Tag Archives: 1980s

Look What I Found: Vacationland, Summer 1982

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Here’s a pristine issue of Vacationland from Summer 1982, added to my collection. This was a magazine produced by the Disney company and given away to hotel guests in Anaheim and Southern California. I remember poring through this particular issue as a kid on our somewhat frequent family vacations there, and it’s kind of a trip to see it again! Fascinating to see the company when it was prepping Epcot Center for opening, and constructing Tokyo Disneyland and a top-to-bottom makeover for Fantasyland in Disneyland.

As for the trip itself, I remember experiencing the TRON Superspeed Tunnel in the PeopleMover and playing a game of Frogger in the Starcade at Tomorrowland (in retrospect, kind of a weird thing to spend valuable Disneyland time on). Of course, our family tradition was making a beeline for Pirates as soon as the park opened, and we were wowed by the Main Street Electrical Parade. I also got ribbed for being a 13-year-old boy still into Disney. Guess what? I’m a 48-year-old man into Disney, and anyone who takes issue with that fact can kindly and gently shove it.

Here’s some photos from that issue – don’t forget to click the image for a full-sized version! And kindly keep your hands and feet inside the ride vehicle at all times.

Hostess advertisement featuring Robin Hood characters posing in from of the Fantasyland Skyway station (demolished in 2016 to make way for Star Wars Land).

Hostess advertisement featuring Robin Hood characters posing in from of the Fantasyland Skyway station (demolished in 2016 to make way for Star Wars Land).

Article on the Ronald Reagan anamatronic added to the Hall of Presidents in Walt Disney World.

Article on the Ronald Reagan anamatronic added to the Hall of Presidents in Walt Disney World.

Universal Studios Tour ad, from when they pitched themselves as an actual working movie studio with tours and not a theme park.

Universal Studios Tour ad, from when they pitched themselves as an actual working movie studio with tours and not a theme park.

This spread captivated my imagination - on the sign painters of Disneyland!

This spread captivated my imagination – on the sign painters of Disneyland!

Sea World advertisement opposite an article on the Tokyo Disneyland project.

Sea World advertisement opposite an article on the Tokyo Disneyland project.

Article on EPCOT Center (later shortened to just Epcot) flanked by ads for Gray Line Tours and Northern California.

Article on EPCOT Center (later shortened to just Epcot) flanked by ads for Gray Line Tours and Northern California.

Article on 1983 New Fantasyland flanked by ads for the San Diego Zoo and something called The Kingdom of Dancing Stallions.

Article on 1983 New Fantasyland flanked by ads for the San Diego Zoo and something called The Kingdom of Dancing Stallions.

Vacation Fun Spots - love this graphic!

Vacation Fun Spots – love this graphic!

Marineland ad highlighting the Baja Reef swim-through aquarium. I went on this, and the water was so cold!

Marineland ad highlighting the Baja Reef swim-through aquarium. I went on this, and the water was so cold!

Classy Knott's Ice Spectacular ad opposite a tacky Catalina Island boat tour ad.

Classy Knott’s Ice Spectacular ad opposite a tacky Catalina Island boat tour ad.

Local restaurants in Anaheim; Roger Folk Gallery in Laguna Beach.

Local restaurants in Anaheim; Roger Folk Gallery in Laguna Beach.

Knott's Berry Farm advertisment.

Knott’s Berry Farm advertisment.

Look What I Found: Two from Raymond Briggs

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I spent the last quarter of 2015 delving into the work of Raymond Briggs, the indubitably British cartoonist, graphic novelist – and it’s taken me this long to do a post about him!

It started last October, when I received the birthday gift of a Blu-ray edition of When the Wind Blows, the 1986 movie adaptation of Briggs’ story of an elderly British couple preparing their rural home for a nuclear attack. James and Hilda Bloggs (voiced by Ralph Richardson and Peggy Ashcroft) are a typical, kindly and even-tempered duo who greet the upcoming bombings with a mixture of cheerful optimism and pragmatic naiveté (“There’s no need to forget your manners just because there’s a war on,” Hilda cautions her husband during a rare outburst). With bone-dry, observant humor, Briggs points out the absurdity of this quaint couple preparing for nuclear annihilation as if it were a minor inconvenience in the simple routine of their lives. The movie itself is one of the most unique animated efforts ever made – director Jimmy Murakami stages the action with traditional animated cels photographed against miniature sets of the Bloggs’ home. Most of it preserves the colored-pencil shadings of Briggs’ work, although other scenes are done with expressionistic methods more in keeping with the anxious soundtrack from Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters. This is an amazing movie with perfect voice-acting from Richardson and Ashcroft. Twilight Time included a lot of worthwhile extras on the Blu-ray, although the main one – a feature-length documentary with Murakami returning to the site where he was interred as a child in World War II – was a disappointment.

Viewing When the Wind Blows sparked an interest in the book which piqued my interest in Briggs in the first place – his acclaimed 1998 graphic novel, Ethel and Ernest: A True Story. This was Briggs’ poignant chronicle of his own parents’ courtship, marriage and deaths, told chronologically from when they met in 1928 up through the early ’70s. Mr. and Mrs. Briggs greet war, child-rearing, labor and politics with a typically British “cheerio, can-do” unflappability – the fact that they so closely resemble Mr. and Mrs. Bloggs is no coincidence. This couple seems much more real, however – Briggs captures them as quirky and all-too-human, yet worthy of admiration. I read this book last December, around the same time that I got to check out Briggs’ classic TV special The Snowman for the first time. Briggs’ elegantly shaded pencil lines have roughened up into jagged chicken scratches over the years, yet this book shows how his parents’ ordinary lives – facing incredible societal changes with grace and good humor – reflects the very spirit of the United Kingdom.

When the Wind Blows is available at Twilight Time’s website, while Ethel & Ernest can be had cheaply at AbeBooks.com.

Film still from When the Wind Blows.

Film still from When the Wind Blows.

Animation drawing from When the Wind Blows.

Animation drawing from When the Wind Blows.

Picture disc single of David Bowie's "When the Wind Blows," 1986.

Picture disc single of David Bowie’s “When the Wind Blows,” 1986.

Page from Ethel & Ernest.

Page from Ethel & Ernest.

Panel from Ethel & Ernest.

Panel from Ethel & Ernest.

Inspiration: Atari Game Packaging, 1977-1982

Atari advertisement, Games magazine, 1982.

Atari advertisement, Games magazine, 1982.

Atari_SpaceInvadersWhen I was a kid, the Atari 2600 home video game ruled our household. Back then, we just called it “Atari” and all our peers knew what it meant. The primitive graphics may look laughable now, but the very concept of playing video games on your television set kept us enthralled for hours on end. While games like Adventure and Pitfall made excellent use of the small-sized memory and rudimentary 8-bit graphics the unit offered, for me Atari’s attraction went beyond the games and into the cartridge packaging. Yes, I’m talking about those rainbow-colored boxes that got tossed soon after the games were purchased. Unexpectedly, these candy-hued pieces of folded paperboard had a profound influence on me wanting to become a designer. Only recently, I’ve found out that I wasn’t alone!

The marketing folks at Atari were canny. Knowing that they couldn’t rely solely on boxy pixels to sell these games, they decided to entice buyers with boxes sporting a consistent framework design that showcased some of the most evocative illustration of that period. I loved the colors, the funky, curvy font, the tantalizing number that indicated how many games were on the cartridge (112 Space Invaders games – drool!). Mostly what captured my imagination was that artwork, done in styles ranging from cartoony to impressionist. Even when looking at those über-’70s illustrations from today’s perspective, one can tell it was a rare marriage of an open-minded company seeking wild, beautiful images and artists rising to the challenge to meet it. In pieces like Steve Hendricks’ rendering of the game “Defender” from the p.o.v. of people fleeing a city under attack by alien aircraft, you can see they went with an “out of the box” approach and ran with it. The format made even the dullest of games (Pac Man, anyone?) look alluring.

When the home video gaming boom went bust in 1982-83, the golden age of Atari’s box designs followed the same route. The need to compete for home gamers’ ever-dwindling dollars prompted Atari to change its packaging to an impersonal red-and-silver motif which made the games look like bland “home office” software. A bad move, although the writing was on the wall at that point. From then on, old-style Atari became the stuff of geek-nostalgia and in-jokes like the Venture Bros. DVD package shown below.

In researching this post, I’ve actually found out that a coffee table book of this imagery is currently in the works. While The Art of Atari: From Pixels to Paintbrush was slated for publication in 2014, hopefully its delay is due to creator Tim Lapetino ensuring that the final volume is as perfect as the subject demands.

Adventure cartridge box, illustration by Susan Jaekel, 1979.

Adventure cartridge box, illustration by Susan Jaekel, 1979.

The nine games initially offered at the Atari 2600 launch, 1977.

The nine games initially offered at the Atari 2600 launch, 1977.

Atari Defender package artwork by Steve Hendricks, c. 1981.

Atari Defender package artwork by Steve Hendricks, c. 1981.

Dodge 'Em box detail, 1980.

Dodge ‘Em box detail, 1980.

Atari Video Computer System catalog, 1981.

Atari Video Computer System catalog, 1981.

Swordquest: Fireworld Atari box with redesigned format, 1982.

Swordquest: FireWorld Atari box with redesigned format, 1983.

The Venture Bros. 3rd season DVD package, 2010.

The Venture Bros. 3rd season DVD package, 2010.

The Beautiful World of 1981


Whaddaya think about 1981? I created an 8-hour long Spotify playlist exploring the music of that year, to go along with my previous exercises listening to 1968, 2003, and 2013. Like the others, 1981 is a combination of longtime favorites and new finds across a wide variety of genres. This was a year when Arena Rock ruled, the British were doing amazing stuff, R&B shimmered with the fumes of Funk and Disco, and Hip-Hop still had a scrappy, urban aesthetic. Personally, it came as a surprise how much of the playlist evoked a visceral, “riding in mom’s car on the way to the mall” reaction.

In 1981, I was thirteen – an age when many kids transition from passively enjoying something to becoming more deeply involved. That year, I had my own little clock radio in my bedroom. The radio was undoubtedly tuned into a lot of safe local Pop/Rock stations then, although the thing I enjoyed the most was tuning into Dr. Demento every Sunday night with a portable tape recorder on hand. A lot of the hits included here – “Our Lips Are Sealed,” “Rapture,” “Queen of Hearts,” “Urgent,” “Private Eyes,” “Physical,” “I Love A Rainy Night” – are the aural equivalent of chocolate chip cookies. It kind of astonished me how much fantastic music came from that year (or, in a few instances, late in the previous year). There’s a few silly things in there as well, such as “Hooked On Classics” – a tune I forever associate with the campy fashion sequence from the TV special Night of 100 Stars. I suppose you don’t have to have been a youngster in 1981 to appreciate this, but it sure helps.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year

Remember the Name — Irene

I was looking up Irene Cara on Wikipedia. It mentioned that she did a sitcom pilot in 1981, shortly after appearing on Fame. Irene Cara, a sitcom star? Somebody uploaded this pilot to YouTube in three parts (the first part is below). It’s a cute if dated show, with young actors Julia Duffy and Keenan Ivory Wayans in the cast. To bad the pert and pretty Ms. Cara turned to coke and flushed her career down the toilet.