Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Good Grief! It's Laundry Day, Charlie Brown

While surfing the internets this morning, I came across this neat Woolite ad which is being run in various print media in Puerto Rico. It's pretty cool. However, it should have about 20 of those shirts hanging since that's all Chuck ever wore!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New Cars Trailer

At first glance, this teaser for next summer's Cars 2 feels like Pixar might be "jumping the shark" but if we've learned anything from the first 10 films of the Pixar cannon: Never Underestimate the good folks at Pixar!


Monday, October 25, 2010

Hersheypark In the Dark

This weekend is the last chance you have to visit Hersheypark In The Dark, Hersheypark's annual Halloween event. We were lucky enough to make it out to the park this past Saturday with an extended touring group and we all had a good time. The park was extremely crowded with long lines at just about every ride, but we still managed to ride just about everything we wanted and got some trick or treating in as well.

The whole park is decorated for Halloween in a family friendly way. You won't find any zombies or scary clowns or insane midgets at Hersheypark. All the Halloween fun is played strictly for laughs and there is nothing to make even the most timid child squeamish.

The centerpiece of Hershey's Halloween spectacular is Treatville, a fairly elaborate little town set up just for the holiday. Kids under 12 are given a trick-or-treat bag and make their way through the many merchants of Treatville collecting various bite sized samples of Hershey products along the way. For a regional theme park, Hershey has done a very impressive job bringing the town of Treatville to life. Theatrical lighting, top notch sets and the fun Halloween soundtrack make the attraction thrilling for kids and adults.

Hersheypark in the Dark also features a few Halloween-themed entertainment offerings as well as a chance to visit ZooAmerica in the dark. Unfortunately, due to the crowds this past weekend we had to skip on shows and the zoo. We did hit up most of the major coasters in the park. It was my first time on Lighting Racer and the Wildcat. Both of these wooden coasters are outstanding rides as well as the classic Comet, which I'm pretty sure I haven't rode in at least 20 years. I only wish the lines weren't so long so I could have gone for a second spin on all three of these great rides. All of us in our party rode the Trailblazer, which is a smaller runaway mine cart-style coaster. It was nice that we could all ride together, even though we couldn't quite coordinate getting us all on the same train.

I only wish we had more time to enjoy the park. Hersheypark in the Dark is open Friday 4-10, Saturday 2-10 and Sunday 2-9. The tickets are $26.95, $17.95 for kids. You can buy discounted tickets at area Giant Foods stores.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Barb & Tom

Over the past few days we've lost two of TV's most beloved parents. Barbara Billingsley is best known to the world as the mom on Leave It To Beaver. When I first heard of her passing I immediately thought of her as the voice of Nanny on Muppet Babies, but then my Twitter buddy @VeraBlue reminded me that Mrs. Billingsley had an important role in one of the all-time greatest films: Airplane! from 1980.



I was never real big on Happy Days but when I heard of Tom Bosley's passing I instantly thought of a fantastic movie that I love which he is in, Million Dollar Mystery (1987). You may remember Mr. Bosley served as the Glad trash bag spokesperson for quite sometime. In 1987, Glad bankrolled a movie where $4 million dollars is hidden among four trash bags in different locations. A wild and wacky chase, a la It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World ensues, with various comedians and grade Z celebrities all trying to find the dough. Only $3 million is recovered in the movie, but there are clues to where the other million is stashed and they supposedly really hid a million bucks in a trash bag somewhere in the real world and there was a contest (sponsored by Glad) to find the loot. Easily one of the greatest movie promotion gimmicks of all time, it's also a fantastic movie!



Bye-Bye, June Cleaver from The Philadelphia Inquirer
Sad Day for Happy Days from CNN

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ebert Scared Stupid

Honestly, I would have payed double the admission price to sit with my back to the screen and just watch Siskel and/or Ebert's face while screening 1991's Ernest Scared Stupid. Just the fact that two esteemed film critics who enjoyed Merchant Ivory productions and French New Wave Impressionist Cinema ever sat through an Ernest film warms the depths of my heart.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Weebles Wobble But They Don't Hip-Hop

I took a video of this push-button store display at Wal-Mart for Weebles. It's nice to see the Weebles return to a style similar to their 1971 debut, but seeing them dance to their 2010 theme song remix is quite disturbing...


You, of course, remember their original slogan and jingle...


Weebles were awesome!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rip-Off Rehash

Today we're sharing a published comic strip that I had a hand in producing way back in my college days of the mid-90's. I ran this comic years ago when I started this blog, but I like to dig out old holiday stuff and reuse it so here it is again. Cleverly titled, Mr. Ed's Far Side Rip-Off this one shot comic deal ran in the late October 1994 issue of my school's bi-weekly newspaper. Basically, I wrote the joke and a buddy of mine created the artwork. At the time, there were so many professionally produced comic strips obviously ripping off the style and pacing of Gary Larson's masterpiece The Far Side I just wanted to do a comic that was completely obvious. Those other comics always had names like The Other View or Flip Side or something lame like that, so we just called it Far Side Rip-Off. I added Mr. Ed to the title thinking it would somehow be an extension of my wacky radio morning show that I did on the college radio station at the time. I'm sure nobody got the connection between Mr. Ed & The Wacky Wake Up Show and Mr. Ed's Far Side Rip-Off, but I liked to think of myself as somewhat of a media mini-mogul back in the day. Sadly, this was the only strip that ever ran in the Rip-Off series. We were just 11 strips shy of getting our own calendar.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Super Fun Superhero CD

I'm not really big into superheroes but I do appreciate their place in pop culture. After all, superheroes are essentially cartoon characters that fight instead of throw pies and run into walls. One thing I am a fan of though are TV theme songs! So I gotta tell ya, I enjoyed the heck out of the new CD The Music of DC Comics: 75th Anniversary Collection.




This is an awesome collection of music from various television shows and motion picture outings for several of DC Comic's top stars. It's not just the amount of superheroes that are represented here that makes this CD impressive. It's the span of time the tracks cover. The first track on the CD is the theme music to the old Max Fleisher Superman cartoon shorts of the 1940's. The music takes us all the way up to the jazzy retro theme song for Batman: The Brave and the Bold, a newer series currently in it's second season on Cartoon Network.



DC's two biggest stars have always been Supes and the Bat, and they are represented here the most. The Superman tracks include the John Williams theme to the 70's/80's film franchise, themes to the Filmation cartoons of Superman and Superboy, and the music to the prime time entries Lois & Clark and Smallville. The Caped Crusader tunes include the opening to the 1943 serial The Batman, various cartoon shows along the years and the themes to both Tim Burton and Chris Nolan's incarnations of Batman. One of the inclusions that sold me on picking up this CD is the groovy theme to the 1960's Adam West Batman show - which is really where I got my first taste of superheroes.



Another great show from my childhood was The SuperFriends. There have been several reboots of the concept over the years. Six different series are represented on this disc but none greater than Hoyt Curtan's theme to The All-New Super Friends Hour from 1977. That show was the bomb!


There's still 10 more tracks after that! How great is a CD with the theme to The Plastic Man Comedy Adventure Show and Swamp Thing!? And where's Wonder Woman you ask...this compilation ends with not only the theme to the recent Wonder Woman animated film but also the classic Linda Carter television series from the 70's. Well played, DC...well played!

An eclectic mix of all sorts of shows and films that the DC Universe has populated over the last 75 years. A great and unique listen!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Let The Halloween Cartoons Begin

Halloween is just a few weeks away and the kids and I have been in the mood to kick off the holiday special viewing season. So, this past weekend we decided to relax after a day of pumpkin picking and hay rides with the annual ritual of "Pulling Out The Halloween Videos."

We started things off with a screening of Bugs Bunny's Howl-oween Special, a good ol' fashioned CBS primetime offering from 1978. As with the majority of the Looney Tunes specials, this show mixes a handful of classic animated shorts with some newer low-grade animation to form one continuous half hour cartoon. Even as a young kid, the newer bits of the cartoon stuck out like a sore thumb in the middle of the original masterpieces. Sometimes the new animation was just used to link together three or four complete cartoons, other times (such as the case with Howl-oween) the newer bits are sprinkled in and out the old cartoons to try and make it seem like one whole story. When the latter approach was used, the shows feel disconnected and choppy. Animation style, character design and voices change every couple of minutes and it makes viewing a bit difficult. It's a wonder why they didn't just collect a handful of Halloween themed shorts and air them in their entirty.

I was never really a huge fan of these chop shop Warner Bros. specials, but I watched them every time they were on because that's how we rolled back in the old days before VCRs and 24 hour cartoon channels. In more recent years, I kinda had a nostalgic yearning for some of these specials and have sought some out on video and DVD. Bugs Bunny's Howl-oween Special makes it's debut on DVD this year, having not been released since a 1994 VHS cassette. The special itself features clips and scenes from nine vintage shorts including Broom-Stick Bunny (1956), Hyde and Hare (1955) and Transylvania6-5000 (1954). One of my all-time favorite Looney Tunes shorts, Scaredy Cat from 1948, is also used luckily without too much interruption.

All in all, even though the show alters the original state of the cartoons the special is entertaining and promotes enough Halloween spirit to get everyone in the mood. The new DVD also features the complete short Hair-Raising Hare from 1946. This is the one where Bugs Bunny meets the giant orange-haired monster and does his nails. Good stuff and actually worth the price of admission alone!

In the mood for more classic animated shorts, we then popped in Tom & Jerry: Hijinks and Shrieks. I picked up this DVD at a yard sale a couple of years ago (they had it priced at $3 but I talked `em down to $2...suckers!) but we had never gotten around to watching it. This isn't an old TV special, but rather a collection of 7 top-shelf Tom & Jerry shorts from 1952 to 1965. The bad news is that only two of these shorts have anything at all to do with Halloween, the good news is that they are all pretty good cartoons. The amazing thing is that after 60+ years, these cartoons are still laugh out-loud funny to kids and grown ups alike! And quite frankly, there is no greater sound than hearing your kids crackup to pieces laughing at silly things like animals running into walls and cats getting their tail chopped off!

The two Halloween themed shorts, 1956's The Flying Sorceress & The Haunted Mouse from 1965 are both filled with sufficient levels of spooky fun to carry the other 5 titles into making this a fun collection for the Halloween season. A couple of the shorts were produced in CinemaScope and of course are presented here in pan and scan. I think a DVD of just a handful of cartoons presented in their widescreen glory for new television sets would not only be an awesome addition to the WWoB DVD library, I think it would be a big seller as well!

Both Bugs Bunny's Howl-oween Special and Tom & Jerry: Hiijinks & Shrieks are available at Wal-Mart, Amazon and for rental from Netflix. Good stuff for your pre-Trick or Treat viewing!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Denzel Prepares For a Role

Favorite skit from this weekend's SNL: new cast member Jay Pharoah with a dead-on Denzel Washington impression...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Week In Movies - Date and a Baby

Date Night (2010)[PG-13] A movie staring Thursday night's top talent Tina Fey and Steve Carrell should be a bit better than this action comedy turned out to be. Michael Scott and Liz Lemon play a married couple who decide to spice things up just a little by going into the big city to have diner one night. A case of mistaken identity leads to their whole night going down the toilet very quickly. For the most part, the movie is very funny. Both Fey and Carrell are always at the top of their game, but the material here feels very familiar. If you're making a movie with top shelf comedic talent, the action shouldn't take center stage for half of the film...the comedy should! Another problem with this film is that the trailer gave away the set up of the film, not leaving much left in the way of story for the actual movie to deliver. Tina Fey is super great (and so is Steve Carrel) I just wish she could find her way into a movie half as great as her show 30 Rock. Date Night is rated PG-13, bordering on R with some pretty rough language and quite a bit of sexual material. Good times!


Babies (2010)[PG] This french documentary follows four babies from different parts of the world from their first breath of life up until their first steps. The four families spotlighted are from four very different parts of the world. It's interesting to compare and contrast what makes for fine baby raising in other parts of the globe and there are some cute moments here and there. I would suspect you could turn a camera on any baby and sooner or later you'd get some cute footage. There is no narrator and not a story to be told. Just lots of shots of babies...the title doesn't lie! Overall, this brief film is fairly underwhelming but an enjoyable hour nonetheless. It's Rated PG, it's loaded with tons of nudity - none of it sexual, obviously. One of the familes followed is a tribe in Africa where all the women are topless and most of the other mothers are shown topless, feeding their babies as well. There is a few shots that seemed gratuitous like a mom and her baby snuggling naked in a bed together and another scene with a mom and child swimming in the buff. Between the non-stop nudity and some rather graphic shots near the begining, I wouldn't recommend showing this film to a child whom hasn't had the birds and the bees discussion yet.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Trimper's

To some people, Trimper's Rides in Ocean City, MD is nothing more than "the rides at the boardwalk." But the amusement park is really a gem of vintage amusement antiques and history. I love taking my time and checking out all the little details and nooks and crannies of the property. The majority of the history of the park on display resides inside a year round indoor building. Here's a few snapshots I took this past summer...
From Trimper's website: "A 1912 purchase also adds to the historic significance of Trimper's Rides. It was that year that Daniel Trimper purchased a massive carousel from the Herschell-Spillman Company in North Tonawanda, NY. It was 50 feet in diameter with a uniqueness derived from the only other carousel made by the firm at that time having been sent to Coney Island, and that one was later destroyed by fire.

The merry-go-round's forty-five animals, three chariots and one rocking chair were driven by a steam engine; rides originally cost just a nickel. One-hundred years later, the ride (now electrified) costs you four tickets, or $2.00 - unless you buy the discounted package of 40 tickets for eighteen dollars, and then your ride only costs $1.80. Classified as one of the oldest still operating carousels in the nation, generations of families come every year to ride their favorite animal."

The merry-go-round is filled with beautifully hand carved, hand painted animals of all types. This attraction is the pride and centerpiece of Trimper's. They reportedly have someone on staff who's only takes care of the carousel. My kids always fight over who gets to ride the dalmatian. They love all things puppy...especially dalmatians.

These fun, old-fashioned animal mouth trash cans used to be fairly common at amusement parks. There are serveal of them still in service around Trimper's. This pelican helps set the mood set up next to a very cool little boat ride...


Like most of the other rides in Trimper's indoor building, this kiddie boat ride dates back at least 70 years. There is no track under the water. The boats are all connected to one another in a way that keeps them in a tight loop around the pool. I've always enjoyed the elaborate scenery along the walls of this attraction. I've tried several years to get a good picture of this ride, but with how the ride is situated - It's been hard to capture the ride properly. This was the first year I was able to snap a decent shot.

I've got some more neat pictures of Trimper's Rides that I'll share in future posts.

Friday, October 01, 2010

On Tuesday He Ate Through 800 Wii Points

I found very little on the interweb's about the new WiiWare title The Very Hungry Caterpillar's ABC's. I assumed right from the get-go that I wasn't the target audience for a video game based on a beloved children's book. And I had a feeling that even my two children might be a little old for this title. But the thought of having Mr. Hungry Caterpillar living on my Wii menu screen and the thought of getting one of the first reviews for this game out in cyberspace (thus increasing my traffic, making this the most popular website in the world and possibly leading me to fame and fortune) I figured it was worth the 800 Wii Points ($8 US) to download the game and see what it's all about. Worse case senario: my kids learn a little something while they stare at the idiot box.

Let's just say first that The Very Hungry Caterpillar's ABC's is a charming little title and a unique way to engage the smallest members of the household in Wii play. For those of you out of touch with your childhood, The Very Hungry Caterpillar is the main character of the classic 1969 children's book written and illustrated by Eric Carle. In the book, we follow the caterpillar as he nibbles his way through several pages of food items. In the book, there are actual little holes in the pages where the caterpillar has made his way through. This WiiWare title, does not incorporate the little holes into your television screen. In fact, this game doesn't have much to do with V.H. Caterpillar at all. I guess we should also mention that this game isn't really much of game either...it's more of a interactive work book. But it's still cute.

The download should have been titled something more like "The Wonderful World of Eric Carle" as his illustrations from many of his popular books are the centerpiece of this game. (Ok, I'm still going to call it a game.) We went on an Eric Carle spree earlier this summer and checked out most of his books from our local library, so my kids were excited to spot familiar characters and illustrations from several books that we've enjoyed. I did read somewhere that Eric Carle created all the artwork for the game.

Caterpillar is divided up into four games...or sections. The Alphabet features a big, bubbly listing of letters A to Z. When a child points and clicks on a letter, a picture opens up of something that begins with that letter. The word for the object is also on the screen and a girl says the letter and the word. It enforces word recognition and all that good stuff. The pictures are animated and the crowd went wild when the aforementioned caterpillar popped out of A is for Apple. In a bold move by the game developers, the queen has been retired and now Q is for Quetzal. (That's some kind of bird.) There's no objective to this exercise besides having fun and a little learning. Kids can click around as long as they like.

Colors, Colors, Colors is the game pictured above. This is like a video game version of a lottery scratch-off card. When the game starts, the entire screen is a solid color. With the Wiimote you scratch away at the color trying to find the picture that is hidden somewhere on the screen. The game has four levels, which do not get harder but each round introduces a new color. Again, there is plenty of beautiful Eric Carle artwork to look at.

Animal Stamps lets kids pick out different stamps and create a picture on a pre-made background. And there's also What is This? which shows kids three objects and then shows them a word. Point and click on the correctly matching image to move to the next picture. This exercise would be very educational if there wasn't a narrator saying the word. For my four year old, I put the game on mute and had him try to figure out the words and he had a good time getting most of them right. I, myself, even scored a 9 out of 10 with the sound off!

Again, The Very Hungry Caterpillar's ABC's doesn't have much to do with the starving caterpillar, but it's a fun, cute game for the tots. If one were to register a complaint about the title, it's that after plopping down $8 bucks for this simplistic game there are places in the program where you need to spend more money to unlock additional features of the game. My kids were disappointed because the Animal Stamps game had a level devoted to 10 Little Rubber Ducks (a huge hit in our house earlier this year) but it costs an additional 700 Wii Points/$7.00 to unlock it. In the Alphabet game you can also purchase "verbs" to go with your letters. That just seems like a complete waste of money in my book!? What makes verbs so much better than nouns that they need to cost more. Snooty verbs!

Eric Carle's illustrations look magnificent on a big screen TV. If you appreciate his work, and have a child under kindergarten age and he/she can point a Wii controller at the TV with any precision The Very Hungry Caterpillar's ABC's will be a dandy of an addition to your Wii library. It's available for download from the Wii Shopping Channel in the WiiWare department.
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