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Blog, TV
Posted on Nov 24 2011 by Greg
Even though it's not on DVD (though I hope for it year after year), the lesser-known Rankin/Bass ABC holiday special, The Mouse on the Mayflower, is a family tradition in our house.

Premiering in 1968 -- the same year as Frosty the Snowman on CBS and The Little Drummer Boy on NBC -- Mouse was an hour-long cel-animated musical presented by "Your Gas Company," which also sponsored Drummer Boy.

There are precious few Thanksgiving specials, so this one is worth looking at even for that reason. But what makes Mouse so special is its example of Rankin/Bass in its prime, featuring a star narrator, celebrity voices and a rich set of original songs by Maury Laws and Jules Bass. One of the songs, "Elbow Room," was also in the fabled stage musical, A Month of Sundays, which despite a Laws/Bass score and Romeo Muller book, disappeared as quickly as it came.

Tennessee Ernie Ford is in top narrator form as the Mouse himself, with strong support from Eddie Albert as Captain John Smith, Paul Frees as most of the male voices and June Foray as most of the female cast. Faring fine in the singing department, but not so much in the acting arena, are the popular recording stars Joanie Sommers ("You're in the Pepsi generation") and John Gary as Priscilla Mullins and John Alden (with Gary also voicing William Bradford with a Richard Burton-esque lilt). R/B may have wanted them to boost soundtrack album sales, but the score was never commercially released by RCA, Gary's label (a promotional album was released by the Gas company).

Trade ad announcing the special (indicating that Tennessee Ernie Ford was not originally slated to narrate) from Rick Goldschmidt's site.

The Mouse on the Mayflower fell into syndication in the late '70s/early '80s (with some of its songs edited) and was released on DVD (with the songs intact). It's not exactly Fantasia, with low-end animation by Mushi Studios of Japan (same as Frosty). Two of its characters are caricatures, of a sort -- one a Bear resembling Baloo and Priscilla looking a bit like Princess Aurora. The Native Americans are likely not the most PC of depictions (though R/B was prescient enough to clearly identify a villainous Native American as a reject from his tribe). However, it's still an engaging special and a nice slice of the Rankin/Bass canon.

Blog, Music, Records
Posted on Nov 12 2011 by Greg
Thanks to Kritzerland Records, there's a landmark soundtrack SPECIAL EDITION CD release of the Sherman Brothers classic score to CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG with expanded songs, tons of extra material, just a dream come true for fans.

From the Screen Archives Entertainment site:

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was originally released on LP on United Artists Records (the film was distributed by UA). As was usual back then, songs were truncated, the mixes were occasionally weird, and no underscore was used. There have been two previous CD releases -- one on Ryko, who added dialogue snippets throughout the album, and then on Varese Sarabande (who omitted the dialogue snippets but basically used the Ryko master).

For our Very Very Special Special edition, we went back to the first generation album master there was, of course, no way to change the mix or the generous amount of reverb used, but our masterful mastering engineer, James Nelson, has worked as much magic as humanly possible to optimize the sound present on those original album masters.

We've also included the film's "Entr'Acte," the original "Main Title" (much longer than the album version -- presented here with sound effects, which are actually fun and sort of go with the music), and the film mix of the  'Exit Music. ' Following that, we give you the complete song and picture book album tracks, released concurrently with the soundtrack, and which features Richard M. Sherman himself singing, along with other vocalists, all conducted by Leroy Holmes.

On CD 2, we're very pleased to present all the film's demo recordings by Richard Sherman. Finally, we had access to all of the playback tracks used during filming. These were all in mono and not that great sounding, but we've included several of them because they were material not included on the original album. These include another version of the title song (with quite a long instrumental), an instrumental called  "The Vulgarian Anthem," an instrumental of the "Chu-Chi Face" waltz, and a bit of the "Doll On A Music Box" not included on the original LP. Again, the sound on the playback tapes had distortion and not optimal sound, and mixes that were prepared specifically to be lip-synched to on set. But we thought they were of enough historical importance to include them.

Disc 1
1. Main Title
2. You Two
3. Toot Sweets
4. Hushabye Mountain
5. Me Ol' Bamboo
6. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
7. Truly Scrumptious
8. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (reprise)
9. Entr'Acte
10. Lovely, Lonely Man
11. Posh!
12. Hushabye Mountain (reprise)
13. The Roses Of Success
14. Chu-Chi Face
15. Doll On A Music Box & Truly Scrumptious
16. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Finale
17. Exit Music

Bonus Tracks
18. Main Title (Film Version with sound effects)
19. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Finale (Film Mix)
20. Exit Music (Film Mix)
Soundtrack Conducted by Irwin Kostal

The Song and Picture Book Album - Richard Sherman & Lola Fisher
21. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
22. You Two
23. Toot Sweets
24. Hushabye Mountain
25. Me Ol' Bamboo
26. Lovely, Lonely Man
27. Posh
28. Doll On A Music Box & Truly Scrumptious
29. Chu-Chi Face
30. The Roses Of Success

Disc 2
The Richard Sherman Demos
1. You Two
2. Toot Sweets
3. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
4. Truly Scrumptious
5. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 2
6. Lovely, Lonely Man
7. Posh
8. Hushabye Mountain
9. The Vulgarian Anthem
10. The Roses Of Success
11. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (children's reprise)
12. Hushabye Mountain (Grandfather's reprise)
13. Fun Fair
14. Lovely, Lonely Man/ Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Finale

The Playback Tracks
15. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 1
16. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 2
17. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 3
18. The Vulgarian Anthem
19. Chu-Chi Face Waltz
20. Doll On A Music Box Parts 1-3

Blog, Movies
Posted on Nov 11 2011 by Greg
Walt Disney's childhood idyll of a farm family life is the stuff of legend and has influenced many a Disney film and theme park. I can also be said that John Lasseter's childhood of road trips in the southwest, small towns that no longer exist due to superhighways and a love of automobiles is directly attached to what is now two Cars movies.

Most critics have been less than kind regarding Disney•Pixar's Cars 2, but the public is clearly honing in on Lasseter's wavelength and responding with enthusiasm (and strong summer box office and huge DVD sales) for the sequel especially for Mater, who takes center stage in this family-friendly spy thriller.

In the -- THANK YOU!! -- audio commentary, Lasseter and co-director Brad Lewis offer lots of cool factoids as well as their reasoning behind the creative decisions.

Lasseter says, "When we do a sequel, it's not just to retread the same emotional story that the original is. We want to find something new and something different." Little of the movie takes place in Radiator Springs, but rather in colorful, exciting international locales that offer the Pixar artists a chance to dazzle with truly breathtaking aerial views and meticulous details, which I find most enjoyable in high-def Blu-ray (3-D is nice, but you lose some clarlty and I'd rather revel in the details).

Lasseter also mentions that the story for Cars 2 sprang from a scene in the first film in which Lightning and Sally (who is not given enough to do in the sequel) see a spy thriller at a drive-in. He loved spy movies as a kid, particularly likes the Bourne series and
bourne movies and believes that Cars 2 isn't a spy movie spoof so much as a solid story that can stand on its own.

I personally found Cars 2 to be a throwback to the spy shows and films that I grew up with, like The Avengers, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Secret Agent and even Get Smart. These were all somewhat comedic as well as thrilling (especially Smart of course) -- but of all the spy genre films, Cars 2 reminded me most of one of my favorites theatrical features, Hanna-Barbera's The Man Called Flintstone.

My I favor you with a parody of the unforgettable theme to this epic adventure, with special Cars 2 lyrics?


Who do they call
When gears are startin’ to fall
When all the oil is spillin’
And synth fuels beginnin’ to brew?
The truck called Mater, that’s who-oo-oo-oo!

Who’s always there,
There to shoot and fly through the air
Who defeats Pacers and Gremlins
And all those cars we disliked too?
The truck called Mater, that’s who-oo-oo-oo!

He screams after eating wasabi
Down to the lobby
To learn the charms
Of the Japanese joh–onnns!

Who is the truck
Who succeeds with mostly dumb luck
While his pal Lightning is winning
Who’s spinning the crooks like fan belts?
The truck called Mater!
Who else, who else, who ELLLLLse!!

One final note on Cars 2 -- I drove a Gremlin in college and was hysterical with laughter that it and the Pacer were held is such comical "esteem" in Cars 2. They earned the distinction, to be sure.

Blog, News and Events
Posted on Nov 09 2011 by Greg
Staring tonight, various stations are airing an episode of TV Confidential in which my own self is interviewed about Disney music and Mouse Tracks.
Tuesday 11/15
12:05am ET / 9:05pm PT

It will then become available for listening on demand at and as beginning Wednesday 11/16.

All the episodes of TV Confidential are also available for download on iTunes.

Blog, TV
Posted on Nov 05 2011 by Greg
Even though studios other than Disney, who owns Marvel, have their names on the recent hit live action movies based on the characters (Captain America, Thor, etc.), Disney owns the licenses and is now releasing some of most recent animated TV episodes featuring Iron Man, X-Men, and The Avengers.

Volumes 1 and 2, released a few months back, contained episodes that traced the origins of several characters and their assemblage into the powerful, but (in the Marvel tradition) angst-filled, dysfunctional crime fighting Avengers family.

Since the two new DVDs  -- Volume 3: Iron Man Unleased and Volume 4: Thor's Last Stand -- offer 13 additional episodes, all interconnected in some way by story arcs and character relationships, it's tricky business for the uninitiated to start with them "cold," though each set includes one fact-filled "Avengers Unmasked" version of a key episode as a bonus feature.

This information comes in mighty handy, even as a refresher. Part of the fun of the Marvel Avengers is keeping track of who's got a beef with whom, which couples are an "item," and which villains are either bent on controlling the galaxy or just tortured souls who are lashing out.

Therein lies the Marvel charm: the good guys are not perfect, they bicker and even hurt each other, yet united they are the only hope against the total destruction of the entire universe, which is threatened roughly every four episodes.

I know that's a little snide. Actually, the stories are laced with humor, characters are always given opportunities for development between battles, and the animation is staged with the epic scope of a blockbuster Hollywood action movie. This is quality stuff.

But if you don't know the Wasp from the Enchantress, you'll enjoy following the proceedings in Vols. 2 and 3 by either watching 1 and 2 first or catching up with the "Unmasked" features.

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