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Voice Actor Gregg Berger Talks "AAAHH!! Real Monsters!"
Blog, TV
Posted on Oct 20 2013 by Greg

With every episode of Klasky Csupo's 1994 series AAAHH! Real Monsters now released on one DVD set, it's likely to attract new fans who enjoyed the "monsters at scare school" premise that worked so well in Disney/Pixar's Monsters University - but of course with two completely different approaches, styles and characters. 


One of the most popular and memorable characters on the Nickelodeon series was The Gromble, a bombastic headmaster who was just as nutty as students Ickis (Charlie Adler), Oblina (Christine Cavanaugh) and Krumm (David Eccles), To get into the head of The Gromble, we spoke with the versatile voice virtuoso, Gregg Berger.




GREG EHRBAR:
 First of all, modern audiences are going to be attracted to 
AAAHH! Real Monsters in a way that past viewers could not have imagined: they've seen Monsters University, which is almost an extension of the premise, right?

GREGG BERGER: Well, they certainly share the premise of successful SCARES as a course of study (ha-ha-ha). Our audience seemed to have an instant loyalty to the characters in the show, monsters who just couldn't get their 'scares' quite right because of their inherent niceness, under the tutelage of a bombastic headmaster (ME!) with a very thinly veiled anger management problem and a looming and booming insecurity over things like "do these red pumps make me look fat?!?"


It was so much fun to play and so much fun to watch! Then, now and always. The scripts were smart, funny, clever and not at all tied to any particular time period... so modern audiences embrace it, and additionally embrace it because it's art is so appealingly weird and eternally cutting edge. Kind of an Eastern European Folk Art feel, I always thought, just another part of what made it so distinctive and unique.


GREG E: How much can you share about the concept of  AAAHH! Real Monsters? When were you brought in to read for it? How did the producers convey the vision of the show?


GREGG B:  Voice Actors are usually the last in and the first out, and yet get a huge percentage of the adulation when a show is successful. Not to understate my/our contribution, but the writers and artists had been at it for months when we were first brought in. We were shown still images and writer's breakdowns, very much like live action character breakdowns. Lots of clues but all in two dimensions. It then falls to the voice actor to take it all in, gather all the clues, stir it all around and take our best shot at giving it all a voice.


Klasky Csupo, in those days, was set up so that the collaboration was inescapable and the only way to get to the voice recording booth was to weave in and out of the artists and writers cubicles. The result, whether intentional or not, was that we all became one big happy family. Concept was shared as pages of a storyboard that were flipped so we could see images and have scenarios described and comedic situations explained... but it was an extremely creative environment, where we were not only allowed, but also encouraged to play in the booth and "see what happened." The result, happily, was contagious fun and silliness and shows that stand the test of time and still ring weirdly true and often scarily fun.


GREG E:  As the series progressed over four seasons, surely the characters became richer and the writers and actors developed a rhythm. How do you think "The Gromble" evolved?


GREGG B: Oh, I think there were many moments where that mean old Gromble showed his softer side and ultimately wanted the best for his students.


GREG E:  We've got to ask about Tim Curry (voice of Zimbo). Please share some stories.


GREGG B: I'm afraid most of his scenes were done separately due to scheduling problems. When we did work together on Duckman or Ahhh!!! Real Monsters!, all I can tell you is that he is a consummate professional. But you already know that. No gossip. No pranks. Just the brilliant work you would expect. And a smart, fun, funny and nice guy.


GREG E:   Sure, sure, Helen Mirren is an Oscar winner and all, but hey, you've been nominated for an Annie Award -- and Cary Grant never won an Oscar and neither did Leo DiCaprio. How likely is it that Dame Helen sat on her couch with a bowl of Cheerios and watched episode after episode of  AAAHH! Real Monsters to capture your Gromble nuances?


GREGG B:  Well, that would certainly be nice to imagine... but Dean Hardscrabble is pure Helen Mirren and is quite her own wondrous thing. Don't get me wrong... The Gromble remains a great source of pride for me (and apparently for throngs of FANS whom I meet a Conventions around the world at which I am an invited guest!). And thanks for mentioning the Annie nomination. That was for my role as Cornfed in Duckman with Jason Alexander. Come to think of it... it's probably ME on the couch with a bowl of Cheerios watching episode after episode of AAAHH!!! Real Monsters!


GREG E: With all due respect to Ickis and Oblina and their respective voice artists, did it become apparent that Krumm was the most lovable of the three -- or was Gromble the really adorable one, perhaps in his own mind?


GREGG B: I believe The Gromble would feel compelled to instruct that although it is appropriate for each of us to think ourselves to be the center of our own adorable universes... The Gromble should be the center of EVERYONE's universe!!! (Krumm !?!  KRUMM !!??!!)


GREG E: It's easy to pick up on the chemistry of all of you as a comedy troupe. You recorded together, right? If not, it sure seems that way.


GREGG B:  Whenever possible - and it was nearly always possible. We became GREAT admirers of each other's talent, timing and skill. It was like getting paid to play. It wouldn't have been the same if we hadn't been allowed to record scenes together. Often, we also recorded sections in "splits" or individually... but actors are happiest and at their best when they allowed to "play" together. All FOUR of us... Ickis, Krumm, Oblina... and The Gromble! 


GREG E: What's next on the horizon for the many Berger voices?


GREGG B:   I appear in episodes of The Garfield Show as Odie, Squeak the Mouse, Harry the AlleyCat, and Herman the Mailman; in Transformers: Fall of Cybertron as GRIMLOCK; in Guild Wars 2 as Conrad and Duggadoo; in Dishonored as Street Speaker; in Resident Evil: Raccoon City as Harley; and my voice is still featured in commercials and narrations. In other words... the horizon is noisy!


GREG E:   If you could do the voice a tree, what kind of tree would it be?


GREGG B:  I'll go out on a limb and say... wait for it... The Tree Musketeers! If pressed I will amend my answer to... The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein!






My Mother, the iPhone
Blog
Posted on Oct 17 2013 by Greg


Thanks to today's technology, I can hear my mother's voice speaking to me from my car radio. Only a few years ago, you would've thought my story was more fiction that it's fact.

She doesn't generally help me through everything I do but I'm so glad she's here.

After each uproarious chat with Mom, wacky predicaments ensue, filled with zany madcap hijinks for the whole family.

Who knew that the 21st century would offer not so much the promise of George Jetson but more the fate of Jerry Van Dyke?






DVD Review: The Little Mermaid Diamond Edition Blu-ray
Blog, Movies
Posted on Oct 11 2013 by Greg


Princesses have come to Disney’s rescue more than once. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs took Walt Disney and his studio from short subjects into the much more prestigious world of feature films. Cinderella brought the studio back from the WWII setbacks. And The Little Mermaid re-ignited Disney animation, officially launching a second golden age.


It also redefined the musical form of animated features for the first time since Snow White. That is due largely to the vision of lyricist Howard Ashman, who can be seen on the bonus features conducting one of his insightful lectures. With the spectacular music of composer Alan Menken (who made his debut as an underscore composer with this film), the results reverberated throughout the entertainment industry.


Those of us who still pine for cel animation (or 2-D, which seems dismissive) have so much to savor in this film, in particular Glen Keane’s animation of Ariel herself. Even though elements of earlier Disney heroines were referenced (including Alice), no previous Disney animated lady ever had the range of expression as Ariel, thanks in no small part to the live modeling done by Sherri Stoner, who you can see in the best of the numerous bonus features, “Under the Scene: The Art of Live Action Reference.” (Fans of Animaniacs also know her writing and acting in that great show.)


As to acting in The Little Mermaid, the cast is superb, from the leads like Pat Carroll as Ursula to little gems like the seahorse voiced by Will Ryan. What might be overlooked is the fact that Jodi Benson plays two roles: Ariel and her “evil twin,” Vanessa), both so distinctly that it’s easy to think of them as two different voice actors). A little bit of trivia, too, about Sam Wright, who voices Sebastian: he was one of the featured players in the 1974 Broadway show, Over Here!, the first such show with music and lyrics by Richard and Robert Sherman (check out the cast CD, it’s great).


One quirky note: Is it just me, or does Prince Eric look a lot like David Seville from the '80s Saturday morning cartoon version of Alvin and the Chipmunks?



If you want to have the lion’s share of bonus features on DVD, keep your Platinum Edition or find a used copy. Almost everything is only on the Blu-ray, as listed below:


2013 DIAMOND EDITION (2013)

Blu-ray Bonus Features
• “Part of your World” Music Video – Carly Rae Jepsen
• @DisneyAnimation: Go behind the Scenes with Today’s Top Disney Animators
  (with Ron Clements, John Musker, Mark Henn, Ruben Aquino, Brittney Lee,
  Hyun-Min Lee, Kira Lehtomaki, Chad Sellers and John Kahrs)
•  Deleted Character – Harold the Merman
• Under the Scene: The Art of Live Action Reference (Ron Clements, John Musker,
  Kathryn Beaumont, Sherri Stoner, Joshua Finkel)
• Part of Her World – Jodi Benson’s Voyage to New Fantasyland (includes
  Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort )
• Howard’s Lecture
• Crab-E-Oke Sing Along
• John & Ron Make Caricatures of Each Other
• Animators Comment on Their Characters
• Clements and Musker Demonstrating “The Little Mermaid Handshake”

• Treasures Untold - The Making of The Little Mermaid
• Storm Warning: The Little Mermaid Special Effects Unit
• Audio Commentary
• Kiss the Girl - Ashley Tisdale Music Video
• Disney Song Selection
• The Little Match Girl (2006 Short)
• Deleted Scene: “Fathoms Below” Alternate Version
• Deleted Scene: Backstage with Sebastian
• Deleted Scene: “Poor Unfortunate Souls” Alternate Version
• Deleted Scene: Sebastian Lost in the Castle
• Deleted Scene: Advice from Sebastian
• Deleted Scene: Fight With Ursula (Alternate Ending)
• Deleted Song: “Silence is Golden” (Song Demo)
• Under the Sea Adventure: A Virtual Ride inspired by Disney Imagineers
  (Ride the Attraction / Ride with Disney Imagineers / Behind the Ride that Never Was)
• Disneypedia: Life Under the Sea
• The Story Behind the Story
• Under the Sea Early Presentation Reel
• Original Theatrical Trailer

DVD Bonus Features
• Part of Her World – Jodi Benson’s Voyage to New Fantasyland (includes
  Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort )
• Deleted Scene: “Fathoms Below” Alternate Version
• Deleted Scene: Fight With Ursula (Alternate Ending)

2006 PLATINUM EDITION

• Treasures Untold: The Making of The Little Mermaid
• Storm Warning: The Little Mermaid Special Effects Unit
• Audio Commentary
• Kiss the Girl - Ashley Tisdale Music Video
• Disney Song Selection
• The Little Match Girl (2006 Short)
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Deleted Scene: “Fathoms Below” Alternate Version
• Deleted Scene: Backstage with Sebastian
• Deleted Scene: “Poor Unfortunate Souls” Alternate Version
• Deleted Scene: Sebastian Lost in the Castle
• Deleted Scene: Advice from Sebastian
• Deleted Scene: Fight With Ursula (Alternate Ending)
• Deleted Song: “Silence is Golden” (Song Demo)
• Under the Sea Adventure: A Virtual Ride inspired by Disney Imagineers
  (Ride the Attraction / Ride with Disney Imagineers / Behind the Ride that Never Was)
• Disneypedia: Life Under the Sea
• The Story Behind the Story
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Under the Sea Early Presentation Reel
• The Little Mermaid III Musical Sneak Peek (Direct-to-DVD promo)
• Art Galleries








DVD REVIEW: Phineas & Ferb Mission Marvel
Blog, TV
Posted on Oct 11 2013 by Greg


This double-episode length mash-up, the first between a Disney property and Marvel since the Disney purchase of Marvel, of course got lots of buzz when it was announced as a Disney Channel special episode of the an animated series that not only deserves its praise and popularity, it has not allowed success to spoil it.


Because of the Phineas & Ferb premise, literally anything can happen during its perpetual “summer vacation,” so an out-of-nowhere encounter with Marvel characters doesn’t have to be over-explained with a dream sequence or other device.


It’s neat to see how the Marvel heroes, which have the advantage of inherent sly humor on their own and thus don’t need to be “sent up,” work with Phineas, Ferb, Candace and the gang, swapping powers and pretty much doing everything the talented writers could come up with.


The heroes appearing are: Iron Man (voice of Adrian Pasdar); Spider-Man (Drake Bell); Nick Fury (Chi McBride); Thor (Travis Willingham) and Jerry Mathers as The Hulk (just kidding—he’s voiced by Fred Tatasciore.


The comedy gold of the whole show is the very funny interplay between Dr. Doofensmirtz and the Marvel villain, who, unlike the heroes, take themselves very seriously and therefore cry out to be made fun of. I laughed out loud at the musical number, “My Evil Buddies and I.”


The villains who romp and frolic with Doofensmirtz are Venom (Danny Trejo); Red Skull (Liam O’Brien); M.O.D.O.K. (Charlie Adler); and Whiplash (Peter Stormaire). Yes, Stan Lee’s in there, too, as per tradition.



I would have loved a nice audio commentary on this disc or perhaps a short doc about how it was done but there are, instead, these episodes included as bonus features (wouldn’t it be nice if they released a full season?):


• Fly on the Wall
• Sidetracked
• Primal Perry
• Backyard Hodge Podge
• Knot My Problem
• Mind Share


In addition, the package includes a comic book and a poster, so it's a fine value for the P&F and Marvel fan.








DVD REVIEW: Iron Man 3
Blog, Movies
Posted on Oct 04 2013 by Greg
Before we attend to details about the movie itself, I want to draw your attention to an item I spotted in the lab scene (6:17). When Tony asks for the Christmas music to begin, there's a quick shot of the record player. Nearby, there's a red album cover on the table.



This vinyl gem is A Charlie Brown Christmas, the read-along storybook and record album with dialogue from the sound track. It was released in the late '70s on the "Charlie Brown Records" label, a division of Disneyland/Vista Records. You won't see this factoid anywhere else, nor should you. Apparently talented visionary genius types like Tony Stark like Peanuts -- and cool cartoon records.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Anyway, I wish the entire film was such a delightful surprise. Iron Man 3 was certainly entertaining in the current superspetacular movie-as-theme-park-ride way, but there are some serious story flaws that I suspect sprang from whoever forced the filmmakers to add the "twist" of the Mandarin being an actor.

I do not object to the idea as a comic book fan as so many have, but because you can tell that the rest of the film seems to have been reconfigured to make this micro-managed plot splotch work.

It may be a guess, but if the film were not reconfigured, that would make the two years of work by the entire cast and crew seem less than what they are clearly capable of. The film works so well up until the scene in which the fake Mandarin is revealed, I cannot believe that such an experienced, accomplished team did this by design.

Something's fishy, no matter how much the director and screenwriter valiantly try to make excuses for the situation on the otherwise fascinating audio commentary (which reveals more about the personalities of the duo than the film).

Robert Downey, Jr. is the heart and soul of the film, optimizing both the dramatic and comic aspects. The Pepper character is just as strong, caring and competent as ever, though her sports bra superpower moments also seem added -- Pepper was plenty strong already folks, without supplements.

The special effects are of course, top of the line, especially in the home destruction scene. What is truly remarkable is the nail-biting aerial rescue as the people plummet through the sky. This is what makes this kind of film great. Yet, the climactic battle scene is just one explosion after another, with as many Iron Man suits as they could fit into the scenes -- again, seeming to come from someone saying, "Let's cram in a lot of suits? That'll make it better!"

Again, I have to wonder if the climactic battle was always between Tony and Killian. Guy Pearce is a superb actor in the right role, but he doesn't come across as the "real" Mandarin. He's much better as the smarmy, creepy toady of the real boss (as he was in Bedtime Stories). No matter how things burst into flames and explode, Pearce as a super villain never gets very scary, just very very moussed and veiny.

I sure hope that in the next Avengers movie, Sub Mariner finds the Iron Man chest thingy that Tony threw into the ocean at the end. We need an Iron Man 4. This film made enough money to finance it. Let's hope this is not the last time we see Downey don the suit.



Bonus Features:
• Audio Commentary

• Marvel One Shot: Agent Carter
• Iron Man 3 – Unmasked

• Deconstructing the Scene – Attack on Air Force One
• Behind the Scenes Look – Thor – The Dark World
• Deleted and Extended Scenes

• Gag Reel










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