The Christmas Toy, Shadows of the Empire and Portrait of Run – Dec 2-8

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Toys come to life in Jim Henson’s The Christmas Toy as three ’80s cartoons end their TV runs. This same week in 1996 brings us Star Wars’ multimedia interquel experiment while 2006 sees Apocalypto and Blood Diamond hit theaters, plus an amazing new Castlevania.

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1986:

Heartbreak Ridge releases in theaters. Hooray!

12/5 – Two previously mentioned Saturday morning cartoons ended their brief runs; Silverhawks Filmation’s Ghostbusters

12/6 – A more notable show concluding its run was It’s Punky Brewster; the animated spinoff of the live action Punky Brewster that added a magic alien called Glomer

12/7 – “Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna” TV movie starring Amy Irving, Olivia de Havilland, Omar Sharif and baby Christian Bale as Crown Prince Alexei.

12/5/1986 – Bill Paxton AND Wesley Snipes guest star on Miami Vice

12/5/1986 – The TV version of Gung Ho debuts (the movie debuted back in March). It kept Gedde Watanabe, but instead of Michael Keaton, it includes Scott Bakula. It would be cancelled by February.

12/6/1986 – The debut of A CHRISTMAS TOY! Jim Henson’s special about toys who play when nobody’s around and one particular toy who is oblivious that he will soon be replaced as a child’s ‘favorite toy’

Gradius on NES, ported from the arcade hit. Claims “one million” sold in Japan.

Mechanical Resonance – Tesla’s debut album, went Platinum, sounds like a wrestler theme as he walks up to a Contra cabinet

Salt N Pepa debut album Hot, Cool & Vicious out this week. Initially a reasonable success but it was the addition of Push It, which was slid onto the album in 1987, that it went Platinum.

 

1996:

#1 song is Unbreak My Heart by Toni Braxton, 2.4m sold of just the single!
Nerf Herder – debut album
One Fierce Beer Coaster – 2nd Bloodhound Gang

Everyone Says I Love You and Daylight release in theaters.

12/4/96 – Townies, an ABC sitcom meant to relaunch Molly Ringwald’s career, is cancelled. Kind of a good thing for her two main co-stars, Jenna Elfman (who would go onto Dharma and Greg the next year), and Lauren Graham, who would star in Gilmore Girls in 2000

12/6/96 Barbara Walters Presents the 10 Most Fascinating People airs. This year’s batch is Oksana Baiul; Michael Crichton; Tom Cruise; Elizabeth Dole; Shannon Lucid; Benjamin Netanyahu; Rosie O’Donnell; Dennis Rodman; Martha Stewart; Kerri Strug

12/8/96 – Mrs. Santa Claus airs with the most perfect Mrs. Claus casting ever; Angela Lansbury

12/6/96 – Martin Short hosts SNL. It’s notable in that it’s almost 10 years to the day since the last time he hosted (as part of a trio with Three Amigos costars Chevy Chase and Steve Martin), but it’s also the first time they aired a “Celebrity Jeopardy” sketch. The musical guest was No Doubt, and to tie the three decades together, she would be the musical guest on an episode almost 10 years later on 12/9/2006

Bug Too – different release dates listed, so we’ll put it here. Faux 3D platformer about bugs

Shadows of the Empire – Huge multimedia experiment that LucasFilm unleashed in 1996. Heavily marketed as the first novel to dive into post-Empire, pre-Jedi affairs and had all the marketing of a movie – but no movie. There was a huge toy line, a novel, a movie poster, an orchestral soundtrack etc, and of course the N64 game was pretty much the only way you could interact with the world.

Picks up the various storylines (leia is looking for Fett, Han is frozen, Luke is training etc) but also introduces Prince Xixor, who wants to replace Vader. He’s super loaded and politically powerful, did like how they tried to relate the scheming qualities of lizard people. They’re cold blooded or that’s their nature etc

Noted at the time for using a lot of “in-game / in-engine cutscenes,” rather than pre-rendered CG clips like Tekken endings, FFVII stuff. Compressed orch audio, kinda fuzzy and perhaps the first big instance of folks noticing blurry textures (anti-aliasing edges, which PS did not do)

 

2006:

Sweet Escape – Gwen Stefani 2nd album, incl Akon on title track, was a huge hit for all of 2007-2008
Oral Fixation Vol 1 & 2 – Shakira box set, Hips Don’t Lie was big this year
Dreamgirls soundtrack

Apocalypto, Unaccompanied Minors, The Holiday and Blood Diamond debut in theaters.

12/6/06 – The final season premiere of King of Queens has Doug buying an ice cream truck to earn money on the side, which initially displeases his wife.

Cartoon Network Racing – interesting b/c Battle Crashers just came out, so here’s what was big on the same network 10 years earlier: Courage the Cowardly Dog, Dexter, Johnny Bravo, Powerpuff Girls, Cow and Chicken

Kirby Squeak Squad, MGS Portable Ops, Fight Night Round 3 – PS3, Portrait of Ruin all release

 

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27 thoughts on “The Christmas Toy, Shadows of the Empire and Portrait of Run – Dec 2-8

  1. I think that from an overall design standpoint, Portrait of Ruin might be the best Catlevania game, at least for me.

    The characters and story may not be that great, but the level design might be the most varied, smart and fun of all the metroidvanias. And the bosses were the best, cool looking and challenging. So in terms of which castlevania is the most fun, this is my top pick.

    And of course, it has one of the best soundtracks in CastleVania”s already great record, that definitely helps too.

  2. Is Portrait the one that follows up on Bloodlines for Genesis? I loved that game.

    Diana is probably horrified to know that there is at least one person (me) who has never seen any Woody Allen film except Everyone Says I Love You.

  3. Posted context-free, for anyone seeing this without first listening to the episode:

    “Soldier Field?” may be the funniest thing Elston has ever said into a microphone. I cackled like a hyena and had to pause the podcast because I was missing bits.

  4. I’m going to take Diana to task about having not seen the Holiday. Yes, it’s a sappy romantic comedy about two women getting away from their problems, but it has this whole subplot of Kate Winslet’s character befriending Eli Wallach’s character next door (who is an Old Hollywood screenwriter) and they develop this platonic relationship about classic movies and learning to except thing that life gives to you.

    It was one of the first movies my wife and I ever saw together and we still enjoy it. Jack Black and Kate Winslet have good chemistry and it probably has the last appearance of a Blockbuster Video in a major motion picture.

      1. It’s a pretty enjoyable movie, actually. I mean, it’s not challenging in any way, but it’s an easy watch, and it’s nice to see Jack Black not chewing the scenery for once.

        And Elli Wallach is indeed great in it.

  5. MGS: PORTAL OPS was a fun and interesting experience, using the gameplay style of MGS3 but introducing new systems like the FULTON RECOVERY. In terms of plot, it has some development, but honestly there’s not a whole lot to understand besides Big Boss building up the army you see in PEACE WALKER, and Ocelot doing some stuff in the CIA. If you’re a super MGS fan, it’s worth checking out but as someone who has replayed all of the games at least once, this is the only one I’ve never gone back to really.

    1. As a plot it is the most un-Kojima game in the series (because he was on the project as producer, his first attempt to groom someone else to take the reigns so he could step away). The plot is the most prequel like thing I’ve ever played, there aren’t any new ideas or twists featuring rehashes of former unit goes rouge (FOX), animal names, fill in villain, young version of character (Campbell), references (Deep Throat & a dumb premonition of Liquid/Solid about like the post credits of MGS V actually), and return of Sokolov, it basically explains two plot points making it feel like an incomplete wiki page. also the boss fights are terrible.

      But it invented the army mechanics and has another great credits song.

      Dave if you ever have time please finish Peace Walker, it juggles between MGS3 as my ultimate favorite game (played it for 500 hours – but the story is maybe only 12)

  6. Daylight and Dragonheart were both Rob Cohen movies that came out in 1996. Dragonheart was actually shot first in 1994, but its release got delayed until May 31 of ’96 because the visual effects weren’t completed in time. Daylight was filmed the next year and eventually came out seven months after Dragonheart.

  7. Chris, I need you to know that you are not alone in your love for The Christmas Toy. It’s upsetting that the VHS is different than the TV version, so I protect and cherish my VHS of the TV recording, and converted it to DVD. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. I even got me a stuffed tiger as a child that I went on to name Rugby, because this movie is fantastic. I’m glad this movie lives on through your podcasts! I would also recommend from that era, The Muppet Family Christmas. Has the best of Muppets, Fraggles, Sesame Street, and unfortunately the VHS strays from the TV version too. Long live, the Christmas Toy

  8. Nerf herder was named after Star Wars and Had a song in clerks call Chewbacca I know this because they’re from my hometown Santa Barbara CA
    Love the show

  9. As an MGS fan Portable Ops was a pretty big deal to me at the time. It was a part of the canon and a true MGS game on the handheld that wasn’t Metal Gear Acid. The Scanning Brett was trying to think off was where you are able to scan wifi networks and get more troops. It didnt really work out well to me because why would I leave the house looking for Wif? I think that was more for the japanese audience because back then im sure they had a lot more free open public wifi.

  10. I will go to bat for Apocalypto – excellent, tense chase movie, discounting one unconvincing puppet jaguar scene.

    Also, great final scene showing the ominous view of the approaching European settlers, an interesting point considering the director’s… opinions…

  11. So now I had to sit and spend time reading about Frankenstein: The College Years.

    Then I had to watch it out of morbid curiosity.

    Thanks a lot Diana!

  12. When you mentioned Nerfherder and tried to think of what else they were known for, I thought someone would have mentioned that they’re the Buffy intro!

  13. Oh! And in re: Apocalypto

    There was this high profile film critic who responded to the film with mention of Gibson’s then-off screen scandals. He said something to the effect of “I don’t trust Mel Gibson behind the wheel of a car, but I do trust him behind a camera – he knows storytelling”

    I think there are great examples in life of a person’s work withstanding the weather and turbulence of overwhelming negative regard.

    Art is really interesting when it can detach you from hate and make you objective. Gibson is one of many interesting artists who demonstrate: You don’t have to like me, but I can still deliver.

  14. That VGA skit you did based on The Christmas Toy was really good. Incredibly shrill and difficult, almost painful to listen to, but really enjoyable.

  15. Heartbreak Ridge! One of my favorite movies ever. So many classic lines and I even turned on closed captioning to understand a few words I couldn’t make out and it was well worth it! Love Clint Eastwood and Mario Peebles was great as well. Chris see it immediately!!! and the part when they meet on the bus haha haha so classic. Love the show

  16. Diana, how can you like the Punky Brewster animated series intro song, but not Geddy Lee’s singing? They are almost the same voice!

  17. Happy birthday, Apocalypto! The first time I saw that movie was about 5 years ago during my freshman year of college. My friend and I took some magic mushrooms and spent the day tripping and wandering around Riverside. I did start freaking out in the Denny’s but we went on a hike soon afterward, watched the sunset while listening to Santigold and Theophilus London, it was great. When we got back to our dorm room, our entire hall was about to watch Apocalytpo in the lounge. I was coming down on the mushrooms but holy shit it was such a great watch, I was totally immersed.

  18. Apocalypto is not great; it’s just not the horrid piece of shit that is The Passion, and I feel like people tend to praise it a bit too much simply because it’s technically competent and doesn’t feature bullet-time Jesus

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