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Red Meanies, Blue Meanies: The Cold War roots of the Beatles’ ‘Yellow Submarine’


 
Yellow Submarine is such a brilliantly fun movie experience and so perfectly in the Beatles’ mass culture, mind-evolving spirit that it takes an effort to recall that the Beatles themselves didn’t really have very much to do with it. It says a lot, perhaps, about the strength of the Beatles brand at that time that Yellow Submarine could work so splendidly, even with most of the artists involved being forced to intuit what jokes and artworks constituted an acceptably “Beatles” and “fun” sort of thing. Not much doubt that they succeeded, eh?

The man in charge of the operation was a Czechoslovak-born German named Heinz Edelmann, an artist with a wide portfolio who seems to have become somewhat chagrined at always being thought of as the “Yellow Submarine guy”—that is, unless Peter Max (who was never involved with the movie in any way) was being called the “Yellow Submarine guy” in his stead!
 

Heinz Edelmann
 
In 1993 Edelmann consented to appear on Baltimore’s Best 21st Century Radio hosted by Bob Hieronimus, a fervent admirer of the movie.

Edelmann explained that he was contacted for the Yellow Submarine project by Charlie Jenkins, the art director in charge of the special effects who was responsible for the glorious “Eleanor Rigby” section of the movie, among other sequences. He also pointed out that Yellow Submarine did not represent the first attempt to “do” the Beatles in animation. Starting in 1965 there were also the series of short cartoons that made up the Beatles TV series. and in fact the producer and director of Yellow Submarine, Al Brodax and George Dunning, had also worked on the more rudimentary television shorts.

Things were moving so fast, Edelmann pointed out, that when the TV series was being made, the Beatles were primarily thought of as a Liverpool phenomenon, with the plots staying more or less true to that, but by 1968, when Yellow Submarine was released, that was no longer the case, they belonged to the world, and the tone had to be more universal.

That may explain one of the more intriguing false pathways the movie might have gone down—but didn’t. According to Edelmann, as hard as it seems for such a thing to be possible, the original conception of Yellow Submarine hewed to a Cold War framework. And it actually might have stayed a Cold War allegory—but someone ran out of red paint. Here’s Edelmann:
 

The point, I think was, what I thought the one meaningful thing about it all was, in ‘68 this was more or less the end of the Cold War. Even in the Bond movies they gave up the KGB as the enemy and turned to self-employed villains. So, one had in ‘67, one had the feeling that (a.) the Cold War’s over, that Russia is changing. But also our world is changing with new values to which, with a new vision of the world in which the Beatles played an important part. So, the Meanies, in a way to me, represented a symbolic version of the cold war. And originally they were the Red Meanies.

...

And only because the assistant who came in to do the coloring, she either did not quite understand my instructions, or deliberately did not understand them, but it also could be we didn’t have enough red paint in the place. So they became the Blue Meanies.

 
Certainly Edelmann’s status as a German, coming from a country that was split in two by the Cold War, half of which was experiencing repression from Moscow, would have had something to do with this—because it’s really rather difficult to derive any Cold War meanings out of the Beatles’ own lyrics, which tended to focus on a specific story or else espoused an adherence to universal values. Obviously a message like “All You Need Is Lovewas in some sense about the Cold War, but—well, suffice it to say that the choice to make the movie more about intolerant conservatives and power-hungry buzzkills of all stripes was surely a wise one.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Inhale deeply from Ty Segall’s evil psycho-delic exhaust pipe
07.12.2016
09:36 am

Topics:
Animation
Music

Tags:
Ty Segall


Photo of Ty Segall by Denee Petracek

In my (n)ever so humble opinion, the ultra-prolific Ty Segall is today’s ultimate guitar prophet of mind-expanding gasoline and PCP-infused avant garage-psych-o-tic reaction post-proto-punk lysergic rock riffage. He’s at the exact place on the musical map triangulated by Tony Iommi, Jack White and Snakefinger, a territory surprisingly barren until colonized by the energetic young Mr. Segall, a man who clearly enjoys drugs. Lots and lots of them from the looks of things. His lyrics put me in mind of Marc Bolan without any of the innocence and a massive crack habit.

Ty Segall’s latest album is called Emotion Mugger, out now on Drag City. We’re pleased to debut the new video here today, directed by Meghan Tryon and Garrett Davis, for “California Hills.”

Inhale deeply from Ty Segall’s evil exhaust pipe…
 

 
After the jump, a flock of Segall’s recent videos promoting ‘Emotional Mugger’ and some live appearances…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Ralph Bakshi’s animated assault on racism in America is still an uncompromising gut punch
07.11.2016
11:37 am

Topics:
Animation
Movies
Race

Tags:
Ralph Bakshi


 
A subversive and satirical re-imagining of Disney’s Song Of The South transplanted to Harlem, Ralph Bakshi’s incendiary masterpiece Coonskin exploits and eviscerates grotesque American racial stereotypes with a politically incorrect, profane and vicious sense of humor. The film’s hyper energy is emphasized by Chico Hamilton’s percussive score and the mix of animation and live action set the tone for films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Despite its innovative visuals, there’s nothing slick about Coonskin. The movie has the perfect low-budget skeeziness of a Dolemite flick. And casting Barry White as Brother Bear/Samson and Scatman Crothers as Papa Bone adds layers of pop cultural resonance that continue to reverberate even today. (Did Rick Ross cop his fashion sense from Samson?)
 

 
Released in 1975 to a firestorm of controversy, it took Coonskin several years before the film found an audience that could appreciate it as an edgy aesthetic experiment and a powerful social statement. Wu Tang Clan had plans to re-make it and Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, released 25 years after Coonskin, echoes Bakshi’s brutal take on the pervasive, ages-old racism that permeates American popular culture. Al Sharpton and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) went apeshit and picketed Coonskin before anyone in the organization had even seen the film. (Sharpton quipped “I don’t need to see shit to smell shit.”) Bakshi had hired a number of black animators to work on the film and the NAACP felt it was an important work but still Sharpton couldn’t resist the opportunity for some press. New York City theaters were smoke-bombed during screenings of Coonskin. Nationwide theaters panicked and cancelled bookings.The film’s distributor Paramount Pictures eventually freaked and pulled it from circulation. The positive reception from critics didn’t make up for the fact that most audiences, both black and white, just didn’t get it.
 

 
Quentin Tarantino has championed Coonskin over the years and provided some critical insight into Bakshi’s methods. Tarantino describes the film as…

... hands down the most incendiary piece of work in the entire (blaxploitation) genre. Using negro folklore and slave tales of nonviolent resistance, along with the White American/European media’s racist caricatures of the past (i.e., Disney’s Black Crows, Warner Brothers’ Coal Black, every James River pickaninny that smilingly stared back from grocery shelves, the spaghetti benders of Lady and the Tramp, and the Jews of the Nazi Party-produced The Eternal Jew), Bakshi, with zero timidity, challenged his audiences’ sensibilities in ways that made all the other blaxploitation titles seem like the wish-fulfillment fantasies they were.

In fact, the only voice of the time that had a symbiotic relationship to Bakshi’s work could be found in Richard Pryor’s monologues. To discover that the two gentlemen were friends, and Pryor was a huge fan of Coonskin, comes as no surprise. An America that considers Blazing Saddles and All In The Family stinging racial satire is an America not ready for Coonskin.

 
Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Listen to over an hour of the jazz/surf background music from 60s ‘Spider-Man’ cartoon
06.27.2016
01:17 pm

Topics:
Animation
Music
Television

Tags:
Spider-Man


 
There were three main ways I learned about Spider-Man as a child. The first was his wordless appearances on The Electric Company. Then as a tween, I came to love the excellent Saturday morning series from the early 1980s, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends featuring Iceman and Firestar.

But before all of that was Spider-Man, the animated adventure series that ran on ABC starting in 1967. That series, of course, is the origin of the famous “Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can!” theme jingle, but the musical bounty of the series hardly ended there.

The incidental music was credited to Ray Ellis, an arranger and conductor whose primary claim to fame is his orchestration on Billie Holiday’s 1958 album Lady in Satin. In the 1980s and 1990s Ellis was occupied with game shows like Hot Streak, Scrabble, and Scattergories, but his work on Spider-Man is a groovy and atmospheric marvel that rewards further listens, combining surf guitar, luxuriant horns, and some splendid hard bop.
 
Listen after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘I Don’t Wanna Grow Up’: Comix god Daniel Clowes’ cartoony video for the Ramones’ Tom Waits cover
06.17.2016
11:03 am

Topics:
Animation
Art
Music
Punk

Tags:
The Ramones
Daniel Clowes


 
On a recent episode of WTF, Marc Maron had an expansive chat with the renowned comix artist Daniel Clowes, the mind responsible for Eightball, Ghost World, Wilson, and the 2016 release Patience.

I learned a lot I didn’t know about Clowes—I hadn’t realized, for instance, that as a Pratt student who was born in 1961, Clowes was actually bouncing around New York City the same time that Blondie, Lydia Lunch etc. were making Manhattan such a vital artistic locale.

Clowes’ unbridled hostility towards the hippies that came before him and their arena-ready rock and roll (think Led Zeppelin) actually made him an ideal audience for the seething musical forms percolating right around that time. As he told Maron, “I was like the guy punk was made for, because it was destructive of all the stuff I hated.” And of all the punk bands in the world to choose from, one stood out:
 

Maron: Do you remember the first punk record [you bought]?
Clowes: It was the first Ramones record. ... The trouble was, that’s still my favorite one. Like, I never found anything I liked as much as that. I spent like five years like, OK, there’s gonna be another one—No, they were the best, and nobody else came close to that.


 
Clowes saw the Ramones play at Irving Plaza after they’d gotten a little too big for CBGB—most likely the March 4, 1980, show.

Fast-forward to the mid-1990s. The Ramones were putting out ¡Adios Amigos!, which would be their last studio album, and Clowes was a well-known figure in the comix scene who had released Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron a couple of years earlier. The single for the album was a cover of a Tom Waits song off of 1992’s Bone Machine called “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.”
 

 
If the video hadn’t been for Clowes’ favorite band, he probably wouldn’t have considered the sacrifices he had to make in order to finish the project. Clowes told the AV Club in 2008:
 

I got the phone call about that project on the first of June 1995, and it was on TV the first of July. It was a month from knowing about it to it being so done it was on TV. It was insane. I would stay up all night drawing pictures for it. At 6 in the morning, this bleary-eyed messenger would come to my door and pick up the latest drawings, take them to an animation studio in Mill Valley, and then come back later and pick up more. I had to postpone my wedding to do that.

The greatest moment of my life was, somebody sent me a cable-access show from Chicago that had Joey Ramone on it showing that video. And he was talking about, like, [imitates Queens accent] “This guy Dan Clowes postponed his wedding for us. He’s a great guy.”

 
Check out the video after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Private Parts’: Trippy animated short features cartoon penises and vaginas talking about sex
05.17.2016
10:29 am

Topics:
Animation
Sex

Tags:
Anna Ginsburg


 
“Private Parts,” a loose and funny short about sex directed by British animator Anna Ginsburg, was released today by the arts blog It’s Nice That in collaboration with the British TV network Channel Four.

Ginsburg made the movie by collecting a series of frank conversations about sex and then having them animated, only with genitalia standing in for the people in the dialogue.

One vagina says it’s sad when you masturbate to a fantasized projection in your mind as opposed to the lover you’re with; one glum wang receives the advice to “just be who you are” in bed—“you do you, you do yourself, you get me?” One willy compares a woman’s vagina to a “Rubik’s cube ... sometimes it’s, like, quite straightforward, sometimes it doesn’t work like that!”

The animators who participated in the short, which alternates between many different styles and feels something akin to a Sesame Street-style short, only about sex, were Ginsburg, Moth Collective, Peter Millard, Loup Blaster, Will Anderson, George Wheeler, and Mark Prendergast.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Pink Punk: Listen to the bizarre anti-punk rock anthem from… the Pink Panther!?!
05.06.2016
02:59 pm

Topics:
Animation
Punk

Tags:
The Pink Panther


 
In the late 1970s, quite a few performers of a certain age glommed on to the disco craze and came out with four on the floor-flavored albums of their own (thinking of you, Ethel Merman and Fred Astaire). Later on, of course, a similar thing happened to rap, as Rodney Dangerfield might be the first to tell us. (And no, Rodney’s rap got no respect and deserved none.)

You don’t think of that happening to punk—it’s difficult to imagine Ethyl Merman covering “Belsen Was Gas” in a green mohawk—but occasionally you’d get weird things like 1980’s Chipmunk Punk, which, as my colleague Ron Kretsch pointed out, covered in squeaky fashion such “punk” legends as Billy Joel, Tom Petty, and Linda Ronstadt.

In the same vein was Pink Panther Punk, which came out in 1981 and which (seriously, guys?) ALSO featured a cover of a Billy Joel song. (Chipmunk Punk at least had the good sense to cover one of Joel’s harder cuts, “You May Be Right”; for reasons that will become obvious in due course, Pink Panther Punk selected a song of Joel’s with a far more ambiguous relationship to the punk movement, “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.”)
 

 
Not only was Pink Panther Punk a bizarre idea from the bottom up—why do a punk tribute album for an animated character who almost never spoke? The Panther’s fans had no real idea what he sounded like, after all. But even more palpable was the barely suppressed rage directed at the punk movement. The Pink Panther is pretty much synonymous with Henry Mancini as well as the hard bebop that appeared in many of the Pink Panther shorts, both of which decidedly represented the old guard music-wise compared to the new and vital movement ushered in by the Ramones and Sex Pistols.

The hostility towards punk evinced on Pink Panther Punk is evident mainly in the sheer ignorance of punk on the part of those responsible for the album. The album cover depicts a montage of the Panther playing such essential punk instruments as the saxophone and the synthesizer. The closest the album comes to covering a punk classic is Blondie’s “Call Me”—Blondie may have been regulars at CBGB but that song has little to do with punk rock.

In addition to “Call Me,” the album features covers of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” and the Doobie Brothers’ “What a Fool Believes.”  We’ve already mentioned Joel’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” which is, it’s fair to say, Joel’s more traditionally oriented “response” to the lively brew of new music forms percolating in the mid- to late 1970s, including punk.

The clincher is the first song on the second side, which was called “It’s Punk!” The song introduces a “band” that is rather lazily called the Pink Punks—the song was obviously conceived as something like a Mad Magazine style treatment of what was obviously a fad. The song itself has nothing to do with punk, and indeed would not be out of place on, say, the Grease soundtrack.

All the songs that weren’t covers were written by John Braden, whose other credits include Stories from The Dukes of Hazzard and Strawberry Shortcake’s Touch Your Toes, Touch Your Nose Fun & Exercise Album.

If you are unsure of how much of a fan Braden was of punk music, just read the lyrics to “It’s Punk!”:

Why do all the people point at us and stare?
At our motorcycle jackets and the crazy clothes we wear?
Maybe it’s our makeup or our green and purple hair
I’m sure they have their reasons, but frankly we don’t care!
Well it’s true that we look ragged, in a state of disrepair
But let us turn you on to a secret that we share
It’s all a great big act that we put on for you squares
Because while you’re working 9 to 5, we’ll be millionaires!

Punk—it’s junk, it’s punk, it’s bunk
It rocks, it socks, it mocks, it shocks
It’s old, it’s cold, it’s old, it’s gold
It yells, it smells, it smells, it sells

It’s punk!

It’s slick, it’s trick, it’s thick, it’s sick
It’s chic, it’s meek, it’s freak, it’s weak
It’s fright, it’s smike, it’s dyke, it’s like
It’s through, it’s new, it’s residue

It’s punk!

How can you like it if you’ve never tried it?
Who cares if you like it as long as you buy it?

It’s sold, it smells, it’s gold, it sells
It’s punk!

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Cute Jehovah’s Witnesses animation teaches kids how to be homophobic


If you want to get through Jehovah’s metal detector into paradise, you’ll have to leave behind that bag full of love and inclusivity

Jehovah’s Witnesses have released a cute Pixar-ish animation intended to teach children that same-sex marriage is against the will of God.

Lesson 22 is titled “One Man, One Woman” and is part of a longer series called “Be Jehovah’s Friend!” The animation shows considerable influence from Pixar’s monster hit from 2015, Inside Out.

The video depicts a young girl telling her mother about an episode at school involving a friend named Carrie who drew a picture of her family, which has two mommies but no daddy. The girl passes on the comment from the teacher—a liberal heathen and a threat to everything right and good—that “all that matters is that people love each other and that they’re happy.” This bit of commonsense truth provides an opening for the girl’s mother to bring down the hammer and explain that Carrie’s mommies are never going to get into heaven if they persist in such unholy pursuits.

“People have their own ideas about what is right and wrong, but what matters is what Jehovah feels,” says the mother. The mother then makes an analogy that compares the gatekeepers of heaven to a kind of celestal TSA with a metal detector to deny entry to those with false beliefs:
 

It’s kind of like going on an airplane. What would happen if someone wanted to bring something on the plane that wasn’t allowed? ... To get [to paradise], we have to leave some things behind. That means anything Jehovah doesn’t approve of.

 
At the end of the video, the girl, newly motivated to get her friend Carrie to change her parents’ ways, says, “I can tell her about the paradise, and about the animals, and about the resurrection!”

And then her mother says, “Let’s practice!”

A disclaimer at the end of the video states that it was produced by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, a Jehovah’s Witness organization.

SMH, SMH…...
 

 
via Gay Star News

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Crazed loner builds a robotic tongue to lick images of his favorite anime characters
04.26.2016
02:49 pm

Topics:
Animation
Science/Tech

Tags:
anime


 
So this guy created a little device where he attached an artificial tongue to a little robotic contraption, and now whenever he presses the button, the tongue swings into action and strokes a vertical surface in an up-and-down motion until he removes his finger.
 

 
He designed it specifically to lick the screen of his computer while it has images of his favorite anime characters displayed on it. In other words the device was created to enable him to worship his favorite characters without getting his regular human tongue involved. Seems to me his “worship” has certain limits…...

Then again, I suppose he intended it tongue-in-cheek, right? (runs away)
 

 
via The Daily Dot

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘The biggest thing since World War III’: Lou Reed, Debbie Harry, and Iggy Pop talk ‘Rock and Rule’


 
The 1983 animated rock and roll movie Rock and Rule was a failure at the box office but found its audience on cable TV a couple years later. Produced by the Canadian animation studio Nelvana, the movie is a sci-fi rock and roll allegory between good and evil, pitting a rock band of cute mutants called the Drats against an ageing, Mephistophelian rock star/sorcerer named Mok who is intent on securing a special voice capable of unleashing a powerful demon from another dimension who will make Mok immortal. Rock and Rule had a similar look and feel to Heavy Metal, which came out in 1981.

Heavy Metal, true to its title, used music by Blue Öyster Cult, Journey, Grand Funk Railroad, Nazareth, Sammy Hagar, and, er, Donald Fagen, and similarly, Rock and Rule benefited from the contributions of Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire as well as Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and Chris Stein and Debbie Harry of Blondie.

Nelvana released a 25-minute promo documentary about the making of the movie.  “Making of” documentaries of animated movies always have the potential to be dreadfully dull (due to the exacting and painstaking process involved), but in this case, since the subject matter of the movie is so much about rock and roll itself, it’s only appropriate to feature a lot of interviews with the musicians, which is the strategy adopted here.

Interestingly, both Maurice White and Chris Stein separately offer the perspective that they like writing music for movies because the overall artistic direction is already decided. Producer Michael Hirsh notes that Debbie Harry and Chris Stein were good choices as musical contributors because it was so exceedingly likely that they would give so much of themselves to the project.

Lou Reed, composer and singer of “My Name Is Mok,” had this to say about the movie’s heavy:
 

I felt very positive towards Mok because there are many things to work with, with him, I could identfy with him up to a point, but he was—the way he looked, the things he said, the kind of things he believed in, there were a lot of ways I could relate to that, and even though I don’t necessarily think that way I could really bite into his character and become that way with him, you know, and make him live and breathe like a real person.

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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