Archive | October 2017

Retro Recaps: Trick or Treat (1952)

This past summer, the world of voice-acting and animation, lost one of it’s most beloved members: June Foray.

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Animator Eric Goldberg’s memorial drawing for June Foray

Probably as much as Mel Blanc was a part of our childhoods, June was just as notable. She voiced dozens of characters, from Rocky the Flying Squirrel, to Witch Hazel in the Looney Tunes shorts, and many, many more!

Speaking of Witch Hazel, that’s one reason why we’re having this Retro Recap.

In the world of animation, most think of a character by that name, in relation to the Looney Tunes series of cartoons. Created by Chuck Jones, the Looney version of Hazel, would be voiced by Foray for over 50 years (with the exceptions being Bea Benaderet in 1954, and Tress MacNeille from 1992-1994).

However, most may not know that Jones was not the first to give an animated character that name, AND have her voiced by June.

In 1952, another Witch named Hazel, appeared in the Donald Duck short, Trick or Treat.

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On Halloween night, Witch Hazel flies through a nearby town on her broom B.Z. Bub, cackling maniacally, and causing plenty of mischief. During her antics, she stops to watch as Huey, Dewey, and Louie, show up at the door of their Uncle Donald’s house.

tot-2Instead of treats however, Donald decides to give out some ‘tricks,’ putting live firecrackers in the boy’s treat bags, destroying their candy haul. He then finishes by dumping water on them, before laughingly closing the door in their faces.

“Aw, bless their little black hearts,” says Hazel, coming down to console the boys.

Of course, the boys are perfectly fine encountering a real witch on a flying broom, and Hazel decides to help them get some candy from Donald. However, her polite attempts don’t work, and so she gets the boys to help her use witchcraft on him!

tot-3Setting up a cauldron, Hazel has the trio bring forth a number of specific ingredients. Finally, the concoction is complete, and sucking up some in a sprayer, she and the boys hop aboard BZ Bub, and take to the air!

Hazel’s laughing catches Donald’s attention, and as he looks out the window, he watches as she uses the spray to enchant a number of objects. A paintbrush begins painting Donald’s house green, a pumpkin menacingly flies through the air, and even some fence posts, become ghosts!

Donald is surprised to watch as these apparitions sing a song, and make their way to his doorstep, where Hazel and the boys confront him, demanding that he ‘treat’ the boys. Donald is willing to do so, until he hears Hazel tell the boys that ‘this pigeon’s a pushover.’

tot-4.jpgUpon hearing this, Donald locks all his food in the pantry closet, and swallows the key.

But this isn’t enough to deter Hazel, who enchants Donald’s feet, and demands they kick out the key he’s swallowed. Hazel starts up a hoe-down song, and the key is soon ejected out of Donald’s mouth. But even this doesn’t stop him from being a jerk, as he then tosses it under the pantry door.

Hazel’s reaction now, is to give his feet a larger dose of the potion, and demands they use Donald’s body to break down the door.

tot-6As everyone watches, the feet follow Hazel’s request to take a longer start (“Bout a mile or two!”), sending Donald out into a nearby field, before he comes screaming into the house! A loud crash later, and the door has been busted open, with Donald lying unconscious nearby.

The boys happily collect some treats from the open pantry, but Hazel notes that it’s almost dawn, and her time to play is up. Hopping aboard her broom, she bids the boys goodbye, and they do the same to their witchy friend.

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Growing up, The Disney Channel would often have little Holiday ‘clip-shows,’ and when it came to one known as Disney’s Halloween Treat, there were quite a few clips used from this short.

I think out of the many Donald Duck cartoons made over the years, Trick or Treat is one of the highlights.

tot-7The Disney Studios didn’t often do Halloween-themed shorts, so Treat is one of the few times that they acknowledged the holiday.

It’s also notable how they play with the art for the opening. Rather than the standard Donald Duck intro image, his face has been painted onto a wooden fence, and the card stating that this is a Donald Duck cartoon, also has it’s own special title-card art imprinted on the fence too.

There is some pretty wild and good animation to be had here as well. We get long shadows, Characters and objects changing scale and distance, and plenty of effects animation in the way of fire, smoke, and a fairy-dust sheen off of the fence-post ghosts.

tot-5.jpgA fun moment comes when Hazel is mixing her brew, and reciting a few lines from the witches in Macbeth (“this is the real thing ya know,” she tells the boys, “right outta Shakespeare!”).

Shakespearean-style wording comes up a few more times, in how Hazel talks. “What manner of ghoul is this?” she ponders, seeing the nephews for the first time. She also refers to Donald as “a quacking rogue” after she encounters him first-hand.

The animators also have some fun with her broom, which looks like a distant cousin to the brooms in Fantasia. For having a very small role, BZ Bub actually gave me a few laughs with how he ‘reacted’ in some scenes.

While most of Disney’s shorts are known for having a musical cadence to them, this short is one of the few that actually has a full song worked into it’s running time.

Paul Smith does the music for the piece, and the theme song like many a good Disney song, can easily get stuck in your head (it’s been popping up sporadically over the last few months for me!).

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Walt Disney, with The Mellowmen

A group known as The Mellowmen (composed of Bob Hamlin, Bill Lee, Thurl Ravenscroft, and Max Smith), sing the main song, and keep it quite sprightly.

The four men figured into a number of Disney productions during the 50’s and 60’s (even singing the opening song for the Zorro TV show!), and of course, Thurl Ravenscroft would go on to great fame, singing the songs for Chuck Jones’ adaptation of Dr Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

When I watched most cartoons with Donald Duck in them as I was growing up, I often felt sorry for him. Most of the time, his temper was a case of others provoking him, or just trying to get him to explode into a quacking tantrum, so they could have a good laugh out of it.

However, in Treat, I found myself not really showing much sympathy for what he was doing to his nephews. It’s one of the few shorts where I actually took some delight in what Hazel was subjecting him to.

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Unlike most animated shorts, Trick or Treat’s animated storyline, ended up being adapted in the Donald Duck comic by Carl Barks!

tot-11While the animated short had just 7 minutes to tell a story, Barks  was allowed to extend certain parts of it into a 30+ page story. Plus, he gives over more ‘vocalizing’ to Donald and his nephews (in Barks’ stories, Donald often carried out long conversations!).

A simple line like “whiskers from a billy goat,” becomes a page-and-a-half gag as we see where the boys got those whiskers from.

Barks also embellishes Hazel’s bringing things to life with her magic. Notable is this long-panel, showing a number of other strange creatures, happily heading towards Donald’s front door (singing Paul Smith’s song from the cartoon!).

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However, once Hazel calls Donald a “pushover” in the comic, Donald simply assumes that all the creatures were fake, and kicks her and the nephews out of his house.

This is where Barks adds his own story touches, as Hazel then tries several ways to get candy from Donald.

She first disguises herself as a beautiful female duck, but is found out by Donald, who manages to get back the candy she took.

tot-12Next, she magically summons her pet ogre, Smorgasbord (or “Smorgie,” for short), and sends him to Donald’s doorstep.

The duck simply assumes it’s a costume, but Smorgie proves invulnerable to a mace to the chest, and his multiple arms creep in through a number of openings, looking for the pantry key. Donald seems to concede defeat and hands over the candy, but also gives Smorgie an ‘extra treat.’ It turns out to be a stick of dynamite, and once Smorgie consumes it, the creature is blown to smithereens. Surprisingly, Hazel only shows mild concern for her destroyed pet.

This then leads to Hazel using the sprayer on Donald’s feet (like in the animated short), as well as him swallowing the hey.

When it comes to Hazel having the feet use Donald as a battering ram on the door, she first enchants a suit of armor to cover the duck, before he comes hurtling in through the doorway, breaking down the pantry door, and waving a white flat in surrender. Of course, Hazel takes the chance to lecture Donald on his actions during the night.

“Thou miserly hoarders must learn that on Halloween the goodies belong to the ghosts and goblins! Thou hath to treat!” she says, pointing a wrinkled finger at Donald.

“I still say it’s plain Robbery!” he retorts, before Hazel’s broom konks him on the head.

However, by the last panel, all is well. The boys have a huge bag of candy, Donald seems to have learned a lesson (“Next year, I’m going to be a goblin, too” he admits), and the ducks wave as Hazel takes off, as the sun begins to rise.

Overall, the embellishments Barks made to the story prove quite entertaining. Notable is at the beginning, where Hazel watches the boys get treats from a few more houses, and is impressed at how simple it is to get candy (“What a racket!” she thinks to herself. “How long has this been going on?”).

Donald also proves to be more of a bully in the comic than on-screen, adamant that noone is going to get any treats from his house.

The added ghosts and goblins Barks draws are also a sight, as is the design of Smorgie, who on first sight, appears to be a cyclops, but in a following panel, is shown to have a second eye, in the back of his head!

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Of course, when it comes to Witch Hazel in the animation world, animator Chuck Jones had his own ideas.

Online, word is that Jones had originally tried to get Foray to voice his Witch Hazel in the short, Bewitched Bunny (in which Bugs Bunny saves Hansel and Gretel from the witch’s clutches). Though Foray turned down the request, she soon relented, and her career as Jones’ Witch Hazel, started in 1956 with the short, Broomstick Bunny.

June was said to have been none-too-pleased about Jones “stealing” the character Witch Hazel for his own purposes, though this could very well just be a joke, as neither Disney or Warner Brothers (as far as I know), actually owns the copyright on the name.

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When Witch Hazels collide (from Eric Goldberg’s memorial drawing for June Foray)

Of course, Jones’ Hazel wasn’t quite as playful and helpful as the one in Trick or Treat. Jones’ interpretation of the character, was a bit more selfish, and oftentimes, intended to do away with Bugs Bunny, for her own nefarious purposes. Jones’ Hazel was also given a trademark of sorts. Whenever she’d get an idea, she’d cackle loudly, jump in the air, and then quickly zoom off-camera, leaving several bobby pins dangling in the air.

While having their heyday in the 1950’s, both of these witches never did meet in the animated world, but that changed recently in another medium. At the memorial service for June Foray, animator Eric Goldberg did a Hirschfeldian caricature of the famous voice-actress, surrounded by all sorts of characters she voiced during her career.

One of the most notable gags Goldberg did, is in the bottom-left, where both Disney and Warner Bros’ Hazels, seem to be at odds with each other. I guess only in memoriam for their voice-actress, could these two witches meet face-to-face.

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A Peanuts Prospectus: When Snoopy lost his Home

Recently, I was saddened to hear that a wildfire that swept through the city of Santa Rosa, California, destroyed the house where Peanuts creator Charles Schulz had lived, along with his wife, Jean. Though Jean made it out alright and is staying with family, a piece of Peanuts history, is now gone.

As I heard news of the events, and saw aerial footage of whole neighborhoods wiped out by the advancing wildfires (that still burn as I write this posting), I was reminded of how this wasn’t the first time that fire had entered into the lives of Schulz’s family.

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Prior to moving to Santa Rosa, Schulz, his first wife Joyce, and their kids, had lived in Sebastopol, California, starting in the late 1950’s. It was there that they built a house, along with a studio where Charles would work on his daily comic strips. However, 8 years after the studio was built, it was destroyed by fire, in 1966.

The Peanuts creator would often take certain elements of his own life, and inject them into the strips (some say that Lucy’s personality and opinionated nature in the 1960’s, were derived from his first wife, Joyce). Shortly after the loss of his studio, Schulz channeled his feelings about these events, through Snoopy and his doghouse.

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As the Peanuts comics moved on from the 1950’s, Snoopy’s doghouse became a source of intrigue. What had started out as a simple dwelling, began to change into something more.

Though it seemed small on the outside, all sorts of strange surprises lay within. Snoopy could be heard playing pool, several neighborhood birds would come over to play cards, and the dwelling also housed a Van Gogh painting (how Snoopy acquired it, and whether or not it was an original, we were never told!).

In the first decades of the comic, the doghouse saw a few instances of wear-and-tear. It was destroyed by a giant icicle in 1960, and in 1964, a major flood hit the neighborhood. Even though the waters reached above the dwelling, it came out okay (and Snoopy’s Van Gogh remained in good condition).

Snoopyfire-3Of course, things changed when on September 19, 1966, Charlie Brown was awoken to the smell of smoke, and rushing out to the yard, found Snoopy in a state of shock, as flames ate through the roof of his doghouse (see right)!

This was followed the next day, by Snoopy quietly observing the burned-out remains of his home, before bursting into tears. It’s a rather solemn strip, and where there should be a funny punchline in the final panel, there’s none to be found. It is notable that we get a rarely-seen, three-quarter shot of the ‘house,’ as Snoopy walks around it.

Snoopyfire-4From my experience, house-fires tend to attract people to gawk at the damage, and Lucy and Linus soon showed up (see left) to inspect the remains. Snoopy would also be hit with a rude awakening, upon finding out that his fire insurance had lapsed (“How can that be?” he ponders. “I sent them a can of dog food every month.”).

Of course, the Lucy Van Pelt of this era can’t very well leave well-enough alone, and soon after, returns to ‘school’ Snoopy on why this happened to him (see below-right).

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But the fun doesn’t stop there. She returned a few days later, to deliver some more ‘helpful information.’

She claims that this tragedy will make Snoopy a better person, quoting the line, “man was born to suffer.”

“He’s not a man,” notes Charlie Brown. “He’s a dog.”

“The theology is the same!” decrees Lucy.

Naturally, Snoopy doesn’t believe her, sticking to his own thoughts that “dogs were born to bite people on the leg, and sleep in the sun.”

Snoopyfire-6The next few days would see Schulz milk a few more gags out of the house’s remains (see left). Charlie Brown also helps assess the damage, and does indeed confirm that everything has been lost in the fire (“even my pinking shears!?” sniffs Snoopy).

We also see Snoopy try to escape into his imagination, as The World War I Flying Ace (somehow his goggles and scarf survived!) The pilot heads out to the aerodrome grounds, but is puzzled by what has become of his Sopwith Camel.

Snoopyfire-7On September 30th, it looked like the nightmare was coming to an end, as Charlie Brown and Snoopy went over plans for a new doghouse. Of course, while new plans are interesting to look over, bringing them to life can be another matter entirely.

Schulz expressed the issues of rebuilding in the next day’s strip (see right), channeling his frustrations through Snoopy…and eventually, finding a silver lining through those headaches.

A few days later, the construction process was complete, and Snoopy’s new home was finished (bringing a tear to the beagle’s brown eyes)! After a day or so, Snoopy admitted that it felt a little strange sleeping ‘in a new home,’ but pretty soon, things were back to normal.

Snoopyfire-8However, Schulz would slip in a little mention of the events, a month later (see left).

On November 4th, 1966, we got to hear a few voices coming from inside the doghouse, as some unnamed kids (I always assumed it was Charlie Brown and Linus), examine what Snoopy has done with the interior of his new place.

Both of the guests became quite enamored with a new painting that Snoopy had acquired. Instead of replacing his beloved Van Gogh with another work by the artist, Snoopy had opted instead to acquire a painting, by artist Andrew Wyeth.

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After fire destroyed his home, Snoopy never encountered anything as hair-raising as that incident again. However, in coming years, his doghouse would be set upon, by the unseen “Cat Next Door,” who on a few occasions, would end up destroying much of the structure with one swipe of it’s claws!

Supposedly, artist Andrew Wyeth was very touched that he had a piece hanging in Snoopy’s doghouse, and in 1966, sent Charles Schulz a drawing he had done of his dog, Rattler. The artist personalized it: “To Snoopy, With Warmest Regards – Andrew Wyeth.”

To me, the series of strips was one I recalled from my days, checking out Peanuts collections from my Elementary school library. At the time, I had never heard of Vincent Van Gogh, and struggled to even pronounce his last (“Van Go-guh?” “Van-Goff?”). The same would even go for Andrew Wyeth’s last name (leading me to at first thing it was pronounced “Wee-ith”).

I found the story at the time to be a bit outside my field of knowledge as a youngster (Lucy’s philosphical observations and talk of fire insurance lapsing, were still foreign concepts to my still-developing brain). Of course, as I got older, certain elements of the story began to make sense (though to this day, I’ve never encountered anyone who owned a pair of pinking shears).

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I’d like to end this post and say like many Peanuts fans out there, that I hope Mrs Jean Schulz is doing well, and that everything will turn out well going forward into the future.

I’m also hoping that soon, The Charles M Schulz MuseumThe Redwood Empire Ice Arena, and Snoopy’s Gallery and Gift Shop (which were near the wildfire area, and are currently closed due to power and air quality issues), will be up and running, ready to welcome back many old and new Peanuts fans, to Santa Rosa, California.

My Thoughts on New York Comic Con’s Westworld Experience

In recent years, a few conventions (courtesy of film and television studio promo departments) have started delving into advertising via ‘experiences,’ in which a limited number of attendees, can take part in rare, once-in-a-lifetime events.

In 2016, HBO unleashed a Westworld Experience at San Diego Comic-Con, and word was, it happened again this year. New York Comic-Con had their own experience as well in 2016, but when it came to the main attraction, unlike San Diego, it was simply a lead-up to a virtual reality experience, taking place within the Westworld park.

This year however, the experience was revamped to give visitors a full, live experience, and in the days leading up to the convention, word began to spread about the event via Westworld’s Twitter handle.

Needless to say, after seeing the series for the first time, the weekend before the convention (courtesy of free HBO weekend on Hulu!), I decided to make an effort to see if I could get in.

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As the first day of the convention approached, HBO was tweeting out hints to the sign-up locations, which would randomly pop-up in the morning, before the start of the convention.

On Thursday, October 5th, I found myself checking Twitter, and seeing if anyone else had found anything. I was at least 10 blocks from the area, when Westworld‘s twitter feed dropped the actual location at 8am, and quickly took a Lyft ride to 27th Avenue.

Before long, I joined a long line, snaking alongside a large brick building. I had gotten to the location 10 minutes after it had been revealed online, and already, I was among those being considered for “stand-by.” Nearby were several people in dark suits, wearing Delos security badges, keeping an eye on us.

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I’m on my way to Westworld!

Eventually, I made my way up to a white tent, under which two white-dressed reservationists were seated. The one who assisted me did so with a polite smile, and I was told my reservation time to visit Westworld, would be 7 pm. After I confirmed the time, she wrote it on a Delos business card, and I headed off to The Javits Center, to partake in what the convention had in store for that Thursday.

Along with the time-field, the card also had the address of the location, which was right up 37th St, a few blocks from The Javits Center. As my first day of NYCC came to an end, I made my way to the locale.

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Tight security.

Pretty soon, I and several other people, were lined up outside the door of Delos’ New York Offices, with several men keeping an eye on us, and one checking our names against his list.

As we waited, we asked a few questions about being able to get in. Apparently, if you show up late for your appointment, you’re shut out completely (we were told about one girl having a ‘meltdown’ about that earlier that day). Plus, I and a few others were ‘stand-by guests.’ This meant that if those who were scheduled for their timed session didn’t show at 7 pm, we were free to take their place.

Eventually, the time rolled around, and we were allowed inside. After being greeted by a receptionist, we were directed to an adjoining room.

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Our male host, and some cowboy gear.

In the middle of the room, was a lit case showing several vintage guns and knives, and along the walls, were mannequins in western attire. A male host at the far end of the weapons case, politely welcomed each of us.

Next, the receptionist and our male host, requested we watch the large screen in front of us. As we did so, promotional images of Westworld appeared…but then, started to glitch. Pretty soon, we were seeing scant traces of things going horribly, and terribly wrong.

However, our hosts acted like nothing had happened, and our male host began to read from the guest list. As two of the main guests hadn’t shown up, I and another standby person, were permitted in!

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No, we did not go through that door up ahead.

I was then put in a group of three with two other guys, and we were led down a corridor, to each be given an individual evaluation.

As I sat down in the room, my evaluator gave me a few questions, to determine what my experience in Westworld should be. The questions covered everything from how I saw myself, to my thoughts on handling a tense situation.

After going over the evaluation, she determined that I was a person who believed strongly in doing what was right, and was often willing to help others if they needed it. As she rattled off a number of other traits to go with these things, I felt like I was hearing my workplace’s DISC assessment results: her analysis felt so on-the-nose, it was scary!

She then directed my attention to two hats, hanging on the wall: a white one, and a black one. From her evaluation, she sensed that I would be very well-suited for a white hat, but…I sensed that she was also giving me leeway, to put aside how I behaved out in the real world, and to possibly consider the choice of a black hat.

It felt like the choices I was given in the video game, Epic Mickey, in which Mickey can choose to do good things, or bad things, and just like in going through that video game environment the first time, I decided to ‘play ball,’ and went with the white hat. Of course, like most hats, it didn’t fit my irregularly-shaped head (wearing baseball caps feels like I’m wearing a beanie-hat!). However, my evaluator claimed the hats came in several sizes, and upon giving me a 2x-sized hat (with the Westworld logo stitch into the inner-band), I was amazed how well it fit!

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Our hostess and I, waiting for the elevator.

When I exited the room, my two cohorts had already finished their evaluation, and had both donned black hats. A female host then led us to the elevator, where a number of plaster casts of other hosts’s faces, lined the walls.

We were then taken up to the 12th floor. As the doors opened, piano music caught our ears, and passing through a set of swinging doors, we entered into the Mariposa Saloon.

Our main saloon girl welcomed us, as we bellied up to the bar, where a bartender and her two assistants also watched over us. The main host made note of our hat colors, as well as inquired what we were planning to do ‘out in the park.’

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The bartender prepares our second drink, at the Mariposa Saloon.

The two guys with their black hats, were very much like the character Logan in Westworld, playing on the “bad boy” vibes, while I kept with the role I felt was befitting my white hat (shades of the character William from the show). I gave a few answers, and kept an eye on things, being the stoic “good guy,” looking for any signs of trouble.

Very quickly, we were served several mixed drinks. The ‘tasting’ started off with an alcoholic punch, then a whiskey/bourbon mix (prepared with fire!), and finally, a milk-concoction with shaved ice on top. Each one of them was very tasty, though we only had a little time to finish each drink, before the next one was being prepared for us.

Eventually, our hostess led us over to the player-piano. As she did so, my eye was drawn to the ‘music roll,’ as a splotch of faded red rolled into view.

“Looks like you had a little fight in here recently,” I said to her.

“What do you mean?” she asked, sounding confused.

“You didn’t see the blood?” I replied, pointing to the sheet.

“…doesn’t look like anything to me,” she said, after taking a long look at it.

Suddenly, a red light went off, and klaxxon-sounds pounded our eardrums, as our host and the bartenders suddenly froze in place! An announcement was then made, that the place was on lock-down, and all guests were to leave at once.

As security forces entered, we grabbed up our things, and headed through another corridor, to a different elevator. The two security men then rode with us down to the ground floor, where we soon realized we were to exit the building, returning out onto the noisy streets of New York City.

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After it was over, I checked my watch to see that it was 7:29, making me believe that each experience, is only meant to last for half-an-hour.

My fellow “black hats” and I then began to discuss what we observed, and when the group after us exited the building, they joined in our conversation too!

We were mainly interested in the evaluation process, and the different answers we each gave. Like me, one of the guests claimed she was so surprised at how accurate her evaluator’s assessment was of her.

Pretty soon, we all parted ways, and I had to chuckle, as I headed back to my Airbnb in New Jersey, wearing my cowboy hat the entire way.

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I have to say, that for how brief it all was, the Westworld Experience was a very fun tie-in, to one of the most intriguing shows on cable television!

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Plaster heads from Robert Ford’s study.

The people playing their roles do a good job mimicking the animatronic staff in the show, with some adding an extra tinge of ‘niceness,’ that can seem a little off-putting. Plus, the numerous touches to the show (such as the weapons-table, and plaster casts of the hosts’ faces on the wall), helped ground us in the show’s world.

One thing I realized after it was all over, was that unlike some other things I’ve done, I didn’t have to sign a waiver for the experience. I guess HBO trusts their guests to be pleasant enough to the staff, and intelligent enough to behave themselves.

I will admit that once I was through the front door, I was sorely tempted to just keep snapping pictures left-and-right, but took only a select few, to try to fully experience what was going on.

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The elevator directory, as security led us out.

The theming of the area worked quite well, though it did seem odd to have an old-west saloon 12 stories above the ground. I of course, rolled with it.

During so much of the experience, I kept flashing to thoughts of my friends, who I could see enjoying certain things, or even sampling some of the drinks that were served to us.

One guest in line that I had fun talking to, was named Zara. She was accompanied by her little dog, which was a service pet (her dog alerts her if she’s going to pass out). It looked like she would be turned away for bringing her dog, but they let them both in (I kept wondering how the saloon staff would react to seeing a dog in their place!). Like me, Zara was quite introspective over the experience, and before we parted, I felt it would be fitting to get a snapshot with my ‘line-buddy.’

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A selfie with fellow guest Zara (and her little dog, too!).

After it was all over, I did consider maybe trying to get in the next day, and go for a black hat. However, in the end, I decided to sleep-in, and give someone else the chance to have their own Westworld Experience.

On Saturday, October 7th, I left my luggage at a place near the Delos offices, while I headed off on a little trip across town. On my way back to retrieve my luggage, I walked by Delos, and saw a group of 6 people, discussing their experience and choices. I couldn’t help but stop and find out what they had decided, making me think the aftermath of the experience, is just as fun as the experience itself.

I wish the experience could be open to more people. However, I understand that the rarity of it, makes it a lot more memorable, probably much like traveling to the actual Westworld park would be.

At this point, there’s no further word if HBO will do the experience again. However, given that Season 2 is set to release sometime in 2018, I’m at least sure they’ll bring it back for the San Diego Comic-Con. Personally, being from Chicago, I would be all-in if they did it as a promotional experience during C2E2 (Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo), but as much of the entertainment industry skips over our city for convention promotions, I’m sure I’ll need to fly to the coasts, if I get the urge again to visit Westworld.

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A Peanuts Prospectus: Linus Van Pelt’s bid for Class President

Politics and Peanuts.

It seems that over the years, the two have often collided in some very entertaining, and memorable storylines in the funny pages.

In the Summer of 2016, I did a Peanuts Prospectus on Snoopy, and a number of very political birds. The storyline took place during the first few weeks of September in 1964, but almost a month later, politics would again return to Charles M Schulz’s comic strip.

Only this time, it would affect one of the Peanuts gang’s main child characters: Linus Van Pelt.

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On October 5th, 1964, Lucy Van Pelt suggested that her younger brother Linus, run for School President, and she’d serve as his campaign manager.

peanutslinus1Linus at first has trepidations about attempting to take on such a major role, but Lucy says the magic word that often makes most normal persons, rush into the Political minefield (see left). Plus, Linus’ face takes on an expression we don’t normally see.

Over the next few days, Linus officially signs up as a candidate, and is brought up before the student body to say a few words. Right off the bat, Linus promises to do away with “cap-and-gown kindergarten graduations,” and “sixth grade dance parties.”He also vows that in his administration, “children will be children, and adults will be adults.”

On a final note, he claims he may also do away with “stupid elections” like the one he’s currently taking part in. That’s definitely a lot to put down, though it is interesting to read his ideas. Growing up in the 1980’s, I never had kindergarten graduation, or a dance party in sixth grade. Of course, one assumes that Linus doesn’t fully understand just how much power he can wield as school president, if he claims he may do away with future elections (does this mean he plans to become a grade-school despot?).

peanutslinus2Of course, one normally can’t have a President without a Vice-President, and Linus soon makes his choice: Charlie Brown! Naturally, Lucy feels this is a terrible idea at first, but warms up to it after a few moments of thought (see right).

Eventually, the school newspaper begins to interview the candidates. The job falls on a girl named Violet, who first asks Linus what he’ll do if elected. Linus bursts forth with a loud, passionate speech, but Violet just condenses it down to Linus being “very honored, and will do his best if elected.”peanutslinus3

She also goes to Charlie Brown for a short interview, and after a few moments, decides to use the same blurb on him, as she did with Linus. Needless to say, Charlie has a funny comment about her reporting skills (see left).

peanutslinus4The next few days, find Linus in the school auditorium, outlining what his election will mean. Most notable, is the strip from October 14th (pictured at right).

Along with his religious-laced ravings, Linus soon after mentions how he will also increase wages for school employees…which makes one wonder again, if he knows exactly what his role as School President will mean.

He also claims that if a little dog comes onto the playground, it will not be chased away, but welcomed with open arms, which leads to a standing ovation from Snoopy in the audience.

Along with the previous declarations, Linus also mentions that his first act will be to appear before the schoolboard, before Lucy quietly reminds him that this isn’t possible…since they meet at 8 o’clock, and he goes to bed at 7:30.

peanutslinus7Over the next few weekday strips, Schroeder takes Linus’ picture for the school newspaper, and Lucy is hard at work checking on the polls, along with ‘encouraging voter turn-out’ (see left). Most notable is her “private poll,” which steadily climbs to 92%, with the remainder giving 7% of the votes to Linus’ (unidentified) opponent, and 1% undecided. The undecided vote stings a bit for Linus, as he wonders why some would be undecided to vote for a nice guy like him.

Finally, the candidates give their final words before the election, and Linus is up. Lucy is confident in her private poll numbers, and Charlie Brown is all-smiles, eager to gain an important position in their school.

peanutslinus5And that’s when Linus drops a bomb (see right). Of course, he gets little more than a few sentences into talking about the Great Pumpkin, before he’s drowned out by the laughter of his classmates. “I’ve blown the election!” he says, as he trudges off the stage.

Naturally, Lucy is upset at her brother for what he said, and given her attitude, it seems a sure bet that her private polls have gone up in smoke, and that Linus’ rival won by a landslide.

Eventually, Linus has a small talk with Charlie Brown, who questions why Linus would even mention the Great Pumpkin. Linus firmly answers his friend, that he felt it was his duty to inform the other kids in school, re-affirming his belief to Charlie about the Great Pumpkin rising out of the pumpkin patch, and bringing joy to the children of the world. Naturally, Linus re-stating his believes does little to quell Charlie’s feelings about losing the chance to be Vice-President of the school.

During the final week of October in 1964, Linus even attempted to get some sympathy from Snoopy, claiming that he simply spoke what he felt was the truth. Of course, reading Snoopy’s thought balloons, even he feels Linus made a stupid decision (“if you’re going to hope to get elected,” he thinks to himself,  “don’t mention the ‘Great Pumpkin!'”).

As Halloween approaches, the loss of the election even frustrates Linus’ belief system. He attempts to write a letter to the Great Pumpkin, which quickly turns into a small venting of frustration over him clinging to the hopes and belief that the Great Pumpkin will appear this time.

peanutslinus6Linus carries around a sign, and tries to make sure the nearby pumpkin patch is sincere enough to catch the Great Pumpkin’s eye. Charlie Brown comes by, and even attempts to see if Sally may show a little compassion and sit with him, but after the last time she did it, she’s not about to be taken a second time.

Eventually, Halloween comes around, and the Great Pumpkin doesn’t show, leading to Linus writing a very angry letter in the November 2nd, 1964 strip (see right)…but not entirely.

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Needless to say, things didn’t go so well when Linus finally expounded one of his primary beliefs on the student body. Surprisingly, the comic strip storyline about the school election, like several other storylines from the 1960’s, found it’s way into the television medium.

In October of 1972, the short You’re (Not) Elected, Charlie Brown was released as a TV special. Unlike the very Linus-centric storyline, this special would add some extra bits and pieces, to fill out the show’s running time.peanutslinus8

Most notable is a very frustrated Sally Brown, who is fed up with how she is unable to open her locker at school…notably because she can’t reach it.

When it comes to the election portion of the story, the position is for Student Body President, and it is originally Linus who suggests Charlie Brown run for the position. However, Lucy is unsure if it would be worth it, and takes a small poll. With the data she gathers, she then claims that it’s very unlikely Charlie would win.

After this news, Sally recommends Linus as a candidate, and Lucy takes another poll. After adding some ‘intimidation tactics’ to her polling methods, she concludes that Linus might have a shot.

peanutslinus9Unlike the comic strip, Linus is actually given a rival for the Class Presidency slot, in the form of a boy named Russell Anderson.

Of course, most notable about the special is how Charlie Brown’s name is mentioned in the title, and yet, he doesn’t figure that prominently into the story (heck, he isn’t even considered for, or given the Vice-President slot like in the comics!). However, he does play a part in the elections, working the podium during the stage appearances of Linus and Russell, as well as being part of the group counting the election ballots.

The short also mixes a small subplot about Snoopy, Woodstock, and Charlie Brown joining Lucy as part of Linus’ campaign. They also go to a radio station and set up time for a call-in segment, for the schoolkids to call in and talk to Linus (pretty hoity-toity, if you ask me!). Of course, the radio program idea doesn’t go off too well, and the majority of the callers fail to even know what the election entails (at one point, one caller asks what Linus is going to do about ‘the rivers’).peanutslinus10

Unlike the comic strip, Linus’ mentioning of the Great Pumpkin doesn’t fully blow his chances at the election, but knocks down some ground between him and Russell, tying both candidates in the polls. Lucy cautions Linus that if he keeps from doing another ‘stupid thing,’ he might have a chance.

Even so, Linus is more personally concerned over the laughter and jeers he heard.

“It’s depressing to think, that there are students that don’t believe in The Great Pumpkin,” he says to himself.

Soon, it’s time to vote, resulting in a tie between both candidates, with Russell Anderson casting the deciding vote. However, in a surprise move, Russell ends up voting for Linus, impressed by his convictions!

With Linus now Student Body President, Sally rushes him to the Principal’s office, eager to have him start making good on all his promises.

peanutslinus11However, after a meeting with the Principal, Linus admits to Sally that he actually doesn’t hold enough power as Class President, to actually do most of what he claimed.

“He sold out!” bellows Sally, at the top of her lungs. “We elected him, and he sold out! They’re all the same! Promises, promises! You elect them, and they weasel out of their promises!”

Yes Sally, you realized the horrible truth about politics, first-hand.

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