After finishing up the Jim Henson Biography, I kind of made a promise to myself that I’ll read more. I have way too many books stacked up on my nightstand, so I’ve really been setting aside time each day to read.
As I read, I like to write down quotes that jump out at me from the book and I figured I’d start posting my thoughts on the books and those quotes, here. Perhaps you’ll find interest in something I’ve read and want to read it yourself. Perhaps not. At any rate, that’s what I’m doing.
I’ll provide Amazon links to the books (they will be affiliate links) if you’d like to check it out for yourself. Anyway, let’s get going with the book I just finished.
The Moose That Roared by Keith Scott
Buy On Amazon (Affiliate Link)
100 Word Review – This is a thorough, dense book that is filled with microscopic detail about the shows that came out of Ward Productions. Unlike the Jim Henson Biography, I think this would be a daunting book for casual Bullwinkle fans. For example, the whole back section of the book is basically a reference book that breaks down each individual cartoon episode and who did what voices of each character in it. It is for those who want all the information. That said, Jay Ward is an idol, so I loved this book, even if it did take some time to get through.
“The real trouble with TV is that everyone is trying to please someone else. We stopped going to the networks. They’re friendly and nice, but we never get an affirmative answer. I really can’t blame the network man. I go into see them with some far out thing and they have so many nice, slick shows from universal or MGM. They go the safe route. Any ideas you take to a network has to go through 15 guys. 14 of them may like it, but it’s the 15th says no, they all want to hedge and take a second look. If it’s something wild, they back off.” – Jay Ward
“I think maybe kids are the most intelligent audience for TV anyhow. We go our happy way with our cartoons. But we are undaunted. My true Dudley do rights, we keep trying, ignoring the obvious.” – Jay Ward
“We try to do as many funny things as we could think of that would amuse ourselves. We felt the animation action would entertain children and we could do our own satire and humor based on our own adult feelings. Our main interest was funny humor.” – Jay Ward
“Much of J Ward’s behavior reflected to dominate features in his make up: fiercely independent desire for quality, and a lifelong pursuit of fun.” – Keith Scott
“Jay felt that dirty language betrayed a lack of intelligence. If someone came on his crude, it wasn’t that Jay would dislike that person; but he thought crudity itself was just a waste of time.” – Skip Craig
“We aim at neither adults not children. Our goal is to achieve the ultimate on comedy, including subtleties which escape the youngsters, but which evoke response from adults.” – Jay Ward
“If you turned off the sound and watched one of our shows, the appeal would be mostly for children. With the vision off and just the sound on, the appeal would be for adults. The whole show appeals to everyone. And if you listen, we say things that are might sharp.” -Jay Ward
“Even though animated shows have a large audience of kids, you have to remember it’s the same kids who watch The Untouchables, Twilight Zone and Bob Hope. Kids today are exposed to an adult world and they’re sharp. Our stuff is sharper and more sophisticated than many of the dramatic shows. Everything we do is satire and whimsy-that makes the fun. ” – Jay Ward
“When we write stories, we obtain the barest of thread of a plot and then write as we go.” The request for script outlines was never heard again but Ward didn’t let it rest there, adding, “We have always tried to write as funny as we know how.” He considered Johnson’s theory – that the show was “geared for children who don’t understand this type of humor” – to be “hogwash.” – From The Moose That Roared.
“This is fun work…actually, I’d be doing it if I didn’t make a darned cent.” – Jay Ward
One of the greatest things about creative types is that they always seem to have a knack for looking at everyday objects or things made for other purposes and finding new creative ways to use them. Some creative types do this with a little more whimsy and imagination than others, but we are all capable of doing it.
One of the main examples of a creative type using everyday things creatively is Jim Henson. Now, I never got to meet Jim Henson and I haven’t read his autobiography yet (yes, I know, bad Grant) but I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and talk to people who did work with Jim Henson as well as those who’ve researched his life. Something I’ve gleaned from these conversations is that Jim loved technology and loved finding new ways to use this technology in creative ways. He was interested in stop motion so he got his own stop motion set up and made his own films on it. Some of these became pieces that were shown, others were just experiments for him, but he was fascinated with the technology of the time and using it to be creative.
Another great example of Jim using technology creatively (and being decades before his time) was his Handmade Video project. In 1990, with the advent of smaller handheld video cameras, Jim foresaw that soon young filmmakers would go from merely watching TV and Film to making it. So he got three young actors, one a young Dana Gould, and gave them a video camera and let them hit the road and film their adventures. In on fell swoop he’d invented a form of the modern reality show and pretty much the concept for YouTube and internet video. All because he looked at these new fangled video cameras and thought of a new and creative way to use them.
I am in no way comparing myself to Jim Henson but I try to live by that example. When I see a new piece of technology or social media service, the first thing I always do is try to see how I can creatively use it. For example, when I first heard about Twitter, I was deep in production on the Dr. Floyd Podcast and I immediately set up Twitter accounts for all the main characters. Occasionally, I’d send out tweets about the show, but one day I thought it’d be fun for Dr. Steve to start razzing Dr. Floyd on Twitter. People who followed both of them would see it and those that were loved it. They also joined in the conversation.
Then I stumbled on the idea of using Twitter to tell as Dr. Floyd story. It’d be told solely in Tweets and those following all the characters would be able to see it. So on Christmas Eve one year, there was a Twitter-sode all about Dr. Steve and Fidgert trying to capture Santa Claus when he got to their hideout. The fans loved it and I felt it was a really fun and unique experience to test out.
I did the same thing years later when I discovered the Social Media service Tout. Tout lets you put out 15 second videos, much like Instagram does now. I created an account for my character Uncle Interloper on Tout and began trying to find new ways to use their unique video reply feature. One thing I did was start a sing a long. Uncle Interloper sang the first verse of 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall and then people replied with the next verses. We got all the way down to one in about a week. It was so much fun and Tout even contact me privately to commend me on the idea. I later went on to create the first Tout series with Uncle Interloper. It was a daily show, Monday through Friday, that told one continuous story in 15 second increments. Again, people loved it and it was all because I looked at a new piece of technology and tried to find a creative way to use it.
Technology is all around us.
What have you looked at differently and put a creative spin on? Let us know in the comments below.
My improv teacher, Patrick Bristow, was once telling me about the first trip that Puppet Up! Uncensored took to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. As part of the deal with the festival, the troupe had to do shows for families in addition to doing the regular, uncensored, shows. Patrick says that he noticed that while these family friendly shows were well received, they weren’t the laugh riot that the usual, Uncensored, shows are. Now, one might that that the reason for this may have been because the troupe was trying to hard to keep things PG and were therefore off their game, but Patrick has other thoughts.
Patrick feels that the reason those shows weren’t bust a gut funny is because kids do not find improv as funny as adults do. Why? Because kids, for the most part, spend a ton of time during the day improving on their own. It’s called make believe, pretend, playing. Ever see kids playing with dolls or action figures and they are doing the voices and working out scenarios? They are improvising. And while I’m sure they loved seeing improvising with puppets, they just didn’t get how hard it was because the people on stage were doing exactly what they do every day. As adults, we think improv is funny (or at least some of us do) because we don’t get to play every day. We have work and responsibilities and all that other stupid stuff.
Remember how you used to play as a kid? How you could while away hours just…making stuff up? I sure do. I would set up elaborate battle scenarios with my G.I. Joes and then methodically play them all out. That would eat up a whole afternoon, from lunchtime till dinner. If I wasn’t doing that I would be setting up, just as elaborate, shows with my stuffed animals as stars. Or I’d record hours of audio into my little red tape recorder and then play it back. I loved making stuff up.
As an artist, you have to have that same passion for making stuff up. Hopefully it hasn’t been drummed out of you by ‘real life.’ Hopefully you still see the joy in just goofing off and making things up. Playing. Improvising. When I’m out shopping at a CVS or Rite Aid or Target, I get what I came to get, but I always take a small trip down the toy aisle to see what is in stock. The kid in me eta excited to look over all the goodies that are there. I, usually, leave without buying any toys, but that walk down the toy aisle will rekindle the ‘kid’ in me and will remind me to play a little bit. And when I’m playing, I always feel more creative.
So this week, find some time to, simply, play. Take a walk down the toy aisle. Or go somewhere, theme park or special restaurant, that will rekindle that kid inside you and see if it helps kickstart your creativity. This week, take a field trip for that kid inside you.
Let me know in the comments below how you keep your ‘kid’ alive in your creativity. And if you did take a field trip for the kid inside you, let us know where you went and what happened.
Well, here we are one year later. I had set out to write and publish to the web, one short essay on creativity a week for all of 2014 and I am happy to say I achieved that goal. I actually surpassed that goal in that I wrote more than fifty-two essays. I believe I will release the remaining essays, once per week, going forward. I may not release all of them as the reason some weren’t released in the past was because I didn’t feel they were strong enough. But you can still expect a few more weeks of thoughts to continue into 2015.
I would like to whole heartedly thank those of you who followed along with this experiment and a big shout out to the people who commented on the various posts and to those who would send me comments in by email. It was rewarding to know that I was reaching people in various creative fields and I just wasn’t shouting into the void.
My initial goal was to write fifty-two of these essays and then, possibly, collect them in a book. I guess that’s still a possibility, but I’m not sure if the interest is there. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to give the essays an edit and then maybe put out an ebook for those who would be interested. I’m not sure these require an official print version, but a digital version could be fun. Of course this step means I would have to actually go back and edit them, a task I really don’t enjoy. I guess we’ll see.
What’s next? I don’t know. Now that this project is complete I’ll have to find another one to spur me on. This one was fun, but I may look into something a little more creative. A novel. A screenplay. Something. Time will tell.
At any rate, thanks for following along on this Creative Monday’s project. Enjoy the few ‘bonus’ posts in the weeks to come and keep checking back here at blog.mrgrant.com where I will always be posting…something.
Oh, and check in now and then with the creative projects you’re working on. I always like to see what’s going on in the creative minds of others!