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Blog, Movies, TV
Posted on Nov 06 2012 by Greg
Meet Tinker Bell who flies everywhere
Her land is warm, her weather's fair
But Peri's only seen the sights
Of winter days and winter nights
What a crazy pair!
But they're fairies, identical fairies all the way
One pair of sprightly pixies, different as night and day!

While Peri adores to pirouette
On landscapes cold as they can get
Our Tink just seems to have goal
Of making Vidia lose control
What a wild duet!

But they're fairies, identical fairies and you'll find
Their wings get sparkly rays alike, they even disobey alike
You could lose your mind
When fairies are two of a kind!

Tinker Bell: The Secret of the Wings
, the first Disney Fairies feature to actually be released near the actual season in which it takes place, is a sweeping epic in which Tink discovers she has a twin sister, Periwinkle. Peri lives in a frosty world ruled by former James Bond Timothy Dalton (who also voiced Mr. Pricklypants in Toy Story 3). Naturally, the twins spend too much time in their respective other lands and adventures ensue.

It's a beautifully rendered production, really an art direction triumph. And in Blu-ray, it's especially stunning to see. The songs are by the talented husband and wife duo Valerie Vigoda and Brendan Milburn, who also recently scored a musical version of Toy Story for Disney Cruise Line and have a series of inventive original musicals created for their band, Groovelily.

The teen angle has been ramped up in this film, with the addition of more "hunky" sprites, almost to the point of being unintentionally humorous, as in one final moment in which a young guy struts onto the scene and says, "Hey. I'm Sled."

Vigoda and Milburn also wrote songs for Pixie Hollow Games, a 30-minute TV special relegated to bonus features status on this package. What it might lack in budget compared to the more lavish Wings feature, it makes up for in charm and character development.

Pixie Hollow Games focuses on two fairies: Rosetta, voiced to perfection by Megan Hilty, and newcomer Chloe, played by Brenda Song (of Zack & Cody and The Social Network). Rosetta may be a garden fairy, but she's a tootsie-toes with more than a touch of OCD. Chloe's atheticism makes the two of them an "Odd Couple" and thus fodder for a very entertaining, fast moving and fun little show.

The extras are not elaborate, not even on a promotional level, when compared to earlier Tinker Bell releases. Wings is nice, but Great Fairy Rescue is still, to me, the best of the four features so far.

Blog, TV
Posted on Oct 26 2012 by Greg
Actually, Bucky is an animated ship and does not talk, much less bark in astonishing code language, but the truth is that Bucky is taken by Captain Hook from Jake and the Never Land Pirates in the new DVD, Jake Saves Bucky. It's especially notable for the re-appearance of Peter Pan to help in the rescue. This is a three-segment story edited together as a "Full Length Adventure."

Rounding out the DVD disc are eight segments, two of which make up a standard Disney Junior half hour show

-  Peter's Musical Pipes
- The Never Night Star
- Captain Hook's Hooks
- Mr Smee's Pet
- Race Around Rock!
- Captain Hook is Missing! (he's not in the well, either)
- Captain Hook's Lagoon
- Undersea Bucky

Designed for the preschooler, Jake and the Never Land Pirates is much like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Dora the Explorer, as the characters often ask the viewers to help out, and in this case, earn onscreen coins as rewards.

Each story is very musical and is followed by a live action pirate duo named "Bones and Sharky" singing an original song over the credits.

Modern Family fans take note: the voice of the mermaid in the last episode, "Undersea Bucky!", is Ariel Winter, who plays Alex Dunphy on the award winning TV sitcom (which is really not for preschoolers).

The new DVD also includes a digital download copy so you can load it onto a portable device to keep the kids amused on the go. Select DVD packages might also include an inflatable play sword.

Blog, TV, People, Music, Records
Posted on Sep 29 2012 by Greg
There was a time when legends like Danny Kaye, Alfred Hitchcock, Soupy Sales and Shari Lewis sang songs and shared stories on vinyl records. Often Mitch Miller directed the orchestra. This was the decades-long era of Golden Records--and now it's returning on CD and download in the form of classic original recordings as well as new versions featuring with celebrities like Ed Asner, Susan Sarandon, Cheryl Hines, Alicia Silverstone and many more.

Golden Records started as 6" yellow 78 RPM records some of us played with steel needles on acoustic kiddie players. Along came 45 RPM and LP records from the Golden label in New York under the supervision of Arthur Shimkin, who would also lead the Columbia and Sesame Street children's labels.

The original Golden Records themselves may have been small in size, but their influence in the industry was huge. The first records for Mickey Mouse Club Records, Howdy Doody, Roy Rogers, you name it, they recorded or were distributed by Golden.

By early '60s, the Golden sound became more mellow under the baton of Jim Timmens. A light jazz style was the usual sound of late 60s/70s producer Ralph Stein, while at the same time Producer Howard Scott brought original musicals, folk songs and rich London-based styles to the label.

In the late 70s, Golden Records became Wonderland Records, having added titles from the Riverside Wonderland catalog and some classic Capitol albums into the fold. By the 80s, two-time Grammy winning composer/producer Dennis Scott provided some of his earliest work before moving to Sesame Street.

Then there was nothing.

The label fell into a morass of legal issues and virtually vanished. Several companies made valiant attempts to reissue the records but the issues persisted until Shout! Factory released a handful of successful albums and compilations a few years back.

Now Verse Music Group has stepped up to reboot Golden Records as a brand, as you can see on their website or Facebook page, and created a two-tiered series that satisfies those of us who love the classic recordings and introduces them to today's parents and kids in a fresh new way with current showbiz names.

The first album in this "Celebrity Series" offers the distinctive musical style many of us cherish, but remastered to crystal clarity, with the stories read by the above actors, plus songs sung by Didi Conn (Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure, Shining Time Station).

Two albums of remastered and restored original Golden Records are being released in the "Timeless Series" and are budget priced, along with Halloween and Christmas collections in the celebrity series. Even if you and your young children have never heard Golden Records, there nothing else that sounds like them. For the price alone, you'd be much better off sharing these songs with your kids in this manner than hearing thin, synth versions often on current budget kids' CDs.

This is a very ambitious project indeed, with many albums coming soon in both series. If you fondly  remember the classic sound of these discs--which sold in the multi-millions in their day--hearing it remastered in such a spectacular way is like striking gold.

Blog, TV
Posted on Jul 28 2012 by Greg
My daughter and I approached the new Tim Burton/Johnny Depp big screen version of TV's Dark Shadows with some caution, not because we were worried about the comic aspects promised by the trailers (which turned out to be deceptive),  but simply because it may not have been very good, since the buzz was less than overwhelming.

It turned out to be a highly entertaining celebration of the original series, with exactly the touches you might expect from the parties involved - horror, blood, pathos, humor, goth and irony.

Dark Shadows was made into a feature film before, in 1970, when the series was still on the air. MGM, which was going through one of its many financial downturns, was buoyed by the film's success. Unlike the series, it was filmed in several real locations, but like the series, it starred many of the original cast members. The film was more graphic in its violent, bloody retelling of the Barnabas storyline, but did so with the kind of brisk economy a daytime soap could not have.

However, no feature film or series revival could ever capture the magnetic power of the original series. Looking beyond the low budget and relishing the occasional flubs and shaking tombstones, the original Dark Shadows was able to dig deeper into its characters and pull viewers into the day-to-day "reality" of the lives of the denizens of Collinsport.

There were several kinds of characters, generally. The main protagonists were the supernatural creatures, and they all had a sort of awareness of each other, from werewolves, zombies, witches to of course, vampires. Like the witches and warlocks of Bewitched, they were a society unto themselves, either in opposition or alliance with each other.

Then there were the crossover characters who knew about the supernatural creatures but didn't necessarily have any powers of their own. Dr. Julia Hoffman was chief among them, moving and shaking among the Barnabases, Quentins and Angeliques.

Then there were what we like to call the "clueless" characters, who were drawn in and out of involvement with the supernatural people and events yet seemed to live on the periphery. Roger Collins, Elizabeth Collins and even Victoria Winters fell into this category.

Watching the series again on DVD is loads of fun, especially sharing it with your kids (I know it requires patience with the leisurely pace of the show, but they'll get drawn in).

You have to admire the clever way the writers protracted each storyline to maximum stretchability, but gave you just enough to keep hanging on, adding in wonderful moments that add more and more facets to each character. For example, the "B" story of Elizabeth's marriage to Jason McGuire is pretty tedious, but it brings out the gallantry of Barnabas and helps form him into the landmark sympathetic vampire that set the standard for all to come. Joan Bennett and Jonathan Frid have a fine scene in which she's thinking of jumping off a cliff and he talks about death -- each talking about different things, unaware of what the other is expressing, yet affecting each other. Those moments occur a lot on the original series, born of necessity to keep the series going, but also adding to the viewer's attachment to the characters.

There never was anything like it and there may never be again. But fortunately, all 1,225 shows are on DVD. You don't have to wait days between episodes like we did in the "old" days, and without commercials each show moves much faster and runs about 23 minutes.

As the series went on, things got more wild. There was parallel time in the present, trips back to 1795 and 1840 and parallels inside there, too. The cast was like a repertory groups, playing numerous roles. Keeping track of everything was part of the fun.

And yes, it was fun. Outlandish fantasy, but much like a fairy tale cut off from the real world for pure escapism. A getaway from the troubles of the day into a world of people with problems so off the wall that it's kind of cathartic. And it's often funny without meaning to be in its melodramatic fervor.

If you've never watched it before, start with Collection #1, which picks up when Barnabas joined the show and it skyrocketed. Continue to the end of the series as you please, and then if desired, there's a DVD series called "The Beginning," which covers the less-successful, pre-Barnabas shows in which the pedestrian gothic story was given jolts by the entrance of a ghost and a phoenix.

How much you get into it is up to you. But you'll never experience anything like it in any other form, no matter how much CG and 3-D and dazzling digital stuff comes along.

Blog, TV, People, Music, Records
Posted on Jun 29 2012 by Greg
Some folks who remember Don Grady as Robbie Douglas, the teen-turned young husband on the long running TV sitcom My Three Sons, may not also know that he was one of the original Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeers, joining the series later in its run under his real name, Don Agrati.

With his untimely passing this week, he not only leaves behind two iconic TV personas, but also an extraordinary music career that in sheer volume and scope, eclipses his onscreen work.

Don Grady was part of Yellow Balloon, a feel-good late '60s pop group at the same time as he was still performing on My Three Sons. He has written numerous scores for stage, TV and video (including a lot of Disney video bonus materials and games) and an acclaimed Las Vegas show called EFX.

The items most overlooked in his various obits are some Disney albums that literally millions of families have listened to for years: Disney Princess Tea Party and, ever more notably, Disney's Princess Christmas Album.

Both albums feature the magnificent voices of such greats as Lea Salonga, Paige O'Hara, Judy Kuhn and Jodi Benson -- plus arrangements, production and original compositions by Don Grady. These albums will never really become dated and will surely be reissued in one form or another for untold generations. We can never know how many scores of children will be delighted by this fine work.

That's a mighty impressive legacy.

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