Saturday morning cartoons: Paddington / The Adventures of Paddington

(image courtesy BBC)

 

Michael Bond’s Paddington is a delight any way you come to meet him.

Whether it’s through the enormously charming books, the first of which, A Bear Called Paddington, was published in 1958 following the author’s purchase of a single teddy bear sitting on a shelf in a store near Paddington Station on Christmas Eve 1956, or through the modern movies which have given new life to everyone’s favourite bear from deepest, “darkest Peru”, Paddington has made his mark on the hearts and minds of many children in his near-60 years in the pop culture firmament.

While I first him through the books, being the inveterate bookworm that I am, Paddington truly entrenched him in my life through the animated series that debuted on the BBC in 1976.

Scripted by Michael Bond himself, the short 5 minute episodes were a mix of puppetry and paper cut-outs against a three-dimensional background which actually work really well.

From the first episode, where the Brown family meet Paddington at the station from which he took his name right through to the final of three specials in 1987 (Paddington’s Birthday Bonanza), the show effortlessly conveyed the bumbling, sweet innocence of this remarkably well-intentioned bear.

Much like the modern movies, the series absolutely captured the very essence of Bond’s much-loved creation, filling each perfectly-contained episode with the wit, whimsy and feel-good charm of the books.

But the animated series, which is variously known as Paddington or The Adventures of Paddington, and was broadcast in Australia in the 1980s, went beyond that, bringing the characters and the setting to life in the most playful and visually-amusing of ways.

 

(image courtesy BBC)

 

Take one of the first episodes when Paddington goes to buy some new pajamas.

Surely not much can happen there, even to an gleefully accident-prone bear such as Paddington? Ah, but you might be surprised.

For wandering off in search of a changeroom and carrying luridly-colourful PJs that appealed to the small bear but had been hitehrto shunned by other shoppers, Paddington ends up going to sleep in what turns out to be one of the shop windows.

He awakes to a huge crowd outside the windows, and profuse thanks from management for reviving sales in what had been a moribund sales week.

Or take Paddington’s first visit to the London Underground to catch a train where he ends up on a perpetual loop on the escalators, attracting the ire of a beleagured ticket inspector who says that people can’t treat the escalators like a toy.

When one of the Browns point out that Paddington is not a person but a bear, the inspector is stumped and everything ends amicably.

Both episodes, and pretty much every other one of the 56 episodes that made up the series produced between 1976 (series 1) and 1979 (series 2) – with three TV specials following in 1983 (Paddington Goes to the Movies), 1984 (Paddington Goes to School) and 1987 – conveyed the same mix of good intentions, chaotic fun and sweetnatured outcome where lessons were learnt, Paddington comes out smelling likes roses and the world is a kinder, lovelier place.

 

(image courtesy BBC)

 

It’s essentially Paddington in any form really but the animated series brought it so delightfully well to life that it become it’s own sweet but all-too-short world.

Even as a teenager I was beguiled by the way the show looked, entranced by the decision to mix animation styles, giving the show its own quite distinctive look.

Paddington already inhabited his own gorgeous little world anyway but The Adventures of Paddington took it from my imagination, which had already done some fun things with it, onto a far broader canvas, in the process taking Paddington to more and more people in these nugget-sized stories that made you feel good about the world at large.

After all, while Paddington was an innocent abroad and could easily have been taken advantage of and abused of his trust in people, he always won out, emerging on top, with the people around him changed rather than the other way around.

That’s not to say that Paddington didn’t develop and grow because he mostly did but it was good and beneficial ways, his experiences even more wonderfully transforming the lives of those around him.

And there was just something about the way the series looked, and Michael’s Hordern’s voices (he voiced every single character), that amplified that effect, allowing someone like me, teased and bullied day in and day out, and at the mercy of a fairly nasty day-to-day world, to feel like maybe I too could emerge on top.

Honestly at the time, it didn’t look that way but as I left high school and went to university in 1984, and took Paddington with me in my heart (and maybe in a book or two), I discovered that fanciful though it might have felt, that perhaps Paddington’s guileless approach to life could work in real life too.

Whether that ultimately proved to be true or not, the fact of the matter is that The Adventures of Paddington was, and continues to be a supreme delight, one of the many beautiful ways to meet and get to know this most remarkable of bears.

 

On 3rd day of Christmas … I watched “Scary Christmas” (Be Cool Scooby Doo)

(image courtesy Warner Bros)

 

Be Cool, Scooby-Doo is one those rare franchise-reimagined success stories.

Reinventing the characters, both visually and in their approach, while still gleefully honouring one of Hanna-Barbera’s breakout shows that has been around since 1969, the producers have given the venerable cartoon series a whole new lease of life.

All of their brilliantly-successful tinkering comes home to roost – literally in this case; the villain du jour is a pterodactyl with flying red eyes – in “Scary Christmas” where the gang arrives in Rockwellville, a town obsessed with Christmas.

Every single centimetre of the town’s exterior and interior surfaces is covered with garlands, lights, giant blow up Santas and neon signs wishing one and all “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays”.

You want Christmas on hyper-steroids? Rockwellville is the place to be, its giant Christmas tree, which sits in the town square, adorned with presents for all the townsfolk (and even the kids at the Big Sad Eyes Orphanage), and peace, love and goodwill reigning on every snow-covered, tinsel-strewn street.

But of course this is Be Cool, Scooby-Doo and so you know, just like if you have Jessica Fletcher in town, that this festive idyll can’t last and so it is that just as everyone is getting ready to fire up the giant lit star on top of the tree, the pterodactyl swoops in, handing Fred, Daphne, Velma, and Shaggy and Scooby when they’re not training for the peak eating season that is Christmas, a giant-sized flying mystery to solve.

So far, so Scooby right?

This is where Be Cool, Scooby-Doo takes the lo-fi absurdity and hilarity of the franchise’s previous incarnations, and ramps them up to a delightfully wacky degree.

Fred, in contrast to his previous iterations as more of a supporting character to Velma, Scooby and Shaggy, takes the lead on this one, determined to go all out for Christmas and find a yuletide-y mystery to solve.

He keeps having these gloriously overblown Christmas epiphanies, helped along in their dramatic impact by a town council worker who is always on hand to light the street lamps just so and play pitch-perfect music. (The one time he isn’t there Fred improvises with a neon Christmas tree that glows right on cue.)

 

 

Velma, of course, is having none of Fred’s festive obsessions.

She sees a pterodactyl flying through the air, seemingly determined on stealing the Mystery Machine, the town’s Christmas tree and all the presents, and anything else it can get its gigantic claws onto and she is going to find out what’s behind it.

Only Fred somehow keeps dragging them back to the orphanage where he is sure a poignant, emotionally-resonant mystery awaits, and where, narrative coincidences be damned, an archeologist is trying to unearth … wait for it! … pterodactyl eggs!

A whole nest of them in fact; curiouser and Jurassically curiouser.

Fred dismisses any and all links to their flying nemesis since there is not one orphan anywhere near the eggs or the pterodactyl but Velma persist convinced it all means something.

And of course it does, but the mystery keeps defeating their ability to solve it, not helped by Daphne, who is way goofier and airheady than her previous iterations, and absolutely determined that her birthday, which falls on Christmas Day, will not be overshadowed by the biggest holiday like it has been every other year of her life.

So as Rockwellville roasts its chestnuts and sugar plum fairies occupy everyone else’s thoughts, Daphne is going all out to convince Scooby to dress as a clown, to blow out the candles on her birthday cake and to decorate the van with balloons and streamers and not tinsel, trees and baubles.

It’s inspired, comically ill-timed lunacy and it adds a whole other level of crazy to proceedings which, let’s face it, are not exactly following any well-established norms, festive or otherwise, up to this point.

 

 

“Scary Christmas” sticks to the standard Scooby-Doo script in so far as it has a bucolic scene rendered nightmarishly awful by a hideous mystery which we all know the gang will solve, and yes once again, they duly do. (How could you doubt them? For shame! No candy canes for you!)

What gives it a whole fabulously nutty edge, indeed the entire series, is that amps the wacky sensibilities that have always percolated through the franchise, and to be fair, Christmas celebrations itself, and goes to light-draped, garland, festooned town with them.

The sight gags are a constant joy – Scooby and Shaggy powering the van along with a treadmill while wearing Santa hats is hilarious as are the appearances of the orphans and Fred’s overly stage-managed epiphanies – the jokes are near-endless and the sense of Christmas-ness somehow manages to shine through too.

If you like Scooby-Doo, and of course you do, and like things pushed a little or a lot off-centre in your festive animated TV viewing, then “Scary Christmas” is a joy, a madcap romp through mystery, mayhem and all kinds of festive silliness, that manages to both deliver and subvert a heartwarming tale, damn near making your Christmas in the process.

 

Fun festive animation: Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ ever closer to Santa

(image (c) Rollin’ Wild)

 

It’s a question worth pondering, perhaps over a glass of eggnog or while chowing down on some chestnuts, fresh from roasting on an open fire:

“If all animals became round overnight, would their daily life still run that smoothly?”

And the answer is … not so well and damn it would be hilarious to watch.

So funny in fact that what started out as four clips created in 2012 at the Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg film school in Germany by Kyra Buschor and Constantin Paeplow have grown into all kinds of laugh out loud clips, known as Rollin’ Wild that include these quite festive ones below.

Clips in which Santa’s spherical reindeers get into all kinds of guffawing trouble trying to stay on the roof or as angelic sheep is less than impressed with his circular role in a nativity play.

The good news is you can watch these mirth-full clips all year around at Rollin’ Wild‘s YouTube channel where animals find that being round is thigh-slappingly funny.

Well we do, ho ho ho! Them? Not so much …

 

 

“Here’s Johnny!” Watch iconic movie lines get animatedly reimagined

Run Forest run! (image via YouTube (c) Nick Murray Willis)

 

I love people with the capacity to take near-omnipresent things like iconic movie lines, which are bandied around like confetti at an environmentally-unfriendly weddings and make them into something wholly different, and most importantly, fun.

Brighton, UK animator Nick Murray Willis has taken quotes from the likes of Lord of the Rings, Forest Gump, Taken, The Shining and Gladiator and lots more – including Jaws where the need for a bigger boat gets mischievously reinterpreted – and give them a delightfully silly though very clever twist.

It puts a smile on your face and make you think about how much particular lines depend on context to make sense and how if you’ve never seen these lines – I’ve never seen The Shining for instance – they can mean a whole other thing in isolation.

You can thank Nick for going and animating that whole other thing in ways that will put an appreciative, deeply-amused grin on your face.

(source: Laughing Squid)

 

Zoinks! It’s Scooby-Doo and Batman: The Brave and the Bold

(image via YouTube (c) Warner Bros)

 

I’ll confess – I’ve always found Batman way too dour for my superhero tastes (which are, at best, limited anyway).

I much prefer superheroes like Deadpool, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor in Ragnarok mode and even Iron Man.

But Batman? A little too dark and weighed down by his past, I’m afraid.

Unless of course, he teams up with Scooby Doo and the gang and then I embrace with him all the fervour in the world since who can stay gravely poker-faced around Scooby, Shaggy and all those Scooby snacks?

No one that is! It’s exciting see this team-up, based on an animated series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which ran from 2008-2011, since it nicely slots into the tongue-in check feel of the show, one that echoed the deliciously camp, cartoony feel of Batman (1966-1968) and even LEGO: Batman.

 

 

Throw in the inspired lunacy of Scooby Doo and you have a match made in animated heaven.

As We’ve Got This Covered reports, there will be lot of familiar villainous faces to go with our superhero friends:

“In addition to classic DC villains like Joker, Catwoman, Riddler, Penguin, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, the movie will also feature several friendly faces, including the likes of Aquaman, Plastic Man, The Question and Martian Manhunter. The crew will also have to contend with Scooby-Doo troublemakers like Ghost Clown, Spooky Space Kook, and Miner 49er.”

All the heroes and villains we love so much from both universes will go into super mystery-solving, villainy-busting mode come 9 January 2018 when the film is released via DVD and digital channels.

Party on! Simon’s Cat’s guide to happy birthdays

(image via YouTube (c) Simon Tofield)

 

Simon’s Cat knows how to party!

Decorate like crazy (and play with the balloons naturally while you do!), invite good friends over with whom you spend copious amounts of time, treat yo’self (use Community as your guide), read and respond to all the messages … and presents! It goes without saying that there must be presents.

A cat after my own heart – it’s my birthday tomorrow and trust me, I’ll be doing all of the above and more – Simon’s Cat has it all down, aware that if you’re going to celebrate your birthday, you should do it properly!

And then all the angst and argy-bargy about being another year older (honestly never worries me; no, really it doesn’t) is lost in a delightful welter of birthday bonhomie, party games and fabulous fun.

 

Weekend pop art: To every letter of the alphabet, a pop culture icon

Walter washing his Winnebago (image via Gizmodo (c) Dave Perillo)

 

Now if you’re anything like me (way older than school age), it’s highly likely you haven’t been asked to recite your ABCs or sing the Alphabet Song for quite some time.

Which is a pity because two artists, Tom Whalen and Dave Perillo, who recently exhibited their work at Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles, CA, have gone to town with each of them giving all the letters their own personal pop culture makeover.

The results, as Gizmodo nicely observed, are “are always random, always cool, and occasionally laugh-out-loud hilarious.”

Want to teach the letter W with a Breaking Bad twist? You can! Feel like indulging in all things “J” by going to a galaxy far, far away a long time ago? Then you should!

In 52 distinctive pieces of art Whalen and Perillo have made the alphabet funky, fun and zeitgeisty, prompting all of us who have recited their ABCs in years to get back in the alphabetical groove all over again.

Admiral Ackbar playing an accordion with an antelope (image via Gizmodo (c) Tom Whalen)

 

Dracula driving Miss Daisy in a Dodge (image via Gizmodo (c) Tom Whalen)

 

Mr T taming a triceratops near a tent (image via Gizmodo (c) Tom Whalen)

 

Pokemon playing poker (image via Gizmodo (c) Dave Perillo)

 

Jawa, Jaxxon and Jar Jar jumping rope on Jakku (image via Gizmodo (c) Dave Perillo)

#Halloween cartoon: Guillermo del Toro’s Treehouse of Horror Couch Gag #Simpsons

The Simpsons at their ghoulish best ... worst? (image via YouTube (c) FOX)
The Simpsons at their ghoulish best … worst? (image via YouTube (c) FOX)

 

Now this is how you mark Halloween everyone!

Particularly if you’re Matt Groening and you want your then-latest Treehouse of Horror intro – this was for the 2013 special – to include everything from zombies to mummies to mutants and apocalyptic visions of a hellish future.

Hire master storyteller Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak), ask him to throw in pretty much everything horror-oriented he can conceive of – and remember this man not only has a prodigious imagination and vast storehouse of horror knowledge, he knows how to use it elegantly and well – and then some such as:

  • Zombies, most likely from George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (brains!)
  • Giant robots and monsters duking it out (Pacific Rim)
  • The Birds with Mrs Crabapple playing the part of a soon-to-be ornithophobic Tippi Hedren
  • Mr Burns and Smithers as the Pale Man and fairy from Pan’s Labyrinth
  • Maggie being scanned as 666 at the supermarket checkout
  • Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein’s Monster and Mummy, Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, Lon Chaney Jr’s The Wolfman, Gillman from the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Claude Rains’ Invisible Man.
  • Even the robot from Lost in Space!

There’s a ton of brilliantly-clever references crammed into this short opening sequence, making it a joy to watch again and again – see Simpsons Wiki for the first list of references – while you thank your lucky stars you don’t live in an horrific Springfield.

Or do you? Shhhh – DON’T … LOOK … BACK …

 

Animation Evolution: How CGI profoundly changed the way cartoons tell stories (video essay)

(image (c) Pixar / Disney)

 

SNAPSHOT
When CGI took over animation in the late 1990s, it didn’t just upgrade the visuals of the medium: it helped transform the way animated stories are told. In this video, I trace the progression of American animated films from conservative fairy tales to liberal allegories. (synopsis (c) Just Write)

OOOO

https://io9.gizmodo.com/fascinating-video-explores-how-cgi-might-have-changed-a-1818687370?IR=T

 

Coco: How did Pixar’s next masterpiece come to be? (featurette + clip)

(image via IMP Awards)

 

SNAPSHOT
Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector (voice of Gael García Bernal), and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history. (synopsis via Coming Soon)

If there is one thing you can be absolutely sure of when you see a Pixar film – OK there’s definitely more than one; think brilliantly-realised characters, catchy music, emotional resonance, captivating narratives and honestly you could go on and on,and if you let me, I will – it’s how passion is poured into each and very film.

It’s damn near palpable on the screen.

You get the feeling as movies like Inside Out and Toy Story tell their enchanting and gently instructive tales that their creators have gone to enormous trouble to make every last detail as authentic, rich and real as possible, even if the world the film inhabits has been created from scratch.

Such is most definitely the case with Coco, as the warm and information-rich featurette and an accompanying clip convey, with the production team behind what must surely be Pixar’s next cinematic masterpiece, talking about how much effort was expanded in ensuring that the world of Coco and its beguiling characters is as true to life as possible.

Coco opens 22 November USA and 26 December Australia.