Archive | January 2016

Retro Recaps: The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – Find Her, Keep Her

During the 1980’s, when Walt Disney Television Animation was beginning their rise to popularity, their parent company tried to find numerous ways to recycle some of the studio’s characters, into newer properties.

Carl Barks’ adventuresome Scrooge McDuck character, would be translated into the TV entity known as Ducktales. Chip and Dale would find a new group of friends, and become adventuresome detectives, in Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers.

For a younger set, that bear of very little brain, Winnie the Pooh, would entertain the Saturday Morning Cartoon circuit, with The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, starting in 1988.

This series would expand the world of The Hundred Acre Wood, both in scope and character, beyond what had been written by Pooh’s creator, A.A. Milne.

Having a sister born right around the time of the show’s premiere, I often have fond memories of watching the series with my siblings. Even when episodes came up in reruns, we’d often stop and watch them (as well as had the 10 volumes released on VHS back in the day).

Of all the episodes I watched, there was one that definitely stood out. And that, was Find Her, Keep Her.

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In the middle of a blustery winter storm, Rabbit, Pooh, Piglet, and Tigger, are huddled around a carrot still in the ground, near Rabbit’s treehouse. Rabbit is trying to keep the carrot bundled up from the fierce cold. Suddenly, a tiny voice can be heard in the wind, crying out for help!

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The group soon finds the source of the cries: a small baby bird has been blown out of its nest in the storm, and is clinging desperately to a branch high up in a tree!

The sight causes Rabbit to panic, and he rushes to get a ladder to help the little bird. However, as he attempts to enter his house, the strong wind blows the front door off its hinges, with Rabbit clinging to it! The wind blows the door back towards the others, who are then scooped up by it!

However, as it flies through the air the little bird loses her grip on the branch, and flies right towards them, with Rabbit managing to catch her in Pooh’s honey pot.

FHKH2The group then crashes right into Rabbit’s home, wherein he loses his temper that now his house is a mess. The little bird apologizes for causing the mess, though Piglet manages to assure her it wasn’t her fault.

It turns out the little bird is named Kessie, and she reveals this by speaking in the third person (“Kessie alright.” “Kessie sorry.”).

When Pooh volunteers to take care of her along with Piglet and Tigger, Rabbit scoffs, claiming they “can’t even take care of a carrot!” Rabbit then says he will take care of the little bird, claiming she’ll be “no trouble at all.”

Needless to say, the first days of Rabbit’s caring for Kessie are a standard ‘stressed parent’ scenario. However, it is during this time that the little bird creates a nickname for him, calling him “Rabby.” Rabbit tries to get her to call him “Rabbit,” but she seems incapable of doing so.

Shortly afterwards, Pooh and Piglet stop by, and Rabbit asks them to give the little bird a bath, while he goes to tend to his garden, in preparation for the upcoming Springtime, slamming the door on his way out.

During the bath, Piglet asks Pooh why Rabbit seems so grumpy around Kessie.

“Well, perhaps he’s just not as fond of her as we are, Piglet,” reasons Pooh.

Of course, the bubble bath gets out of control, and an explosion of soap and suds soon permeates the treehouse, with Kessie happily floating away in a soap bubble.

FHKH3Rabbit sees this and gives chase, eventually plummeting off a cliff into a pile of snow. Luckily, Kessie floats down, happy about her flight. It is then that Rabbit makes her promise not to fly so high, ever again.

“But, but I like it,” she pleads.

“And I like you,” says Rabbit, quietly. “And I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”

Needless to say, the tone of his voice makes the little bird promise.

FHKH4Time passes, and Spring finally comes around. During this time, Kessie has grown from a baby into a young bird, and has come to help ‘Rabby’ around his garden. As they tend to the crops, Rabbit finds a carrot in a flower pot. Kessie then claims that it was the first carrot she ever planted, and she placed it in this pot specially for him.

Shortly after this, Tigger shows up, and requests to take Kessie on a little romp through the forest. Naturally, Rabbit doesn’t want Kessie associating with someone like Tigger, claiming she’s helping him tend his garden. In his usual awkwards-thinking, Tigger then starts trying to ‘help’ unweed the garden, but ends up pulling up multiple carrots. Naturally, this extra busy-work leads Rabbit to grouchily clean up the mess, and reluctantly let Tigger take care of Kessie.

FHKH5When the two come across a large tree, Tigger claims he can bounce to the top, only for the tree (near the edge of a precipice), to fall over, dangling both Tigger and Kessie from the tree. Kessie’s cries for “Help!” reach Rabbit’s ears, and he attempts to save the two, but the tree is balanced so precariously, that anymore weight will send it tumbling over.

Rabbit then asks Tigger to swing his tail, and toss Kessie up. It looks like this will work, but Rabbit loses his grip on Kessie’s wing, and she falls over the edge.

FHKH6However, salvation comes in the form of Owl, who manages to save the little bird. Kessie claims that she loved the sensation of flight, and wants Owl to teach her more.

“It shall be my pleasure my dear,” says Owl. “A little practice, and you’ll be able to fly south for the winter!”

Needless to say, Rabbit claims that he doesn’t want Owl teaching Kessie anything. When Rabbit reminds Kessie about the promise she made about “not going too high,” she claims she understands, and he promises they’ll have “lots more fun than flying.”

After this scene, Rabbit seems happy to still have the little bird in his life, but Kessie can often be seen dejectedly looking out her bedroom window, staring up at the sky.

Time passes, and Fall is soon upon the Hundred Acre Wood. As Kessie walks through the forest, she sees a flock of birds flying overhead.

Seeing noone around, she climbs up a nearby tree, and attempts to fly, but her attempts fail. It is during one of these attempts, that Pooh ends up catching her!

Even though Rabbit told Owl not to teach Kessie to fly, Pooh decides that he, Piglet, and Tigger can try and teach her.

FHKH7They attempt to use a large band of rubber to launch her over a cliff, but are interrupted when Rabbit finds out what they are doing.

After chastising the others, Rabbit turns his attention to Kessie, his voice sounding hurt when he reminds her about her promise to him.

“But Rabby,” she pleads. “I just have to fly. It, it means everything to me.”

“…does it mean more than I do?” asks Rabbit, quietly.

The moment is interjected when Tigger tries to get a word in, and Rabbit demands he let go of the rubber band…into whose trajectory Rabbit has walked into, sending him over the edge of the nearby cliff!

FHKH8At the sight of this, Kessie actually takes flight, and saves Rabbit! The others cheer over her newfound talent, as Kessie claims that now she can fly south!

“Oh boy, kiddo!” Tigger happily proclaims. “There’s nothing holding you down now!”

“Don’t you think I know?” says Rabbit.

The words cause the group to quiet, as they watch Rabbit slowly walk away, his ears drooped down.

FHKH9Later that evening, Kessie finds Rabbit by his fireplace.. When she asks him to read her “one last bedtime story,” he sadly gets up and goes to his room.

“You don’t need me to read you a bedtime story,” he says. “…you don’t need me, for anything.”

The scene ends with Kessie sitting in a small rocking chair by the fireplace. She begins to sob, as the scene cuts to Rabbit in his bedroom, holding the stuffed rabbit he gave Kessie when she first came into his life.

As Kessie’s crying echoes across the scene, snow falls outside, soon blanketing the Hundred Acre Wood…a sure sign that winter is coming.

The next day, the others are ready to see Kessie off, but she claims she can’t leave without saying goodbye to “Rabby.” However, the others claim he must just be “busy” with his garden, and Kessie asks Pooh to tell Rabbit that she’ll never forget him.

FHKH10.jpgAs she takes flight, Rabbit’s voice can be heard, and we see why he wasn’t there: he had been looking for Kessie’s first carrot, and wanted to give it to her as a present!

Rabbit rushes past the others, and to the edge of the precipice where his little birdie has taken off.

“Kessie! Don’t Go!” Rabbit callsout. “I’ve changed my mind! You can fly! Just…don’t…go away…Kessie.”

His words trail off as he can’t see her in the sky. Sadly, he drops the carrot, and trudges back down the hill, resting on a small rock.

FHKH11Suddenly, giggling can be heard, and the ‘first carrot’ drops from the sky, before Kessie flies into rabbit, ‘tackling’ him into a hug.

“Did you think I would leave, without saying goodbye to you?” she asks.

The scene then cuts away to sunset, later that day. Pooh and Piglet are sitting under a tree, with Pooh hoping that an early Spring might mean Kessie will return sooner.

“It’s the most peculiar thing,” wonders Piglet. “For the longest time, I thought rabbit didn’t like her.”

“You know, Piglet,” replies Pooh (exhibiting some wisdom for a ‘bear of very little brain’), “Sometimes people care too much. I think it’s called Love.”FHKH12

Piglet ponders this for a little bit, before wondering if they should tell Rabbit.

“Don’t worry,” says Pooh. “I believe he already knows.”

The camera then moves to a nearby tree, where we see Rabbit staring off into the sky, Kessie’s first carrot sitting in a pot, nearby.

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And that was “Find Her, Keep Her.”

With over 50 episodes produced, many of them often dealt with fun or comedic topics. Even so, this episode is often cited by many as being rather ‘deep.’

In a way, it’s almost a precursor to the parent-child connection storytelling, that PIXAR would use in its Toy Story films.

Rabbit has often been one of the more excitable characters in the series, and oftentimes, the one who demands logic or order. In that way, it makes the most sense that he would be the one character that would take seriously, the responsibility of taking care of Kessie.

Rabbit’s role in The New Adventures, would also delve into some more emotional topics, like feeling under-appreciated, in the episode A Friend in Deed, and How Much is That Rabbit in the Window?

Kessie would be one of quite a few new characters introduced in The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. There was also a devious Heffalump and Woozel duo, a family of Heffalumps that the group befriended, as well as an expansion of unseen-yet-voiced human characters that Christopher Robin would interact with.

Yet out of all these characters, Kessie would be the one that somehow ended up getting the most mileage beyond the series.

FHKH13In Season 3 of the series, Kessie returned to the Hundred Acre Wood. Though unlike in Find Her Keep Her, Kessie appeared to have grown up during her time away. This included now calling Rabbit by his official name, claiming she was too old now to call him “Rabby.”

This episode, titled A Bird in the Hand, also dealt with a familial topic: in this case, Rabbit not quite realizing that Kessie is not the little bird she once was, and can take care of herself. I think anyone whose had a parent be a tad overbearing, can relate.

In 1998, a direct-to-video special titled Winnie the Pooh: Seasons of Giving, would create a Christmas special, that revolved around using several episodes from the The Adventures series, including Kessie’s introduction. This tied into a subplot in Seasons, wherein Kessie sent Rabbit a letter that she would be coming to visit him for Christmas.

Like some specials made after a series has ended, it wreaks havoc with having a logical timeline. Kessie is not the adult version we saw in A Bird in the Hand, so one assumes that in the special, Kessie somehow visited Rabbit a few months after she set off to fly South for the winter…which, kind of defeats the purpose of her going away?

FHKH14Though Kessie’s most surprising return role, was in 2001. A new Pooh-based show was developed for The Disney Channel in 2001, titled The Book of Pooh. Here, the characters were realized as moving puppets, with the show’s content aimed at a younger demographic.

The Disney-created character of Gopher, was nowhere to be seen in The Book of Pooh, but unofficially, Kessie became a regular member of the group! I’m sure plenty of people who had never seen The New Adventures, wondered just where she came from.

Once The Book of Pooh ended in 2003, Kessie’s career much ended. One has to wonder if the little bluebird might return someday?…only time, will tell.

 

Journeys Through Life – We’re Going Back, 30th Anniversary Celebration – Day 5

In 2010, Joe Walser and a dedicated group of Back to the Future fans, came together to pull off We’re Going Back: The 25th Anniversary Fan Celebration of Back to the Future. The event took fans to many of the film’s locations, held meet-and-greets with cast and crew, and much, much more!

I almost considered going in 2010, but held off…figuring that when the big future-date in the film’s sequel hit, I’d find myself traveling to Hill Valley, in the year 2015.

I jetted out to the west coast in late October, and was soon surrounded by several hundred fans, as we wandered the Courthouse Square, rode DeLoreans on railroad tracks, flew around on hoverboards, and found ourselves at The Enchantment Under The Sea dance (to name just a few things).

Returning to the present, I decided to add my trip to the Journeys Through Life section on my blog, telling a little about my once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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It had certainly been a wild ride for the We’re Going Back event. But like all good things…it was time to draw the festivities to a close.

The final day would send us away from Los Angeles, and east towards City of Industry, CA. Along with having a name I always found a little odd, this city was well-known for the Puente Hills Mall. It was Puente Hills, that would play the part(s) of the Twin Pines Mall, as well as the Lone Pine Mall.

It was in the southern area of the mall’s parking lot, where Marty and Doc first graced audiences with the reveal of the DeLorean Time Machine, as well as the first time-travel experiment, and a nail-biting chase scene.

However, our journey would begin on the northern side of the mall, as we entered near the AMC Theatre’s Puente Hills 20 complex…but not before many of us stopped to ogle a Part 1 styled Time Machine.

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Today, we’d be sitting in one of the theatres, to hear from a number of persons who had worked on the trilogy.

WGB53Our first guests of the day, were Kevin Pike, and Michael Scheffe (see left). Kevin is notable for being the effects supervisor on the first film, while Schaeffe did concept work for all of the films.

Michael provided some of the most interesting tidbits of the day, when he revealed a slideshow of his concept work done during the trilogy.

We got to see items like the original concepts for the Luxor taxi cab in Part II, as well as the first concept imagery of the Mr Fusion power generator…which in the original concept, was a Westinghouse product.

I’m sure Michael wasn’t expecting it, but upon hearing that he was instrumental in the design of KITT from Knight Rider, I gave him a little ‘thank you’ for having a hand in designing two of the vehicles that captured my imagination as a child (KITT was my favorite screen-used vehicle, until the Time Machine came along).

During the lunch break, I took a moment to wander the mall, whose carpet and furnishings still echoed a bit of its pre-21st century history.

Stopping into a See’s Candy store on the lower level, the woman working behind the counter commented on how many Back to the Future fans were in the mall today. I quickly explained about our big event, and she encouraged me to send some of our cohorts over for free samples.

A fun moment came when I quoted to another woman, Doc’s “I remember when this was all farmland as far as the eye could see” bit, regarding the mall area.

Her response? “I remember when this WAS all farmland.”

Returning to the theater, we were then introduced to the trilogy’s two editors: Arthur Schmidt, and Harry Keramidas. I had the chance to speak to them the night before during the Enchantment Under The Sea Dance, but it was nice to hear them reminisce about their time on the film.

Editing can often be a thankless job, but in truth, some films have been saved by editing (like Jaws and Star Wars). Both Arthur and Harry, I hold in high regard, because they each edited two of the first film’s most crucial scenes: The mall car chase (which was edited by Arthur), and the clock tower finale (which was edited by Harry).

WGB54Next we were introduced to David DeVos (see right), who had done work on Back to the Future: The Ride. DeVos had also been a tour guide at Universal Studios, and given his rapid-fire vocal introduction, I didn’t doubt it!

Though not part of the main production staff on The Ride, DeVos did contribute to helping extend out the queue videos, after the ride was first introduced at Universal Studios Florida.

DeVos also shared stories about the building of the main queue building, let-alone the testing of the ride vehicles…including the time one of the vehicles was put on one of the highest settings.

WGB55Sadly, the real-life work schedules of several of our expected guests, kept them from appearing. However, always willing to lend a hand for the BTTF community, Terry and Oliver Holler (see left) took to the stage, and gave a presentation regarding what led them to becoming one of the most famous couples in the fan community.

The Hollers shared stories about building their Time Machine in the early 2000’s (when they had to rely on pausing their VHS copy of the films to figure out what part went where), as well as the various places where their vehicle had taken them over the years.

WGB56Our next guest, was Michael Klastorin (see right).  Klastorin had been the Unit Publicist on the 2nd and 3rd movies, and had just released Back to the Future: The Ultimate Visual History book (which I had picked up the night before at The Enchantment Under The Sea dance!).

Michael shared a few stories regarding his experiences working on the films, as well as researching the book. Notable among them, was his attempts to interview Eric Stoltz in regards to his early involvement in the first film…which yielded a rather interesting (if humorous) endgame.

Our final presentation, talked about the music of the films, as well as the sound mixing process. On hand for part of the presentation, was Dennis Sands, one of the trilogy’s sound mixers, and Mike Mattesino, the producers of several upcoming releases of the trilogy’s soundtrack albums.

A highlight was when we were shown just how important sound mixing can be to a film.

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We were shown portions of the first film’s skateboard chase, but without Alan Silvestri’s musical score, and just the sound effects. It definitely was a strange sight to behold, and showed a number of us how important sound mixing could be to the final scene.

We were also informed about upcoming soundtrack/audio releases, including newly-extended score releases for the second and third films.

WGB58As the afternoon turned to twilight, we headed out the south portion of the mall, and onto the parking lot area, many of us had largely seen, only on film, for the last 30 years!

In the weeks leading up to the event, the We’re Going Back event planners had been busy. Several of their above-and-beyond workings had included:

  • A replica of the Twin Pines Mall sign that had been specially made, and placed in the same place Marty had encountered it in the film.
  • A replica of Doc Brown’s white truck, that had been placed under the same lights as in the film.

Tonight, a good portion of the parking lot where the film’s time-travel experiments took place, was roped off especially for us.

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Chairs had been set up for an evening screening of Back to the Future, and the event had brought out people from all over.

Several different DeLoreans parked behind our seats, as we waited for the appropriate time, and a number of costumed folks could be found in all shapes and sizes, wandering around the area!

Throughout the week, while we had been celebrating the films on the west coast, the majority of the film’s major players had been on the east coast, taking part in numerous show appearances. That evening, before we were scheduled to start our film viewing, a Skype call was made to Christopher Lloyd in Washington D.C.

Though the connection was not perfect, we were able to get a few words in with him, regarding his feelings on the films, as well as some of his favorite moments.

Even our official Marty impersonator, Tyler Dunivan, jumped in for a few words, stunning Chris.

“Is that Marty!?” he exclaimed, causing the audience to roll with laughter and applause.

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Chris did mention how he liked working on the third film the most, and when he mentioned “he had a girlfriend” in that film, the event organizers had a fun moment.

Erica D Breig had shown up for the day in her amazing Clara Clayton outfit once again, and was brought forward into the call.

“Emmett!” she exclaimed. “When have you been, I’ve been so worried about you!”

On the projected screen, you could see Chris’ eyes scanning his computer monitor, before they went wide, and with a shocked expression he shouted: “…CLARA!”

Of course, we were coming up on our official start time to screen the first film. To get the screening started on the right foot, Chris was able to give us a great big: “GREAT SCOTT!!”

While I wanted to sit down and watch the film like everyone else, I got ‘itchy feet’ during the first 10-20 minutes, and wandered around, watching the crowd. Eventually, I took my seat, and enjoyed the rest of the film with a few of my new friends.

My first viewing of the film was on VHS in 1986. It wasn’t until its 25th anniversary re-release in theaters, did I finally see it on the big screen. Since then, I’ve seen it 4 more times with an audience, including tonight.

One thing I’ve noticed in watching the film with a live audience in the past year, is how much the audience really got into some scenes.

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It was fun to see everyone whoop it up when the DeLorean made its first time-travel journey, or how they applauded for George telling Biff to “leave her alone,” let alone the build-up and release of the clock tower’s big lightning strike scene!

A fun moment was that during the Libyans’ chase scene, a live recreation happened around us! A VW van speedily chased a DeLorean Time Machine around the perimeter of the viewing area, as a few die-hard fans rushed from one side of the parking lot to the other, trying to get a good shot of the recreation.

As the film drew to a close, much like those preview audiences in the early days of the film’s development, there was applause and leaping to our feet, as the DeLorean flew into the future…which was now (to us) the past.

Following the film, many of us quickly gathered near the screen…for it was time, to find out who had won some of the awesome prizes from the We’re Going Back raffle!

Raffle tickets had been sold online and during the event, and now it was time to see if the gamble had paid off. This would be one of two different raffles, with an additional one taking place after the event.

WGB513As many of us watched, all manner of Back to the Future related products were awarded, several of them signed by various members of the crew. My hope to win a signed copy of The Art of Drew Struzan was quickly dashed, as none of my numbers were called.

The mac-daddy of all the raffle items, was a custom Boosted board, whose board design was based off of the 2015 Hoverboard Marty rode. This $2,000 valued prize quickly found its winner that night, and its new owner quickly hoisted it over his head, as Joe Walser, and Tyler Dunivan, looked on.

As the auction came to a end, it was time for some true emotions…it was time for many of us, to say our goodbyes.

WGB514It was hard to believe that 5 days ago, we had all queued up in front of California Pizza Kitchen on Hollywood Blvd (or near the Hollywood United Methodist Church), and gotten our wristbands and vouchers for the event.

I could almost hear Alan Silvestri’s music cue titled “Marty’s Letter” in my head, as I saw all manner of persons hugging, crying, and even promising that we’d do this all again…in 2020.

My new friends and I, almost like Marty finding himself late for school, found ourselves chasing down our tour bus, as we left the Mall, and returned to our drop-off point in front of the Loews Hollywood Hotel. Even here, goodbyes and promises to ‘keep in touch’ were made, before many of us dispersed off into the night.

Later on that evening, at the Orange Drive Hostel off of Hollywood Blvd, my mind was a whirlwind of thought over the last 5 days. As I turned to look at my phone, I soon saw that it was coming on to 1:20 am, on October 26th 2015…30 years from the time when Einstein had been sent one minute into the future, becoming “the world’s first time-traveler.”

While I drifted off to sleep, a couple dozen fans (who most likely had their own vehicles!), were still at Puente Hills Mall, and celebrated the event with a group picture.

Quite a change from 30 years ago. Bob Gale recounted on the DVD commentary for the first film, that at the exact time in 1985, word was 2 dozen people had shown up at the mall, thinking something was going to happen.

Nothing did…but here it was, 30 years later. The film’s fandom had grown and evolved in ways that in the Summer of 1985, its creators could never have fathomed. That fandom has stretched around the world, and had produced a fan-made event that celebrated one of the most satisfying film trilogies of all time.

Sure, fandoms like Star Wars may be considered bigger (and more lucrative), but the last five days had shown, that the fandom of The Back to the Future trilogy, was a grouping that seemed like “A Match Made in Space (and Time).”

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Concluded

Originally, this was where I planned to end my remembrances of those 5 days in October of 2015…but in the end, I found my mind criss-crossing across other thoughts, that could not be contained in these 5 parts.

Come back soon for the conclusion of the We’re Going Back: 30th Anniversary Celebration. There’s a few more things to talk about, before we let go of the past…