I really should have posted this yesterday and the Jim Henson documentary today. Nonetheless, in honor of David Bowie’s birthday yesterday and to follow up with the Jim Henson documentary here is a tasty tidbit from the legendary Labyrinth. Please enjoy.
Labyrinth is a 1986 musical fantasy film directed by Jim Henson, with George Lucas as executive producer, based upon conceptual designs by Brian Froud. It revolves around 16-year-old Sarah’s quest to reach the center of an enormous otherworldly maze to rescue her infant brother Toby, whom Sarah wished away to Jareth, the Goblin King. Most of the film’s significant characters, apart from Bowie and Connelly, are played by puppets produced by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.
Director: Ralph Bakshi Producer: by Ralph Bakshi Writer: Ralph Bakshi Starring: Bob Holt, Jesse Welles, Richard Romanus, David Proval, Steve Gravers Narrator: Susan Tyrrell Music: Andrew Belling Cinematography: C. Bemiller Editor: Donald W. Ernst
The film is notable for being the first fantasy film by Bakshi, a filmmaker who was previously known only for “urban films” such as Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, and Coonskin. The film has since become a cult classic.
Ralph Bakshi had long had an interest in fantasy, and had been drawing fantasy artwork as far back as 1955, while he was still in high school. Wizards originated in the concept for Tee-Witt, an unproduced television series Bakshi developed and pitched to CBS in 1967. In 1976, Bakshi pitched War Wizards to 20th Century Fox. Returning to the fantasy drawings he had created in high school for inspiration, Bakshi intended to prove that he could produce a “family picture” that had the same impact as his adult-oriented films.
The film is an allegorical comment on the moral ambiguity of technology and the potentially destructive powers of propaganda. Blackwolf’s secret weapon is propaganda, used to incite his legions and terrorize the fairy folk of Montagar; but Avatar’s willingness to use a technological tool (a handgun pulled from “up his sleeve”) destroys his evil twin. Bakshi also states that Wizards “was about the creation of the state of Israel and the Holocaust, about the Jews looking for a homeland, and about the fact that fascism was on the rise again”.
British illustrator Ian Miller and comic book artist Mike Ploog were hired to contribute backgrounds and designs. The crew included Vita, Turek, Sparey, Vitello, and Spence, who had become comfortable with Bakshi’s limited storyboarding and lack of pencil tests. Artist Alex Niño signed a contract with Bakshi to work on the film, and was granted a work visa, but was unable to gain permission from the Philippine government to leave for the United States until two months afterward, and later found that by the time he had arrived in the United States, not only had the film’s animation been completed, but Niño’s visa did not allow him to submit freelance work on any other projects.
The film’s main cast includes Bob Holt, Jesse Welles, Richard Romanus, David Proval, and Steve Gravers. Bakshi cast Holt based on his ability to imitate the voice of actor Peter Falk, of whom Bakshi is a fan. Welles, Romanus, and Proval had previously worked with Bakshi on Hey Good Lookin’, where Romanus and Proval provided the voices of Vinnie and Crazy Shapiro, respectively. Actress Tina Bowman, who plays a small role in Wizards, has a larger role in Hey Good Lookin’. Actor Mark Hamill auditioned for and received a voice role in the film. Bakshi states that “He needed a job, and he came to me, and I thought he was great, and Lucas thought he should do it, and he got not only Wizards, he got Star Wars.” Bakshi had wanted a female narrator for his film, and he loved Susan Tyrrell’s acting. Tyrrell performed the narration for the film, but Bakshi was told that he couldn’t credit her for her narration. Years later, Tyrrell told Bakshi that she got most of her work from her narration on the film, and that she wished she had allowed him to put her name on it.
John Grant writes in his book Masters of Animation that “The overall affect of the animation is akin to that of the great anime creators – one has to keep reminding oneself that Wizards predates Miyazaki’s The Castle of Cagliostro (1979), not the other way round. The backgrounds are especially lovely, even the simplest of them; and in general the movie has a strong visual brio despite occasional technical hurriedness.” Notable artists involved in the production of Wizards include Ian Miller, who produced the gloomy backgrounds of Scortch, and Mike Ploog, who contributed likewise for the more arcadian landscapes of Montagar.
Bakshi was unable to complete the battle sequences with the budget Fox had given him. When he asked them for a budget increase, they refused (during the same meeting, director George Lucas had asked for a budget increase for Star Wars and was also refused). As a result, Bakshi finished his film by paying out of his own pocket and using rotoscoping for the unfinished battle sequences. According to Bakshi, “I thought that if we dropped all the detail, it would look very artistic and very beautiful. And I felt, why bother animating all of this? I’m looking for a way to get realism into my film and get real emotion.” In his audio commentary for the film’s DVD release, Bakshi states that “There’s no question that it was an easier way to get these gigantic scenes that I wanted. It also was the way that showed me how to do Lord of the Rings, so it worked two ways.” In addition to stock footage, the film used battle sequences from films such as Zulu, El Cid, Battle of the Bulge, and Alexander Nevsky for rotoscoping. Live-action sequences from Patton were also featured.
Vaughn Bode’s work has been credited as an influence on Wizards. Quentin Tarantino describes Avatar as “a cross between Tolkien’s Hobbit, Mel Brooks’ 2000 Year Old Man, and Marvel Comics’ Howard the Duck” and Blackwolf as physically similar to Sergei Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible. In Jerry Beck’s Animated Movie Guide, Andrew Leal writes that “The central figure, Avatar sounds a great deal like Peter Falk, and clearly owes much to cartoonist Vaughn Bodé’s Cheech Wizard character.”
As War Wizards neared completion, Lucas requested that Bakshi change the title of his film to Wizards in order to avoid conflict with Star Wars, and Bakshi agreed because Lucas had allowed Mark Hamill to take time off from Star Wars in order to record a voice for Wizards.
Happy Hallowe’en, kiddies! Enjoy this spooky treat. Hahahahahahaha!!!
The Peanuts gang celebrates Halloween while Linus waits for the Great Pumpkin.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a 1966 American prime-time animated television special based on the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. A Halloween special, it was the third Peanuts special to be produced and animated by Bill Melendez.
Vincent is a 1982 stop motion short horror film written, designed, and directed by Tim Burton, and produced by Rick Heinrichs. It is the second Disney horror film, the first being The Watcher in the Woods. At approximately six minutes in length, there is currently no individual release of the film except for a few bootleg releases. It can be found on the 2008 Special Edition and Collector’s Edition DVDs of The Nightmare Before Christmas as a bonus feature and on the Cinema16 DVD American Short Films.
The film is narrated by actor Vincent Price, a lifelong idol and inspiration for Burton. From this relationship, Price would go on to appear in Burton’s Edward Scissorhands. Vincent Price later said that Vincent was “the most gratifying thing that ever happened. It was immortality — better than a star on Hollywood Boulevard”.
Frankenweenie is a 1984 short film directed by Tim Burton and co-written by Burton with Leonard Ripps. It is both a parody and homage to the 1931 film Frankenstein based on Mary Shelley’s novel of the same name. Burton later directed a feature-length stop-motion animated remake, released in 2012.
What have I done? What have I done? How could I be so blind? All is lost, where was I? Spoiled all, spoiled all, everything’s gone all wrong
What have I done? What have I done? Find a deep cave to hide in In a million years they’ll find me Only dust and a plaque that reads here lies poor old Jack
But I never intended all this madness, never And nobody really understood, well how could they? That all I ever wanted was to bring them something great Why does nothing ever turn out like it should?
Well, what the heck I went and did my best And by God I really tasted something swell, that’s right And for a moment, why I even touched the sky And at least I left some stories they can tell, I did
And for the first time since I don’t remember when I felt just like my old bony self again And I Jack, the Pumpkin King That’s right I am the Pumpkin King
And I just can’t wait until next Halloween ‘Cause I’ve got some new ideas that will really make them scream And by God, I’m really gonna give it all my might Oh, oh, I hope there’s still time to set things right Sandy Claws
I sense there’s something in the wind That feels like tragedy’s at hand And though I’d like to stand by him Can’t shake this feeling that I have The worst is just around the bend And does he notice my feelings for him? And will he see how much he means to me? I think it’s not to be
What will become of my dear friend? Where will his actions lead us then? Although I’d like to join the crowd In their enthusiastic cloud Try as I may, it doesn’t last And will we ever end up together? No, I think not, it’s never to become For I am not the one
Tim Burton featuring Vitamin String Quartet (2008)
Vitamin String Quartet is an American musical group from Los Angeles, widely known for its series of tribute albums to rock and pop acts.
VSQ is not a string quartet in the traditional sense. Rather, VSQ is a series of string quartet projects developed and produced by CMH Label Group, an independent record company based in Los Angeles. The CMH team works with an ever-evolving cast of arrangers, producers, string players and other creatives to bring each project to life. Their albums are released through Vitamin Records and primarily performed by a string quartet, though other instruments have been used. “Vitamin String Quartet is about applying rock n’ roll attitude to classical technique,” says Tom Tally, a violist and arranger who has performed on and produced over fifty Vitamin String Quartet albums.
Lock: I wanna do it! Barrel: Let’s draw straws! Shock: Jack said we should work together
Barrel: Three of a kind Lock: Birds of a feather Lock, Shock, and Barrel: Now and forever!
La, la, la, la, la, la La-la-la-la-la La, la, la, la, la, la La-la-la-la-la
Kidnap the Sandy Claws, lock him up real tight Throw away the key and then turn off all the lights
Shock: First, we’re going to set some bait inside a nasty trap and wait When he comes a-sniffing, we will snap the trap and close the gate
Lock: Wait! I’ve got a better plan to catch this big red lobster man Let’s pop him in a boiling pot And when he’s done, we’ll butter him up!
Lock, Shock and Barrel: Kidnap the Sandy Claws, throw him in a box Bury him for 90 years, then see if he talks
Shock: Then Mr. Oogie Boogie Man… Lock and Shock: …can take the whole thing over then Lock and Barrel: He’ll be so pleased, I do declare Lock and Shock: That he will cook him rare Wheeee!
Lock: I say that we take a cannon, aim it at his door and then Knock three times and when he answers, Sandy Claws will be no more!
Shock: You’re so stupid! Think now If we blow him up to smithereens, we may lose some pieces And then Jack will beat us black and green
Lock, Shock, and Barrel: Kidnap the Sandy Claws, tie him in a bag Throw him in the ocean, then see if he is sad
Lock and Shock: Because Mr. Oogie Boogie is the meanest guy around If I were on his boogie list, I’d get out of town
Barrel: He’ll be so pleased by our success That he’ll reward us too, I bet
Lock and Barrel: Perhaps he’ll make his special brew Lock and Shock: Of snake and spider stew (Shock: Mmmm!)
Lock, Shock, and Barrel: We’re his little henchmen and we take our job with pride We do our best to please him and stay on his good side
Shock: I wish my cohorts weren’t so dumb Barrel: I’m not the dumb one Lock: You’re no fun Shock: Shut up! Lock: Make me!
Shock: I’ve got something, listen now! This one is real good, you’ll see We’ll send a present to his door Upon there’ll be a note to read Now, in the box we’ll wait and hide until his curiosity
Lock, Shock, and Barrel: Entices him to look inside And then we’ll have him! One, two, three!
Kidnap the Sandy Claws, beat him with a stick Lock him up for 90 years, see what makes him tick Kidnap the Sandy Claws, chop him into bits Mr. Oogie Boogie is sure to get his kicks Kidnap the Sandy Claws, see what we will see Lock him in a cage and then throw away the key…!
Jack laments the mundane repetition of Halloween as he wishes for a new adventure and hopes to experience something new as he searches for meaning in his life.
Nightmare Revisited is a cover album of songs and score from the 1993 Disney animated film The Nightmare Before Christmas. It was released on September 30, 2008 by Walt Disney Records to commemorate the film’s 15th anniversary of its theatrical release. In addition to the album’s eighteen covers are two re-recordings by original composer Danny Elfman, of the “Opening” and “Closing” tracks. One song featured on the album, Marilyn Manson’s “This Is Halloween”, was previously released nearly two years earlier, on the 2006 reissue of the film’s original soundtrack which, featuring five covers of songs from the film, acted as a precursor to Nightmare Revisited. The album also features Korn covering “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” which is also their first recording to feature Ray Luzier on drums. Enhanced content on the disc features the trailer of The Nightmare Before Christmas, as well.
American psychobilly band Tiger Army also provided a cover of “Oogie Boogie’s Song”, which was not featured on physical CD editions of Nightmare Revisited, but was released as a digital bonus track. Scott Murphy’s cover of “Sally’s Song” is also featured on Japanese pressings of the album.
Danny Elfman (1993)
There are few who’d deny, at what I do I am the best For my talents are renowned far and wide When it comes to surprises in the moonlit night I excel without ever even trying With the slightest little effort of my ghostlike charms I have seen grown men give out a shriek With the wave of my hand, and a well-placed moan I have swept the very bravest off their feet
Yet year after year, it’s the same routine And I grow so weary of the sound of screams And I, Jack, the Pumpkin King (SHOUT!) Have grown so tired of the same old thing
Oh, somewhere deep inside of these bones An emptiness began to grow There’s something out there, far from my home A longing that I’ve never known
I’m a master of fright, and a demon of light And I’ll scare you right out of your pants To a guy in Kentucky, I’m Mister Unlucky And I’m known throughout England and France And since I am dead, I can take off my head To recite Shakespearean quotations No animal nor man can scream like I can With the fury of my recitations
But who here would ever understand That the Pumpkin King with the skeleton grin Would tire of his crown, if they only understood He’d give it all up if he only could
Oh, there’s an empty place in my bones That calls out for something unknown The fame and praise come year after year Does nothing for these empty tears
The Nightmare Before Christmas is a 1993 American stop-motion animated musical dark fantasy film directed by Henry Selick and produced and conceived by Tim Burton. It tells the story of Jack Skellington, the King of Halloween Town who stumbles through a portal to Christmas Town and becomes obsessed with celebrating the holiday. Danny Elfman wrote the songs and score, and provided the singing voice of Jack.
The Nightmare Before Christmas originated in a poem written by Burton in 1982 while he was working as an animator at Walt Disney Productions. With the success of Vincent in the same year, Burton began to consider developing The Nightmare Before Christmas as either a short film or 30-minute television special to no avail. Over the years, Burton’s thoughts regularly returned to the project and in 1990, he made a development deal with Walt Disney Studios. Production started in July 1991 in San Francisco; Disney released the film through Touchstone Pictures because the studio believed the film would be “too dark and scary for kids”.
Written by Danny Elfman (1993)
Boys and girls of every age Wouldn’t you like to see something strange? Come with us and you will see This, our town of Halloween
This is Halloween, this is Halloween Pumpkins scream in the dead of night This is Halloween, everybody make a scene Trick or treat till the neighbors gonna die of fright It’s our town, everybody scream In this town of Halloween
I am the one hiding under your bed Teeth ground sharp and eyes glowing red I am the one hiding under yours stairs Fingers like snakes and spiders in my hair
This is Halloween, this is Halloween Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! Halloween!
In this town we call home Everyone hail to the pumpkin song In this town, don’t we love it now? Everybody’s waiting for the next surprise
Round that corner, man hiding in the trash can Something’s waiting no to pounce, and how you’ll… Scream! This is Halloween Red ‘n’ black, slimy green Aren’t you scared?
Well, that’s just fine Say it once, say it twice Take a chance and roll the dice Ride with the moon in the dead of night Everybody scream, everybody scream
In our town of Halloween! I am the clown with the tear-away face Here in a flash and gone without a trace I am the “who” when you call, “who’s there?” I am the wind blowing through your hair I am the shadow on the moon at night Filling your dreams to the brim with fright This is Halloween, this is Halloween Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! Tender lumplings everywhere Life’s no fun without a good scare That’s our job, but we’re not mean In our town of Halloween In this town Don’t we love it now? Everybody is waiting for the next surprise Skeleton jack might catch you in the back And scream like a banshee Make you jump out of your skin This is Halloween, everybody scream Wont’ ya, please, make way for a very special guy Our man, Jack, is king of the pumpkin patch Everyone hail to the Pumpkin King now This is Halloween, this is Halloween Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! In this town we call home Everyone hail to the pumpkin song La, lala la, lala la La la la, lala la, lala la La la la, lala la, lala la La la la, lala la la la Heir
Hey! Give me a listen, you corpses of cheer. Least less of you who still got an ear, I’ll tell ‘ya a story, make your skeleton cry, of our own judiciously lovely corpse bride. Die, die we all pass away, but don’t wear a frown ‘cuz it’s really okay. You might try n’ hide, and you might try n’ pray, but we all end up the remains of the day.
Die die die yeah yeah, die die die.
Well! Our girl is a beauty known for miles around. A mysterious stranger came into town. He was plenty good lookin’ but down on his cash, and our poor little baby she fell hard and fast, when her daddy said no, she just couldn’t cope, so our lovers came up with a plan to elope.
Die, die we all pass away, but don’t wear a frown ‘cuz it’s really okay. You might try n’ hide, and you might try n’ pray, but we all end up the remains of the day.
Die die die yeah yeah, die die die yeah yeah die die die yeah yeah die die die yeah yeah
Yeah, so they conjured up a plan to meet late at night, they told not a soul kept the whole thing tight. Now her mother’s wedding dress fit like a glove, you don’t need much when you’re really in love. Except for a few things or so I’m told, like the family jewels and a satchel of gold. Then next to the graveyard by the old oak tree, on a dark foggy night at a quarter to three, she was ready to go, but where was he?
(And then?) She waited (And then?) There in the shadows, was it a man? (And then?) Her little heart beat sooo loud! (And THEN?) And then baby, everything went black.
Now when she opened her eyes, she was dead as dust, her jewels were missin’ and her heart was bust, so she made a vow lyin’ under that tree that she’d wait for her true love to come set her free. Always waitin’ for someone to ask for her hand, when outta the blue comes this groovy young man, who vows forever, to be by her side, and that’s the story of our own, corpse bride
Die, die we all pass away, but don’t wear a frown ‘cuz it’s really okay. You might try n’ hide, and you might try n’ pray, but we all end up the remains of the day.
Baby Snakes is a film which includes footage from Frank Zappa’s 1977 Halloween concert at New York City’s Palladium Theater, backstage antics from the crew, and stop-motion claymation from award-winning animator Bruce Bickford.
At a political club, the members debate whose bust will replace that of Theodore Roosevelt. Unable to agree, each goes to a sculptor’s studio and bribes him to sculpt a bust of the individual favorite. Instead, the sculptor spends their fees on a dinner with his model during which he becomes so inebriated that he is taken to jail. There he has a nightmare, wherein three busts are created and animated from clay (through stop-motion photography) in the likenesses of Democrat William Jennings Bryan and Republicans Charles W. Fairbanks and William Howard Taft. Finally an animated bust of Roosevelt appears.
Outrageous yet tender, the film begins with the skip of a cracked 78 rpm record and a handmade title festooned with streamers and lettered in dripping red. In vignettes continuing in this vein, characters occasionally stumble on glimmers of beauty in their bleak existence: a view from the roof and kids drawing on the sidewalk. The scenes are unsettling in their immediacy. Jacobs embraces the New York City streets as his stage and improvises props and costumes from castoffs. The characters, including Jack Smith and Jerry Sims, are completely at ease with the camera. They cavort, they pose, they affront, and they demand our attention. Like it or not, we are made part of the scene.
For many years Jacobs played 78s at screenings, again transforming poverty into a live-performance asset. A grant from Jerome Hill facilitated by Jonas Mekas enabled Jacobs to add voice-over to the middle section and create a sound print. By this time, his relationship with Smith had soured, and he had lost touch with most of those pictured. Jacob’s narration, presented self-consciously as anything to distract you from talking to each other, acts as a remembrance of things past. The closing vignette, shot on a New York rooftop on a crystalline day, shows Smith clowning with a balloon to the tune of Happy Bird. In Little Stabs at Happiness, moments in the sun do not last.
Ken Jacobs is an experimental filmmaker, who, along with Stan Brakhage, Jonas Mekas, Maya Deren and others, helped spearhead the American avant-garde film movement. His impressive filmography spans more than 60 years and 45 films, utilizing just about every experimental technique imaginable. In the ’60s, he helped redefine the notion of domestic (home) movies, and along with it, domestic space—pioneering work that expanded the parameters of art cinema, and also, coincidentally, the gender expectations of male artists. Jacobs has also experimented with found footage, creating such memorable works as Star Spangled to Death, a nearly seven-hour epic charting an alternative U.S. history. Most recently, he has been reformatting, reworking, and altering silent films to give illusions of depth, creating experimental, heavily stroboscopic abstract cinema, and 3D. At every stage of his career, Jacobs has sought to push the technology as far as it can go and to challenge his audiences to think about politics, gender, class, race, documentary, and movies differently. This series provides a rare opportunity to see the work of one of the greatest living American filmmakers.