Monday, December 12, 2011

Sugar Bear and Friends - Part One

Ah, Sugar Crisp/Super Sugar Crisp/Super Golden Crisp/Golden Crisp.  Good cereal, good times.

I love commercials.  Or at least, I love old commercials.  Technically, every commercial will eventually become an old commercial, but that's besides the point.  I guess part of it is nostalgia, and another factor is the fact that we are never satisfied with what we have until we lose it.  But whatever the reason is, I love the oldies.

As a child of the 90's, I missed out on a lot of stuff.  Thankfully, that's what Youtube is for.  I decided to do some research on various old cereals and created some playlists based around cereal commercials.  I figured, as long as I had those playlists, why not blog about them as well, right?

So that's the obligatory intro.  Today we're gonna talk about Sugar Bear.

What can't Sugar Bear do?  He can be either a hero or a villain, depending on how he feels in the morning.  He can do anything, including breathe in space.

But we didn't always have Sugar Bear.  Originally, there were three little bears:  Dandy, Handy, and Candy.  They had a hit single about them and apparently even had a comic strip as well.  Despite that, they didn't really have much personality.

After that, cartoon characters like Mighty Mouse and Bugs Bunny did the commercials.

In 1964, the Linus the Lionhearted cartoon gave us Sugar Bear.  I know this because of Wikipedia.  Around the same time (give or take a year), there were commercials with a kid named Christopher, or sometimes the "Big Kid" who would  use Sugar Crisp cereal to pirates or escaped gorillas or bank robbers or something like that.

Sometimes Sugar Bear would join in on the action.

But it was the Lionhearted cartoon that gave Sugar Bear his classic Bing Crosby-style voice and laid-back, stoneresque attitude.  And then there was the song:  He could not get enough of that Sugar Crisp.  It kept him going strong.

In those days, Sugar Bear was kind of a dick.  See, there was this nice old lady, Granny Goodwitch, who was a...well, a good witch.  She was the closest thing he had to an enemy back then.  In fact, he was actually her enemy!  He would waltz into her house, eat her cereal, and leave!  Granny Goodwitch would use spells to make things difficult for Sugar Bear (including turning her house into a tower or even GOING INTO SPACE), but Sugar Bear would always, always manage to steal a bowl or two.

Yes, he rode a bike into space.  Nothing phased him. Nothing.

Clearly, something was wrong.  Sugar Bear was essentially breaking and entering, and then essentially robbing an old lady.  Yes, it was only her cereal, but she was always so ticked about it that it had to really mean something to her.  Sugar Bear was kind of a bully.  A new character had to be added to balance things out.  That's when we got "The Blob."

The Blob a gangster who talked with a thick, Bostonian accent.  He wasn't the brightest villain, but then again, his victims weren't that bright, either.  In one commercial, he just flat-out announced that he was taking over New York and everyone sort of went along with it.  I think that Doofenshmirtz had a similar idea once in Phineas and Ferb.

In the end, old Blobby was always undone by Sugar Bear, who often challenged him to a race, saying he didn't believe in violence (complete BS, by the way), or sometimes Sugar Bear would just beat him up.  Good old-fashioned fisticuffs.

One old commercial revealed that the Blob and Sugar Bear were actually rivals since they were kids.  It also showed us that Sugar Bear wore a sailor suit, so you knew he was a kid or something.  The Blob actually beat him once, too.

One tragic commercial revealed that the Blob never went to the zoo as a child.  As a result, he decides to kick all the animals out.  Perhaps that's why he's such a jerk.  Other times, he just engaged in flat-out pollution for fun's sake.

Around the same time that the Blob went on the pollution-streak, we met Sugar Bear's girlfriend, Honey Bear.  Not much to say on her, except that she was in all of the environment-themed commercials.
We also found out that the Blob has a son.  Let that sink in.

It was around this time that we got a couple one-off villains.  There was Marvin the Mouth, who desperately wished his mouth was bigger and wanted to eat all the Sugar Crisp in the world.

He planned to accomplish this by...turning into a giant hand?

Then there was this weird live-action commercial with a villain named "Shaggy Dan" who looked like a porcupine and stole Sugar Crisp as well.

Gaze in terror at live-action Sugar Bear!

Then there's "Mean Mr. Winter", who was essentially a Snow Miser rip-off, and covered the world in snow, along with his unnamed accomplice.  Sugar Bear turned him "sweet as springtime" with a spoonful of Sugar Crisp.

Honestly, it made him creepier.

Then there was that idiot, Sugar Fox.  He was a high-pitched, southern-accented fox who craved Sugar Crisp as bad as Sugar Bear.  Naturally, he also liked to steal cereal.  His real problem was that he liked to essentially dangle it in front of Sugar Bear and say "ha ha, I've got your cereal!"  It was as if he wanted Sugar Bear to take it back, which he always did.

After that, there were more one-off villains like giant crabs...

...sharks who controlled other sharks...

...and giant spiders.

He would combat these by changing into a muscular, naked superhero persona, "Super Bear."  The cereal box in that picture is covering his furry, throbbing genitalia.

Continued soon in part 2!

A Boy Named Charlie Brown - Part One

Wow, this one brings me back. I used to watch this all the time as a kid. While I love the heck out of this movie, it''s...I'll come out and say it. It's not the greatest movie in the world. It's far from that. It's a nice film, it has some fantastic (and random) sequences, but it's a flawed film, much like Charlie Brown is a flawed person. And in a way, it's fitting.

But I might as well get to the recap and explain myself a little better.

The film opens with a cute little jingle (the "Champion Charlie Brown" song to be exact), and fades to Charlie Brown, Linus, and Lucy gazing at the clouds. In a scene taken directly from the comic strip, Lucy muses about all the things that one can see in the clouds. Linus describes grand, historical images that he sees.

Charlie Brown: Well, I was going to say I saw a ducky and a horsey, but I changed my mind.

That moment does a good job of summing up Charlie Brown--he's a well-meaning kid who just tries too darn hard. With that, we cut to the opening credits, accompanied by some great music by Vince Guaraldi (who wrote the film's fantastic score).

We are then presented with the gravelly-voiced Rod McKuen, singing the film's title song. It's a pleasant little song about how there's a little Charlie Brown inside of all of us. Charlie Brown sits inside, making a kite. He's satisfied with it and goes outside...

Until that happens.

Despite the setback, the kid just doesn't give up. He sits right back down and starts over. The film's done a good job of getting us on his side already.

Finally finished, Charlie Brown returns to the park, armed with his completed kite. But waiting for him is one of my favorite characters...THE KITE-EATING TREE!

"Would you like some candy, little boy?"

Undeterred, Charlie Brown continues through the park and tries to fly his kite.

Things get tense.

In the end, he just can't seem to do it. Delivering his lines in the classic Peanuts way (meaning he says everything as if he's reading off a cue card--which the voice actor very well might be), he leaves the crumpled kite with Lucy and demands that she take it away.

Lucy deposits the remains of the kite on a sleeping Snoopy.  A gust of wind picks the kite up and lo and behold...

Snoopy can fly the kite better in his sleep.

I don't know if they didn't remember to put the background in or what.

The next morning, Charlie Brown is out and about, heading off to the baseball field.  He is dismayed to find that the pitcher's mound is covered in dandelions, and the girls don't want him to cut them down. He looks kind of cute standing there.

Snoopy, meanwhile, is setting up a record player.  Okay, normal so far but then...

What the...?

What's happening?!

It's so patriotic, it hurts!

Dear lord!

Is that technically an adult?!

I feel proud to be an American all of a sudden!

The madness is suddenly over.  The others look on in voiceless confusion.

There's not much to say on the game.  It's essentially a montage of old Peanuts strips about how incompetent Charlie Brown's team is.  Of course, we have the classic "Charlie Brown is hit by a baseball and all of his clothes come off" bit.  Oh, and some bubble gum explodes in Frieda's face for some reason.

In the end, they lose, of course.

Take special note of those purple birds.  This is pre-Woodstock era here.

"Well, we lost the first game of the season again.  I shouldn't let it bother me, but it does.  We always seem to lose the first game of the season and the last game of the season...AND ALL THOSE STUPID GAMES IN-BETWEEN!"

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Note on the Tigger Movie

As long as I'm posting about Winnie the Pooh, let me say something about the Tigger Movie:  It was damn depressing.  It reminded me a little of Follow That Bird in the sense that (SUPER-OBVIOUS SPOILERS COMING UP ALERT ALERT DANGER WILL ROBINSON) the main characters realize that their real families have always been there in the first place, but there is a difference between the two.

Big Bird always knew who his real family was. He briefly entertains the notion that there could be someone else out there for him, yes, but only for a few seconds. Otherwise, the film is about his quest home and it is another character that learns what a real family means.

Tigger, on the other hand, spends the whole film not knowing this and desperately seeking out someone else like him. I kind of wish they'd let there be another Tigger out there, even if it would spoil the whole point of the movie. That moment where he (MORE SPOILERS WHY ARE YOU STILL READING THIS?) opens the locket to find that it's empty is just heartbreaking. I know there's a happy ending, but still...

That being said, the poster for the movie really bugs me...

Whee, lookit the fun movie! Look, there's Tigger's big ol' smiling face! And look! Roo and Pooh and Piglet and Eeyore are all getting in on the action! Won't this be a BLAST?

No, no it won't. The movie is a huge tear-jerker. Admittedly, that won't get kids into the theater, but can't we at least give some warning?

Japan does it right. This poster right here sums up the whole movie: Sometimes things seem bleak or sad, but just having your family and friends around can make things seem a little cheerier.

I've gone and depressed myself.

Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too - Part Two

Pooh and Piglet are faced with a dilemma--how can they get their presents if Santa doesn't have their letter?  Pooh decides to take the matter into his own paws and deliver the presents himself!
Pooh's first stop is Tigger's house.  Tigger, to be sure he's the real Santa, makes him go down the chimney first.  Pooh leaves Tigger with a strange invention...a barrel with a spring and a boot.
Tigger is happy to bounce in the snow for about one second before the barrel thing breaks, leaving him stuck in a snowbank.  "Definitely NOT what I always wanted."

Rabbit, meanwhile, in the creepiest scene of the whole special, is stuffing the bugs with food.  See, the bugs are his honored guests...until Santa shows up with a sprayer full of poison, of course.  Pooh arrives and gives Rabbit a faux-sprayer made out of a teakettle.

"Bugs, prepare to meet your mulcher!"  Seriously, he's ready to kill them!  He even has an evil laugh!  Rabbit, you may have starred in "Find Her, Keep Her," one of the greatest things Disney has ever produced, but you're starting to scare me.

Of course, the thing falls apart, leaving Rabbit at the bugs' mercy.  I'm sure someone out there is turned on by the spanking scene that follows.

Rabbit regroups with Tigger to gripe about Bizzaro-Santa.  They meet up with Eeyore who got...

A mobile home.

They find Santa Pooh and Reindeer Piglet (who's having a lot of trouble carrying them up the hill), en route to finding Christopher Robin and deliver their sled.  The others demand Pooh prove that he's Santa Claus by flying.  Pooh being Pooh, he fails and the ruse is revealed.
Pooh and the others go to the hill where the whole mess started.  Pooh explains the problem and since there's no wind, he decides that he must go deliver the letter himself, even if he might not make it back on time for Christmas.

"It will be worth having no Christmas, Piglet, if I can bring Christmas to all of you.  And...merry Christmas."

If you haven't guessed, this is where the sad part starts.

Poor Pooh wanders through the cold with the letter in his paw and one goal:  Getting there before it's too late.  On the way, though, the letter flies away, leaving Pooh alone in the windy snow.

"Please come back!  I'm supposed to take you to Santa!"

This is why this special always gets me.  These characters represent us at our purest, most vulnerable states. When they're sad, scared, or angry, you can always tell.  They're completely honest with their emotions. They never try to hide anything.  I love these guys.

Speaking of sadness, Piglet and the others realize that it doesn't matter how much stuff they might be getting...they really just want old Pooh back with them.

I realize that this is a true cliche, the whole "real meaning of Christmas" business that you see in every Christmas special, and yet it comes off as being pure here, since the characters are so sweet and innocent.  It works.

Pooh, however, returns shortly, having lost the letter. Piglet embraces his bestest best friend and declares that it doesn't matter if they aren't going to get any presents--Pooh is here and that's all they need!

And even then, not all is lost! Christopher Robin sleds in with presents from Santa! Everyone gets what they originally wanted, including Piglet, who gets...

...whatever the heck that is.

I really can't say anything bad about this special, other than mention the weird subtext with Rabbit and the bugs. It's one of those things that just makes you feel good inside.

The ending, though, is so precious, that I'm just gonna transcribe it.

Christopher Robin: Aren't you gonna open your present, Pooh?

Pooh: But I forgot to ask what I wanted, and then I went to get the letter back, and then I never did get it to the North Pole, and then I, well...Christopher Robin, I don't deserve this. I don't deserve anything.

Christopher Robin: But, Pooh, Santa brought it for you.

Pooh: Which was awfully nice. But you know, I think being with your friends is nicer. Though this would be the perfect...

Christopher Robin: The perfect what?

Pooh: The perfect Merry Christmas height...for this.

(Pooh hugs Christopher Robin)

Christopher Robin: Silly old bear.