Tag Archive: Peter Gabriel


Review by C.J. Bunce

You may not know it, but you probably first met them in their record-breaking music video that they pulled together in only two weeks for Peter Gabriel’s song, Sledgehammer.  It’s a story of two teenagers borrowing mom’s old kitchen table to use to film their Plasticine creations.  Flash forward a few years and their multiple Oscar-winning company is negotiating for big-budget real estate for their movie studio.  The company is Aardman Animations, named for the star character of their earliest film.  And the founders are Peter Lord and David Sproxton, who have documented their journey in this year’s latest chronicle of the history of animation, A Grand Success! The Aardman Journey, One Frame at a Time, now available from Abrams Press.

It’s not just a biography of the two boys who would see their company bring home four Oscars and even more nominations and BAFTAs.  A Grand Success! (the title a play on their first Oscar-nominated adventure, A Grand Day Out) is a time capsule of those key intersections of effort, skill, perseverance, and happenstance, that can make any endeavor a success.  The efforts of the small British upstart found their footing in both the worlds of fantasy film and advertising.  One put the food on the table until, like many creators, they could focus on their passions.  And although they didn’t sever their ties with commercial work, they created what are now among the most recognized characters in England and the world outside the United States (and their U.S. following isn’t too bad, either).  Before long their ideas had them sealing big deals with the likes of Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg, and having actors from Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Hugh Grant, Eddie Redmayne, Maisie Williams, and Tom Hiddleston–the cream of Britain’s acting talent– providing the voices of their characters.

A crowning achievement in animation in The Wrong Trousers, from the studio lauded by Ray Harryhausen, Terry Gilliam, and Matt Groening.

Lord and Sproxton pull in two other key players in their look at Aardman’s history, animators Nick Park and Richard “Golly” Goleszowski.  Park grew up as a fan of Aardman’s films as a kid, and by 1989, when he was only 31, he was attending Oscar parties as the face of the studio.  All four would create iconic characters from Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, and the anthropomorphic “very British” animals of Creature Comforts.

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Weird Al Yankovic Mandatory Fun CD cover

The best part of Weird Al Yankovic’s release of his latest album isn’t because he released eight songs along with music videos for free on YouTube.  It’s that the best of his new album Mandatory Fun provides some lyrics that are as good as his early hits.  Maybe there’s no “Eat it” or “Yoda” or “I Lost on Jeopardy” or the “American Pie” parody “The Saga Begins.”  But there is plenty to like in the “Amish Paradise,” “Another One Rides the Bus,” and “Dare to Be Stupid” vein.  And Mandatory Fun is Weird Al’s first number one album in 32 years–his first number one album in the U.S. ever.  With all his classics, how is that possible?

When all things retro and nostalgia have reigned across current pop culture like never before, it’s no wonder everyone is clamoring for the simple fun Weird Al brings to the table.  His album includes 12 new songs, and eight of the them are on YouTube with great new music videos, just like in the heyday of MTV–that old cable network that used to air music videos to accompany the latest hits.  Yes, that MTV.  After the break check out eight of the new songs below.  To hear the other four, like a parody of Imagine Dragons’s song “Radioactive” called “Inactive,” you’ll just have to pick up the album.  It’s available here at Amazon.com, where you can get a digital download of the album with each hard copy purchase.

The album’s big hit so far is “Word Crimes”–Weird Al’s fourth Top 40 song in four separate decades, parodying the song “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke:

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