately went to the Simpsons.

And then I remembered that the Simpsons went to this well quite a bit. Most notably when Homer read an entry in an old TV Guide about Gomer Pyle USMC.

Not to mention whenever they referenced his singing voice.

Plus this oddly specific apron that Marge wore in "I'm Spelling As Fast As I Can."

I'm a sucker for grammar jokes, especially when pointing out that weird "i before e" rule English has.

Gomer Pyle influenced a lot of pop culture, didn't he? Obviously, Private Pyle from Full Metal Jacket goes without saying.

He also inspired the Shaggy clone Tinker in Speed Buggy.

Plus Futurama used him as Fry's grandfather Enos.

To paraphrase someone else, 2016 was the year where all your favorite celebrities died, while 2017 was the year your favorite celebrities became dead to you. Fortunately it seems that he was one of those people that was a genuine class act, where nobody that met or worked with him ever had a bad thing to say about him. I wish I was one of those people, but that seems to be a running theme this year (Adam West aside. Who was awesome).

If the US Marine Corps had any kind of sense of humor, they would've put out a statement on the passing on beloved Private Gomer Pyle, but I guess that's not happening right now.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Best Cosplay I Ever Saw

It's Halloween everyone!

This year was kind of a bust. Barely any trick or treaters came to my house, not even some rowdy teens without costumes! What gives? I blame Tuesdays.

Anyway, in years past this was the time when I'd post all the great cosplayers I found at New York Comic Con that year. This year will be no different, but with one exception.

I found what is probably the greatest cosplay I have ever seen in person. I say "in person" because I've seen tons of great cosplayers...but not by me. It's always someone else that caught them, like Hulkbuster from NYCC a few years ago.

See? Amazing, and the picture is not by me. It was from this guy. I kept hearing about this one, but I never saw him. You'd think that a seven foot Hulkbuster would be hard to miss, but yeah.

I spent most of Saturday at the con this year searching for really good cosplayers, which is when all the good ones show up. And boy, did they. But before I bury the lede and just show you guys the main attraction, I'll just show off my favorites from the rest of the convention first. All of the following pictures are by me.

Like this guy with a carousel on his head full of Disney characters. I expected him to just wear that on Thursday and let his neck rest for the rest of the time but no, he had that on every single day I saw him.

And I had to get a closeup of the Three Caballeros. They're on the flying burrito, too! Such a great detail.

Here's a badass Alexendrite cosplayer I saw at the Steven Universe panel. I wish the lighting was better, though.

Jon Snow White. Mashups were in this year, and this was my favorite.

Another great mashup was this Sailor Mandalorian.

Any questions?? Yes. Several. He wasn't the only David S. Pumpkins I saw, but the only one with the skeleton buddies in tow.

This guy was VERY into not breaking whatever character he was supposed to be.

There weren't as many Deadpools this year, oddly. I think they all became Ricks from Rick & Morty.

Anyone can dress up as Jason Voorhees, but only this guy could dress up as Friday The 13th Part 2 Jason Voorhees.

I loved this Lex Luthor. I really love the effort some of these people put into their costumes.

Clippy was pretty popular, he was super fun.

And here's the other side of the sign. Love the originality.

Well, I certainly wasn't expecting them.

The Flash. I get it. Oh, and the front side left VERY little to the imagination. I'll spare you all the horror of looking at it.

I love seeing older cosplayers, and this couple was dressed as Secret Squirrel and Morocco Mole!

This year there were lots of people cosplaying as Yondu. No surprise since Michael Rooker was doing signings here. (I got to meet him, he was awesome)

There were also a few people dressed as Mary Poppins, and thanks to a certain movie that came out this summer, mashup cosplays of the two were inevitable. This was not the only Yondu Poppins I saw, either.


I have no idea where this guy was from, but I think he was friends with this guy:

They're either from some video game or were about to duel in a life size Rock'em Sock'em Robots fight.

Lots of Link & Zelda cosplayers walking around this year, but this one was fighting a Lynel from Breath of The Wild.

Speaking of deep cut video game cosplays, here's Mario Paint. I loved that game so much and I'm so angry that they never remade that for any of the newer consoles. Mario Maker is the closest we got.

And here's a creepy Mr. Game & Watch.

I thought this was an old-timey version of Goofy, but I found out that this is actually a character from something called Bendy and the Ink Machine.

I don't know, either.

Always good to see McThor. And he had Sif in tow!

This guy is actually supposed to be Spyro the Dragon. I saw him later with a similarly dapper Crash Bandicoot and Crash's...sister? I'm sorry, I haven't played those games.

Cousin Itt!

This was a line buddy of mine named Dominic. He was VERY Adamant about getting SWAT Kats back on the air. He was giving little statues of SWAT Kats characters to the actors who voiced them there (Jim Cummings, Tress MacNeille, Rob Paulsen, and Mark Hamill).

This gorgeous costume was Undine, or as I called it "Goddamn It You're Taking Up A Lot of The Floor on A Saturday People Need To Get Through Here."

Another angle:

She just...sat there for ages while people took pictures. It was pretty haunting. You're gonna have to enlarge the first pic to see it, but she was wearing contacts to make her eyes look pitch black.

And now the moment you've all been waiting for: The best cosplay I ever saw. These pictures were taken not too long after seeing the Undine cosplayer up above, I literally ran into the guy.

What's this, you say? Just a silver box? Look closer.


What is this, a convention center for ants?!

Another angle. This was far and away the most unique cosplay I've seen on my thirty years on this planet. There's dressing up as an inanimate object, even a building...but the actual convention center we're in? That takes a hell of a great imagination. And lots of tape.

I heard that this guy not only does this every year and that this is the first time I saw it, let alone knew about this guy, but he got turned away at the cosplay contest. The actual reason was that you needed to sign up for the contest like a month in advance and wouldn't take any walk-ins. But in my head, the Javits Center legally couldn't participate in any contests held inside itself.

That's what I'm going with. Keep being you, Javits Center Cosplayer. I think we can pack it up, cosplay is done. We have a winner. Seriously, after that I stopped actively looking for any more cosplayers the rest of the day after seeing this guy, because I knew nothing would top it.

One day I'll actually do some kind of cosplay. There's always next year.

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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Door Number Three

Today we found out that the great Monty Hall, the host of Let's Make A Deal, passed away at 96.

No, that's Monty Python.

No, that's Monty Burns, although we're getting closer.

There we go, THAT'S Monty Hall. Weird, I'm the only person writing this blog, I don't know why this didn't get it right the first time.

Anyway, you might have read this entry I wrote about a Let's Make A Deal episode I saw some time ago. If you didn't, you're more than welcome to catch up. I'll wait.

With all the ninety-plus year old celebrities that died recently, like June Foray, Jerry Lewis, and most recently Hugh Hefner, I wondered, dark as it was, who would be next. Monty Hall was the last person I expected it to be. I'm gonna be honest with you folks, I thought Monty Hall died over a decade ago. Seriously, I could've sworn I read an obit for him and everything. I'm pleasantly surprised that he remained among the living for as long as he did. Maybe it was some other game show host that died?

Monty Hall was always a guy you pictured when you thought "Game Show Host." Square face, a head of jet black hair that looked like it belonged on a Lego man, and lots and lots of plaid suits. A show like Let's Make A Deal needed a host that could sweet talk you into trading away thousands of dollars for a chance of something better behind a door, even when that something was a donkey pulling a sleigh or some weirdo on a giant rocking horse.

Monty Hall was the perfect man for the job. If Top Cat wasn't based on Phil Silvers, he would've been based on Monty. The show seriously wouldn't work without him, and pretty much doesn't when you account for all the reboots over the years. Seriously, TV execs think you could just let anyone loose in a room filled with people dressed in ridiculous costumes and play games with them and that would equal ratings gold. Nobody remembers those other versions, just Monty's.

We already have The Price is Right, and most of the pricing games they played on that show were really similar to Let's Make A Deal, right down to the final game. The Big Deal and The Showcase were pretty much the same, save for a giant wheel on one of the shows. But just imagine TPIR if Bob Barker shamed people when they made a wrong decision, and you'd have this show in a nutshell.

I'd say that game show hosts are a weird breed of people, but if they weren't, they wouldn't host game shows for a living. Monty Hall was one of the best, and I hope that wherever he is, Door Number Three leads to a better place. You will be missed, buddy.

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Simpsons Music!

With the news that longtime composer for The Simpsons Alf Clausen (along with his orchestra) had been fired from the show, I got to thinking about my favorite pieces of music from the show's run. The show's still on, but I know it's not gonna sound the same. Orchestras in TV shows, especially cartoons, are pretty rare these days. The Simpsons and anything Seth MacFarlane makes have been some of the last survivors of this. Seriously, regardless of who takes over for scoring the show, I keep fearing it's gonna be like when Looney Tunes replaced Carl Stalling and Milt Franklyn with Bill Lava.

Milt Franklyn's part starts at roughly 2:53 while Bill Lava's starts at 3:16, and man is there a world of difference between the three of them.

But I'm getting besides myself. Lets listen to some music. We need to begin where the show does: with the theme song.

Composed by Danny Elfman and far and away the most recognizable piece of music from the show. At the time, an intro like this for a TV show was unheard of. It's about a family that runs home to watch TV! TV theme songs usually introduced characters with matte paintings or just having them pose for the camera, but this minute and a half segment tells you all you need to know about the family: Homer works at a nuclear power plant, and is pretty bad at his job. Bart is a troublemaker. Lisa is into music, but is mischievous in her own way. And Marge is the mom that goes grocery shopping with the baby. To this day, the part that sticks with me is that toy steering wheel Maggie "drives" the car with. After years upon years of watching this, I just now noticed that the toy wheel was attached to Maggie's seat and not the dashboard. It just seems so obvious in retrospect, and that's the beauty of this show. I can watch every episode for the last 25 odd years and catch something new every time.

The intro seen above is actually the second version. The version that only played during the first season was roughly the same, but with a few differences. We see more of Lisa on her bike, Bart steals a bus stop sign that weirdly drawn people run after, and slightly different sound effects that makes the whole thing seem a little off. Like the rest of the show at the time, the animation is much cruder but also more fluid, giving it some much needed charm.

And halfway through the twentieth season, the show converted to HD and thus a new intro came with it.

Like the other two, the animation here reflects the rest of the show at the time: it's slick and the colors are more vibrant, but sadly stiffer. Other Simpsons sites have talked about this more in length, so I'll just leave it here and move on. I do appreciate all the easter eggs (and there are loads of them), but the feel of the show seems different. It's still a family that runs home to watch themselves on TV, but it's now a show that's aware that it's a show that's been on a long time, and seems more like going through the motions than anything else. There's no jokes to them, it's all just there for the sake of being there.

There have been other variants of the intro, too, like in Cape Feare when the family became the Thompsons, a version that was set after the movie and Springfield was being rebuilt, and even a live-action version.

But the best variants are definitely the ones made for the Treehouse of Horror episodes.

So spooky, I'll be honest when I say that I was slightly scared of these intros as a kid. I guess at such a young age, I took Marge's threats of showing "3000 Miles to Oregon" to heart. And as luck would have it, I found a playlist of every Halloween intro and embedded it above.

And now on to one of my favorite pieces of music within the show itself. And you can't mention music on the Simpsons without my personal favorite: the Land of Chocolate music.

I'm not sure if this was Alf Clausen's doing or a piece of stock music, but whoever was responsible for this is worthy of sitting in the pantheon of the greats like Mozart, Beethoven, and John Williams. It's so floaty and whimsical, you can't help but dance along like Homer is. It's also one of the best cutaway gags in the show, years before Family Guy ran this trope into the ground.

The music is similar to my second favorite, the music that plays when Burns and Smithers run the nuclear plant themselves in Last Exit to Springfield.

Like the Land of Chocolate music, it's very whimsical, but with a touch of Raymond Scott's Powerhouse or something of that ilk. It definitely feels more like a trip down an assembly line rather than a run through a fantasy land, but the point comes across just well. And I've mentioned here before that this sequence contains my favorite piece of the animation in the series.

I don't know who is responsible for this, but I thank them. I have no idea why I love it so much, but I do.

And speaking of Last Exit to Springfield, I love Lisa's protest song.

When Homer and the rest join in, you can't help but get tears in your eye, and then the tears turn into laughter when Lenny requests Classical Gas. The show used to be really great at pulling your heartstring every which way possible.

Speaking of which, I need to bring up the genius that is the Streetcar musical.

As the story goes, the writers set out to make an episode where Marge is cast as the lead role in play of A Streetcar Named Desire. One problem: due to legal reasons, they could only use one line from the book. So what did they do? They made it into a musical and wrote their own lyrics, dammit! It's pure genius. Above is the opening song, where everyone sings about how crummy New Orleans is (a spoof of the opening to Sweeney Todd). The city of New Orleans was so peeved at this song that the show had to apologize for it the following week.

And as we all know, it was the worst thing to ever happen to New Orleans. And on the topic of unlikely genius musicals, gotta give it up for Stop The Planet of The Apes, I Want to Get Off!

On paper, this should not work. A parody of Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus," about Planet of The Apes, and filled with nothing but dumb Borscht Belt jokes. But it manages to work! It's the perfect storm of greatness: great music, cheesy jokes, Phil Hartman singing, and a breakdancing monkey man.

And we can't talk about amazing spoofs without See My Vest.

Thanks to what's known as The Weird Al Effect, I know the lyrics to this way better than Be Our Guest by a mile. Honestly, I don't remember any of the original lyrics besides the grey stuff, that's how much this song has seeped into my head.

Also, does anyone else thinks Burns sounds like Ren from Ren & Stimpy during this song? Just me? Okay.

Another amazing song was "We Do," the Stonecutters song.

This is a good song that becomes incredible thanks to the backing orchestra. Again, lots of whimsy behind a song admitting that it's behind every major conspiracy, like making Steve Guttenberg as star and robbing cave fish of their sight.

I'm going to go back to scores because I almost forgot about Sideshow Bob's theme.

It's a lawyer-friendly version of the theme from Cape Fear, but it's become so iconic to the character that it plays in all of his appearances since season five's Cape Feare. Yeah, some of the old titles weren't really creative, but that was from an era when no one but the crew knew what the episodes were called.

Something this show pulls off very well is how they handle the elementary school band.

When you usually hear kids playing music in anything, it's either really crummy because they're just learning how to play (or, they're, you know, really crummy), or unnaturally good. Like, you know there's professional artists recording all the music, because playing well is all they know. This orchestra handles the kids they way they actually play: doing the best they can, but not good at all. There's really no good video footage I can find right now of just the band playing, but you can hear it in the theme song. It's why Lisa gets kicked out of class, she's too good for them. It's stifling her, and she wants to play the music SHE wants to play.

And because it's getting late and I'm tired, I'm gonna end it with the Monorail Song.

It's another parody, this time of "Ya Got Trouble" from The Music Man, and it completely nails the tone of the absurdity of the situation. Like in the original song, a charismatic man in a straw hat arrives in town and creates a problem that can only be solved by listening to him sing. Only according to Lyle Lanley, Springfield's trouble is not in its crumbling Main Street, but that it lacks a monorail. This is a man who could've sold the town anything, but for some strange reason he went with a monorail.

And again, that's something that makes the Simpsons so incredible. It takes something familiar, like a plot of an old musical, create a stranger premise from it, and then from that the entire show turns into a disaster movie ripped out of the seventies.

I know that I've barely scratched the surface on this, and I'd like to hear your comments on your favorite Simpsons music. Thanks for reading.

All screenshots and gifs courtesy of Frinkiac. The gifs look weird, and I apologize for that. If anyone can fix it, let me know.

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Monday, July 31, 2017

June in July

Last week, a day I did not want to come ended up coming: June Foray, known as the First Lady of Voice Acting, passed away at 99.

Over a career spanning from roughly the late 1940s until 2014, she voiced many many characters in cartoons, movies, and even an episode or two of the Twilight Zone.

Yes, the infamous Talky Tina was voiced by her, as well as the doll it was based on, Chatty Cathy.

Yeah, I just watched that commercial for the first time and Rod Serling was right to take that damn thing down a peg or two. It's amazing that June was able to voice both dolls, it's seriously the equivalent of...hmm. If My Buddy talked and was voiced by the guy who voiced Chucky? That seems to be the closest thing to that.

It just goes to show just how talented June Foray was, and how limited the acting pool was to women back in the old days. In the Golden Age of Cartoons, if you heard the voice of a woman or a little girl, or even boys, nine times out of ten you were hearing June Foray.

Let's go through some of my favorite roles that she's done.

I'm gonna start with what's probably her most famous roles: Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Natasha Fatale from Rocky & Bullwinkle.

I always liked that while Bullwinkle was the most popular character, Rocky always got top billing. I'm actually sad that kids these days don't have much exposure to this brilliant cartoon. Seems like it's down to Youtube and DVDs, just like everything else.

At the dawn of TV, budgets for cartoons were abysmal, but Jay Ward and his crew put all of their talents into the writing and acting, and it definitely showed.

Essentially, Rocky & Bullwinkle go on silly adventures, while Boris and Natasha (spies from a country that was an obvious stand-in for Soviet Russia) try to antagonize them with paper-thin disguises that the heroes always fell for. Three seasons of serialized stories based on dumb premises (a pie recipe was actually a recipe for jet fuel and spies want to steal it, for one) filled with even dumber puns (Wossamatta U, The Ruby Yacht of Omar Kayhem, etc), but they made it work!

Natasha's voice was so iconic, I'm pretty sure that she's what anyone thinks of when they imagine Russian women to sound like. Sultry, husky, and calling everyone "dahlink."

If you ever heard that kind of voice, it was most likely June's. Hell, she used it several times in her career, most notably Magica DeSpell from DuckTales.

Hard to believe that she's actually supposed to be Italian. I seriously hope the creators of the new DuckTales show remembers that.

Also of note that she reprised the role in the DuckTales Remastered video game a few years back with Alan Young, the voice of Scrooge.

They were in their nineties when they recorded their parts, but you know they still brought the goods.

Besides Natasha I pretty much associate that voice with Millicent the rabbit from Rabbit Romeo.

Man, you can just hear that voice just looking at that picture. Like I said above, sultry, husky and Russian. She's definitely one of my favorite obscure cartoon characters. I think she only appeared in this one short?

It was another one of those "character tries to escape an unwanted suitor" cartoons, but this was one of those rare instances where it happened to Bugs Bunny. It's been a while since I've seen it, but it was made during that period of time when this type of woman was the butt of a joke. But those times were dumb, I think she's wonderful, if a little too forward. 

If I remember right, the episode ends with Bugs, ever the gentleman, siccing her on another target. I wanna say Elmer Fudd dressed as a rabbit?

And I can't talk about June Foray and Looney Tunes without talking about Witch Hazel.

Everything about this character is fantastic. Her design, her animation, her personality her cackle. I love the bobby pins that hang around whenever she darts off the screen. This is yet another character that went after Bugs pretty frequently, and one cartoon had her get turned into a rabbit and Bugs decided "eh, why not? Aren't they all witches inside?" Like I said, different times.

Here's a great video of her in action:

And a video of one of my favorite Looney Tunes moments, her laugh duel with Bugs.:

I'm sure I'm not the only one who got into trouble trying to imitate this, especially Bugs' poses. It would explain a lot about my childhood, really.

The innocent-looking grandmother that's secretly evil was an archetype June Foray did so well, and she only got better at it the older she got. Like her turns on Garfield & Friends and The Garfield Show.

A generic witch from Garfield & Friends that wanted to turn Odie into a gerbil.

And Miss Cauldron from The Garfield Show, for which she won her first Emmy. Seriously, it took her that long to win one because everyone assumed she already had one. Writer Mark Evanier realized that she had never been submitted for one, so he did submitted her and she won. So, that award was sort of more for her entire body of work than for The Garfield Show, but it wasn't any less earned.

I could go on about how cheap hand drawn animation comes off a thousand times better than cheap CGI animation, but that's another entry for another time.

One of her longest-known roles was as Granny from Looney Tunes and pretty much any sequel series, like The Looney Tunes Show, and The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries.

But there was one episode of Tiny Toons that she was in that really stood out for me. It was a short called "One Minute Til Three" from "The Best O'Plucky Duck Day." It's not on Youtube, but you can watch it here (but don't tell anyone I showed you this).

Good old weird Kennedy Animation.

The short was fairly simple: It's a minute until school ends for the weekend and Plucky just wants to go home, but class will just. not. end. Granny is the teacher here and she's just so unexpectedly sadistic it just took me by surprise. Kindly old Granny is the one screaming in everyone's faces, giving them insanely hard pop quizzes or else face writing a term paper hundreds of pages long over the weekend. This might've been the one thing that instilled my fear of "term papers" once I got older in school. Seriously, she assigns Hampton a 9,000 page term paper! Could teachers do that?! I was almost relieved that high school and college ALMOST didn't do this. Almost.

I can relate to Plucky, praying to every God imaginable that he isn't called on before the bell rings. I won't spoil the ending, but it's a very good, if not underrated cartoon.

During the later years of her career, she showed up in cartoons pretty much for the sake of having her on, because she's been around for so long and such a legend. Essentially, let's pay tribute to her before she dies.

Like on The Simpsons

The Powerpuff Girls

The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack

And even on Rugrats as both a Rocky doppelganger named Blocky

And a woman that's definitely supposed to be Natasha. The Bullwinkle and Boris stand-ins were sadly voiceless.

And finally, I can't leave out Cindy Lou Who from How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

Seriously, I didn't know it was her until a few years ago and now I can't unhear it. It's so good to know that to this day, her voice will be heard in homes long after all of us will be gone.

You will be missed, June Foray.