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Blog, Links
Posted on Jul 20 2015 by Greg

Disney Music Emporium
The official site for the everyone who loves the very best of Disney music and recordings in the classic mold, with behind-the-scenes news, regular features by Disney historian, a monthly "Record Roundup" and exclusive offers on musical collectibles.

Official Disney Music Site
The official site for the latest Walt Disney, Hollywood and Buena Vista Records soundtrack and pop releases plus interactive activities and special features.

Bill Morgan's Disneyland Records Site
The closest an unofficial classic Disney vinyl records site comes to an official one. Instead of selling or giving away pirate downloads, it links to the many vintage Disney records on iTunes that many folks may not realize are available, plus extensive catalog listings, history and even who is auctioning what on eBay.

Jerry Beck's Cartoon Research
Animation historians offer regular features, articles, videos and rare images. Every Tuesday, please look for my "Animation Spin" feature exploring animation-related records from Disney, Hanna-Barbera, Rankin/Bass, Filmation, Warner Bros, Lantz and many others.

Didier Ghez's Disney History Blog

Renowned historian Didier Ghez (editor of the "Walt's People" series) shares interesting discoveries about Disney history, vintage Disneyana, Disney artwork, the Walt's People book series, and new books about Disney.

Jerry Beck's Animation Scoop
Indiewire's official animation site, offering reviews, industry news, preview, film critiques and DVD reviews.

Official Disney Parks Blog
The official site for Walt Disney World, Disneyland and all other Disney destinations. I provide regular articles with interesting facts, interviews and commentary

Ed Robertson's TV Confidential
One of syndicated radio's most informative and insightful syndicated weekly programs. Host Ed Robertson presents celebrity interviews of today and yesterday, "This week in TV History", rare audio of TV moments lost on video forever. I do  regular DVD reviews about the latest releases plus some DVDs folks might have overlooked when they were released. Each show appears a week after its broadcast on iTunes as a podcast.

Stu Shostak's Stu's Show / Jeanine Kasun's Baby Boomer Favorites
The ultimate talk show for lovers of classic TV and animation, with one-of-a-kind interviews from TV's greatest classics. Stu Shostak hosts these lively shows every week for live streaming at 7 pm Eastern / 4 pm Pacific, so listeners can email questions. Every show is archive for download at only 99 cents. Baby Boomer Favorites is a bi-weekly hour of music and talk from rock and pop's heyday, with celebrity guests sharing their personal favorites. (You can only download this show within the two-week window.)

Mark Evanier's News from Me
One of my everyday blog visits, this is an indispensable blog all about movies, TV, animation, theater, news and politics. Also raccoons. Mark wrote for animation, primetime and has a talent for storytelling, whether it's about the famous or the familial.

By Ken Levine
Multi-Emmy-winning writer/director of such landmarks as M*A*S*H, Cheers and Frasier generously shares his knowledge of writing for TV, backstage stories, reviews and generally engrossing reading that is also a daily click for me.

University Press of Mississippi
Find award-winning books, pop-culture bios, author works, art collection books and socio-political titles.

Hans Perk's A. Film LA
Acclaimed animator Hans Perk presents fascinating images, insights and information about Disney art and history.

Blog, Movies, TV, Music
Posted on Jul 06 2015 by Greg

Before we get to Teen Beach 2, let’s go back to 1966, when there was a CBS sitcom called It’s About Time. Created by Sherwood Schwartz, the escapism-era series was about two astronauts who travel back in time meet a wacky stone age family. Later in the season, the premise was reversed, and the cave people ended up in modern times, adjusting to newfangled life in zany ways.


That sums up the twist in the sequel to the highly-successful (and highly entertaining) Teen Beach Movie, an unabashedly silly musical comedy TV movie in which two teens are transported inside a 1962 beach movie (for diehard fans of the genre, the first actual “Beach Party” film was released in 1963). They had tissue-thin romance problems and a tangle with a Vincent Price-like mad scientist.


The new sequel reverses the story and takes the two 1962 movie teens (and members of their cast, eventually) into a 2015 rendered in as gritty and cynical style as Disney Channel can muster. At the same time, our modern-day couple is having relationship issues. Things get “tense” when it becomes apparent that the 1962 movie might vanish entirely, along with the characters—and the 2015 couple will have never met and fallen in love!! Will it all turn out okay. Maybe I shouldn’t tell.


Teen Beach 2 is certainly chock full of comedy and excellent song and dance set pieces, but, perhaps because it takes place in “today’s real world”, it does not get as loose and campy as its predecessor. The songs, though, are just as good and eclectic. There is enough of all possible rock and pop tunes to satisfy kids and the parents and grandparents who love the earlier eras. The music alone is a strong reason these movies seem to work so well.


The DVD contains some rehearsal footage, and that’s about it for any bonus features. For parents concerned about questionable material, this being a Disney Channel movie, there is pretty much nothing of concern. It might be worth noting that the original beach movies, squeaky-clean as they were, had some nudge-nudge material in them. All of them are pure escapism that are so knowing about their silliness, they sometimes break the fourth wall to remind us that they’re in on the jokes with us.


Blu-ray/DVD Review: McFarland USA
Blog, Reviews, Movies, Music
Posted on Jun 15 2015 by Greg

Every year or so, there seems to be a new movie about a rag-tag group of unlikely people who are thrown together by circumstances with a mentor who sees potential in them and organizes them into a socko team that beats the smirking, overconfident opponents.

McFarland USA delivers on that cliché, but this time the mentor is a white bread coach who apparently was fired and sent with his family to his last-chance position in a Latino neighborhood. Apparently much of this was fictionalized but the overall spirit of joining into a community of seemingly disparate friends is true. The real life Jim White, who appears in a bonus feature, is very happy with the film (and how many real life people are pleased with how their lives were fictionalized?)

And therein is the reason for this movie's merit. It's about the young runners, but it's also about their families and friends, sharing cultural traditions with nary an ounce of disdain. If this comes across as too much of a Disney fable, and maybe it is, the up side is that there enough positive messages out there for young people to watch.

Kevin Costner is at his minimalist, Gary Cooper best in the role of father to his family and fish-out-of-water leader to young people with whom he seems, at first, to have little in common.

Though there is no audio commentary, which would have added tremendously, there are a few nice little extras, the best being a reunion between the real students, now grown and largely successful.

These small independent Disney films are a stark (forgive the Marvel pun) contrast to the superspectacular tentpole films of today. Though films are fine, too, but there is room for simple stories about ordinary people.

Walt Disney Records has also released a soundtrack CD of Antonio Pinto's unique score for the film.

Blu-ray/DVD Review : Maya the Bee Movie
Blog, Reviews, Movies
Posted on Jun 09 2015 by Greg

Blu-ray Review: MAYA THE BEE

It’s too easy to simply dismiss a feature like this with an offhand, “Well, the kids seemed to like it, but I read a book.” That may be completely true, as Maya the Bee Movie is virtually free of deconstructive humor, ironic asides and sideways glances at the grownups. This is not Jerry Seinfeld’s Bee Movie.


It doesn’t try to be. Maya is in the category of the Tinker Bell movies, with a feisty, independent youngster who questions the unquestioned and bucks the system, much to the disgust of the Jafar-like Miss Buzzina—a bigoted bee with her eyes on the queen’s crown. Somehow she sees Maya’s innocent antics and guileless honesty a threat, so she wastes no time banishing the tot from the hive. Maya and her best friend bee, Willie, find adventure in the “Meadowlands”, where dangers threaten.


The cheery proceedings stay consistent throughout, with nary a dark spot. When the supposed monster Gorgo is described, the film gets a teeny bit moody for a few seconds. The gags and language of the film stay away from naughty words and poop jokes with only a few exceptions: on bee says “Full of…” and another bee quiets him with a “Shhhh! And a dung beetle provides a chunk of foul smelling frolic.


However, the film is by and large a slam dunk for 3 to 5 year olds with their parents and caregivers. Every adventure is more fun than hazardous. Maya rarely lets any creature intimidate her. The setting is all done in primary colors as flowers galore appear in every direction. It’s a pretty movie, and while one might assume it’s just for girls, Maya has several male friends of equal virtue and spunk.


The background score is quite pleasant, matching up nicely with the colorful vistas. There are only two songs; one that Flip the Grasshopper sings at the ball, and a pop tune over the credits. That’s odd because this is such a song-type film, but maybe the absence of cute songs is a way of de-cutiefying the proceedings. The British accents also help take out a little adorability and add more gravitas (if that word can even be applied to this film).


9-year-old Coco Jack Gilles brings a sincere, non-cloying tone to the voice of Maya. Her character is sort of like “Boo” from Monsters, Inc. if she were a few years older. Best friend Willie resembles UPA’s Gerald McBoing-Boing a bit.


The Blu-ray/DVD extras are sparse, mostly repurposed promo spots and interstitials. This is becoming common on home video, likely due to the ever increasing expenses and the ever diminishing returns.


If “Maya the Bee” seems vaguely familiar, it’s because the character has been around a very long time – over 100 years, in fact. Lots of adaptations have buzzed around, including an anime version widely seen on Nickelodeon some decades back. This film was based on a series as well. You can’t keep a good bee down.

MAD MEN's Final Episode: The tone arm lifts off the record...
Blog, Reviews, TV, Music
Posted on May 18 2015 by Greg

While I still reacted to the last scene of Don with a "Wha--?" it somehow made sense. Like the entire series -- and like life, like art -- it's ambiguous and open to interpretation. You almost don't want to have a solid answer with Don, just with everyone else.


If I regress to my college film analysis days (and just I happen to have Marshall McLuhan right here) Don's whole existence was advertising, marketing and especially branding. People compare Jon Hamm ("I am Hamm") to Cary Grant, who was a self-created brand of suave sophistication, reborn from a life of squalid poverty as Archie Leach.


Many actors, politicians and other famous people are brand. We live in a brand society that advertising taught us. We send it and we receive it.


Hillary Clinton is refining her brand. Eventually Miley Cyrus will put her pants back on and be a serious artist who laughs at her past silliness but is proud of it. In twenty years she'll be singing jazz with Tony Bennett on the New Year's TV special. Madonna made marketing and branding an art form and career path.


That's Don Draper. "Hey hey we are the Monkees/And we are here to please/A manufactured image/With no philosophies."

Whether Don went back and created the commercial, or called Peggy to give the idea to her, all of it is possible. But on a college-class "read stuff into it" "What words can you see in the ice cubes" sense, Don was advertising in human form and he literally faded into a commercial. A very successful one. The only commercial to generate such a big hit song and cultural anthem.


Don found peace, he found way for people to need him -- that's what made him ultimately break down -- no one really needed him (just like a bottle of Coke or a Coke commercial, which we want but don't need).


Pithy. Lots of pith. But my favorite aspect of the ending was that the last voice you heard was that of Ron Dante of The Archies, one of the most successful jingle singers ever, who fronted a band that did not exist yet had the number one hit of 1969. Am I digging too deep to connect Ron Dante literally to the ending? Maybe. But he's an icon of the '60s and of advertising.


And his real name is Carmine Granito.

• Yes, Sally deserved more. Yet she emerged as the solid rock of the family, such as it was. Betty was smoking her life away, dying the way she wanted, and there's Sally doing what needs to be done, canceling her trip, being the adult her parents were not. You're right, no need to worry about Sally or anyone lucky enough to be in her life.


• The show ended, but life goes on. The endings (or new beginnings) for each group of characters were not fairy tales in the literal sense, because there would be troubles ahead, along with a fulfillment none of them had before. A satisfying close for a series should offer its viewers some closure.


• I felt that Elisabeth Moss's phone scene was thankless and must have been hard to write. They only partially succeeded. When Stan declared himself, it was something he might have done at any point in the show. In Peggy's case, having her transform from angry to Lollipops and Roses was not fair to the actress. I don't think Meryl Streep could have made it any more believable, but she should not have been put in that performance position. It was like Jan getting a date on the phone with the boy she thought didn't know she was alive.


• Joan. Yes, she has deserved to run the place since she took over media and made it hum, only to have to train a bozo to do it and go back to her desk. I've been there -- a lot. No question of her success. Like Marlo Thomas or Gloria Steinem and heading right into the decade where she can rock, or at least, start to rock.


• Roger and bat-crazy mama – Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold in Gigi. A match made in Dewar's. I guessed he was going to die after he played the creepy organ (why was that in the office?), but he's gonna go out, as my dad used to say, "Spoo-ja-dooin'". Don doesn't know who he is, Roger knows himself too well.


• Very glad Ken was a catalyst for Joan (and maybe Peggy in the future) after his scene where he was being "spoo-ja-dooed" by Roger and his "friends" after the merger. (I've been there too.) He was forbidden to write books on his own time, mostly because he was so good at it but it wasn't "his place". His talent was slowly marginalized by those who had no real reason to beyond their own insecurity. (Hmmm?) Ken was one of the few who had matured and realized things about life that the others either found out too late or just recently.


• Don wanted to be needed by someone and did, in his way, try to help people, over the course of the series. He mentored Peggy, most of all. When he hugged "chair guy", he finally have someone something only he could give, as he was looking at a mirror of himself. Back to college analysis: Matthew Weiner resembles Chair Guy and I have a feeling Weiner was baring his soul completely in that scene. Don, who is Weiner's alter ego (one of them), is everything that, on the surface, Weiner is not, yet the two connected as one and the same.


It's not money, it's not fame, not power, success. Those can be nice within perspective (from what I hear). It's really about finding out who you are, how you can gain contentment with what you're doing (or changing it), seeking balance, connecting with others in a deeper way, and things like that there (I'm getting 'way too pretentious now. Sorry.)


I still miss Suzanne Pleshette.

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