Power Rangers

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In 1992, cartoons ruled children’s Prime time programming. This was especially true at Fox Kids, with shows like Batman: The Animated Series, and Bobby’s World. So, the head of Fox Children’s Network, Margaret Loesch, started looking for something a little sillier, a little campier than the regular toons. She took a meeting with a man named Haim Saban, a cartoon music producer and composer. Saban had an idea for a children’s show that he had been pitching to anyone who would listen for the last eight years. Loesch was the first person to take him seriously. 

The show was, “The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers,” and it would go on to become one of the most popular programs on the network. 

Today we are taking a look at the history of The Power Rangers, and the making of the original series that launched the franchise into a phenomenon. 

History

  • Haim Saban first got the idea for the show in 1984, while visiting Japan. While he was in his hotel room, he saw a show about teenagers that fought monsters. The show was “Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger,” and was the 16th installment of the Super Sentai Franchise.
  • Because the kids wore suits and masks, Saban realized that anyone could be fighting the monsters. He knew that action sequences are normally the most expensive part of shooting a show, and came up with the idea for a program that would use this footage and shoot the rest of the story-line in America
    • Saban not only thought that this would be a smart way to make a cheap show, he believed in the project. He knew that the show in Japan was incredibly popular, and that there had never been a similar live-action American show.
      • It must be said however that at the same time in 1984, an animated show had similar visuals and concepts, called Voltron.
    • Saban bought the show immediately and brought his concept back to the US to pitch to studios
    • As we said in the beginning, eight years went by before the head of Fox Kids, Margaret Loesch, saw something that no one else did. 
  • According to an LA Times Article from 1993, Loesch was the only person at Fox that thought The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was a good idea. Her colleagues even asked her what her plan was for damage control once the show would flop.
  • But, Margaret was struck by the similarities the show had to old-school Godzilla movies.
    • Up to that point, everyone that had turned Saban down explained that the show was too cheesy. But this was exactly why Loesch wanted it for Fox. She knew a lot of people loved the old movies with fake-looking monsters, obvious effects, and un-synced lip dubbing. There was something classic about the style that she knew would resonate with audiences and that children would latch onto.
  • After Saban screened a pilot episode for Loesch, she ordered the first season to premiere in 1993. They immediately started shooting 40 episodes for the first season.
  • As shooting began in the US for the live-action sequences of the rangers without their helmets, Saban was involved in every part of the process.
    • According to Saban, once the show had been produced, the CEO of Fox and its affiliates declared that the show was horrible and they weren’t going to air it.
    • So, Loesch decided to air the show in the summer for 8 weeks with 40 episodes (7:30 am time slot). 
    • The show premiered on August 28, 1993 and it was an instant success.
    • By week 2, it was beating Batman for views even though Batman was at the better time slot of 4:30 pm. So she switched it to a better time. 
  • For the 2-11 age group, there was almost no competition from other shows. At its peak, the show reached 4.3 million children, making it as popular at The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Making of

  • Saban wanted kids that other kids could relate to and see themselves in. They wanted an ethnically diverse group. At the end of all the casting calls, they ended up with two groups: One that was the taller model-esque group and the other which is the group they went with.
    • It was also important to Saban that the girls in the show were featured as much as the boys, and just as important character-wise.
    • He felt that young girls didn’t have a lot of action characters to look up to, and he was right .
  • When Fox announced that they were gonna back the show, they didn’t like the original name for the show, which was “Dino Rangers.” So, in 10 minutes, the crew came up with Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. 
  • Every script had a theme based around the look of the monster in the stock footage for the week.  For example when the monster was a big pig monster that would eat everything the episode was about a bake-sale.
  • They shot about 4 episodes a week, so it was a very rigorous work week for everyone.
  • The guys would go in about 5 AM but the girls would go in even earlier for hair and makeup.
  • A lot of time was spent in the ADR (Automated Dialog Replacement) room to redo audio because of wind, planes, etc.
  • The feel of the show was a Combination of Voltron and Saved by the Bell essentially, which were two of the most popular shows before Power Rangers came around.
  • The theme song was written by Ronald Aaron Wasserman, who also wrote songs for the series

Popularity

They did mall tours, TV shows, etc for publicity. They did lots of promotional materials and were even DARE ambassadors.  This was done in all in different countries too.

They drew a large crowd at Universal Studios filling the studio with about 35,000 people in one day. They were basically the “Beatles” of kids television. 

Toys

  • Bandai America released a series of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers toys to coincide with the new series. As Mighty Morphin’ was carried over from Zyuranger, the result was a mix of re-purposed items and new items.
  • The most popular being the 8” figures of the rangers and villains. They were later re-released during season two as “auto-morphin’” figures where the characters head would flip from their face to the helmet with the press of a button. 
  • The multiple Zords were also extremely popular and were by far the largest toys produced for the series. There are versions that are one piece and ones that come as their smaller form but can be combined to create the Megazord. 

Synopsis

  • The LA Times described the show as: a live-action superhero series that bears a distinct kinship to old, low-tech “Godzilla” movies: Cheesy alien costumes, mismatched lip movements and dialogue, and clumsy battles between the monster army of Rita Repulsa, Empress of Evil, and dinosaur robots controlled by the Power Rangers, who are teen-age karate experts in crayon-colored space suits.
  • Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers is about five average teenagers (with attitude) who were chosen by an inter-dimensional being named Zordon to fight against the evils of the universe. The villainous Rita Repulsa has escaped a space dumpster on the moon, and intends to destroy the Earth with her horde of putty patrollers. 
  • As the show progresses, the rangers pass on their powers to new people, and meet more villains such as Lord Zedd.
  • In the original show, each ranger had their own “Dino Zord” and together it made up one Megazord.

Starring

Original Rangers:

  • Thuy (pronounced Twee) Trang (Yellow Ranger)- Trini
    • Her family came over to America to escape from the Vietnam war. She died at 27 from a car crash.
  • David Yost (Blue Ranger) – Billy
    • He was 24 at the time he was cast on the show, so he was the oldest ranger.
    • Years later he revealed that he was bullied on the set for being gay. 
  • Walter Emanuel Jones (Black Ranger) – Zach 
    • Originally cast as the Billy the blue ranger.
    • He is missing the middle finger on his left hand.
  • Austin St John (Red Ranger) – Jason
    • He was a regular high school student that taught martial arts on the side. Even though he disliked cameras and was uninterested in acting he was bet by a friend for $20 that he would not be wasting his time to try out.
  • Amy Jo Johnson (Pink Ranger) – Kimberly
    • After sharing the pilot with friends they said “Well, you know, your next job will be bigger or better.”
  • Jason David Frank (Green Ranger that came later) – Tommy 
    • The green ranger was originally meant to only be a temporary character, but became highly popular with audiences.
    • Tommy transitions to be the group leader and Jason David Frank ended up being on the show longer than any other ranger.
    • He also became the White Ranger.

Other characters

  • Paul Schrier as Bulk
  • Jason Narvy as Skull
  • David Fielding as Zordon
  • Richard Horvitz as Alpha 5- He loved playing evil Alpha
  • Machiko Soga as Rita Repulsa (and voiced by Barbara Goodson)
  • Ed Neil as a recurring Putty Patroller
  • Bryan Cranston
    • It’s worth noting that Bryan Cranston got a lot of voice work playing villains on Power Rangers before he made it big. This was why he was cast as Zordon in the 2017 reboot film 

Sources:

Avatar The Last Airbender

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Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, well, 15 years ago, Nickelodeon premiered a TV show that is still considered to be one of the best animated shows of all time: Avatar the Last Airbender. In the era of Spongebob, Fairly Odd Parents, and Drake and Josh, this show stood out for its animation style, intense storyline, and unique characters. 

Although it aired on a children’s network and is widely considered to be a children’s show, Avatar appeals to many different audiences and age groups. It’s a series of breathtaking animation and detail, funny quips, and heart-felt moments. 

 

How it came to be

  • In the early 2000s, Nickelodeon was shifting its focus to include shows that explored more mythical and legendary storylines. Eric Coleman, the Vice President of Animation Development approached Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko and asked them for a show pitch. The men returned one month later with the early concepts that would become Avatar: The Last Airbender. 
  • The original Aang was a bald kid with no arrow, though he was drawn with a robot cyclops and and polar bear that both had arrows. The robot monkey was the first inspiration for Momo, while the polar bear became Appa. 
  • Inspired by documentaries about antarctic exploration, the team developed a show concept about nations of people, based on the four elements. One of the key pieces of the puzzle was how to create an action show without too much violence. So, they created the idea of bending elements instead of weaponry. They pitched the story to Eric Coleman two weeks later, and the team started working on a pilot. Bryan went to Korea for a few months to work with artists there on the initial eleven minute episode. 
  • The characters were complex, and animators would sometimes spend as much as 15 hours in the studio, trying to complete the pilot in time. Once the pilot tested well, the show was greenlit for 13 episodes!
  • The tricky part about the show being picked up meant that they now had more work to do with pretty much the same deadline. Bryan and Mike put together a large team of writers, animators, and musicians to get the job done. 

 

The Making of Avatar

  • The martial arts
    • The team was dedicated to learning traditional Chinese martial arts styles, so they sought out Sifu Kisu, a martial arts teacher who helped them develop the individual fighting styles of the four nations.
    • Another martial arts teacher, Sifu Manny, came in to help develop a different style for Toph. Because Toph is a blind character, her fighting style would be different than other characters in the show. Sifu Manny’s method was rumored to have been created by blind warriors on a remote island. 
      • The style worked for Toph because it could be achieved without having to look at an opponent. 
    • Brian and the director would take the script for each episode and choreograph the fight scenes with live actors as reference for the animators.
  • The Animation
    • The creators wanted an expansive view of the universe, with wide shots of beautiful landscapes.
    • The variety of imagery made the show much more dynamic than many other animated children’s shows at the time; with wide, medium, tight, and detail compositions that gave the viewer a strong sense of the universe
      • They wanted it to be cinematic.
  • The Music
    • Jeremy Zuckerman and Ben Wynn were the track team that created the music for the show.
  • The story
    • In a world of elemental magic, there are four elemental nations: The Northern and Southern Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads. The Avatar, the one person who can control all elements, upholds the balance of the nations. The Avatar is reincarnated into a young boy named Aang, who is reawakened after being frozen in ice for 100 years, to embark on a dangerous journey to fulfill his destiny. With the help of friends he meets along the way, he will have to fight to bring peace to the world.
    • The success of the show came from how well it was made, but what truly connected with fans was the story and characters.
    • The story was meant from the beginning to have a finite ending, with three seasons and 61 episodes.
      • No matter how upset it made creators and fans, Bryan and Mike were consistently clear that the show would end, and building toward that ending was what made the story so solid.
    • Aang
      • Played by Zach Tyler, Aang is a young monk from 100 years in the past.
        • Michael and Bryan initially imagined Aang to be from 1000 years before the events of the show, from a more advanced civilization. In early drawings, he had a futuristic staff and robot sidekick.
        • The air nation, which Aang is from, was inspired by Buddhist and Tibetan societies. 
        • Aang is a cute, fun-loving 12-year-old kid that was thrust into an impossible situation with immense responsibility. He is a skilled martial artist, and as the Avatar he is the most powerful bender in the world. But, because of his nature and upbringing, he is hesitant to use that power to hurt others.
        • Aang goes through a lot of change in the series, though he never abandons his beliefs, even when everyone tells him he should.
    • Appa
      • Voiced by Dee Bradley Baker, Appa is Aang’s best friend and flying bison. The artists were inspired by manatees and bison to draw Appa. His six legs were a direct reference to the Catbus in My Neighbor Totoro from Hayao Miyazaki.
      • Originally there were going to be 20 bison, which was broken down to just a small family of two adult bison and their calves. Eventually they settled on only one.
    • Momo
      • As we said before, Momo was originally a robot! But, his name was Momo-3. The show slowly became less sci-fi and the creators transformed a talking robot to a cross between a ring-tailed lemur and spotted bat.
      • Momo was almost dropped from the story, but instead Aang finds him at the deserted air temple as a symbol of hope for the future.
      • Momo was also voiced by Dee Bradley Baker.
    • Katara
      • Voiced by Mae Whitman, the creators considered Katara to be the heart of the show. In a parody episode called “The Ember Island Players,” the show jokes about Katara’s infatuation with hope. But, this was a big part of her character.
      • To the creators, it was important that there would be a strong female lead to appeal to young girls watching the show. The show itself was targeted to boys, but Bryan and Mike always knew that young girls would also be interested in an action-adventure epic as well.
      • Katara’s original name was Kya, but there was a video game character named Kya and it had to be changed. Her second name was Kanna before they settled on Katara. Kya is Katara’s mother’s name and Kanna is her Gran Gran.
    • Sokka
      • Played by Jack De Sena from the All That reboot, Sokka was very clearly the comic relief of the show. He was created with Katara to have a sibling rivalry, and was meant to appeal to the audience as an everyman.
      • Sokka has one of the best character arcs in the show, as he transforms from a brash kid that hides his insecurities with humor, to a confident leader of Team Avatar.
    • Toph
      • Voiced by Jessie Flower, Toph is the toughest character and one of the most powerful benders on the show. Toph comes from a rich, pampered background where she was forced to be someone she wasn’t. Although she was born blind, she learned earthbending from blind badger moles. 
      • Toph was originally a male character, until one of the head writers, Aaron Ehaz of Dragon Prince fame, suggested they make her female. Aaron argued for a long time until finally he won over the creators. The idea of taking such a huge, brash personality and placing it in a cute young girl really worked with the character.
      • Jessie Flower originally voiced a character in one episode of season one, and the creators liked her so much that they asked her back to play Toph.
      • Even though they thought including another female lead would connect to girls, the most comments about Toph came from young men who cited her as their favorite character.
        • Seugn Hyun Oh, a supervising director was quoted in saying, “She is blind, but I don’t know how to express in English, she just won.
    • Zuko
      • Voiced by Dante Bosco (Hook) Zuko is a fan favorite. He undergoes possibly the most change of any character in the show, and introduces the audience to the concept of a villain you can root for. Zuko has a complicated past that the show reveals over time, and acts with a sense of purpose. The show begins with him knowing exactly who he is, and we watch him become more and more unsure over time.
      • Originally, the show only had one villain: the Firelord. Zuko came about when Eric Coleman asked about a character that actively pursued the avatar and Zuko was born.
    • Uncle Iroh
      • Another fan favorite, Uncle Iroh was voiced by Mako and later Greg Baldwin. 
      • The creators initially thought Iroh would just be a teacher, but then they decided it would be more interesting if he were related. Aaron Ehaz described him as a man trying to enjoy his retirement but was forced to watch his nephew instead. It was Mako though, the original voice actor, who gave uncle the level of wisdom and personality that made fans fall in love with Iroh. 

 Also Starring

  • Jennie Kwan as Suki
  • Grey Griffin as Azula
    • Azula is one of the most complicated and layered characters in the show. She is a villain audiences loved to hate, and she shoots blue fire to stand out against Zuko’s orange fire. 
  • James Garrett as Avatar Roku
  • Mark Hamill as Fire Lord Ozai

The finale is a rare accomplishment, ennobling the characters and bringing a satisfying conclusion to both its world and Aang’s spiritual struggle between his beliefs and the violence the world wants from him as the Avatar.

Awards

  • Primetime-Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Animation in 2007
  • Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Cartoon in 2008
  • Peabody Award in 2009

Drink of the week:  The Jasmine Dragon

Here’s a link to the documentary:

Sources:

Pride and Prejudice

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This week we talk about a beloved BBC mini series, the 1995 Pride and Prejudice. There have been many different adaptations of Jane Austen’s books, but it seems as though this version has caught the hearts of many.  In this episode we have a very special guest, Em from Verbal Diorama!

We will begin with a little about Jane Austen, the history behind the BBC show, who it stars, and what it all means to us.  If we talk too much about Colin Firth, well it could not be helped!! 

History

The beloved Jane Austen book Pride and Prejudice was first drafted in 1797 and titled First Impressions.  The revised and final product, that is well known and enjoyed today, was released in 1813. All the books that she published while alive were done so anonymously, not by a pen name but simply by “a lady.” Or in the case of P&P “by the author of Sense and Sensibility”.

The four published were Sense and Sensibility, P&P, Mansfield Park, and Emma. Two were published posthumously and they were Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.

Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775 in Steventon, UK and died July 1870 in Winchester UK.  Surprisingly there is not a lot known about Jane Austen. The majority of what we do know was derived from the letters she sent her sister Cassandra.  The letters, however, we only have a select amount of because Cassandra burned many of them before her own death. A few things we do know about her family is that her mother and father (George and Cassandra) had 8 children and that her extended family consisted of people from rich landowners, clerics, an apprentice milliner, an alleged shoplifter, and a bankrupt banker. 

Jane Austen was a fan of flirtations and for a time flirted with a young man named Thomas Lefroy.  His family expected him to marry wealthy and so they went their separate ways. This prompted the movie “Becoming Jane” which is an interesting take on what may have happened.  Like “Becoming Jane” many people dream of what Jane was actually like. It is not hard to do when the only thing we have to hint about her is a selection of letters. We do know that she herself had a marriage proposal in life to a man that she was good friends with his sisters.  She had said yes but then the next morning informed him that she had changed her mind (probably after discussing it with her sister.) She did stay friends with his sisters and he (Harris Big-Wither) ended up marrying two years later and had 10 children. We know of course that Jane never married and passed away in 1817 at just 41 years of age.

Making of the Show

  • The BBC has adapted P&P 6 times with this version being the most popular!
  • Premiered on September 24, 1995 and sold 100,000 box sets of it before it was even taken off the air.  The final episode was seen by 10 million people.
  • It was directed by Simon Langton.
  • It was produced by Sue Birtwistle.
  • Adapted by Andrew Davies into a 6 episode mini-series.
    • Davies wanted to portray the immense things that he believed was what Jane Austen wanted to get across such as love, sex, money, and betrayal. 
    • He also helped to take a 1996 book by Helen Fielding, which is a modern day retelling of P&P, into a 2001 movie.  A nice touch was that Colin Firth played the Romantic lead, Mark Darcy, in this one as well!  
  • Costumes done by Dinah Collin.  She created them in such a way as to keep it accurate for the time but also kept in mind how the 1995 viewer would perceive them.
    • Even the make-up designer did a lot of research in order to get things correct.

Starring

  • Colin Firth/Mr. Darcy
    • We have producer Sue Birtwistle to thank for her choice in wanting Firth as Darcy and helping to convince him to take the part
  • Jennifer Ehle/Elizabeth Bennet
    • Best actress 1996 BAFTA winner
  • Susannah Harker/Jane Bennet
    • The eldest sister
  • Lucy Briers/Mary Bennet
  • Polly Maberly/Kitty Bennet
    • Second to youngest but tends to follow the youngest around a lot
  • Julia Sawaha/Lydia Bennet
    • The youngest Bennet sister
  • Alison Steadman/Mrs. Bennet
    • Oh! Her nerves!
  • Benjamin Whitrow/Mr Bennet
  • Crispin Bonham-Carter/Mr Bingley
    • Best friends with Mr. Darcy and Jane Bennet’s love interest
  • David Bamber/Mr Collins
  • Lucy Scott/Charlotte Lucas
  • Barbara Leigh-Hunt/ Lady Catherine de Bourgh
  • Adrian Lucas/ Wickham

“Hidden” meanings within the book/movie

  • Feminist thoughts
  • Class/social status/income
    • Why Charlotte has to marry someone like Mr Collins to just be comfortable in life
  • Love in a marriage
  • Opinions of outsiders on who you should marry
    • ex. Lady Catherine de Bourgh

COLIN FREAKING FIRTH

  • She is tolerable I suppose but not handsome enough to tempt me!
  • The famous scene where he went for a swim
    • He does not actually jump in, they spray his hair a little with a spray bottle of water and then he jumps onto a blue mat while his stunt double does the actual jump in.  The underwater sequence was shot on a different day in a special water tank.

  • The change in his whole attitude when Lizzie first comes to Pemberley.

Sources:

https://www.bbc.com/historyofthebbc/anniversaries/september/pride-and-prejudice

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112130/?ref_=ttfc_fc_tt

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6d9hbk

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Pride-and-Prejudice

http://writersinspire.org/content/anonymous-jane-austen

https://www.neh.gov/humanities/2013/januaryfebruary/feature/the-mysterious-miss-austen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ef3TSkQxBIM

-Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels by Janet Todd

The Case of Saturday Morning Cartoons

Picture it: You’re in second grade, coming off a rigorous school week. You open your eyes to a quiet house on a Saturday morning, and sneak downstairs. No one else is awake, and the TV is all yours. You have a seat with a bowl of cereal and turn on your favorite Saturday Morning Cartoon…

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If you grew up in the 1960s, maybe you watched Magilla Gorilla, the Flintstones, or Johnny Quest. If you were a 90s kid, maybe you watched Captain Planet, Recess, or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. No matter the programming, Saturday Morning Cartoons was a tradition that spanned nearly 6 decades. It’s a shared experience had by children of multiple generations, which makes it pretty special. Today, we will discuss the history of the Saturday Morning Cartoon, and highlight some of our favorites from our childhood. We will not be able to cover many shows from other decades, but maybe we will do another episode down the line!

What do we mean by Saturday Morning Cartoon? Pretty self explanatory. Cartoons that aired on Saturday mornings, usually during time slot of 8am to 12pm. This tradition would flourish from the late 1950’s to the late 1990’s. There are still a few remaining cartoon shows on the major networks on Saturday mornings, but not many.

 

History:

  • The first cartoon produced for television aired in 1950 and was called Crusader Rabbit. It consisted of 5 minute long episodes and ran for three seasons. Created by Alexander Anderson and Jay Ward, its main characters were Crusader Rabbit and his sidekick Ragland T. Tiger, or “Rags”
    • In the late 1940’s, a producer named Jerry Fairbanks sold NBC on a new concept: a TV show meant solely for TV. Networks were looking for kid-friendly content to show on Saturday mornings, but no cartoons had been created specifically for this purpose
    • Since the days of radio broadcasts, the peak time for children to tune in, was between 10am and noon on Saturdays.
    • Even though Crusader Rabbit was moderately successful, many networks stuck with kid-friendly live-action programs instead.

  • The success of Crusader Rabbit inspired many more television cartoon character packages. And Jay Ward would even go on to produce The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.
  • Until the late 1960s, a number of Saturday-morning cartoons were reruns of animated series originally made for prime time. The first true “Saturday morning cartoon” was Mighty Mouse Playhouse. We all know who Mighty Mouse is, a cartoon version of Super Man (was even originally called Super Mouse)
    • Mighty Mouse was a gamble for CBS back when they brought it to their Saturday Morning line-up in 1955, but it was the incredible success of this show that ushered in a new era of made-for-TV cartoons.
  • The character first appeared in 1942 in many theatrical films, however,  what really brought the character into the mainstream was television. Mighty Mouse Playhouse ran on CBS for 12 very successful seasons.

In order to cut costs, animators made sure to use cost-cutting techniques that would also save a lot of time. Hanna-Barbara was well-known for these techniques. They would often use similar character models for shows.  They designed characters with wide collars so they could easily animate them turning their heads, would only move characters’ mouths when they were talking and nothing else in the frame, and so on. The Jetsons, The Flintstones, and Johnny Quest all come to mind when we think about these techniques. 

Where animation might have been lacking, the shows would make up for with wit! The shows were well-written with some adult humor to appeal to the whole family. 

The Shows:

  • Pepper Ann (ABC, 1997-2001)
    • Created by Sue Rose and aired on Disney’s One Saturday Morning on ABC. New episodes ran until 2000 and reruns ran for another year after.
    • Pepper Ann was the very first animated television series for Disney to be created by a woman and would be until 2015!!
    • Tom Warburton served as lead character designer for the series. He would later go one to create Codename: Kids Next Door.
    • The show is a comedy about a 12-year-old Pepper Ann who manages to put other kids off by her slightly-nerdy behavior, constant bad timing, and insistence on trying to be cool. And to make matters worse, she’s just started middle school. Which we all know is a nightmare!
      • Pepper Ann voiced by Kathleen Wilhoite.
        • Twin Peaks
        • Family Guy
        • 24
        • Gilmore Girls
  • Recess (ABC, 1997-2001)
    • The show was created by Paul Germain and Joe Ansolabehere.
    • Recess premiered in 1997 on ABC, as part of the One Saturday Morning block, and ran for 6 seasons. The show was successful enough to be syndicated to other channels including Toon Disney (now Disney XD) and the Disney Channel.
    • Recess follows the lives of six fourth graders, Theodore Jasper “T.J.” Detweiler, Vince LaSalle, Ashley Spinelli, Mikey Blumberg, Gretchen Grundler, and Gus Griswald, as they go about their days at Third Street Elementary School.
      • TJ voiced by Andrew Lawrence
      • Vince voiced by Rickey D’Shon Collins         
      • Spinelli voiced by Pamela Adlon
      • Mikey voiced by Jason Davis
      • Gretchen voiced by Ashley Johnson
      • Gus voiced by Courtland Mead
    • A major point of the show is that the students at school represent a microcosm of our society complete with its own government, class system, and even a monarchy. They are ruled by a sixth grader named King Bob, and the society has a long list of rigid values and social norms.
  • Animaniacs (Fox, 1993-1995; The WB, 1995-1999)
    • Animaniacs was created by Tom Ruegger. It is the second animated series produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment in association with Warner Bros. Animation, after Tiny Toon Adventures.
    • The show first aired on Fox as part of its Fox Kids before moving to The WB. It initially ran a total of 99 episodes and one movie.
    • Most episodes were composed of three short mini-episodes, each starring a different set of characters. (Think Saturday Night Live style).
    • Hallmarks of the series included its music, memorable catchphrases, celebrity caricatures, and humor directed at an adult audience.
    • A reboot of the series was announced by Hulu in January 2018, with two seasons to be produced and are expected to air starting in 2020.
      • Yakko voiced by Rob Paulsen
      • Wakko voiced by Jess Harnell
      • Dot voiced by  Tress MacNeille
  • The Bugs Bunny Show (CBS, 1978-1985) AKA Looney Tunes
    • This went by many names over the years
      • The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour
      • The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show
      • The Bugs Bunny/Looney Tunes Comedy Hour
      • The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show
    • The show was originally broadcast as a primetime half-hour on ABC in 1960, featuring theatrical Looney Tunes cartoons with new linking sequences hosted by Bugs Bunny, produced by Warner Bros.
    • After two seasons, The Bugs Bunny Show moved to Saturday mornings, where it remained for nearly forty years.
    • In 2000, the series at the time (The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show) was canceled after the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies television rights became exclusive to Cartoon Network.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (syndication, 1987-1990; CBS, 1987-1996)
    • The initial motivation behind the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series came from wanting to make toys based on the characters. However, because the comic-book characters only had a small following, the company Playmates Toys was uneasy about moving forward. They requested that a television deal be acquired first, and after the initial five-episode series debuted, the toy company released their first series of Ninja Turtles action figures 1988.
    • The show was in Saturday morning syndication from 1988 to 1989 and became an instant hit. The show was expanded to five days a week and aired weekday afternoons until 1991. Starting in 1990 (with a different opening sequence), the show began its secondary run on CBS’s Saturday morning lineup. The full series ran until 1996, when it aired its final episode.
    • The show helped skyrocket the characters into the mainstream and became one of the most popular animated series in television history. By 1990, the cartoon series was being shown daily on more than 125 television stations, and the comic books sold 125,000 copies a month.
  • Captain Planet (TBS 1990)
    • Captain Planet and the Planeteers is an animated television program created by Ted Turner and Barbara Pyle that focuses on friendship and environmentalism. 
    • The show aired on TBS in 1990 and ran for two years, then came back under the title, “The New Adventures of Captain Planet”. This version aired from 1993 to 1996. 
    • Pyle cites that the inspiration for the five Planeteers came from real people that she met during the show’s pre-production. 
    • The show’s intro theme was composed by Tom Worrall. “Captain Planet, he’s our hero, gonna take pollution down to zero!”
    • The show may have only lasted 6 years, but the impact it had on society has lasted much longer. The Captain Planet Foundation (CPF) was founded in 1991, when series producer Barbara Pyle negotiated a percentage of the show’s merchandising revenue to empower young people.
      • Captain Planet voiced by David Coburn
      • Kwame voiced by LeVar Burton (earth)
      • Wheeler voiced by Joey Dedio (fire)
      • Linka voiced by Kath Soucie (wind)
      • Gi voiced by Janice Kawaye
      • Ma-Ti voiced by Scott Menville

Honorable Mentions:

Proud Family

Little Bear

Babar

Berenstain Bears- Michael Cera voiced Brother bear

Voltron

Sources:

IMDB

History of Saturday Morning Cartoons

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/09/30/saturday-morning-cartoons-are-no-more/

https://www.complex.com/pop-culture/the-greatest-saturday-morning-cartoons/

Hey Arnold Christmas

Hey Cassettes and welcome back to The Christmas Case Diaries 😉 Today is an extra exciting  episode because not only are we continuing with our theme or Christmas TV specials, we are also joined by a VERY special guest: Brett Wilson!

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(The beautiful art done by none other than Brett Wilson for this episode!)

Brett is an incredibly talented artist, and somewhat of an expert on classic Nickelodeon. So, we called him in to help us this week as we discuss the 1996 Hey Arnold holiday special: Arnold’s Christmas!

Tune in as we talk the brief history of Hey Arnold and why this special still brings tears to our eyes every Christmas. 

Hey Arnold History

  • The character Arnold was created by Craig Bartlett in the late 1980’s, first as a stop-motion character made from Plasticine (a clay-like material)
  • He and his wife Lisa Groening came up with the name together, and Lisa helped with other concepts of the show as well.
    • If the name Groening sounds familiar, Lisa’s brother is Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons.
  • Bartlett created three shorts in this medium, one was called, “Arnold Rides a Chair” which aired on Sesame Street! 
  • After these shorts and a run of comics in Simpson’s Illustrated magazine, Bartlett was able to sell the idea of an animated TV show about Arnold and his friends to Nickelodeon.
  • In October of 1996, Hey Arnold premiered on Nickelodeon.
    • The original pilot was a short that aired in theaters before the movie, “Harriet the Spy” and was later reworked into an episode called “24 Hours to Live” 
    • The show focused on Arnold, a 9-year-old boy growing up in the city of Hillwood, a nondescript urban setting that was a conglomerate of Seattle, Portland, and Brooklyn.
    • Arnold lives in a boarding house filled with unique and hilarious tenants, including his two loving grandparents Phil and Gertie. Arnold is a loving soul who sees the best in everyone, even his constant bully Helga Pataki. He navigates problems of everyday life with his best friend Gerald at his side, along with a cast of wonderfully strange characters. 
    • The show was a perfect blend of the relatable and the surreal; with realistic issues and settings mixed with cartoonish action and characters.
  • Later that year, the first half hour episode of the show came in the form of a holiday special called, “Arnold’s Christmas.”
    • Before the special aired, the show tended to be more light-hearted. This episode covered serious concepts that brought a new level of emotion for the show. 

Starring: 

  • Lane Toran (credited as Toran Caudell) as Arnold
    • He is an actor and musician who also voiced King Bob in the TV show “Recess” 
    • He returned for the Hey Arnold Jungle movie as Che, a handsome young man that falls for Olga (Helga’s older sister). 
    • He is also directing and starring in an upcoming film called “Getaway Girls” 
  • Francesca Marie Smith as Helga
    • She also voiced characters in “Recess” including Ashley B, and did various voices for the VeggieTales TV series.
    • Francesca voiced Helga all the way through Hey Arnold’s initial run and even reprises her role in 2017 for The Jungle Movie.
  • Jamil Walker Smith as Gerald
    • After playing Gerald for the run of the show, he went on to have a recurring role in Stargate Universe. He has found steady work as an actor and will also be in the movie “Getaway Girls”
  • Tress MacNeille as Grandma Gertie
    • An incredibly talented voice actor, Tress MacNeille is known for playing Dot in the animaniacs, and has provided voices for The Simpsons and Futurama. She has a recurring role as Daisy Duck in many Disney projects.
  • Dan Castellaneta as Grandpa Phil 
    • Hey Arnold has a lot of ties to the Simpsons, and Dan Castellaneta is one of them. He has been voicing Homer Simpson since 1989
  • Baoan Coleman as Mr. Hyunh
    • He played Mr. Hyunh for 28 episodes of the show
    • He also had a supporting role in Rambo: First Blood Part II, but Hey Arnold was his last acting credit
    • According to IMDB, Baoan Coleman was at the actual fall of Saigon, which is depicted in the episode when Mr. Hyunh hands Mai to a soldier on a helicopter. I can’t find other sources to back this up, but I thought it was interesting to mention
  • Hiep Thi Le as Mai
    • She acted in a few things since Hey Arnold, including the TV movie “Cruel Intentions”
    • She was born in Vietnam and was separated from her family during the war, similar to her character Mai in the show.
  • Vincent Schiavelli as Mr. Bailey
    • A well-known and respected character actor, he also voiced Pigeon Man in another popular episode of Hey Arnold.
    • He played Lazarus in “Bride of Boogedy” which we talked about earlier this year, he was a teacher in the John Cusack movie, “Better of Dead” 

Arnold’s Christmas: The Story

  • The story for Arnold’s Christmas was created by Craig Bartlett, Steve Viksten, and Joe Ansolabehere. Steve Viksten wrote the episode.
  • After names have been drawn for the boarding house Secret Santa, Arnold is distraught to find that he has been given Mr. Hyunh, a member of the boarding house that he knows very little about
    • In this scene, Grandma wishes everyone a happy Thanksgiving. This started the gag in the show that Grandma always mixes up the holidays. Watching this with Marci, it confused her about the timeline and made her think that the episode jumped ahead to Christmas shortly after.
  • Desperate to figure out the right gift, Arnold visits Mr. Hyunh and asks him about his life. Mr. Hyunh tells Arnold a harrowing tale about his life in another country, and a war that separated him and his infant daughter. Mr. Hyunh came to the US in search of her, but has yet to find her. 
    • This episode was the first of the show to feature a real life event: the Vietnam. They never explicitly say which war or Mr Hyunh is referring to, but images and key phrases would indicate Vietnam. For example, Mr Hyunh says, “there was a war in the north,” and we see images of him running past a ripped American flag. The war was between North and South Vietnam, and involved the US as we were a principal ally of south Vietnam. 
    • When Saigon fell, helicopters did in fact take refugees out of the city, just like in the show. The government wasn’t liberated until 1995, about 20 years later and Mr Hyunh says it took him 20 years to get out of the country. 
    • This episode is often lauded for “giving kids credit” and focusing on serious subject matter in a children’s TV show, and later on the show mentions Vietnam again when we find out that Gerald’s dad fought in the war as well.
  • Arnold is now inspired to make Mr. Hyunh’s dream of seeing his daughter a reality, and springs into action. Arnold heads to the federal office of information, and he and Gerald beg a man named Mr. Bailey to locate Mr Hyunh’s daughter. Mr. Bailey tells the boys that he would do so, if they finish his Christmas Eve shopping. So, the boys set out to get everything on the list.
    • Mr. Bailey is very likely a reference to George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the famous character played by Jimmy Stewart  
  • Somewhere else in Hillwood, we see Helga trying to find a gift for her secret crush: Arnold. She eavesdrops on the boys and discovers what they are trying to do. The last item on their list is a pair of incredibly rare Nancy Spumoni snow boots that Helga also wants for Christmas. 
    • In the Hey Arnold universe, there’s a character named Dino Spumoni who is their version of Frank Sinatra. In real life, Frank Sinatra had a daughter named Nancy who sang the song, “These Boots are Made for Walking.” The snow boots are an obvious reference to Nancy Sinatra. 
  • After Arnold and Gerald return to Mr. Bailey with all the items except the snow boots, Mr. Bailey refuses to help them (what a terrible person). The boys walk away, feeling dejected.
  • Helga heads home to her own family’s Christmas, and her mother gives her a Christmas gift. They are the Nancy Spumoni snow boots! Helga thanks her mom and runs out into the snow with joy and excitement. She dances around in happiness until she remembers that Arnold needs the snow boots as well. 
    • Up until this point in the episode, Helga has repeatedly said that Christmas is all about presents and that she hopes her parents “didn’t screw up” her gift. When her mom hands her the boots, she tells her that she stood in line for hours to get them. This is especially poignant because Helga has a troubled home life, with parents that are somewhat neglectful and much more caring toward her sister.
  • Helga brings Mr. Bailey the boots and begs him to stay and find Mai. She gives a speech about the true meaning of Christmas, and points out that not only would Mr Hyunh and his daughter not be reunited, but his actions would destroy Arnold’s faith in miracles.
  • On Christmas morning, Arnold is about to apologize to Mr Hyunh for not having a gift, when the doorbell rings and Grandpa lets in Mai. Arnold is blown away, confused as to how this happened and Gerald tells him it must’ve been a Christmas angel.
  • The episode ends with Helga, standing alone in the snow after leading Mai to the boarding house. The image drives home the concept of giving for the sake of giving, and the audience could never question how much Helga cares for Arnold. Never once in the show does she ever mention what she did for Arnold, Mr. Hyunh, and Mai. She thought Arnold was naive to believe in miracles, until she became the miracle herself. 

Questions/Opinions

  • Even though the subject matter is intense, the episode still makes room for laughs. What’s your favorite part of the special? 
  • This special deals with very serious subject matter for a children’s TV show. Do we think that a show today would cover something so intense? 
  • What do we think was the benefit of talking about these issues? 
  • This is an emotional episode for a lot of people! What part hits you in the feels the most?

Thank you Brett Wilson for joining us!  You can see some of his work here; https://www.instagram.com/brettwilsonart/?hl=en

https://www.redbubble.com/people/BrettWilsonArt

Sources

IMDB

How the Grinch(es) Stole the Case

Hey Cassettes and welcome back to the Christmas Case Diaries! This month we’re focusing on Christmas TV specials, but this episode is EXTRA special because we will be talking about movies as well. The 1960’s was a decade that brought us a lot of classic Christmas specials. Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman (1969), and tonight’s topic: How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)!

 

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The Origin of Grinch

  • Theodor Suess Geisel, AKA the beloved Dr Suess, first used the word Grinch to describe a bird in his 1953 book Scrambled Eggs Super! The bird was called a Beagle-Beaked-Bald-Headed Grinch.  
  • In 1955 he published a short 32 line illustrated poem in Redbook, which was a woman’s magazine at the time.  The poem was entitled “The Hoobub and the Grinch.” Although this poem does not contain the same Grinch we know and love it, brings about the same issue of commercialism. In the poem the Grinch is able to sell the Hoobub a simple green string by making it sound like it is needed and thus goes on to say that the Grinch is able to sell the Hoobub similar items every day.
  • Finally Suess used Grinch in his hit Christmas book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” which was released in 1957.

Many believe that the Grinch was Dr Suess’s alter ego, even Suess himself.  There were many reasons for this. In a 1957 interview with Redbook he stated “I was brushing my teeth on the morning of the 26th of last December when I noticed a very Grinch-ish countenance in the mirror. It was Seuss! So I wrote about my sour friend, the Grinch, to see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I’d lost.”

  • To add to this Suess was 53 when the book was released, the same age as the Grinch and he was also quirky and disliked large crowds.
  • And finally to show favor to the character he even had a Grinch vanity license plate!

Making of

The director of this special was Chuck Jones. You may know Jones because he is a famous  animator, filmmaker, cartoonist, author, artist, and screenwriter.  Most well known for his work in Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies, and Tom and Jerry.  He and Suess knew each other due to working together during WWII on the animated propaganda called  Private Snafu. Suess was a writer and Jones an animator. Jones was the one to convince Suess into making an animated short for his How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

Story drawing by Irv Spector.

*During production however, Phil Roman (one of the animators) said that Suess was only there 3 or 4 times but that he had been there for the storyboard beforehand.

  • In the original book, there are only three colors: black, white, and pink/red. So, where did the iconic green Grinch color come from? Apparently Chuck Jones was inspired to use it after renting cars that were that color. 
  • Dr. Suess felt like the main character more closely resembled a Chuck Jones character than the original Grinch drawings.

Time magazine in 2013 named it one of the top 10 greatest Christmas specials from your childhood, along with a movie we just discussed last episode called A Charlie Brown Christmas from 1965. While both of these masterpieces took a lot of money to make, Charlie Brown pales in comparison. It took a little less than $100,000 to create Charlie Brown but Grinch was finally able to garner  $300,000 from an organization called The Foundation for Commercial Banks after pitching to companies such as Kellogg’s and Nestle.  

Not only did Grinch receive funding to make the 30 minute special happen, but CBS paid $315,000 for the right to air it twice on their network; once in 1966 and once in 1967.

The music for the special was done by Albert Hague.

  • Dr. Suess wrote the lyrics to all the songs, including “Fahoo Foraze” which was meant to sound like classical Latin. Apparently it tricked some viewers, and people called to find out the translation. It turns out it was just classic Suessical Gibberish 
  • When Hague later recalled his audition for being able to compose for the special he said, “Afterward, Seuss looked up and said, ‘Anyone who slides an octave on the word Grinch gets the job.’ The whole thing took three minutes,”

Voice Actors

  • Boris Karloff as the Narrator and the Grinch
    • Dr. Suess was concerned that casting Boris Karloff would make the character too scary. But, Chuck Jones chose him after hearing him narrate other works. 
    • Originally, there was no difference between the narration and the speaking voices in the special, so sound editors removed the higher pitches from his voice in post. That is why when The Grinch speaks, he sounds different from the narrator. 
  • June Foray (uncredited) as Cindy Lou Who
  • Dal McKennon (uncredited) as Max
  • Thurl Ravenscroft (uncredited) as the singer of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch
    • AKA Tony the Tiger!
    • He was also the voice of Kirby in the Brave Little Toaster!
    • Dr. Suess attempted to fix the fact that he was uncredited by sending letters to every major columnist in America! Well, we know now. 

Grinch (2000)

  • The original special aired on December 15th, 1966! So, why did it take so long for it to get remade? Dr. Suess himself was reluctant to bring his works to the big screen. But after his death, the rights to his stories went to his widow. 
  • This was the first time a Dr. Suess story was turned into a full length feature film
  • Before she signed off on Jim Carrey playing the role of The Grinch, she had to visit him on the set of another movie to see if he was right for the part. 
    • The movie was “Man on the Moon” and Jim Carey was so deep into character that he had to do an impression of himself playing the Grinch
  • Directed by Ron Howard, he not only wanted it to be an adaptation of the book, but an adaptation of the original special as well. This is why he kept The Grinch’s green color, even though the character is white in the book. 
  • The movie did not receive a lot of critical acclaim, some believed the story and themes were too adult for a movie marketed to kids.
    • Jim Carey himself seemed to regret the amount of adult jokes in the script and wished that he had done more to stop them.
    • He maintains that all of his jokes were age-appropriate, and Ron Howard even removed some even raunchier jokes from the script.
  • What the critics did like was Jim Carey’s performance as The Grinch as well as the beautiful film score by the late James Horner.

Starring

This movie included many stars but here are just a few…

  • Jim Carrey as the Grinch
    • His costume was incredibly uncomfortable, including the yellow contacts that he was forced to wear. Apparently he even spoke with a former CIA agent about coping mechanisms for torture, as the suit was THAT uncomfortable and took an hour to take off.
    • He improvised a lot of lines in the movie, “Dinner with me, I can’t cancel that again!” 
  • Josh Ryan Evans as the young Grinch
  • Christine Baranski as Martha May
  • Jeffrey Tambor as Mayor Augustus Maywho
  • Molly Shannon as the mother Betty Lou Who
  • Bill Irwin as father Lou Lou Who
  • Taylor Momsen as the little girl Cindy Lou Who
  • With Anthony Hopkins as the Narrator

Grinch (2018)

Where the 2000 Grinch was too adult for children, the 2018 film fixed that issue. This movie is meant to appeal to children, with some older jokes and references. 

Voices of

  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Grinch
  • Cameron Seely as Cindy Lou Who
  • Rashida Jones as Donna Who
  • Tristan O’Hare as Groopert
  • Keenan Thompson as Mr. Bricklebaum
  • Sam Lavagnino as Ozzy
  • Ramone Hamilton as Axl
  • Angela Lansbury as Mayor McGerkle
  • Scarlett Estevez as Izzy
  • With Pharrell Williams as the Narrator

Sources:

IMDB

https://magazine.uc.edu/famousalumni/tv/grinch.html

https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2018/12/24/ccm-grad-wrote-iconic-music-grinch/2287627002/

http://entertainment.time.com/2013/12/12/10-greatest-christmas-tv-specials-from-your-childhood/

This one has great pre-production and production artwork

https://www.cartoonbrew.com/classic/grinch-stole-christmas-50-years-old-today-still-great-146646.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvujUS8xfDk

https://seussblog.wordpress.com/tag/grinch-and-the-hoobub/

https://groovyhistory.com/story-behind-grinch-stole-christmas

The Case of a Charlie Brown Christmas

 Hey Cassettes, welcome to season 3! We’re starting the season off strong with episodes about some of our favorite Christmas specials. So for our first episode, we are going to focus on one of the oldest TV specials airing today: A Charlie Brown Christmas! Now, we say ONE of the first, because Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol was THE first animated Christmas special in 1962. 

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Charles Shultz and The Peanuts

  • Before we discuss this special, we have to talk about the history of Charlie Brown, and where The Peanuts came from. 
  • The Peanuts comic strip was first published in the late 1940’s, and was originally called “Li’l Folks” 
  • It was created by Charles Shultz, and starred Charlie Brown. The original strip included a random cast of unnamed characters. It wasn’t until the strip was renamed in 1950, that Shultz created a gang of regular characters. 
  • After Shultz’s comic strip was picked up by the United Feature Syndicate, an editor changed the name to, “Peanuts” because “Li’l Folks” was too similar to two other comic strips at the time.
    • Shultz hated the name, and wanted to keep the original. He felt that calling it “Peanuts” made it seem insignificant. He told TIME magazine this 15 years later.
    • Although Shultz hated the name, he worked on it until his death in 2000. 
  • At first, the strip ran in only 7 newspapers and wasn’t an instant hit. By the end of the 1950’s, it appeared in hundreds of papers across America, and The Peanuts were internationally known. It was in the 1960’s, however, when Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang peaked in popularity. 
    • Charlie Brown is an every-man character, facing easily relatable problems. Shultz modeled him after himself, and because of that, the rest of the world could see themselves in Charlie Brown too. 
    • The 1960’s was a tumultuous decade, filled with change. Not only did The Peanuts leave their mark on the world, but the comic strip changed with the times. The character Franklin was added after the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, and the bird Woodstock was named after the famous music festival.
  • At the height of its popularity in 1965, CBS gave The Peanuts their very own TV special.

Plot

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas follows the Peanuts gang as they prepare for Christmas. Charlie Brown finds himself depressed. At the suggestions of Lucy, he decides to get involved in the festivities by directing the school play. Bothered by the commercialism of the holiday, Charlie Brown is determined to find the true meaning of Christmas. 

Making A Charlie Brown Christmas

  • We already know that The Peanuts were very popular in the 1960’s, so much so, that a TV producer named Lee Mendelson wanted to make a documentary about the success of the comic strip.
  • Charles Shultz agreed to work on the project, and he asked an animator named Bill Melendez to help out with the brief animated segments of the special. The rest of the documentary would be live-action. 
  • A talented and well-respected jazz musician named Vince Guaraldi wrote original music for the documentary as well. 
  • At the time, the special was rejected, but it brought together the team that would later make A Charlie Brown Christmas. It was called, “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” 
  • In April of 1965, the McCann Erickson Agency called Mendelson, wondering if they had any ideas for a Peanuts Christmas special. Mendelson said yes, even though he had no special in mind. The thing was, Coca-Cola was interested in buying such a special if it existed, and they needed to see a draft of it in just a few days. Lee Mendelson called Charles Shultz and told him that he just sold “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Shultz responded with, “What is that?” And then the men had an outline done in one day.
      • When Coca-Cola agreed to buy the special, they asked for an early December release. The men had only 6 months to put a special together. 
  • Shultz wanted the special to focus on “The True Meaning of Christmas,” and added elements from Christmases he spent as a child in Minnesota. For example, there are lots of scenes that feature snow and even ice skating.
    • He also came up with the idea for the iconic tree in the special after reading “The Fir Tree” by Hans Christian Anderson. Schultz thought it would be interesting if there was a tree in the special that embodied the spirit of Charlie Brown. 
  • As animation began, it was clear that Charlie Brown and the gang were very limited in their movement. Animating flat characters can be very challenging, but Snoopy was the exception. If you notice during the special, Snoopy has the most action, and it’s because he was much more fun to animate. 
    • When you consider how the animation was done, it’s impressive that Melendez and his team got it done in so little time. It required a pencil drawing, followed by an inking and painting process onto a cell. The cell was then placed onto a painted backdrop. The drawings totaled to 13,000.
  • Lee Mendelson, the producer, invited Vince Guaraldi back to score the special. They were able to include the jazzy, “Linus and Lucy” written for the documentary previously mentioned, and Guaraldi wrote new songs that were performed by his jazz trio.
    • The most famous of these is, “Christmas Time is Here.” Mendelson ended up writing the lyrics to the song himself, after he had trouble finding a lyricist. The song is now considered a Christmas staple, and is often played on the radio during the holiday season.
    • Mendelson’s son and his 6th grade class performed the song.
    • The song is a perfect blend of melancholy music and joyful lyrics. It captures the sad spirit that Charlie Brown holds throughout most of the special, mixed with the excitement of being a child at Christmas 
    • The team also brought in a children’s choir to perform, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” for a pivotal scene in the special. The mixture of traditional Christmas carols and jazz is one of the aspects of the special that made it so interesting. 

Starring

  • Peter Robbins was the eight-year-old boy chosen to play Charlie Brown. His casting was one of the most difficult, because they needed to find a child’s voice that sounded “blah” 
    • At the time, he was a child actor who had done parts in The Munsters, Rawhide, and The Joey Bishop Show
    • He went on to play Charlie Brown for several years afterward in 6 other specials and has since retired from acting
  • Christopher Shea played Linus, whose voice was meant to sound sophisticated, yet innocent. 
    • This was his first acting role at age 7, and he continued to play Linus in four more specials. Shea also had a recurring role on the TV series Shane (1966) 
    • He passed away at the age of 52 in 2010.
  • Kathy Steinburg played Sally, Charlie’s younger sister. She was the youngest member of the cast, and did not know how to read. So, producers fed her one line at a time for her to deliver. 
  • Tracy Stratford played Lucy and was 10 years old at the time. Producers were impressed by her professionalism.
    • She had a role in two episodes of The Twilight Zone, one of them being “Living Doll,” which is one of the most famous episodes of the series. It features a murderous doll named “Talky Tina” 
    • This was her only appearance as Lucy Van Pelt, because her voice changed shortly after the animation was finished on the project.
  • Karen Mendelson played Patty. Patty was an original member of the Peanuts gang, but was later phased out after the introduction of “Peppermint Patty.” 
  • The rest of the cast was played by children in Mendelson’s own neighborhood, and he recalled the recording session to be chaotic. 

Reception 

  • Early on in the writing process, Lee Mendelson tried to convince Charles Schultz to leave out the religious references in the special. Schultz reportedly replied, “If we don’t do it, who will?” 
    • They went as far as to make Linus’ speech the climax of the special, making it impossible to cut out, so the special had to air with the religious message in tact.
  • No laugh track, authentic child voices, and a religious message meant that this special broke a lot of 1960’s TV rules. 
  • Mendelson, Melendez, and the CBS executives viewed the special days before its release and thought it was boring. They thought the jazz music seemed out of place, and the animation was underwhelming. But, there was one thing working for it: it was scheduled to premier in just a few days and they had to deliver on what they promised. If they had finished the special any sooner, CBS may have made the decision to cut it completely. 
    • I read that one of the animators, Ed Levitt (who had worked on Bambi and Fantasia) tried to cheer Melendez up by saying that it was the best special he would ever make, and that people would be watching it in 100 years
  • CBS aired the special on December 9th, 1965 to an estimated 15 million viewers. As reviews came in, it received unanimous critical acclaim! The network contacted the producers and ordered more specials immediately. 
    • Just think, if they hadn’t aired this or if it did fail, we wouldn’t have any of the other Charlie Brown specials that we have today. Imagine a world without It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!
    • The special won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Program and the prestigious Peabody award.
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas is considered to be an American Christmas tradition, being one of the most popular specials to air every year. Today, it is the second longest-running Christmas special on US network TV. Was Ed Levitt correct? Will people still be watching it in 2065? All we know is that it’s been 54 years, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. 

Resources

https://web.archive.org/web/20120828024707/http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/10584

http://content.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,2022745,00.html

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3g6vrk

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Peanuts

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059026/

A Disney Halloween Case

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Back in 1982, The Wonderful World of Disney aired a Halloween special comprised of animated clips from some of their spookiest works. With about a 60 minute run-time, Disney’s Halloween Treat was hosted by Hal Douglas, an unseen narrator, with a few appearances from a talking foam pumpkin. 

  • Hal Douglas is known for narrating thousands of movie trailers. You’ve heard his voice so many times, and this performance is incredible.
  • One year later, Disney premiered a newer version of the special, this time 90 minutes long. It omitted parts from the original special, but included pieces from a 1977 special called, “Disney’s Greatest Villains” 
    • This version excluded a clip from Ichabod and Mr. Toad, and the skeletons in the beginning were green instead of orange. 
  • Some versions also include an opening with Michael Eisner, the then chair-man of Walt Disney Studios. This opening was most likely added for the VHS release of the special. 
  • Throughout the 1980’s and early 90’s, Disney ran this special on its channel every Halloween season. A Disney Halloween was released on VHS in 1985, though the original Disney’s Halloween Treat was never officially released (of course, Robin has a version taped off TV).

Segments of the Special

In this episode we talk about both specials. We cover clips from both, where they are from, and what we love about them. 

So buckle up! It’s gonna be a REAL treat 😉 

Part 1

  • The opening sequence
    • As we said before, the original special, “Disney’s Halloween Treat,” came out in 1982. It opens with clips from Disney cartoons, most prominently “The Skeleton Dance” (1929)
      • The Skeleton Dance was a “Silly Symphony.” Silly Symphonies were animated short films set to music, that Disney released over a 10 year period. The Skeleton Dance is one of the most popular, along with “The Three Little Pigs” 
      • In this version, the skeletons have been colored orange. In the original short they were black and white. 
    • The theme song for this special was written specifically for it! The music was by John Debney, a well-known film composer. Debney wrote the music for Hocus Pocus, which we talked about earlier this month! 
      • The lyrics were written by Galen R Brandt 
    • In A Disney Halloween, the skeletons are green, and this is how we could tell which special we were watching from the beginning.

Part 2

  • Night on Bald Mountain 
    • The narrator (Hal Douglas) wastes no time leading us into the first clip, a piece from Fantasia (1940). This image is very familiar to many, as the horrifying Chernabog ascends from the mountain to summon his minions. 
    • This piece of classical music was written by Mussorgsky, and this is one of the most famous animations from Fantasia 

Part 3

  • In A Disney Halloween, we get a clip from “The Sword in the Stone” (1963) with an emphasis on Mad Madam Mim. This particular scene features the wizard duel and the death of Mim.
  • Mim was voiced by Martha Wentworth, who also voiced the nanny in 101 Dalmatians (1961). This was her last acting credit. 

Part 4

  • The Old Mill 1937
    • Another silly symphony, this short is anything but silly. 
  • This clip comes from a 9 minute short about various animals: such as owls, mice, and bats that move into an old windmill.  Nearby the songs of frogs, crickets, and fireflies can be heard. The climax comes when a storm puts in peril all the creatures in and around the mill.
    • The beautiful thing is that even though the creatures do not speak you feel for them though the music and their actions.
    • This is one of the saddest and most touching pieces in the special.

Part 5

  • Mickey Mouse 
    • Pluto’s Sweater (1949)
      • We get a very short clip from this short film, but the transition is pretty seamless!
    • Mickey’s Parrot 1938
      • This clip comes from a 7 minute short where an escaped parrot comes into Mickey’s home just as he learns that the dangerous convict Machine-Gun Butch has shot his way out of jail. Thinking that the parrot is Butch, Mickey and Pluto cautiously try to find him.
  • Donald Duck
    • Donald Duck and the Gorilla 1944
      • This clip comes from a 7 minute short about Ajax, the killer gorilla who has escaped from the zoo! Donald Duck and his three nephews prank each other, making them think that Ajax is in their house. 
      • There’s a twist, when the real Ajax appears and tries to attack Donald! 

Part 6

  • Heffalumps and Woozils 
    • Next, we get a segment on nightmares! This clip is another part added to the new special, taken from “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” (1977).
    • In the film, Winnie the Pooh goes to sleep on a stormy night and dreams of the infamous Heffalumps and Woozils! Evil creatures out to steal his honey (or whatever else he wants).

Part 7

  • Pluto’s Judgement Day

    • This part is very interesting! For this section, animators cut three different Pluto adventures together to create one cohesive story. Those stories are: 
      • Puss Cafe 1950
      • Cat Nap Pluto 1948
      • Judgement Day 1935 (notice the 15 year difference between two of the shorts) 

Part 8

  • This segment is a wonderful piece, that really adds to the creepy atmosphere of the special. It comes from another Wonderful World of Disney episode called, “The Great Cat Family”! It came out in 1956. 
  • This part educates the audience on the beginning of superstitions, and also uses some imagery from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which Disney cut from the second version of this special. 

Part 9 

  • To continue the theme of cats, we have a clip from “Lady and the Tramp” (1955)
    • Here we have Si and Am, the trouble-making cats from the film. The song was originally sung by Peggy Lee. 
    • The song is widely considered problematic,and in the 2019 version, this song will be “rewritten” and performed by Janelle Monáe

Part 10

  • The next segment of “A Disney Halloween” was taken from yet another Wonderful World of Disney episode called “Disney’s Greatest Villains” from 1977
    • This was an updated special following another version called, “Our Unsung Villains” in 1956.
    • It featured Hans Conried as The Magic Mirror. Conried had died when this segment was added to A Disney Halloween, but the footage was used anyway. 
    • Conried was a prolific actor whose voice was used in the animated “Hobbit” (1977), as the Grinch in “Halloween is Grinch Night,” but he was also the voice of Captain Hook in Disney’s Peter Pan.
  • Disney’s Greatest Villains 1977
    • Peter Pan (1953) – Hook
      • This scene with Captain Hook was included in the original Disney’s Halloween Treat, and is the first clip introduced by The Magic Mirror.
      • It shows the defeat of  Hook.
    • The Aristocasts (1970) – Edgar
      • Shows when Edgar drops the kittens while he is being chased by the dogs Lafayette and Napoleon.
    • Mickey and the Beanstalk – The Giant
      • This piece is from “Fun and Fancy Free” (1947)
    • The Jungle Book (1967) – Kaa
      • Voiced by the talented Sterling Halloway 
      • Kaa is interrupted during his hypnosis of Mowgli by Shere Khan.
    • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) – The Evil Queen
      • In Disney’s Halloween Treat, we get a full look at the evil queen, from her transformation to the moment she poisons Snow White. We also see her meet her doom at the edge of a cliff! 
    • Sleeping Beauty (1959) – Maleficent 
      • We get to see Maleficent in all her glory!
  • After Maleficent, the magic mirror briefly mentions:
    • Cinderella – Lady Tremaine 
    • 101 Dalmatians (1961)- Cruella De Vil
      • In Disney’s Halloween Treat, Cruella gets the full treatment, with a clip from the movie showing her ultimate defeat.
    • Alice in Wonderland (1951) – The Queen of Hearts
    • The Rescuers (1977)
      • At the time of “Disney’s Greatest Villains,” Medusa was the newest villain in Disney’s catalog. For this reason, this is the final villain featured by the magic mirror before he says, “I don’t know about you, but I’m getting out of here!” 

Part 11

  • The narrator uses the mirror’s disappearance to bring us into “Lonesome Ghosts” (1937)
    • This short film was originally released 3 days after Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
    • It features four bored ghosts that play pranks on Mickey, Donald, and Goofy. In this episode, the trio are ghost exterminators from AJAX, the fictional Disney company equivalent to ACME in the Looney Toon Universe.
    • Features Clarence Nash as Donald, Pinto Colvig as Goofy, and Walt Disney as Mickey Mouse.

Part 12

  • Trick or Treat (1952)
    • The final piece of “A Disney Halloween” is a piece from “Trick Or Treat” in 1952.
    • This short features the wonderful June Foray as “Witch Hazel” and an uncredited appearance by Thurl Ravenscroft as the Jack-O-Lantern!
    • Clarence Nash is the voice of Donald and his three nephews.
    • The music was written by Paul J Smith! A well-known Disney Composer (Snow White, Pinocchio, Cinderella).

Part 13 

  • Ichabod Crane and Mr Toad
    • In the original Disney’s Halloween Treat, it ended with a clip from “Ichabod and Mr. Toad” (1949).
      • This film covered two stories: The Wind and the Willows, and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.
    • In this clip, we see the thrilling end of Ichabod Crane. It starts with an edited version of the ghost story scene, narrated and sung by Bing Crosby. It then cuts to Ichabod cautiously riding home in the dark before being attacked by the Headless Horseman. It ends just as the story does, with the image of a shattered pumpkin on the bridge of souls. 

This is how the original special ended, and it’s how we will end our Halloween special as well! Happy Halloween, everyone! 

See you tomorrow. Maybe.

The Case of Time and Space Part 2

Hello Cassettes and Whovians alike, and welcome to the second installment of our Doctor Who series! This week we went further into space and talked about the reboot, the newer doctors, and of course the show’s most notorious villains.

Doctor Who 2

The history of the reboot

  • As we said last week, the show was officially cancelled in 1989. But, Doctor Who never truly disappeared. According to a Digital Spy article by Morgan Jeffery, there were 7 different attempts to bring Doctor Who back! This included a possible American version with Stephen Spielburg in 1994.
    • When the show was cancelled, a producer named Phillip Segal tried to relaunch the show with the BBC. Although he was initially unsuccessful, he was the executive producer that brought Doctor Who back in 1996 with a movie starring Paul McGann
    • The film was originally going to be a remake done by Universal, until a writer named Matthew Jacobs suggested continuing the show instead of re-making it.
    • Although the US release of the movie had low ratings, the UK release a few days later had 9 million viewers. Critics seemed to enjoy the darker tone of the movie, with a more “grown up” feel, drifting from the somewhat silly serial format of the old show
    • When the movie did not lead to a show, the rights returned to the BBC. The man in charge of continuing drama there, Mal Young, decided to try to reboot the show. When he was looking for a writer, the name Russell T Davies was suggested. Although it took a few more years, Davies became an integral part in reviving the show.
  • Novels
    • Various novels in the Whoniverse have been published, though they are widely considered as non-canon
    • “Damaged Goods” (1996) A Doctor Who novel written by Russel T Davies by Virgin Books
  • Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death
    • For their 1999 broadcast of Red Nose Day (an event meant to raise money to help people in underserved communities) The BBC aired a Doctor Who parody special written by Stephen Moffat (the future showrunner of the series)
    • This program starred Rowan Atkinson, Richard E Grant, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, and Joanna Lumley; all as incarnations of The Doctor
    • This first introduced the idea of regeneration across gender lines

  • Audio dramas
    • Before the official return of the show, there were audio dramas produced by the company “Big Finish.” These dramas featured past doctors Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvestor McCoy from the original series and were a more serious continuation of the show
  • Scream of the Shalka
    • Before the announcement of the new show, BBC Online created a new animated version of the show, starring Richard E Grant (who played an incarnation of the doctor on red nose day)
    • Scream of Shalka was accepted as an official continuation of the series and Grant was known as the 9th Doctor UNTIL the announcement of the new series with Christopher Eccleston

The New Show

  • It happened again just as it had before, BBC was in need of a new drama for Saturdays. So, BBC controller Lorraine Heggessey and the head of drama commissioning Jane Trantor ordered a new season of the show with Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner, and Mal Young at the helm
    • Now, Davies was a well-known script writer from shows like Queer As Folk (1999) and he had already participated in the Whoniverse. Heggessey and Trantor trusted him so much, they didn’t even ask for a formal proposal before green-lighting the first season
    • The BBC and Doctor Who showrunners used the data from the previous seasons to determine that the new show had to be different, as the show in the 80s didn’t have a large enough audience to keep it on the air. They needed to attract new viewers, rebrand the show, but not betray its origins.
    • In a pitch document, Davies described the new Doctor as, “Your best friend. Someone you want to be with all the time. He’s wise and funny, fast and sarky, cheeky and brave. And considering he’s an alien, he’s more human than the best human you could imagine. So full of compassion, his heart could burst and his head’s jam-packed with science and art and history.”
    • Davies made the decision to ignore a lot of continuity from the old series, which in turn helps solve the issue of the lack of mystery
      • The series doesn’t start with a regeneration, establishing Christopher Eccleston as The Doctor immediately. This helped the new audience unfamiliar with the show get introduced to its universe, there wasn’t a lot of reference that a new fan wouldn’t understand. It was easy to digest.
      • Davies changed the format of the show. It was no longer the serial show from the past, but more like a full 45-minute program with its own new story each week. He also added a hook at the end of each episode to bring the audience back, but did away with the weekly cliffhanger.
    • Mal Young, one of the producers, suggested actor Christopher Eccleston to play the ninth doctor, and Davies felt that he fit the role perfectly.
      • The idea was that they wanted to leave behind the “Neutered, posh” doctor for someone “immediate and tactile”
    • One of the biggest changes that Davies made, was destroying The Time Lords
      • What was once a large part of the show’s plot, Davies wrote in that The Doctor’s planet of Gallifrey had been destroyed and with it, all other time lords. Why? Well, being the only Time Lord emphasizes The Doctor’s loneliness. It makes him seem unique and impossible, and most importantly it would ensure that no other time lords would pop up in the show (until later of course)
      • Davies also decided that the show would mostly involve human stories, or story-lines that involved humans in some way. He thought this would help capture a wider audience
      • The show was a success! ITV even attempted to topple series 1 by running blockbuster films simultaneously to Doctor Who. One of which was Star Wars Episode 1. Doctor Who’s ratings beat a film from the very franchise that had created unrealistic expectations of Science Fiction TV. Remember Michael Grade and his comparison of Doctor Who to Star Wars?
  • On March 26th, 2005, the world was introduced to the new Doctor Who and his young companion Rose Tyler. The episode included call-backs to the old show, including it’s villain being the Nestene Consciousness and its plastic Autons; it even re-created a famous scene when shop dummies come to life

The New Doctors & Their Companions

  • Christopher Eccelston (2005)
    • What he did for the show and why he left
    • The Ninth incarnation of The Doctor was crucial in the reinvention of the series.  It was a chance to begin fresh. His portrayal was different than all the other Doctors before, and arguably all since.  Far from the Dandy look of all his past selves, he takes on a rougher look with a leather jacket, boots, and black trousers.  He ditched all the accessories and went simple.
    • Davies’ decision to make the Doctor the last of the Timelords brought another side to the NInth Doctor’s performance.  An anger and guilt at being the sole survivor.
      • Protective of Rose
    • When asked about why he left he said “My relationship with my three immediate superiors – the showrunner, the producer and co-producer – broke down irreparably during the first block of filming and it never recovered. They lost trust in me, and I lost faith and trust and belief in them … Some of my anger about the situation came from my own insecurity. They employed somebody who was not a natural light comedian. Billie, who we know was and is brilliant, was very, very nervous and very, very inexperienced. So, you had that, and then you had me. Very, very experienced, possibly the most experienced on it, but out of my comfort zone.”
    • Fantastic!
  • Billie Piper
    • The New Doctor was obviously an important part of the puzzle when creating a successful show. However, almost as important is the companion!
    • Billie Piper was 23 when she was cast as Rose, a young shoppe clerk who gets whisked away and eventually falls in love with The Doctor. Rose was the perfect vehicle for the new audience to discover The Doctor. She maintained the curiosity and wit of past companions with an edge of sass and bravery.
    • BBC America ran a poll in honor of the show’s 50th anniversary. Their list held Rose as the 5th best companion
  • David Tennant (2006-2010)
    • David Tennant was working on the TV serial Casanova when Russell T Davies asked him to come around to his place and see some rough cuts of the new series before its premiere. After they watched the cuts, Davies revealed to him that he wanted him to take over the role. So, they had Tennant film the regeneration scene at the end of season 1. Tennant revealed later that he was afraid the show wouldn’t get renewed and that he would only get to play the doctor for a few seconds
    • Companions: Rose, Martha, Donna
      • Martha
        • The second companion of the new series, the show chose an older character, one with slightly more maturity than Rose. Martha is a medical doctor, incredibly intelligent and resourceful
        • Frema Agyeman was cast in the role after auditioning three different times as other parts in the show. If you pay attention, you can see her in an earlier episode before she was cast as Martha. It was the versatility she showed in these auditions that impressed the showrunners
      • Donna
        • When Catherine Tate was cast in the role of Donna Noble, it was a big secret. She was already well-known as a prominent comedian and actress, so her appearance was a great surprise. She wasn’t meant to be a recurring character on the show, just meant to be a character in a special.
        • But, Davies considered bringing her back for a season, toning down her abrasive and outspoken nature as a character
        • Donna was the oldest companion in the new show to date, in her mid-30s and a temp in Chiswick
        • Her character arch is considered to be one of the most moving, with a devastating ending
    • Things they brought to the role (catchphrase, clothing)
      • “Allons-Y!”  “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” “Welllll……”
  • Matt Smith (2010-2013)
    • Youngest to play the doctor- Only 26
    • Matt Smith’s doctor ushered in a new era for the show, the beginning of Stephen Moffat’s turn as showrunner
      • The introduction of Smith felt like a new show; it had a different look and feel, with a new Tardis after the old one crash-landed
      • An entire edition of Doctor Who: Confidential, the documentary show about the making of Doctor Who, was dedicated to revealing Matt Smith as The Doctor
    • Companions: Amy Pond and Rory Williams
      • Karen Gillan had played a character in a season 4 episode, and was brought back as Amy Pond
      • Amy is strong, curious, fiery, and a device for the audience to get to know this new version of The Doctor.
      • Rory is a foil to Amy, a more grounded and cautious companion, and the two together make up the first married couple as companions in the new series
    • Clara Oswald
      • Jenna Coleman, despite admitting to never watching the show before playing Clara, was cast as Matt Smith’s companion after the exit of Amy and Rory
        • When she was cast she only watched the few episodes that aired before hers in order to get an idea of the show; she didn’t want Amy and Rory’s interactions with the Doctor influence how she played the character
      • Clara is known as The Impossible Girl, a face that appears throughout The Doctor’s timeline in mysterious ways
      • She’s also a school teacher, bringing the show back to its origins with the first companions
      • Clara is meant to be different from Amy so that the audience can see a new side of the doctor. Stephen Moffat stated that Clara had, “a speed and wit and an unimpressed quality that makes the Doctor dance a bit harder”
    • Catchphrase: “Geronimo!” “Bow Ties are cool”
  • Peter Capaldi (2014-2017)
    • In 2013, BBC revealed that they had cast Peter Capaldi as the 12th incarnation of The Doctor
    • A total shift after Matt Smith who was the youngest to play the role, Capaldi would be the oldest to play the character, tied with William Hartnell at age 55; Until John Hurt would play a version of the character in the 50th anniversary special
    • Capaldi found out he got the part while filming another movie. He missed a call from his agent and when he returned it, they answered with “Hello, Doctor!”
    • Capaldi brought some rock-star energy to the part, playing his guitar and wearing sonic sun-glasses for a time
    • He played the doctor as a grumpy man, wise and interesting.
    • Companions: Clara Oswald
    • Bill Potts
      • A young, charismatic character that challenges The Doctor in his old ways and forces him to think differently in situations
      • Bill is the first openly gay companion on the show, she’s very young and has a curious mind. She’s cool and a great pairing with the older, rock and roll style of Peter Capaldi
      • Played by Pearl Mackie
  • Jodie Whittaker (2018-present)
    • First female Doctor! The idea of cross-gender transformation is not new to the show. The first time it happened on screen was in an episode in 2015 called “Hell Bent” and later it happened with the notorious villain “The Master” turning into “Missy”
    • With Chris Chibnall taking over the show from Stephen Moffat, came the idea of a new doctor. Jodie Whittaker played a prominent role in Chibnall’s show “Broadchurch” and was his first choice as the 13th Doctor
    • Companions: Ryan, Yasmin, and Graham

Memorable Monsters/Antagonists

    • In the old and new series
      • Dalek
        • Daleks were created by Terry Nation when he wrote the second Doctor Who serial. In “Static Shock,” the doctor and his companions first meet the Daleks on Skaro. They were radiation victims that were encased in metal machinery, equipped with weapons used for wiping out any race besides their own, and ran on static electricity.
        • Sydney Newman wanted to avoid what he called “Bug-eyed monsters” in the show; monsters that fit the low budget sci-fi B-movie stereotype. When he first saw the Daleks, he felt that’s exactly what they were, and he was upset. He was more committed to education, and didn’t see the value in the Daleks
        • But, they were deeper than they seemed, inspired by the Nazis, the Daleks were a pitiful and tortured race, small-minded and deadly. Their appearance in the show helped it get renewed for more episodes; the Daleks were a hit.
        • The Daleks returned several times throughout the series, including an episode with Tom Baker and Sarah Jane Smith. They meet Davros, the creator of the Dalek race.
          • There was a nuclear war happening between the Thals and the Kaleds. Davros decided he wanted to quicken the mutation of his race and place them inside a machine of his own creation.
      • Cybermen
        • Created by Dr. Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis
        • First appearing at the end of William Hartnell’s timeline, showrunners were hoping to find similar success to the Daleks
        • Cybermen are humans from Earth’s twin planet Mondas. As the planet began to drift into space, the race began to experiment with cybernetics in order to survive. The Cybermen were born from the fear that humans were becoming too reliant on machines
        • Cybermen are updated every time they appear in the show with the latest technology
      • Nestene Consciousness
        • Created by Robert Holmes, the Nestenes is a disembodied life form able to take control of specially manufactured plastics (it’s a hive species)
          • This plastic includes the Autons–Humanoid creatures with deadly weapons in their hands that can masquerade as mannequins
        • The Nestene originally took the form similar to an Octopus before transferring themselves into pure energy
        • Autons have the ability to look human, as later in the series with the 11th Doctor, they were able to disguise themselves as Roman soldiers without the doctor recognizing them
        • Their first appearance was in the first serial of the 7th season of Doctor Who called Spearhead From Space. This episode was the first to be in color, filmed on location, introduces Jon Pertwee as The Doctor, is the first appearance of The Master and also includes Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart from UNIT (who is often referred to in the reboot)
      • Sontarans
        • Also created by Robert Holmes, Sontarans are a warrior race characterized by their fearlessness
        • The Man who played the first Sontaran named Lynx, pronounced the name “SonTARan” even though it was supposed to be SONtaran. He reportedly declared that since he was from the place, he knew the right way to pronounce it
        • They play prominent roles in both series, they have an egg-shaped head covered by a helmet
      • Zygons
        • Metamorphic Humanoid characters that were from Zygor but seem to not want to stay there.  When in their true form they are an orangey brown color, are covered in suckers, and have a cone shaped head.
      • The Great Intelligence
        • With no physical form it is seen as a parasite.  Its main goal is to obtain a tangible body. Throughout the episodes it has inhabited the form of snow, a buddhist monk, robot yetis, and London Fog.
      • The Master
        • A recurring character known as The Doctor’s archenemy and revealed to be the only other survivor from The Last Great Time War .  He is ok with watching the world burn for fun.
        • His first team up was with the Autons.
        • Regenerates into Missy, which paves the way for the ability to regenerate Peter Capaldi into Jodie Whittaker.
    • In the new series only
      • The Weeping Angels
        • Created by Stephen Moffat for the season three episode “Blink”
        • The Angels are quantum-locked, meaning they only exist when they aren’t being observed
        • They feed on time energy, so they send you back in time and eat up your potential life in the present
      •  Adipose
        • Creatures consisting completely of fat with “children” that appear as almost cute marshmallow characters.
        • They are created by using a weight loss pill that converts a human into the children of Adipose.

 

 

      • Vashta Nerada
        • No bigger than a spec of dust, this creature is harmless in small numbers; But, in The Library, they attack the humans in large swarms and eat the flesh off their bones
        • The Doctor says that the books in the library were made from the trees in the Vashta Narada forest and they therefore see the library as their own home (Silence in the Library, Forest of the Dead)
      • The Silence
        • A creature that no one can remember seeing, The Silence can pass through the world completely undetected. Anyone who sees this creature will forget them the moment they look away
        • These were meant to be the scariest villains yet, and their appearance was slightly based on “The Scream”
        • The Silence are a religious order and they attempt to make the doctor’s death in season 6 a fixed point in history, meaning it cannot be altered
  • Sources:

The Case of Time and Space

Dr Who

Hey Cassettes! This week we’re taking you on an adventure in time and space. First, we’ll take you to London in the 1960s, when the BBC started production of an all-new adventure series about a doctor from another world! Then, we’ll travel through the decades and stop at 1996, when the network released Doctor Who the movie.

But stay tuned! Next week we will dive even deeper into the lives of the show’s “monsters,” the making of the reboot, and the messages behind the show. We also intend to take a longer look at the original show as we compare it to the new one!

So step into The Tardis with us and away we go!

Doctor Who is the longest running Sci-fi television series in history. It originally ran from 1963-1989; had a movie in 1996 and the show was rebooted in 2005

The Creation of Doctor Who

  • Doctor Who did not have one creator, which made it a show that could shift in format as-needed. Three very important names in its creation were: Sydney Newman, Donald Wilson, and CE Webber. 
    • After realizing that there was a gap in programming in early 1963, the chief of programs for BBC1 asked Sydney Newman, head of drama, to oversee a new adventure show.
      • Newman is also known for creating the much loved classic series “The Avengers”. 
    • Newman then asked Donald Wilson, who started calling meetings and focus groups with script writers. A lot of the show’s key concepts came from these meetings. For example: the idea of a time machine that also moved through space, the suggestion of the western-like format with one-off villains but a constant hero, and the center character being a scientist of some kind.
    • CE Webber, who wrote the original script for the first episode (before it was replaced) fleshed out the main characters with the leading character as, “a frail old man, lost in space and time,” known as The Doctor. 
  • Donald Wilson and CE Webber described the Doctor’s ship as a “magic door” where the outside is an ordinary object you might find on the street, but the inside would be a marvelous collection of machinery; They wanted the ship to perform similar actions as time machines from science fiction, but they didn’t want it to look like something from science fiction.
    • When writer Anthony Coburn incorporated Webber’s ideas into the first episode, he named the ship TARDIS – Time and Relative Dimension in Space 
  • The producer of Doctor Who, appointed by Sydney Newman, was Verity Lambert. She had worked with him as a production assistant in the past 
      • She was not his first choice, but he later recounted that hiring her was the best decision he made.
      • She was only 27 and the only female producer in the department
    • Next they appointed Waris (ware-iss)  Hussein, a young man only 25 years old, as the director of 11 episodes.
      • He also felt like an outsider as the only Asian man on set; Hussein was born in India and moved to the UK at age 9. 
    • After that, a veteran actor named William Hartnell was chosen to play the first doctor! At first he was reluctant to play a roll on a “children’s show” as Doctor Who was originally meant to be educational and friendly to all audiences

 

The First Episode/Season

  • The first episode was originally written by CE Webber, but was too technically difficult to perform. So, they replaced it with an episode called, “An Unearthly Child” written by Anthony Coburn, who took aspects of the original first episode and re-tooled them.
  • The first companions were Ian and Barbara who were school-teachers and his granddaughter Susan
  • Newman, however, was unhappy with the first recording, and gave the producer (Lambert) and the director (Hussein) another chance to get it right. In the first recording, the Doctor was too abrasive, and Susan, his granddaughter, was “too strange” 
  • After months of work, the first episode aired on November 23, 1963. The ratings were low, though there was a black-out at the time of airing. Also, the nation was still reeling from the shock of JFK’s assassination just one day earlier.
  • The show dealt with many difficulties. The show had an incredibly low budget for what it needed, only 2300 pounds per episode. The filming conditions were tough, they were forced to use old studios and out-dated equipment 
    • After the first season aired, the show was renewed partly due to the creation of an already notorious villain in the series: The Daleks. While the first season saw many adventures with an educational focus, the Daleks were a popular and exciting addition to the show. Isn’t it funny how The Doctor’s arch nemesis actually HELPED keep his show alive? 

– In 1966, the show runners were met with a difficult situation when William Hartnell’s health began to fail and he was unable to play the role. Story editor Gerry David and producer Innes Lloyd came to an agreement with Hartnell that he should pass the roll on. They didn’t like the idea of simply re-casting, so they came up with the idea that the doctor could change his face and called it regeneration. This has become one of the most genius ideas of the show, allowing re-casts whenever necessary. 

Who is The Doctor? 

  • When the show was still in development, it was Newman’s idea to have a young girl on the show, a teenager to appeal to the younger demographic.
  • When Coburn wrote the pilot, he made this young girl to be The Doctor’s granddaughter. This made Newman upset, because he didn’t want anything revealed about The Doctor. The ambiguity of the character is a key part of the show. The character is meant to be mysterious so that writers and viewers can interpret the show in different ways. We are not meant to see the doctor as someone that we understand, we are meant to see him through the eyes of the companions who have just met him. 
    • Revealing that The Doctor may have a biological granddaughter hints that he might have a family, something that the show has hinted at for years since but never elaborated on
    • We know for certain that Susan is not human, but whether or not she is biologically related to The Doctor. 
  • The Doctor is the only known survivor from the war between the Daleks and the Time Lords. The Time Lords were lost, along with their home planet of Gallifrey.
  • Much of what we know about the doctor is steeped in mystery, and it’s meant to be that way! Andrew Cartmel in the 1980s purposely threw in details to create more history around the doctor. This was known as the Cartmel Master Plan
    • Some of these stories were meant to suggest that The Doctor was more powerful than previously thought; that most of what we knew about him was wrong. They did this by dropping subtle hints that went nowhere since the show was cancelled. 
    • There is, however, a series of novels that used the masterplan; These were generally ignored.
  • Time Lords have 13 lives or regenerations (We know this from the 1996 film, after The Master was executed on Skaro)
  • The Doctor is half-human, as discovered by the Master in the 1996 movie. Later on the doctor says it’s on his mother’s side.

 

Why was it cancelled in 1989?

  • There is a large debate that the Commander of the BBC at the time, Michael Grade, purposely killed off the show.
    • He said in a Room 101 interview that  he hates sci-fi. (Room 101 is a BBC show where the person interviewed tells their hates and motivates the host to banish it to Room 101 in reference to the torture room in George Orwell’s 1984).  He also essentially implied it was low budget and past its prime. Many believe that because he hated it, he put it in a bad time slot and lowered the budget in order to justify low ratings and a reason to cancel.

 

The Doctors

  • William Hartnell (1963-1966)

    • The 1st Doctor
    • He wore a wig to portray The Doctor.
    • He was the first to give way to regeneration due to his failing health. 
  • Patrick Troughton (1966-1969)
    • The second person to play the Doctor.
    • Although he had a few ideas on how to play the character the final decision was on the model of a “cosmic hobo”. This was suggested by Sydney Newman and inspired by Charlie Chaplin.
    • He was known for being a bit of a practical joker on set.
  • Jon Pertwee (1970-1974)
    • He was known for his Edwardian Dandy style.
    • For the majority of his time as the Doctor he was exiled by the Time Lords to Earth and served as a scientist to advise (UNIT) The United Nations Intelligence Taskforce.
  • Tom Baker (1974-1981)
    • Longest to play the role: from 1974-1981.
    • He was known for his many colored and long striped scarf. This scarf had been a happy accident. A costumer was given a bunch of yarn, and the miscommunication on its design gave way to her making a very long and colorful scarf. 
    • Famous companions were Sarah -Jane and K-9 who both make an appearance in the new series.
      • He had a couple famous companions, one of which was Leela who often appeared with K-9
        • There were three versions of K-9, the third he sent to Sarah Jane later in the show so she could have a companion with her on her travels. There was a one-off episode that was meant to be the pilot of a spin-off show about her and K-9, but it didn’t take off
      • As he is dying from radiation he goes back to Earth to spend the rest of it with Sarah-Jane and regenerate.
  • Peter Davison (1982-1984)
    • At the time he was the youngest to play the Doctor-only 29. 
    • Known to wear a question mark on his collar.
    • The father of Georgia Moffat who married David Tennant
      • Both Tennant and Georgia Moffat appear in the episode “The Doctor’s Daughter”
  • Colin Baker (1985-1986)
    • Known for his very colorful costume and question mark on his white collar.
    • Since he was unceremoniously fired he refused to come back for a regeneration scene.
      • This was possibly due to Michael Grade not liking him. Grade was quoted in saying that Baker was “utterly unlikable; absolutely God-awful in fact!”
    • It is known to be one of the worst TV deaths.
      • In order to film the regeneration scene they had the next Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, wear a blonde wig.
  • Sylvester McCoy (1987-1989)
    • He was known for wearing a Jumper with question marks all over it.
    • His first appearance is in Time and the Rani.
    • He technically played two incarnations of the Doctor if you count him wearing the wig in the regeneration scene.
    • He used a slight Scottish accent while playing The Doctor. (He himself is Scottish.)
    • He played the last doctor before series was cancelled.
    • He is still the shortest to be The Doctor at 5’6”.
  • Paul McGann (1996 Film)
    • He portrayed The Doctor in the 1996 film
    • “I love humans: always seeing patterns in things that aren’t there”
    • McGann regenerated into John Hurt in a mini-episode called “The Night of the Doctor,” which chronologically would take place before the 50th anniversary special that aired on November 23rd, 2013. But, more on that next week!

Sources:

Hearn, Marcus (2013) Doctor Who: The Vault. New York, NY: Harper’s Design.

Doctor Who – Characters. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/Dl87bYjhKrF2MHQM7StFXQ/characters