Dec 20, 2006
One of the flipside moments I have included is Imagine If, something I actually created back in September 2005. The reason I created that section is because I happen to be a history buff.
I know, I know, history can be boring to some people, but I find it fascinating. Animation and entertainment history are so enjoyable and kind of more relevant to my life. For instance, did you know that Nickelodeon and MTV were co-owned by Warner Communications? Did you know that Ted Turner almost bought CBS? Did you know that Hanna-Barbera was almost bought by Viacom and Warner Communications was almost bought by Paramount? Heck, a couple of years ago, Comcast almost bought Disney.
The crux of Imagine If was to think about these scenarios actually taking place. The entertainment world would be drastically altered in many ways.
Ted Turner merging CBS News with Cable News Network to create, well, CNN: The CBS News Network. Warner Bros. using MTV and Nickelodeon's resources to create a general entertainment cable network called The Warner Bros. Channel while Tiny Toons and Batman would make their world premiere on Nickelodeon. Nickelodeon developing a 24-hour animation channel created by Betty Cohen after Viacom buys Hanna-Barbera while producing new episodes of The Flintstones for Nick at Nite after the success of The Simpsons. Warner Bros. and Paramount, now jointly merged after Paramount buys Warner Communications, forming the country's fifth network, the Warner Paramount Network on January 1995.
These are the way things could have been had certain scenarios had taken place. Or at least that's what I would have done if I were in their shoes.
I also looked at what happened if certain events did and didn't happen, like if Saban kept distributing Dragonball Z, DiC continued Sailor Moon (and Fox Kids aired more than one episode of it), The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest had more than one season under its belt, USA continued airing the USA Cartoon Express, Williams Street was actually given their own channel, Fox Kids and Fox Family continued beyond 2002, and if Cartoon Network didn't create Toonami.
Things would be drastically different. Some could be pleased. Some could be disappointed. Huey Freeman said it best. It's fun to imagine.
And that's what I do.
One small postnote to end this post: Imagine if Bobobo-Bo Bo-Bobo was actually as popular as Naruto. Seriously, the title character alone has the potential to being under our Christmas tree (or as a Hanukkah gift) in the form of a Chia head. Ch-ch-ch-Chia Bobobo-Bo Bo!
Dec 11, 2006
I created BXT after realizing that although I'm kind of bored talking about just action-animation and "whitching and bining" about Cartoon Network over and over, I needed a forum to talk in a longer format, something that I couldn't do on a regular basis at Thoughtnami.
That whole Defending the 80s article couldn't be written here in full without taking up a huge chunk of the screen, and I know that readers may not have the patience to read a long screen of pictureless text. I hope Toon Zone doesn't mind. I just wanted to make an unfiltered section where I could just vent about everything.
That said, this is not the last post of Thoughtnami. I feel that this place has a lot of potential, perhaps as a place where I could be a little more personal with the readers, at least those that still check out TXB from time to time, not really the fareweather readers that only come to the site when something big happens in the world of Toonami and want to see what I might think of it. I like this place, and I feel it's a little side-project of sorts where I could just talk and have a little fun.
In this hectic world of ours, I need to have a little fun now and then. Hope we could have fun together.
Nov 30, 2006
I hate cable. I hate the cable industry and all it represents. But what I really hate about cable is the fact that it's a monopolistic practice that really punches the consumer on a yearly basis, raising the prices for their own benefit and not really looking out for those that pay them.
We need choices in cable service.
Okay, I can hear a crowd murmuring "Why don't you quit whining and subscribe to satellite?" I would, but I'm confused at which one would be right for me. Should I go out for Dish or DirectTV? Choices. But that's the kick, my friends. With satellite, you do have a choice of services. With cable, you don't have that luxury.
Choices are great because you aren't stuck with just one thing, system, or service. I could get delivery from Pizza Hut or Domino's. I could get a burger from McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, or Hardee's. I could get gas from Exxon Mobil or BP-Amoco (wait, bad example). I could watch Starz, Showtime, or HBO.
I only have Cox Cable, and I don't want them anymore. Fortunately for me, choices may be on the horizon.
Verizon's planning to expand its FiOS cable service to my neck of the woods within a year, and they actually have channels that I want that Cox is too cheap to acquire, like Boomerang, FUNimation, @MAX, 5-Star MAX, AZN, American Life, Fox Movie Channel, Sleuth, and ESPN U, among others. A smaller phone company, Cavalier, is also planning a cable service as well. Will it be as diverse as FiOS? Who knows? Who cares? It's a choice that Cox Cable doesn't want around these parts, so it's good enough for me.
The days of the Cox monopoly may be over. Until then, I endure the pointless annual price gouging, the limited choices, and their arrogant "we're all you have" attitude towards the consumer for at least one more year.
Oct 26, 2006
- Network programmers and executives cater to the lowest common denominator and rarely think of anything original for a period of seven years.
- Networks are explicitly cheap when it comes to programming. The whole point of NBCU 2.0, as NBC Universal are calling their cost-cutting efforts, is to develop cheap, non-scripted programming for the next three seasons.
- Aside from rare occasions, the most popular show isn't always the most watched show and gets cancelled quickly. Or else, Arrested Development wouldn't be rotting on G4 while The War At Home remains on Fox.
- Shows built around diverse, urban audiences are rarely seen on broadcast television (quick, turn to CBS, Fox, or NBC, or The CW on any night but Mondays) and quick to be be cancelled.
- International, non-Spanish programming not from the United Kingdom or Japan are a rarity on American television.
That's a point I'd like to talk about in this article.
Once upon a time, a young cable network actually provided cable systems with a plethora of international programming from Canada, France, and the UK. And that network was Nickelodeon.
Yeah, THAT Nickelodeon.
Nick's biggest show, before they realized that it'd be cheaper to produce their own programming, was You Can't Do That On Television. How big was it? Well, it was highly rated when the cable channelscape was largely 25 - 40 channels, compared to the 150 - 400 that's out there now and even gaining coverage on broadcast television when there were only three broadcast channels. It's still so big, even 15 years after it left the American airwaves, the words "I don't know" still triggers green slime at the annual Kids Choice Awards. And when Family Guy or Robot Chicken referenced the show, a whole generation still laughs. YCDTOTV was so popular, nobody acknowledged nor even cared that it was a Canadian import.
Here's another fact. A lot of Canadians that visited the country didn't even know it was a Canadian show. You could almost say that You Can't Do That on Television's success here inspired Canadians to launch their own kids' network, YTV, which had the show on the lineup at launch.
So, where are today's You Can't Do That on Television? They're mostly stuck at the northern border. While a few shows tend to trickle down like ReBoot, DeGrassi, Atomic Betty, or Zixx, the bulk of Canadian imports are either Can-Am co-productions or Canadian-produced licensed properties. The last time an influx of Canadian shows were seen en masse was in the mid-90s, when ReBoot was on broadcast television, Red Green started appearing on public television, O Canada had a slot on Cartoon Network's late-night Sunday lineup (mature cartoons at late nights, what a concept), The Anti-Gravity Room and Deep Water Black were on Sci-Fi, and Are You Afraid of the Dark was prominent on Nick's SNICK lineup.
There are plenty of fine Canadian shows that don't have an American broadcast home. Aside from Atomic Betty, which has somehow disappeared from the Cartoon Network lineup altogether, there has been 6Teen, which came on and, sadly, went off of Nickelodeon's lineup. There are even shows most American audiences have never heard of yet are very popular up north like Class of the Titans, Being Ian, Yvon of the Yukon, Delilah and Julius, and countless others. Hell, call me crazy, but I kinda want to see 15/Love on The N . . . it'd fit so well along with the other Canadian shows on the block like DeGrassi and Radio Free Roscoe. This Hour Has 22 Minutes would be fitting on the Comedy Central lineup with The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.
What's the point of this post? It's simple. I want Americans to look beyond Japan and the UK for international fare. There are other countries that produce quality programming worldwide, and we rarely look to our northern neighbors for programming choices. Sure, cheap American producers would go to Vancouver to film projects, but they'd never actually pick up an original show seen only on the networks of Canada. I want my Canadian TV, and I kind of want it now.
Oct 18, 2006
I remember a time when credits didn't get squished down nor sped up to fit in an advertisement for another show. Heck, I remember a time when they did vocal promotions for other shows during the end credits without having to invade the credit space.
The credits, mind you, are placed to give those fine men and women the credit they deserve (thus, that's why they're called "credits"). Now, credits are squished down to microscopic sizes or with such distortion, barely visible to the naked eye, to make room for commercials and promos for shows they heavily promoted during the duration of the show, you know, in case you missed it during the show. E! scrapped end credits altogether, speeding them up in little-bitty type in a light, barely readable font at the beginning of their original programming. And even though their Friday night lineup is the best collection of shows on a single night on television today, Sci-Fi squishes credits even smaller, barely making out the men and women behind Doctor Who, Heroes, and Battlestar Galactica (which already had small squish-ready credits to begin with).
Once again, network execs are making these the norm throughout the channelscape, and
it makes you long for the days when presenters did just vocal promotions without video commercials obscuring the credits.
But that's just me.
Oct 17, 2006
I could end the post there and have a Coke and a smile, but if you've never seen it (either because you're pumped on RAW or watching bland things like Monday Night Football or the CBS "comedies"), you really owe it to yourself to at least catch the replays on Sci-Fi Friday nights at 7 PM inbetween one of last year's best sci-fi shows Night Stalker and new episodes of the awesome as hell Doctor Who followed by a show I'm really getting into, the new Battlestar Galactica. Seriously, Sci-Fi hasn't had a powerful lineup like this since . . . ever (as much as I'm a Farscape fan, it didn't have any good shows backing it up [sorry Stargate fans, but that show seemed too "Trekky" for me]).
Anyway, the skinny on Heroes is that these random individuals from all points of the globe. A struggling comic book artist paints the future weeks in advance. A younger brother of a politician who has dreams that he can fly. A cheerleader who can heal herself of any injury. A woman who sees a version of herself within mirrors. An office worker in Japan who discovers that he has the ability to manipulate time. Two people on opposite sides find themselves connected to all of these strangers in some kind of way.
As a comic writer/artist, I gotta say that is sounds like a perfect show. It's a weekly comic book story told with living, breathing flesh and blood people. No ink and digital paint. No text bubbles (well, there are subtitles whenever Hiro and his best friend converse since they do speak in Japanese). No costumes. It's pretty much a real world version of superheroics. People who are learning about who they are and what they can do.
If you or I learned that we had a power we couldn't understand nor comprehend, how would we react? If you think you could do something, regardless of how weird it may be to others, would you ignore the impulse to do so? If you learned one morning that you could not get hurt or have body damage, what would be the first thing you do? If you had the power to go forward and go back in time go to any point on the planet, would you be willing to do so? If you could see the future, despite what harm it may do to you, would you be willing to show others? Would you use these powers to help others, help yourself, or hurt those that wronged you? These are some of the questions asked on Heroes, and because they show what these regular folks would do in such a situation, this series has become a story about human nature wrapped in comic book cover.
I gotta tell you, this is one of the best shows on television, broadcast or cable (or in this case, both). I hope NBC keeps this series on the air longer than a year (thank goodness the series has a full season run on the network) because there is so much potential present in this series.
Watch it Mondays at 9 PM EST/PST on NBC or catch the replay Fridays at 7 PM EST/PST on Sci-Fi.
Oct 16, 2006
If you guessed Corpse Bride, then you guessed right.
Now, for the $20,000 question. What network will debut the movie?
If you guessed HBO, oooh, sorry, but thanks for playing.
You guessed Cinemax? Eeeh, bummer, wrong answer.
The correct answer is ABC Family.
Okay, now wipe that soda off your computer monitor and wall. It'll make everything sticky (at least, I hope that's soda). Yes, the big movie attraction for October for ABC Family is the US television premiere of Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. This is an ironic point because Touchstone's The Nightmare Before Christmas made its US television premiere on HBO, many years after it came out. The fact that the Oscar-nominated film would come on basic cable a little after a year it made it theatrical debut is kind of a surprise. People knew about the deal that Time Warner made with ABC Family to air some of their movies, but I doubt anybody would expect them to air Corpse Bride so soon. Heck, I wouldn't even be surprised if The Polar Express makes a similar debut this Christmas season on the channel.
One would have expected that Time Warner would keep it in the family, premiering the film on Cartoon Network. However, you have to take into account two things:
Time Warner doesn't like Cartoon Network and the Turner networks, and to paraphrase Kanye West Cartoon Network don't care about cartoons.
Our neighbor to the north. Pretty kickass country from what I heard about it, and I hear a lot. I celebrate Canada Day every July 1. I'm a big supporter of Canadian animation, despite its limited airings here in the States (I miss Eek! The Cat and ReBoot), and live-action fare. And Doctor Who . . . thanks for co-producing it CBC (though I can say with pride we got the new English-language episodes before you guys did!). Sure, they could be a little xenophobic at times (seriously, the whole 70% Canadian programming requirement is a bit limited, isn't it?), but hey, thus is the price for keeping the legacy of Albion, um, Canada alive. And considering I have a significant readership here and the terrordome that is TXB that comes from that great land up there, I thought I'd drop a some Canadian knowledge to share my love for the land from time to time.
MTV Canada doesn't show music videos.
Now, the American crowd looking at me saying "MTV USA doesn't show music videos either, just mostly reality crap like Parental Control, Room Raiders, or Next, which is probably on right now." Yeah, that's pretty much true. But here's the thing.
Canada has these laws that provide exclusive programming licenses to particular channels. There's one kids network (YTV), one animation channel (Teletoon), one family channel (um, Family Channel), and one music channel (MuchMusic . . . on an related note, I miss MuchUSA and my bastard cable company refuses to carry its second coming Fuse TV). Because MuchMusic is the music channel in Canada, MTV Canada can't be called Music Television, which is its original name. The network pretty much is a talk channel with music interview shows, certain MTV-branded reality shows, and no music videos . . . at all. They air Making the Video up there, but they can't actually air the finished video on-air (just on MTV Canada Overdrive).
So, in hindsight, do you know what MTV Canada is? MTV without videos, so American viewers won't be so surprised to see the channel. It'd be just like home.
And that's a slice of Canada for you, my friends.
Oct 15, 2006
Okay, scratch that. The world largely has this animation channel. It's just the United States that's missing this channel. Of course, I'm talking about Animax (the title of the post gives the identity away), Sony's animation channel that's spreading throughout the world like ivy at Wrigley.
In 2004, after Sony and Comcast forged an alliance that helped them buy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (and such lucrative properties like James Bond, the Pink Panther, and Rocky), they planned to many many cable networks together. Over the decade, Sony has been slowly introducing the Animax brand to the Western hemisphere by sponsoring numerous events, putting Animax-branded programming on certain anime DVDs, and prominently placing the Animax logo in the end credits of Astro Boy, which sadly failed on broadcast and cable (though for the life of me, the cable channel that aired the series no longer exist, with some odd live-action/animation mix in its place). It's almost 2007, and I'm not saying that Sony and Comcast hasn't come up with a plan, because for all I know, they could make the network announcement any day now. Or a few months from now. Or at a socially crippling time in their life right in front of your friends.
It's coming. However, they are facing three distinct myths that has caused them to fear launching Animax in the US. I doubt they're afraid of The Anime Network and the FUNimation Channel, two networks (well, a network and a block) that beat Animax for the title of North America's first all-anime channel (though it should be known that Locomotion, which is now Animax Latin America, predated both of them by years and yet wasn't all anime by any stretch). I think they're only hesitating making any discussion because of three myths:
Myth #1: Animax has to be 100% anime.
Myth #2: Animax won't have access to popular titles.
Myth #3: Animax has to be a basic cable network and limited by those rules.
I think that if they get beyond those myths, perhaps then maybe they'll get on the ball and finally create Animax USA. I know exactly how they can get beyond these fears. They have to look at what they have, know who they can count on, know who their friends are, and look deeper in the channelscape for inspiration. But unlike my European adventure, I can't just explain anything online and publicly. Been burned before and I've learned that I can't trust everybody. But I've actually worked it all out. Took me a little under five hours (an hour to write it out and four hours to fully comprehend it myself), yet, I truly have the master plan written down for Animax. And trust me, it'll have something for everybody.
Oct 13, 2006
No, bad's not the word. That's not even the phrasing I'm looking for. I think it's the opposite. Why do I feel this way and why do I feel the need to talk about a channel that has been nothing more than a joke since they absorbed a great channel like TechTV a couple of years ago?
Because of the following newsbyte:
E! and Style chief Ted Harbert, the CEO of Comcast Entertainment Group (a guy who could become a very powerful individual if he made the right decisions), adds G4 to his oversight. He will continue to report to Comcast Programming Group President Jeff Shell. G4 President Neal Tiles, who joined the network in September 2005, will now report to Mr. Harbert.
G4's executive staff will move into E!'s Los Angeles offices. Sources said layoffs among the G4 staff are likely, though Mr. Harbert said it's too soon to tell.
In other words, G4, a channel that was once dedicated to video games that bought TechTV only for X-Play and channel space but now wants to be the second coming of Spike TV, has a new overboss and planning to layoff a lot of people. I'm not a guy who like it when people lose their jobs, but I don't feel sorry for G4, a channel that did just that when they laid off nearly everybody at TechTV, especially the guys and gals who actually knew something about technology.
And in the same article, I noticed this quote from Mr. Harbert:
"I do agree with the vision of going after young men more than just going after gaming. Gaming has been demonstrated as being too narrow."
Okay, that's true. BUT the channel that the G4 virus infected, TechTV, was more than just video games. It was the country's first and only technology/internet/computer culture-themed network, and its absence left a considerable void on the channelscape. Now I look at G4 and say, "Star Trek: The Next Generation again? I can watch this on Spike TV. Wait a minute . . . it IS coming on Spike TV in an hour!" There's a reason G4 places 56th out of 64 networks: there's no demand for it. We have Spike TV. We have Adult Swim. We even have some parts of MTV 2. Young men don't need another Spike TV clone. Like I said, we already have Spike TV higher on the listings. What G4 needs to do is refocus on their roots and the roots of the channel they infected, TechTV.
They should relaunch under a new name, become a true neek-friendly outlet because let's face it, neeks rule the world and are cooler than everybody else (we're trendsetters before it becomes a trend). Why do you think the iPod and You Tube evolved into multibillion dollar brands and Google and Tivo are also verbs? G4 had something with TechTV, but that's a memory. The basement dwellers of San Francisco are millionaires themselves with their own projects in nearly all media. Now, G4 is no longer strong enough to stand on its own two feet.
I want to feel bad for G4, but quite honestly, I can't.
Oct 12, 2006
About a year or so ago, Nickelodeon presented the basic cable premiere of the live-action Scooby-Doo movie. It got good ratings because, hey, not all kids have access to HBO. A few months later around the summer of 2006 up until around a couple of weekends ago, the movie was on rotation on the ultralame ABC Family Channel (aside from Kyle XY, which will return sometime this spring, they have nothing). It got so-so ratings because there was already a been-there-done-that atmosphere among the channelscape of kids.
Now, tomorrow, The Network presents the film based on a franchise that they showcased heavily on their channel from 1994 until about 2004 but wouldn't touch today with a 39 and a half-foot pole unless it was a movie version of it. Let it be reminded that the channel no longer wants to connect to the past that actually gave them much love in the animation community and this is a live-action movie on a cartoon network.
You know what? Frak this. I give up.
Screw The Network. I already can't defend anything they do anymore and to tell you the truth, The Network could further rot in hell for all I care. Primetime's a joke, Miguzi has an identity crisis, Toonami only has one truly watchable show, daytime's a joke, Tickle U bombed, Adult Swim's going to lose their old reliable in a couple of years and going to be exposed as a one-trick pony by the end of next year, and the management is so hellbent on transforming themselves into Nickelodeon 1998 and Disney Channel, a souless entity that is more interested in your pocketbooks and wallets than providing a truly watchable network. More power to them.
I can buy Naruto DVDs. There are other things worth my time because they don't want viewers like me around anymore.
I'm through talking about Cartoon Network. They're not going to change. They don't WANT to change. I can't force them to change. So screw them.
I'm going to Canada. Okay, I wish I could go to Canada, but if I got an offer to go there, I'd do it in a heartbeat.
Oct 11, 2006
"[E]ven though we are featuring live-action characters, it still had to be done the Cartoon Network way."
Now, I know Mr. Ouweelen by what he does and who he is. He seems like he has some sense and some of the things he does are, to put it mildly, is okay. Naturally, he wouldn't bite the hand that feeds him and wouldn't condemn what The Network is doing. Afterall, he has a job and has to tow the corporate line. Afterall, for a year (remember, we first got wind of the live-action movie airings about a year ago), The Network has been under heavy criticism from people who feel that they're deviating from their original purpose of airing 24 hours of cartoons every day until the end of time. So, guys like me have to pick up on certain codewords to crack the system . . . or at least crack some heads.
And that whole "the Cartoon Network way" comment was just the bait to get me riled up.
Ah yes, the Cartoon Network way. There was a time when that actually meant something. But now, there are two sides to the Cartoon Network way:
- The Cartoon Network way BC (the Betty Cohen era)
- The Cartoon Network way JS (the Jim Samples era)
The BC way was different, truly revolutionary, rebellious, fun, and surprisingly (and ironicly) anti-corporate. They made fun of themselves because they knew who they were, a channel built up on fond memories of the shows they used to watch when they were growing up but can now show to a new generation of viewers simply because they can. They didn't even TRY to be like their competitors because, well, they felt that their competitors sucked, a sentiment felt by many of the viewers back then. They aired cartoons for the young and the young at heart. Primetime was filled with great programming and familiar characters. Sure, they developed brands to showcase their wares like Super Chunk, 70s Super Explosion, Super Adventures, Toonapalooza, Hootnanny, Boomerang, and Toonami, but there was a sense of unity and fun on a channel they proudly called Cartoon Network.
The JS way is the total antithesis of the BC way. It's more or less a lemming, the equivalent of a high-school wallflower trying to be like the other guys down to wearing similar clothing. The JS way keeps it safe and corporate. They try to pretend to mock themselves, but by looking at how they promote themselves, it's tamer than in years' past. The JS way believes that cartoons are just for kids and tries to separate anything that may remotely attract older audiences from the rest of the lineup, which is why Toonami is now on Saturday nights at 8 PM (the 7 PM hour is dead to me), why Adult Swim is now considered a separate network, and why cartoons with huge teen and adult followings like Sheep in the Big City, the original Cartoon Cartoons, Looney Tunes, Tex Avery shorts, Popeye, and Sunday Pants are not on the lineup anymore. Primetime is filled with cartoons that basically rely on gross-out gags and kids creating chaos. Adults are rarely seen on the network these days because they don't want kids to know what they'll eventually become.
But the most disturbing part about the JS way is that they have a very loose definition of what defines a cartoon. They think that "cartoon" is a fluid concept that could be used for any medium when in reality, cartoons are cartoons. Whether it's called anime or if it was drawn, modeled, rendered, or cut out, cartoons are cartoons. There's a reason why Dude, Where's My Car? or Austin Powers can't be considered for a Best Animated Picture nomination. There's a difference between "cartoony" (aka camp) and "cartoon." It's not the same as "flammable" and "inflammable," and yet, Cartoon Network the JS way feels embarrassed by the fact that they have to actually show animation on their network, so much so that they wish they they weren't called Cartoon Network.
The JS way is, sadly, the Cartoon Network way that Mr. Ouweleen is referring to. The BC way is gone and will never come back. Wish that it did because CN had fun back then and wouldn't be caught dead showing live-action anything.
You know, I used to like TV Land. I did. I mean, back in the day, it was like old-school Nick At Nite (when they actually spelled out "At" instead of using a damn @ sign), and they do tend to show some good retro favorites like The Jeffersons, Good Times, Benson, The Addams Family, The Munsters, Three's Company, I Love Lucy, and perhaps one of the most perfect sitcoms ever produced, The Dick Van Dyke Show (a title that could get censored in this overtly sensitive world of ours). Like nearly every channel on the dial, TV Land has deviated from its initial concept by airing more "popnost" and "celebreality" programming over the years (what's next? Schindler's List on Comedy Central? The Man Show on Lifetime? An original live-action movie on Cartoon Network - - oh, frak, that's already happening)
But one new show announcement, as I scooped on Sitcoms Online (a great sitcom news and info site if ever there was one), kind of shocked me more than seeing Fatal Attraction on the channel a few weeks ago. TV Land has picked up episodes of High School Reunion, a reality program that aired on The WB a few years ago that basically looked through an old yearbook and put labels on people that weren't what they were. Not only did they pick up the three-year old episodes, but they're also planning to produce new episodes exclusively for TV Land. Alas, like Boomerang, TV Land is also slowly forgetting their classic TV roots, which is damn shame.
Now, excuse me for a moment, I gotta watch this tractor pull tournament on C-SPAN in a few minutes.
Oct 2, 2006
Anybody that knows me either from my frantic postings at the "gated community" known as Toon Zone or the angry, yet somewhat comical updates at The X Bridge knows that I'm not a fan of Scooby-Doo, and yet, for my 100th posting here at Thoughtnami, I never thought I'd utter those words at the beginning of a post.
Let's rewind to the point of my original disdain. Afterall, from the time the show premiered on Cartoon Network in 1994 (yes, it's a little-known fact, but Scooby-Doo wasn't always on CN since it was basically licensed to USA in what would be the last hurrah for the late, great Cartoon Express) until late 2004, Scooby-Doo has been a boil on nearly every CN fan with its almost total dominance on the lineup. Of course in 2006, I would actually kill to see something other than Camp Lazlo, Foster's, Ed, Edd, and Eddy, or Billy and Mandy on the lineup whenever they have an open slot, even welcoming Scooby-Doo with open arms.
Scooby-Doo isn't the best cartoon in the world. I know that statement pisses off a significant group of fans, but the series is very formulaic. And every show looked the same, from Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? to Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf. A Pup Named Scooby-Doo was a variation (a terribly-animated variation at that) that buffered between the original incarnation to the revamp of the late-90s from many of the animators and writers behind SWAT Kats and The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest and the creation of What's New, Scooby-Doo? which not only harkened back to its original incarnation, but also returned the franchise to Saturday mornings, albeit on a network that preferred glorified monster-fighting cartoons and overrated card battles than American-made fare (but dang it, Kids' WB was so much better than what else is out there).
And now, after a season and a half-long break, Scooby-Doo has returned to the airwaves in a new series, Shaggy and Scooby-Doo Get A Clue. However, there's something . . . different about this show. The character designs are stylized and a little hipper than we're used to seeing them. The show seems like it's trying to be more of a cohesive story than just a bunch of teens (as well as concrete proof that the kids are graduates from high-school) galavanting around the world searching for mysteries. It just seems fresh. And as strange at it may seem, I like this new Scooby-Doo. Seems like something I wrote back a couple of years ago on the site. Granted, Shaggy and Scooby-Doo Get A Clue is hardly a teen-oriented show, but it's probably a shakeup that the franchise needed for some years now, and I for one am looking forward to see what else this show has to offer.
Sep 8, 2006
Plus, in the middle of all of this, in the middle of the hottest week ever, my grandfather had a debilitating stroke that had him bedridden and virtually invalid for about a month. The doctors had said that he had liver cancer that had spread to his bones, so, basically, they gave up on him. I didn't. He's doing better, but he still lays down a lot more than he used to. At least he can eat on his own, which he couldn't do a month ago.
So, for the next couple of weeks, I got to get back in the groove of the whole interweb activity period, so bear with me. It's been a while, and I'm glad to be back.
Jun 16, 2006
Now, for the business at hand.
It's all comics.
That's the moral and lesson of what I'm going to say in this rant of sorts. I'm presenting it loud and clear in case it gets lost in the stream of consciousness that a lot of folks tend to bypass in this type of article. I know I get a little wordy at times, so the overall lesson of why I have to say isn't lost. But if you want to continue reading and wondering what I'm talking about and how I got to that conclusion, go right ahead.
There is a kind of controversy going on in the manga fandom that has kind of torn it asonder. Well, not really, but a lot of otaku are pissed about its emergence in the public eye. What I'm talking about is the rise of "original English language" (OEL) manga. Over the decades, it's also been called AmeriManga (completely ignorant of our northern and southern neighbors who also have a vibrant industry), Western manga, and pseudomanga in North America, but it's all the same. They're North American-made comics inspired by Japanese artists, often emulating and taking influences from titles published in Japan. Well-known examples of OEL titles include Gold Digger, Usagi Yojimbo, Ninja High School, Megatokyo, and anything from Adam Warren, Brian Wood, Becky Cloonen, The Rey, Paul Pope, and countless others, as well as homegrown efforts from EigoManga and TOKYOPOP (who has also published an annual contest anthology called The Rising Stars of Manga since 2002) among others. Artists also take to the internet to tell their stories, and there are a lot of tales out there.
Otakus, who are insulted by the notion of anything Western entering their bubble of entertainment, loathe OEL titles because they're not "true manga." By "true manga," they mean that these titles weren't produced in Japan by Japanese artists and writers, but rather by fans of Japanese titles who felt the need to actually do something and create something original other than pointless rants on message boards, whining about the dangers of Toonami, or lists of edits made for Western consumption. They're fans of anime and manga who are actually creating products worth checking out and not totally waiting for the next best thing.
Critics of OEL titles feel that they are nothing more than North American comics trying to capitalize on the popularity of Japanese manga in North America. Of course, this may be a valid point, but another argument can be made that that the increase of Japanese titles are capitalizing on the popularity of other Japanese titles in North America. Money is money, of course. Truth be told, they're right. OEL manga are comics. But they're also wrong because of one inalienable fact:
Manga are comics too.
It's otaku that segregated manga from comics. Why? Dunno. Hatred of Western culture and industries, I guess. It's the same thing with Japanese animation, which is called anime in nearly all countries. Funny thing though. The Japanese call animation anime, including those from Western countries like the US, Canada, England, and France, and they call all comics manga, including those from Western countries. It's hard to fantom to otaku that manga is nothing more than comics that come from Japan. Then, they try to strike up an argument consisting of the following words:
"Well, manga isn't comics because there are so much variety and so many types, unlike American comics."
To which I would reply:
"You self-hating American wackadoo. When was the last time you actually read an American comic? American comics have always been about more than superheroics. Science-fiction. Romance. Detective and crime stories. Drama. Pop culture. Adventure. Espionage. Fighting. War. Teen/girl-oriented. Comedy. Kids. Religion. And that's just the tip of the iceburg."
American comics, like Japanese comics, are full of variety, which is why they are popular worldwide, as is manga. It's just that a particular segment of society wants to place Japanese comics above all others, and anything that tries to emulate the symbols often found in them is nothing more than a bastardized format. That's what otakus are trying to turn OEL manga into, and that's kind of petty and sad.
Jun 5, 2006
Here's the list Mr. Beck made:
GERTIE THE DINOSAUR (1914)
STEAMBOAT WILLIE (1928)
SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937)
GERALD McBOING BOING (1950)
THE FLINTSTONES (1960)
FRITZ THE CAT (1972)
THE SIMPSONS (1989)
THE REN & STIMPY SHOW (1991)
TOY STORY (1995)
But ten isn't enough. It should have been a Top 25 Biggest Turning Points in Animation. I'm just taken aback that there Mr. Beck didn't mention any Fleischer, MGM, nor Warner Bros. shorts at all. Perhaps, subconsciously, this was his protest against Time Warner and Cartoon Network for removing those shorts from the more availiable Cartoon Network to Boomerang, almost totally removing Looney Tunes from public view, and failing to put Popeye on DVD.
Here are my picks for "The Other 15 Big Turning Points in Animation:" And yes, in case you're wondering, I do have a Westernized view of animation for the most part.
Popeye The Sailor (Fleischer/Paramount, 1933): A Betty Boop cartoon that introduced a cultural icon who would become worlds more popular than she ever was.
A Wild Hare (Avery/WB, 1940): Although not the first cartoon to feature the rabbit that would become known as Bugs Bunny, the short cemented the character dynamics of the franchise and elevating the studio to greatness.
Superman (Fleischer/Paramount, 1941): One of the costliest productions of its time, this series brought a comic book icon into full-color motion setting a standard still held for generations.
Red Hot Riding Hood (Avery/MGM, 1943): Tex Avery's break from Warner Bros. actually let his comic genius truly shine at MGM, and this is the master at work.
Astro Boy (Tezuka/Mushi, 1964): Already a popular comic book in Japan, Osamu Tezuka brought his creation to the small screen, literally creating an industry out of Japanese animation.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (Melendez, 1965): A special that didn't adhere to the commercialistic attitudes of Christmas (which How The Grinch Stole Christmas would echo a year later) and actually celebrating what Christmas is really all about.
Schoolhouse Rock (ABC, 1972): Every producer who wants to make an entertaining E/I series should watch every one of these shorts A Clockwork Orange style.
A Grand Day Out (Park/Aardman, 1989): Nick Park did what Closkey and Vinton tried, but couldn't totally accomplish . . . create enduring, entertaining characters out of plasticine and making them worth watching again and again.
Beauty and the Beast (Trousdale/Wise/Disney, 1991): The reason why the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to separate animated films from the Best Picture category.
Batman: The Animated Series (Dini/Timm/Burnett/WB, 1992): What Dave Fleischer started in 1941 with the Superman series, the team of Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, and Alan Burnett exceeded with their Batman series, wiping away decades of campiness that persisted since the 1960s and creating something worth watching. Something that was truly revolutionary.
Animaniacs (Warner Bros., 1993): One of the few Warner Bros. productions to adhere to the comedic and themetic spirit of the original Looney Tunes shorts (it's spinoff, Pinky and the Brain is the other), Animaniacs created comic mischief for five good years, introducing new characters, spoofing pop culture without making it a throwaway, non-connected joke, and making background music, arranged by the late Richard Stone, a real character ala what Carl Stalling did in the original theatrical shorts.
ReBoot (Mainframe, 1994): Before Toy Story, there was ReBoot, the first computer-animated production to be seen on a weekly basis. In 1994, that's saying a lot. It became ABC's highest-rated series, and the only reason it was cancelled was because Disney took over the network. But the series' creation convinced others that 3D animation could work on a weekly basis.
Space Ghost Coast to Coast (Cartoon Network, 1994): The idea of splicing scenes into a new production wasn't a new practice (Woody Allen and Carl Reiner did it in What's Up, Tiger Lilly? and Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, respectedly). Americanized series from Japan such as Voltron and Robotech were built from many unconnected series. When Space Ghost Coast to Coast came around, it transformed one of Hanna-Barbera's B-level characters, an intergalactic law keeper of sorts, into a pompous talk-show host, interviewing many celebrities, large and small over the years. It was also the first production to come from Williams Street Productions, producers of The Rudy and Gogo Cartoon Show, Cartoon Planet, Toonami, and Miguzi. But their most popular project was Adult Swim, which engineered new shows similar to SGC2C and completely originally-animated ones.
What A Cartoon!/Oh Yeah! Cartoons (Seibert/Cartoon Network [WAC!]/Nickelodeon [OY!C], 1995 [WAC!]/1998[OY!C]) and yes, I am grouping them together: Dexter's Laboratory. The Powerpuff Girls. Cow and Chicken. Johnny Bravo. Mina and the Count. The Fairly Oddparents. ChalkZone. My Life As A Teenaged Robot. All of these series were spawned by the creator-guided animation endeavors launched by Fred Seibert. This underappreciated genius was the guy who introduced the creators behind these shorts to the world courtesy of Hanna-Barbera and his own Studio Frederator. It's because of these shorts that kids are now entertained by more original characters that have lasting entertainment (and merchandising) power.
Homestar Runner (The Brothers Chaps, 2000): The most recent moment is something that's still going on. Homestar Runner utilizes Flash animation and creating something of an oddity on the interweb . . . a funny, well-written series that attracts college-aged viewers and little kids. For a series that was intended on being a children's book, Homestar has become something of a phenominon in the world of animation.
May 23, 2006
So, using my newish computer, I've come to discover what the internet has to offer. I bit the bullet and actually made a profile on MySpace. I checked out some of the music sites online (note to self: indy rock and hip-hop, nerdcore, and mashups like American Edit and anything from The Kleptones are pretty damned good, and Havoc TV is just a godsend). And this weekend, I finally caved into the pressure, the hoopla, whatever it is and actually checked out this thing called Homestar Runner.
I don't think I've ever laughed so hard at anything on the computer in my life. "A Folky Tale". . . oh my gosh. Frelling genius. "A Jorb Well Done" . . . wow. And Strong Bad . . . he was right in that intro video. I didn't know I was coming to the site for him, but, he's grown on me, crazy little bugger. Well, him and his little brother Strong Sad.
Then again, a lot of you guys and gals already checked this site out many moons before I did, and now I feel like I'm late to the party. As usual.
May 22, 2006
The Rebel Yell.
White Water Canyon.
Anyone who has ever been to Kings' Dominion prior to Paramount's takeover of those theme parks would know those names with fondness. I remember every summer the whole family would take a trip to Kings Dominion. They've done this ever since the park opened in 1975. I remember when I was a little kid going in Yogi's Cave. The big guy was standing right in front of it near a pic-a-nick basket and a fishing pole in his hand. It was awesome. The place was huge with that silly song playing throughout, "This here cave belongs to Yogi . . . "
Needless to say, to me and my family, this was better than Disney World.
But, as the years went on, as they always do, things change and families grow apart. We didn't go to Kings Dominion as much as we did the park closer to home, Busch Gardens. The last time the whole family went to Kings Dominion was the summer of 1998. It was the first time that all of us, not to mention some newcomers to the family, went to the park as a family. Needless to say, it was a totally different place than I had remembered it, but the park still smelled the same. Fresh paint, hot asphalt, and wet wood. The Effiel Tower still stood there, 1/3 the size of the original, but tall nonetheless. A lot of the Hanna-Barbera stuff was gone in favor of this Nickelodeon theme section, though I remembered seeing the Scooby-Doo roller-coaster still in place. There was a Wayne's World section and all these Paramount themed areas. They had even built in a waterpark inside (and dang if I didn't bring a bathing suit). In all, a fun time was had by all, even if it did feel like Paramount commercial time everywhere we turned.
Sadly, it would be the last time all of us would be together. My grandmother passed the following January. And we all, as a family, never went there again.
I found out today that Kings Dominion and all of the Paramount Parks was purchased for $1.24 billion by Cedar Fair, the owners of Knott's Berry Farm, Cedar Point, Geauga Lake, Dorney Park, and Valleyfair. You know, for a theme park that has always been seen as #2 in the state, Kings Dominion's in pretty good company now. I hope they'll manage to become less like a commercial park and back to the park of my youth (but with modern, better rides, of course).
May 19, 2006
Everything is set, or at least it was until I got involved in talking about one particular series they could watch. It was an adult-animated series (I mean adult as in mature, not adult as in "walkachicka-walkachicka") about a group of friends finding love and fun in the midst of all of them on opposite sides of the law. It felt like a cross between The Sopranos, Sin City, and Romeo and Juliet with a blending of, well, not Friends, but something with that kind of chemistry without being so vanilla. Sadly, this once again proved a theory I talked about on my website that there hasn't been an original idea since 1967.
The more I developed this story, the more I asked myself "Why aren't I really writing this story on its own rather than just a small part of a large universe?" So, I put the superhero story aside and began working on this "gangster noir" story. No superpowers. No invulnerabilities. No clearcut "good versus evil," because, despite what Rand said, there are shades of grey in everybody. Everybody has their reasons for doing what they're doing. It's not always pretty, but it's probably the most "real" story I have ever written.
For the first time in a long time, I feel truly energized by something I'm actually creating. Probably because it's not giving me a headache like the network-oriented articles I've been writing on my own site for years (man, just when I think Cartoon Network is going in the right direction, they continue to make that right turn at Alberqurque instead of that left).
I originally wanted to use my MySpace blog to talk about my progress. Then, my friend Karl Olson enlighted me about the revised TOS saying that, legally, MySpace and its corporate owners (that would be News Corp) would have ownership in everything posted there. So, I have created another place for that, Dreams in Gunmetal Black.
May 11, 2006
At the same time.
Listen as they talk about the evolution of Toonami Jetstream, the new season of IGPX, Black Hole Megamix, Oblivion, why they picked up Bo^7, why Gundam just isn't working (and what did), who's the better Guitar Hero guitarist, what they did during the reconstruction of Williams Street, and the crusty old guys who inspired them to do what they do. Head over to the eighth episode of The Toon Zone Podcast right now. And when you're done with that, talk about it.
May 10, 2006
- Three national broadcast blocks on NBC (Saturday mornings beginning in September), Telemundo (Saturday mornings beginning in October and Sunday mornings in Spanish beginning in January 2007), and i (weekdays beginning in September)
-- A new 24-hour digital kids channel (majority owned by ION, which will bring it to their national feed and concurrently on digital cable outlets) with library properties from the partners (which will range from classic theatrical and television animation, popular kid-friendly titles, familiar series and franchises, and kid-friendly live-action series) launching on September 2, 2006.
- Video on-demand services on Digital Cable and official branded website.
Their mission: bringing literacy and values to children's television to all families (well, if you speak English and Spanish) by providing kid-empowering and parent-approved programming.
In short, E/I, E/I, oh.
You probably won't see something like, say, Exo-Squad or WildC.A.T.S. on the new block (what a pity), but it wouldn't be farfetched to see Pandalain or the new Mr. Magoo or Gerald McBoing Boing. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if they'll somehow sneak in reruns of Goosebumps or Clifford The Big Red Dog on the network equivalent considering the fact that a number of shows commonly seen on PBS Kids are missing on PBS Sprout, who at first glance is one competitor on the cable front, and may not air on their relaunch digital television feed PBS Kids Go.
This announcement leads me to believe that this fall is going to be the most intriguing fall season in a long, long time. CBS abandoned Nick Jr. programming in favor of a DiC-programmed block. The CW's Kids' WB block will drop all anime in favor of a more comedic lineup harkening back to what the block looked like in 1995, and ABC Family has given up the good ship Jetix, giving that block exclusively to Jetix, I mean Toon Disney. Cartoon Network's airing original programming on Saturdays (though benching the more interesting Dragon Hunters for reasons yet to be revealed) while Nickelodeon still airs reruns and dominates, a trend that has had some success on ABC Kids.
I mean, back when NBC and Discovery Kids ended their partnership, nobody knew what NBC would program their Saturday morning block with. Now, NBC has, in a way that might have surprised even them, found friends in high places, renewed a strained partnership with ION, and found a way to unify programming on both NBC and Telemundo, NBC's Spanish-language network.
To say we're in interesting times would be a mild understatement.
May 9, 2006
Yeah, it's a cheap ploy to get you to buy my shirts from Cafe Press. Shameless, I know, but a guy gotta have a hobby. Who knows? Maybe if I could convince folks to buy the shirts, I'll have confidence to make better ones in the future. Instead, just the basics for now.
TXB EyeSquare White (with TXB logo)- $15
TXB EyeSquare Button - $2
The X Bridge Logo Black - $20
Shameless? Yes. Tomorrow, I'll do a real update.
Chances are that if you're only looking at the billionth rerun of Family Guy over on Adult Swim, you probably aren't.
If you're just started or want to know a little something about it, let me give you the skinny.
Bromwell High chronicles the hardships of those who attend this underfunded, broke-down, overcrowded high school (every city has one) ran by this scheming, vulgar headmaster who isn't exactly the brighted bulb in the lamp (though he did win the school in a poker game). The three central characters are naughty, politically incorrect girls who cause trouble and bother all who cross their path.
Natella is the youngest of the girls and also the smartest person at Bromwell High. Not smsrtest student, smartest PERSON (teachers are even shocked by her intelligence). Of course, she uses her genius is used for manipulative purposes.
Latrina, named after the location of her birth, isn't exactly known in at Bromwell High for her intelligence. She's more of a beauty queen with a "white trash" background often using her looks to get what she wants. What Latrina lacks in sophistication she makes up in, um, I'm not sure.
The final member of this trio is Keisha Marie, a violent, ADD-ridden deviant prone to saying the first thing that comes to her mind and damning whatever occurs as a result. For example, in one episode, Keisha starts to have feelings towards a new student at Bromwell, but instead of giving him affection, she commits to giving him contusions and punches.
I am really starting to like this show, and you might dig it too. Catch it on BBC America every Thursday night at 11:30 PM EST with an encore airing Monday nights at 11:30 PM. I'm sure you can miss Family Guy on those nights to check it out.
May 8, 2006
Well, straight from E3, GameTap (the subscriber-based video-game broadband nirvana owned by Turner Broadcasting) and Telltale (a nice group of fellas who is comprised of a lot of former Lucasgames artists and programmers, many of whom were involved in numerous titles, including Freelance Police) announced plans to produce a brand new Sam & Max series exclusively for GameTap.
The new series, which will also be availiable for sale at TellTale's official Sam and Max site, where new strips can also be found, will mark GameTap's first original production. GameTap will also introduce the new Sam and Max game on their network, an industry first.
If you're able to attend E3, check out GameTap's booth (Booth #1078 located in the South Hall ) for a sneak peek as well as other giveaways.
So, what do you get with that uberhigh console?
Well, here's the skinny:
- Blu-Ray straight out the box (of course, it'll help if you have an HDTV to play them on)
- Able to play on traditional televisions.
- Plays ALL generations of Playstation games (PS1, PS2, and, of course, PS3).
- Maximum heat and noise reduction has been achieved with a noise level equivalent to that of the current slim-line PlayStation 2.
- Rich, Cortithian leather, I mean, "clear black" casing.
- The new PlayStation 3 controller, a touch-sensitive, high-precision system using Bluetooth wireless technology
Ah, I love this season. The season of E3, a glimpse of things to come and things to drool over encased in a polygonal display of euphoria and smoke and mirrors. It begins in the morning, so watch the net.
May 4, 2006
I'm watching Sci-Fi Channel.
I'm not watching science fiction.
I'm watching Law and Order: SVU.
Okay, call me crazy, but when did SVU become classified as a science-fiction, horror, or fantasy series, the three typical genres I tend to feel belong on Sci-Fi.
It's not. I like SVU, but I'd like to see it on USA and NBC, where they belong, not Sci-Fi.
At least Sci-Fi's smart enough to focus on the more horrific serial killer episodes rather than the regular ones. And hopefully, it's just one night only as the ad I just saw suggests.
And for all you people complaining about Passions seen on Sci-Fi, stuff it. At least Passions has fantasy elements like witchcraft, spiritual themes, and other oddities. Hell, they just brought back the fantasy elements on the NBC episodes recently with the introduction of mermaids and the current Vendetta plot with all the paranormal elements seen in things like um, that upcoming movie about the biblical code in the DaVinci paintings or something. Never read the book.
No? It reran on Sci-Fi back in the 90s and recently on BBC America. It's been parodied on a lot of pop cultural institutions like The Simpsons and ReBoot. That show with the floating white balloon chasing the lead character.
Yeah, that show. It was one of the greatest sci-fi series ever made. No, it wasn't set in space or involved an intergalactic war. It wasn't even about confronting alien creatures of any kind. It was a straight sci-fi psychological thriller action-adventure and no modern series has ever come close in replicating it. Well, according to C21 Media, the folks at Sky One in the UK figure if you can't beat 'em, remake it, and in 2007, that's exactly what they're going to do.
Hot off the heels of BBC's successful and critically-acclaimed new series of Doctor Who (season two is currently airing while season one is currently seen on Sci-Fi stateside Fridays at 9 PM EST/PST with encore airings at Fridays [technically Saturdays] at Midnight and Sundays at 11 PM), Sky One and ITV Productions (broadcasters of the original series) are producing a six-part series to air next spring 2007. And to further cement the Who factor, Christopher Eccleston, who previously played The Ninth Doctor in the first season of the new series, is tapped to play the lead role in this remake.
Sounds like a good time to be had by all. Be seeing you.
In cutesy little plastic pieces.
Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy completes the popular franchise by giving you a chance to relive the adventures of Luke, Han, Leia, and the rest of the pop culture icons in a fun-sized format.
And to mark this upcoming release, 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilms are going to release The Original Trilogy on DVD for a limited time on September 12, 2006. And when I mean The Original Trilogy, I mean Han shoots first, English on the control panels, no celebration on Naboo, and Hayden isn't a ghost. Yeah, THAT Original Trilogy. But if you like the other stuff, they'll be in this release too. Here's the official press release.
Yub yub indeed.
May 2, 2006
By the way, this is the first time I posted an image on Blogger. Pretty cool, eh?
Apr 20, 2006
Do you Wiki? Well, if you do, wiki your birthdate (in my case, January 21) and add the following: five events, three births, and three deaths.
Sounded simple enough. Here goes:
1911: The first ever Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo race is run
1915: Kiwanis International founded in Detroit, MI
1924: Lenin dies of unusual causes
1968: The Battle of Khe Sanh begins in Vietnam
2000: Kevin Mitnick, a famous hacker, is released from prison. Three years later, he was allowed to use a computer again.
1924: Telly Savalas (actor) and Benny Hill (comedian)
1942: Edwin Starr (musician, best known for song "War")
1953: Paul Allen (entrepreneur and co-founder of Microsoft)
1901: Elisha Gray (the TRUE inventor of the telephone and the electronic musical synthesizer)
1950: George Orwell (author, 1984 and Animal Farm)
1959: Cecil B. DeMille (director) and Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer (Our Gang actor)
Apr 17, 2006
This week, Robert Smigel lampooned the ridiculous practice The Walt Disney Company continues of putting films in the mythical Disney vault, a place where classics are locked away. You know, classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Cinderella, Bambi, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and 101 Dalmations as well as "classics" like Cinderella 2, Bambi 2, The Lion King 2, Beauty and the Beast 2, Aladdin and the Return of Jafar, and 101 Dalmations: Patch's London Adventure all rest for a period of 10 years.
How did the guy who introduced the world to Triumph the Insult Comic Dog do this? Simple. He made two little fans of Disney films join Mickey Mouse to a journey to the Disney vault in a movie called, um, Journey to the Disney Vault. Mickey showed the two kids some of their favorite movies, including Beauty and the Beast: Hawaiian Vacation, but curiousity gets the better of them as the kids discover the frozen head of Walt Disney. It's been an urban legend for decades that Walt Disney was frozen beneath his Florida theme park. It's so in our subconscious that a network that used to be all-animation is using it as a thesis for a live-action/animated movie that's a backdoor pilot of sorts.
But wait, it gets interesting. The kids also discover the head of Vivian Leigh, whom Mickey said was going to be reanimated along with Disney so they could be married. Then, the boy found files from Disney's HUAC testimonies. He discovered that Disney ratted out numerous animators for being communists, to which Mickey, with edited out images of movies like the Ursula wedding scene from The Little Mermaid, the nude woman in the window from The Rescuers, the "pickaninny" centaur from Fantasia, and Jessica Rabbit's "Basic Instinct" pose from Who Framed Roger Rabbit behind him in frames, said that they were rabblerousers trying to unionize or something.
Then, the kids found a film they've never heard of, Song of the South. But it wasn't the original theatrical version of the film, but rather the one Disney played at personal parties, which is really racist. After seeing that, and looking at the kids' reaction to that and everything else they've witnessed, Mickey Mouse says that Walt Disney was who he was, but they have to remember all of the laughs his greatest creation, Mickey Mouse, has given to generations of kids.
The little girl asks something that is perhaps the unspoken truth in the animation industry about Mickey Mouse.
"You're supposed to be funny?"
FINALLY! Somebody said it. Mickey Mouse is the most bland cartoon character on the planet, and he has basically become a living logo rather than a character. That single question is something that many companies, not just Disney, have never admitted needed to be answered. Kids aren't as stupid or as innocent as these companies think they are. The kids, though enlighted about the truth, aren't completely ready to accept it, but they're definitely a lot smarter than they were before.
Sure, it was a short cartoon, no more than three minutes, but it definitely shed a new light on the state of the animation industry, at least from Disney's side. Perhaps it was a little too close to home as Disney (or somebody representing a part of Disney) are trying hard to make sure it'll never be seen again. If you haven't seen it, you probably never will again. Just like Conspiracy Rock before it (which mocked how media conglomorates try to hide their dirty little secrets and dealings with the government from public view by the news outlets they own), NBC, who was skewered in that segment themselves, will likely never repeat Journey to the Disney Vault, and neither will E!, who owns cable rights to SNL and, coincidently, majority owned by Disney.
Guess they can't handle the truth sometimes.
Apr 12, 2006
The fact that in this free society that we can converse about everything. However, dialogue works when both sides are willing to talk to each other. Cartoon Network, for some reason, refuses to be a part of dialogue when it comes to their recent programming decision of airing live-action shows. They hide behind the term "live-action cartoon" to justify airing live-action fare. Of course, there is only so many times one can use that term (which is an oxymoron like virtual reality, permanent guest host, genuine imitation, soft rock, and Microsoft Works), and the statute of limitation has expired. There's cartoony live-action, but no such thing as a live-action cartoon. I mean, they could almost get away with a Zack and Cody-like show by attaching that "live-action cartoon" label on it with a smile on their face, insulting longtime viewers everywhere.
And discussion won't help either. Why? Because while a lot of people can complain, Cartoon Network just wipes that criticism from their minds and carries on with business as they see fit.
When the animation industry at large, animation critics, anime fans who don't like American animation, American animation fans who don't like anime, Spumco fans and haters, Adult Swim fans and haters, and people who have seen networks like MTV and G4 completely deviate from the script all agree that this whole "live-action at Cartoon Network" situation is a bad, awful, horrendous idea, then gee golly, it's a bad idea. And if anybody that criticizes Cartoon Network for doing so, like our dear lead webmistress has done as pointed out by the network last month, then The Network will just give them a cookie and push them aside.
We're just viewers in their opinion.
Alan Moore once wrote that "People shouldn't fear their government. The government should fear their people." I'm not saying that Cartoon Network is a government, but they ARE a service, like the government.
Viewers like us help keep Cartoon Network on the air. We aren't completely powerless as we are assumed to be. People grow intimidated and give up before they even fight back. By fight back, I'm not talking about petitions to keep Cartoon Network animation-only or boycotting products seen on the network as a protest against their newfound policy of instituting live-action on an outlet originally perceived as an all-animation channel.
Petitions are bullscat, and boycotts only work when people truly boycott products on a wider basis.
If you're unhappy with the direction Cartoon Network is heading, contact your local cable (unless your cable operator is Time Warner Cable) and satellite operators. If you contact the network directly, chances are you're either going to get a form letter or have your response deleted from the servers, no matter if it's coherent and clear or "feeled wit teh 1337-speak ore gramatikal errorz." Tell cable operators that you unhappy with the direction of the network. If they get enough of these letters, then somewhere in their minds, they'll probably think that, geez, something is wrong at Cartoon Network.
And because Cartoon Network is at a more vulnerable position than, say, Nickelodeon and The Disney Channel (years ago, when DirecTV threatened to pull the Turner networks from their lineup, they basically pointed out that a suitable network replacement for CN is Nickelodeon), cable operators are not totally beholden to Cartoon Network.
Here, I'll get you started:
1500 Market St.
Philadelphia, PA 19102-2148
Chairman/CEO: Mr. Brian L. Roberts
EVP/COO and President, Comcast Cable: Mr. Stephen B. Burke
Time Warner Cable
290 Harbor Dr.
Stamford, CT 06902-6732
Non-Executive Chairman (wha--?): Mr. Don Logan
Chairman/CEO: Glenn A. Britt
COO: Landel C. Hobbs
1400 Lake Hearn Dr.
Atlanta, GA 30319
Chairman: Mr. James C. Kennedy
President: Mr. Patrick J. Esser
12405 Powerscourt Dr., Ste. 100
St. Louis, MO 63131-3660
Chairman: Mr. Paul Allen
President/CEO/Director: Mr. Neil Smit
The DIRECTV Group
2230 East Imperial Hwy.
El Segundo, CA 90245
Chairman: K. Rupert Murdoch
President/CEO/Director: Chase Carey
EchoStar Communication (DISH Network)
9601 S. Meridian Blvd.
Englewood, CO 80112
Chairman/CEO: Mr. Charles W. Ergen
EVP/Director: Mr. James DeFranco
I think any discussion would be great. But in the meantime, I'll carry my megaphone (my BIGGER stick [instant kudos and much respect to anyone who gets THAT reference]).
How in the hell did a group who was originally conceived to operate miniature golf courses and sports entertainment facilities become the majority owner of two of the 20th century's biggest icons and a company that owns that overrated karaoke sing-off every week on Fox?
Seriously, a company called CKX, Inc. (short for Content is King [the X makes them sound, um, cool or something]) bought 85% of Elvis Presley Enterprises (including the singer's name, likeness, and image as well as all of Graceland) and all of 19 Entertainment (owners of the IDOLS "music" format that spawned Pop Idol in the UK, Canadian Idol up north, and some stupid show on Fox whose name eludes me). Today, CKX bought 80% of all likeness, name, and image rights of Muhummad Ali, someone who a lot of people (including myself) feel is one of the greatest sports figures in history. Greater than any athlete playing sports today, greater than that baldheaded egotist with a certain arrogant Air about him.
Wow. I don't know who this CKX is, but they're buying more icons and idols than anybody these days. Don't know if I should be intrigued or scared.
Apr 10, 2006
Of course, in spite of all these changes, Cartoon Network feels that they're doing a great job with minor increases, compared to major ones in the same period a year ago.
But you know who doesn't think Cartoon Network is doing a good job?
Yeah! Cable operators, the people who actually place these networks on their lineups. Apparently, and color me crazy for suggesting this, they believe that a network that calls itself Cartoon Network should, um, show cartoons and not stray from that intent. Otherwise, you're getting into G4/OLN territory. More people are getting rid of OLN (formerly Outdoor Life Network) because that outlet is straying away from its outdoor recreation roots in favor of fare like NHL Hockey. G4, once a video-game news and info outlet, merged with the tech-driven TechTV, but trashed both formats in favor of a Spike TV-esque outlet.
Cartoon Network is trying to become a neo-Nickelodeon, Kinescope as you will. And cable operators are worried. Don't believe me? Here's something I read at Television Week earlier today (no ownership is implied)
Cartoon Network has an innovative solution for boosting its sagging ratings. Producing better cartoons? Nope. Producing non-cartoons. The network announced last week it has begun taking pitches for live-action programming and hired Ramsey Naito as VP of long-form development.
Only problem: Networks that significantly alter their programming or format run the risk of angering cable operators for deviating from their agreed-upon programming mission. "This is going to be a problem," said cable distribution consultant Cathy Rasenberger. "To add live action to a network that's defined by cartoons may be impossible to do given the content restrictions in their agreements. Allowing this is totally up to the operators. It just sounds like a major deviation."
But cable operators were split on whether such changes could cause a conflict. "We always closely watch what programmers do, especially if they make changes that take them away from how they sold us the service," said David Grabert, spokesman for Cox. "This is the first we've heard of these plans, but if we feel like they're going too far, we'll let them know."
A spokesperson for another multiple system operator said Cartoon shouldn't worry.
"Their contract with us doesn't stipulate against live action," the spokesperson said. "As long as the change doesn't alter the spirit of the channel, they're fine."
So . . . the whole "cartoony spirit" excuse they've been giving isn't fooling everybody afterall. Let's hope the cable operators keep Cartoon Network honest. I'd certainly would like to see them push their muscle a little more.
Mar 29, 2006
I know that Saturday mornings is a dead institution, but find myself wondering what's actually on this weekend. I'm not talking about the cable networks, because everybody knows what's on. Reruns on Nickelodeon, new stuff on Cartoon Network, premieres on ABC Family. However, what if, on the rare occasion, I want to know what's coming on, say, 4KidsTV on FOX or Kids' WB? I could go three different routes: I could check out the television listings either in the papers, cable grids, or on the interweb, go to their online sites and see what's on, or actually wait until Saturday comes to see what's on and hope the morning isn't clogged with more reruns.
But the average person has better things to do rather than ponder what's coming on this weekend on broadcast television, like count the tiles on the bathroom floor (I have 1152 small tiles on my floor). There used to be a time when kids could see what was coming on that Saturday with much excitement and joy without having to actively search for what's on as if it was a high-school term paper.
And that time was 2005, the last year a broadcast network had a weekday lineup. Once Fox Kids ceased operations, its' biggest broadcast competitor, Kids' WB, began operating like the WWE after they bought out WCW. They grew lazy because they were the only broadcast game in town, so they aired reruns with glee, growing complacent and arrogant because they felt that, well, if they weren't looking at Kids' WB, they weren't looking at television.
That's the same kind of arrogance they displayed when they created that fake Toonami block back in 2001. You guys and gals remember that, don't you? You remember how much of a colossal failure that was, correct? Well, now that there wasn't any need to even try to program a watchable lineup, Kids' WB enjoyed a virtually competition-free broadcast existance. By strangleholding Cartoon Network's programming department, they felt that they were the only game in town. Meanwhile, in New York, Nickelodeon has not only overtaken the Saturday morning ratings, but has also taken over weekday afternoons. Nick tried something new yet familiar.
They didn't clog the lineup with reruns of toyetic/card-based programs every day. Kids' WB aired these type of shows on a daily basis while Nickelodeon was driven by comedic shows, which was, ironically, THE cornerstone of Kids' WB's programming schemes before they picked up Pokemon. Yeah, I remember a time when The Bugs and Daffy Show and Animaniacs were seen on weekday afternoons. On broadcast television. On an outlet people can actually turn to without resorting to broadband or a channel your cable operator will never get.
The fact is the weekday afternoon broadcast blocks was, for an entire generation of viewers, the cornerstone of the success of Saturday mornings. Since Kids' WB gave up earlier in the year, that fabled legacy is gone on broadcast television. Broadcast executives, scared of cable companies their parent companies own, felt that weekday programming was just a waste of time. What they didn't know is that what they gave up can never be recovered - - - the viewer's trust.
Mar 23, 2006
A little deviation from the norm here before I think of something new to write about is something I'm calling "Fun With Anagrams." It's a fun little mind game to see what kind of readers I have checking out the site. What are anagrams? Anagrams are words that, when letters are shifted, can become another word.
Kind of like how Bart is an anagram of "brat" or how Torchwood is an anagram of Doctor Who (as well as a darker spinoff coming soon).
Ahead are six different anagrams. This week's topic is network names. I'm sure you know I know cable and broadcast networks inside and out. Now, see what I can see, if only for a minute.
Play along. (I'll even give you a hint or two) No prize nor reward, just a bit of respect from me. It's not much, but it's worth something.
switcheroo twinkle event (clue: future smooshed channel, full name of channel, four words)
I, novelistic muse (clue: known by three letters, often deviates from the format, two words)
link code one (clue: this one's easy, they even used it on-air in a bright promotion, one word)
hobo coffee mix (clue: known by three letters, it's not really TV, three words)
atom ion (clue: well-known block, but not a channel stateside, one word)
sweet banker clown (clue: known by three letters, a somewhat respected info outlet, three words)
Chef Lennox Swan (clue: the more arrogant and uptight competitor to the Sweet Banker Clown, three words)
mango robe (clue: once a classic, now seen by a select few as a retirement home, one word)
mortal decency (clue: a lot funnier than its anagram, two words)
wise moth (clue: little-loved competitor of the hobo coffee mix, one word)
Duck logo (Good luck).
Mar 18, 2006
Jeffrey Bewkes said this not too long ago in light of the would-be coup of Carl Icahn. For those that don't know, Mr. Bewkes is the President and COO of Time Warner. He's the boss of the guy who's the boss of Cartoon Network, just so you know. His quote is nice and true. There isn't any proof that anything would be better off separate than together.
If only he wasn't a hypocrite.
I have a problem with people who say one thing and do another, and Bewkes isn't adhering to that sage statement he said because, believe it or not, Time Warner is the most separate conglomerate on the planet. They're not united in any way nor do they try to work together to help each other out. They're still acting like they're separate entities rather than a united corporate entity like, say, Viacom.
Seriously, the best-run entertainment conglomerate out there is Viacom. Even after the CBS dimerger, Viacom units work well together, sharing properties and developing new ventures together. Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, MTV, BET, Spike TV, and all the units still work together on various endeavors. Their properties are distributed together. Their digital services are joined together (when my local cable company added a new Free View On Demand tier, they didn't just get a Nickelodeon or an MTV channel, they added all the availiable MTV Networks to the tier). Their broadband endeavors are developed together (you think it was just a coincidence that Comedy Central's Motherload and MTV's Overdrive debuted within a month of each other?). Viacom is the definition of unity.
Time Warner is the antithesis of unity.
Warner Bros.-made sitcoms and dramas are on (or will be moving to) TV Land, Nick at Nite, ABC Family, American Life, and In2TV. New Line's Blade is going to air on Spike TV. And the last cable home of Animaniacs, Tiny Toons, and Pinky and the Brain was Nicktoons Network before moving to In2TV.
In2TV? What's that?
I'll tell you why they're doing In2TV.
Jeffrey Bewkes doesn't like Turner Broadcasting and they would rather experiment with broadband television rather than, god forbid, create a new general entertainment network housed at Turner.
As In2TV has proved, Warner Bros. has enough shows to program an entire TV Land-like network. The problem is that to do that, they would have to rely on Turner Broadcasting to manage it. Afterall, the basic cable network unit of Time Warner IS Turner. Realizing that would give the Turner unit more power, Bewkes (who is the only member of the Turner coup of '01 still at Time Warner and in a position of power) would rather shell out a lot of resources to an untested format like broadband entertainment, still unaccessable by a large segment of our country, than spend money and actively create a cable network, something Time Warner hasn't done in this country in over five years.
Icahn was right. Perhaps Time Warner would have been better off if they was managed by a new group of individuals. After all, there doesn't seem to be any clear data that anything would be better off separate than together. Perhaps somebody should remind Jeff Bewkes about that.
Remember when NBC actually had a successful Saturday morning lineup? If you do, chances are you're old enough to vote now. Until Fox Kids came around in fall 1990, NBC OWNED Saturday mornings, airing most of the highest-rated shows on Saturday mornings with the exception of the number one show (that would be The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show, which aired on ABC before it became Disney's programming zombie slave). Since pressure from fundamentalist parental television groups forced them to get rid of animation, not to mention the fact that Fox Kids was kicking their butts, NBC changed formats to a teen-oriented live-action lineup preceeded by a Saturday edition of their Today program.
They set a trend that would follow in the years to come as CBS and recently ABC followed that route. Meanwhile, Fox Kids continued to dominate the Saturday morning lineups until Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and a newcomer, Kids' WB took over the spotlight. Nick had Rugrats, Hey Arnold, Catdog, Spongebob, and Fairly Oddparents beginning to take over Saturday mornings away from their traditional Sunday morning premiere block (where they killed the much-loved USA Cartoon Express). Cartoon Network also had their Cartoon Cartoons as well as Looney Tunes dominating Saturday mornings until 2001 when idiots took over and began to migrate older programming (read: anything made before 1995) to an unseen network I think is called Boomerang (it's been around since 2000, and I still can't find it). Those same idiots also ran Kids' WB, which did the unthinkable and killed Fox Kids with a powerhouse of toyetic properties like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh (ironically produced in this country by 4Kids, who took over the Fox lineup). As the years progressed, CBS and ABC became slaves to their cable counterparts, Nickelodeon and Disney Channel/Toon Disney, respectively.
What did NBC do?
They killed two birds with one stone by hiring Discovery Communications to program their Saturday morning lineup and fulfilling the ridiculous educational mandate with actual educational programming (contrary to what ABC will tell you, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, That's So Raven, and their other live-action fare are NOT educational, and shows based in that magical, wonderful kids' favorite hangout known as school are universally a joke). Yeah, NBC had programming in place and earned numerous accolades during the years Discovery Kids on NBC was on.
But accolades don't mean scat unless you have eyeballs tuning in, which they weren't.
So, it comes as no surprise that Discovery Kids and NBC agreed this week to mutually end their partnership effective this fall. Discovery Kids programming will be completely exclusive to Discovery Kids, and NBC programming will be . . .
Oh, crap! They don't have any!
The Peacock is screwed! They're messed up. They have to scour for a production company to scab on to like everybody else since every other network is directly linked to another studio either by corporate blood like ABC or by freelance labor like Fox and soon CBS.
NBC is the network that pretty much invented the Saturday morning industry as we know it. Afterall, they aired the first Japanese-animated series Astro Boy predating other opportunists that feel that foreign animation and labor is cheaper than domestic products by decades (I'm looking at you 4Kids Entertainment). They helped make Hanna-Barbera and sibling studio Ruby-Spears superstar studios throughout the 70s and 80s, even though most of their product at the time were Scooby-Doo and Smurf ripoffs on that network and the lame Flintstones Family shows.
But now, NBC is 20% owned by a company whose primary business was sewer systems until they decided that entertainment is where the money is (see here). NBC Universal isn't known for kids' entertainment, except from those lame Land Before Time movies (and Cartoon Network is airing the series version this winter, *sigh*). They haven't really set out a plan for what they're going to do this fall as this announcement caught many by surprise.
But I can tell you this.
Whatever NBC puts on the air isn't going to be watched by a lot of people. They're watching Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, ABC Family, 4Kids TV on Fox, ABC Kids, and whatever the hell Kids' WB is going to be called in the fall. I think more viewers will be watching that Slumber Party DiC block on CBS than whatever NBC is planning (unless DiC double-dips and plans a boys-based block on NBC). Regardless, NBC realizes that they've already lost the battle before they've even started.
The once-proud network is now eighth-best, and it's a crown they're doomed to keep for the forseeable future.