Blog, Reviews, Movies, TV, Music, Downloads, Records, Books
Posted on Dec 20 2013 by Greg



No home should be without a copy of Mary Poppins to watch. If you've seen it many times, just leave it on and go about your business, it adds an element of fun to every job that must be done.

This is the first time Mary Poppins is on Blu-ray, much anticipated by all its fan. The picture is overall superb, but there is a bit of a contrasty quality that I'm guessing to due to Herculean efforts to spruce up some special effects that were state-of-the-art 50 years ago. The matte lines and grains are much less noticeable now and the animated sequence (I'm just as sorry as I can be, Mrs. Travers) glows with color. Mary Poppins, by the way, has finally been added to The National Film Registry (somebody must have told them, "Spit-Spot! Get to it!"


Gene Autry was not only King of the Cowboys in the mid-20th century, he also is still one of the best selling recording artists of all time. He recorded the original "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Frosty the Snowman," "When Santa Claus Gets Your Letter" and "Here Comes Santa Claus," which he co-wrote. This series is just a part of his entertainment empire, which you can glimpse in one of the many bonus features (and see momentos of at LA's Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage. The Gene Autry Show is a lot like Scooby-Doo: there are only a handful of plotlines, but who cares because you just want to watch him and his sidekick (Pat Buttram) bring baddies to justice. Some stereotypes are on a very few episodes (amazing considering its age), but overall it's a cozy slice of Americana. Some are even in color and remarkably well preserved.


For Marvel fans impatient for the next movie, this nicely constructed animated adventure is an exciting adventure. The action is virtually non-stop, but when there is a brief respite, Hulk and Iron Man bicker like Martha and Gertrude at the Automat. There are a few bonus features, including the very funny re-voiced "Marvel Mash-Ups" that make gentle but ridiculous sport of earlier Marvel TV cartoons.


It isn't really the holiday season without squeezing in as many Rankin/Bass specials as you can. The first special in this Warner Archive release, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, is based on the book by Wizard of Oz scribe L. Frank Baum. It's a fitting way finale to the Rankin/Bass canon of stop-motion animated specials, as it combines the whimsy of Rudolph with the mystical fantasy of The Hobbit, drawing both aspects of R/B together (the voice cast is also that of ThunderCats). Nestor is based on another song by Gene Autry (see above), with a very amusingly caricatured Roger Miller telling and singing the story of a misfit who triumphs over his "non-conformity." The animation for this special is especially smooth, (SPOILER) but be warned that there is a sad, Bambi-like moment.


My favorite of the early Muppet films, The Great Muppet Caper was Jim Henson's feature directing debut. The score by "Bein' Green" composer Joe Raposo is the old-school Hollywood extravaganza type, with some major production numbers including a mammoth Esther Williams tribute that actually topped Mel Brooks' similar number the same year in his History of the World, Part 1. Plus it's got Diana Rigg. 'Nuff said. Muppet Treasure Island was the second feature after Jim Henson passed and though very entertaining with the dependable comic chops of Tim Curry, The Muppets were starting to chew their cabbage more than twice here. Both look spiffy on Blu-ray.


First of all, the first two volumes of this priceless DVD series are required if you love The Muppets, clever comedy timing, imaginative use of limited resources and pure talent. Burr Tillstrom's puppets stop being puppets after only a few minutes, thanks in large part to the golden-voiced Fran Allison, who makes us all believe. Forget the picture quality and little cramped stage: Burr and Fran turn it into the Tardis.



Speaking of Tardises (or is it "tardi?"), you can't go wrong with Murray Gold's magnificent music for the current crop of Doctor Who series that have really taken the world by storm in a way I can't recall since The Muppet Show. Gold's score for season seven (and also several Christmas episode scores, also on CD) are varied, ethereal, dramatic and as "big" as the galaxy.


The Deluxe Edition Soundtrack Album of this very special film not only contains Thomas Newman's masterful score -- weaving his own compositions with interpolated Sherman songs -- but also includes several Sherman Brothers song demos and what is, in effect, Poppin's Greatest Hits. Plus, you can hear Colin Farrell's lyric read from the film's opening and the three memorable song pitch scenes with Emma Thompson, Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak. Tom Hanks does not appear on the album, but then, Walt himself only recorded one album for his record company (Walt Disney Takes You to Disneyland).


First of all, know that there are actually TWO sound track albums for the Chuck Jones/Boris Karloff animated TV special. The first one was released in 1966 by MGM Records and combines Karloff's sound track narration with a re-created version of the music and singing. It's quite wonderful, won a Grammy Award and is the only one of the two that is in stereo. You can get it on CD on the Mercury label.

Warner/Rhino released the actual TV soundtrack on another CD many years later. You'll notice a few seconds of additional music at the beginning and end, because they originally had sponsor mentions over them. A brand-new green vinyl disc of the Grinch was just released this year as well.



Few if any of even the most knowlegable Disneyphiles can read any book by longtime Disney Historian Jim Korkis and not say "I did not know that!" It's a testimony to the infinite nature of Disney's legacy that factual tidbits keep on coming, and it's also a testimony to Korkis' careful research and easygoing writing style that we get to enjoy it. This time, Jim takes on the life and times of the most iconic of animated characters, so much of a "real" being that he often transcends being a cartoon.


If I were writing a book about my career, it wouldn't be nearly as amazing as Floyd Norman's but it would have the same conversational tone, candid without being tattletale-ish, respectful of both the subjects in the story and the reader. As you read, you're seeing the Walt Disney Studios through his eyes as he wanders the hallways where cool stuff is everywhere. The first half of the book chronicles Floyd's journey through his Disney career; the second half is a series of observations, advice, wisdom and fascinating anecdotes. What a joy that we are able to share in all this wonder with a Disney Legend in his own words.


In addition to animation veteran Darrell Van Citters' gotta-have tome about Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, this is a must-have too. While doing research for the Magoo book, he uncovered a treasure trove of artwork, sketches, layouts and more that really drive home the talent of the artists behind the Ward cartoons. You're only seeing the tip of the iceberg if you've only seen the shows themselves.


Longtime Late Night with David Letterman writer Steve Young (who was the mastermind behind "Dave's Record Collection") reveals a heretofore undiscovered side of musical theater, some of which is fantastic, some that might have been better left covered. Industrial musicals were common in the postwar era, all the way up to the '80s. Some soon-to-be Broadway musical powerhouses (like Bock and Harnick, who wrote Fiddler on the Roof) started their careers with these shows, which were surreal ways to get sales people excited about everything from cars and household notions to toilets and tractors. If you ever saw a live corporate sponsored show at a World's Fair, you get the idea. 

Blog, Reviews, Movies, TV, People, Music, Downloads, Records, Books
Posted on Dec 02 2013 by Greg


Both sequels are on Blu-ray for the first time, along with two DVDs with each film. The first sequel, Return to the Sea, boasts many of the same cast members as the original film including Disney Legend Jodi Benson, but the nice songs by Patti and Michael Silversher are too few and the plot is a retread of the first story. This time we get a skinny version of Ursula and Disney’s version of Tennessee Tuxedo and Chumley. Plus, Ariel and Eric are put in a situation very frustrating to the viewers as well as their daughter, Melody, but being brick walls about everything to do with Ariel’s magical past. Plus, in limited animation, Eric looks even more like the David Seville of the ‘80s.

The third Little Mermaid film (second on this set), Ariel’s Beginning, is a far superior film with a more solid storyline without delving into set pieces to extend the film length. We also get to know Ariel’s sisters better and meet a more original villain, amusingly named Marina Del Ray and superbly voiced by Sally Field, singing for the first time since The Flying Nun. Even the extras are better on this film. The animation is startlingly fluid for a direct to video production. Make the whole package worth it.

Disney has taken a few jabs for putting what was originally planned as a direct to video feature and releasing to theaters, but Walt Disney did just that with Johnny Tremain and several other of his live-action features which either turned out better than expected or ran over budget.

In the case of Planes, the budget was upped and though the film seems to dreamily ramble a bit, it was clearly an attempt to attract more of the male sector of the audience and it succeeded tremendously. I’m not a big Dane Cook fan, but he does a creditable job as Dusty, a crop duster with a fear of heights, a character much more likable than Lightning McQueen in Cars. John Cleese turns in his usual scene stealing best as a jolly old British plane. Looks wonderful in HD on a big screen.


It's nice to have these shows on DVD after wearing out my VHS tapes, which sometimes were recorded at EP and looked ecch. The 1977 A Flintstone Christmas special is of particular interest, coming at a time with The Flintstones and Hanna-Barbera were enjoying a resurgence in popularity.

It's also a musical special with songs that also popped up in other H-B Christmas specials. "Hope," sung by Wilma in this instance, is a cousin to "When You Wish Upon a Star" and was sung by Boo-Boo in Yogi's First Christmas. "Brand New Kind of Christmas Song" did originate in this special. Both this song and Boo-Boo's "Hope" can be heard on the Hanna-Barbera Christmas Sing Along sound track album.

The second special on this collection, A Flintstone Family Christmas, came after Turner acquired Hanna-Barbera and there was another resurgence with new merchandise and some really fine books, including a hardcover based on this special, which was nominated for an Emmy, a first for The Flintstones.

Depending on where you lived, this dubbed Japanese cartoon series ran in syndication between 1967 and 1969. What’s interesting about it is that members of the Speed Racer cast does the dubbing, including Speed himself, Peter Fernandez. The music sounds to me to be composed by Billy Mure, who scored many MGM children’s records with Fernandez and the same cast.

“Marine Boy” is sort like “Jonny Quest” underwater. For some reason, even his dad calls him “Marine Boy.” But then, did Speed's parents give him that name at birth? Guess both were endearing nicknames.

The stories in Marine Boy are not as complex as some Japanese TV cartoon imports of the era, so younger kids will likely follow along nicely. The animation looks to me to be that Korean traced stuff that Warner/Seven Arts did with Porky Pig cartoons, though a little neater. I can’t confirm that as a fact, though. It’s just that the draftsmanship is not what I’ve seen in similar cartoons. But what a groovy theme song! There are actually two of them, and I like the one with the “oooooo’s.”


This is from the 1961 live action fantasy starring Annette, Ray Bolger, Tommy Sands, Ed Wynn and a very young Ann Jillian. It’s not the sound track but a “re-creation” with slightly different orchestrations, produced at Tutti Camarata’s Sunset Sound Studios.

It is not available on CD (though the Disney Parks did offer CD-R’s for a short time years ago). You can download it—with a pristine restoration by Walt Disney Records’ master producer, Randy Thorton—on iTunes.

SANTA CLAUS-THE MOVIE Original Sound Track Album
Though I love the movie and enjoyed it when it was released, not everyone does. Regardless, the magnificent score by Henry Mancini is one of the best “traditional” music and song scores of the ‘80s, with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and a pop solo by Sheena Easton (“It’s Christmas All Over the World”) that should get more airplay.

Be careful when ordering this album on CD, as you’ll want the expanded edition, not the single album on CD. The expanded edition has everything the original EMI LP had plus many more pieces of music that couldn’t fit on the vinyl disc as well as alternates and deleted selections and an interesting booklet.

MARY POPPINS Special Edition Original Sound Track Album
You know that tape recorder you see taking in what happened during those meetings with the persnickety Ms. Travers and the supercalifragilistic Shermans? You can hear many of the REAL ones on disc two of this glorious sound track album.

The aforementioned Randy Thornton pretty much put the entire musical score on this album for the first time and it should be in every home.


Speaking of the Shermans, the landmark songs from their history making career are contained on two discs here. There's even a non-Disney film represented in this collection, with the Oscar-nominated theme from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It was tthe brothers’ first outside film, done with the approval of Disney. On this collection, the great Mike Sammes Singers perform the song. Every home should have this, too.


A meticulously detailed portrait of the man behind the Muppets, unlike anything published before. Lengthy yet a brisk read, the book covers the length and breadth of Henson’s life and career in a matter-of-fact, clear headed way, without the armchair speculative psychology of other bios of others (you know which ones).

Few will read this and say, “I already knew ALL of that” or they’d be fibbing.


INSIDE THE WHIMSY-WORKS: My Life with Walt Disney Productions
Disney Legend Jimmy Johnson rose from the mailroom to merchandise and from publishing to launching what is now Walt Disney Records. He wrote this memoir in 1975 but it was never published until now.

This is one of the very first insider looks at what is was like working for Disney from the Snow White days to the opening of Walt Disney World. I know this is a blatant plug and you have to pre-order the book because it won’t be sent out until February 2014, but please consider getting a copy and wrapping up the amazon description as a lovely thing to place under the tree.

DVD Review: Best of Warner Brothers 25 Cartoon Collection: Hanna-Barbera
Blog, Reviews, TV
Posted on Jul 02 2013 by Greg

Warner Home Video just recently released this commemorative anniversary DVD collection, Best of Warner Bros. 25 Cartoon Collection: Hanna-Barbera. Any collection that claims to be the “best of” is just like one of those magazine or Internet “all-time best” lists. Fans have made their opinions about this collection known elsewhere on the net. No one is going to be completely happy with the selections and they will point out what should or should not be included.

Apparently there were cartoons announced for this set that did make it to the final release. Huckleberry Hound and Yakky Doodle appear on the package but are not represented with episodes. The box does not list the cartoons, making me wonder whether the package had to go to press before the final selections were made. (Because I love these cartoons and I’m nice, I have listed them in detail below.)

My guess is that there were lists of cartoons that might have made the final cut but were eliminated for one reason or another. Thanks to Stu’s Show, I know that Capitol and other production music is challenging to license, so you will only see and hear one cartoon with non-HB library music—the first one on the set.

billandjoe200Another consideration is the disparity between what was acceptable in the ‘60s and the social mores of today. This is a mainstream WB release and does not have a “for collectors” disclaimer. Could a young parent sit their kids down to watch this and be assured that there wouldn’t be anything that is considered unacceptable?

Let me quote Tami Horiuchi, amazon.com’s in-house reviewer, about the first “Saturday Morning Cartoons” DVD set: “While these cartoons are great fun for the adult set, it’s interesting that what was considered kids’ entertainment from 1961 to 1968 is now deemed unsuitable for children due to things like excessive cartoon violence, dishonesty, animal cruelty, and sexist and chauvinistic behavior.”

Thus, this collection includes an early Flintstones episode in which Fred is jealous but not the “caveman” he is in other early shows, Top Cat and the gang at their most warmhearted as they care for a lost baby and so on. There is some violence, gunplay and stereotyping—but you can tell after watching the entire set that a lot of thought went into selecting the cartoons, whether you agree with the choices or not. Which cartoons would appeal to the greatest number of people in 2013, especially those to whom HB cartoons are not as familiar as they are to those of us who grew up adoring them?

Then, there are today’s kids, used to explosive theatrical tent-pole movies and more edgy, rapid-fire cartoons on cable. The choices in this set contain space ships, aliens, funny animals, fairy tale characters, giant monsters and ghosts­—the sort of thing that plays well to kids today as well as yesterday. I’d like to think that the kids who watch this set would come away with a desire to see more of this stuff.

So I’m not being an apologist so much as a realist. There are some Hanna-Barbera landmarks here (the debuts of several characters, premiere episodes, etc.). 11 of the 25 cartoons, as far as I can tell, are new to DVD. It’s not a definitive collection by any means, but I’m glad I bought it.

dynamite_fright1. Quick Draw McGraw in “Dynamite Fright”

Story: Quick Draw offers a dog biscuit to Snuffles to help rid a town of Dynamite Kaboom. (I love Snuffles!)
Voices: Daws Butler, Doug Young

From: The Quick Draw McGraw Show, Episode 41a, Season 3, 1961

2. Snooper & Blabber in “Outer Space Case”
Story: Martians hire the detectives to recover a ruby.
Voices: Daws Butler, Don Messick

From: The Quick Draw McGraw Show, Episode 41b, Season 3, 1961

3. Augie Doggie in “Growing, Growing, Gone”
Story: Augie decides he has to leave home to grow up.

Voices: Daws Butler, Doug Young
From: The Quick Draw McGraw Show, Episode 41c, Season 3, 1961

hokeywolf1504. Hokey Wolf in “Castle Hassle” (NEW TO DVD)

Story: Hokey tries to con Snow White’s stepmother, the queen.

Voices: Daws Butler, Don Messick, Jean Vander Pyl

From: The Huckleberry Hound Show, Episode 47c, Season 3, October 30, 1960

5. Quick Draw McGraw in “The Mark of El Kabong”
Story: Quick Draw, as the avenging figure El Kabong, arrives to bring justice to a small Mexican town. At the introduction of Senorita Rita, listen for the “El Kabong” song in the background, which was sung on the Golden records.

Voices: Daws Butler, Don Messick, Jean Vander Pyl

From: Quick Draw McGraw Show, Episode 44a, Season 3, 1961

augiedoggie1406. Augie Doggie in “Party Pooper Pop” (NEW TO DVD)
Story: Doggie Daddy wants Augie to attend a neighborhood birthday party.

Voices: Daws Butler, Doug Young

From: The Quick Draw McGraw Show, Episode 44b, Season 3, 1961

7. Snooper & Blabber in “Chilly Chiller” (NEW TO DVD)

Story: Spoof of the TV series “Thriller” and “The Addams Family,” with precursors to The Gruesomes from “The Flintstones.”
Voices: Daws Butler, Don Messick, Jean Vander Pyl

From: The Quick Draw McGraw Show, Episode 44c, Season 3, 1961

8. Hokey Wolf in “Tricks and Treats” (Pilot) (NEW TO DVD)
Story: Hokey and Ding-a-Ling threaten a farmer with a bogus animal cruelty lawsuit.

Voices: Daws Butler, Doug Young
From: The Huckleberry Hound Show, Episode 40c, Season 3, September 11, 1960

loopydeloop1409. Loopy De Loop in “Wolf Hounded” (Debut) (NEW TO DVD)
Story: Loopy tells the Red Riding Hood story from his point of view. This story was recorded, with alterations, for the Golden LP, “Songs of Yogi Bear.”

Voices: Daws Butler, June Foray

A Columbia Pictures Theatrical Cartoon, May 11, 1959

10. Flintstones in “Love Letters On the Rocks”
Fred finds his old ‘frying pans’ love letter to and mistakes it for a note from another man. This was a familiar “Honeymooners” premise.
Voices: Alan Reed, Mel Blanc, Jean Vander Pyl, Bea Benaderet, John Stephenson

From: The Flintstones, Episode 21, Season 1, February 17, 1961

11. Snagglepuss in “The Roaring Lion”
Snagglepuss makes his debut, escaping from the circus and playing college football. The football angle was done on an earlier Yogi Bear cartoon.
Voices: Daws Butler, Don Messick

From: The Yogi Bear Show, Episode 8, November 6, 1964

12. Top Cat in “T.C. Minds the Baby”

Story: The gang becomes attached to an abandoned baby.
Voices: Arnold Stang, Leo DeLyon, Marvin Kaplan, Maurice Gosfield, Allen Jenkins, Jean Vander Pyl, John Stephenson
From: Top Cat, Episode 17, January 17, 1962

13. The Jetsons in “Rosie the Robot”

Story: Premiere episode in which Rosie joins the family. This was released on Colpix Records along with “A Date with Jet Screamer.”
Voices: George O’Hanlon, Penny Singleton, Janet Waldo, Daws Butler, Mel Blanc, Jean Vander Pyl
From: The Jetsons, Episode 1, January 17, 1962 September 23, 1962

magilla15014. Magilla Gorilla in “Makin’ with the Magilla”
Story: Magilla joins in a beach party and helps invent a new dance. One of my favorite Magilla episodes; the groovy song by Little Eva (“Locomotion”) is available on iTunes.

Voices: Allan Melvin, Howard Morris, Don Messick
From: The Magilla Gorilla Show, Episode 22a, October 23, 1965

15. Jonny Quest in “The Robot Spy”
Story: This is that neat episode about the giant eyeball spider thing from the flying saucer!

Voices: Tim Matheson, Mike Road, Don Messick, Danny Bravo, Vic Perrin

From: Jonny Quest, Episode 8, November 6, 1964

16. Peter Potamus in “Cleo Trio” (NEW TO DVD)

Story: Pete and So-So try to settle a rift between Caesar and Cleopatra.
Voices: Daws Butler, Don Messick, Julie Bennett

From: The Peter Potamus Show, Episode 3a, Season 1, October 7, 1964

17. Touché Turtle in “Rapid Rabbit” (NEW TO DVD)
Story: A farmer calls on Touché and Dum-Dum to get a rabbit (named Ricochet!) who can outrun bullets.
Voices: Bill Thompson, Alan Reed, Doug Young

From: The Hanna-Barbera New Cartoon Series, Episode 6b, March 6, 1962

yippeeyappy18. Yippee, Yappee & Yahooey in “Black Bart”
Voices: Hal Smith, Daws Butler, Doug Young
Story: To make the King give back their jobs, the goofy guards plan to disguise Yahooey as notorious Black Bartholomew, but the real bandit arrives and confuses everyone.
From: The Peter Potamus Show, Episode 2c, Season 1, September 23, 1964

19. Atom Ant in “The Big Gimmick” (NEW TO DVD)

Story: Professor Von Gimmick’s giant robot threatens a vacation resort.
Voices: Howard Morris, Allan Melvin
From: The Atom Ant Show, Episode 12a, December 18, 1965

20. Secret Squirrel in “Cuckoo Clock Cuckoo” (NEW TO DVD)
Story: A giant clock collector steals Big Ben.
Voices: Mel Blanc, Paul Frees, Henry Corden
From: The Atom Ant / Secret Squirrel Show, Episode 11b, December 11, 1965

21. Hillbilly Bears in “Do the Bear” (NEW TO DVD)
Story: Paw Rugg becomes a pop recording star. A big fave of mine, this cartoon was expanded for the Hanna-Barbera LP record album.

Voices: Henry Corden, Jean Vander Pyl, Janet Waldo, Don Messick
From: The Atom Ant / Secret Squirrel Show, Episode 26e, October 15, 1965

22. Frankenstein Jr. in “The Shocking Electrical Monster”

Story: In the series premiere, Dr. Shock transforms his assistant into a monster that grows as it gains electrical power.
Voices: Paul Frees, Dick Beals, Ted Cassidy, Vic Perrin

From: Frankenstein Jr. & The Impossibles, Episode 1a, September 10, 1966

23. The Impossibles in “The Spinner”
Story: Also the series premiere, the heroes recover a stolen million dollar tiara.
Voices: Paul Frees, Hal Smith, Don Messick, Jean Vander Pyl, The Hanna-Barbera Singers

From: Frankenstein Jr. & The Impossibles, Episode 1b, September 17, 1966

24. Space Ghost in “The Heat Thing”

Story: Space Ghost, Jan and Blip rush to rescue a fiery monster that can throw lava bombs.
Voices: Gary Owens, Ginny Tyler, Tim Matheson
From: Space Ghost & Dino Boy, Episode 1a, September 10, 1966

gadzooka25. Abbott & Costello in “Gadzooka” (NEW TO DVD)

Story: Bud and Lou are policeman who are sent to save the city from a 100-foot creature. I liked that this series had titles much like those in “The Man Called Flintstone.”

Voices: Bud Abbott, Stan Irwin, John Stephenson
From: The Abbott & Costello Cartoon Show, Episode 23b, February 10, 1968

“Here Comes a Star” (1964)
Documentary for TV Stations Premiering “The Magilla Gorilla Show”. Hosted by George Fenneman, with Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera and scenes from Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear and The Magilla Gorilla Show.

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