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Before ‘Atlanta’ there was Donald Glover’s ‘Clapping for the Wrong Reasons’
01.09.2017
06:00 pm

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Hip-hop
Television

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Last night Donald Glover and Atlanta won well-deserved Golden Globes for “Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy” and “Best Actor in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy” for the show’s creator, writer and star. Despite these awards—and a slew of others Atlanta and Glover have won or been nominated for—I’d wager that much of America has still to catch up with the FX network’s breakout new hit. If you fall into that category, you need to change that status, stat, jack.

Several friends of mine were raving about Atlanta after it premiered in September, but I was too preoccupied with hate-watching a reality show called “Election 2016” to take much notice at first. By the time I finally sat down to watch Atlanta, five episodes had already piled up and I greedily watched all five one right after the other. Had there been more I’d have watched the entire series then and there. I loved Atlanta. My wife loved it as much as I did. There is so much great television on today that to designate just one show as the very “best” is a difficult task, but even still, Atlanta is what comes immediately to mind when I ponder what that one best current TV show would be. With Rotten Tomatoes giving Atlanta a 100% approval rating and Metacritic bestowing upon it a 90 out of 100 score, clearly many other people feel the same.

It was a few episodes in—the one where Earn wants to sell his sword to raise some quick money—when I put my finger on exactly what I believe makes Atlanta feel so fresh and special—and just that much of a cut above anything else—in a sea of admittedly ultra great competitors. Dig the shot where they walk into the pawn shop. Watch the choreography of how the camera moves, watch what the actors do, notice the color palate going on. “Clearly the director [Hiro Murai] has watched every single Godard film” I remarked to my wife, but that’s what it was: Atlanta is shot like a European arthouse film that is bogged down by exactly zero of the standard tropes of American sitcoms. It’s one of the most cinematic things ever produced for TV that is, essentially still a situation comedy. Compare and contrast it with, say, Seinfeld. There are a lot of things you could find that the two shows had in common, but stylistically speaking, there are just about none.
 

 
With the sharpest writing around, a cast of some of the most charismatic young actors working today and the insanely brilliant comedic timing of Ivy League-trained thespian Brian Tyree Henry as “Paper Boi” there’s already a level of excellence afoot here, but again, it’s the attention to detail that gives the impression that we’re looking at a finely cut diamond. Another key element of Atlanta‘s success is the incorporation of casually oddball events that call attention to themselves just for a moment before the characters move on. Who doesn’t have quirky encounters on a daily basis? Atlanta is great at capturing how mundanely surreal life can be—not something that’s easy to accomplish—and does so better than anything else currently on television

Which brings me to Clapping for the Wrong Reasons, a short film that Glover wrote and starred in (playing himself to a certain extent) and Murai directed. Clapping for the Wrong Reasons was produced to promote Glover’s second Childish Gambino album Because the Internet in 2013. Filled with the same sort of attention to small details as Atlanta, Clapping for the Wrong Reasons—which takes place high in the Hollywood Hills under much different socio-economic circumstances—plays slower but has some wonderful (and wonderfully strange) moments. I don’t want to imply that it was a dry run for Atlanta—because I do not think that was the case—but if you’re hankering for something more produced by the same creative team, it’s the next best thing.

More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
That time Elvira & ‘Ralph Malph’ (dressed up like Gene Simmons) were on ‘CHiPs’
01.05.2017
09:58 am

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Amusing
Occult
Pop Culture
Television

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Erik Estrada as ‘Officer Frank Poncherello’ (AKA “Ponch”) and Donnie Most in character as ‘Moloch’ from the ‘CHiPs’ episode ‘Rock Devil Rock’ that aired on October 31st, 1982. 
 
Like many of you, I spent much of my youth just like the character of “Mike Teavee” from the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory did—watching a ridiculous amount of prime time televison programming. What’s especially fun about reflecting back on many of those shows are the occasional appearances of rock and roll luminaries like Suzi Quatro jamming with her fictional band on Happy Days as the awesome “Leather Tuscadero,” Debbie Harry canoodling with Kermit on The Muppet Show, or Plasmatics powerhouse Wendy O. Williams and her Emmy-worthy performance as the ass-kicking “Big Mama” on an episode of MacGyver (“Harry’s Will”). Today I’ve got something that transcends all that as it involves actor Donnie Most who played “Ralph Malph” on the aforementioned Happy Days and his appearance on the goofy TV cop drama based on the California Highway Patrol CHiPs playing “Moloch.” Moloch was a satanic mashup of Gene Simmons and King Diamond in full makeup, clad in red spandex and a fucking cape. And he was played by Ralph Malph of all people!

If you’ve never seen this episode of CHiPs (which is completely understandable) you are in for a treat as it also features Cassandra Peterson all dolled up like her gothy alter-ego Elvira and get this—current Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo (who was only eighteen at the time) playing a character called “Flippy.” Flippy! I’ve included a few images of Mr. Most getting into character as well as some faux concert footage and an amusing Moloch “video shoot” that must be seen to be believed. If you need another reason to watch then here it is—Donnie “I still got it!” Most provided his own vocals for the song “Devil Take Me.” Fuck yes. You can watch the entire episode on iTunes for three bucks and it’s worth every goddamned penny.
 

 

 
More ‘Moloch’ after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘Listen to Me Now’: John Belushi’s high school garage band was actually not half bad!
01.03.2017
11:26 am

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Music
Television

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Last summer DM told you all about the time that the late, great sketch comic/actor John Belushi sat in on drums with The Dead Boys at CBGB in the ‘70s. We noted in that post that Belushi’s best known connections to the music world were his creation of that most transcendent of all wish-fulfillment projects The Blues Brothers, and his championing of the notorious punk band Fear as musical guests on Saturday Night Live. A commenter on that post helpfully pointed out that Belushi’s interest in music didn’t just strike him when he became known, he had a history in the ‘60s garage rock scene, and there’s a collectible artifact to prove it.

In 1965, Belushi was the drummer for a band called the Ravens, who made the 40-minute trek east from Wheaton, IL to Chicago to record a single. The A side was an original called “Listen to Me Now,” and the flip was a Kingsmen cover, “Jolly Green Giant.” Online sources vary in this estimate, but as few as 40 and as many as 200 copies may have been pressed. It’s unclear how popular the band was—they’re mentioned in Dean Milano’s The Chicago Music Scene: 1960s and 1970s, but judging by the brief and modest description, that noteworthiness is clearly a product of Belushi’s later fame moreso than the band’s contemporary following:

Before he became known and loved by the world through his comedy, John Belushi played drums in a rock band called the Ravens in his hometown of Wheaton. The band played the local youth center and area high school dances. Members included Belushi, Phil Special, and Dick and Mike Blasucci. Eventually Belushi’s drums were sold to a local music store where they were used to give drum lessons to aspiring rock and rollers.

If you’re interested in that detail about the afterlife of Belushi’s drum set, it’s related in more depth here.

In 2011, the Chicago-based garage/psych/punk label Alona’s Dream reissued that lone Ravens single, which had the amusing unintended effect of making John Belushi posthumous labelmates with Rights of the Accused and The Necros. The reissued 7” was pressed in an edition of only 200, so it’s still a scarce item. YouTube was unaccomodating of our wish to share “Jolly Green Giant” with you, but thanks to the reissue, “Listen to Me Now” is easy enough to hear. It’s a first-person account of a guy with a new girlfriend who’s nonetheless still pining for his ex.

Guys can be dicks like that, sometimes.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Groucho Marx and William F. Buckley debate the nature of comedy on ‘Firing Line,’ 1967
12.30.2016
11:51 am

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Television

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On July 7, 1967, Groucho Marx appeared as a guest on William F. Buckley’s current affairs show Firing Line to debate the topic “Is the World Funny?” Firing Line had been in existence only for about a year at that point, broadcasting on WOR channel 9 in New York City; four years later, the show would move to PBS.

Groucho was there to promote his new book The Groucho Letters: Letters From and To Groucho Marx, in which he reproduced selected correspondence with figures like Jerry Lewis, Irving Berlin, E.B. White, Peter Lorre, Edward R. Murrow, David Susskind, Booth Tarkington, Harry Truman, and James Thurber. The book is still in print today. Contrasting himself with Bob Hope, whom Groucho regards as possessing a quasi-pathological need to perform in front of audiences, Groucho asserts at one point that if he weren’t promoting a book, he’d never appear on a show like Firing Line.

Presiding as a kind of arbiter was C. Dickerman Williams, an attorney who had once been director of the American Civil Liberties Union and had defended Buckley’s National Review in a number of free speech cases.

Groucho discusses an appearance he made two years earlier, at a memorial service for T.S. Eliot that was organized by Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Tynan and held at the Globe Theatre in London on June 13, 1965. It turns out that T.S. and Groucho had a prickly frenemy relationship for a few years. On Firing Line, Groucho asserts that Eliot was probably jealous of William Shakespeare.

Groucho’s freeform and scattershot mentality isn’t well suited for a true debate on the nature of comedy and he actually upbraids Buckley whenever he tries to stay on point. During a discussion of ethnic humor, he states that “I don’t regard myself as a Jew when I’m publicly performing,” which is interesting because it’s mainly true, Groucho’s humor might have been generally Jewish as a matter of lineage but not particularly Jew-ish as such.

Groucho also says that he would have voted for Buckley when he ran for mayor in 1965 (he got 13.4% of the vote, not bad at all).

This episode of Firing Line is actually available on DVD too.
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Couch potato special: Feast on these classic TV movies now!
12.30.2016
09:28 am

Topics:
Movies
Television

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Are-You-In-The-House-Alone_600.jpg
 
Looking for something decent to watch while you wait for those ‘I Survived 2016’ t-shirts to arrive? Something suitably entertaining and thrilling to see out a bad year on a high? Then try these….

The much maligned TV Movie turned out a number of classics during its 70s/80s prime. Now Headpress has recently given the phenomena the attention it so richly deserves in a cracking new book Are You in the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium 1964-1999 edited by Amanda Reyes.

Here, exclusively for Dangerous Minds, Reyes has selected six standout classic examples of the genre—and has provided a little introductory commentary too. The list include credits from the likes of none other than a young Steven Spielberg, Dennis Weaver, Valerie Harper and Charles Durning. And they’re all classics.

But best of all—you can view most of them right here right now. So without further ado, here’s Amanda to tell you about our first little feature…
 
1. Duel (1971)
 
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Amanda Reyes: Duel is the ultimate Movie of the Week. It was an early directing job for Steven Spielberg and he shows off some amazing directing skills in this tale about a man being chased by a creepy semi across a desert highway.

Everything is simple, pure and absolutely petrifying. Dennis Weaver plays the man on the run, and turns in an excellent performance. The script was written by the great Richard Matheson, and there’s not much I can say about this one except it’s very near perfect on every level.
 

 
Watch more classic TV movies, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Spend New Year’s Eve 1968 with The Who, Small Faces, Françoise Hardy & Pink Floyd
12.30.2016
09:02 am

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Music
Television

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New Years Eve, Paris, 1968. Amidst a volatile political climate of civil unrest that nearly brought the entire country to a virtual halt, rock ‘n’ roll music was still prevailed as “teenage entertainment” before being overthrown by the hippie culture of Woodstock the following year. The 3 1/2 hour New Years Eve Surprise Partie broadcast from the ORTF Studios (the only French TV channel at the time) is a beautiful, ultra-mod, time capsule that features rare performances by Jacques Dutronc, The Troggs, Françoise Hardy, Aphrodite’s Child, Johnny Hallyday, Fleetwood Mac, The Who, The Small Faces, P.P. Arnold, Booker T & The MGs, The Pink Floyd, Marie Laforet, The Equals, and many others. The invitation-only guest list included hundreds of fashionably dressed Parisian partygoers wearing the latest styles, and casually lounging about every inch of a cool, modern, space-age set.
 
Many of the artists here are documented during a very specific transition period in their careers. The Who lip-sync to “I Can See for Miles,” “Magic Bus,” and the rare Jigsaw Puzzle version of “I’m a Boy” with high energy despite the fact they had just suffered a year long dry spell devoid of commercial hits. Just a few months later they would switch gears with the musical Tommy and go on to become one of greatest stadium rock bands of the ‘70s. Later, during the Small Faces performance Keith Moon and Pete Townshend can be seen sitting behind Kenney Jones’ drum riser grooving to the music and having a good time without drawing attention to themselves. The Small Faces didn’t even bother to plug their gear in—they were only weeks away from breaking up—and performed tracks from their final album Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake.
 
The Pink Floyd can be seen still finding their way after the loss of vocalist and songwriter Syd Barrett just one year prior. In 1969 they would get back on track becoming the premiere live space rock band, incorporating their success into their fourth album Ummagumma, recorded five months later. The Equals (notable for being one of England’s first racially integrated bands) perform their million-selling chart-topper, “Baby, Come Back,” with guitarist Eddy Grant looking as if he had just time traveled from the 1981 punk scene, sporting bleached blonde hair and an orange vinyl suit. Eddy Grant‘s futuristic vision would serve him years later with a very successful solo career that included the platinum single “Electric Avenue.” Fleetwood Mac is also in wonderful form here with Jeremy Spencer taking the lead on two of the three songs, he would abruptly leave the band just two years later to join a religious group called the Children of God.
 
In an impressive television debut, English singing, French-based rock band Les Variations belt out some classic ‘60s garage tunes in front of a wildly enthusiastic home crowd. In his memoirs, guitarist Marc Tobaly remembers everyone getting a little bit drunk at the canteen down the street from ORTF Studios, insisting that the viewers at home were indeed watching a “real” party on television. American soul singer P.P. Arnold sang her interpretation of the Bee Gees song, “To Love Somebody.” Sadly, her performance here suffers from a poor sound mix, and she is not joined by The Small Faces for “If You Think You’re Groovy” despite the fact that they played on the recording and were present at the TV studio during the taping. While YouTube videos of Surprise Partie are constantly being removed because of content-ID matching, the fine folks over at Modcinema are selling a fantastic looking transfer on DVD as a 2-disc set. Dig it!
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Doug Jones | Leave a comment
George Michael and Morrissey discuss Joy Division (and breakdancing) in 1984
12.28.2016
10:03 am

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Amusing
Dance
Music
Superstar
Television

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In May 1984, George Michael and Morrissey appeared alongside the unhip, uncool and utterly square antique DJ Tony Blackburn on BBC youth programme Eight Days A Week. The show was a weekly round-up of the latest music, film and book releases as pecked over by a trio of celebrities. It was aimed at a young happening audience with the intention of fulfilling the ye olde BBC charter obligations to “educate, inform and entertain” (perhaps not necessarily in that order).

The week George appeared on the show he was storming up the UK charts alongside Andrew Ridgeley as Wham! with their hit single “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” while Morrissey with bandmates The Smiths were just about to release their song “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now.” And Blackburn—well, he was still unutterably anodyne, nauseating and the very establishment edifice these two young artistes were (in their own ways) rebelling against—no matter how much Blackburn sought credibility by pronouncing his deep love of soul music.

At the time of its broadcast, the fey, young aesthete Morrissey would have been seen as the “cool” one. But in truth it’s George Michael who steals the show with his honesty, sensibility and utter lack of pretension. He says it as it is and plays to no gallery as both Morrissey and Blackburn were wont to do.

The topics up for review the week this trio appeared were Everything But The Girl‘s debut album Eden, the crap movie that film producers Golan & Globus called Breakdance (aka Breakin’) and a book about Joy Division called An Ideal for Living: A History of Joy Division by Mark Johnson. While Morrissey does Morrissey whilst talking about another Mancunian band, it is George Michael who delights with his (low) opinion of pompous English rock scribe Paul Morley and surprises by revealing his love of the brooding quartet.  While the show’s host Robin Denselow (probably an apt surname) asked, “George, I wouldn’t imagine you as a Joy Division fan, maybe I’m wrong?”

George: Ah, you might be wrong! This book, just became incredibly suspect for me, the minute I saw…

Denselow: You do like them?

George: I do like them, yeah. It became very suspect when I saw that it was partially, a lot of the contributions were from a gentleman called Paul Morley.

Denselow: You don’t approve of Paul Morley?

George: You’d need a book a lot thicker than that to list that man’s ideas or hangups, whatever you’d like to call it. It became very, very pretentious, in so many areas, I actually didn’t finish it, I did not get anywhere near finishing it.  And I actually really liked Joy Division, or particular their second album Closer. I thought Closer, the second side of Closer…it’s one of my favorite albums, It’s just beautiful.

Watch George Michael & Morrissey talk pop, film and books, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
That time it cost Bill Maher $1,700 to insult the Melvins
12.28.2016
08:46 am

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Amusing
Music
Television

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Bill Maher is sometimes a trenchant, cranky, and astutely funny gadfly telling brave truths to power, and that guy can be a joy to watch. However, sometimes he’s merely a smug and cringeworthy backpfeifengesicht poster child nursing a nauseating schoolgirl crush on his own opinions. Maher’s unabashedly opinionated nature is an asset, but his arrogant posturing often blemished (I won’t say “marred” because that’d be cheap) his otherwise great feature length documentary-as-takedown Religulous. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool atheist who largely agrees with him on matters of faith, but his pomposity in that film sometimes felt just as gross to me as the most self-satisfied hubris of right wing Christian exceptionalists. But when he’s on, he can be magnificent, and the remarks that land him in the hottest water often happen to be the ones where he’s most dead-on correct.

And once in awhile he’s just an ass with shit for taste in music.

Just a couple of years ago, Maher tweeted that the game show Jeopardy was a game show for smart people and that Wheel of Fortune was for idiots. He’s not really wrong, but he might be a wee bit biased, as he himself appeared on Jeopardy twice. In November of 1995, he played Celebrity Jeopardy against actors Swoosie Kurtz and Charles Kimbrough. (His charity of choice: PETA. Have fun with that.) He returned two years later for a “Power Players” match against NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell and I shit you not disgraced Lieutenant Colonel and serial non-recaller Oliver North. In that episode, Maher pulled an Audio Daily Double in the category “It Came From Seattle,” wagered $1,700, and was treated to a clip of the excellent Melvins’ song “Copache,” a fan favorite from their 1993 album Houdini that’s liable to turn up in the band’s live sets to this day. The clip accompanied a question about the grunge movement, which of course rather famously emerged from Seattle (though Melvins themselves did not). Maher chose to opine about the song instead of answering the question, betraying his pedestrian tastes by lamely joking “well that song sucked, that’s for sure.” His pleas that he intended to answer the question fell on the tinnitus-deaf ears of righteous sludge metal rager Alex Trebek, and Maher forfeited his $1,700.

Serves his ass right. He’s probably a fuckin’ Eagles fan, anyway.
 

 
There is more, after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Super-sexy-mini-flower-pop: The surreal & futuristic Afri-Cola ads of the late ‘60s
12.20.2016
10:09 am

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Advertising
Drugs
Television

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In the 1960s, German soft drink Afri-Cola (which first hit the shelves in 1931) was quickly losing to its competitors Coca-Cola and Pepsi. In 1968, the brand started searching for a new marketing campaign in an attempt to regain their image. They hired prolific commercial designer and photographer Charles Wilp from Düsseldorf. The wildly eccentric 36-year-old was rarely seen not wearing his trademark canary yellow jumpsuit and his provocative ideas that knew no creative limits would soon elevate him to a pop star level. 
 
While visiting the Marshall Space Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Wilp looked into the “Cryo Chamber,” (a tent where rockets are inspected at below zero temperatures), and through various iced plastic films saw a folding door with the image of a pin-up girl. He began envisioning the playmate floating around the room as if she were a ghost, and this gave birth to his groundbreaking ad concept.
 

 
Approximately 20 deliberately taboo TV spots and print ads with surreal-futuristic images began running all over Germany. These bizarre visuals included attractive nuns wearing makeup and eyeliner, lascivious stewardesses administering transfusions with cola instead of blood, an American soldier with a dove of peace, and a nude mustachioed male (the very first nudity in advertising history) weightlifting a soft drink bottle. Wilp’s risque ads, aimed to make viewers feel intoxicated without the use of drugs, were met with furious protest from ecclesiastical moralists who unintentionally helped the brand achieve exactly what they wanted: Afri-Cola became the cult drink of the flower power generation overnight and sales increased by a remarkable 30 percent.
 
Charles Wilp achieved this success by rejecting ad agency tools such as market research and media planning. Instead, he moved forward with his own strategy based on reversing visual perception. “If, for example, the market researchers say Afri-Cola is for young people, smiling young people should appear on the display. And if the media planners say Afri-Cola is a drink for hot days, then the ad should be in the magazines in the summer. I do the opposite: I photograph Afri-Cola with nuns and connect that with intoxication. I do not take a man with two girls, which would be common, but a girl with two men.” The breakthrough ads featured representatives of all different races, sexes, and levels of social strata.
 

 
Originally, Charles Wilp hired German-based American garage rock band The Monks to record a jingle, he thought their experimental sound and blasphemous image that mimicked the Catholic church would be a perfect fit for the controversial advertising campaign. Unfortunately, his plan didn’t work out. “The musicologists and the CEO couldn’t agree with me and the whole thing failed.” Charles Wilp explained in the 2008 Monks documentary The Transatlanic Feedback. “I performed my Afri-Cola music with 48 strings, 2 oboes, 2 harps, 4 timpani, classical instruments. And I created this ‘unreal’ sound which I always wanted to do and which I could have achieved faster with The Monks. Then I didn’t have to deal with the burden of conventions.” Wilp’s orchestrated Afri-Cola score was released on vinyl as a “super single.”
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Doug Jones | Leave a comment
‘Christmas in Tattertown,’ Ralph Bakshi’s bizarre holiday TV special
12.19.2016
09:47 am

Topics:
Animation
Television

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Although famed animator Ralph Bakshi tends to be best known for racier material like his classics Fritz the Cat and Heavy Traffic, in 1988 he wrote and directed a half-hour holiday TV special called Christmas in Tattertown. It used to run every year on Nickelodeon in the 1990s (indeed, this YouTube video was taken from a Nickelodeon broadcast).

The plot is none too easy to discern, but it has something to do with a little girl who is transported, Alice in Wonderland-style, to a strange, run-down jazzy urban landscape known as Tattertown, which is redolent of the 1930s. Once there, she interacts with dilapidated toys and explains to the discarded playthings what Christmas is (they have never heard of it).

Some of the elements here are familiar from other places—the general mise-en-scene is reminiscent of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, while the talking toys can’t help but remind us of Toy Story. Meanwhile, Inside Out, the recent Pixar hit, featured a memorable character named Bing Bong who wouldn’t be out of place here.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
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