1. Friendly Giant - Before the BFG, before Andre, the original friendly giant was… The Friendly Giant. This charming little CBC show ran from 1958 to 1985 and trickled out to a few US markets, but mostly stayed in Canada.
Bob Homme played the titular Giant, who played music or told stories in his castle with his rooster pal Rusty and his giraffe pal Jerome. Each episode opens with a slow pan across a miniature village until the Giant was revealed. The design of the miniatures and the Giant’s castle are quite charming and it’s got a real simple sedate, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood feel to it.
There’s something about the writing of this particular opening that I really love. Now, for some full episodes:
For better or for worse, they really don’t make them like this anymore .
1. Howard Johnson’s 2001 Children’s Menu - A lot of words come to mind when I think about 2001: A Space Odyssey, but “child-friendly” isn’t one of them. It’s not like it’s filled with questionable or mature content or anything, I just have a hard time believing that kids could sit through a movie like that and be able to digest it. Howard Johnson’s – who had a presence in the film – thought otherwise, and maybe it’s a good thing they did – I would have killed to be one of the kids featured in this “shut up and sit quietly” restaurant comic book. Courtesy of Dreams of Space – below are some of my favorite pages but be sure to head there for the rest:
That’s an odd thing for the cover to feature, that aspect of the movie. It’s not like the movie’s about that. The copy is a little odd, too but as you’ll see in subsequent panels they really go out of their way to explain the movie and the science to kids.
Here’s where I start taking issue. These kids are at a fancy movie premiere and they’re discussing/summarizing what’s happening on screen! I would not be smiling like those people are if I were the one seated behind them. I do love that they call it the “atom-powered spaceship”, though. Also their “here’s the part” summary covers like 30 minutes of the film!
“I can hardly wait for the year 2001 so I can be a space stewardess!” Yeah, that’s a cringer.
A great story about a great story. Actually the illustrations of movie scenes are pretty gorgeous, so there is that. Also, the comic ends with this kid’s menu:
The votes you didn’t know you were making all year are in, and here are the top Five Things that the visitors to Timid Futures enjoyed in 2014. Most of these I could have seen coming, but there are a couple of surprises! Thanks for visiting, reading, commenting, voting and sharing – I have a blast putting it together every week and it’s great to see that I’m not alone in loving this stuff.
We’re going to go in reverse order this time, counting down to the most popular Thing of 2014. Isn’t that dramatic!
5. Nightmare on Elm Street Video Rental Ad - (originally posted 9.1.14) – This “commercial”, targeted to video rental store owners and starring Robert Englund himself, does a pretty great job of showcasing just how popular the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise was at the time. It also shows just how into the role Englund himself was and is a great example of that ’80s cheesy-marketing-tie-everything-into-everything strategy. It actually works and is cringe-worthy at the same time.
1. The Hilarious House of Frightenstein - Canadian kid’s television is its own sort of weird, beautiful monster. There’s not really a better example of that fact than The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, a 1971 sketch comedy show that incorporated familiar horror and pop culture elements to make something that was truly unique.
The show was hosted by Count Frightenstein, an exiled descendent of Dracula who was tasked with animating a monster named Brucie, Frankenstein-style. If he was able to do that, he’d be accepted back into Transylvania. At least, that’s how Vincent Price lays it out in the show intro.
The Count’s task was the backbone of the series, but there were tons of other elements in there too. Like a Wolfman DJ that played top-40 hits of the day, Wolfman Jack style:
The show also took the opportunity to teach kids about things like grammar, animals, and science with regularly occurring segments for each. There were a ton of side characters on the show, most played by Billy Van who played the Count. 130 episodes were produced over 9 months (wow!) and the syndication run lasted quite awhile. There’s a chance you could still see them today!
Here’s a full ep.
Another fun fact: Vincent Price recorded all of his bits for the show (400 in all) over 4 days!
1. Christmas Comes to Pac-Land - I was all about Pac-Land as a kid. A visualization of what Pac-Man’s day-to-day life was like? A side-scrolling game set in Pac-Man’s home town? A cartoon series where the Pac-people talk about stuff and go on kind of boring adventures? I was in. I was in for all of it. Especially the Pac-Man Christmas special, Christmas Comes to Pac-Land, which premiered on ABC in 1982.
The special takes your basic “help Santa out of a jam” template and applies it to Pac-land. Santa crash-lands and Pac-Man negotiates with the ghosts to keep him and the town safe for just one night while Santa uses power pellets to get moving again. I was going to share the entire episode, but you know what? This show doesn’t really age well. This 3-minute clip pretty much sums up the whole thing.
1. A Claymation Christmas Celebration - It’s finally the proper season to share this. This Christmas special premiered in 1987 and loudly touted the then-ubiquitous California Raisins’ involvement, although the Raisins don’t really show up until the final number.
Hosted by what appear to be a dinosaur version of Siskel and Ebert, the half-hour special takes you through a handful of holiday regulars like “We Three Kings” and “Carol of the Bells”. “Carol of the Bells” features a bunch of bells hitting themselves in the head with mallets to perform the song. That’s kind of funny, right?
Toward the end the Raisins show up to bring the house down with “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and then the entire cast from all of the songs gather ’round for “Here We Come A’Wassailing”, punctuating a joke that ran through the whole special. All in all, it’s pretty entertaining – some parts shine more than others but at the end of the day watching claymation’s usually better than not watching claymation.
1. Jack and Jill Magazine Covers -Jack and Jill is a kids’ magazine that started its run in 1938 and is still in publication. Think Highlights with less Goofus and Gallant and more of an outside-the-doctor’s-office circulation. It was created by the same family behind Country Gentleman, and maybe that explains why I can’t get enough of Jack and Jill‘s covers either. The more recent covers aren’t much to write home about but it’s interesting to see how the covers of the past reflected the design sensibilities of the day. Here’s a batch from the ’60s that I’m tempted to print out and frame and/or live in:
I’m excited to announce that second editions of miniature ships, arizona, and distant friends are now available in our store! Some pages may have a changed word here or there, some may have adjusted artwork, and some have whole new sections.
1. Country Gentleman Covers - I fell into a rabbit hole this week when I stumbled across an old Country Gentleman magazine on the web. Country Gentleman was an agricultural magazine that was published from 1831 to 1955. A good run! The covers are Saturday Evening Post-like in their Americana essence – some covers were done by Norman Rockwell here, too, so it makes sense – but Country Gentleman’s covers also branch out a little bit more stylistically than the Post did. Here are some of my favorites.
This one might be my favorite of the bunch – the clowns!