Friday Video: Why Don’t We Call Them Halloween Carols?

In which a pumpkin scarecrow sings a ditty in a graveyard.

Tis the season… for Halloween themed videos.

This one’s short but sweet. It’s a collaboration between singer/songwriter J P Ashkar and animator Nick Shaheen. Shaheen explained to genesis of the project on his Facebook page:

“I challenged JP to write a 1-minute song about Halloween that I could turn into a fun animation and he did not disappoint. The character was sculpted and animated in C4D. All characters were animated with Rokoko motion capture and render in Redshift. Enjoy!!!”

And you will enjoy it. The music and lyrics are the stuff that infections earworms are made off and the playful yet somehow menacingly friendly character and personality of the pumpkin troubadour comes through clearly in spite of the shortness of the video. Ashkar’s vocals and Shaheen’s spooky imagery are a perfect match, and I can’t resist wishing this was the opening of a half hour Halloween television special about this otherworldly singers rambling adventure on Halloween night. Give it a listen and then tell me I’m wrong.

Nick Shaheen has a web site here, and J P Ashkar has a page here where you can be directed to his social media sites and where you can buy more of his music (I did!) A longer version of “Halloween” is available on Spotify, Apple Music, and other online music streamers.

10/31/23 UPDATE

I notice that I’m getting a lot of traffic for this post. This makes me happy because I’m a fan of the song and video like most of you looking for the song this Halloween season. I have nothing to do with the song or video. All credit must go to Mr. Shaheen and Mr. Ashkar.

In fact, this year these two gentleman have updated their video to extend beyond a minute with new animation to match the full 2 minutes and 37 seconds of the entire song. I prefer the wider aspect ratio of the earlier version, but the new video’s still great fun and worth checking out.

Friday Video: Vintage Toy Fail

Tanks for the memories

If you know me, I’m as big a fan of the early Wham-O toy company from their “ONLY 99 CENTS” pricing strategy to their devil-may-care “let’s just toss any goofy toy concept out on to the shelves and racks of retailers and see what happens” marketing style, but this toy strains and stretches my affection to the limit.

What the hell were they thinking?

Friday Video: Meat Pies & Substitutiary Locomotion

We lost another great one this week.

Angela Lansbury just passed away five days short of her 97th birthday. I got to see her perform live twice. Once in 1981 in Sweeney Todd with George Hearn as Sweeney at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. (I liked Hearn, but I loved Len Cariou on the soundtrack album.)

The second time I saw her live was at the Hollywood Bowl concert for Stephen Sondheim’s 75th birthday on July 8, 2005. They were a little rusty, but I finally got to Lansbury and Cariou as the definitive Mrs. Lovett and the definitive Sweeney Todd performing their definitive version of “A Little Priest” as shown below. Definitely (and definitively) worth the wait.

My first awareness of Angela Lansbury was probably her role as Eglantine Price in Disney’s BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS (1971). I knew that the film was based in part on “The Magic Bed Knob” by Mary Norton, a book that my second grade teacher, Mrs. Young had read to the class. I had been absolutely enthralled by the book and was looking forward to seeing on the big screen. Alas, I missed seeing the film in the movie theaters during its first run.

A few years later, the Seal Beach recreation department had a screening of B&B as part of their children’s summer program. The screening was held on a Saturday afternoon in the Seal Beach city hall council chambers because it was large enough to seat an afternoon crowd of kids.

I remember being trusted enough to supervise my two brothers, probably around age 5 and 7 at the time, after being dropped off with them. I’m happy to report that they were very well-behaved and loved the film. That afternoon is one of my fond and treasured memories of the three of us from our shared childhood.

Over 40 years later I spent too many unpleasant hours in those same council chambers as the history chair during Seal Beach Centennial chair meetings, and I would sometimes imagine Angela Lansbury leading an army of empty suits of medieval armor animated by “substitutiary locomotion” into the room to smite the more obnoxious people at the table.

Sigh. That sound you hear is the ancient creaking door of the Twentieth Century slowly shutting.

Rick Willett’s A Terminal Event

Don’t miss the final world premiere performances of A Terminal Event

I finally got a chance to chat with my friend playwright Rick Willett yesterday. Rick has had several off-Broadway plays produced on the east coast over the years, but his most recently opened play, A TERMINAL EVENT is the first time his work has opened out here on the west coast. It was a fun, but frustrating conversation.

On one hand, A TERMINAL EVENT is his most accessible work. It’s a fun and heartbreaking romantic comedy, the actors are hitting it out of the park, and the audiences have been responding fantastically, laughing at thew funny stuff and being moved by the emotional journey his characters are taking. The play just received the sort of magnificent review every writer dreams of receiving. If judged purely on artistic and critical terms and against the goal of creating an engaging night of theater, A TERMINAL EVENT is a success.

Unfortunately, that success is pushing against the current post-pandemic trend of low theater attendance. Friday night performances have been canceled, and there are only four performances remaining in the world premiere run at the Victory Theatre in Burbank :

June 25th – 8 pm
June 26th – 4 pm
July 9th – 8 pm
July 10th – 4 pm

If you’re in the Los Angeles area on those dates, please do yourself and the cause of the performing arts a favor, buy tickets for you and as many loved ones as you can (and/or perhaps even some people of whom you’re only mildly fond) and treats yourselves to night of local theater.

Tickets prices range from $17-40 and are available at the box office or online.

Victory Theatre
3326 West Victory Bl
Burbank, CA 91505
(818) 841-4404

Friday Video: David Plunkert

Visit to a David Plunkert

Whenever I get too hung up on nostalgic yearnings for the good ol’ days when I was a young pup, and balance it against all the artistry and culture that’s readily available for free in these days of miracles and wonders.

For example, here’s eight minutes plus of artist David Plunkert on the Criterion Collection’s YouTube channel giving us a tour of his process.

Truly there is no good excuse for being bored.