Posts Tagged ‘Disney

05
Dec
13

A Very Nerdy Christmas

Next year, Erin and I will finally celebrate our first Christmas together. I couldn’t be more excited, and I know she’s already making certain plans in terms of traditions and decorations and the like.

However, over the years I’ve assembled a small but — I think — amusing collection of Christmas ornaments of my own. Many of them have been given to me as gifts, the rest have mostly been the result of Hallmark’s after-Christmas clearance sales. It never seemed sensible to spend a ton of money on decorations until I had someone to decorate with. So while I’m sure next year the two of us will bring together all her ornaments and all my ornaments and probably a bunch of new ornaments, today I thought I’d share with you guys my collection as it stands today, such as it is.

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

First up is my Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. While not technically an ornament, it’s one of my most prized Christmas decorations and also will serve as the model for most of the upcoming pictures. Erin gave me this tree a few years ago and I love it. I actually wound up getting a second tree to place in my classroom at school, knowing that this tree was far too precious to risk in a room full of high school students.

“Oh come on, Blake,” you’re saying. “They’re in eleventh grade. Surely they can be trusted to be in proximity to a decoration with just a single ornament without worrying about them breaking it.”

Heh. It’s cute that you think that.

Doctor Who TARDIS

Doctor Who: The TARDIS

Next up is my TARDIS decoration. You may or may not know (except if you know anything about me at all, in which case you absolutely know) that I’m a bit of a Doctor Who fan. This particular glass ornament was given to me by my buddy and frequent Showcase co-host, Kenny. Thanks, pal! I know that Erin will want to be certain it gets a place of honor next Christmas.

Donald Duck Wakeup Hallmark

Donald’s Wake-Up Cup

I love Disney and I love Christmas, so it’s not surprising that many of my decorations are Disney characters. Of course, as I’ve done most of my shopping in the clearance sales, my selection is particularly eclectic. I’d grab whatever looked like it was worth the money, and the deeper the discount the lower that threshold would become. For example, here’s Donald Duck, having just rolled out of bed, drinking a cup of coffee. Probably because I got it for pennies.

Mickey Mouse Ears

Mickey Mouse Ears

From the “My parents went to Disney World and all I got was this…” line. A few years ago, my parents took a trip to Disney World and brought this personalized set of mini-Mouse Ears to me. (That’s “Mini” as in “small,” not “Minnie” as in “Mickey’s girlfriend.”) They brought an identical pair of ears for Erin. Hers are currently dangling from the rear view mirror in her car.

Scrooge McDuck from "Mickey's Christmas Carol"

Scrooge McDuck from “Mickey’s Christmas Carol”

Another Hallmark Keepsake ornament, this one depicts my favorite Disney Character — Scrooge McDuck — as he appeared in the classic 1983 animated feature Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Hey, speaking of A Christmas Carol, have you guys been following my Reel to Reel movie blog? All this month, leading up to Christmas I’m reviewing and analyzing different versions of Charles Dickens’s classic novel. All of your favorites are there — Alastair Sim, Albert Finney, Mr. Magoo… go on, check it out.

Disney Vinylmation 2012

Disney Vinylmation 2012

My brother and sister are big fans of Disney’s Vinylmation figures — a series of toys all set in the same Mickey Mouse-shaped mold and decorated in an infinite number of ways. I’ve got a lot of them too, but I’ve been a bit more selective in my Vinylmation purchases than them. This one came out last year — it’s a regular Vinylmation figure with an ornament loop on the head. This one depicts Donald Duck trapped in a snow globe, presumably the work of a genie or his nephews or something.

Vinylmation Hot Chocolate

Vinylmation Hot Chocolate

Another Vinylmation figure-slash-ornament, this one depicts a chocolate bar in the shape of Mickey Mouse. As you can tell, whoever got this bar in his stocking eats his Mickey chocolate the same way everybody eats their Easter rabbits — he bites the ears first. This figure also smells like hot chocolate. Well… the box says it’s hot chocolate. There’s a definite cocoa flavor to the aroma, but I don’t know if I’d go that far.

Perry Christmas from Phineas and Ferb

Perry Christmas from Phineas and Ferb

Phineas and Ferb is without question, the best cartoon for kids in decades. I dare you to find anything that’s even remotely as entertaining. You need to go back to the 90s heyday of Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain. These kids rock.

Also, this was the last picture I took. I thought I was finished, I put my Charlie Brown tree in its place of honor (which is rather high up and out of reach of cats and three-year-old nieces), and when I realized I missed this one I just said the hell with it and took the picture on the table.

Dooby dooby doo-wah, A! GENT! P!

Dooby dooby doo-wah, A! GENT! P!

Courtesy of Target, here’s Phineas and Ferb’s best pal Perry the Platypus in his other identity: Agent P of the OWCA (Organization Without a Cool Acronym). I like to imagine here that he’s just stumbled into an insidious yuletide trap set by his arch-nemesis, Dr. Doofinshmirtz. Don’t worry, guys, Doof isn’t really that big a threat. And he actually doesn’t hate Christmas anyway, he has a burning indifference.

Prep and Landing Hallmark

Prep and Landing: Wayne and Lanny

A few years ago Disney introduced these guys, Wayne and Lanny, members of Santa Claus’s special Prep and Landing task force. These are the elves that scout ahead of Santa Claus to make sure the house is ready, the children are nestled all snug in their beds, and not a creature is stirring. If you have a Merry Christmas morning, it’s because Wayne and Lanny did their job right so that Santa could come behind them and do his.

Muppets Kermit Target

Kermit the Very Shiny Frog

This one is a Target find rather than Hallmark. Erin picked it up for me last Thanksgiving when we were shopping. This was either a few days before or a few days after I asked her to marry me, I don’t remember which, and it doesn’t matter. It’s special anyway. And yes, that’s a reflection of me and my phone in Kermit’s face. You try hiding your reflection when taking a picture of a shiny glass amphibian. It’s not that easy.

Peanuts-Erins Snoopy

Snoopy and Woodstock go for a drive

Snoopy and Woodstock here were a gift from Erin. She found it for me at work and included it in a stocking full of candy and little gifts last year. The girl knows me all too well, doesn’t she?

Peanuts on Ice

Peanuts on Ice

This is actually four separate ornaments put together. The “Peanuts on Ice” figures from Hallmark each have a magnet in the base, allowing you to connect them. I’m not sure how many there were in the series, but I know how many I got. Four. I got four.

You’ll notice that Sally, Charlie Brown’s sister, has no magnet and therefore is not connected to the rest of the Peanuts gang. I like to imagine that Linus, sick and tired of her years of sexual harassment, disabled the magnet in her base in the hopes that she would slide away and suffer a tragic mishap in the ice. Wow, that took a dark turn.

The Flash

The Flash

Another Hallmark ornament, here we have Barry Allen, the Flash. (How do I know it’s Barry Allen and not Wally West? Because Wally’s belt always came to a point in the front, only Barry wore the straight belt for his entire career in the Pre-Crisis era. Yes, I’m THAT kind of nerd.) Barry here, if I’m not mistaken, is actually the oldest ornament in my collection. I’m pretty sure I’ve had him since high school, and I don’t even remember when I got him.

Green Lantern

Green Lantern

Hal Jordan. Green Lantern of Space Sector 2814. Current leader of the Green Lantern Corps. Another Hallmark keepsake ornament. Are you sensing a pattern here?

Golden Age Superman

Golden Age Superman

I’ve got a few different Superman ornaments. Try not to be surprised.

This Hallmark ornament is actually two in one. In the front we have the Golden Age Superman, the way he first appeared in 1938. In the background is the second ornament, the cover of Action Comics #1, in which he made his first appearance. Actually, now that I look at it, the figure isn’t exactly right for that comic. His “S”-symbol, at that point, was actually just a yellow shield with the letter drawn in it, not the stylized version it would later become, and his boots hadn’t yet evolved to what we see here either. Wow, now I’m furious at the inaccuracy of my ornament. Christmas is RUINED.

Modern Superman

Modern Superman

This more modern Superman is a one-piece ornament, with the Man of Steel bursting out of the cover of a comic book. And this actually is a comic book, you can open that sucker up and read it. There aren’t any credits, but I think the short re-telling of his origin story was drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, a classic DC Comics artist who contributed a lot of art for various DC merchandise over the years. I told you, I’m that kind of nerd.

Superman Luxor

Lenox China Superman

I think I’ve shown this one off before but I don’t mind doing it again. This Lenox China Superman figure has the trademarks of that elegant line of decorations — the white glass is used in his cape, and the Lenox gold lines the figure in several places. This, too, is a gift from Erin, which should be obvious because those Lenox ornaments are pretty expensive for a guy that, until now, got most of his Christmas decorations from Hallmark’s 20% off table.

Dwight Schrute: Talking Bobblehead

Dwight Schrute: Talking Bobblehead

From The Office, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Assistant to the Regional Manager Dwight Schrute. This ornament is actually based on the Valentine’s Day episode in which his girlfriend gave him a bobblehead doll of himself. The ornament is a working bobblehead, plus, it talks when you push that little button in the front. I briefly considered shooting a short video demonstrating these features, but then I realized that would require way more of a commitment than I was ready to put into this little article.

Elise's Ornament

Elise’s Ornament

Now we’re getting into the ornaments that have an actual emotional connection for me. This one, for example, was a gift from Erin’s niece Elise last Christmas. Hey — I guess that means she’s going to be my niece too. Cool.

For Erin's teacher

For Erin’s teacher

Another Erin find. This “For My Teacher” apple came to her at work and she brought it home to me. Go ahead: “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaw…”

Engagement Encounter: Be Joyful

Engagement Encounter: Be Joyful

And finally, probably the most meaningful ornament on the list is this little Cross. Last summer, Erin and I attended an engagement encounter at a monastery in Pittsburgh. We wanted a keepsake of the weekend, and decided on this Christmas ornament. The message, I think, was just right.

03
Aug
13

Blake’s weekly roundup

So this week, I finished the most recent draft of my next novel, The Pyrite War. Hopefully, there’ll be a lot more information about that very soon. But what else did I do this week?

22
Jul
13

All New Showcase Episode 292: San Diego Comic-Con 2013

AllNewShowcase2This week, Blake decides it’s high time the Showcase got a new coat of paint, a slightly amended format, and a much snazzier archive page. Welcome to the first episode of the All New Showcase! In this episode, Blake explains the reasons for the change before sitting down with Kenny and Erin to talk about all the news from this year’s San Diego Comic-Con International. Witchblade Vs. the Darkness, the Simpsons meeting the Griffins and the Planet Express crew, Riverdale swaming with zombies, JMS taking on the Twilight Zone, new series for Harley Quinn, the return of Nightcrawler, Avengers 2 gets a title and Man of Steel 2 gets a guest-star! This and much, much more in the first All New Showcase! Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

And what’s cool this week? For Kenny, it’s Pacific Rim, for Erin it’s the works of the late Richard Matheson, and for Blake it’s The Argonauts!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

All New Showcase #292: San Diego 2013

Superman-Batman

20
Jul
13

2 in 1 Shot #9: Phineas and Ferb/Star Wars

showcase logo small

This week’s regular episode will be delayed a tad so that the boys can talk about all of the announcements at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, but in the meantime, here’s a quickie to tide you over. They’re already taking on a mission with Marvel, and now next year, Disney’s Phineas and Ferb will collide with the Star Wars universe. What does Blake think about this? Find out in this 2 in 1 Shot! Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

2 in 1 Shot #9: Phineas and Ferb/Star Wars

phineaus-and-farb-star-wars

14
Jul
13

2 in 1 Showcase At the Movies Episode 36: Monster-Sized Double Feature

showcase logo smallBlake is back this week with a double monster movie review. This week he looks at Guillermo Del Toro’s new epic Pacific Rim and Pixar’s prequel Monsters University. We also double up on the picks with Astro City #2 and Quantum and Woody #1! Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

2 in 1 Showcase At the Movies #36: Monster-Sized Double Feature

26
May
13

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 290: The Doctor’s Name, the Trek Into Darkness

showcase logo small

Kenny makes his triumphant and long-awaited return to the microphone this week, as he and Blake get into some recent TV and movie madness. In highly spoilery fashion, the guys discuss the Doctor Who season seven finale, The Name of the Doctor, then proceed to dig into Star Trek Into Darkness, as well as the real “Avengers Vs. X-Men” moment brewing between Fox and Disney over who’s going to use Quicksilver on screen, X-Men: Days of Future Past or Avengers 2. In the picks, Kenny goes with the non-graphic novel Spice and Wolf Vol. 1, and Blake bids adieu to the Geoff Johns era with Green Lantern #20. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 290: The Doctor’s Name, the Trek Into Darkness

28
Apr
13

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 288: Free Comic Book Day 2013 Preview

showcase logo smallNext week is Free Comic Book Day 2013, and once again, Blake and Erin are here to walk you through the books being offered. What are this year’s can’t-miss titles? What are books you’ve never heard of that may be worth your time? And what special treat has Blake cooked up for you guys? Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 288: Free Comic Book Day Preview 2013

22
Apr
13

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 287: Summer Movie Preview 2013

showcase logo smallThe temperatures are rising and it’s almost time to seek refuge in a nice, air-conditioned movie theater. This week, Blake and Erin walk you through all the big releases of Summer 2013 — what we’re excited about, what we couldn’t care less about, and a heck of a lot in-between. In the picks, Erin is getting into the BBC’s Sherlock, and Blake’s favorite new comic of 2012 Danger Club, returns from hiatus. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 287: Summer Movie Preview 2013

14
Apr
13

2 in 1 Shot #7: Comics Kick Ass Week

showcase logo smallOur pal Adam from the Graphic Panels Podcast has declared the week before Free Comic Book Day, beginning April 29, to be Comics Kick Ass Week — a time to celebrate what we love about comics, and we here at the Showcase are going to tell you how to help spread the word. Blake talks about what’s got him excited about comics this week and tells you how to do the same. In the picks this week, it’s Batman and Robin #19. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Join the Comics Kick Ass Week event on Facebook!
Follow Comics Kick Ass Week on Tumblr!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

2 in 1 Shot #7: Comics Kick Ass Week

09
Mar
13

If all you know of Oz is Judy Garland…

Oz-poster1I’m pretty excited, I admit, for Disney’s new film Oz the Great and Powerful. I’ll be catching it tonight with some friends and, no doubt, I will have plenty to say about it. However, before I go into the film, there are a few folks online I feel the need to address. Every time somebody tries to touch upon the land of Oz at all, it seems, there are some people who crawl out of the woodwork and start complaining about how the filmmakers (or writers or artists or whatnot) are not “respecting the original,” by which they invariably mean the 1939 Judy Garland film. They complain about hints of darkness, more frightening monsters, new characters and environments that somehow don’t fit their vision of what Oz should be. And to those people, while you are certainly entitled to your opinion, I would like to make a friendly suggestion:

Read a book.

MGM Studios did not create Oz, people. The Land of Oz first appeared some 39 years earlier in the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Baum wrote 14 other Oz books (13 novels and a collection of short stories), and then other writers took his place after his death, stretching the “official” Oz canon to 40 novels before it finally came to a halt in 1963 with Merry Go Round in Oz. After that, the earlier novels began to lapse into public domain, and since that time hundreds — actually, probably thousands — of writers, artists, actors, songwriters, and creators of all types have joined in the fray to create their unique visions of Oz.

As magnificent a film as the 1939 Wizard of Oz is, as perfect as the music is, as brilliant the color and visual appeal of the film, here’s something people just don’t admit often enough: it’s not really a very good adaptation of Baum’s work. The tone is very different, many key sequences are omitted, and other things are changed for various reasons. There is, in fact, only one thing I would argue the MGM film does better than the Baum original, and that’s increasing the role of the Wicked Witch. Baum’s biggest weakness as a storyteller (I say as someone who has read all of his Oz novels and several of his non-Oz books) comes in his antagonists. Many of the Oz books are just a group of characters (often, but not always including Dorothy and her friends) stumbling from one adventure to another with little motivation except to get where they’re going (often, but not always, the Emerald City). The villains are often an afterthought, and rarely truly terrifying, with the one exception of Roquat, the Nome King. Margaret Hamilton’s version of the witch was not only iconic, but a vast improvement over the relatively minor character she was in the original novel. But it still wasn’t the “original,” as so many people say.

Hell, if we’re going to get technical, the Judy Garland film isn’t even the original movie version of Oz — there were several silent films in earlier years, including some written and directed by L. Frank Baum himself, that depicted a vision of the land of Oz that’s very different from the world most people today are familiar with.

But for all of the changes and alterations between the film and the novel, I’m okay with that. You see, there are basically two schools of thought when it comes to creating new Oz stories. There are the creators who try to remain as faithful as possible to Baum’s universe, giving us new adventures in a world that feels like it could seamlessly fit with that Baum created. These books exist to expand upon Baum, giving us new characters and locations, but also presenting new adventures of our old friends like Ozma of Oz, the Hungry Tiger, the Sawhorse, Tik-Tok, Jack Pumpkinhead, Billina the Yellow Hen, the Shaggy Man, Polychrome, Professor H.M. Wogglebug, T.E….

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz 1Little Adventures in Oz Vol 2aSorry, you were all thinking of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodsman and the Cowardly Lion, weren’t you? They’re in there too, don’t worry, but even Baum went far beyond those four characters. And in books and comics like these, we see all of them in stories that feel like they belong with the original “Famous Forty” books of old. Eric Shanower, for example, creates novels and comic books in Baum’s world, sometimes alone, sometimes illustrating the work of other writers like Edward Einhorn. More recently, Shanower has been adapting the original Oz novels into comic books for Marvel, with magnificent artwork by Skottie Young (to the left of the above image), which doesn’t fit the original art as well as Shanower’s own (shown to the right), but is a beautiful vision of Oz nonetheless.

Oz_Reimagined_Final_Front_CoverThen there is a second school of thought, one which has become increasingly popular in recent years. These creators take Baum’s framework as their inspiration, but turn out a work that is unique and incompatible with the official Oz canon. Gregory Maguire’s novel Wicked is probably the most famous example, at least since it became the basis for a smash hit Broadway play. Then there’s Angelo Tirotto and Richard Jordan’s No Place Like Home from Image Comics, which recasts the elements of Oz into an intriguing horror story. Big Dog Ink. has given us The Legend of Oz: The Wicked West, which mixes Baum’s universe into a dark western realm that reminds me increasingly of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series (which, itself, plays on Oz imagery at several points in the story). A few years ago SyFy gave us the miniseries Tin Man (more of a sci-fi take) and just weeks ago some enterprising writers came out with the book Oz Reimagined, in which 15 contemporary science fiction and fantasy authors each created a new short story based on their own personal visions of Oz. (The book is available in paperback, or each individual story as a $1.99 “single” for Amazon’s Kindle device.)

Some of the creators in this group even go so far as to meld Oz with worlds of their own creation. Stephen King I’ve already mentioned, but one of the Oz Reimagined shorts takes place in the Oz simulation of Tad Williams’s Otherworld science fiction novels. Bill Willingham has incorporated the characters into his Fables comic books, and we’ve seen visions of Oz mixed up with such diverse casts as the Muppets, Tom and Jerry, the Veggietales gang, the Justice League, and several stories that have mixed together the denizens of Oz with the characters of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking-Glass books.

Wicked MusicalAnd the thing is, there’s plenty of room for both schools of thought. I love seeing what new creators can bring to Baum’s world (you may even remember my review of Einhorn and Shanower’s Paradox in Oz from a few years ago). I also love seeing what the likes of Maguire and Tirotto and countless others can create from the mythology Baum gave us. Oz is a world that’s simply too big for there to be any one version of it, that’s part of the magic. That’s one of the things I love about it.

Now if I come back and I think Oz the Great and Powerful stinks, I’ll admit it. I’ll tell you everything I think is wrong with it. But if that is the case I can promise you this much: it won’t be because director Sam Raimi dared diverge from the world Judy Garland landed in.

But if it is good… the hopes for a new Oz renaissance is thrilling to me. More visions, more images of Oz… yes, a lot of it will be sad, tired drek, but that’s true of any cultural movement. I’d rather see people try and fail to live in the world of L. Frank Baum than give us another Twilight rip-off (or worse yet, another Fifty Shades of Grey). And if Disney goes ahead with the sequel they’ve already proposed, even before the film opened yesterday, even better. In fact, I hope they’ve got the guts to go all the way and do an adaptation of the original novel in their land of Oz — an adaptation which, from everything I’ve seen so far, would probably be more faithful to Baum than the Oz Judy walked through 74 years ago.

There’s plenty of Oz out there already. Try a little more of it, then get back to me. You may get lost, of course, but that happens in Oz from time to time. It’s okay. Ultimately, all you’ll need to do is click together the heels of your Silver Shoes and repeat to yourself, “There’s no place like home…”

And thus I leave you with one more point, a visual this time… just a few of the many, magnificent, valiant, viable visions of Oz.




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