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Posts Tagged ‘Grinch’

We’re into the Christmas season and the airwaves are filled with Christmas specials.  There are the venerable classics such as A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer alongside newer offerings featuring Shrek and other contemporary animated figures.  Some come and go, shown only for a short time.  Perhaps not timeless enough or just victims to ratings.

The specials you never see today are the variety show Christmas specials from the past featuring stars like Andy Williams, Sonny and Cher, the Osmonds and of course, Bing Crosby.  They were goofy contrivances with lots of fake snow and blazing fireplaces on studio sets with terrible jokes and a lot of forced, saccharine  sentimentality.

But I always liked the Bing Crosby Christmas shows.  They weren’t quite as schlocky as the others and you had Bing’s beautiful voice on several holiday classics throughout.  One classic moment came when a young David Bowie appeared on Bing’s last special in 1977, filmed a month before his death.  The show’s producers wanted him to sing The Little Drummer Boy with Bing but Bowie was not a fan of the song and refused.  With the cameras waiting, a new song, Peace on Earth, was written and woven into the other song.  The finished product was done with less than an hour of rehearsal and remains a perennial holiday favorite on radio playlists everywhere.

It’s a great duet and stands up well.  It’s moments like this that make me miss those old specials…

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Marvin the Martian and DaffyI have often cited artists who have been influences on my work , people who are often giants in the world of art and sometimes lesser known but equally talented artists.  Sometimes you overlook the obvious.

What's Opera DocLast night, TCM honored the great cartoonist Chuck Jones by showing a documentary and some of his landmark cartoons starring Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd and Daffy Duck.  He also did the Roadrunner/ Wile E. Coyote cartoons as well as the seminal holiday favorite, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  His work was and is a vivid part of an incredible number of people’s childhoods.  His What’s Opera Doc? with Bugs and Elmer in a Wagnerian setting with a tragic ending is classic and might be the only exposure to higher culture that many viewers may get.chuck_jones-opera-set

For me, I was always so drawn to the color quality that Jones had in his cartoons as well as the way he interpreted the landscape with a form of artistic shorthand that cut out extraneous detail yet never took away from the feeling of place, unlike some of the lower quality cartoons from Hanna-Barbera in the early 60’s.  Don’t get me wrong.  I loved those cartoons as well but even as a kid I was really distracted by the poor quality of the landscapes that scrolled continuously behind their characters.  With Chuck Jones, it always felt fresh and real, as though there was thought given to every detail in every frame.  Who else could put imagery like this set from  What’s Opera Doc? before the eyes of impressionable children?  Probably only the artists from Disney can match Jones’ work at Warner Brothers, but that’s another post.

His work also treated you, as a kid, like you had intelligence.  They were smart.  Clever and nuanced.  They never talked down to you.

For a kid this was potent stuff.  Scratch that- it’s just potent stuff. Period.

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