This week may have some smallish bleats, as I have to write a movie script. A movie script about a movie. I’m 1/4th done and have to finish it in a week. Details to follow, but you’ve been warned.
I wonder if Walt Disney would have built Disneyland if he’d had a good train simulator. It’s not entirely accurate to say that the theme parks arose out of his love of trains; from what I gathered from the recent biography, he disconnected a bit from the studio and devoted himself to a backyard train set, and hit on the idea of building a big one somewhere else. I surely understand: having built trains and stations and walkways and bridges around my Roller Coaster Tycoon themepark, I love nothing more than to sit in the car and clatter around the park. Especially at night when it goes over the lagoon I dredged. Past the animatronic village.
It makes me wonder why planned utopian communities don’t do well. Disneyland. works. Well, you say, no one lives there. (Thank you, Mr. And Mrs Strawman – for that and all your other contributions.) But they do; some live for a short time, and others occupy the condos run by MouseCo. If I was working at Disneyworld and made a pittance, I wouldn’t mind living in the hotel where we stayed. I like hotel / motel living, granted, but it’s right on the beach, there’s a pool, a community center. Ah, you note, tossing another slow-pitch over the plate, it’s all ersatz, gimcracky themed playhouse nonsense, meant to pass through. It’s not a place you inhabit. I’ve inhabited worse places. And the worst of them all was a planned community, in fact: the brutal Cedar Square West hive-o-humans, a concrete nightmare based on the pack ‘em-and-stack-‘em theory of community. Twenty floors of humans and cockroaches with a community center off the lobby! Come for the urine-soaked stairwells, stay for the ping-pong table whose net was stolen 2 years ago and probably used to garrote a rival.
Perhaps Utopias don’t work because they’re so bloody earnest and sincere.
The other day while driving around we were reminiscing about TV shows (G)Nat liked and didn’t watch. I’m happy to note that the number of disliked shows outweighed the others; I’ll never forget the daughter in “1985” who sat blank-faced before the telly slurping on sweets while a steady procession of animated idiocy paraded across the screen. “But it’s Spiro and Spero now,” she’d say when told she had to leave the TV and visit her dying mum. It’s always Spiro and Spero or Trick and Truck or Bang and Olafson or some indistinguishable thick-lined drivel. (G)Nat did not like “Bear in the Big Blue House.” The moon was freaky. She did not like “Stanley.” Pooh in all his incarnations touched the same soft spot it does in most kids, and it’s still a good introduction to characters long forgotten by most children’s shows – the chronic depressive, the nervous old guy, the hapless loser with a big heart, the gentle looming mom, the feline on a meth jag.
The Wiggles were tolerated, especially since I told her they were Australian and we must respect our allies. (Plus, she had met a real Australian, so that helped.) If you had a toddler in the early portion of the 21st century, you lived through this. Hearing it again, I have the same reaction: these guys are doing “East Side Story”-era Squeeze.
Rolie Polie Olie, of course, ruled all. If you can’t see why I loved the holy hell out of this, you’re new to the site:
We sang the themesongs as best as we remembered them, including “Out of the Box” – the lyrics, I believe, consisted of “Out of the box, out of the box. Out of the box, out of the box.” There were a few others I’ve forgotten – shows on tape, like Kipper the Specifically English Dog, and the Busytown tapes I loved as much as she did. And I can’t believe I forgot about Maisy. It’s off the air now too, I believe.
There’s the French version. Le meh:
We never forgot the day Cyril the Squirrel lost bladder control in the sandbox. I think it’s the only example of humiliating urination I’ve ever seen in a kid’s cartoon.
She enjoys talking about the Old Days.
“Oh yeah,” she says when she recalls a bygone show. “I loved that.”
And she gets a faraway smile. Seven years old, and already familiar with the bittersweet pleasures of nostalgia. That’s my girl!
“Remember Bim and Bong?” I asked. Puzzled look. “Two guys, both white and furry. Rode a sofa into space to solve problems.”
“Oh yeah. I loved those guys.”
I wrote about them long ago – I can remember the subject of the entry without looking it up. The animation company was “Pepper’s Ghost,” which was apparently an old theatrical term, and the theme song was a bright spot in the morning. It came at the end of the TV ration – after Maisy it’s Bim and Bong, and then it was time for play. In those bygone days I didn’t have the home network running; I had a phone cord plugged into the laptop. I had to watch her constantly to make sure she didn’t inhale a block or put a knife in a socket. Lunch came at 11:30 – horrid mac and cheese, smeared on the table with pleasure – then a nap. That all ended long ago but there’s not a day I find myself at the kitchen table alone at noon, working, and remember the routine. Putting her on the chair, carrying the chair over to the microwave so she could punch in the numbers, having a conversation. I don’t remember ever not having a conversation. Even if it was about numbers or bees or octagons.
Now we are all grown and sophisticated – not too grown, thank God; she still puts her tiny cloth Pikachu on a pillow on the sofa before she goes to school. For TV entertainment she prefers to study Pokemon walkthroughs on YouTube, and tonight she made me watch a show about a sunken ship on the History Channel. (She loves the History Channel.) But while she was taking a bath I googled Bim and Bon. Turns out it’s Bing and Bong. Their website is still up.
The song’s just as good as I remember. That's a quality kid's tune. As I think I said before, it's one of those melodies that seems perfectly obvious; it was there all along, but no one picked up the pieces and put it together quite like that. This was the sound of 9:25 AM in the days when we were together all day long.
After I found the song I called her into my studio today and played it for her: eyes wide, big smile.
Oh yeah! Bing and Bong. I loved those guys.
I remember about six frames of Tom Terrific and perhaps 3 minutes total of Captain Kangaroo. Kids today: lucky.
Adults, too. Everything we knew crawls back into the warm amniotic sea of the Internet eventually.
It’s winter; I have Cream of Wheat with brown sugar; dad’s left for work and mom is cleaning the dishes, and this theme, this set, this fellow, made me feel as warm as the oatmeal. I’m pretty sure that most of life is spent trying to get back to these moments, or run away from them if they were bad.