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BBC RADIO IS NICE
Blog
Posted on Apr 12 2010 by Greg
I was just reading about issues dealing with satellite radio and left a comments about one of my favorite things in life, BBC Radio. For those of you who have not seen earlier posts on this site, I'd like to point out that there are seven different BBC Radio Stations, all with their own website, each offering an embarrassment of riches for all ages (but parents should be cautioned that, while there are several fine children's shows, some other BBC programs contain mature material).

I listen mostly to BBC Radio 2, Radio 4 and Radio 7, because they have hours of music, comedy, drama and documentaries -- many of which celebrate American culture much more than today's broadcasts stations do. Good shows turn up on BBC Radio Scotland, too.

Most of the shows on BBC Radio stay available for listening on your computer for seven days after they air. You can click on them any time of day and they play.

I usually check the daily schedules on a weekly basis and then note the ones I want to hear on a word document with the URL, then when the air date comes, there it is.

The most unusual thing about BBC radio is that, unlike American radio which fazed out sitcoms, sketch shows and dramas by 1962, BBC kept making shows and still does, often with such names as John Cleese, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Diana Rigg, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry and U.S. comedy folks like Jay Tarses, Greg Proops and Whoopi Goldberg.

Good stuff!






"IN EVERY TASK THAT MUST BE DONE, THERE IS AN ELEMENT OF FUN"
Blog
Posted on Apr 11 2010 by Greg

Walking through Epcot, I spotted this Cast Member making an art of cleaning up. Just the sort of thing that adds that special touch. A crowd gathered to watch. It's about more than riding rides.









2010 -- THE YEAR OF ALICE IN WONDERLAND
Blog
Posted on Apr 10 2010 by Greg
Thanks to the major Alice in Wonderland theatrical release of this year, several heretofore unreleased versions hit video recently, including this, the first sound version from 1933 starring Charlotte Henry (Bo Peep in the Babes in Toyland).



In its day, the film was a star studded extravaganza but today only a handful of the names are as well known. Cartoon fans will appreciate Edward Everett Horton (Fractured Fairy Tales) as the Mad Hatter, Charlie Ruggles (Aesop and Son) as the March Hare and Sterling Holloway (Disney's Cheshire Cat & Pooh) as the Frog.

One of the neatest parts is the animated version of "The Walrus and the Carpenter" that occurs about two thirds through the film. Click here to see Cary Grant as the Mock Turtle, which preceeds the sequence containing the animation.









"WITCHIEPOO MEETS POPEYE"?
Blog, Movies
Posted on Apr 09 2010 by Greg
"I have never gone along with mainstream entertainment," says Oscar-winning animation legend Hayao Miyazaki on the bonus features for the new DVD edition of Castle in the Sky, his epic children's action/adventure/sci-fi feature.  I know, as a result of that, I could have been out of work. But I feel I was rescued by my audience every time."

Like the now-iconic My Neighbor Totoro, Castle in the Sky gained successful momentum over the years and was even nominated for an Oscar (which was captured by Wallace and Gromit & the Curse of the Were-Rabbit.)

Castle in the Sky -- the title of which I confuse with Howl's Moving Castle -- was inspired by the mining culture of Wales, its people and the impact of industry on the environment (ecology is an ongoing Miyazaki theme). In this English version, Anna Paquin and James Van Der Beek voice the young protagonists, Sheeta and Pazu and Mark Hamill plays an urbane and ultimately villainous megalomaniac.

But it's Cloris Leachman who steals the film as Dola, the rip-roaring leader of air pirates (with Mandy Patinkin as one of her oafish sons). In a bonus segment about the voice actors, she mentions that the character is not a far cry from her own personality. Dola is sort of Witchiepoo meets Popeye. And speaking of Popeye, it seems that there is a visual link between this film and early 20th century American comic strip art (same seems true for Miyazaki's Porco Rosso).

The finale is among the most spectacular sequences in any movie, animation or not. You find yourself saying, "Did they really draw that by hand?" The scope, design and detail is astonishing.



The DVD set includes the complete storyboard, the film in English and Japanese and some fascinating behind-the-scenes extras, including the story of how Miyazaki's interviewer became his producer after the animator refused to be interviewed and the writer camped out next to his desk. For days.

"My movies may not be instant hits, but [the audience] loyalty, over time, has allowed me to make the kind of movies I want," Miyazaki contnues. "The fact that they keep coming back to see my movies is the reason I am where I am. I very much appreciate that."







HERE WE COME A-CAROLING
Blog
Posted on Apr 08 2010 by Greg
Had a nice chat with the lovely Carol Lombard -- that's Carol without an 'e' as in the movie actress. She's a legend in her own right, a top Hollywood session singer and choral director. We got to know her when we wrote Mouse Tracks.

She did quite a few Disney and Buena Vista records, including Annette Funicello backups, but my favorite among her accomplishments is the theme for the '60s anime series Prince Planet. From what I could discover, Prince Planet was dubbed by Miami actors but the music was created in Hollywood by the same team who wrote much of the Beach Party songs for American-International, which released both. So the background score for Prince Planet sometimes has a twangy, groovy sound.



Carol told me that she is the only voice on the Prince Planet theme. I always thought it was a children's chorus but she actually sang it repeatedly and her vocals were combined together.

If you've never seen Prince Planet, you can watch it for free on Hulu. When I was a kid I had to watch it at a friend's house because my mom was freaked by the characters' big eyes. Long story.









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