31 December 2007

The Little Mermaid

In the early 90s, I loved Garfield and the Ninja Turtles. (What kid didn't back then?) I got up at 8 AM every damn Saturday just to watch them. I watched my recorded Garfield specials quite often. I practically memorized the first Ninja Turtles movie. I bought anything with Garfield on it; I even had some expensive ceramic figurines. Needless to say, I was something of a fanatic.

Now maybe you'll understand my full meaning when I say that phase was a mere blip on the radar compared to my all-out obsession with Disney's The Little Mermaid. It became my life.

It was released to theatres in 1989, but my mom wouldn't let me go to the theatre for reasons that I'd rather not get into right now. Instead, I saw it when it was released to video, and I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. When it aired later on The Disney Channel, my dad recorded it for me, and I watched it every. Single. Day. The sad part is that I am not exaggerating for comedic effect. Sometimes I watched it more than once a day.

I had everything. Toys. Clothes. Sleeping bag. Bedroom set. Any other random crap they sold that had Ariel's face printed on it.

Somewhere along the way, my tape got lost and my interest finally waned. I didn't see the movie again until the Platinum Edition DVD was released and I shelled out the 20 bucks for it.

Anyway, how could I be writing a nostalgia blog and not mention this movie? Therefore, here's my observations now that I'm an adult with more discerning taste and self-control.

It can't be denied that the production values are stellar; the animation fluid, bright, and colorful. The songs are among some of the best in the Disney canon, perhaps even the best. This movie is the reason Disney still exists today (though it's arguable if we should be thankful for that or not).

The opening sequence is a pretty nice piece of animation, and is an okay hook. However, the, er, cinematography (?) isn't anything fantastic; I feel like it could've been much more epic. The accompanying score really makes up for it, though.

One random stupid thing that's always bothered me: Do Triton's seven daughters all have different mothers, or are mer-genetics just weird like that? I mean, they all have different hair colors and such.

Speaking of hair colors, it's refreshing that Ariel is a red-head and not a blonde. Her character design is simple but nice; it lends itself very well to becoming iconic.

Also, how come the requisite sidekick character had to be a dumb little fish, anyway? Why couldn't we have had another mer-person or something? Flounder is one of the least-irritating animal sidekicks, but he's still pretty boring.

Speaking of bad animal sidekicks, Scuttle the seagull is one of them. I just can't stand the guy. The bit with the "human stuff" is cute, but other than that, ugh. At least he isn't totally useless, and there is one pretty funny part where Eric makes a joke at his expense.

It's amazing how much your outlook can change when you get older. When I was a kid, I thought King Triton was a royal asshole. I thought, how could he just blow up all Ariel's shit like that? Now that I'm an adult, I realize that I probably would've done the same thing. He's not a bad guy, he's just trying to do the right thing, trying to protect his defiant teenage daughter. Moral #1: Just because you're 16 doesn't mean you suddenly know everything.

As for Ariel, her persistence and bravery are admirable, but I just can't help thinking that she's dumb (pun intended). This could very well stem from my general dislike of teenagers, though. Nevertheless, she's likeable enough and not completely flat or one-dimensional like most other Disney heroines. I think that has a lot to do with the performance of her voice actress, which is no less than perfect.

Therefore, the saddest thing about this movie is that Ariel doesn't get to sing more. Part of Your World is probably the best part of the whole thing. The song is adeptly composed and beautifully performed. The only flaw is that they should have played it totally straight. There are random funny moments with Sebastian the crab throughout the number, and I think it really breaks up the drama. The comedy should've been saved for after the song was over.

As for other big numbers in the production, Under the Sea leaves me somewhat underwhelmed. Yeah, it's cute...I guess. I realize that the whole point of it was to say to Ariel, "Hey, life under the sea is badass. Quit being a retard," but something about it is just...too much.

Another random thing that's been bothering me is...how the hell did Flounder get a hold of that statue? Did he have to pay someone to haul it to Ariel's secret place for him?

The other character who really benefited from a great voice actress was Ursula. The character would have been total crap without the right actress. Ursula is a strong presence for this reason, not necessarily because of the writing. Her dialogue is mostly bland, but the performance makes up for it.

Her big number, Poor, Unfortunate Souls, is pretty damn good. It's a catchy song, well-written, and it helps to further the plot because it's used to convince Ariel to give up her voice in exchange for legs. By the way, you'd think that Ariel would've been a little put-off by that whole "you belong to meeeee" thing, but I guess the point they're trying to make is that she's very fearless and dedicated-- or maybe just really, really stupid. Moral #2: Always read contracts before signing them.

I feel that the second half of the movie is significantly weaker than the first, partly due to the fact that there's no more singing by Ariel until one little tidbit near the very end.

There are a couple of highlights though, such as the scene at the dinner table with the fork and the pipe. Probably the funniest part of the movie. Although, why in the hell did they put her in a pink dress? She's a red-head, for crying out loud! They should have put her in lavender or green or something. Ugh.

Also, there's the bit with the French chef, which is also pretty funny, but way over-the-top. I'm surprised more kids weren't traumatized by this.

The backgrounds on land are exquisite. There's a lot of contrast between the undersea world and the world above the surface.

Then we have the last big number, Kiss the Girl. It's a nice song, but again, they tried to put in comedy and I think it undermined the whole thing.

I'm also not a big fan of the movie's climax. I don't know how I would make it better, but something about it just doesn't sit right with me.

And then there's the biggest departure from the original story: the happy ending. It's just...meh. I mean, it sends the message that even if you almost get yourself killed, Daddy will still be there to save you, AND you'll still get what you wanted in the end. Maybe I'm cynical for looking at it that way, but surely I'm not the only one.

I know I haven't exactly been nice in this write-up, but I do still enjoy this film for what it is, and I can't ignore the impact it had on me. Besides, what do you expect from Disney? High drama?

By the way, this is the last post of 2007. Good riddance, 2007! Here's hoping for a brighter future in 2008.

18 December 2007

Books! They Do A Body Good.

When I was a kid, I loved books just as much as I loved movies and cartoons. I learned to read at a very early age, and would look at my collection of books over and over again. I even wanted to make my own children's books-- and often did, taking great care to crudely assemble them with copier paper and Scotch tape, complete with even cruder illustrations.

Obviously, old children's books are a one-way ticket to Nostalgia Land for me. They're also the easiest retro junk to find, and the cheapest to boot-- they're often only a dollar a piece. I assume that people get tired of their old books and leave them in Mom's attic for a few decades before they finally end up in a Goodwill or other second-hand store. So it's no surprise that I usually find some pretty cool books in places like that.

Today, I hit the jackpot.

About a block from my apartment there's a place called Second Chance Books and Comics. I've passed it several times, and today I finally decided to pay a visit. Boy, I'm glad I did because this place has everything. I found five books, four of which I had as a child and one of which I thought was too hilarious to pass up. They even had a huge collection of VHS tapes. I wanted to buy like, ten of them, but settled on just two, because I'm poor, dammit. All the items are things that would have ended up on my Retro Wishlist at some point.

The first book I found was...actually not a book I had as a child. However, I had it on a Golden Book Video entitled Three Mercer Mayer Stories. It was one of those weird "video books" that just showed pseudo-animated illustrations from the book with a voiceover. (Read more about the video on RetroJunk if you so desire.)

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This book, called Just For You, is about a little furry dude, aptly named Little Critter. It was always my favorite of the three stories on the tape. Basically, Little Critter wants to do things for his mom, but he keeps messing them all up, because that's what kids do. But he gives Mom a kiss and hug, and that makes everything all better. The end.

It's a simple story, as most children's stories are, but it's cute and has neat illustrations. I'm glad to finally have the actual book so I don't have to deal with the funky voiceovers, though I wouldn't mind seeing that video again, either...

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The next one was a Little Golden Book adapted from Disney's Cinderella. I barely even remembered it at all until I opened it and flipped through the pages. It's hard for me to put into words what I felt upon doing so. To someone else, this book probably would seem like nothing special, but I was flooded with memories of looking at the illustrations and marveling at them. I think I was only about four years old at the time. I don't know why it made such an impression on my little mind, but it's nice to have it around again.

Next, I came across a Super Mario Bros. book. I did a double take and then laughed out loud. A kid's story about Mario and Luigi? Comedy gold. Published in 1990, Super Mario Bros. 3: Happy Birthday, Princess Toadstool is as awesomely dumb as it sounds. In fact, I think I could write a better Mario story. But I just couldn't pass this one up, especially since it was only a dollar.

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Basically, Mario decides to go into an old, decrepit castle to find a Starman (called "Magic Star" in the book) to give to the Princess for her birthday. He picks a fireflower and shoots fire out of it at Goombas and Koopas, who are always described as "ghastly" and "creepy", respectively. The writer goes to ridiculous lengths to make sure Mario doesn't actually take anybody out, but we all know better.

I always thought you found stars in question blocks, but in this tale, Mario finds it sitting on top of a giant pile of coins. You'd think he'd be like, "Wow, a giant pile of coins!" but I guess Mario has seen enough giant piles of coins in his lifetime. So anyway, he gives the star to the Princess. And stuff. Oh, and Luigi is in there somewhere too. Man, poor Luigi. I always felt kinda bad for the guy.

The next book I came across was one published in 1965, entitled The Witch Next Door. This copy definitely shows its age, but at least it's not falling apart.

When I had this book as a small child, it was already 20-some years old and I think it once belonged to my sister, who is fifteen years older than me. I wonder if it's the same copy I had as a child, but I don't remember there being sloppy grade-schooler handwriting inside the cover of it.

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It's surprising to me that my mom let me read this book at all, because she was on this crusade against magic and the like, and wouldn't let me watch certain things because of it.

The book made a big impression on me. The illustrations are very simple, and are black-and-white except for little hints of green. I remember thinking someone had colored in my book until I figured out it was made that way, since the coloring style looks like green crayon. This was another one of those books I used to sit and stare at.

Anyway, the witch wears the stereotypical witch hat and black robe and even paints her house black, but she's all nice and stuff. She makes friends with the neighbor kids. Two cranky old people get all up-in-arms about a witch living in their neighborhood. So what does she do? She casts a spell on them!...and turns them into a young prince and princess, and they frolic off somewhere to live happily ever after.

Okay, so this book is weird. But I did a dance when I saw it, because I totally forgot it existed until I saw the cover. I love that "holy shit I haven't seen this in 20 years" feeling.

The last book I found was The Doll in the Garden. It's one of those elementary-school-type chapter books, and it's a ghost story.

When I was in the third grade, we read a story called Stonewords, which I'll write about in detail another time. It was also a ghost story, and started a fascination with them. So not long after, I found The Doll in the Garden, read it, and loved it.

It's not bad for a kid's book, but definitely not a masterful work of literature. A girl named Ashley discovers-- surprise --a doll buried in the garden. The doll belongs to a little dead girl. Et cetera. Like I said, no great work of art, but entertaining enough for a nine-year-old.

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I read it approximately seventeen times as a kid. I remember writing my own alternate ending where Ashley rescues the ghost girl. God, I was a weird kid. Anyway, I've collected the other two ghost stories I liked, but this one has been elusive as hell. I've been looking for it for at least two years. It was a little expensive for this sort of thing-- four dollars --but totally worth it.

And now for the VHS tapes. One of them is The Lion King, which I've been looking for forever, but didn't want to shell out 30 bucks for on the internet. I was fine with paying $12.50 for it, though, so it's finally mine. However, I am not going to write about it at length right now, because everybody knows how awesome it is. But "Be Prepared" for a post about it sometime in the future. D'oh ho ho, I'm so funny.

The other tape I got was The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Now, this saw a DVD release not too long ago, but I couldn't talk myself into paying 20 dollars for it. So, needless to say, I was happy when I found this. Besides, it being a VHS tape adds major nostalgia points.

There have been many Disney cartoons about Pooh Bear, but I think these are the best ones-- at least, they are according to my memory. It's actually three stories in one collection. The one I remember the most is the one about the honey tree, and the thing I remember most about that is the "I'm Just a Little Black Rain Cloud" song. My dad used to sing it to me sometimes. Oh, and the Tigger song. Who could forget that?

Needless to say, I'm definitely going back to Second Chance. Who knows what treasures are waiting to be discovered?

16 December 2007

Three Christmas Specials.

Well, it's December, and you know what that means.

Like many of you, some of my favorite Christmas memories are of watching the holiday movies and TV specials. I remember those more than the presents I got; I haven't yet figured out if that's a good thing or not.
So, you all get to listen to me blather on about some of them. Because that's what I do.

A Garfield Christmas Special

This special premiered in 1987, but I first saw it in the early 90s, a time when things at my house were beginning to take a turn for the worse. My mom was going crazy and my parents' marriage was starting to fall apart. So I have mixed feelings about this special. I think this was the first time I felt cynical about Christmas-- even though I was only about 10 or 11 years old.

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Honestly, it's pretty cute, but it's not the end-all be-all of Christmas specials. The best part about it is definitely Jon's grandma. She totally steals the show. Maybe this is just the bad memories talking, but if you missed out on it as a kid, you probably ought to just skip it. Check out the Thanksgiving special instead-- it's far better, in my opinion.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Alright, who hasn't seen this? Well...my fiance, for one, but we're going to fix that problem very soon.

A Charlie Brown Christmas has long been a yearly tradition on television-- for over 40 years, actually. It used to run on CBS, but nowadays it's on ABC, which to me feels kind of...wrong. But I won't get started on that again.

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I actually didn't manage to catch this special until sometime in the early 90s, so it isn't quite as nostalgic for me as some of the others. However, it's still one of my favorites. It's still relevant even today-- well, except for maybe that aluminum Christmas tree thing. What was that all about?

This is one of the few specials still running on network television that's true to the meaning of the holiday. It's refreshing, because most of them are all about family or Santa or whatever. Those stories can be fun, and Christmas may be about family to some extent, but there's way more to it than that. It is called Christmas, you know. Anyway, Linus tells it like it is and I really appreciate that.

Also, the quality holds up pretty well considering that it's a TV special that was made in 1964, which wasn't exactly the golden age of animation.

Finally, the soundtrack is wonderful. I own the album and sometimes listen to it even when it isn't Christmastime. It's not fancy or anything-- just jazz piano, backed by drums and an upright bass, but it's unpretentious and has a lot of heart, which really makes me feel warm and fuzzy. If I had a fireplace, I'd sit by it and drink hot chocolate while listening to this CD.

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

I don't like that song, actually. It ranks at the bottom of my Christmas music list, along with I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town (ironically, also a Rankin-Bass special).

Thankfully, the special is much less irritating.

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The stop-motion animation looks pretty decent, to be honest (except for all the scratches on the film-- what exactly does "digitally remastered" mean anyway?). They obviously put a lot of time and effort into it. I also think the character models/designs are cute, and it has a good little message about how it's okay to be different.

I'm surprised that this was also made in 1964. I think time has been a little unkind to it, since it seems much older. Much like with the Garfield special, it's cute, but I hesitate to recommend shelling out 14 bucks for the DVD unless you're really nostalgic for it or have kids-- otherwise you might get bored with it. I personally have fonder memories of some of the other Rankin-Bass specials, which I'll probably talk about another time.

I know, I've been a little more negative than usual in this post. I'm not Ebenezer Scrooge or something-- I really enjoy Christmas, and I get a kick out of watching these specials, even the lackluster ones.

So, feel free to leave a comment and share any good memories you might have of these specials-- or other specials, if you haven't seen any of the ones listed here. And I promise the next Christmas-y post will be more positive...if I can get around to making another one before Christmas is over.

06 November 2007

Retro Wishlist II: The Revenge

Hey, kids! It's time for the next installment of the Retro Wishlist! These additions are much more expensive and difficult to obtain than the first three items, but what's a wishlist without stuff like that?

04. A DeLorean DMC-12

Oh, come on. You knew I had to include this. Who doesn't want one of these things?

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The DMC-12 was featured in a certain series of time-travel comedies and has since become something of an icon. It was only in production from 1981-1983, since DeLorean Motor Company went bankrupt after the arrest of its founder. Thus, the number of cars that still exist is relatively small, estimated to be somewhere around 6500.

This is one of the most unique cars I've ever seen. Instead of being primed and painted, it's plated with stainless steel. Apparently, some owners have painted their DeLoreans; I personally would never do this, since I think it really takes away from the value and charm of the car.

It also has those distinctive gullwing doors. As a kid, I thought they were the coolest thing ever (which led to a short-lived obsession with Lamborghinis). I still think they're pretty damn cool, but I have to wonder about something: Do DeLorean owners have to park on the outskirts of parking lots to be able to open the door and get out of the car?

Only three times have I ever seen a DeLorean in real life. The first time, I saw one speeding down the interstate and had to suppress the overwhelming urge to stalk it. The second time, I saw one sitting at a car lot/garage as I passed by. (The next time I drove by there, it was gone.)

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The third time was two nights ago. I'm staying with a friend while waiting to move into an apartment, and I was just hanging around when my friend comes inside talking about something awesome he just saw. Naturally, I had to go outside to find out what was going on. Well, the neighbors had a DMC-12 sitting in their driveway, which is fucking amazing enough as is. But it wasn't just any DMC-12-- it was decked out to look just like the time machine from Back to the Future. It was all lit up and had the wires, cables, flux capacitor, the whole nine yards. It even had sound clips from the movie playing through its speakers.

As you might expect, I had a nerdfit and did a really stupid happydance after inspecting it thoroughly. I'm still kicking myself in the ass for not asking the guy if I could take a picture of it. Of course, it's gone now. Damn it.

I've heard that the car is going back into limited production next year. I don't know if that's true or not, but if it is, I'm so getting one when I get 50,000 dollars to spare.

05. A Big Ugly Dish System

...Also known as "television receive-only". Surely you guys have seen a ten-foot satellite dish sitting in someone's yard before. That's what I'm talking about. Satellite TV, 80s-style.

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Why do I want one of these when I could just get one of those modern, much smaller dishes? Mostly to fulfill an old childhood desire.

When I was a kid, my family spent a lot of time at Uncle Sonny and Aunt Ruby's house. (They weren't really my aunt and uncle-- more like my mom's cousins or something like that.) They lived in a rural area, and since you couldn't get cable out there, Uncle Sonny had a big ugly dish. Since I was just a little bitty thing, and BUD systems are kind of complicated, I was never allowed to mess with it.

Back before we had cable, the idea of getting TV from places other than Oklahoma City boggled my little mind. I really wanted to see what kinds of new and interesting channels I could find, and if there were any cartoons on them. My dad said Uncle Sonny could get channels from all over the planet, which even now, sounds fascinating.

Anyway, I never got my hands on that dish-controller-box contraption. In the 90s, Uncle Sonny left his big dish in the dust and got Primestar-- a newfangled satellite service that used a much smaller dish --instead.

Unfortunately, TVRO is pretty obscure now thanks to stuff like Dish Network and DirecTV, which makes me a little sad. This makes it something of a waste for me to ever try getting one set up, not to mention I'm no electronics hobbyist, and would have to pay somebody some serious bucks to set it up for me. I don't like TV that much. But if I ever have large amounts of money lying around, and no better use for it, I'd go for it.

03 November 2007

This Is Home Box Office.

Okay, readers. It's time for the nerdiest post yet (but certainly not the nerdiest I'll ever write). Can you handle it?!

As you all know, HBO is probably the biggest cable network ever. However, this post isn't really about HBO. Rather, it's about its bumpers, on-air graphics and movie intros, a few of which I'll be showing you thanks to all those other retro lovers out there on Youtube.

Home Box Office signed on for the first time in 1972. Can you believe it's been around that long? Neither can I. I thought it started a few years later, like many other networks. Anyway, check out this rare ID. It's from the 70s, back when the "O" in "HBO" still overlapped the "B". That damn O sure was an attention whore. I dig those rainbow stripes though. Very old-school.

Couldn't find it on Youtube, so check it out on RetroJunk!

Another common misconception is that HBO was always a 24/7 network, but it actually didn't start that until December 1981, nine years after its inception.

What that means is that at one point in time, HBO had a sign-off sequence! This blew my mind when I first found out about it on the internet. Not because it's a stellar example of animation (it's not), but because the idea of a pay channel signing off at night is really bizarre. Also, it seems like something of a rip-off, especially when you consider that HBO cost around 12 bucks a month back then, which, in 2007 money, translates to roughly 3000 dollars. Oh well. Check out the video anyway!

(If you'd rather go to Youtube and watch the video, or if the embed doesn't work for you, just click here.)

Alright, you want to see something really dated? Check this next video out. Apparently this clip was recorded in late 1980, but the 70s aesthetic was still going strong. This thing is funktastic. Also, is it just me or does that little theme for the movie intro bear some resemblance to the Star Trek theme music? Listen for it when the words "HBO Feature Movie" come on the screen.

(Again, if that doesn't work, go here.)

Oh, but you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Here's the cream of the crop. The crown jewel. The mother of all the HBO logos, graphics, and intros. If you were alive in the 80s at all, chances are you remember seeing this thing at least once. My parents didn't even subscribe to HBO and I managed to see it. I don't remember when. I don't remember where. But I saw this thing once at some point during my childhood and I never forgot it. I remember wishing that I could see it again, but I don't think I ever did until I found it on RetroJunk at the beginning of my big retro craze. Needless to say, this just added more fuel to the fire.

Anyway, here it is: the glorious HBO Feature Presentation movie intro, aka "HBO in space".

(Or go here.

If you don't think that was one of the most awesome things you've ever seen, then you can just get the hell out of here right now.

Not only is it fucking epic, it also features one of the most exquisitely crafted models I've ever seen. That's right, it ain't CGI, kids. That thing was built in 1982 by hand with blood, sweat, and tears. Or...maybe just hammer, nails, and paint. Even the flying HBO logo that almost crashes through the screen at the end is a model.

Anyway, it's visually impressive even today, but the music is what really makes it amazing. Every hear it, I get chills. And then I feel like watching something huge like Poltergeist, Star Wars, or Raiders of the Lost Ark.

There also happens to be a really cool behind-the-scenes look at the making of this thing, which you can look at here if you like that nerdy kind of thing (which I do!).

Also, HBO might have taken themselves very seriously when they made that, but they also had a sense of humor: they made more than one parody of this intro for April Fool's Day. Here's one of them. Go look at it, dammit! Or the giant HBO logo will come for you in your sleep.

I have more clips, but I think I'll end this one here. I don't want to scare away the last two people that are reading this thing. Plus, it's late and I'm hungry. I promise the next post won't be quite as nerdy as this. If you appreciated this post in any way, please leave me a damn comment and tell me so I don't have to strangle myself with an old VHS tape.

21 October 2007

A taste of things to come.

In case you don't know, I'm an anime fan. Recently I saw the Mobile Suit Gundam movies. Not Gundam SEED, not Gundam Wing, but Gundam. The one that started the whole thing. Since Gundam is pretty retro-- the TV series dates back to 1979 --I'm going to be reviewing all three movies sometime in the future. There's a lot of info to soak up, so I'm going to watch them a few more times first.

Anyway, after I do that, I've got something else up my sleeve that is perhaps a bit more interesting. I'm going to take Gundam and Star Wars and see how they match up. Might seem like an unlikely comparison, but the parallels between them are not easily overlooked.

Stay tuned! I've got plenty of other nerdy stuff planned in the meantime.

16 October 2007

Peanuts taste good.

I feel like rambling about random stuff instead of doing a full-fledged article-style post. I dunno if this experiment will be a success, but what the hell. I'm bored, okay? Cut me some slack.

Well, the first thing I'll mention is that I couldn't find the re-release of Poltergeist. Granted, I only looked at this crappy small-town Wal-Mart and not at my beloved Hastings like usual, but still. However, while browsing the DVD aisles hoping maybe a copy of it would magically appear, I came across something just as good: the Peanuts holiday specials box set. For 20 bucks. Which is the best price I've ever seen for it. (God bless you and your low, low prices, Wal-Mart.) Since I've been wanting to buy it for years, but could never justify shelling out the ridiculous amounts of cash most places were asking for it, I decided to put off Poltergeist for a couple of weeks and buy this gem instead.

So, having nothing to do today, I watched all three of the DVDs in the set. I'm actually pretty impressed with the releases, barebones as they are. You can hardly tell that the Christmas and Halloween specials are 40 years old. The picture and sound are quite nice.

Watching It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was almost like a whole new experience. Apparently, all these years they've been editing stuff out of it, and I never even knew about it. There was at least five minutes' worth of stuff in there that I'd never seen before. I had it recorded back in the 80s, but I think parts of it were cut off due to editing out the commercials and stuff. So getting a big dose of nostalgia while at the same time seeing something new was a lot of fun.

Anyway, even though it cost me 20 of my precious dollars, I'm really glad I bought this, because I haven't seen these specials in years and I never manage to catch them on television. They come when you're not expecting them and are gone before you know what happened. Kinda like ninjas. Ninjas that drag around a blue security blanket.

Also, it just feels...wrong watching them on ABC as opposed to CBS. That's nerdy, I know, but I think we've established the fact that I'm one of the nerdiest people on the planet when it comes to retro crap. Admittedly, it felt a little weird watching them on DVD too, and the absence of the famous "CBS Special Presentation" logo is most certainly felt. Also missing is the logo for the local CBS affiliate and the little map of Oklahoma in the corner that showed weather warnings. If I could somehow score copies of these specials on VHS that included all that stuff plus commercial breaks, I think I could die happy.

Here's where I change topics by making a confession: I am a huge nerd. No really, I am. I collect old station IDs, bumpers, promos, commercials, eyecatches, and the like. I also collect some production logos-- those logos you see at the end of shows, like "DiC" and stuff. My videos folder has 142 files in it; 99% of them are this kind of stuff. I have station IDs from places I've never been to, some from before I was even born.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the term "station ID", I'll explain briefly. The FCC requires television stations to identify themselves at least once per hour, providing their call letters (KOCO, KFOR, etc) and city. In the 70s and 80s, there were a lot of independent TV stations that had their own identities: slogans, logos, jingles, and animations, which were incorporated into their station IDs.

I don't really know why I became so fascinated by them. Maybe because they're a lost art. Some older ones use a technique called slit-scan animation that fell out of use with the rise of CGI. It has major retro-cool factor. Some of them are great examples of early CGI, and when I look at them I think, "Wow, they could do this stuff back then?"

Or maybe it's because some of my earliest memories are of that kind of thing.

Now, I've always liked 80s stuff a whole lot, and I started getting nostalgic for my early childhood when I was still in high school. But then I kinda forgot about it for a while, until one day about two years ago, when I was puttering around on the internet and got linked to retrojunk.com. I was poking around in the videos section and came across something that had been stuck in the back of my mind since I was two years old: CBS's Saturday morning bumpers for the 1984-1985 season.

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Watch them here. I command it!

When I saw those again, I got all emotional and watched the video about a zillion times while wondering how in the hell I managed to remember something so seemingly insignificant for so many years.

And that's what started this whole obsession with retro stuff. So now you know.

I actually have been planning to write about some of these IDs and logos that I hold so dear, and now that I've got my secret out in the open, it should be a lot easier to do so. Be on the lookout for it pretty soon.

10 October 2007

I'm heeeeere.

Well, it's been over a month since I last wrote anything, so I think it's about time to crack down and stop wasting my time. Because everybody knows that writing on the internet about pop culture of the past is serious business.

Anyway, I think it appropriate that I finally write about one of my favorite horror movies of the 80s and of all time. (Actually, it's one of the only horror movies I like and can take seriously, but that's beside the point.) Now's a great time to do so because not only is it Halloween season, but very recently, it saw a much-needed re-release on DVD to commemorate its 25th anniversary.

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If you couldn't guess it from the above image, you've been living under a rock. I'm talking about Poltergeist, the movie that scared the living shit out of a whole generation of kids, including myself. I saw this movie when I was young and I'm telling you, it fucked me up. I had nightmares for nigh a month.

So how did I come to love a movie that I was terrified of? Because I forced myself to watch it in order to finally conquer that fear, and in doing so discovered that it's a brilliant piece of cinema, and chock full of retro stuff to boot. It did leave an impression on me, though: I'm terrified of snow or dead air on a television to this day.

Back in the 80s, Steven Spielberg really had it going on. In 1981, he and George Lucas brought us Raiders of the Lost Ark. In 1982, Poltergeist and ET were both on the big screen, and both would go on to become entrenched in popular culture. There's that whole debate over whether or not he actually directed Poltergeist instead of the accredited Tobe Hooper, but that doesn't matter-- whoever did it deserves a whole lot of props.

In my opinion, Poltergeist is probably the best haunted house movie ever for several reasons. One of them is that you can actually care about the Freeling family, something that doesn't happen very often in the horror genre. Usually the victims in a horror flick are drunk, horny teenagers, and you want them to get their just desserts in the most violent and bizarre way possible.

The movie starts off with the national anthem, shots of the American flag and the Iwo Jima statue-- Dad fell asleep watching TV and the station is signing off. The nerd in me has been trying to find out if that was a real signoff they used, or if it was just one they created for the film. I've had no luck.

Another unique touch about this opening scene is we are briefly introduced to the characters while they sleep as the family dog goes from room to room looking for something to munch on.

Five-year-old Carol Anne (Heather O'Rourke) awakens. She wanders down to the TV and promptly starts talking to it. Sounds like a silly game an imaginative child would play, but clearly there's something more to this. It's a great hook.

Then we catch a glimpse into an ordinary day with the family. Steve (Craig T. Nelson) is watching football with the guys and has a rather amusing (and technologically obsolete) conflict with his neighbor over their TVs. Most people would probably think, "Wait a second, this is a horror movie? There's nothing scary or creepy about a bunch of guys drinking beer and watching the game!" In my opinion, that's what's so great about it-- they use humor to lull you into a sense of security. Aspiring filmmakers take note.

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Another thing I love so much about this movie is that they actually spend time establishing the characters before shit starts getting crazy, while at the same time setting up the plot. There's some great foreshadowing here, but I don't want to spoil anything. Let's just say that most people probably wouldn't catch any of it until a second viewing.

Also, I think this movie was made especially to scare children. The creepy tree outside the bedroom window, the ugly clown doll, the thunderstorm, asking Mom to leave the closet light on-- I think every kid went through that kind of stuff at bedtime. There's a nice father-son bonding moment when Steve teaches Robbie (Oliver Robbins) to count between the lightning and the thunder to see if the storm is moving away or getting closer.

However, Robbie and Carol Anne end up in bed with Mom and Dad anyway. Once again, the TV is left on. How they can sleep through all that static is beyond me. But little Carol Anne wakes up suddenly and crawls down to the TV set-- it's "talking" to her again, except something much creepier happens this time. This is the famous "they're heeeere" scene that I'm sure you've all seen parodied at least seventeen times.

After that, strange things start happening. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when the mother, Diane (JoBeth Williams), pushes the chairs in at the kitchen table, goes away for just a few seconds, then goes back to see the chairs stacked on the table. It's unsettling and an effective way to build some suspense.

It doesn't take long for things to kick into high gear. That night, lightning starts striking again, but this ain't your everyday storm. Suddenly, the creepy dead tree isn't so dead anymore-- in fact, it wants to have Robbie for a midnight snack. Diane, Steve, and teenage daughter Dana (Dominique Dunne) go out to save Robbie from a very painful and bizarre death. How would you react if someone told you, "My son died when he got eaten by a demonic tree"? You'd think, well, people have strange ways of dealing with grief...

Anyway, all this is just a distraction. What the "TV people" really want is Carol Anne. So while everyone is occupied, Carol Anne's closet becomes a portal to another dimension and she gets sucked in.

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Personally, I think it took a lot of balls to do something like this. Usually a child-- especially a cute little blonde girl --is the last character that would be harmed in a movie. Granted, Robbie is only mildly scuffed up after his encounter with the tree from Hell, but you know Carol Anne is in some serious trouble, even though it's all left up to the imagination.

In an interesting twist, it's Steve that starts falling apart and Diane remains relatively collected. Most people would have the mom go nuts and the dad be stoic.

Another one of my favorite things about this film is the late Beatrice Straight's performance as Dr. Lesh, who brings her colleagues Marty and Ryan to the Freeling home to investigate the disturbances. This woman deserved an Oscar for her work here. There's a fantastic scene where she's explaining some theories about the spiritual world to Robbie; I'm glued to the screen every time.

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Pretty soon, lots of weird paranormal shit is going on. I'm surprised by how well the effects hold up. Well, except for one scene. Yeah, you probably already know what I'm going to say, but shut up and listen anyway.

The spirits decide to seriously fuck with Marty's head. There's a crawling, maggoty steak-- which is a cool effect, not to mention a weak spot of mine they capitalized on pretty well. Maggots give me a wicked case of the jibblies.

But then...he hallucinates clawing his own face off. All the way down to the bone. Probably sounds scary and cool to some of you, and it might have been in 1982, but it looks cheesy now and I actually think it's pretty unnecessary in the first place. I mean, for God's sake, this movie is rated PG. Only in the 80s could you rip a guy's face off and still get a PG rating. But I guess they felt that since this is a horror movie, they needed some blood. Or something. That's one of two gripes I have with the film, the other of which I'll get to in due time.

Realizing that this is way out of her league, Dr. Lesh goes to seek outside help. While she's gone, Steve's boss, Mr. Teague, comes over to check on things, since Steve hasn't been going to work. Here's where we find out that Mr. Teague is a son of a-- I mean, here's where we find out the ghostly history of the housing addition where they live.

The Freeling's help comes from a little lady named Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein). Don't judge her by her small size-- this woman is pure concentrated psychic. I don't know about anybody else, but when I was a child, this character was one of the scariest parts of the movie to me. However, I think she's kind of fascinating now. Maybe that's just the captivating performance by Zelda Rubinstein, though.

Tangina's got a plan which they soon put into action. A little earlier in the movie, Robbie theorized that they could tie a rope around him and he could go in and get Carol Anne back. Well, they took that to heart. Diane goes through the closet portal with a rope tied around her waist, and manages to get her baby back. Tangina delivers another line that would become famous, and it seems like all is well.

However, Steve decides that now would be a good time to pack their shit and get out, and that's exactly what they do.

Here's my other gripe with the film: the ending. I don't understand why Steve left them in that house alone, nor do I understand why Diane decided to take a bath and leave the kids unsupervised. Maybe they were just really trusting and believed the house really was cleansed? I dunno, but I sure as hell wouldn't have stayed there.

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I have mixed feelings about the false ending and subsequent climax-- it is scary and there are some cool shots and special effects. The scariest part of the movie is here: Robbie vs. that damn creepy-ass clown. I mean, look at that thing. Who the hell would buy that for their kid?! Also, I like this one shot of Diane running down what seems like an endless hallway to get her kids. Then there's the famous swimming pool scene. And don't forget the part where the whole house gets sucked into the spectral vortex.

I realize that it might not have packed as much of a punch if they hadn't done it this way, but it seems sort of tacked-on. Though I do love how the movie ends with Steve pushing the TV out of their hotel room and slamming the door; I thought that was a nice touch.

Another nice touch that I almost forgot to mention is the score. It's brilliant work from the late Jerry Goldsmith. At times it's beautiful and moving, and at times it's eerie and foreboding. It really adds something invaluable to the film, and it should have won an Oscar, but I think the honor went to John Williams that year for ET.

This movie has long deserved a better DVD release than it got, and you'd better believe that I'm buying the new one as soon as I get some money. I'll be sure to make a follow-up post once I do get it. Anyway, the old release works fine if you just want to watch the movie, and I scored my copy for around ten bucks, which I can't complain about. But the transfer is pretty grainy and there are no special features except for a theatrical trailer, which is ludicrous for something so high-profile.

How did such a gem get relegated to bargain bin status in the first place? Personally, I blame the sequels, which are widely regarded as total shit. I mean, the only way you can get Poltergeist III is if you buy II, so that's a red flag right there. I kinda wish they hadn't released those on DVD at all; maybe then people could forget they existed.

Also, I think the supposed "Poltergeist Curse" has tarnished the movie's reputation somewhat. As most of you know, Heather O'Rourke died at a tender age before filming wrapped on the third movie. Dominique Dunne was murdered shortly after the premiere of the first movie. You can read more about it on Wikipedia if you so desire. I just think it's people being overly superstitious, myself, even though the whole thing freaked me out as a child.

If you made it through this entire post, I love you.

02 September 2007

Retro Wishlist

Today, dudes and dudettes, I present to you my Retro Wishlist. This post will have pictures to look at, since apparently that plays a big role in whether or not people read something.

Anyway, I plan on adding to the Wishlist whenever I happen to think of a new item, so this is just the beginning.

01. Teddy Ruxpin and Grubby

Possibly the coolest toy to come out of the 1980s, Teddy had a cassette player in his back in which you put special tapes. He would tell stories that you could (sort of) read along with in the accompanying books. His eyes and mouth moved along with the sounds, and 20 years ago, that was pretty badass technology.

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I got a Teddy Ruxpin for my third birthday in 1986. I was instantly enamored. Teddy became my best friend. Even though he weighed about 50 pounds, I still managed to lug him around with me whenever the opportunity presented itself.

My parents bought me a bunch of the book/tape sets and I played them over and over. They even got him a little red aviator outfit that came with a hat and a vest. And eventually, they even got me his partner in fun: Grubby, a...giant yellow worm-thing called an "octopede" if memory serves me well. If you hooked the two of them up with a special cable they would "interact". More innovative technology. I never really used Grubby that much for whatever dumbass reason.

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Anyway, even after this boy I used to play with broke Teddy's lower jaw off, I still loved him. Apparently that jaw thing was a common problem, but I was still pissed off at that kid. Why are little boys so bent on destroying other people's shit?

Over the years, Teddy and Grubby got lost. As soon as I get over my fear of eBay and acquire some cash, I'm probably going to buy Teddy back, hopefully one that doesn't have a broken jaw. I hear talk that they made a new version that uses cartridge thingies instead of tapes, but that just doesn't sound the same to me. Plus, I want to see if you really can make him react to other cassette tapes, because hearing Teddy blare out some 80s hair metal would just be too funny to pass up.

02. Rainbow Brite's Dress

No, I'm not talking some freaky cosplay thing. I mean, I need a dress for my Rainbow Brite doll that I bought at a thrift store last year. Amusingly, she came dressed in some camofluage doll clothes. I hate to just buy another doll, but it might be easier.

Like I've said before, Rainbow Brite was my world when I was little. I had all manner of Sprites, a small Rainbow doll and a plush Starlite.

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The Rainbow doll had come all the way to Oklahoma with me when we moved from California in October '85-- I was two, with my third birthday coming in February. She, too, was missing a dress...I guess it got left behind. Anyway, much like Teddy, I carried Rainbow around with me everywhere I went. As a result, I remember her being quite dirty and kind of beat up. But we still had some good times.

I did have the larger Rainbow doll at one point, but it vanished into a black hole somewhere along with virtually everything else I owned back then. So when I saw one for two measly dollars, I snatched it up faster than you can say "I'm 24 and still play with dolls".

Now if I could just find her a damn dress, life would be one step closer to complete.

03. A (Working) RCA Selectavision Player and Discs

I'm pretty sure nobody reading this knows what the hell a RCA Selectavision player is. Well, allow me to enlighten you. It's only one of the coolest pieces of obsolete technology ever! At least, it is to me.

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Sometime in the past, some guy thought it would be a good idea to put video on a groove-based medium, such as a vinyl record. RCA developed the technology for years, and wanted to launch in the late 70s, but didn't get the system on the market until sometime around 1981.

Most people call them "videodiscs", but the fancy-schmancy term is Capacitance Electronic Disc. I don't entirely know what that means (I looked it up once but it only confused me more), but it's essentially a type of video record.

Since the discs were quite fragile and would be damaged if touched, RCA developed a special caddy for them to extend their lifespan. So, CEDs are not to be confused with Laserdiscs. They actually looked like a big plastic rectangle. You would insert the caddy into the player, and a quite sophisticated mechanism inside would extract the disc from its protective armor. Snazzy.

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Unfortunately, the system came onto the market way too late, because certain other formats were already entrenched in epic combat (that's another story for another time).

The system's major downfall was that you couldn't record onto it, which was a huge factor in the success of home video formats back then. You also couldn't really pause it-- well, you could, but it couldn't freeze frame, it just blanked the screen, which was another inherent flaw that came with it being a grooved medium.

The system was, for all intents and purposes, dead by 1986. VHS reigned over all others as the King of Home Video. Shortly after the demise of Selectavision, RCA was bought out. (The name lives on, but they don't actually develop their own technology anymore as far as I know.)

However, this doesn't mean that Selectavision didn't have its day in the sun. Thousands of titles were available for the system and people actually bought them, even after player production had stopped.

My dad bought one of the players when we still lived in California. I'm guessing sometime in 1984 or so, probably when they were cutting the price way down just to get the players sold. He brought it with him when we moved, and since the format was dying by then, you could get discs pretty damn cheap.

As a result, we had a whole stack of the damn things, including the Star Wars movies, Alien, and a few Rocky movies. We also had what I recently learned is a hard title to find: a disc with two episodes of Rainbow Brite on it. I watched the shit out of that thing even though the disc skipped a lot. Eventually my dad copied it to VHS for me, before the disc totally crapped out.

My dad still had the player and the collection of discs as recently as 2003, but then he GOT RID OF IT. Without asking me if I wanted it first. He said it didn't work anymore, but according to what he said was wrong with it, it probably just needed a new belt and a new stylus. I would have taken good care of that thing. Therefore, one of these days I'm buying another one. I've heard that if you know how to contact them, RCA (or whoever owns them) still has a large inventory of styli stashed away somewhere, probably in a warehouse that looks like the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I didn't mean for this to get as long as it did. But there you go.

Afterthought: The singular of "media" is "medium". It took me until now to notice the errors. I'm not an idiot, honestly.

06 August 2007

The Retroplex: Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer (1985)

Alright, time for our first trip to The Retroplex! You know, "multiplex"? Theatre? Retro movie reviews?

...I told you I was bad at naming things.

After weeks and weeks of thinking about writing a review, trying to decide which movie to review first, and generally being very distracted, I finally got around to doing this. So sit down, get some popcorn, shut up, and enjoy the show.

I'm kicking things off with Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer. Why? Because Rainbow Brite was the show of my childhood. Back when I was four years old, I loved her and all her little fuzzy Sprite friends, even her stuck-up, conceited horse. I wanted to be her, and often pretended that I was.

I actually didn't see this movie until sometime in the early 90s, long after it was released theatrically in 1985. I didn't even know it existed until I found it at the local mom-and-pop video store. I probably rented it seventeen times until one happy day when the Disney Channel aired it and my dad got it on tape for me.

I'm pretty surprised that the movie got a DVD release at all, but it did, and I got it. I hear it's become something of a rare commodity now, though, so I kinda wish I'd have bought two of them.

So, how does the movie stand the test of time? Well...let's get this show on the road and find out, shall we?

Here's the lowdown on the plot, such as it is:

Earth is in danger. Spectra, the diamond planet through which all light in the universe must pass, is being covered up by the spoiled, selfish Princess, who wants the giant gem all to herself. If Rainbow Brite doesn't stop her (and Murky Dismal, who's also after Spectra), Earth will be plunged into a second ice age.

Sounds pretty damn ridiculous, doesn't it? Of course it does. Moving right along.

The writers said to themselves, "What's the best way to kick off the action?" Some jerk said, "I know! A great big musical number!" Maybe they should have fired that guy, because that was a very bad idea. The movie drags on for a while as the Color Kids and Starlite (the self-proclaimed Most Magnificent Horse In the Universe) sing about the coming of spring and how they have sooo much work to do. I'm not sure how singing a sucky song is gonna get all that work done, but okay.

Thankfully, that's the only number we have to sit through, and otherwise the music is alright, especially the end credits song, which I'll talk about later.

So, spring has come, la dee da. Along with it comes something interesting (at last!). On her way down to Earth, Rainbow butts heads with Stormy, who-- surprise --is in charge of winter and storms and whatnot. Honestly, I think she should have had a larger role in the movie because she's spunky and looks like a little 80s rock star. She would have spiced up things a little bit. Not to mention the fact that her horse, Skydancer, is badass. Not only does he look awesome, he can shoot lightning bolts from his hooves and spew ice out of his snout. I bet Rainbow is jealous as hell. All she gets is a horse who can't even fly and who's always giving people lip. Have I mentioned that I don't really like Starlite?

Anyway, Rainbow goes down to Earth to work her magic. She tries, and nothing happens. Twink suggests that maybe the star sprinkles are tired from the winter, but everybody knows that little furball is on crack, so they don't pay him any mind. By the way, Brian's there too, but I don't know why he's even in the movie, because he's pretty much useless.

So it's back to Rainbow Land to find out what the hell's going on. A super cool robot horse named On-X shows up to find Rainbow Brite and tells her that Spectra is in danger. Rainbow puts two and two together and decides to take Starlite and go with On-X to Spectra. Lucky for us, none of those damn annoying Color Kids come with her.

Elsewhere, Murky overhears the conversation. His ears perk up at the realization that it's a giant freaking diamond, and he goes off to build a very hilarious rocketship to go on his own trip to Spectra, dragging Lurky along. Unfortunately, they don't really do anything important and are mostly around for comic relief.

As an aside, I'd like to add that Peter Cullen, the man responsible for giving the iconic Optimus Prime his voice, also does the voice of Murky. Hard to believe, ain't it?

Prepare to roll your eyes: Rainbow and Starlite travel through outer frigging space on a rainbow, with no protection of any kind whatsoever. I'd like to see anyone over the age of ten suspend their disbelief on that one.

Here we are on Spectra, which ain't looking so shiny at the moment. The Spectrans, who look suspiciously like Sprites, are being enslaved by big golden robots, amusingly dubbed "Glitterbots". I guess they put all these robots and stuff in to try to appeal to any little boys who might have been forced to watch this movie because their sisters wanted to see it. Anyway, the Spectrans have been hypnotized into covering the planet with a net-like thing. I know, I know, just stay with me.

On-X starts going on and on about Orin, the one who sent him after Rainbow Brite. Orin is nowhere to be found, though, and they're being chased by Glitterbots. Cue some action-type stuff.

Fortunately for Rainbow and company, the Glitterbots are mostly retarded. Our heroine and the horses escape, and-- quite literally --drop in on a red-headed kid named Krys. Thank God they did, because it would have been pretty damn boring if Rainbow and Starlite had been the only protagonists in this thing. Only thing is, Krys is kind of a sexist jerk. But hey, that makes things more entertaining, right? Yes, it does.

Also, here's some more voice actor trivia for you: the kid that does Krys' voice is also the voice of Daniel Witwicky in Transformers: The Movie, which came out the following year. The girl that plays Stormy is his sister. Yeah, I pay attention to voice actors. Blame anime for that.

Anyway, we get no background on Krys. We don't know where he came from, what he's doing on Spectra, or why he has those puffy sleeves that look exactly like Rainbow's. It would have been nice to get even just a little bit of backstory on him, but I guess they figure little kids don't care about character depth. Truth is, they probably don't.

So, Krys tells Rainbow Brite that the Princess is responsible for all this foolishness. She's "wrapping the planet up like a birthday present" because she's planning on taking it for herself. And no, she doesn't have a name. She's just "the Princess". Frickin' lazy writers.

Obviously, Rainbow and Krys have to go try to stop her. Well, they're in for a real treat. The Princess is totally batshit, but at least she has a cool character design.

Krys and Rainbow try to talk some sense into her, to no avail. Not only does the crazy bitch still want to somehow rein in the biggest diamond in the universe, but then she takes Rainbow's magic belt and throws them both in the dungeon. Why does she want the belt? Because she thinks it'll look good with her red dress. Not because it shoots out rainbows or anything. I, personally, find this hilarious. Also, it'd probably look better with a black dress, but I digress.

Now it's up to Starlite and On-X to get the belt back and save their friends. This is surprisingly entertaining to watch. What's funny is, they actually succeed. Only in an 80s cartoon, folks.

However, the Princess uses her own magic to suck Krys and Rainbow into a pink vortex thing, sending them rocketing through space to some unnamed planet where the Princess apparently keeps all her prisoners.

Thanks to On-X, they bust out of their cell and finally find wise old Orin, who turns out to be one of those little Spectran Sprite guys. For some reason, he has star sprinkles. He also gives Krys a weapon, which is activated by Rainbow's power. What's the connection here? It's never explained. Being a person with an overactive imagination, I have my own theories, but I'll spare you.

Anyway, Krys kicks some ass with his new prism thingy, and Orin explains to them that they must go back and stop the Princess for good. He says, "Be brave, be bold, and don't fight with each other!" Of course, since he told them not to fight, they've gotta. Damn kids.

Time for the final showdown. I know I haven't mentioned Murky and Lurky much, but that's because they're mostly extraneous until right about now. Rainbow and Krys challenge the Princess and they're getting their asses handed to them until Murky crashes his rocketship into the middle of the scene. That's their opening, and together, they destroy the Princess' magic jewel. And in true cartoon fashion, her palace and all her Glitterbots crumble to pieces.

Needless to say, the Princess is fucking pissed. She jumps into her spaceship, which was meant to grab onto the net around Spectra and pull it, which is pretty much the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Crazier than ever, she declares, "If I can't have that diamond, no one's going to have it!" Then everybody suddenly acts like Spectra is made of glass and not diamonds, fearing that the ship will crash and shatter the planet, when actually, the ship would probably just be obliterated on impact. But shhh, kids don't know that stuff.

Just as the Princess is about to crash, she's bounced off by the power of the rainbow, and promptly becomes sparkly space dust. Spectra is all shiny again, spring comes to Earth in an instant, Murky and Lurky are lost in space, Krys finally decides Rainbow is okay-- for a girl. All is well with the universe. Roll credits.

Speaking of the credits, they play this synthalicious tune called "Rainbow Brite and Me". I was totally obsessed with this song when I was a little kid. Even now, it's a guilty pleasure. I still think it's catchy as hell and...probably the best part of the whole movie. Too bad the opening number couldn't have been as fun as this.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this movie. The adult in me knows it's ridiculous in a lot of ways, likes to make fun of it, and is embarrassed to be seen watching it. But the four-year-old in me still thinks it's the coolest thing in the world, and probably always will.

It's good clean fun for little girls (and maybe little boys), which is fine, because that was their target audience anyway. And it certainly could have been a whole lot worse. For a girl's movie, it's not as sappy and flowery as you'd think. There's plenty of action, and lots of dark scenery and atmosphere.

It also has some good messages: girls can kick just as much ass as boys can; being a greedy psycho-bitch who is totally devoid of rational thought is a very bad thing.

The animation is definitely better than TV quality, but it's not quite of the quality you'd expect from a theatrical release. If Rainbow Brite really did generate a billion dollars in retail sales, the least they could have done was give the movie a bigger animation budget. So, while not an eyesore by any means, it looks kind of dated.

The reason why I still have a special place in my heart for Rainbow Brite is not just due to nostalgia, but because it has some serious potential to be something that's actually good. I mean, it's like an American magical girl series. Now that's something I'd pay to see: a re-imagining of the Rainbow Brite universe.

I never thought I'd hear myself say that.

24 July 2007

An itinerary of sorts.

Okay, I know, I haven't got any actual content just yet.

What's my excuse? Life. It has a tendency to get in the way, doing anything and everything it can to stop me from writing. I'll never be a novelist at this rate.

Well, enough of that crap. I'll tell ya what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna share some of the things I'm putting on the agenda. That's not to say this is a fixed schedule of any kind, though, so if I don't end up doing Mayonnaise Taco Mondays, don't be disappointed.

- Retro movie reviews. I've already got a long list of titles that I want to write about, but I'm going to keep you, dear readers, in the dark for now. Suffice to say, we'll be spending a lot of time in the 80s on this one and I'll be making a lot of trips to the video store.

- Retro remakes. That is to say, I'd be comparing all these recent remakes with their older counterparts to see how they match up. I might concoct some unnecessarily complicated system for doing this, but I wouldn't count on it.

- Theme days/weeks/whatever. I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to do this, but I think I'm up to the challenge. Anybody remember Block Party Summer on Nick at Nite? Think something along those lines, only with no annoying commercials! Unless it's Old Commercial Week. Then you're SOL.

- Reader requests. This one is probably going to be a long time coming because I...kinda need some readers first. But here's how it'll work: you comment on an entry or e-mail me, asking me to write about something retro, and I'll do my best to write something halfway entertaining about it. It can be movies, toys, games, clothes, whatever. Maybe if I like you enough, I'll fill non-retro requests (i.e. things after 1998 or thereabouts).

- Rants. I have a lot of retro-related things to rant about, and by gum, I'm gonna. At some point.

Anyway, most of this stuff isn't carved into stone. It's more like...hastily scrawled into the sand with a stick. I have a lot of other stuff in the works, but I don't want to spoil it all.

Questions/suggestions? Call 1-800-LEAVE-A-COMMENT.

18 July 2007

Obligatory first post!

Hello and welcome! I'm Annette, and I'll be your hostess. Here at Retro Party, I'll be offering up my odd ramblings about old-school pop culture, plus more. We're gonna kick it like it's 1985. Or 1977. Or 1992. So pull off your shoes and come on in, if you feel so inclined. The party's just getting started. ;]