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Friday, December 31, 2010

U.S. Acres (Garfield's Friends) At The Indianapolis Zoo

I have many relatives in Indiana, which happens to be the state where Garfield the Cat's cartoon production empire is located. I have family in Plainfield, Indiana, just minutes from the site of the proposed Garfield Theme Park that did not happen (we followed that for years, and I saw where it was supposed to be built).

U.S. Acres ("Orson's Farm" in other countries) was a comic strip launched by Garfield's creator, Jim Davis, in 1986. The main character was Orson the Pig, who lived in a barnyard full of wacky characters like Wade the Duck, Roy the Rooster, Booker and Sheldon (baby chicks), and sheep siblings Bo and Lanolin.

There are some lesser known characters shown here, too. The dog is named Cody and the cat is named Blue. They appeared in earlier strips, which I remember reading in the Indiana newspapers during family visits. The identity of the horse and calf shown on this sheet of stickers (dated 1985) remained a mystery to me for a few years, until I visited The New Indianapolis Zoo in July, 1988.

The New Indianapolis Zoo was years in the making (I remember seeing a model of it when I was a little kid). This Zoo was really unique because it featured dolphins (though the Whale and Dolphin Pavilion did not open until Fall 1988, so I did not get to see it).

The Zoo was split up into different sections called "biomes." The Encounters biome was home to domestic animals, and included an interactive exhibit called the "U.S. Acres County Club." Yes, I double-checked that--it says "County" Club, not "Country."

The U.S. Acres County Club is not labeled on the map, but it is right next to the Encounters Arena. I was really impressed with this well-themed Zoo. I have only been that one time, and I know it has changed quite a bit.

The Encounters Arena was home to a Birds of Prey show. A lucky child from the audience was chosen to feed the owl a mouse.

I'm only kidding---that did not happen!

The U.S. Acres County Club is seen in the background here.

Here's a better view from the Encounters Arena:

I don't have any pictures of the inside of the U.S. Acres area, but it was decorated with images of the characters, including the calf (here I learned his name was "Chuck"--clever) and a fiberglass ride-on/photo opportunity figure of what turned out to be "Jodie" (or was that Jody?) the horse. This area also featured various real animals, including farm animals, ferrets, and a cat.

Visitors could also meet Orson the Pig near the Encounters Arena.

In the Fall of 1988, the U.S. Acres characters had their animated television debut as part of the long-running "Garfield and Friends" series on CBS Saturday Mornings. Blue, Cody, and the horse and calf characters were never seen on the series. I guess they were written out with no explanation, like Richie Cunningham's older brother on "Happy Days" and little Judy Winslow on "Family Matters."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Magic Roundabout Annual 1977

Viewers of the Nickelodeon series "Pinwheel" (which ran on the cable network from 1977 to 1990) are probably familiar with "The Magic Roundabout." This was a stop-motion animated series featuring a shaggy canine named Dougal.

If you didn't know the characters from watching the show "Pinwheel," there's a good chance you may have seen them somewhere else.

"The Magic Roundabout" was created by Serge Danot back in 1963 in France. The series had its initial run on French TV from 1964 to 1971.

The show was also broadcast on the BBC in the United Kingdom, with new scripts and voices, from 1965 to 1977 (the year of this Annual). This version was shown on "Pinwheel."

Dougal and his colorful, cheeky friends had all sorts of imaginative adventures.

My family did not have cable, but I was able to watch Nickelodeon with neighborhood kids that did have the channel.

Lots of kids in America probably talk about having "a spot of tea." It seems like there are many popular animated shows imported to the United States from England. One of my favorites was "Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings," which was shown on "Captain Kangaroo." I still remember the theme song--"Well, you know my name is Simon, and the things I draw come true..." Nickelodeon also showed "Danger Mouse" and "Count Duckula." I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, but after watching all these shows, I think I could blend in pretty well in Birmingham, England.

A computer animated "The Magic Roundabout" theatrical feature was made in 2005. In the United States, it was called "Doogal," and it was recast with different actors and re-written in places. I've never seen this movie, but I do remember that there was a set of "Doogal" toys at McDonald's. I don't think the CGI "Doogal" did very well in the States. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Alvin And The Chipmunks By Richard Scarry

Long before the CGI animated Alvin and the Chipmunks known today, or the various hand-drawn versions from the Nineties, Eighties, Seventies and the Sixties, there was Richard Scarry's storybook illustrations.

Author and illustrator Richard Scarry is probably best known for his long-running "Busytown" series, featuring characters like Huckle Cat and Lowly Worm.

"The Chipmunks' Merry Christmas" Little Golden Book from 1959 was one of the earliest pieces of Alvin and the Chipmunks memorabilia. This was written by David Corwin and illustrated by Richard Scarry. Alvin and the Chipmunks were the creation of musician Ross Bagdasarian, Sr., and debuted in 1958.

These illustrations are quite charming.

The Chipmunks' human friend, David Seville, is not featured in this story, but their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Chipmunk, are.

Alvin, Simon, and Theodore do have to stern music teacher named Mr. Owl, who gets to yell at Alvin since Dave is not around.

Don't worry, Chipmunks, Mr. Owl won't gobble you up if you misbehave (he's a tiny owl!).

The Chipmunks sing their famous song!

I like the watermelon painting in the background.

I seem to remember Alvin wanting the hula hoop, but here it is Theodore...

What does Alvin want for Christmas? Where is Alvin?!? What happens next?!!

Well, there's a wolf, and a car chase, and---wait, that's not what happens!

There is an appearance by Santa and Alvin gets what he deserves for Christmas. A lump of coal, because he was naughty. No! A Christmas tree, of course!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Goofy, The Incredible Hulk

I found this crazy, bizarre picture in a box of photos when I went to visit my parents for Christmas. This was taken at a party, and I'm thinking it was in 1978, so it was definitely a groovy time. I'm the one with the Pluto mask.

This reminds me a bit of the movie "Ruthless People," with Bette Midler's character saying (of her cartoon character-masked captors) "I've been kidnapped by Huey and Dewey!"

It is interesting that Donald Duck is not in this picture, but Scrooge McDuck and Daisy are. Maybe Donald Duck left early for a piano lesson. I don't remember who the other children are, except for the kid with the Goofy mask (my older brother).

The Incredible Hulk shirt is no longer out of place with Goofy, since Disney now owns the Marvel characters. This picture unknowingly (or knowingly?!) offered a glimpse of the future!

Monday, December 20, 2010

For Pete's Sake: Disney's 12 Days of Christmas

In 2004, Disney made a toy of long-time villain Pete that may be the best plush version of the character that I've seen (there's also a great Frontierland Pete). This looks most like Pete from "The Three Musketeers," also from 2004. This is the best looking character from a very, very bizarre and unusual "12 Days of Christmas" bean bag set released by The Disney Store and Catalog. Pete plays the "Twelve Drummers Drumming."

From the DVD of the 2004 computer animated movie, "Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas," it is revealed that a Disney "12 Days of Christmas" was planned for the film, but was scrapped. This would have also used classic characters representing the gifts.

I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about Disney, but I have no idea who this character is supposed to be playing the 12 Drummers Drumming for the animated version.

In the bean bag set, Goofy plays the Eleven Pipers Piping.

The animated film would have cast The Mad Hatter from "Alice in Wonderland" as the Piper.

Minnie is a nice choice for the Nine Ladies Dancing, as is Mickey for the Ten Lords A'Leaping.

The animated film would have had very different characters.

Fantasia's alligator would have been the Ten Lords A'Leaping.

Hyacinth Hippo (also from Fantasia) would have represented the Nine Ladies Dancing.

The hippos and alligators did end up being in the "Belles On Ice" segment of Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas.

For the Eight Maids A' Milking, it's Clarabelle Cow (naturally!).

She's holding a bucket of her own milk, apparently. The jokes just write themselves here.

Clarabelle Cow was the choice for the animated version, too.

These were all the characters shown on the Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas DVD, so we'll have to imagine what the other choices would have been for the computer animated version.

For the bean bag set, Daisy Duck represents Seven Swans a' Swimming. She is holding a swan, (yes, you read that correctly) and wearing swan wings (you can't see them here).

I think her look was inspired by Bjork, the Icelandic singer who wore a swan dress to an awards show years ago.

Missed opportunity: The Ugly Duckling as the Seven Swans A' Swimming.

For the Six Geese A' Laying, it's Mickey Mouse. Of course! Who else would it be?

They could have used the Geese from The Aristocats, or Gus Goose, or Gladstone Gander. But they did not.

Minnie Mouse is cast as the 5 Golden Rings.

Missed Opportunity: The Golden Harp from "Mickey and the Beanstalk" (a stretch, I know).

Pluto, what have they done to you?!

Pluto is the Four Calling Birds. OK.

Missed Opportunity: Zazu from The Lion King.

For Three French Hens, the Disney Store chose Donald Duck (and he's not happy about it).

Since they used an obscure character like Clarabelle Cow, couldn't they have used Clara Cluck--a hen--for this?

Lastly, it's Mickey and Minnie, dressed as the Partridge in a Pear Tree and Two Turtle Doves.

Oh, Disney Store and Catalog, what were you thinking?!

Missed Opportunity: The Female Tree from the vintage "Flowers and Trees" cartoon could have had a tiny Partridge and a Pear. The Male Tree from the same short could have had the Two Turtle Doves. How's that for "outside the box" thinking?

By now, the song is probably stuck in your head, along with some of the images you've just seen.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

It Takes A Looney Tunes Village

I know people that have devoted entire rooms to lighted, collectible "village" displays. I am not one of these people. But I understand the appeal, and the fact that the Warner Brothers Studio Store and Catalog wanted in on the action in the late 1990s.

The Looney Tunes Lighted Holiday House Collection was from the 1999 Warner Brothers Studio Store Catalog. What I love the most about this is the special offer that the Catalog had. You could get a Speedy Gonzales and Senorita on a Park Bench for free if you bought two buildings.

Speedy Gonzales would occasionally appear on Warner Brothers Studio Store merchandise, but Senorita was especially rare. It would be fun to see a Speedy Gonzales Feliz Navidad Mouse Village! They could have a large Sylvester figure (and Daffy Duck, too---remember when Speedy and Daffy were seen as foes?).

Then there's the new piece for 1999, the Town Hall & Wedding Chapel. It looks like Penelope the cat finally said "yes" to the suave skunk, Pepe Le Pew, after years of what could be seen as harassment (to paraphrase comedian Chris Rock, it's harassment if he's unattractive).

The Looney Tunes characters have also appeared in other collectible villages, including pieces for Department 56, providing many opportunities for collectors to have a Merry Melodies Christmas.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Disney's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas

In 1988, Grolier launched a 'Twas the Night Before Christmas set of ornaments featuring Disney characters.
These were made of "brass filigree." I never knew what this was as a kid, but thanks to the Internet, I now know. Go Google it.

This collection was featured in an advertisement in The Disney Channel Magazine. It was the October 9-November 20, 1988 issue (it has Harry Anderson from the TV show "Night Court" on the cover).
I do not own this set, but I thought is was really amazing, so I saved the magazine.

I love the art design on these, which seems like a vintage Christmas card.

Here are Geppetto and Pinocchio. I guess I may never know which Disney mouse was used for "not even a mouse." Maybe Minnie, or the Cinderella mice, or Timothy from Dumbo?

Snow White stays busy hanging up the Dwarf stockings. I bet they stink from all that time in the diamond mines.

Goofy dreams of candy! At the Disney Parks, Goofy has his own candy line and shops.

Daisy gets ready for a long winter's nap. I'd assume that Donald Duck is represented here wearing a cap, but you know what they say about assuming things...

Thumper looks up at Santa's sleigh. It would be fun to see Bambi as Rudolph. I know the old Pez Rudolph is just the Bambi Pez with a red nose.

All Morty and Ferdie want for Christmas is to finally appear in an animated cartoon.

Tinkerbell is the one that made the reindeer fly!

Lady and the Tramp love each other, but they are also excited about getting their own personal trees (dogs love trees).

This set looks fantastic. I don't know much about it, but it is very unique, and stunning. I'd love to know what artist(s) created these pieces.