Boo! Halloween season continues at Nugget Island as we present our special YouTube playlist of non-stop Halloween goodness for the kiddos. Tune in via your smart TV, set-top box or old-fashioned laptop for classic clips from Disney, kindie music videos, and much more. Click here to get access to it on YouTube or watch below.
My love for horror culture began as early as my Sesame Street years. I always made it a point to stay tuned after the ‘Street’ to watch the sometimes-spooky adventures of Doctor Who. As I grew older, kiddie-targeted horror films like Monster Squad, The Gate, Watcher in the Woods and Gremlins perfectly served my need for a good scare. When it came to reading, I could always turn to a good Christopher Pike or R.L. Stine book. Though I did sneak around and discover Jason, Freddy, and Stephen King at a way-too-young age, when my mom caught me, I still had many age-appropriate options in all mediums to fall back on.
Today’s kids may not have the same type of kid-targeted scare flicks, nor can I imagine the same Gremlins licensing program in place today, but there is plenty of printed material to provide a friendly fright. While surfing one of my favorite fanboy magazines, I chanced upon a new all-ages graphic novel that immediately piqued my interest. Released late last year, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom (Arcana Studios, $14.95) introduces the renowned horror writer to a new audience.
Howard and his huggable pet
When it comes to the horror and phantasmagoric images that often make up the storylines, much of it traces back to the works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, or H.P. Lovecraft as he is often known. Most prolific in the early 1900’s, Lovecraft is known for his fantasy and science fiction-infused horror, described as “weird fiction” at the time. Usually centering on a protagonist trying to hold fast to his sanity while coming to terms with earth-shattering “cosmic horror,” his novels were also built around his own complicated fictional alien lore called the Cthulhu Mythos. His short stories and novellas were often referred to as paranoid, grim and sometimes xenophobic.
This is all heady, complicated stuff that is anything but kid-friendly. However, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom from Bruce Brown, with art by Renzo Podesta, brings Lovecraft to an all-ages audience. While the book does not talk down to them, it also does not require them to contemplate humanity’s place in the universe. The story itself uses the actual H.P. Lovecraft as the center of the story, focusing on a six-year-old protagonist named Howard Lovecraft. The story also employs some actual biographical facts, including his father’s commitment to a sanitarium. In this novel, Howard’s mother gives him an old book supposedly written by his institutionalized dad. When Howard reads the book, he accidently opens up a hole to another world. There, young Howard is forced to battle evil monstrosities and save the Frozen Kingdom, alongside his new pal, the giant creature he affectionately calls Spot.
Author Bruce Brown shows respect for his young audience from page one, choosing a quote from Edgar Allen Poe to set the tone for the novel and to let readers know he isn’t talking down to them. Podesta’s art also shows the same type of dark sophistication seen in some of the adult horror comics, while not being too graphic to scare off young readers. There is nothing they haven’t seen in the stylized worlds of a Harry Potter film, with the main character given a softer look I would describe as manga-meets-Secret of Kells. The “Lovecraftian” world of hidden tomes, secret universes and monstrous beings also exists in Brown’s book, yet the hopeless dread is scaled back. And where a real Lovecraft story may be solely focused on the protagonist’s intellectual journey into madness, this novel focuses more on the adventurous aspects, something that is easier to grasp for a younger crowd. Humor wasn’t exactly one of Lovecraft’s trademarks, but ‘Frozen Kingdom’ also adds this in, having some fun with the eccentricities of the monstrous creations.
This book is the type of stuff I would have gravitated to as a youth, yet was often hard to find. I also recommend this novel for the vocabulary challenges. No, it won’t send kids running to the dictionary/Wikipedia every two seconds, but Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom doesn’t shy away from “big people” words. Finally, for genre-loving parents like myself, this is a great way to get your tween/teen interested in the works of a classic writer while showing them that horror didn’t start with twinkling vampires and sexy werewolves. Bruce Brown is hoping to turn the story of the young ‘Howard Lovecraft’ into a trilogy, if sales permit. We hope you will go grab a copy so we can make it happen!
I am a sucker for stop motion and claymation. Anything that eschews CGI and handrawn for some good old fashioned hand modeling has me on board. So, when I found out that Sesame Workshop was giving Bert and Ernie claymation alter-egos, I was already a fan.
“Bert and Ernie’s Great Adventures” (also known as “New Adventures Of Bert & Ernie”) are 5-minute clay-animated stories featuring the famous duo. These shorts are featured on Sesame Street in the US and as a stand-alone series in other parts of the world. Each episode has Bert and Ernie using their imagination to journey to fantastical places like outer space, the prehistoric era, Antarctica, the Old West, Superheropolis, and Tiny Town.
While this show is sure to get a few purists up-in-arms, I love the idea of bringing Sesame characters to a new medium. Further, these two characters are coming to life in an animation style that is, in itself, classic. We aren’t seeing a CGI Ernie here. We are seeing the world’s most famous roommates join the likes of classic properties like Gumby, Davey and Goliath, and Wallace & Gromit .
Looks like “Bert and Ernie’s Great Adventure” may be here to stay as well. This show has already won an award, with the “Secret Agents” episode taking the Gold Award for Children’s Animation at the 2009 World Media Festival and being selected at the 2009 Annecy Animation Festival. Also, another series of five minute episodes are on deck.
Lucky UK and Australian fans can purchase a collection of these ‘Adventures’ on DVD, while we US fans will have to watch for the Adventures on TV or stream them on YouTube. Fingers crossed for a compilation disc in the US as well!
I look forward to seeing Sesame Workshop explore more outside-the-box projects like this. One of the reasons Sesame has stayed relevant through the years is there willingness to continue explore new ideas.
Naively, I used to think Maia was part of a small, niche audience of children who watched “Caillou.” Swept up in our mutual love for “hipper” and more publicized preschool fare like “Yo Gabba Gabba,” “Wow Wow Wubzy” and even “Sesame Street”, “Caillou” was that one show I assumed was exclusive to a few scattered families forced to give in to their children’s love for this Candian-born character.
Caillou celebrates his success
Then a character breakfast came to town. When Caillou’s appearance was announced, we knew we had to go. At this point, Maia’s love for this follically-challenged 4-year-old was almost on par with the Gabba-gang. I honestly did not anticipate much of a turn out, and even posted a snarky note about it on Facebook. The amount of responses from other young parents with young “Caillou” addicts was shocking. We weren’t alone! There were other parents out there dealing with their child’s obsession with this often-whiny but usually positive-minded cartoon character.
The breakfast had a huge turnout as well and I a quickly learned something about Mr. Caillou. He is quite the unsung hero of the preschool TV market! With no celebrity guest appearances on his show, indie music bands rocking the soundtrack or ironic merchandise at the local pop culture retail store, he isn’t exactly fodder for the press. But if you look at some of the stats, this little guy deserves his respect!
Based on the books by Christine L’Heureux and illustrator Hélène Desputeaux, the “Caillou” program has been on air for 11 years now, airs in 30 counties, and has inspired the sale of five million DVDs. Other facts sure to impress:
-The “Caillou” books have sold 10 million copies
-One million Web visitors check out Caillou online
-Since 2005, Caillou has had 50 million orders on video on demand network Sprout.
-Caillou is the number one preschool series on the top children’s channel in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.
-On the PBS Kids programming block, Caillou averages 700,000 viewers per episode.
For parents who aren’t fond of Caillou, but have given in to his power, there is no end in sight. “Caillou” has 26 new shows in production, with the promise of “topical themes.” Personally, this show has grown on me. Since they have fined-tuned the format a bit, getting rid of some annoying puppet and live-action segments, the show has become tolerable, if not mildly entertaining. Sure it will never inspire me to buy merchandise for myself (ex: my Brobee apparel and collectibles), but at least (bad parent alert) little white lies about the cable box being broken are a thing of the past.