Sunday, June 25, 2017

James Horner Blogathon - The Land Before Time

Two Blogathons in a row about Don Bluth's movies? I didn't plan it this way, but when will I ever be able to talk about his movies?

Land Before Time is probably Don Bluth's most famous movie. So it's a wonder I've never fully watched it before. Maybe it was because of the massive string of direct-to-video sequels it spawned, none of which Mr. Bluth was involved in. For some reason, they all became musicals as well, and unfortunately for them, they didn't have the excellent James Horner to score them. The original story follows Littlefoot the Apatosaurus searching for a hidden valley after his mother is killed by Sharptooth the T-Rex and he's separated from the rest of his family. He meets a few friends and overcomes the prejudices they were taught against the other species. It's a great story, dark when it needed to be like Bluth's stories usually are, but a little too cute for my tastes the rest of the time. I guess I preferred my dinosaurs to be aliens or robots.

James Horner's score is great here, balancing scary panicked music while Littlefoot's mom fights off Sharptooth with a light, playful melody while a bunch if flier children fight over a berry. In truth, I wasn't too familiar with his work before researching this blog post. I'd heard his name some places, but John Willians and Danny Elfman were the only composers I could recognize. And here I found out some of the stuff I thought they did, was Horner's work after all. So many movies!

Anyways, back to this movie. I'm glad I took the time to finally sit down and watch this one. It's a cartoon pedigree, watching the movies Mr. Bluth made after he split from Disney. Though this one is far from my favorite, that is still held by NIMH, this one is still a great kids film, and one I had to watch without my wife since she said she'd cry through the whole thing. And I can see why.  Bluth's movies had a real darkness to them, not lightening things to avoid scaring the kids, or making them feel sad.  And James Horner's score does a fantastic job punctuating that.

This post has been made as part of the 2nd Annual Remembering James Horner Blogathon presented by Film Music Central.  Please make sure to check out the other great posts about this fantastic composer!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-Up: 6/21/17

I can't believe I missed a week.  There have been some big changes at my work and my primary co-worker is out of the office this week, half of last week, and next week as well.  However, this week has been a lot better and I've been able to accomplish stuff!

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 2 has started and next week we'll see who comes out on top.  I'm having a lot of fun posting this tournament and watching a lot of the cartoons that I haven't see in decades, if at all.  But the big thing is that I've finally started working again on OSE 2.  Nothing huge so far, but I'm  working on the first chapter again after it got a sound thrashing in my critique group. It's a little smoother now, I think and as soon as I'm done, I'll be submitting to the group again. 

I'm in the process of reading the first book in my finisher critique group as well.  It's a good story so far and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of it.  It's a much different task than reading a chapter each a month from the writers in my main critique group.  While I'm used to commenting on smaller things like grammar changes to make and questions about specific details, this group wants a focus on the big things like theme and pacing while ignoring the small stuff.  I'm still trying to wrap my mind around it.  I'm hoping to do one or two last passes through OSE 1 before I submit it, but I've got a few months before my novel comes up.  Hopefully after that I can work on the cover as well and get this book out on Amazon and wherever else.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 2 Cy-Kill vs. Tex Hex

Sorry for the delay, but Round 2 is a go!  This time we're pitting the leader of the Renegades from Gobotron, Cy-Kill, against the mystical cowboy, Tex Hex.  Cy-Kill's feats were pretty easy to track in his first thirteen appearances, but Tex Hex gave me some of the same problems as the Queen last round since he didn't show up in about five of the episodes I watched with the Dingoes being the antagonists in the others.  I was a bit surprised by that, thinking Bravestarr would go the same route as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, which had Skeletor being the main bad guy in about 99% of the episodes.  Either way, I was still able to get plenty demonstrations of his powers, which were a little more definable than his skull-faced compatriot.

Let's start with Cy-Kill.  Being an alien robot gives him some pretty obvious advantages.  He's made out of metal, he can turn into a motorcycle, and he has all sorts of energy weapons.  Like the rest of his robot kin, he shoots powerful blasts from his fists instead of having handheld weapons, so he's never truly disarmed.  He also is able to shoot energy beams from his eyes, something he can use in his alternate mode (which looks incredibly stupid, I might add). Size-wise, he looks to average about 11-12' tall, though that fluctuates quite a bit.  In one episode (Renegade Alliance), he survives getting his arm blown of without as much as a cry, but considering the Scooter survived a similar crash unscathed, I'm not sure if that's a positive or not.  and with all evil robots, Cy-Kill can fly.

Tex Hex's powers are mostly based around a western theme.  Rescued form the brink of death by the mystical Stampede, Tex Hex gained a slew of magical abilities.  Blasts from Tex's fingers and eyes can do a whole slew of things, but the most common ability I saw had to do with summoning snakes.  He was able to create giant flaming serpents by either shooting the smoke from a fire or a handful of dirt he'd thrown in the air - most of them being between 12 and 30 feet long, and one of them big enough for him to ride on.  Not all of them are big though, as he turned a prospector's claim into a little lizard once. 
He can also shoot people causing them to levitate in the air, one time lifting two people a few feet off the ground and another sending one of his goons across the desert.  Lastly, he once turned into a big ugly monster, but was still soundly beaten by Bravestarr, so it's not certain if this change granted him any extra strength or abilities.  Having previously been an outlaw, Tex Hex also relies heavily on his blaster and though it has shown to do some weird stuff a time or two, it generally acts as just a gun, but powerful enough to blow a whole in a ship.  Since every villain needs a quick means of escape, Tex Hex has the ability to turn himself into smoke or sand and fly away.  Even though he's shown the ability to teleport in a flash similar to Skeletor, this smoke/sand power is a lot more commonly used.

Both of these villains are pretty powerful and have a decent range of abilities, but which one will come out on top?  Find out next week!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Wednesday Wrap-Up - 6/7/17

It's been a busy week!    Monday, I posted the results of the first round of Bad Guy Beatdown, where Skeletor wiped the floor with the Queen of the Crown.  It was a great fight and I had a blast writing the little battle for it.  In fact, that's the only writing I've done in the last few months and it felt like a relief still being able to spit out a story. 
Next battle is going to be Cy-Kill from Go-Bots and Tex Hex from Bravestarr with the respect post coming this Monday.  I was really hoping to have the Renegade square off with Megatron, but that's such an oft-written battle with Megatron coming out on top every time, so I'm okay at least delaying the fight, assuming Cy-Kill survives his first round.
Yesterday, I coolaborated with the 80s League in another monthly crossover event, this time looking at 80s commercials, specifically looking at the ones for the toys that the cartoons they were showed during were based on. Man, that's a confusing sentence to write.  There are a few Leaguers still writing their posts so I'll be updating it throughout the week with links to their stuff.
Another new thing going on lately is I've just joined a second writing group, this one focusing on reading completed novels from other writers and giving whole critiques on them.  This group will be looking at the big picture of a book and instead of giving feedback on minor details and bad grammar like my other group does, will be looking at things such as plot holes, continuity, and theme.  I'm really excited for it because that means I'll be one step closer to publishing Old School Evil.  After that, I've just got to make up a cover, write out a few blurbs, and hopefully I'll be able to publish that sucker so you all can read it.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Commercials in Commercials

The 80s League is back at it this month and we're taking a look at our favorite commercials from the best era of television.  Check out the links below to see the other leaguers' favorites and I'll keep adding them as they pop up.

Real Weegie Midget Reviews - 5 80s Prime Time Soap Star Ads

80s Reboot - 80s Commercials- Where's Herb? post and Podcast

Rediscover the 80s - Memory Jogger Podcast Special: Saturday Morning Commercials

As a blog that's focusing on cartoons from the 80s, I'm stuck in a quandary; can't the cartoons themselves be considered commercials?  One of the reason they only for prominence in the 80s was toy advertising in the form of cartoons was banned by the FCC.  Once that ban was lifted, dozen or even hundreds of cartoons flooded the airwaves, each of them jam-packed with images of thousands of toys waiting in the store shelves for kids to snatch up.  But even during the commercial breaks in these 30-minute toy ads, we got more ads!  For hours a day, kids were bombarded with toys adverts
within toy adverts - the only break we had was cereal commercials and half of those were tie-ins to the cartoons we were watching.  What a time to be alive!

As exciting as the cartoons were, the commercials had to be doubly so to get a kid's attention in such a short span of time (you know, in case it wasn't aired in the middle of a cartoon or something).  Take a look at the above Transformers commercials - you had brand new animation for the commercials that looks a little better than the show themselves, the toys rolling around through massive sandboxes, a kid with picket-fence teeth and glowing eyes who later transforms himself into a robot - all sorts of awesome stuff.  And you have to love the "Does Optimus Prime Die?" promotion for Transformers: The Movie.

Another great thing about these commercials is that the cartoons were limited to what figures and toys they were able to put on screen - there was only so much time and room in the cast list.  Though the cartoons were mandated to feature certain toys (leading to characters based on older toys being written out or just disappearing from the show), not everything could be featured.  These commercials were the only place you'd see certain characters and accessories.  Watch the He-Man commercials above and around the middle of the video, you start seeing a ton of stuff that never made it to the cartoon.  And for good reason, because they got freaking weird.

It's amazing how many commercials we got, especially when going through old videos and seeing how many you might have missed as a kid.  As much as I loved watching Transformers, I don't really remember any of the commercials they aired.  And I'd grown out of some of the cartoons by the time He-Man was introducing the light toys and electric playsets.  But what I wouldn't give to have that awesome Eternia toy!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 1 Results

“Skeletor!” Evil-Lyn shrieked through a mental projection into Snake Mountain’s throne room.
The skull-faced evil warrior sat up from his chair where he was spinning a crystal and contemplating his next move against Castle Grayskull.  The witch’s face materialized in the glass sphere sitting atop the table in front of him.  “What do you want, witch?” he yelled.
“I’ve been captured!  You must free me!” she cried.  The vision the viewer displayed showed her locked in a glass cylinder in the middle of a mechanical red room.
“A telepathic call for help?” another voice asked within Evil-Lyn’s proximity.  The vision before Skeletor shimmered and was replaced by a purple face wearing a spindly crown.  “Is this the master you spoke of betraying?”
“Who are you?” Skeletor shouted, leaning into the image.
“I am the Queen of the Crown!” she returned with the same incredulous tone he had used.  “Monarch of the Crown Empire and your new ruler!”
“What?!” Skeletor stood up and shook his hands in the air.  “Skeletor has no ruler!”
“Once I steal the magic-infused life-force of your traitorous minion here, I’ll raise an army of Slaver Lords to take over your measly planet before moving on to the rest of the galaxy.”  The image reverted to Evil-Lyn, still stuck inside the transparent tube but now the mechanical implements at the top had come to life with electric sparks. 
“Skeletor, you must save me!”
“And why should I, Evil-Lyn?  What was this I heard about betrayal?”
“I sensed the queen as she approached Eternia and made contact with her, hoping to expand our reach beyond our planet.  Of course, I would have negotiated you a place high in her empire, Lord Skeletor. I --”
The device in Evil-Lyn’s tube surged with electricity and coursed through the witch’s body, sending a scream through Skeletor’s crystal ball loud enough to crack its surface.
“I should let the Queen do whatever she wants to you for turning against me again, fool.  But no one threatens to take over Eternia but me!”  He held his Havoc Staff over his head and disappeared in a flash.
Within the lab on board her starship, the blue-skinned man shimmered into existence directly before the Queen. 
“That’s his real face?” one of her guards said as he materialized.
“And I thought Killbane was ugly.”
“Silence, fools!” the Queen said.  The two agents snapped to attention.
“Release Evil-Lyn now,” Skeletor demanded, pointing his staff at the glass tube still cascading electricity through her.  The ram’s head glowed in white light.
“How dare you come to my ship and order me around!” the Queen screamed.  She relented and a sly smile curled her lips.  “Feel free to take her once I’ve extracted her life-force, though.  I’ll even let you leave this ship with it.  But know this: When I’ve created a super Slaver Lord with her psychocrystal, I’ll be sending it after you first.”
“No one threatens me!” Skeletor shouted, blasting a white beam of energy at Evil-Lyn’s prison and shattering the glass holding her.  Evil-Lyn collapsed out of it and with another flash of light from the staff’s head, Skeletor teleported her off the ship into Snake Mountain.
“No!” the Queen screamed, pointing at the console to her left.  “I hadn’t drained enough life-force from her to even power an ordinary Slaver Lord!”  She turned her attention to Skeletor who even without the flesh on his face, she knew was grinning at thwarting her.  “Crown agents, seize him!  If I cannot steal the witch’s life-force, I will steal this monster’s!”  The two agents at her side aimed their rifles at him.
Skeletor’s head craned back with a hearty laugh. He pointed his staff at the two guards and a spray of green gas erupted towards them.  In just a moment the two agents collapsed to the floor in a deep sleep.  He turned the staff towards the Queen.  “I expected more from you!” he said with another deep laugh.
“Oh, I have better!” She swiped her hand toward the evil warrior and a wave of pink telekinetic energy surged outward. 
Skeletor held up his hand to the attack, reflecting the energy from his palm and sending it above her.  She lunged to the right just in time to avoid the falling debris.  “Let me show you true power!”  He pointed his staff to the throne behind her and blasted it, destroying the chair in a cloud of smoke.
Shielding herself from the rubble, she cried out.  Suddenly the white robed figures stationed around the room jumped to life, surrounding Skeletor.  One grabbed the middle of his staff and attempted to rest it from his hands.  Over the blank face of the figure, the holographic image of the Queen appeared with a wicked smile.  While the others grasped at Skeletor and struggled to take him down, the Queen-faced figure cackled, “You’ll make a fine addition to my Slaver Lords!”
“No!” Skeletor screamed, shooting a beam of light from one of his fingers into the Slaver-Lord’s face, obscuring the illusion floating above it.  He slammed the end of the staff to the ground and a shining blast exploded, blinding the Slaver Lords around him and causing the Queen, who had been seeing through each of them, to cry out in pain.  The figures surrounding Skeletor collapsed to the ground. 
“A neat trick,” Skeletor gloated, “I could use some minions like those instead of the bumbling boob you captured.” 
As the Queen struggled to get to her feet, she concentrated what was left of her mental powers on the blue-skinned foe.  She reached out telepathically, sending out a wave of maddening energy deep within his mind. 
Skeletor clutched at his skull and fell to his knees, the Havoc Staff clamouring on the ground beside him.  Images of the Queen danced in his burning consciousness.
She advanced on him, holding her fingers to her temples.   “You were a fool for coming here, Skeletor.  My mental powers are at their strongest within this ship.”
Leaning on his staff, he shakily got to his feet, resisting the Queen’s psionic assault.  “Then I shall turn the ship against you.”  He fired a blast at her feet.  The floor rumbled before the metal sheeting ripped up and curled into a cage around her and pulling her hands down to her waist.  “You have impressive power,” he said in a low voice, “I cannot deny that.”  He snatched the glowing red jewel from the chest on one of the Slaver Lords lying at his feet.    “Power that will help me finally defeat He-Man and rule Eternia.” 
He crushed the gem in his hand.  The psionic feedback flooded the Queen’s mind and she cried out in pain.  Skeletor destroyed two more before the Queen was rendered unconscious.  With each psychocrystal destroyed, the Slaver Lord it was attached to had shimmered from existence. He shattered the gem from the final Slaver Lord for good measure. 
With all his enemies in the Psychocrypt defeated, Skeletor took the glowing crystal from the machine that syphoned Evil-Lyn’s life force and affixed it to his Havoc Staff between the ram’s horns.  A new midnight blue Slaver Lord materialized before him with a glowing skull floating over its hooded head.  Skeletor roared with laughter as the Queen lay comatose at his feet.
Skeletor's powers are much more well-rounded than the Queen's, being able to shoot explosive blasts from his staff and his fingers and being able to manipulate his surroundings as well.  While the Queen was powerful in the Psychocrypt, his powers weren't strong enough to subdue him.  The major disadvantage she had is with her Slaver Lords who, while letting her see and hear anywhere they are, have no other discernible strengths.  In the end, Skeletor's abundance of powers won out.

The Winner

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Bad Guy Beatdown Round 1 Skeletor vs. Queen of the Crown

It's the inaugural Bad Guy Beatdown fight.  This week, we're looking at the powers of each of the combatants, next week we'll see the who wins. This week, we're looking at Skeletor, the evil warrior from Eternia and the Queen of the Crown, leader of the Crown Empire.  Ordinarily, I'll watch the first thirteen episodes of the series and note their abilities and powers displayed in each episode.  Unfortunately, The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers has so many different villains (one thing I loved about the show), so I had to jump around a bit to look for the Queen's appearances.  I'm not sure of this is a bad sign that in the first round I have to break the rules, but otherwise, the Queen would have completed nothing without the aid of a giant soul-sucking machine, and that's not fair.  It should also be said that the Queen has an army of stormtroopers, but Skeletor shows a robot army in a few episodes as well, so I'm leaving them both out.  After listing their abilities, I'll pick the ones that will go with them into battle.

Anyway, let's take a look at the Queen's powers.  Her abilities are primarily in the psionic range.  Using the Psychocrypt, she can steal a victim's life force and create psychocrystals, which power her Slaver Lords.  Slaver Lords are the backbone of her empire, allowing her to see and hear whatever they see or hear.  She can also take direct control over them whenever she needs to, including speaking through them by displaying a hologram of her face. 
She has strong telepathic and telekinetic abilities.  In the episode "Mindnet", the Rangers' own telepath, Niko, uses her powers to search for the stolen half of the Mindnet device.  When she finds out the Queen has it, she's hurt by the Queen's telepathy.  Another episode shows she can make telekinetic blasts from her hands, which destroys a stone column.  Unfortunately, those last two powers are only evidenced in a single episode apiece, so I'm not sure how powerful they really are.  Still, the Slaver Lords allow her to be almost anywhere and they do show to have a bit of enhanced strength, being able to block a kick from Niko, then pick her up.  I'm giving the Queen a few powers, including some telepathy, minor telekinetic blasts, and a handful of Slaver Lords accompanying her into the arena.

Skeletor, on the other hand, has a rotating list of powers, being able to do new things in about every episode.  One episode, he can create a clone of He-Man with a point of his finger, and in another he can shoot sleeping gas from his staff.  But there are a few powers he displays in almost every episode.  Of course, there's teleportation because he's got to escape back to Snake Mountain every time he loses.  There's Filmation's patented white blasts - they hit with a burst of light and no discernible damage.  One episode they do indeed blow up Skeletor's flying ship, so they've got to be pretty powerful. 
Skeletor also has the ability to see far-off events through the back of his Havoc Staff's ram skull.  He can also create bursts of light from the staff to blind enemies.  He's shown a few abilities to bring things to life and control them, from animating stone golems to controlling plants, and even turned a tree to stone, which sounds like a big game of rock, paper, scissors.  He's also adept and blocking or dispelling others' spells, even deflecting blasts with his hand. Skeletor's powers are also some of the strongest on Eternia - in Reign of the Monster, he's able to pull open Greyskull's jaw Bridge, even with the Sorceress inside the castle trying to keep it closed.  Skeletor's powers will include his blasts from both his hands and the staff, defense against other magic, and some elemental control.

So there you have it - both combatants' powers are listed.  Who do you think will win when they go head-to-head?  Check back next week for the results!