January 9th, 2007

HAMBONE

(no subject)

There's a lot to write about, including a pitch for the upcoming LIVE RADIO DRAMA SHOW AT ARISIA CALLED RED SHIFT: INTERPLANETARY DO-GOODER THAT A LOT OF US COOL KIDS HAVE BEEN WORKING ON AND WHICH I SEEM TO HAVE WRITTEN AND DIRECTED, COME SEE IT, but I'll have to wait until after this entry to say that THE SHOW HAPPENS 1:00 PM THIS SUNDAY AT PRESIDENT'S BALLROOM D PLUS WE ALSO HAVE A TEASER PERFORMANCE AT SOME POINT DURING THE FRIDAY NIGHT OPENING FESTIVITIES, YOU'RE SURE GONNA LOVE IT.

You've probably seen this on your friends list already if your friends are like mine, but Iwao Takamoto, one of the greatest animators and designers in Hanna-Barbera's history, has died. Takamoto was responsible for creating some of Hanna-Barbera's most iconic 70s creations. He had a thing for friendly almost-talking dogs, for instance; he designed Scooby-Doo, Astro and Muttley (hmm, perhaps he and Don Messick realized they worked well together) along with a lot of other characters you'll remember from the 60s and 70s as well. He spent part of his formative years during WWII in a Japanese-American internment camp; but came out of it encouraged by several other residents (inmates?) to pursue his drawing career.

I'd like to think he wasn't behind Charlie Chan and the Chan Clan, though.

On the other hand, Mark Evanier also reported that yesterday was Soupy Sales' 81st birthday and that's a cause for being happy. I didn't realize it was his birthday, but you know, I listened to his 1964 dance hit "The Mouse" yesterday when it came up on the shuffle, and danced 'round the room for a moment or two with my hands up to my cheeks and everything. Sure glad nobody saw that. I also have Soupy's version of "Pachalafaka" and a lesser-known novelty record called "The Soupy Shuffle Stomp" featuring White Fang, the Meanest Dog In The Entire United States, on backup "REH-REH! REH REH REAH!" vocals.

By the way, Soupy sang "The Mouse" live on the Ed Sullivan show on September 12, 1965. He followed Merseybeat favorite Cilla Black. The act to follow "The Mouse", however, were four lads from Liverpool singing "Ticket to Ride."

The historical gravitas of the moment is lessened when you realize this was the Beatles' fourth appearance on Ed Sullivan, but still. How many kids' show hosts can say the Beatles followed their novelty dance hit?

Soupy Sales produced some of the wildest kids' programming in the 60s and 70s; his contemporary was Sandy Becker, who was responsible for characters such as the silent film-inspired Norton Nork and Hambone, a disc jockey who wore a marching band outfit, Coke bottle glasses, and a pith helmet sporting a giant feather. Hambone's act consisted mostly of dancing around crazily to his own theme song and coming up with silly sayings. I love Hambone.

Soupy's show was wildly improvised, often featuring corny joke trade-offs between Soupy and his puppets, who included Pookie the aspiring actor lion, the aforementioned White Fang and his polar opposite, Black Tooth (the Most Sweetest Dog In The Whole Wide World) who would often grab Soupy and pull him off-camera for a big smooch. Both White Fang and Black Tooth were viewed on-screen as just a giant paw, which helped along viewers' imaginations. Viewing the episodes I have of Soupy's show, I am struck by the loose improvisational aspect of it all (one segment simply involved Soupy listening to the radio, tuning the dial around to find the weather report) and the fact that everybody on the crew was having a good time. Off-camera laughter wasn't forbidden; it was almost encouraged.

Also interesting to note is that both Sandy Becker and Soupy Sales featured a segment where they wrote pithy sayings on a chalkboard. Soupy's "Soupy Sez" usually ran along the lines of "Show me X and I'll show you Y" jokes, while Hambone liked to write hipster ditties like "Your glasses will fall if your nose is too small!" (Yeaaaah!)

Additionally, the story of Soupy telling kids to "go get the green pieces of paper from your parents' wallets and send them to me" is indeed true; he did that live in retaliation for having to work on New Year's Day. My favorite part of the story is the punchline to Soupy's monologue -- "And I'll send you a postcard from Puerto Rico!" It's never been verified how much money Soupy made off this but he was suspended for two weeks and returned to wild acclaim.

The stories of Soupy sneaking in smutty jokes (singing "If You See Kay", for instance, or the ol' chestnut about bringing his best girl to the baseball game, where he'd kiss her on the strikes and she'd kiss him on the balls) have been disproven but continue on as urban legends do, but the green pieces of paper bit was true. And I gotta say I admire the dude for that -- indeed, the Snopes article mentions that Soupy wasn't doing anything he hadn't been doing with his live commercial pitches; he merely cut out the middleman.
Admit One

SHARK

I've been trying to find the shot-by-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark that a group of three 12-year-old friends started in 1982. They storyboarded it, pressed local kids into the cast and crew (one little brother has at least 18 roles) and shot it in and around their Mississippi backyards at a total estimated cost of around $5000. The results, finished in 1989, are amazing. (Here are some great side-by-side screenshots for comparison.) The only scene they did not include in the finished product was the airplane fight, but only because the explosives rigged to blow up the miniature plane didn't work (and they were worried it'd have looked cheesy anyway.)

It impressed Steven Spielberg enough to not only send them a letter of congratulations instead of, say, a Cease & Desist, but also invite them to Amblin for an hour of chat and outtakes. He had every right to be impressed; I'm reasonably sure Mr. Spielberg never had to deal with Harrison Ford's voice breaking in between a 3-year hiatus between shots in the same scene, say, nor was he nearly arrested by a store owner who thought that, what with the wagon of hay and Arab-esque street stalls set up in a back alley, he was making a "skin flick." (Wonder what kinds of skin flicks that guy had been watching!)

The film has been screened several times, starting at the Alamo Drafthouse in 2003, but I missed it when it came 'round New England way. I've turned to YouTube several times but haven't found it yet, but BoingBoing did point me to a similar Spielberg-esque kids' project on YouTube called SHARK.

This film was made by a group of 12-year-olds in 1978. It's a Super8 film involving a shark terrorizing swimmers and oddly enough features a very familiar-sounding soundtrack. What the kids lack in technical wizardry (much like Spielberg's mechanical shark, the kids' shark sank early on in production) they more than make up for in moxie. It's a real hoot (the "TNT" made me laugh and applaud at the same time) and beats the stuff my brothers and I were making when we were in our early teens.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5L2Igd6uCrA

Still, the Raiders remake eludes me.