Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Awesome Intro

Intro sequences to TV shows are a dying breed. They used to be a lovely set up for a show, give you a glimpse at the characters, maybe even explain things a little incase you are new to the program, but now the people making the shows realise that these intros are taking valuable seconds away from the main bulk of the show. As a result, sitcom intros go from something like this:

To this:

That Fresh Prince intro is nearly 2 minutes long! No way that would happen now. It did get cut down a bit in later episodes but it was still a hefty chunk of Will Smith and it does give you a good jist of what the story is and who the lead character is. By comparison the Ugly Betty intro is blink and you miss it, and it usually pops up a good 10 or 15 minutes into the show which just makes it seem all the more unnecessary.

This technique of chopping intro for seconds has also been applied to cartoons, most noticeably with sitcom-esque series like The Simpsons, American Dad and Family guy. As the series progress you notice them chopping the intro songs for a quick glimpse of the title as right on into the action. Now there's nothing wrong with ditching the intro everyone fast forwards through to make way for more story, but it is a bit sad that there aren't as many killer intro sequences about as there used to be. Half of the time these are the things people remember first, like the Fresh Prince intro for example. Mention that program to anyone and I guarantee that the intro song is the first thing they think of. The same goes for the Ninja Turtles or Transformers. Cartoon Network has been pretty good at keeping the awesome intro alive, with the likes of Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends, Dexter's Lab and The Powerpuff Girls, which are all great shows with top notch intros. However, nothing quite holds up to the stuff you got in the 80s and 90s. This is partly to do with the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia but it also has a lot to do with the kinds of programs that were getting made then. There was a lot more action figure driven, high adventure shows on TV back then, or at least that's how it seems...

Check out the intro to the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, one of my favourite cartoon series ever. This intro packs a punch; average kids go on a ride, get thrown through time and space to some crazy world, get attacked by a badass dragon with loads of heads, get magic weapons, meet the evil wizard Venger and get sent on an epic quest... all that set up in the space of a minute. When you are a kid this is very exciting.

The same thing goes for the intro to Jayse and The Wheeled Warriors. This has a good deep voiced dude set the scene before following with an epic bit of 80s soft rock. The great thing is they explain things a bit, but none of it really makes sense. Who is Jayse? What are the monster minds? Why does Jayse have to defeat them? What's the magic root? what are the Lightning League? Who is Saw Boss? What does any of this mean? The answer is 'who cares'. There's all kinds of stuff getting smashed and some good synth-bass going on.

My favourite bit of scene setting is for Thundarr The Barbarian. The story is a bit of a mish-mash of Conan The Barbarian and Star Wars but has a really dark edge for a kids show. If you can find episodes online I recomend it highly. It's all set after the awful apocalypse of 1994 (damn!) and the settings often show destroyed landmarks such as Mount Rushmoore or Big Ben, just to scare the crap out of you that every things gonna go to pot in '94. The intro dialogue is so well written that literally everything sounds super badass. Bellow is the dialogue from the Thundarr intro and everything that is awesome is in bold and everything super awesome is in bold caps.

The year: 1994.
From out of space comes a RUNAWAY PLANET, hurtling between the Earth and the Moon, UNLEASHING COSMIC DESTRUCTION !
Man's civilization is cast in ruin!
Two thousand years later, Earth is reborn...
A strange new world rises from the old:
But one man bursts his bonds to fight for justice!
With his companions Ookla the Mok and Princess Ariel, he pits his strength, his courage, and his FABULOUS SUNSWORD against the forces of evil.
He is Thundarr, the Barbarian!

Now that is how you set up the story!

They may not really have much point after you've seen them more than once but you gotta love a good intro.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Monday, 15 November 2010

BIG Cartoon Balloons

I really want to go to America, and plan to do so in the next few years, and if I go in November there is no way I am going to miss the Macy's Thanks Giving Parade. Look at all these HUGE comic character parade balloons. It's just so freaking awesome and they've been doing this since 1924. It looks like New York is being attacked by a giant Spongebob Squarepants. They really need to make a Godzilla balloon. That'd be great.

Daffy Duck Car


Sesame Celebrity Highlight #4

Hey kids, wanna see something crazy?

Does Little Richard in a bubble bath playing a piano singing the Ernie classic 'Rubber Ducky' count?


Sunday, 14 November 2010

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Mickey Mouse and The Mad Doctor

Here's one to watch on this horrible day with all the wind and rain blowing outside your window: The Mad Doctor staring Mickey Mouse. This cartoon is getting a heavy nod in the forthcoming Epic Mickey game coming on the Wii, which is delving into the forgotten history of Disney and Mickey, and you can see why the picked it; it's amazingly dark and spooky and The Mad Doctor looks like he could be the poster boy the the 'Classic Cartoon Villains Club'. He is one bad man. For a cartoon made in 1933 this looks A M A Z I N G! Love it.

Here's a glimpse of what to expect with Epic Mickey: there's nods to Fantasia, The Mad Doctor, Oswald The Rabbit, Peter Pan and much more I would imagine. If this game is as good as the source material it will be a must have for me this Christmas!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Judo Boy and his adictive theme tune

I just stumbled across the opening for the wonderfully titles anime series, Judo Boy, and oh my god does this get stuck in your head! There doesn't seem to be an English dub of it anywhere I can find and I'm not sure if there is one, so I don't know much about this show at all, but it does seem to have been translated into Spanish if that helps anyone. It's pretty impressive for a foreign language theme song to get so stuck in your head and this one really does. The amount of repetition in it is pretty comical, I'm sure they could have trimmed this to a lean 30 seconds! All I get stuck in my head is the tune and the word 'boy', which is repeated again and again. It goes something like this:

Da da BOY, da dada da da da BOY, da dada da daaaaaa!
Da da BOY, da dada da da da BOY, da dada da daaaaaa!
Da da BOY, da dada da da da BOY, da dada da daaaaaa!
Da da BOY, da dada da da da BOY, da dada da daaaaaa! (repeat forever)

I also love the title, Judo Boy. There's something wonderfully blunt and to the point about it.

Prepare to get this stuck in your head!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Claymation Michael

Michael Jackson. There is A LOT you can say about the guy and a lot of opinions to be had. I think the man made some of the finest pop albums of all time and like to focus on that more than all the crazy surgery, court cases and all encompassing insanity that became a bigger and bigger part of his life. 'Bad' has to be the first album I was ever truly aware of growing up, and for a lot of people around my age that's their first real awakening to the big, strange world of music. Another thing MJ fans would have seen when growing up is the jawdroppingly odd Moonwalker film. There is, in hindsight, so much that is completely mental about this film (dog fairgrounds, the Bad video done by kids, Joe Pesci getting all the worlds kids hooked on drugs, MJ turning into a transformer etc.), but when you are younger I think the madness washes over you a bit better and the whole thing comes out as a big, loud, shiny, neon spectacle. That's what kids like right, bright colours and loud bangs?

Well one of the stand out sections of the film is the Speed Demon music video directed by Claymation big wig Will Vinton. This is in my opinion the best part of Moonwalker, where MJ outwits his bloodthirsty fans by turning into a claymation rabbit who rides a motorbike. As you do. He also turns into a claymation Pee Wee Herman, Sylvester Stallone and Tina Turner just for kicks. It doesn't make a damn bit of sense but it is very fun to watch and it's a great song too. The claymation is also top notch. It's wonderfully expressive and has a really grotesque edge to it which I just love.

Vinton also worked on films like Return To Oz, The Adventures of Mark Twain and shows like The PJ's but he made a name for himself directing the California Raisins adverts where he and MJ would collaborate a second time. If you thought that Rabbit Michael is strange then you have not seen him as piece of dry fruit! AMAZING! Yet more proof that America really does know how to make great adverts.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Popeye The Sailor Meets Sinbad The Sailor

It's Sunday. I'm at work. I'm feeling rough. What's needed is one of my all time favourite cartoons ever: Popeye The Sailor Meets Sinbad The Sailor. I had this on VHS when I was a tiny person and I've always loved it. This is Popeye at his very best. Great use of the characters, great backgrounds, great fights and Wimpy following a duck around with a meat grinder gets a big thumbs up from me.


Saturday, 6 November 2010

Nickelodeon's taste in garage-surf-punk-stuff

Nickelodeon has turned out some great shows over the years; Doug, Rocko's Modern Life, Spongebob Squarepants, Rugrats and so on... but it turns out some of the bods at head office also have some sweet taste in music. Ever get a feeling you couldn't quite put your finger on when the opening to Rocko's Modern Life came on? That's cause it's The B-52s Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson laying down the vocals. Awesome!

The B-52s are clearly not shy of the cartoon world, lest we forget this:

And if you think that's bad then wise up and listen to this...

Yeah the BC-52s don't look so bad now do they?

But there's also another garage-surf gem lurking in the Nicktoon archive. The much missed Lux Interior, front man of The Cramps, one of the darkest and dirtiest bands out there, provided vocals for a song on Spongebob Square pants, one of the sunniest & funnest programs to come out of Nick-Studios. See and hear for yourself:

NICE! They must be blasting out some good tunes on the office stereo at Nick HQ. Good work people! Who would have thought, let's get this guy on our family friendly cartoon?

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Raisin Charles

Man, Ray Charles is popping up a lot here lately, what with his music being used to soundtrack Manga city destruction and doing super sweet duets with Kermit The Frog, you'd have thought that'd be it. BUT NO! The man is was in this amazing California Raisin's ad back in the 80's. There just aren't enough completely mental claymation adverts featuring soul legends on TV these days.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010