Tagged: Sesame Street

Molly Jackson Is Preparing For The Future

Wonder Woman & Elmo

This past weekend was the arguably biggest event on the geek calendar, San Diego Comic Con. It is an explosion of headlines, news clips, and video spots that most geeks salivate over. However, I was not one of them. That’s right, I spent the biggest geek weekend of the year creating Sesame Street characters out of fruit. It was awesome.

My niece, Baby Destructo (as I call her), turned three last week and wanted a Sesame Street birthday party. Elmo is kiddie crack, I swear. As she is my very favorite person to spend time with, my family and I spent the weekend trying to make it the best day of her year.

Hanging out with a three-year old is a reminder of how active an imagination can be. She was always pointing to nothing and seeing trains or butterflies coming through the house. She makes force lighting and names everyone after My Little Pony characters. We sat together and she read books to me, and even has her favorite book memorized.  My personal highlight though was when she pointed to Spock on my t-shirt and said “I like him.”

Towards the end of the weekend, when she was all passed out from playing her favorite game of me chasing her through a museum, I finally got to check out some of the highlights from SDCC. I was particularly disappointed to see some news pieces. A male con staffer decided to hijack a Women in Film Production panel to teach the panelists about the film industry. I can’t quite understand why, but he thought that he needed to help the female panelists explain their careers and run their panel for them. Then I checked out the reviews of The Killing Joke. I admit, I haven’t seen the film yet but the descriptions I have read are not promising. They took Batgirl, whose part in this comic is small in itself, and added a storyline that made her a lovesick child who only seems motivated by a man.

I was excited to see the Wonder Woman trailer; it was a surprising breath of fresh air after reading some of the others. It was a strong woman standing up and being an equal partner with a man while fighting for the equality of others. I would love to see more of strong female characters in all media, but what really hurt was seeing that a strong female character was dragged down. Mostly though, I think about the world that my tiny, imaginative, smart niece is growing up in.

Media will shape her more than any generation before her. She will grow up in a world where equality is an active topic, where in her formative years a woman is the first presidential nominee for a major American political party. But in the same breath, entertainment has dragged its feet in making changes. Every time we get a Ghostbusters or Buffy, another demeaning instance seems to rear its ugly head.

We have a responsibility to the future to make sure that our entertainment is diverse and equal. And in some ways it seems silly. After everything that has happened, this fight should be over but the current climate of this country has proven otherwise.

I want my niece to grow up in a world where she is treated equally along with everyone else. So the next time you read something that is not quite right or hear a joke that uses a minority group as the punchline, think about the future you want for the next generation.

The Point Radio: Creating Creatures With Henson

Brian Henson and the company formed by his late father, Jim, are taking their talents to a new reality based competition show on SyFy. Brian talks about why he’s doing the CREATURE SHOP CHALLENGE and what his toughest creations have been on the big and small screens. Plus DOCTOR WHO comic fans get some freebies and Fox stakes some claims in the box office.

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE on ANY mobile device (Apple or Android). Just  get the free app, iNet Radio in The  iTunes App store – and it’s FREE!  The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE  – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

REVIEW: Meet the Fraggles

Meet the Fraggles key art 1.15.13One of the most amazing things about the talented and long-missed Jim Henson is that he was always creating something new, exploring news forms of storytelling and puppetry. While he may have started out with single characters, such as Kermit, he went on to create characters that hawked cereal and interacted with humans on Saturday Night Live. In between, he also helped pioneer engaging and  educational children’s television with Sesame Street’s inhuman inhabitants and created a universe of Muppets. When HBO was looking for original fare in the 1980s, it made perfect sense that they turn to Henson who whipped up a brand new universe of characters, the Fraggles. His Fraggle Rock lasted five seasons and 96 wonderful episodes.

Coming this week is Fraggle Rock: 30th Anniversary Collection, including every episode plus recently discovered behind the scenes interviews, a collectible Red plush keychain, and an all new exclusive Fraggle Rock graphic novel featuring a parent-friendly activity guide. That’s a lot of fun puppetry for the nostalgia-minded.

Also being released is Meet the Fraggles, a six episode sampler for those uncertain if today’s young will respond with the same delight. Wisely, Vivendi Entertainment includes the pilot episode so everyone of the cast is introduced, including the human Doc, who never sees the inhabitants, although his Muppet dog, Sprocket, does.

Much as the residents on Sesame Street were there to help teach numbers and letters, the mixed races of Fraggles were designed as an allegory to the human world. Henson was determined to demonstrate mankind’s interconnected nature and the episodes are fun, but touch on complex issues. Living in their system of underground caves and tunnels, the Fraggle subsist on radishes and Doozer sticks, made from ground up radishes. They can share their dreams if their heads touch one another as they fall asleep.

The series focuses predominantly on Gobo, the leader; Mokey, highly spiritual and artistic; athletic Red; nervous Wembley; and, Boober, the depressive. Whereas the Fraggles were carefree explorers, they frequently encountered the Doozers, who are workers. As a result, there is a great deal of misunderstand and incomprehension between them, allowing the lessons to be learned. Then there are the rules of the Universe, or so claim the Gorgs. Junior Gorg, Pa Gorg, and Ma Gorg are several times the size of a Fraggle and consider them pests.

Described by Henson as “a high-energy, raucous musical romp. It’s a lot of silliness. It’s wonderful”, it began production in March 1982 and debuted on January 10, 1983, becoming the template for many international co-productions that added their own unique elements. The six episodes included on the sampler are culled from the first 37 aired on HBO and nicely focus on the different Fraggles.

We have “Beginnings” that has Doc (Gerard Parkes) and Sprocket set up an old room as a workshop where they discover the first in a series of holes that turn out to be access points to Fraggle Rock. In “Boober’s Dream” we learn that he has a fun side, a split personality named Sidebottom,. There’s also a nice nod to Henson’s other 1980s creation when they go to the drive-in and see a clip from The Dark Crystal. The most charming of the bunch may be “Red’s Club”, where she wants to lead a club that forms without her.

There are no extras on this inexpensive disc but well worth a look if you’ve never experienced these before.

John Ostrander: Don’t Mess With The Bird

So, the first Presidential Debate of 2012 is over. Romney appears to have won it, President Obama mostly didn’t show up, and moderator Jim Lehrer took an early retirement. So what’s the big take away from the event?

Mitt Romney wants to deep fry Big Bird.

What Romney actually told Lehrer was “I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS,” adding, “I like PBS. I like Big Bird. I like you, too.” Earlier this year, he told Fortune magazine “Some of these things, like those endowment efforts and PBS I very much appreciate and like what they do in many cases, but I just think they have to stand on their own rather than receiving money borrowed from other countries, as our government does on their behalf.”

Of course, the fact is that the government doesn’t borrow from other countries specifically to pay for NPR and PBS. They borrow mostly to pay for the war in Afghanistan or, as they have in the past, the war in Iraq which they did to a very large degree. As Neil deGrasse Tyson trenchantly tweeted, “Citing PBS support (0.012% of the budget) to help balance the Federal budget is like deleting text files to make room on your 500 gig hard drive.”

But let’s leave that aside for a moment. Let’s leave aside all the policy wonk moments and the substantive issues and who lied and how much. This is a pop culture column so let’s focus on the pop culture moment – Sesame Street. Big Bird. That’s what they’re really talking about on Twitter, Facebook, and the blogosphere. And the message is that Romney wants to kill Big Bird.

That’s not what the man said. Agree with him or not, he doesn’t think that public funds should go to fund public television. I don’t happen to agree with him (any of you who don’t understand that I’m a liberal and support President Obama haven’t been paying attention) but I understand his view.

It seems to me that the comment was an off-the-cuff remark made in an almost jocular manner. After months of preparation (some would say years), Romney appears to have made an off-the cuff-remark and shot himself in the foot with it and then inserted the foot in his mouth. From the response, you’d think that Big Bird had replaced the eagle as our national emblem. And a reasonable question is – why?

One of my favorite moments in Oceans 13 (the second best of the Ocean films) is when a very irate Al Pacino is telling a very cool (as always) George Clooney that he’s going to get some guys after Clooney’s Danny Ocean and they know how to really hurt a guy. I’m paraphrasing all this but Ocean replies, “I know all the same guys you know and they like me better.”

That’s the deal here. Romney personalized his opposition to funding certain endowments. He could have left his point with the concept that he didn’t think the federal government should help subsidize things like PBS and, hence, Sesame Street. Instead, he adds Big Bird’s name to the conversation. A whole generation has grown up with Big Bird. Moms have planted kids in front of Sesame Street for several generations. They trust it. And the message that got carried was that Romney will make it go away.

Romney doesn’t get the impact of Sesame Street or of Big Bird. He certainly didn’t grow up watching it (neither did I; different generation) and maybe his kids didn’t, either. It’s not of real value to him and so he sees no problem if it disappears. Twitter, Facebook, and the blogosphere are suggesting that it matters to a lot of people.

To paraphrase Danny Ocean, we know Big Bird, Governor Romney, and we like him better.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

 

THE HALLOWEEN LEGION AND COMICS

Art: Diana Leto

Art: Thomas Boatwright

The World’s Weirdest Heroes, The Halloween Legion, excitedly anticipate their upcoming comics debut in their first graphic novel, with stories written by Martin Powell and illustrated by Diana Leto and Thomas Boatwright.

Coming soon from Sequential Pulp Comics and Dark Horse Comics.

THE HALLOWEEN LEGION Book One novel is available in both print and Kindle editions, just in time for Halloween. As the Spooky Season approaches…order your copy today!

Martin Powell and Diana Leto will appear on an upcoming October episode of the Earth Station One podcast to discuss the Halloween Legion.

The Halloween Legion ™ Martin Powell.

ONCE UPON A HALLOWEEN

The Halloween Legion ™ Martin Powell. Artwork © Diana Leto

New Pulp Author Martin Powell has unveiled the terror-ific atmospheric title page and peeks of partial panels for an autobiographic back-up tale, by Sesame Street artist Diana Leto, featured in his upcoming HALLOWEEN LEGION graphic novel. From Sequential Pulp/Dark Horse Comics.

You can see more Once Upon A Halloween art at Martin’s blog.

Jerry Nelson: 1934-2012

This is a Muppet News Flash: Puppeteer Jerry Nelson, the man behind Sesame Street muppet Count von Count, died yesterday at age 78. Nelson, a cast member of the show for over 40 years, also brought to life the characters Herry Monster, Fat Blue, Sherlock Hemlock and the Amazing Mumford.

Nelson’s first job with the Muppets was The Jimmy Dean Show in 1965 as Rowlf the Dog’s right hand man, literally. After learning that the Muppets were used on Sesame Street, he rejoined Henson and Oz as a puppeteer, beginning in the second season. He received a number of his major characters early in the show’s run, including the Sherlock Holmes parody Sherlock Hemlock, a hapless magician named The Amazing Mumford, and the overly strong but sensitive Herry Monster (1970–2012). His most famous character is the arithmomaniac vampire Count von Count, which he voiced until his death. He was also the first puppeteer to perform Mr. Snuffleupagus. Jerry Nelson also made a cameo appearance as the giant in the “Sesame Street News” story of Jack and the Beanstalk.

Nelson also performed many characters on The Muppet Show, including Sgt. Floyd Pepper (the bassist of the Electric Mayhem band), Pigs in Space star Dr. Julius Strangepork, the boomerang fish-throwing Lew Zealand, Kermit the Frog’s nephew Robin the Frog, Gonzo’s girlfriend Camilla the Chicken, and the Phantom of the Muppet Show, Uncle Deadly. On Fraggle Rock he performed Gobo Fraggle, Pa Gorg and Marjory the Trash Heap.

Nelson has also performed character voices in Sesame Street cartoons and Private Public from Sheep in the Big City.

He reprised the role of the announcer in The Muppets. His final performance as the said announcer was part of the Jim Henson’s Musical World concert at Carnegie Hall.

Our condolences to his family, friends and fans.

 

John Ostrander: Maurice Sendak – in passing

He was a curmudgeon who didn’t have children, didn’t especially like children, and yet was probably the most noted children’s book writer and illustrator in the past fifty years, J.K. Rowling notwithstanding. He was Maurice Sendak and he died May 8th at age 83 after a stroke.

Sendak was famous for many books, especially Where The Wild Things Are, a favorite in our house. I got my Mary the full set of the McFarlane figurines and we saw and liked the movie version (many people didn’t but we did, nyah nyah).

He was infamous for books like In The Night Kitchen because its hero is a young boy named Mickey who falls out of his night clothes and runs around naked. As Lewis Black might put it, “Some people see pictures of a little boy’s wee-wee and it makes them want to cry.” It’s gotten the book put on the American Library Association’s “100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–1999.”

Banning In The Night Kitchen. Some people need to grow up. Still, if you’re not pissing some people off, you’re not doing it right. Sendak did it right.

Maurice Sendak had a diversity of styles. I have a collection of the two-volume set: The Juniper Tree and other tales from the Brother Grimm, translated by Lore Segal and Randall James. The illustrations are incredibly detailed and are often strange and reflect the source material magnificently. In the same style he also did The Light Princess and The Gold Key, both written by George Macdonald and they are beautifully realized as well. The latter is a particular favorite of mine. In the aforementioned In The Night Kitchen, the story proceeds from panel to panel like a comic book or, perhaps more aptly, like a comic strip: specifically, Little Nemo In Slumberland.

Sendak produced films, including the animated special of his work Really Rosie, and did sets for operas including Mozart’s The Magic Flute (Sendak cited Mozart as one of his great influences along with Walt Disney’s Fantasia.) He was part of the National Board of Advisors for Children’s television Workshop during the development of Sesame Street. He had a rich and prolific mind.

As I get older I get crankier, and so I can appreciate Sendak’s curmudgeonly side. He demonstrated it earlier this year in a wonderful two part interview that he did with Stephen Colbert and that you can watch here and here.

To note Sendak’s death, Colbert played a few additional pieces from the interview this week. My favorite was when Colbert compared Mozart to Donald Trump and Sendak instantly replied, “I’m going to have to kill you.” Funny, funny stuff and I think it was one of Colbert’s best interviews.

Sendak had a concept of mortality from an early age with his extended family dying in the Holocaust. I’ve also known about death from an early age with deaths in my extended family, attending wakes and funerals. Maybe there’s something in Sendak’s art and writing where that comes through and it speaks to me.

Sendak claimed that he didn’t write for children; he wrote for himself and that was part of his genius. As with all good children’s literature, the work speaks not only to children but the child in all of us. We see and we respond on a deep instinctive level. Everyone I’ve known has had a child alive inside of them – not always for good effect. In other words, our inner Max. I have several children inside of me and some of them are brats knowing only that they want what they want when they want it. Sendak knew and celebrated them as well.

Sendak may be gone but his work is there and so the best parts of him are as well. We can still meet our Wild Things and have a wild rumpus in the pages of his books. I wouldn’t be so bold as to say that Sendak would be pleased by that; Sendak was too much of a curmudgeon. I think he would nod and then go back to listening to Mozart.

Just don’t compare Mozart to Donald Trump because, then, Maurice Sendak would have to kill you.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell, R.N., CNOR, C.G.

DENNIS O’NEIL: TV Supers

Oh, alas. Rest your sorrowing gaze on the gap, the fracture, the breach, the crack, the cavity, hole, crevice – might it even be a lacuna? – and join my lament.

And what, exactly, is that lament? And the gap/fracture/breach and the rest…what are we referring to here?

Well, in case it’s not obvious by now…we’re complaining about the absence of superheroes in the television season that’s a’borning. Not that such an absence is exactly novel. Since Superman made his video debut in 1952 – the Man of Steel was TV’s first costumed superguy – there have been more years without broadcast superheroes than years with them. But they have been sprinkled throughout the schedules in an odd, here-and-there fashion.

Some of them may have been among your favorites. Remember Captain Nice and Mr. Terrific? The Hulk? Electra Woman and Dyna Girl? Shazam? Isis? The Flash? The Greatest American Hero? How about Sesame Street’s Super Grover? If you can tolerate your superheroes minus costumes, the list can be expanded: The Six Million Dollar Man and his female counterpart, The Bionic Woman; The Dark Angel, which introduced many of us dirty old men to Jessica Alba – and yes, we are grateful; Buffy the Vampire Slayer (more gratitude from the DOM squad); the SyFy channel’s Alphas

I’m not going to insult you by mentioning Batman, but do you recall the show that was apparently meant to capitalize on Batman’s popularity, The Green Hornet?

This list is, I’m sure, incomplete, but you get the idea. Superheroics have been almost television staples for a long time – not as constant as cop action or goofy folks doing goofy things in the sitcom universe, but pretty familiar.

Not currently, though. We thought we’d have an adaptation of one of the classic comics characters to amuse us in prime time and I, for one, eagerly anticipated the new Wonder Woman, as presented by David E. Kelley. Mr. Kelley – he deserves the honorific – is, arguably television’s best scripter, especially now that Aaron Sorkin’s gone elsewhere. I’ve been aware of him ever since Picket Fences in the 90’s and I think Boston Legal was a small weekly miracle. (His current show, Harry’s Law, is pretty damn good, too.) One can’t help wondering: what would Kelley, whose previous work never got near fantasy-melodrama in any form, have done in such unfamiliar territory? I can’t say that we’ll never know because, these days…DVD? Limited cable exposure? YouTube? But we don’t know now. (Or do we? Do you have information that I lack?)

Life is tough.

Know what would be swell? To see Wonder Woman as I first saw Superman 1952. Not knowing that some of the scenes depicting the destruction of Krypton were borrowed from theatrical movies, or noticing that the special effects were less than awe-inspiring – did they even qualify as special effects? No, just looking and accepting whatever was there, without judgment, being amused or bored as the occasion demanded.

But I’ve seen and read and written so much much much…and hell. I’ve even been an editor. I don’t have the capacity to look with an innocent mind at superheroes, or anything else, and that’s the real fracture in my life.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases