Friday, February 27, 2009

The Down South Anthology

The other day I scanned in some of the posters and program covers for some of the plays that I had written and produced in the 90's to post on Facebook. I figured since I've got `em in the computer now I might as well share them here too...

In the fall of 1994 some friends and I got together and put together a little sketch comedy show called SUDS. There were some skits, some improv bits and even a little music. I wrote the majority of the comedy sketches. The guy on the cover of the program, sitting in the tub, is Bosko - a very old pre-Bugs Bunny Warner Bros. cartoon character. He had nothing to do with the show but we thought he looked good on the cover of our program.

Two years later, I had grown tired of auditioning for shows and always being offered tiny little parts. I was taking a Theatre Writing class at the time and decided that my final project of a One Act play was good enough to turn into a feature length play. So I gathered together some of the same people that worked on SUDS, we established ourselves as a theatre company..Down South Theatre Company to be exact, and we put on a show. A full fledged two hour plus play called Barn of Thought, which was also based on a column I wrote in our school newspaper. The show was about growing up and moving on from college and it incorporated many of the subjects that I had touched upon in my newspaper column. The show was a success.

For our follow up to Barn of Thought I wrote Brothers & Sisters, a comedy with several different storylines that involved all the siblings of a large family. We held auditions and rehearsals were a few days away when I decided that I didn't like the script at all. It wasn't very exciting. So I stayed up all night before the first day of rehearsals and morphed Brothers & Sisters into Cupid's Arrow. Cupid is really just a collection of skits with a slight framework around it. Several of the scenes from Brothers & Sisters ended up just becoming sketches in the new show. The artwork for the poster and program was done by good friend Grant. It's the only time we used original artwork instead of just clip art.

Even though Barn of Thought was probably a better written show, the production I'm most proud of is Sunburned. The scope of the production was bigger than anything we had done before. It was a musical, which meant singing...and dancing. We ended up having a live in-house band perform the music live each night. The show consisted of three original songs and five summertime classics. The script was nothing more than a modern version of an old Frankie and Annette beach picture but as the production rolled on through the month of July 1997, our audiences got bigger and bigger with each show.

The final stage production under the Down South name was 1998's Passport To Hawaii. A very silly show with plenty of stock characters, cliche' storylines and slapstick humor throughout. Although the show wasn't a musical, it did have four musical numbers and again some live music to add to the festivities. The original posters and programs were printed on a light green paper, but for some reason all I have is this master copy of the artwork.

After four theatre productions in a row, we moved our attentions to film and attempted to make the first Down South movie. In the summer of 1998 we spent 10 long hot days shooting "Bikini Academy" which was plagued with production problems right from the start. The movie features performances from many of the actors that we had worked with in our stage productions. Sadly, in the end, Bikini Academy did not turn out to be like anything we had hoped it would be. We had one (kind of sad) screening for the cast and crew and then dumped the film onto public access cable where it aired in two parts for a few years.

At that point, myself and a few others involved turned our attentions to a cable access comedy show we had started and left the theatre behind us.

You can read more about Barn of Thought and Cupid's Arrow in past posts.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Flintstones Live at Kings Dominion - 1993

I've always enjoyed the sheer tackiness of the shows at amusement parks, especially when that show involves people dressed up in cartoon character costumes. These particular shows would involve people in giant cartoon suits flopping around on stage for 15 to 20 minutes dancing to a prerecorded soundtrack. When I was in college I took a girl to Kings Dominion and she was less than thrilled to have to sit through a production of "The Hollyrock Squares". In recent years, Kings Dominion has paid less attention to their entertainment offerings than they did in their heyday. Luckily, I found this great old clip on YouTube of one of the old Flintstones shows at Kings Dominion from 16 years ago. I'm pretty sure this isn't the one I made my date sit through but you still get the general feel of it all. Check out the horrible Flintstone style rock-puns, the minimal choreography, and somebody trying to pass themselves off as the voice of Fred Flintstone. (Don't worry, it's only a minute and a half clip!)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Week In Movies - Creeps, Cops, and Polar Bears

I'd like to start a new feature called "My Week In Movies" where I recap the films I had a chance to see over the past seven days. This new feature will not only give me subject matter for at least one day of the week, but I'd also like to get better at writing about movies and this feels like a good jumping off point.

Before you pass judgement on me that I spend too much time watching movies let me just say that I hardly watch any broadcast television. I don't follow CSI, or House, or ER...or any of those shows. There's a couple of comedies I like, but everything I watch is on TiVo where I can watch an hour's worth of TV in under 45 minutes! Also, I don't channel surf...if I sit down in front of the TV I'm actually watching something. But enough about me...let's see what I saw this past week:

Religulous (2008) This is Bill Maher's documentary style movie about organized religion. Here, he basically asks people questions about their belief system and then proceeds to back them into a corner until they don't have answers to why they believe in what they believe. I like Bill Maher. I think he's smart and very funny but he's also a little smug and too sure of himself. We all know that different religions have different beliefs and that some contradict each other which in the end makes this film kind of pointless. There's another documentary I saw recently called "The God Who Wasn't There" which was terrible but was also more fact based and went into greater depth on some of the issues that are only touched upon in Religulous. Bill Maher would have been better off to pen a fictional comedy movie about his gripes with organized religion than to simply make fun of other people for what they believe in.

Dirty Harry (1971) At this point in time Clint Eastwood's "Dirty Harry" Callihan character is such a major film icon that he's almost a cliche'. Dirty Harry set the tone for many cop films to follow and has been ripped off and parodied so many times that watching it for the first time today, it doesn't seem that special. One of my all time favorite TV shows is "Sledge Hammer!" which was a goofy take off on movies like Dirty Harry. I've seen every episode of Sledge Hammer at least a half-dozen times. It wasn't until I watched Dirty Harry that I realized how much of Sledge Hammer was borrowed from Dirty Harry. Especially the first episode which has many homages to this first Dirty Harry picture. I also love how 70's cop movies play just like a 70's cop TV show. The music is so distinctively 1970's, it's great! The story here is pretty simple, but the action is also pretty tight and it all still holds up almost 40 years after it was made.

Arctic Tale (2007) I've wanted to see this one for some time now and caught it on Showtime and watched it with the kids. It's a sequel or sorts to March of the Penguins. Instead of taking the serious tone of the Penguin movie, the filmmakers decided to go a little more commercial and have Queen Latifah provide a more kid-friendly narration. What made March of the Penguins such a great movie was the unbelievable storyline that Mother Nature wrote out for those penguins. Here, we follow a Polar Bear family and a walrus family. While both families are cute and have some interesting adventures, their tale is not near as compelling as that of the penguins. However, it's a unique film with it's heart in the right place and my kids found themselves oddly fascinated by the whole thing...well, at least the first hour or so.

The Addams Family (1991) The other day I had the M.C. Hammer song "Addams Grove" stuck in my head. So much so that I bought the song of off iTunes, downloaded it to my iPod and then proceeded to run it straight into the ground listening to it over and over. So then I got to thinking about the movie the song was written for. I had only seen it once when it first came out on video, but I've seen the sequel "Addams Family Values" a dozen or so times. So, when ABC Family ran both movies the other day I TiVo'ed the first one and gave it another screening. As with so many other TV-to-Movie translations, this first Addams outing is horribly misguided. Instead of sticking close to the TV series, this film tries to recreate the original comic strip that no one is familiar with. Instead of a story that shows off the Addams creepy, kooky ways you get a confusing story about embezzlement and fraud and other things that don't really have to do with The Addams Family. The cast, however, is great and you can tell they are all having a good time. Which is why when they made Addams Family Values a few years later they got themselves a better script and therefor made a better movie!

What did you watch this week?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Do You Like Your Burgers A Little Pink?

It's been a long time since a Grade A classic cartoon character has graced the oil soaked bag or box of a fast food chain kid's meal. (Except Snoopy, who's made the rounds at both Burger King and Wendy's.) Burger King is currently running a promotion for The Pink Panther 2 movie which is in theatres now. That's good news for people who like old cartoon characters and Happy Meal prizes! The new Pink Panther movie is not too much to get excited about. It's pretty much a watered down, dumbed down retread of the original film series which consisted of eight films between 1963 and 1983, plus an additional film in 1993. The problem with marketing a Pink Panther movie is that the character of The Pink Panther has very little to do with any of the films. In the film series, the Pink Panther is a jewel - a very large pink jewel to be exact. The cartoon character of the Pink Panther only appears in the opening credits and sometimes right before the final credits. Of course nowadays, The Pink Panther the cartoon character is far more well known that any of the details of the film series. However, Burger King has managed to work both the classic character and some aspects of the film into their Kids Meal toys.

On our recent "research trip" to Burger King we snagged a couple of the Car Crazy Clouseau toys. The cool thing is, this little car is similar to the one Inspector Clouseau drives in the new movie. What's odd, however, is the toy features the original cartoon version, of the Inspector - used in the older films and a cartoon series of his own. The Pink Panther 2 movie uses a new model of the Inspector to more closely resemble Steve Martin's appearance in the film. Either way, it's a cool little collectible that ties in with both the movie and the great cartoon star. If you even look closely above the bumper you can see the logo for the new movie!

As with any good Happy Meal, there's not just one toy but eight to collect. Burger King usually does a pretty good job and offering different kinds of prizes instead of just doing eight different figures or eight different cars. This insert from the Kid's Meal prize shows the other toys available in this promotion. (This is the best picture I could provide!) There's a pink bracelet and sunglasses, there's a couple of role playing toys, and there's even a Pink Panther figure with Kung-Fu grip! The one toy called Pink Panther Caper is a magic trick which comes with a plastic replica of the Pink Panther jewel that you can make disappear and then reappear. Well played, BK...well played!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

No Respect!

You're probably thinking, "Boy, that's a horrible picture!" And, you'd be right! The sad thing is, this photograph is from our local newspaper. Joey performed some of his stand-up comedy material this past weekend at a benefit talent show at his high school. Joey was among many other talented kids...and not so talented adults...singing, dancing, playing music and acting in the talent show. Our town's newspaper ran a small piece about the show in yesterday's paper and featured this photograph along with a few others. I don't know if the photographer was trying to be artistic or what...but let's face it, this picture now only sucks it's should also be embarrassing to the newspaper. Really guys, you're going to run a photo that is 95% nothing! Wow!

Don't get us wrong...Joey was excited to have his picture and act mentioned in the newspaper, and his mother and I are very proud of him. But this ain't exactly the kind of newspaper clipping that's going to get him book on The Tonight Show anytime soon! Ya know!?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Heartbeeps Beats On

I was listening to the radio the other morning and they were playing some game where they read the description of a movie and then everyone was trying to guess the name of the movie. They were all pretty easy until they got to the last one and everyone was stumped. The film in question was a certain little robot caper from 1981 that was mentioned on here on WWoB's Robot Movie List earlier this week. Oh, how I was delighted! In case you still don't know what fine film I'm talking about, here's the original teaser trailer that audiences saw in the Summer of 1981....

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Green Eggs & Ham...and Other Stories

I just felt like posting some pictures of my kids today. Yesterday, we made brownies. We've had a crappy stove for as long as I've been married and we could never make brownies right. We got a nice new stove a few weeks ago. Well yesterday with the help of two little boys we were able to turn out a perfect batch of delicious brownies! The kids had a great time helping out:

A few weeks ago I got the bright idea to make Green Eggs & Ham. We had done this when I was a preschool teacher many years ago and it was a big hit. However, my kids are very visual when it comes to what they I don't know why I thought they'd like Green Eggs...not to mention Elias doesn't like ham. Tanner wouldn't go anywhere near the green eggs, Elias took a small nibble or two and then declaired he was full.

If Tanner doesn't get an afternoon nap, he is a holy terror! He can seriously ruin the rest of the day for anyone if he doesn't get some snooze time. Which makes it all the more adorable when he actually does fall asleep and ends up looking so darn cute while doing so..

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

15 Companies That Might Go Bye-Bye

Here's a list from Yahoo Finance about 15 companies that might not make it to the end of 2009 because of the economy and something about all their debt or some junk like that. I'm no money managing person, but I can weigh in on why a few of these guys might not be around much longer...

Rite-Aid First of all, why would anyone shop at Rite-Aid? It takes just as much time to get in and out of a Rite-Aid as a Wal-Mart, they have a quarter of the selection of a Wal-Mart and their prices are higher than Wally. Plus, I don't get the crappy little town I live in there was a Rite-Aid in the mall. They closed it and moved into a much bigger space on the other side of the mall. They did alot of remodeling from the former tenant. That space was open for like three months and then they closed it and built a new gigantic Rite-Aid right down the road. I call these "Vegas Rite-Aid's" because they are just these huge buildings for almost no reason whatsoever. CVS is doing the same thing, building these oversized stores for their little shaving cream and Life Savers operation. I don't get it, but I'm pretty sure the oversized Rite-Aid building in my town is going to be empty soon.

Claire's I don't see how a store that sells nothing but 40,000 different varieties of chap stick can stay in business anyway, but I guess if you're looking for lip balm that tastes like Lucky Charms or an Orange Crush soda, Claire is who you go to first.

Chrysler I realize that if one of these big car manufacturers goes belly up, alot of people will be out of a job. But don't these big car companies seem to be one Dick Cheney away from being totally evil!?

Dollar Rent-A-Car If your name implies that you're the cheap guy, and your about to go out of business during a recession...maybe you should just close up shop!

Coldwell Banker I'm quite sure if they go belly-up it couldn't' effect my life in the least bit.

Station Casinos They own 15 off-strip casinos in Las Vegas. Maybe it would be nice for a change for a casino to see what it's like to watch all your money go down the toilet.

Loehmann's Some chick clothing store...never heard of them! Good luck guys!

Sbarro First of all, for years I thought this place was called "Sharro" because the bottom of the "b" in their logo is too small and it looks like an "h", still does! If this lame-o pizza chain went out of business, it would make way in food courts across the country for the ol' mom and pop Pizza stand to open back up. You used to go into a mall and find all kinds of different food stands, now every mall has the same handful of eating establishments. I recently discovered that the pizza place in the Columbia Mall...the pizza place that has been there now gone! Some of these chains are too big for their own good, and I think we'd be better off without a few of them. Sharro, you suck!

Six Flags Six Flags owns over half the amusement parks in the country! If the flags were to come down on this company, it's unlikely that the parks would all go away too. There's millions of dollars invested in each of these parks. With Six Flags needing to make some cash, some of their 30+ parks could fall into the hands of some different management teams who could take the parks in new directions. Six Flags is another company that's too big for it's own good.

Blockbuster I'm a former Blockbuster employee. This place used to be cool, but now they charge almost as much as a movie theatre ticket to rent one stinkin' DVD. Not to mention, the shelves are lined with crap that wasn't good enough to put in a theatre in the first place. Somewhere in the last 10 years they've driven almost all of the independent video stores out of business. A good local video store is an awesome resource in a community and we've lost that in this country. The only way for a non-chain video store to survive is to rent porn, and that's kind of sad...isn't it!? If Blockbuster were to go, small business owners would fill in the need for a good video store in the community.

Krispy Kreme Is it me or are these things too sweet. It's like pouring a sack of pure cane sugar in your mouth. Sorry, Krispy Kreme but America runs on Dunkin'!

Landry's Restaurants These guys own Rainforest Cafe and about 22 other joints. I can't speak about the other places but Rainforest Cafe...maybe if you lowered your prices to somewhere in the neighborhood of reasonable people could afford to eat there more often! Seriously folks, $18 bucks for like six coconut shrimp! Come on!

Sirius Satelite Radio It's like there's nothing good on the radio, so you invest in satellite radio and now you have access to 200 stations of nothing you want to listen to! Good times! I had XM for a year or so and found it dreadfully dull! Nobody's got time to pay for radio when they can just hook up their iPod as easily.

Trump Resorts Boo-Hoo, rich guy! But seriously, I'm all about some Andrew Dice Clay on the new season of The Apprentice.

BearingPoint Some consulting firm....if you don't have a store in the mall than I don't care if you're going out of business. Sorry!

Monday, February 09, 2009

10 Best Movies With Robots in Them

A comment from a reader lead me to create this random list about some of my favorite robot-based movies off all-time. I'll appologize to Brian in CA in advance for not including The Transformers in this list. With so many other robots out there providing wacky hi-jinks, just turing into a car isn't enough to get you on my list!

'Not Quite Human (1987) Here's the first of three old school Disney Channel movies staring Hollywood Alan Thicke who builds a life like robot and then adopts him as his son. He calls his new invention Chip...get it!? Only Thicke's daughter knows her new brother is a robot, so when Chip goes off to school you can imagine all the hilarity that ensues as Becky tries to cover up all the robot things Chip does. Great movie followed by the equally great Not Quite Human II and Still Not Quite Human. (I gotta dig out my tapes of these!)

Chopping Mall (a.k.a. Killbots) (1986) Seriously, you haven't experienced cinema until you've layed your eyes on this masterpiece. And yes, I've mentioned this movie can read more on it in an October 2006 post of WWoB.

The Iron Giant (1999) This movie is crazy good! At first you think you're just watching a really good animated fantasy and then you find yourself smack in the middle of a beautiful story about humanity and fearing the unknown. All crap sensors off: this is a wonderful movie that gets overlooked.

Seeing Double (2003) Crap sensors reengaged: Seeing Double is the feature film debut of the super popular British pop group S Club 7. Never heard of them? That's because they were popular in England, although their TV series did linger around on the Fox Family Channel for quite sometime. In this big screen adventure, an evil scientist makes robotic clones of the members of S Club and attempts to cash in on their success without the groups knowledge. If you like movies where the entire cast breaks out into song for no reason what-so-ever than pull up a chair and get ready to be entertained my friend!

Star Wars (1977) Obviously at this point in time, the world of Star Wars has taken on a life of it's own. But for my money, the original 1977 version of the movie...without added special effects...without "Episode IV" plastered all over it, is pure movie goodness. There's lots of robots and droids and all kinds of things in Star Wars but you just can't beat R2-D2 and C3-PO as two of the greatest characters ever created for film!

Jetsons: The Movie (1990) There's robots all over the place in this big screen adaptation of the classic 60's television series. You got Rosie the robot maid, you got all those robot arms brushing the Jetson's teeth and getting them dressed, in the movie the Jetsons even have a family of robots as their new next door neighbors! Jetsons: The Movie came out at a time when computer animation was still new, and it was used in conjunction with traditional hand drawn cell animation. Some of the shots in this movie using (a touch of) CG are still beautiful today. The film's major drawback is the decision to replace the original voice of Judy Jetson with that of pop singer Tiffany. Yuck!

Wall-E (2008) An absolute masterpiece of a film, nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Film of the year. If you don't believe me, how good this film is, go to a place where movies are sold or rented and buy it...or rent it!

Short Circuit (1986) Any movie where a robot (or alien) learns to speak English from watching TV, you know you're in for a good time. And so, little cute robot Johnny 5 makes wise cracks and does cute un-robot like things in this 80's classic. Along with primo robot action, you'll witness Steve Guttenberg, G.W. Bailey, and Fisher Stevens all at the top of their game. This is one of those movies that alot of people my age watched a million times as it came out around the time VCR's were starting to become more common. It was so popular that Short Circuit 2 came out a few years later. It made me cry when Johnny 5 got beat up in a dark alley!

Heartbeeps (1981) OMG! This is too good a movie for words! Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Petters play two robots along with two other robots escape the robot factory for a life of freedom. Of course, the robot factory has to send out a Police robot to capture them and bring them back. So good folks! My neighbor and I used to watch this everytime it came on The Movie Channel when we were little. Then the movie disappeared for the longest time and was reissued in the late 90's when the Andy Kaufman biopic came out. I rejoiced at my purchase of this great film on video.

C.H.O.M.P.S. (1979) Ladies and gentlemen, this is a movie that is so fantastically awesome that not only does it make the top of my Robot Movie List - it's also the top spot on my Dog Movie List. A robot dog, people! A robot dog! Does it get any better than this!? He's a home security system but he looks like a regular ol' dog. Boy, does he fool the bad guys! Let's get serious here for a moment folks...if you don't go out and find yourself a copy of C.H.O.M.P.S...or Heartbeeps for that matter, you are doing yourself and everyone else in your close immediate circle of family and friends a huge disservice.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Sleep With Pac-Man

While most of Walt Disney World's resorts recreate a bygone time or place, Disney's Pop Century Resort celebrates the past...the past 50 years of pop culture to be exact. The 2,880 room hotel is filled with homages and tributes to some of the great stuff that's made the last 50 or so years great! There's a section of the resort for each of the decades from the 1950's up to the 1990's.

Since I've been on such a Pac-Man kick lately, here on the blog and on the Wii...I thought I'd share with you some pictures of the 1980's building of the Pop Century Resort which is a giant tribute to the little yellow guy himself. I didn't take any of these pictures, I swiped that all from Flickr...but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy them!

They even threw in a giant Rubix Cube on the end of the building to house the staircase. It's a class act I'm telling ya!

I've stayed at the Pop Century three times. Twice we stayed in the 60's building with it's day-glow flowers, giant can of Play-Doh and Yo-Yo staircases, and once we stayed in the 70's building which features a giant Mickey Mouse telephone, a humongous Big Wheel and a very large 8-track tape on the end for the stairs. In my opinion, one of the most inspired hotels in Walt Disney World!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

20 Guys I Admire

Here's another Meme going around: 20 Men I Admire. First off ladies, don't be offended...there's a separate list out there of 20 Women You Admire. This one is about dudes and my list includes both the living and the dead. When you think about it, sometimes it's hard to distinguish between those you admire and those who's work you enjoy. I'm a fan of all these guys work, but I am also intrigued by them as a person. I've read many of these men's biographies. Anywho, here's my list...

1) Walt Disney animation pioneer, film producer, father of the modern theme park

2) Jim Henson television pioneer, children's television advocate

3) David Letterman television personality

4) "Weird Al" Yankovic comedic musical artist

5) Don Geronimo radio personality

6) John Lasseter film director, computer animation pioneer

7) Milton Hershey entrepreneur

8) Kevin Smith film director, writer

9) Charles Schultz cartoonist

10) John Waters film director, writer

11) Paul Smith archivist

12) Hugh Hefner publisher

13) Thomas Edison inventor

14) Lorne Michaels television producer

15) Bob Newhart actor, comedian

16 & 17) Bill Hanna & Joe Barbera television animation producers

18) Alec Baldwin actor, father's rights advocate

19) Regis Philbin television personality

20) Rick Sebak documentary filmmaker

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Way Cartoons Were Meant To Be Seen

One of the many sad things about the state of the world our children are growing up in is the lack of Saturday Morning Cartoons. Saturday morning was just about the best part of the week for any child growing up in the 60's, 70's or 80's. Before the days of 24-hour Nickelodeon and 52 other channels showing cartoons half the time, Saturday mornings were the only chance kids had to watch shows made for them. If you have kids, you owe it to them to pick up at least one of these two new super sweet DVD sets coming out in May.

Saturday Morning Cartoons are two disc sets featuring some awesome shows gathered from several different production companies and studios and assembled together in one spot to recreate the pure joy of Saturday mornings of past. And these discs are gonna feature some truly great shows.

The first volume covers the 1960's. The lineup is to include Top Cat, Peter Potamus, Secret Squirel, The Flintstones, Porky Pig, Quick Draw McGraw, Jetsons, Marine Boy, Space Ghost, Herculoids (holy crap I loves me some Herculoids!), Frankenstien Jr. and the Maggila Gorilla Show. Good Stuff!

The 70's volume has got some of my all-time favorites making their DVD debut. How awesome is going to be to watch a little Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch?! Such a great cartoon! Then we'll top that off with some Roman Holidays. Classic!! Plus there's some other jems like Goober and the Ghost Chasers, Speed Buggy (how awesome is he?), Josie and the Pussycats (I've got the whole series on DVD...but I'll still watch it here), Yogi's Gang, and how about some Amazing Chan and the Chan Gang for ya. There's also Jetsons, The Tarzan/Batman Adventure Hour, Hong Kong Phooey, Scooby Doo and the Funky Phantom.

Can you say: Awesome!?!

As the cool kids say, these DVDs drop May 19th. They are available for pre-order on Amazon.
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