The First Ronald McDonald Ad Is Terrifying

When I say Ronald McDonald, you’ve probably got a pretty standard image in your mind: A redheaded clown in a jumpsuit. Oh, but it wasn’t always that way. My friend Clark sent me this video of Ronald’s first commercial and let’s just say it’s kind of disturbing. Between his happy meal hat, straw hair and proto-John Wayne Gacy make-up, this Ronald is more likely to try to invite you to check out the puppies in his van rather than entice you in to buying a hamburger. I’ve watched this clip a few times now and every time I find myself asking new questions: Why is Ronald wearing a cup on his nose? Why do the burgers make a ping sound? Whose hand comes creeping in to frame about twenty seconds in to the clip?

Damndest thing though, right after I finished watching that, I got a phone call saying I’d die in seven days. Eh, it’s probably nothing to worry about.

David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”: The Children’s Book

David Bowie’s first single “Space Oddity” tells the story of astronaut Major Tom as he embarks on an ill fated mission in outer space. Artist Andrew Kolb was inspired by this classic song to create a lovely children’s storybook take on the tale of Major Tom. Kolb’s 1960s Golden Book style art works perfectly with the song’s space age origins. Despite how “cartoony” Kolb’s artwork is, when tragedy strikes Kolb is able to perfectly express fear and loss on the faces of Major Tom and the crew at Ground Control.

Check out the whole storybook, complete with Bowie’s original “Space Oddity,” at ComicsAlliance.

George Carlin, Baseball and Football

I’m currently going through all of George Carlin’s HBO stand-up specials on Netflix Instant. I just recently came across one of my favorite Carlin routines, “Baseball And Football.” In this brilliant bit, seen here in a 1990 performance, Carlin compares the over the top militarism of football with the often goofy passivity of baseball. With baseball going in to its last month and football starting its season soon, I thought it was appropriate to revisit this monologue. Enjoy.

Jack Kirby’s Julius Caesar

In his work on Marvel Comics’ Thor, legendary comic book artist Jack Kirby had developed a certain flair for creating images of otherworldly regalness.  So, in 1969 when the Univeristy of California at Santa Cruz’s University Theatre Company contacted Marvel Comics and asked if one of Marvel’s artists would be interested in designing costumes for a production of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, it was only natural that Stan Lee would suggest “King Kirby.” Kirby leapt at the opportunity and designed the costumes and other imagery for the production for free. The costumes, like Caeasar’s military uniform seen at right, are classic Kirby and some, such as the armored Garrison Soldier resemble concepts he would later use in the 1970s when he created DC Comics’ Fourth World.

For more costume sketches, art and photographs of the production, check out the Jack Kirby Museum’s page on the 1969 production of Julius Caeasar.

John Goodman, “People Like Us” (From “True Stories”)

After the smash success of the Talking Heads’ concert film Stop Making Sense, head Head David Byrne made a rather unusual movie called True Stories. The film’s loose story is based on aledged “true stories” from tabloid newspapers.

Byrne stars as an unnamed cowboy hat sporting visitor to the fictional little town of Virgil, Texas. Byrne visits the town on the eve of its “Celebration of Special-ness” in honor of Virgil’s Sesquicentennial. Over the course of the film, Byrne encounters a woman who never leaves her bed, a surreal beauty pageant and develops a friendship with a love lorn country singer played by John Goodman in one of his first film roles.

The film has several songs, all written by Byrne, but the highlight has to be Goodman’s rendition of “People Like Us.” Goodman delivers a great take on this countrified Talking Heads tune. Byrne’s lyrics are beautifully American as the song explains that people like us “don’t want freedom…don’t want justice. We just want someone to love.”

Interestingly, although an official soundtrack was never released, the Talking Heads did record an album of their version of the film’s songs, also called True Stories and later featured Goodman’s “People Like Us” as the b-side to the “Wild Wild Life” single.

The film is available on Netflix Instant and you can buy Goodman’s “People Like Us” on itunes and Amazon MP3.

Disney and Dali’s “Destino”

The legendary Spanish artist Salvador Dali considered Walt Disney one of the few surrealists in Hollywood. In 1945, Dali and Disney met and dreamt up an idea for a short collaboration which would be in the vain of Disney’ 1940 film Fantasia. For months, Disney artist John Hence worked with Dali on storyboards for the short, now known as Destino. However, eventually the project was put on the back burner with nothing to show for it except for seventeen seconds of animation.

In 1999, while working on Fantasia 2000, Disney’s nephew Roy E. Disney came across the abandoned project and made it his mission to see it to completion. With Henche’s help, a team of twenty-five animators attempted to make sense of Hence and Dali’s storyboards. Destino was finally released in 2003, sixty-five years after production began.

The finished product is a mix of traditional and computer animation which incorporates the seventeen seconds created in 1945. This surreal film tells the story of a doomed love between Chronos, the God of Time, and a mortal woman. It’s beautiful, trippy and classic Dali.

The Office As A “Traditional” Sitcom

The Office was one of the first of the current wave of American sitcoms to not use the traditional tv comedy production method. The show only uses one camera, rather than the tradition multi-camera way of filming sitcoms. It is filmed on a closed set, rather than in front of a live audience, and it doesn’t feature a laugh track. So, what would the show look and sound like if it were produced fifteen or twenty years ago? Probably a little something like this video whipped up by Youtuber benny2700. benny2700 added laugh track to a classic cold opening and also created an intentionally over-long credit sequence featuring the over-cheery theme song from Family Matters. Give it a view.