Friday, 30 April 2010

Top 5 Fictional Bears

Not quite sure where this topic came from other than an ongoing need to wallow in childhood nostalgia and a desire to talk about Paddington. Lots of bears that didn't make the cut, including Biffo from The Beano (who frankly scared me), Sooty from "The Sooty & Sweep Show" (who was never as cool as his co-star) and George the Hofmeister bear (who was unfortunate with his product choice). I also considered the Hair Bear Bunch (Hair Bear, Bubi Bear & Square Bear) but it didn't seem fair to include them as a group and I couldn't seperate them as individuals.

1. Paddington Bear - I first became familiar with Paddington through the BBC television series created by Ivor Wood and narrated by Michael Hordern. The five minute episodes were wonderfully animated, a stop motion Paddington puppet interacting with two dimensional backgrounds and characters. Later I read the Michael Bond books and enjoyed the stories all the more. It's possible that I identify more with Paddington than any other literary character. I have a "Paddington" stare that I reserve for those people that have unwittingly annoyed me. I like few things more than having a nice cup of tea and a piece of cake during a quiet afternoon at home. And, of course, I love marmalade. If I wore a big enough hat I would definitely keep a marmalade sandwich under it "in case of emergencies".

2. Whinnie-the-Pooh - Just to be clear, I'm talking the E.H. Shepard version here not the technicolour Disney version. A.A. Milne's two books about Pooh along with his children's poetry collections ("When We Were Very Young" and "Now We Are Six") were some of the very first books I remember being read. Pooh and his friends remain a source of great wisdom.

3. Iorek Byrnison - Iorek Byrnison is an armoured polar bear. I really don't think I need to say anything more. A character from Philip Pullman's brilliant His Dark Materials trilogy (which reads like Tolkien without the long boring bits). Having being rescued from enslavement, Iorek becomes lead character Lyra's friend and protector.

An armoured, polar, bear. Yup.

4. Fozzie Bear - My fifth favourite Muppet becomes my fourth favourite bear.

5. Yogi Bear - I can remember watching Yogi from quite an early age and the show is irrevocably linked with our first colour television. My parents had always hired televisions (and in fact, until very recently they still did) from Radio Rentals. Every 5 years or so we'd have the excitement of a trip to the shop to pick out the new set. Our very first colour TV was made by Baird, which I learnt were named after the inventor of the first working television, John Logie Baird. I naturally assumed that Yogi Bear was a clever word play in honour of the Scottish inventor. Baseball wasn't very popular in Surrey in the seventies.


Friday, 23 April 2010

Top 5 Wacky Racers

Sticking with the Hanna-Barbera tack and another childhood favourite, the wonderful Wacky Races. Much like Top Cat I grew up watching this, and despite there being a mere 17 episodes made (34 races), still enjoy it today.

1. Dick Dastardly and Muttley (in car 00 the Mean Machine)

2. The Ant Hill Mob (in car 7 the Bulletproof Bomb)

3. Professor Pat Pending (in car 3 the Convert-a-Car)

4. The Gruesome Twosome (in car 2 the Creepy Coupe)

5. Penelope Pitstop (in car 5 the Compact Pussycat)


Friday, 16 April 2010

Top 5 Top Cat characters

Top Cat was one of my favourite childhood cartoons. A mere 30 episodes were produced, between Sept '61 and April '62, yet it made a huge impression on me. Last December Arnold Stang, the American character actor who provided the voice of Top Cat, died at the ripe old age of 91. This is a tribute to Arnold's magic tones.

1. Benny The Ball

2. Top Cat

3. Officer Dibble

4. Brain

5. Choo-Choo


Friday, 9 April 2010

Top 5 Storm Thorgerson Album Covers

Storm Thorgerson has a free exhibition of his artwork running at the Idea Generation Gallery (no, me neither) until 2nd May 2010. The BBC have this neat audio slideshow showing some of his work and it got me thinking about my favourite Thorgerson album covers. It's hard to ignore his work for Floyd so this week there's two top fives for the price of one. Well more like one and a half but it was impossible for me not to complete my top five Pink Floyd covers as well.

1. Pink Floyd "Animals" (1977) - Whilst "Atom Heart Mother" and "Dark Side of the Moon" are probably the most iconic covers Storm produced there's something special about this picture of Battersea Power Station. I think it was an image familiar to me due to trips to London on the train. The flying pig adds a sense of the surreal despite being quite small. The story that the inflatable they used broke free and caused air traffic chaos before eventually coming down in a Kent farm makes it all the better.

2. Peter Gabriel - "Peter Gabriel" (1977) - I love this photo of a Lancia Flavia, supposedly Storm's own. Really sharp picture that contrasts with the blurred vision of Peter Gabriel apparently slumped in the passenger seat. Taken in black and white and then hand coloured by Richard Manning. Manning, a freelance artist who was working for Hipgnosis, also hand scrapped the highlights for each raindrop with a scalpel. Dedication.

3. Pink Floyd "Wish You Were Here" (1975) - As with much of Thorgerson's best work it's simple but effective. The man on fire was actually on fire when the photo was taken. Wearing an aspestos suit and wig and covered in lighter fluid.

4. Muse "Absolution" (2003) - I really don't like Muse very much at all but this album cover was enough to make me stop and reconsider for a moment. In the end I concured that I was right, Muse remain crap but still, great cover.

5. The Cranberries "Wake Up and Smell The Coffee" (2001) - I've not even heard this album. By the time it came out The Cranberries were well off my radar. I love the cover though, it's reminiscent of an early Thorgersen cover ("Elegy" by The Nice) but I think it works better. I also like the fact that Storm appears to have considered the band's name and decided he'd just do a cover with a bunch of giant cranberries on it.

And then the rest of my favourite Pink Floyd covers.

3. Pink Floyd "Umma Gumma" (1969) - The album, bar a few moments of genius, is absolutely awful but I love the picture within a picture cover. A concept Storm used again for Floyd's "Echoes" best of set.

4. Pink Floyd "The Dark Side Of The Moon" (1973) - Familiarity probably breeds contempt. This must have been a spectacularly inovative idea when it was first released, but is so familiar to me now I probably don't give it the status it deserves. I can remember a teacher at junior school (I guess I'd have been about 10) showing us this and the cover to "Animals" as examples of great commercial art. I can't remember what we were then supposed to go and do, though oddly I think it had something to do with papier mache.

5. Pink Floyd "Saucerful of Secrets" (1968) - Quite different from the other covers. At first it seems a bit of a mess but the more you look at it the more you find. It's possibly the definition of a 60's psychedelic cover.

Not everything Storm produced was brilliant though. His work for The Scorpions made both my lists of bad album covers here and here.