Yet Another Journal

Nostalgia, DVDs, old movies, television, OTR, fandom, good news and bad, picks, pans,
cute budgie stories, cute terrier stories, and anything else I can think of.

 Contact me at theyoungfamily (at) earthlink (dot) net

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» Friday, July 25, 2008
A Little Bit of Everything
At last! a decent night's sleep. Of course I have to stay in bed until 9:30 to do it, since I seem to get my best sleep after 6 a.m. I don't expect anything different any longer; my mom gave birth to a night owl, but then she was one herself (my dad always shook his head about how late we stayed up; he was pretty much an 11 p.m. guy himself).

I had a pile of coupons and also wanted to hit Publix for some BOGO staples: I bought pasta and peanut butter, and also some 100-calorie chip packs for DragonCon. Joann had a "coupon commotion," so I got some cross-stitch magazines, needles, magnets, and some storage containers/organizers that were half-price or only one dollar each. I also went to Linens'n'Things, but didn't buy the sheets I was looking at because I didn't know how thick our mattress was (we have a problem with our old fitted sheets not tucking around the mattress properly because they aren't deep-pocketed enough). (Turns out the mattress is 14 inches thick with the egg-crate foam underneath, so the sheets will fit.)

Disappointingly, the Costco at Town Center no longer carries soy isoflavones either. BJs still doesn't carry them, as I found out when I stopped on the way home, since we needed beef and granola bars. I did get some nice round steaks, cut by the butcher, and added to our staples stash with some canned soup.

I also picked up something I'd been see-sawing about: the Chuck Jones Collection. The reason I was wavering was because I already had what was in the collection.

Back in the 1970s, Chuck Jones did three specials (for CBS I believe) based on stories from The Jungle Book and three specials (for ABC), the first based on George Selden's The Cricket in Times Square, with two original sequels following them. I had recorded several of these myself, but they had been in terrible condition (especially Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, which had massive drop-outs). A few years ago, Lionsgate released these as three separate DVD sets, with one Kipling with one cricket: Mowgli's Brothers/Very Merry Cricket; The White Seal/Yankee Doodle Cricket; and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi/Cricket in Times Square. I bought all three.

The Kipling specials were excellent, as Jones was a Kipling fan and based the animated tales strictly on what appeared in the short stories. (I was amused—and annoyed—when someone criticized Mowgli's Brothers as being "not fun like Disney's" version; maybe not, but the short cartoon is the original Kipling!) Granted, Jones' mongoose and seal were a lot "cuter" than their real-life counterparts, but the tale was adhered to, and The White Seal has the added bonus of a magnificent score by Dean Elliot, based on Beethoven's Sixth Symphony. (I laughed today when I looked at the reviews on Amazon for Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and someone criticized the lyrics for the one musical number. The lyrics are directly from Kipling's poem that accompanies the story.)

The Chester Cricket stories are in a lighter vein. Most poetic is the original story, about a lost Connecticut cricket who ends up in the Times Square subway station. His new friends, a cat named Harry and a mouse named Tucker (predictably, Mel Blanc voices Tucker in the cartoons), discover he has a stunning talent: he can listen to any piece of music once and "play it" on his wings. Chester is a sensation, helps revive the business of Mario the newsboy, but gives his final performance (a knockout version of "Meditation," played by Israel Baker) and then goes home to Connecticut (I feel a great kinship with Chester; seeing an autumn leaf makes him homesick). Chester's music makes New Yorkers stop what they're doing and really listen, captured in some delightful static portraits by Jones.

I find A Very Merry Cricket cute (Harry and Tucker fetch Chester back to New York to give the city some Christmas spirit; the Connecticut cat is hilarious), but, frankly, IMO, Yankee Doodle Cricket is a bore. The story was written for the Bicentennial, a slight tale where Tucker's ancestor's "Declaration of Interdependence," Harry's ancestor's interference with Thomas Jefferson's writing, and Chester's ancestor's playing of "Yankee Doodle" inspired the American Revolution. The comic relief here (if you want to call it that), is a snake who inspired the famous flag by commenting repeatedly "Don't Tread on Me." Ho-hum.

Anyway, I did buy the Collection (I'll put the old DVDs in the donation box; it also takes up less room on the DVD rack) and watched it all this afternoon while eating my lunch and trying to read. As always, Yankee Doodle Cricket puts me to sleep. I've never gotten through it without dozing off. I noticed something in the DVD version of A Very Merry Cricket that I had never noticed before, possibly, because I've seen it so many times since the 1970s, first run and on video and even an audio copy I made before I had a VCR, my brain was filling it in. Jones creates an audio tapestry of New York streets at Christmastime in a mixed cacophony of car horns, screeching tires, complaining people and whining children, and the ubiquitous store window display with a clockwork Santa Claus who repeats "Merry Christmas, kiddies!" in a jerky fashion. Near the end, when the electric circuitry overloads and everything begins to lose power, the Santa's voice slows down and then drags to a stop, like a cassette player whose battery is running down. This whole "dying Santa" soundtrack is missing on the DVD! (It's missing on the old version, too—I checked.) Beats me how they lose these little bits of soundtrack. I know I was pissed when Rankin-Bass released Little Drummer Boy with whole musical tracks gone and someone else reading Greer Garson's narration in one spot. This is minor; you'd never know it was gone if you hadn't seen the original, but it's annoying for a videophile.

The collection comes with one bonus the separate DVDs didn't have: a fifteen minute retrospective on Chuck Jones, specifically about his production of these six animated shorts. His widow and voice artist June Foray appear, along with animator Eric Goldberg.

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