Friday, December 24, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Perhaps I'm not perfectly qualified to be a completely unbiased judge on this matter; perhaps I view all of this through a warm, magic haze of nostalgia. But all these "vintage" decorations all seem to me to be vastly superior to most modern versions of Christmas cardboard. Most card decorations of today have flat colors and are "cartoony" in the worst possible sense of the word. These old decorations have gleams and glints and shades of color, and, while they are far from realistic, they are "cartoony" in the best sense of the word. Cute without being cutesy; simple, but not simplistic. Full of character while remaining iconic. Why can't they just keep running these, or do they do so somewhere more blessed that around here?
Monday, December 13, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
These cardboard die-cuts (most of them by Dennison) are the sort that used to hang in classrooms when I was a kid, and this is how I picture Santa: a robust rather than obese character, jolly, hale, ruddy, and just a little intimidating in an energetic, larger-than-life manner. This image is, I expect, very influenced by the famous Coca-Cola ad Santas. I like a Santa with a touch of green, whether it be a sprig of holly or a pair of mittens: it softens the rather severe red and white.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
There were cuts to the story and some disappointing designs (like the elves), but on the whole it was a great adaptation. I liked the fact that except for the song "The Greatest Adventure" all the songs were taken from Tolkien's original poetry. In those pre-VCR days the closest we could get to a copy of the show was a long-playing set of records with a booklet; a deluxe edition of The Hobbit with illustrations from the show was soon added. Many a night we would lay down to the sound track set up to play, and drift off to the unfolding of Bilbo's wanderings. We listened to it so much that we could recite it all straight through, and even today a stray phrase can start my brother and me quoting at length.
Nowadays of course in the wake of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films a big budget adventure movie of The Hobbit is in the works, and you will hear people now and then deploring the quaintness and childishness of the Rankin/Bass show. But The Hobbit is a children's book, perhaps one of the greatest children's books ever, and I hope that in the fever of making a "sequel" to Jackson's films that is not completely forgotten. Rankin/Bass did a good job with that.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
Another cartoon that deals with one of the most disturbing cartoon motifs--bird on bird cannibalism! From Daffy lusting after the full Thanksgiving meal--"The yams! The yams did it!"--to Woodstock in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving to actual turkey-on-turkey craving in Pilgrim Popeye, not to mention Donald Duck in the Disney/Rockwell take-off, it's as bizarre as human beings eating, say, monkeys. One of those weird cartoon things that turn up.
Friday, November 19, 2010
--from The Autobiography of G. K. Chesterton, 1936.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Patty: "Aren't they going to order any more?"
Charlie Brown: "HA! Are you kidding? THEY WERE BUSY PUTTING UP CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS!"
--Peanuts, Oct. 23, 1959.
Charles M. Schulz made that timely observation over fifty years ago now, and however peculiar or exaggerated it may have been then, it has since become all too true. A considerable chunk of our economy has come to depend on how much we spend during the "Christmas Season," a time that has expanded through advertising and sales to fill every available moment immediately after Halloween. And unfortunately if one does not start buying early and often along with the rest of the crowd you can find yourself scouring the dregs of merchandising for items (whether gifts or decorations) when the actual holiday is near.
So the problem for me has become how to fight Early Christmas Burnout. I love Christmas in a hopeless, visceral way that can only be achieved when you had a brief shining experience when you were five that was followed by a gray waste of Christmaslessness until you were almost an adult. I love red, white, and green, and the scent of evergreen, and twinkling colored lights. I listen to some Christmas carols all through the year. The slightest hint of Christmas starts a nostalgic yearning emotional brewing inside me, and the human heart is not, I think, designed to keep that sort of thing on a constant boil for fifty-five days. All too often Christmas comes not with a bang but a whimper, for what could possibly live up to the weeks-long build up?
Thanksgiving used to be a sort of speed bump in the long holiday slide, but has become less and less significant. As a national holiday (with only slight ties with Harvest Homes and Days of Thanksgiving) it carries little of the hefty clout of tradition that Halloween and Christmas have, and has become burdened with the distaste for the Pilgrims' Puritanism and the national shame over the treatment of the Native Americans (never mind the peaceful and friendly relations they and the Pilgrims had for eighty years). It was recently pointed out to me that there is no tradition beyond the meal itself (apart from the take-it-or-leave-it sprawl of the Thanksgiving Day Parade and ignoring the chance association with football) that is of defining importance to Thanksgiving, no movie or TV special or book that is the classic of the season, some kind of 'must-do' without which the day seems incomplete.
Which brings me in a roundabout way to my latest two acquisitions: Halloween: Vintage Holiday Graphics and Christmas: Vintage Holiday Graphics, both edited by Jim Heiman. These are volumes in the Taschen Icons series of books, solid little items devoted to the iconography of specialized subjects. They include advertising and decorations and actual old photos of people celebrating the seasons, so one gets the feel of how things used to be.
But rather significantly there is no Thanksgiving: Vintage Holiday Graphics in the series. It is a secular, American holiday where we are asked to give thanks, without any specifications or demands to whom or what we should be thankful. But gratitude is good, and spiritually and psychologically healthful, no matter how unpopular it has become. So whether we are thankful to God or the government, our ancestors or simply to the universe itself, on that day it behooves us to bow our heads and acknowledge the worth of all that we have been given, and that things could be a lot worse.
So I'm trying hard not to be engulfed in the Xmas Holiday Rush, trying to savor the leaves falling and the smell of woodsmoke in the air and the crickling sounds of squirrels as they scramble for acorns. I'm struggling to keep my posts Thanksgiving themed, if I must talk about holidays. I'm refraining from joining in Christmas carols that my co-workers have already starting to hum (and whose lyrics they are mostly woefully scrappy on--my know-it-all urge constantly nags me to tell them the complete and true readings). I have drunk a lot of eggnog and bought a room freshener labeled "Bayberry Spice and Everything Nice"--but pacing, pacing is the key. I must make the long march to Christmas, but still arrive with the strength to join the battle.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Peculiarly enough, animated food (particularly spaghetti) always makes me hungry, and in this cartoon we are treated to a plethora of lovingly detailed comestibles that Daffy devours as he scams the turkey out of his fattening feed. I think this portrayal of eats might have something to do with the country coming out of some lean times after WWII, when the depiction of scarce food and good cheer approached something of the level of pornography.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
I want to bring together a string of Thanksgiving cartoons we watched as kids, and thought I'd start with Pilgrim Popeye. I like the somewhat bleak November backgrounds in the first part as being very atmospheric, along with Popeye's little hymn to nippy weather. What annoys me now about most of these old cartoons is the assumption that all "Injuns" are Plains Indians (or perhaps I should say Plains Native Americans) and portrayed as simply enemies. Favorite quote from this cartoon: "What! No toikey?!"