The Man Who Planted Trees

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Why this cartoon The Man Who Planted Trees is important to animation history

“The Man Who Planted Trees” is an animated short film that was produced by Radio-Canada in 1987, and this long cartoon recounts a fascinating story of a shepherd that re-forests a valley in France.

Written by Jean Giono, this cartoon is entitled “L’homme qui plantait des arbres” and was actually written in French originally, but first published in English in 1953; thus, it is an an allegorical tale that takes 30 minutes to tell with the aid of some excellent moving animation.

Telling the tale of one shepherd’s long and successful (single handed) effort to reforest a desolate valley, in the foothills of the Alps in Provence, throughout the first half of the twentieth-century, this wonderful story actually begins in the year 1910.

When this young man is undertaking a lone hiking trip through the Provence region of France (into the Alps) he enjoys the relatively unspoiled wilderness, but runs out of water in a treeless, desolate valley where only wild lavender grows.

There are no traces of civilization except for old, empty, crumbling buildings and this is told by using fascinating animation.

Finding only a dried up well, the young man is saved by a middle-aged shepherd, who takes him to a spring he knows of.

Curious about this man and why he has chosen such a lonely life, we stay with him for a short time. The shepherd, after being widowed, has decided to restore the ruined landscape of the isolated and largely abandoned valley, by single-handedly cultivating a forest, tree by tree.

The shepherd (Elzéard Bouffier) makes holes in the ground with his curling pole and drops acorns in that he has been collecting from many miles away; the narrator of the story then leaves the shepherd and returns home, and later fights in the First World War.

In 1920, shell-shocked and depressed after the war, the man returns.

He is wonderfully surprised to see young saplings of all forms taking root in the valley, and new streams running through where the shepherd has made dams higher up in the mountain.

After making a full recovery thanks to the peace and beauty of the regrowing valley, he continues to visit Bouffier every year; Bouffier however, is no longer a shepherd, because he is worried about the sheep affecting his young trees, and has become a bee keeper instead.

Over four decades, Bouffier continues to plant trees, and the valley is turned into a kind of Garden of Eden.

By the end of the story, the valley is vibrant with life and is peacefully settled.

The valley receives official protection after the First World War, but the authorities are unaware of Bouffier’s selfless deeds, thus, more than 10,000 people move there; all of these people unknowingly owe their happiness to Bouffier.

The narrator tells one of his friends in the government the truth about the natural forest, and the friend also helps protect the forest before visiting the now very old Bouffier one last time.

It is now 1945 and in a hospice in Banon. In 1947 the man himself who planted the trees, peacefully passes away!

The story itself is so touching that many readers have believed the whole thing to be true and that Elzéard Bouffier was a genuine historical figure when actually the goal was to make trees likeable, or more specifically, make planting trees likeable.

In summary, this wonderful cartoon The Man Who Planted Trees won an Oscar in 1988, and has been voted in the top 50 of all cartoons ever made, by professionals in the field of animation.


Why the cartoon short ‘Bad Luck Blackie’ is important to animation history 

Tex Avery directed “Bad Luck Blackie” for MGM in 1949. This animated short film parodies the American radio show Boston Blackie that was so popular during World War II.

Marking the very first appearance of Avery’s version of Spike (the infamous bulldog with his studded neck collar), this cartoon, “Bad Luck Blackie,” is noted because it actually launched good old Spike’s career – we then began to see him in the ever-so-popular Droopy cartoons!

As the story unfolds, we see this big bully of a bulldog mercilessly tormenting a small white kitten that only just manages to escape. Kitty goes to hide behind a trash can having been battered and beaten in all kinds of ways by this rotten animal.

Behind the trash can, she sees a bigger black cat who is wearing a bowler hat and chomps on a huge cigar; this black cat discretely offers to protect the kitten, but unfortunately guarantees ‘Bad Luck’ if you look carefully at his business cards. This is a good thing, because as we see, the first thing that happens is for the black cat to cross the path of the bulldog, causing a flowerpot to fall down and smash on his head, knocking him out cold. Thus, the so called ‘Bad Luck’ part of the cartoon has begun and this is hugely entertaining for audiences that are superstitious.

Part of what makes this cartoon so popular is the lively soundtrack, and we hear “Comin’ Through the Rye” being played in the background, which is a traditional children’s song that originated from a Robert Burns poem in Scotland. This benchmarks the cartoon as being great fun for kids!

Clearly, a high point in this cartoon is when the tables turn. The beastly-looking black cat gives the small kitten a whistle for emergency purposes, and it is only then that kitty starts to get even with the dog; when little kitty blows the whistle, and the black cat suddenly appears in the bulldog’s path, the bulldog seems to suffer horrendous bad luck almost instantaneously, and by golly, he is not happy. Strange things fall out of the sky: a cash register, a piano, and horseshoes for instance, to name but a few.

Eventually, the bulldog – Spike – paints the black cat a white colour, to rob him of all the bad luck power he possessed. It works. The cat keeps crossing his path and nothing happens; hence, the dog begins to get his own back as the score changes from side to side. Then the small white kitten jumps in a pot of black paint and acquires the amazing powers himself. Thus, when it crosses the path of the bulldog, an iron girder falls from the sky and knocks him unconscious, which forces him to swallow the whistle.

Spike starts to hiccup, he sets off the whistle and this causes everything – including the kitchen sink – to fall from the sky, and this is too much for the bulldog; he flees in terror and the cartoon ends with the two cats shaking hands.

In summary, the idea of falling objects in “Bad Luck Blackie” has been emulated many times since – perhaps most famously with a Tom and Jerry short – and it is not the first time one of Tex Avery’s cartoons, has been voted into the exclusive list of the best 50 of all-time, by senior members in the field of animation in Hollywood.

 

 

 

Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs

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Why this cartoon Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs has become so memorable

Warner Brothers made “Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs” in 1943, thus this animated short film is part of the Merrie Melodies cartoon series.

“Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs” is an amusing parody of the most famous Brothers Grimm fairytale of them all.

However, the stylistic portrayal of the characters, has been controversial to say the least: dark iconography was widely accepted in America at the time, but the cartoon has rarely been seen on TV and is one of the infamous ‘censored eleven’ having never officially been released on home video!

“Coal Black” is on the other hand, perhaps one of the best cartoons ever made, partly because of the wonderful jazz and swing music inspired by the African / American musicians, who helped to make the film very unique indeed.

Although the cartoon has largely been removed from circulation it is still being used for research and study purposes on animation courses, hence the characters are all African-American and they rhyme the dialogue through in a fascinating manner.

Set during World War II in America – with a hot jazz mentality – this cartoon has sexual overtones, and largely parodies many scenes from the original Snow White that we all know and love; thus, this includes: the wishing-well sequence, the forest of staring eyes and the awakening kiss!

Really a dedication to black America and the jazz films from 1940s Hollywood, the first scene shows a fireplace with a lady holding a child in her lap; the child wants to hear the story of “So White and de Sebben Dwarfs” and that is what she gets.

Rich and mean, the wicked queen, appears with all her sugar and gin and more; she stuffs her face with candles, asks the mirror for a prince who then arrives in a nice car and declares that the ‘gal So White is dyn-a-mite!’ in a colloquial accent like no-other.

The prince then sweeps little miss ‘So White’ off her feet. As such, when the queen finds out she has hired a hit squad and these assassins kidnap the girl, she is actually set free in the woods unharmed.

The criminals are then seen driving off with lipstick all over them, suggesting more things had taken place than meets the eye, and this must be part of the reason why the cartoon was (and still is) so controversial.

When in the woods she sees these hoods dressed in army fatigue singing away and they snap her up as the cook to feed the soldiers, but the queen finds out that sorry old ‘So White’ is still alive, so the queen then fills an apple with poison to try and kill her!

‘Dopey the Dwarf’ then announces that ‘So White’ has gone and kicked the bucket. The rest of them shoot off in military vehicles, while the queen makes for the hills.

When the dwarfs fire a cannon with ‘Dopey’ in, he whacks ‘So White’ so hard with a mallet, rendering ‘So White’ dead to the world.

After ‘Prince Chawmin’ arrives, he promises to bring ‘So White’ back to life with ‘special Rosebud’ thus, here he is referencing “Citizen Kane” the world’s best movie and released shortly before one of the world’s best cartoons!

When the prince kisses the girl – So White – she doesn’t wake so he shrugs his shoulders as if to admit defeat, but then finally, good old Dopey kisses her and she wakes up, jumping up into the air with glowing eyes and huge smile.

In summary, this cartoon “Coal Black and the Sebben Dwarfs” is one of the top fifty cartoons of all time according to senior members of the animation field, and it has been named as Clampett’s undisputed masterpiece, despite being banned.


Charles Dickens little Dorrit Marshalsea Prison Battle of Balaclava Cardigan

This tale of satire is a rich text for extremely troubled, contemporary, financial times of then and now. Loneliness and bankruptcy haunt the novel of two books, POVERTY and RICHES, which centre on the inadequacy of the government with society.  Bank cover ups, debt and poor regulation were as rife in Victorian times and Merdle is a 19th century version of Madoff or Maxwell. Their front was all fraud.

William Dorrit’s daughter Amy, is Little Dorrit and she grows up in debtors prison. Amy supports the family by sewing for Mrs Clennam at her home, where she falls in love with Arthur.

William Dorrit is the lost heir to a large fortune and pays his way out of Marshalsea Prison – as Charles Dickens dad did – then dies in Rome after the family trip across the Alps.

Before Arthur Clennam’s father dies in China he gives him a mysterious watch meant for his mother. Inside the watch casing were the initials DNF. Mrs Clennam is a religious fanatic and refuses to reveal its meaning, though it is thought to be DO NOT FORGET.

The Circumlocution Office is run with incompetence by people ready to sign off the sharp practise of  a Victorian RBS at a moments notice, which reflects Dickens criticism of bureaucracy at HM Treasury and the endless moving around of pieces of paper.

This incompetence in Little Dorrit echoes Charles Dickens disgust at the military blunder that led to the loss of so many soldiers at the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War witnessed and reported on by so many of his journalist friends.

The original plan had been to capture guns discretely on the side of the valley, but instead the Light Brigade charged through the valley where the main bank of artillery was.

This misguided order was effectively suicide for so many but the bravery still shown by the British soldiers terrified the Russians who would never again fight in an open field. Lord Cardigan led the charge and came home a hero having the sweater worn by the Light Brigade to fend of the Russian weather named after him. It became known as the Cardigan.

Bleeding Heart Yard is a cobbled courtyard in Farringdon and appears in this novel as a slum near the prison emphasizing Charles Dickens condemnation of London the way it appeared as an open sewer thanks to the Industrial Revolution.

Rigaud is the villain who blackmails Mrs Clennam though he gets his comeuppance when her house collapses killing this crook in the process.
All the Dorrit family savings are lost in the MerdleMadoffMaxwell banking collapse (and Merdle commits suicide) though Arthur and Amy eventually marry to give another Charles Dickens happy ending, once of course Arthur has been released from prison, having also spent time in Marshalsea.

 

 

The Cat Came Back


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How this cartoon The Cat Came Back became part of the Golden Age of Animation

Warner Brothers made “The Cat Came Back” in 1936 as an animated short film, and it was part of the Merrie Melodies cartoon series featuring a curious kitten who leaves her family to play with a mouse across the hall.

Directed by Friz Freleng, this wonderful cartoon begins with a curious kitten who leaves her family to play with an equally curious little mouse from across the hallway.

Despite both being told by their mothers how bad the other family is, they ignore this advice and Mama Mouse warns her kids to stay away from cats, while Mama Cat tells her kids to attack all of the mice.

These creatures sneak out of their lessons, listen to some records together and dance around.

When dancing, they suddenly fall through a drain into a sewer where there is a little kitten that is saved by the little mouse, and then of course these silly families begin to fight out their old feuds once again.

The Merrie Melodies series was made between 1931 and 1969 by Warner Bros and they were animated comedy shorts from what has become known in animation terms as the Golden Age.

The parent series was Looney Tunes and they feature some of the most famous (and infamous) cartoon characters ever created: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig are but a few!

“Tweetie Pie”, “Speedy Gonzales” and “Birds Anonymous” have all won Academy Awards while “Duck Amuck”, “One Froggy Evening” and “What’s Opera Doc?” have been included by the National Film Registry which is the film preservation board in the Library of Congress in the United States.

Looney Tunes ran from 1930 to 1969 and specialised in musical cartoons, thus the characters themselves were often seen as looneys and many parody the Walt Disney version of Silly Symphonies which uniquely provided many music based films as well.

Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes became the most popular cartoons in the golden age of animation in the United States shortly after World War II, even exceeding the mighty works from the Disney studios.

Looney Tunes became so successful it spawned many spin offs including its own TV series, films, comics, music, video games and even amusement park rides to its great success, and many of the characters feature in the most popular animated shorts of all time.

In summary, this cartoon “The Cat Came Back” was reissued twice as one of the Blue Ribbon classics for Merrie Melodies meaning the title card was changed, and it has since been voted one of the best 50 cartoons of all time by members of the animation field in Hollywood.


Sonnet 138 Dark Lady Passionate Pilgrim Shakespeare when my Love Swears that she is Made of Truth

When, my love swears that she is made of truth

The nature of truth and flattery in romantic relationships is the theme of sonnet 138, often thought of as a song.

All of Shakespeare’s Sonnets have titles which are basically the first line of 14 (in most cases anyhow, as some of the poems break the rules and have 15 lines!)

No one knows exactly when the sonnets were written, however, 138 was published in The Passionate Pilgrim, by William Jaggard in 1599, which was like one of today’s anthologies.

Ten years later, they were all published by Thomas Thorpe, though laden with errors, it is unlikely Shakespeare knew of it!

137 is about contradictions. The poet’s heart believes the dark lady is his alone but he knows that it is not true and he is guided by blind love. At the same time, he implies that she is a common prostitute.

In 139, the speaker elaborates the theme of untruth. Unfaithful she may be, the speaker rationalizes by insisting she gives him his full attention when they are together and ignoring what may well happen when they are apart.

The speaker in Sonnet 138 confesses to a less than perfect relationship based on lies and deceit of which each partner is aware, yet they continue to flatter each other. They remain together for sex and because they are both comfortable with the lies.

In the first quatrain, the speaker pretends to believe his mistress, knowing full well she is lying. At the same time, he is pretending to her, that he is younger. For example, “she is made of truth, I do believe her.”

“Made” could mean maid or virgin, which is what he wants to believe but he “knows she lies” which may also mean she “lays” with other men – sleeping around!

At the same time, he refers to himself as “untutored youth” then “unlearned” reinforcing this point of being a young man inexperienced in love.

In quatrain 2, the poet develops his argument. “Vainly” means she falsely “thinks me young.” She knows he is “past the best” and he knows of “her false-speaking tongue.”

“Simple I credit” is pretending to believe her and “simple truth supprest,” paradoxically, is that they are both refusing to acknowledge the self-evident truth.

In the last quatrain, both are lying and cannot trust each other. For example, she is “unjust” compared to him being “old.”

The couplet spins the poem around with some wry humor. They “lie” with each other and lay together in bed, reminiscent of quatrain one. The couple in the couplet are together and are flattered by each other’s funny little ways.

All is forgotten in the couplet with a good old bit of sex at the end to resolve any problem, as the relationship is purely physical anyway. Who cares about the deceit?

This sonnet is part of the dark lady set in the series (127 onwards). Towards the end of the entire 154 long sequence, the poet has pretended his mistress is pure and innocent and pretended he is young and virile, in their little tit for tat game.

Age and deteriorating beauty has thrown some frustration into Shakespeare’s thinking at this stage of his life, and this is reflected by his Sonnet 138!

 

 

 

Popeye the Sailor meets Sinbad the Sailor

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Why the cartoon Popeye the Sailor meets Sinbad the Sailor has become a timeless classic

Paramount Pictures made “Popeye the Sailor meets Sinbad the Sailor” in Technicolor as an animated cartoon short as long ago as 1936, and this cartoon features the two renowned seamen fighting over who might be the greatest sailor in the world!

In this cartoon short, Sindbad the Sailor is big old Bluto and he proclaims himself – in song – to be the greatest sailor, adventurer and lover in the world and ‘the most remarkable, extraordinary fellow’; a claim which is challenged by Popeye’s arrival on his island, with Olive Oyl and J. Wellington Wimpy in tow.

Sindbad orders the kidnapping of Popeye’s girlfriend, Olive Oyl, and challenges the one-eyed sailor to a series of obstacles to prove his greatness: fighting a two-headed giant (there are many animated references to “The Three Stooges” in cartoons) and Sindbad himself, are but a few.

Popeye makes short work of the bird and the giant, but Sindbad almost gets the better of him so Popeye produces a can of spinach giving him the power to defeat Sindbad and proclaim himself ‘the most remarkable, extraordinary fella.’

Of course we have Wimpy longing for his hamburgers and he chases a duck to grind him up into a burger, but this duck escapes with Wimpy’s last burger.

This film was voted one of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field, thus “Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor” was nominated for the 1936 Academy Award for Best Short.

Interestingly enough, “Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor” was a major inspiration for the feature film “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” thus, the cartoon has since been deemed “culturally significant” by the United States Library of Congress, and is one of those selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.


Shakespeare Macbeth Dominant Themes Corruption Tyranny Cruelty Masculinaty Kingship Power Lady Mac

There are 3 MAIN themes in the “Scottish Play,” so called because superstition says you invite disaster by using the play’s real name inside a theatre!

The Tragedy of Macbeth is a tale of warriors, witches and witchcraft, bloodshed and murder. It begins with thunder and lightening.

CORRUPTION

Macbeth had desire for power and advancement and is unhindered in his ambition to rule Scotland. He murders his way to the top, killing the good king Duncan who had liked Macbeth and promoted him through the ranks.

Macbeth then defends his position with extreme violence by disposing of his own comrade Banquo when a threat to Macbeth’s crown was perceived.

As a child, Saddam Hussein committed murder, was a gangster as a young adult and, when he made president, executed all his opposition to defend his position as leader. Both Macbeth and Saddam ruled with an iron fist through terror and fear to discourage anyone from trying to topple them.

Lady Macbeth pursued her goals with great determination relying on manipulation. For example, her ambition to become queen makes her spur her husband on to murder. She goads him into it and fulfills her dream.

Thoroughly provoked, Macbeth commit’s the evil deed reflecting the leading theme in the play. The corruptive influence of Lady Macbeth is overriding, foremost and dominant.

Mrs. Milosovic, Mirjana Markovic, by comparison, was regarded as the indispensable advisor to her husband throughout his 13-year regime in Serbia and was often dubbed the Lady Macbeth of the Balkans!

Clearly, Mirjana was a co-conspirator in Slobadan’s war crimes of terror and ethnic cleansing, encouraging extreme violence the same way Macbeth’s wife urged him on. She also famously pinched memorabilia from Buckingham Palace when on a state visit to the UK.

CRUELTY

Cruelty and masculinity are central to the plot in Macbeth. Prevailing and governing in the play, violence usually follows talk of manhood. Lady Macbeth encourages the murder of Duncan, by questioning her husband’s bottle. It works as he proves himself a man to her.

Macbeth provokes his hit men with questions about masculinity to fire them up for the murder of Banquo. The relationship between cruelty and masculinity is a huge theme.

Both the Macbeth’s equate aggression to masculinity. Political order descends into chaos as a metaphor for this unruly behavior.

In Act 4 Scene 2 Macbeth has his thugs kill Macduff’s son, then the rest of his family. This is his cruel and extreme response to his distrust of Macduff

Modern day medieval behavior may include Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers and gassing his own people – killing many women, children and families – all carried out by his henchmen. They were Iraqi citizens, just as Macduff’s wife and children were as Scottish as Macbeth was!

Hussein’s regime raped and pillaged domestically in a rein of terror so cruel and addictive, it then spilled over internationally to his neighbors.

TYRANNY

Duncan supplies order and justice to Scotland as King. Macbeth is a tyrannical leader who breaks up the order – depicted by bad weather, chaos, murder and the supernatural.

Malcolm is Duncan’s son and overthrows Macbeth so Scotland can have a true king again, completing the circle. This contrast between kingship and tyranny is a major theme and reflects Iraq before and after Saddam Hussein’s evil empire.

I think the allies invading Baghdad, in brown desert outfits, makes an interesting parallel to Malcolm and his army camouflaged by brown leaves from Birnam Wood. Good wins over evil in both these battles – returning justice and order to both countries.

Three Little Pigs

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Why this Disney cartoon Three Little Pigs is now so popular

Walt Disney made “Three Little Pigs” in 1933 as part of the Silly Symphony cartoon series, and of course it features the infamous Big Bad Wolf as well!

Practical Pig, Fiddler Pig and Fifer Pig are three brothers. They build their own houses with bricks, sticks and straw respectively, thus all three of them play a different kind of musical instrument: Fifer Pig ‘toots his flute, doesn’t give a hoot and plays around all day’; while Fiddler Pig ‘with a hey diddle diddle, plays on his fiddle and dances all kinds of jigs’; and there is Practical Pig who plays the piano, oh so really well.

Fifer and Fiddler build their straw huts with much ease, and have fun playing all day. Practical Pig, on the other hand, ‘has no chance to sing and dance, for work and play don’t mix’ thus, he focuses on building his strong brick house, while his two brothers make fun of him.

Angry old Practical Pig, warns them ‘You can play and laugh and fiddle. Don’t think you can make me sore. I’ll be safe and you’ll be sorry when the Wolf comes through your door!’

Fifer and Fiddler ignore him and continue singing the now famous song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”.

As they are singing, the Big Bad Wolf appears and blows Fifer’s house down. Fifer manages to escape and hides at his old mate Fiddler’s place, thus the wolf pretends to give up and go home; returning later, disguised as an innocent sheep, these cunning pigs see through the disguise ‘Not by the hair of our chinny-chin-chin! You can’t fool us with that old sheepskin!’ whereupon, the Wolf blows Fiddler’s house down.

The two pigs manage to escape and hide at Practical Pig’s house. Then the Wolf arrives disguised as a Fuller Brush Man to trick the pigs into letting him in. Then the Wolf tries to blow down the strong brick house and loses his clothing in the process!

Finally, the Big Bad Wolf tries to get into the house through the chimney, but smart old Practical Pig leaves the boiling pot filled with water (and with turpentine added) under the chimney; the Wolf falls right in.

Shrieking in pain, the Wolf runs away frantically with all the pigs singing “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” again and again.

Then Practical Pig plays a trick on the others by knocking on his piano, making the others think the Wolf has returned, and they all hide under Practical’s bed.

In summary, this wonderful piece of animation won the 1934 Academy Award for Best Short Subject and in it was voted one of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field, thus “Three Little Pigs” was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and there is a marvelous coffee shop in Disney California recognizing these crafty creatures, all in a timeless manner.


Winters Tale Midsummer Nights Dream Hamlet Henry fifth Royal Shakespeare Company Jack Falstaff

TRAGEDIES, HISTORIES & ROMANTIC COMEDIES are the three debatable Shakespearean genres. My criteria for FINEST is simply how often they have been performed by the RSC.

~ HAMLET ~

This play was released soon after the opening of the Globe Theatre. During Shakespeare’s lifetime, it was one of his most popular works and it still ranks high among his most performed, topping the RSC’s list since 1879.

Hamlet provides the ultimate challenge. It is Shakespeare’s longest play, which would cause problems for any average actor. Once conquered it is then you can think about a mega bucks Hollywood career. Successful transitions include Laurence Olivier, John Guilgud, Ralph Richardson, Richard Burton and Kenneth Brannagh, to name but a few!

Hamlet departed from tradition. Plays were expected to focus on action, not character. Shakespeare reverses this. For example, Hamlet is famous for his soliloquy and the audience learns the characters actual motives and inner thoughts.

~ HENRY V ~

“Upon this charge Cry God for Harry England and St. George”

Popular because of patriotism in Elizabethan England when in 1599 the play was a reflection of a country uniting against an uprising in Ireland. Henry fought with the lower ranks as an ordinary foot soldier.

Huge cheering was reported at performances, like a football match these days as the audience liked to express patriotism and pride in their country. Few Englishman lost their lives in the Battle of Agincourt!

Superlative these days Henry V gives audiences a chance to say goodbye to Sir Jack Falstaff, one of Shakespeare’s best-loved characters.

~ MIDSUMMER ~

“The variety of appeal inherent in A Midsummer Nights Dream is the source of its popularity” according toStanley Wells and its frequency of performance in open air to which the play is particularly suited helps make it most excellent.

The play is much concerned with marriage, ending with fairies blessing upon married couples being appropriate for any era! In addition, there is a complimentary reference to Queen Elizabeth in Act II which at least two monarchs and their entourage have been particularly pleased about!

Midsummer is also Shakespeare’s most individual creation, with only vague references to other works, like Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale in the form of a borrowed name. There is no main source.

~ A WINTERS TALE ~

For me, this play is unsurpassed because of the statue coming to life at the end. This resurrection scene has been copied many times since. We have all seen the snowman coming to life at Christmas and flying off.

Worzel Gummidge is a scarecrow that comes to life and this happy ending in Shakespeare’s late play is fitting because of the biblical allusion to Jesus Christ rising from the dead on Easter Sunday.

Let us not forget Pinocchio who was carved as a wooden puppet but dreamt of being a real boy. He lives happily ever after with Geppetto at the end of the story just like the happy conclusion to Shakespeare’s A Winters Tale.

 

 

The Old Mill

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Reasons why this wonderful cartoon The Old Mill is important to animation history

Walt Disney made “The Old Mill” in 1937 as part of the Silly Symphony cartoon series, and it depicts a natural community of animals who populate an abandoned windmill out in the countryside.

This cartoon outlines how this community of animals cope with a severe thunderstorm. To the sound of Johann Strauss’s “One Day When We Were Young” this Silly Symphony was one of original ones used as a testing-ground for advanced animation techniques and isn’t really that silly at all!

This fascinating film also incorporates realistic depictions of animal behavior, complex lighting and color effects. Thus, they recreate rain, wind, lightning, ripples, splashes and reflections in the water, to great emotional effect, all the way through the cartoon, and all of the lessons learned from this cartoon were used to make 1937 version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Disneyland Paris and both in America have rides using the three mills from this fascinating piece of animation, and numerous snack bars are designed to remember the cartoon, thus the opening scene shows a spider weaving his web and it is quite amazing to see; the whole cartoon has a sense of realism with the lush backgrounds and settings making it really good fun to watch.

There is only music and fantastic animation to tell this short story, thus benchmarking the idea behind Silly Symphonies which were of course created for telling stories through animation and music. The story of “The Old Mill” is about night falling around the mill, and a storm is brewing outside – how well the drawings focus our attention on this idea.

The animals around the mill behave in different ways. They are very naturalistic and you almost feel out in the countryside when you watch it!

When you see the blue bird nearly get crushed it is quite a worry especially when you see her babies, but luckily there is a spoke missing and they pull through; the bats all stretched out at the top of the mill can also seem quite scary if wee-ones are watching!

Look out for the mice whose eyes light up the dark night, then the flash of lightning and the lovebirds snuggling up together who reappear loved up at the end.

In summary, this cartoon “The Old Mill” won the 1937 Academy Award for Best Short Subject, thus it was also included in the book The 50 Greatest Cartoons because of the charming animation.


William Shakespeare Bard Warwickshire Biography Stratford upon Avon Globe Theatre Sonnets

“The game’s afoot: Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry God for Harry, England, and Saint George!” Henry V. St Georges Day April 23 1564 is thought to be the highly appropriate birth date of William Shakespeare because it just happens to coincide with England’s national festival.

Every year National Poets Day is also celebrated on April 23 in William Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire.

According to Peter Ackroyd local records say a small portion of butter and honey was placed in baby William’s mouth as was the custom in Warwickshire.

Background

Memoirs account for Shakespeare’s upbringing being nothing special. His father John could not write, but was a competent businessperson.

John Shakespeare had to desecrate religious images as part of Henry VIII reformation in the years leading up to Williams’s birth. Craftily he made it look like desecration and left many pieces in a state to be easily recovered!

Will’s mother was clearly pragmatic. Mary Arden was from a big, wealthy, farming family and her father chose her to be responsible for family affairs over 8 sisters and 4 stepchildren.

England’s moment was about to arrive. Shakespeare was born on the cusp of history. He was the first modern man but also the last great product of the Gothic Christian West.

Stratford, a market town, is on the crossing point of the River Avon and a perfect location for this crossover in history. Queen Mary tried to reform back to Catholicism and then Queen Elizabeth back to Protestantism, thus Shakespeare was born at an interesting time!

Christened in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Stratford on April 26 with just father and godparents present, survival rates for newborns were pretty low in this period unless you were tough or from a prosperous family. Shakespeare probably benefited from both!

Average life expectancy for men back then was 47. Shakespeare lived to 52. Having lost two daughters already and bouts of the plague striking at any moment, the Shakespeare’s probably cradled William.

Thankfully, for us they managed to escape to an old family home in Wilmcote to dodge the threat that had killed so many of their neighbors.

Grammar school educated in classics, William knew Latin and Greek which is obvious from the early plays such as Titus Andronicas. There are no other real clues as to where Shakespeare got his genius.

At just 18, William married a pregnant Anne Hathaway who was eight years older. They had three children and probably shut themselves off to the outside world for about seven years.

London

It is likely William gradually got interested in acting and joined a theatre company but turned to writing sonnets when the plague closed down all the stages in 1593.

The 37 plays were mainly acted and printed but largely unpublished. The first collected edition of his works was published posthumously in 1623 and is known as the First Folio.

Performance was Shakespeare’s publication. The sonnets were unpopular in his time probably for this reason. They could not really be performed, could they?

Home

Shakespeare has influenced English to the point people do not realize they are quoting him. He has inspired composers, musicians, artists, painters, sculptors, poets and the media.

William Shakespeare spent the final five years of his life back in his birth town of Stratford. He died a very rich man on April 23, 1616, his 52nd birthday and was simply buried in Holy Trinity Church where he was christened all those years before.

Completing the circle, William even self-penned his own epitaph: “Blessed be the man that spares these stones, And curst be he that moves my bones.”

 

 

The Great Piggy Bank Robbery

piggy

How the hilarious Great Piggy Bank Robbery has become so successful in the field of animation

Warner Bros made “The Great Piggy Bank Robbery” in 1945 as part of the Looney Tunes series of cartoons and it features Daffy Duck playing ‘Duck’ Tracy.

We see good old Daffy Duck on a farm and Daffy waits for his new Dick Tracy comic book to finally arrive, while we hear Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse” and the postyman then appears. To the tune of the “Poet and Peasant” this daft duck then runs off and reads his comic.

Daffy decides he wishes to become Dick Tracy and knocks himself out by accidentally punching his own head while imagining fighting hardened criminals, thus he then imagines himself to be “Duck Twacy, the famous duck-tec-a-tive” when he realises his very own piggy bank has been stolen away; not to mention the piggy bank crime wave sweeping through town.

Daffy then calls Duck Twacy and calls himself before realizing he is Duck Twacy, so he rings for a taxi to follow the suspected piggy bank robbers car but it drives off without him: “Keep them on their toes” he shouts and uses more conventional duck-tective techniques!

When Daffy bumps into Sherlock Holmes scouring the pavement he says: “scram Sherlock, I’m working this side of the street” and carries on searching for clues with his magnifying glass, which has no lens in it, just to add to the daftness and humour.

Porky Pig is driving a tram and shunts Daffy to the gangsters’ not-so-secret hideout and Daffy climbs all over the place following the footprints on the wall. From large to small, it is clear the footprints are Mouse Man’s and then faces up to all the hardened criminals from around town, typically seen by the real Dick Tracy in the comic books.

Trying to arrest these villains, the chase begins and they use nasty old “Flattop” to launch planes from; and, Rubberhead then “rubs” Daffy out not for the first time in animation history and Pumpkinhead starts blasting everyone with his submachine gun.

Daffy blows Pumpkinhead up who becomes a stack of pies, while the rest get trapped in the closet so Daffy blasts them to death with only the Neon Noodle left.

When he finds the stolen piggy banks and his own one among them, he kisses the thing, but as he is dreaming he finds himself on the farm kissing a real pig.

In summary, animation historian Steve Schneider said of this picture: “Bob Clampett’s forever priceless “The Great Piggy Bank Robbery” is clearly a work of the highest cinematic poetry, for prompting the film’s manic hilarity are a sequence of images that remain among the most indelible in cartoon history” thus, it has been voted one of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field.


Teachers And Administrators
Corporal punishment is the infliction of physical pain on a person’s body, either at home, military, judicial or IN SCHOOL.

Bad behavior is often an inner city problem and less of a problem for independent schools. Therefore we are concerned with 11-16 year olds in the UK government run system. Remember, there are no bad kids just bad teachers!

CONTROL

Every catchment area in Birmingham, London, Manchester and Liverpool will have fine examples of “pussy cat” schools where discipline is completely under control and part of the state system.

Unfortunately, they are likely to be the exception rather than the rule but it does prove corporal punishment is DEFINITELY NOT necessary and failing schools can mimic such places.

Abolished in state schools in 1987, there is an argument to bring corporal punishment back what with the increase in paperwork making it difficult to find time to discipline.

BEHAVIOUR

One discipline model in behavioral management is “assertive discipline” devised by the Canters in 1976 and is one way you might avoid the need for any type of punishment in the first place.

The Canters said assertive discipline works by emphasizing students’ right to learn and teachers’ right to teach without disruption from misbehavior.

It puts the teacher clearly in charge in the classroom but involves building rapport with students and involving them in making many class decisions, including rules of behavior and consequences to be applied when rules are broken.

Ofsted in 2008 probed 12 inner-city state secondary schools with strong academic records, despite taking in high numbers of problematic pupils. Therefore, disadvantage doesn’t mean low standards.

The street stops at the gate and some schools had police officers permanently stationed within the grounds. Maybe police dogs could be used to seek out drugs!

ANALAGY

According to Albert Bandura in 1967 pupils try to emulate their teachers and this includes inflicting pain and violence.

I think corporal punishment may resolve one temporary problem at that point in time, but create a multitude of long term problems.

As with noise levels escalating in class, the way to deal with it is not to shout louder so the collective volume continues to escalate but to silently write 1 on the board, followed by 2, then 3 until they shut up.

When they finally do, the figure left on the board is how much free time you take away from the noisy class. Striking pupils with rulers may put the teacher himself in danger in this day and age!

SUMMARY

I suggest formal assemblies, regular patrols of corridors, frequent school trips, strong values and appointing good teachers.

No shaved heads or gang motifs in school grounds and correct uniform are essential to show respect for THEIR school! Caning them is unlikely to build any respect in pupils.

You must start from the bottom up. For example tackle truancy and punctuality. Get everyone in on time. Forget about grades until order is established.

Courses can be caught up at a later date. Once you have attendance under control, grades will take care of themselves and sports teams will improve especially if you then deploy the Canters “assertive discipline” technique!

Hurting someone may silence them, but that pupil may hurt younger sister with physical pain that evening. She may go to school and hurt classmate tomorrow.

John Dunford, of the Association of School and College Leaders, said in 2009 “Thankfully, corporal punishment is no longer on the agenda, except in the most uncivilized countries. I am sure that this barbaric punishment has disappeared forever.”

As in Shakespeare’s Macbeth the protagonist finds it difficult to pursue his aims without the ultimate physical punishment. Once the cycle has begun, he can’t stop and I believe this vicious cycle is the main reason corporal punishment will never come back to UK schools!