Archive for the 'nostalgia vs. reality' Category

Nostalgia Vs. Reality: The Chipmunk Adventure

April 25, 2008

Nostalgia Vs. Reality is an ongoing feature where beloved things from my childhood are looked at today with a critical eye. Today we review 1987’s The Chipmunk Adventure.

Before the recent success of the Alvin and the Chpmunks feature film I had assumed that Alvin, Simon and Theodore were lost to the ages. They seemed to be the type of characters who, while extremely popular in their day, had failed to reinvent themselves for the younger generation. After all, in their 1980’s television series The Chipmunks regularly sang old Michael Jackson and Bruce Springstein songs — not exactly the most timeless children’s entertainment.

So, I pretty much assumed that their feature film debut, The Chipmunk Adventure would be much of the same.  Worse yet, the 1980’s is notorious for poor animation, a product of aggressive accounting and a realization that children will watch just about anything. Needless to say my expectations were low.

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January 16, 2007

It seems like Snoopy can do anything. I grew up only a few miles away from Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park. For those of you unfamiliar, Knott’s is an amusement park (as opposed to a theme park) known not only for their roller coasters and attractions, but for their fried chicken and jams as well. At some point during my youth Knott’s somehow managed to snag the rights to the ‘Peanuts’ characters and have featured them prominently in the park ever since.

Although I am freakishly tall now, I was not always tall enough to ride some of the more intimidating rides at Knott’s. Still, I visited the place regularly and as a result ended up spending most of my time at Camp Snoopy. Camp Snoopy is a kid-friendly area of the park themed to Charlie Brown, Lucy and the gang. In addition to standards like a Ferris Wheel and a ball pit, it also had a petting zoo and an expansive outdoors play area.

One of my favorite attractions there, ‘The Red Baron,’ puts children behind the seat of World War I era fighter planes they can ‘pilot’ as they spin round and round for several minutes. This ain’t Disneyland, people, but it doesn’t really have to be. Snoopy has long been one of my favorites, so I’ve always cut the character a little slack for not having merchandising or theme parks as well-made as The Mouse does.

One thing Snoopy can do that Mickey cannot is dance. Dear lord, can that beagle dance!

‘It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown…’ is one of the most ridiculous and dated pieces of animation you’ll ever come across. Presumably as an attempt to cash in on the success of 80’s dance films like ‘Footloose’ or ‘Flashdance,’ ‘Flashbeagle’ features Snoopy breakdancing to disco music. That, and the fact that it hasn’t been released in 20 years are pretty much everything you need to know about the project.

In addition to being really damn weird, there are many positive things about this TV special. Underused characters like Franklin and Peppermint Patty take center stage in a storyline involving dance competitions and the whole gang preparing for a big party. Sadly Franklin proves just how much of a token black character he is when he becomes Snoopy’s confidant in the world of dance. Peppermint Patty doesn’t do much better, only reinforcing the stereotypes of athletic lesbians with her ‘Stay in Shape’ musical number.

Despite how much crap is manufactured with the ‘Peanuts’ name, it’s a surprise that ‘Flashbeagle’ has been ignored by the home video market. There are definitely much worse pieces of ‘Peanuts’ animation out there; if nothing else the novelty of the thing makes it worth checking out.

Ecto Cooler

January 3, 2007

If you’ve seen any pictures of me you can probably guess that I’m not a ‘food person.’ Despite the fact that I work very closely with the stuff, my appetite and interest in food as a whole is very limited. In fact, if I didn’t have to eat the stuff to live, I doubt I’d be putting much in my mouth besides salt water taffy and Ecto Cooler.

In case you weren’t familar with the product, Ecto Cooler was a nectar of the gods produced by Hi-C from the late 1980’s to the early 1990’s. As the name suggests, this was a tie-in product of the successful Ghostbusters feature films. Anyone who has ever experienced the orange/tangarine glory of Ecto Cooler agrees that it is the most delicious thing ever (as evidenced here.)

Ecto Cooler

Growing up I ate school lunches, so Hi-C was kind of a treat for me. I only ever drank it on field trips, and, sometimes, when my family went out for a day at the beach. Most of the time I despised going out in the sun and getting burnt, but Ecto Cooler helped dull my pain as much as a green juice drink could.

Unfortunately Ecto Cooler is no longer available in its’ current form, and has since been repackaged to keep up with the times. Finding the modern equivalent is nearly impossible in my area, but I’ll always hold a special place in my heart this Hi-C flavor featuring a dated pop-culture icon.

For some reason I still hate Slimer, though. Go figure.

QotD: Books From My Childhood

December 11, 2006

What books did you love as a child?
Submitted by hearts.

Some of my favorite books growing up were the ‘Clue’ mysteries, based on the popular board game. There were 18 in total, each containing ten self-contained stories. These stories featured a wide variety of mysteries, ranging from who stole the last piece of cake to who killed Mr. Boddy. It should be of no surprise to anyone that I wasn’t very good at solving these mysteries. I mostly read them for their (seemingly) sophisticated humor, and because I was obsessed with the board game.


Poor Mr.Boddy. Although he was only a corpse in the board game, here he was a real-life, interesting character. These stories helped to flesh out the world of ‘Clue,’ and made you care about Mr. Boddy before he was ‘killed’ off in the final chapter of each book. Don’t worry, though, in the next installment he would miraculously reappear, ready to invite back the guests who had just attempted to kill him. Part of me always felt sorry for the guy; although none of my houseguests had attempted to push me down the stairs (that I know of) I knew what it was like to have rude houseguests.

I remember begging my Mom to take me to local book stores, searching desperately for the missing books in my collection. Before the days of the internet or Barnes & Noble, finding certain books became quite an undertaking. Of the collection I think I only ended up with a dozen before I lost interest in the series as a whole. Elementary school students are incredibly fickle, and by the time I had given up on Clue I was into fantasy novels by way of Tolkien, Lewis, and Baum.

Smurf Magic Berries!

August 26, 2006

Are there any snacks, food or candy that are no longer made that you desperately miss?


At one point I was addicted to Smurf Magic Berries, which was a lot like the various Lucky Charms rip-offs one could find at grocery stores throughout my childhood. The grain portion was like KIX, and the marshmallow-to-grain ratio was much higher than Lucky Charms. Also, those marshmallows tasted like sweet ambrosia.

Sadly, the cereal was discontinued in the early 1990’s, and I’ve been searching for a similar marshmallow-based cereal ever since. Most of the knockoff brands of Lucky Charms have considerably scaled back the amount of sugar and marshmallows they contain, so as far as I can tell there is nothing on the market even close to glory of what Smurf Magic Berries was.