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Monthly Archives: May 2010

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Huggy Bear Gone Viral

An adorable circa 1983 commercial for Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear. What, you never heard of Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear? That’s because the pink ‘n fuzzy toy only exists as a character in the forthcoming Toy Story 3; the commercial is actually a promotional tool from those sneaks at Pixar. Brilliant!

Huckleberry Finn at LitKids

Just listed a new LitKids print of Mark Twain’s indelible scamp Huckleberry Finn. Another nice one, although this particular one came out differently than I expected (don’t they all?). I originally planned to do this one in two silk screened layers, with a solid shape on the bottom and the drawing on top. Unfortunately, the seam where the book pages meet caused bleeding problems, and so I had to fall back on the old “spray paint through a stencil” technique used in the other two LitKids prints. This time I have a lighter color silk screened over a medium color field — an interesting, subtle effect that doesn’t come across too well in the photos below. Some of the earlier spray painted prints produced a gorgeous darker blue field with a dusty, speckled texture. Those look killer. Since most of the final prints have a solid medium blue background, that’s what is pictured in the shop.

There was also the matter of Huckleberry Finn containing the “n” word. Hmmm, I didn’t notice the text has lots of “n” words! I was able to catch some of the offending words and creatively cover them up with splashes of gold paint; I just hope we don’t wind up with a pissed off customer! My opinion is that quaint 1800s language set off by a modern drawing is part of what makes these prints unique, so if someone gets a print with an un-p.c. word or two consider it one of the extra special ones.



Weekly Mishmash: May 2-8

Enchanted (2007). Disney’s self-mocking princess story was pretty much what I expected — entertaining and clever in spots, but too toothless to be truly effective satire. Amy Adams is perfectly cast as Giselle, a princess from a mythical animated kingdom who is banished by her jealous queen (Susan Sarandon) to the unforgivable streets of a live action New York City. Adams’ guileless performance, seemingly influenced by Snow White, is delightful and totally spot-on. I also enjoyed the meticulously crafted animated segments early on, but as the movie progressed the letdowns accumulated. For one, I thought there were too many characters. Having Giselle meet cute with McDreamy widower Patrick Dempsey was the first of many pat and predictable twists to come. By the arrival of a chaotic climax underscored with a friggin’ Carrie Underwood tune, I tuned out. Final verdict: too Disney, too Rom Com, too mainstream. The film would have been so much more effective had it stuck with a simple “princess in another world” theme.
poster_houseacrossThe House Across the Bay (1940). Turner Classic Movies recently did a night full of films starring the impenetrable George Raft, including this San Francisco-set drama co-starring Joan Bennett. Raft plays a gangster (of course) who falls for and marries nightclub singer Bennett. He is shipped to Alcatraz and Bennett plays the faithful wife until Walter Pidgeon enters the picture. Decent stuff, nothing spectacular. This was an independent production by Bennett’s then-husband Walter Wanger, a fact that becomes evident once the impeccably lit, made up and gowned Bennett walks into the camera frame (the lady even looks elegant while serenading a chihuahua!). The film unravels somewhat predictably until the always watchable Gladys George comes in as a peppery prison wife.
Tokyo Sonata (2008). Interesting at times, mostly preposterous Japanese family drama about a man who deals with his sudden unemployment by pretending he was never laid off. To keep up appearances with his unsuspecting family, he spends his days at a downtown Tokyo park amongst the homeless and other men in the same situation. This has some effective scenes (mostly involving the family’s youngest son and his fascination with a pretty piano teacher), but as it slowly moves along it becomes progressively more strange. I know the Japanese are well known for emotional restraint and preserving honor amongst blood relatives, but this movie takes that concept to such extremes I almost wonder if it’s supposed to be a parody.
The Unknown Woman (2006). Fun, over-the-top foreign suspenser about a Ukranian woman (Xenia Rappoport) who moves to Italy to escape her sordid past as a prostitute. She worms her way into the lives of an affluent family by becoming the nanny to a young girl with whom she has vague ties, a setup that starts working in her favor until her nasty-ass pimp shows up. This movie was so overproduced and unsubtle (in an entertaining way) that it’s hard to believe it comes from the same guy who directed Cinema Paradiso. It plays like a Euro-centric spin on all those Brian De Palma guilty pleasure thrillers from the ’80s, complete with overly dramatic acting, camerawork and score (from Ennio Morricone, of all people). Recommended if you like that sort of thing.

Book Review: Designing Disney

hench_bookReading John Hench’s Designing Disney: Imagineering and the Art of the Show reminded me a bit of my trip to Las Vegas last December. Although we usually think of Imagineering in terms of Disney theme parks, the core ideas of the job apply to most anywhere people gather to relax and have fun. In that respect, Vegas must be the biggest example of Imagineering on Earth. While exploring the various casinos, I was very aware of how everything was designed in a way to create a world away from the world, preferably to get patrons plopped down at the slots. While some casinos treat this idea as an afterthought, the immersive themeing of places like New York New York or Paris, Las Vegas (where even the men’s bathrooms have a quaint “Paris in 1900” aura) never failed to impress. It made me wish that everything in my life was Imagineered.

Which brings me to this book! Amongst Disney Imagineers, John Hench had the most durability (having served at Disney for an astonishing 65 years) and was the one whose ambition and scope most resembled Walt Disney’s own. He’s the one responsible for conceptualizing much of Disneyland’s Tomorrowland (original and 1967 remodel), the Enchanted Tiki Room and Main Street U.S.A. Beautiful achievements all, and all the more impressive when one realizes the work encompasses architecture, signage, interior design, costumes and even the floors below guests’ feet. The proof of this is displayed throughout the book in fabulous renderings that called to mind the work of Syd Mead. Check out the costume designs below — wonderful!

The renderings are really what makes this book special. Unfortunately the great imagery is offset with lousy, unprofessional looking fonts. Hench’s text itself (co-authored with Peggy Van Pelt) is rather rudimentary and textbook-like; I would picture the ideal audience for this book as young would-be Imagineers in their teens. Despite those disappointments, there are a lot of great anecdotes in here. I was especially fascinated with how Hench and his fellow Imagineers explored color possibilities for a hotel exterior in Disneyland Paris by factoring in the area’s climate and lack of sunlight at various times of the day. Tiny details like that are something that an ordinary theme park guest would never consider, but added together they complete the immersive experience. All in a day’s work for Mr. Hench.


Related: Justin Jorgensen’s memories of working with Hench.

Bob and Carol and Bobby and Cindy

In honor of Ann B. Davis’ birthday, a Brady Bunch scene snipped out of repeats (I don’t remember this at all, by the way):

The Cable/Satellite Trap

This New York Post story on how supposedly millions of Americans are giving up their cable and satellite services struck a chord with me. The article mentions that the average cable/satellite customer spends $70 a month on services, about the same as our DirecTV bill here at Chez Scrubbles. With every month that I must fork over that sum, I question why we’re paying so much when we can get the same programs on DVD or online. Do we really use it that much? I still love to watch Turner Classic Movies, but I only record about five or six movies a month on that. We also watch the occasional Modern Marvels or Project Runway, but it seems like everything on cable is about haunted houses, Nostradamus/Bible prophesies, macho men on the job, people with eighteen children, people with physical deformities, people who are grossly overweight, etc. etc. I’m paying for that?

By contrast, our monthly Netflix bill is less than a third of DirecTV’s — and we get so much more entertainment value out of that. Netflix probably hates the way we burn through dozens of movies every month. Now that we have our Wii and wi-fi set up with them, we can watch streamed content on the TV through them as well. I really want to try paring down the satellite to just the local network affiliates for a few months to see if we feel deprived in any way. What do you think?