June 24, 2009

The lady and me went to the movies this weekend.
   We don’t do it often enough. She goes more than I do…but she has a far broader taste in movies than I. I’m an old fuddy when it comes to movies. We probably see two or three a year together.
   This time we went to see the Disney-Pixar animated feature Up.
   Now, at $5.50 for a matinee showing, I should have known better than to order a large cola Icee sight unseen. The sticker shock: $4.75. A hotdog? $4.50. I’m glad I’m not a sports fan, I’d have to mortgage the house to go to the movies as well as the stadium!
   Now, we love animated stuff. We may well have been the only adults in the theater without kids along. That’s all right. Up made me tear up three times and laugh my head off many, many times. Last time I choked up bad for a movie, the worst, was Marley & Me. I had read the book, and that tore me to pieces like a teenage girl watching a chick-flick. For me it’s puppy dogs. At the end of Marley, I was holding my breath and biting my lip, and Suzie said an occasional gasp and sort of honking-choking-wheezing sound would escape. I don’t remember. I was nearly passed out.
   The last three movies I saw up until Saturday were the aforementioned Marley, the last Star Trek and the last Indiana Jones flick.
   I remember I was a late-teen when Disney’s The Sword In The Stone came out. I was and remain a big Arthur legend fan. A buddy of mine and I kidnapped his little nephew and made him go kicking and screaming to the Teche Theater to see the show.
   “I don’t wanna go!” the tyke protested. “It’s stupid!”
“Shaddup!” we said. “We’ll buy you all the candy and soda you want if you just be quiet until it’s over!”
   I have no such inhibitions these days. I’ll gladly go see any animated feature, like Shrek and such, which have clearly become hybrids between child and adult entertainment.
   We have a great DVD collection of animated stuff, from Looney Tunes on up. Bugs Bunny is and ever shall be, my hero of heroes. Some of the lesser knowns you may not have heard of include Danger Mouse. A Brit production, it centers on a secret agent, a white mouse, and his inept assistant, hamster Penfold. Danger Mouse was British humor at it’s best. For instance, when Danger Mouse must use a German scientist’s time machine to travel back into the past to rescue Penfold from the dinosaur age, he decides to take the car through with him to make getting around easier:
   “Will there be any problem with the car, Professor?” he asks.
   “Two only,” says the prof. “Der clock vill be vun hundred and fifty million years fast…and you might have trouble finding un filling station.”
   Good stuff there! My taste in feature films runs the spectrum, but some of my absolute favorites include Rock-A-Doodle, a rockin’ story of Chanticleer, a rooster who looks and sings suspiciously like Elvis (voiced by Glenn Campbell) and who falls for a creatures of the night plot to banish him so that the sun will never rise again. Right up there too is All Dogs Go To Heaven, The Secret of Nimh, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and so forth.
   When I was a kid, I cut my teeth on the Bugs Bunny and Road Runner Show and can still sing word-for-word and note-for-note the rousing intro:
   Overture, curtains, lights!
   This is it, the night of nights
   No more rehearsing and nursing a part
   We know every part by heart–
   Overture, curtains, lights!
   This is it, you'll hit the heights
   And oh what heights we'll hit
   On with the show, this is it!
   Tonight what heights we'll hit
   On with the show, this is it!
Man, Saturday morning cartoons were the thing. Scooby Doo, Hong Kong Phoeey, The Super Friends. I’d eat my bowl of cereal on the living room floor in rapt attention. Loved Land of the Lost and when I heard they were making a movie from that campy, low-production value cult favorite, I was thrilled. When I found out it was a Will Ferrell spoof I wanted to feed the producers to a Sleestack.
   Warner Bros. cartoons were the cat’s meow. Bugs, Daffy, Foghorn Leghorn. Those were the greatest cartoons ever made. Wile E. Coyote’s endless hunt for that Road Runner never fail to amuse, even now, six decades or more later. Yosemite Sam’s declaration, “I hates that rabbit,” still makes me giggle, almost as much as Bugs’ saying, “You know, of course, this means war.”
   Along came modern cartoons. Eesh. The animation looks like Sid and Marty Kroft on crack, rather than LSD, which I’m sure they were doing when they created H.R. Pufnstuf. I watch some of this stuff for a few seconds, and the animation is crude, shaky, like someone draws it that was inspired by The Blair Witch Project. I turn the channel quickly to King of the Hill.
   What the devil happened to those animators? Did they suddenly decide, “We are not going to be professionals anymore. We are going to do our best to mimic chimpanzees with crayons and gallons of heavily-sugared Kool-Aid.” Terrible, terrible stuff.
   I’ll always be an animated feature fan, long as they keep making ‘em like Up and the like. There’s so much more they can do to make us laugh, make us cry, make us feel good about the world, than live-action can ever produce.
   Y’all have a good day. I’m going dig out my DVDs of The Pink Panther. Can’t beat a cartoon with Henry Mancini music!