Saturday Morning Slow Jams' slick R&B cover of the Transformers theme. Don't miss their takes on Muppet Babies (below), Ducktales, Pokemon, Animaniacs, and many more.
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A reminder that Animaniacs/Pinky and the Brain were a high-water mark in kids' animation: the greatest English-language tongue-twister of all time!
Pinky and the Brain, Tongue Twister
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We've gathered fresh video for you to surf and enjoy on the Boing Boing video page. The latest finds for your viewing pleasure include:
• Slow motion study reveals the shocking effects of gravity upon our body.
• Astounding Beetlejuice roller-coaster made in Minecraft.
• Internet-of-Things answering machine from 1992, with marbles.
• Supercut of all the alternate endings to the Animaniacs theme.
• Kenna gender swapped Link and Zelda sprites on a Zelda ROM.
• Electroluminescent paint: like EL wire you apply with a brush.
• Clueless Texas Congressman can't get how Gmail ads work through his thick, thick skull.
Boing Boing: Video! Read the rest
Here's TammieRD's compilation of all the alternate endings to the Animaniacs theme song, each better than the last.
Mental Floss's Rob Lammle has researched an admirably thorough history of The Animaniacs, one of my all-time favorite cartoons.
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Of the Warners, the voice of Wakko was the most difficult to cast. During auditions, the producers said they were looking for “wacky,” so all the actors delivered a voice that was over-the-top crazy, but none were the right fit. On the last day of auditions, Ruegger brought his 1990 Almanac to the office, hoping to find some inspiration that might shake things up. Many wacky Wakko’s later, they still didn’t have the right voice. So during their last appointment of the morning, with voice actor Jess Harnell, Ruegger opened the almanac to a list of celebrities and asked Harnell to do his best impression of Elvis, Rodney Dangerfield, Jackie Gleason, Frank Sinatra, and other notable names. When the Beatles came up, Harnell proceeded to do every one of the Fab Four so well you could actually tell which individual band member he was mimicking at the moment. However, it was Harnell’s Ringo that struck a chord with the producers, so after a few tweaks, that became the voice of Wakko.
To promote Animaniacs before the show’s premiere, a giant balloon in the shape of Yakko was placed on top of the water tower on the Warner Bros. lot. Unfortunately, no one told Bob Daley, who ran the studio. When he pulled into work that morning, he thought someone had put a bad Mickey Mouse balloon on the tower and ordered it removed.
Here's a 2005 video of Rob Paulsen, who was the voice of Yakko Warner on the amazing Animaniacs cartoon, performing "Yakko's World," a fiendishly difficult and delightful Gilbert & Sullivanesque recital of the nations of the world set to the tune of the "Mexican Hat Dance." The song is from a 1993 episode of the show, and Paulsen's got near-perfect recall of it 12 years later.
Rob Paulsen- Nations of the World (via Reddit) Read the rest
My daughter's almost four, and we quite enjoy fishing around on YouTube for great cartoons to watch. I've just introduced her to the Animaniacs (don't tell her, but we've got the whole DVD set coming for her birthday!), starting with the classic I'm Mad, which led me to this kick-ass live-action fan-version posted in 2007.
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My three year old loves to sing, and so do I -- and she shares my trick memory for silly lyrics. So every day, I rack my brains for a new ridiculous song to teach to her. Last week, I scored a major hit with Harry Belafonte's Man Piaba
, which sent me to Wikipedia to look up Belafonte's life, which in turn sent me to the entry on mento
, a Jamaican precursor to ska and reggae. It sounds a lot like calypso, but with horn and rhythm sections I identify with early ska, like the stuff collected on the Trojan box set
(another big favorite around our house).
The references section in the Wikipedia entry recommended Take Me to Jamaica: Story of Jamaican Mento, a 24-track tour through the early years of recorded mento, featuring Lord Tickler, Lord Composer, Lord Flea, Chin's Calypso Sextet, and a bunch of other artists I'd never heard of but have been enjoying immensely.
This stuff has resurfaced plenty in pop culture -- Animaniacs fans will recognize The Monkey Song, which apparently started out life as Lord Messam and His Calysonians's Monkey, and is even more fun in its original incarnation; almost as much fun as the Belafonte standard "Hold 'Im Joe" (performed here by Lord Fly). In fact, if I were to make a tag-cloud of all adjectives that occurred to me while thoroughly enjoying this CD, it would be dominated by the word "fun." Songs like "Names of Funny Places" (by Hubert Porter) and "Let's Play Ring Jamaican Style" are so much fun to listen to and sing along with that they're practically criminal. Read the rest
Zack sez, "In the 1990s, ANIMANIACS took stabs at many then-current figures (Bill Clinton cameoed in the theme song for a few years), but one never made it on screen -- a song where Dot, the Warner Sister, does a love song to Newt Gingrich. The story behind the never-animated cartoon and the script are in the link."
Dear Mister Gingrich,
Or may I call you Newt?
Dear Mister Gingrich
She looks up into the air, thinking, then continues to write.
There's just one little thing which
I have to say -- you're cute.
She puts the tip of the eraser against her lips, thinking. She
gets and idea and goes back to writing.
So before you start your session
To enact your ten point plan,
She puts down the pencil and picks up the picture, staring at it.
Please make this one concession,
She pulls the picture in close to her face as CAMERA TIGHTENS
ANGLE. They are framed cheek to cheek.
And be my Congress-man.
Freakazoid on DVD -- yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes!
A capella soul covers of cartoon TV show theme songs
Harpo Marx on the origin of the "Gookie" Read the rest
Mark and I have rounded up some of our favorite items from our 2009 Boing Boing reviews for the second-annual Boing Boing gift guide. We'll do one a day for the next six days, covering media (music/games/DVDs), gadgets and stuff, kids' books, novels, nonfiction, and comics/graphic novels/art books. Today, it's media!
Here Comes Science:
I am thoroughly smitten with the new They Might Be Giants kids' album, Here Comes Science, which ships with a charming DVD of videos and supplementary material. In the best traditions of awesome educational kids music -- Schoolhouse Rock, the Animaniacs, Electric Company -- Here Comes Science combines top-notch pop music with humor that's aimed at both kids and adults (I once heard the creators of Sesame Street discuss how the inclusion of humor targeted at adults meant that grownups were more likely to watch with the kids, and thus be on hand to answer questions and discuss the material; this should be gospel for everyone who makes media for kids). And, of course, the material is great. Better than great. Perfect. This is the album They Might Be Giants was put on Earth to record: they are genuine science nerds, and it shows.
Full review | Purchase
Rolling Stone Cover
to Cover: The First 40 Years Every issue on three DVDs and
works with Windows and Mac. It's fun to search on terms to see when
they first appeared in Rolling Stone. "Punk Rock" made its debut in
1973 (though it was about garage punk, not the punk rock that began in
1975). Read the rest
I am thoroughly smitten with the new They Might Be Giants kids' album, Here Comes Science
, which ships with a charming DVD of videos and supplementary material. In the best traditions of awesome educational kids music -- Schoolhouse Rock, the Animaniacs, Electric Company -- Here Comes Science
combines top-notch pop music with humor that's aimed at both kids and adults (I once heard the creators of Sesame Street discuss how the inclusion of humor targeted at adults meant that grownups were more likely to watch with the kids, and thus be on hand to answer questions and discuss the material; this should be gospel for everyone who makes media for kids). And, of course, the material is great. Better than great. Perfect. This is the album They Might Be Giants was put on Earth to record: they are genuine science nerds, and it shows.
For Here Comes Science contains a broad, inclusive and thought-provoking tour through science in all its facets. Songs like "Science is Real" (which explains how scientific beliefs are different from beliefs in unicorns and other beliefs formed without rigorous testing) and "Put It To the Test" (possibly the best kids' song ever written about falsifiablity in hypothesis formation) cover the basics, the big Philosophy of Science questions.
Then there's songs for all the major disciplines: "Meet the Elements," "I am a Paleontologist" (also delving into the joys of a science career), "My Brother the Ape," "How Many Planets," and the diptych formed by "Why Does the Sun Shine?" (stars considered as superheated gas) and "Why Does the Sun Really Shine?" (stars considered as superheated plasma) -- these last two are a brilliant look into how different paradigms have different practical and theoretical uses. Read the rest
Irwin Chusid, journalist, music historian, radio personality and self-described "landmark preservationist," (wiki) wrote the following essay to mark the centennial of composer Raymond Scott for Boing Boing. Portrait of Raymond Scott above by Drew Friedman. (Click image for full size.)
His merry melodies have propelled the antics of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, Animaniacs, and Bart Simpson. His recordings underscore the body-fluid fetishism of Ren & Stimpy. Yet Raymond Scott, who was born in Brooklyn 100 years ago today, never wrote a note for a cartoon in his life.
Scott's popular 1930s faux-jazz novelties were festooned with titles like "Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals," "Celebration on the Planet Mars," and "New Year's Eve in a Haunted House." When Warner Bros. purchased Scott's publishing in 1943, their music director Carl Stalling began seasoning his cartoon scores with Scott's sonic spice. In hundreds of these anarchic shorts, Stalling sampled over a dozen Scott titles, with "Powerhouse" echoing behind countless cat-chase-mouse sequences and ominous assembly lines. Since forever, Scott's quirky musical motifs have become genetically encoded in every earthling.
Not that it mattered to Scott. He didn't care about cartoons. He cared about machines -- whether they had a pulse or not. His demanding perfectionism was legendary. He rehearsed his sidemen to the point of exhaustion and resentment -- and insulted them if they failed to meet the maestro's standards. Drummer Johnny Williams (father of composer John Williams) told an interviewer: "We were machines, only we had names."
Since Scott couldn't hire the perfect musicians, he built them. Read the rest
Harpo Marx -- my second-favorite Marx brother -- explains the origin of the Gookie, his magnificent, world-beating funny-face (there was a fantastic Animaniacs version of this -- post links to it in the comments below if you know where it lives online!)
Gookie was funny enough to look at when he wasn’t working, but when he got up to full speed rolling cigars he was something to see. It was a marvel how fast his stubby fingers could move. And when he got going good he was completely lost in his work, so absorbed that he had no idea what a comic face he was making. His tongue lolled out in a fat roll, his cheeks puffed out, and his eyes popped out and crossed themselves.
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I used to stand there and practice imitating Gookie’s look for fifteen, twenty minutes at a time, using the window glass as a mirror. He was too hypnotized by his own work to notice me. Then one day I decided I had him down perfect--tongue, cheeks, eyes, the whole bit.
Over the years, in every comedy act or movie I ever worked in, I’ve “thrown a Gookie” at least once. It wasn’t always planned, especially in our early vaudeville days. If we felt the audience slipping away, fidgeting and scraping their feet through our jokes, Groucho or Chico would whisper in panic, “Ssssssssssst! Throw me a Gookie!” The fact that it seldom failed to get a laugh is quite a tribute to the original possessor of the face.
Kyle Baker's reworking of the stretched-out DC hero Plastic Man combines the best of MAD Magazine, Tex Avery cartoons, political satire, and balls-out Animaniacs-style mayhem.
Kyle Baker is one of the most versatile comics creators working in the business today. My gateway to his work was his side-splitting Why I Hate Saturn, a decidedly adult graphic novel. Since then, I've sampled his histories of slave revolts, family comedy collections, and many other works with wildly varying artistic and narrative styles.
In the Plastic Man books, Baker invokes the maddest, wildest spit-takes of comic and cartoon history, with silly plotlines that had me spraying water out my nose -- Plastic Man and his FBI girlfriend borrow Superman's time-machine to take Abraham Lincoln (who turns out to be John Wilkes Booth in clever disguise) back in time, end up bringing a dinosaur to civil-war America, where the maddened saurian squishes a Klan rally -- and that's just the set-up.
The artwork owes a debt to MAD's Sergio Argones and Will Eisner, by way of the Incredibles' stylish palette, dipping into Tex Avery for the spit-takes. Every layout has hidden gags for the attentive reader. This is what underwear pervert funnybooks should be like: self-reflective, over-the-top, and political.
Vol 1: Plastic Man: On the Lam,
Vol 2: Plastic Man: Rubber Bandits
Graphic novel history of Nat Turner's slave revolt
Kyle "Why I Hate Saturn" Baker's new collection
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