November 20th, 2011

krazy koati

We all want to change the world

I was watching through the powers of the greatest thing ever (Netflix Instant) the old Rankin/Bass stop-motion animation special Mad Monster Party, which at ninety minutes is honestly perhaps too much stop-motion animation. Still, any stop-motion animation is a wondrous thing to watch and enjoy. Anyway.

One of the characters in the story, which pulls together versions of all the classic movie-horror monsters, is the Invisible Man. This would superficially be the easiest kind of stop-motion animation to do, although to their credit Rankin and Bass don't cheap out. For most of the running time, the Invisible Man is wearing a bathrobe and a fez. And that's almost better than having a routine animated character, since it is always impressive to see complicated figures floating in space in this kind of animation. Similarly characters that jump.

But here's the thing: in bathrobe and fez, the Invisible Man is this squat, rather tubby character with short arms poking out, hovering a couple feet off the ground, with a red cap on top of that. He's just a plastic bubble away from being Tom Servo.

At this remove there's probably no guessing what was on Joel Hodgson's mind as he designed and built the original bots. But we can be confident he was a Rankin/Bass fan. Whether he paid any particular attention to Mad Monster Party I don't know, but I'd bet he had. More, there are a couple of episodes where Tom wears a bathrobe, making the resemblance the more powerful, and there's even one where he's in bathrobe and fez and looking powerfully like the Invisible Man here. This has got to be a pop culture reference that I've never seen mentioned before.

Trivia: Around 1580 Portugal prohibited, under penalty of death, selling of maritime charts to any foreigner. Source: In Quest of Spices, Sonia E Howe.

Currently Reading: The Comet Kahoutek: Greatest Fiery Chariot Of All Time, Joseph F Goodavage. Yes, yes, an ironic joy, full mostly of Velikovskian woo along the lines of ``scientists tried to suppress Velikovsky even in face of the proof that not only was Venus a comet 3,500 years ago but it turns out all planets started as comets'', with supporting evidence like how the ancient Mayans recorded no observations of Venus but did have a mysterious world between Mars and Jupiter. (Also there's stuff about gravitational vortices where things flow uphill, which is relevant because they're weird and comets are weird and maybe there's dark comets that blot out the sun so you can see how light would be weird around them.) Plus, manna keeps falling from the skies, as do frogs, and science can't explain that either. However, read this cover blurbbery and try to resist:

The World's Most Spectacular New Comet Has Arrived! Is It A Messenger Of Doom From Outer Space? Or A Scientific Clue To The Birth Of Our Universe?