Tag Archives: Toy Story 3

“Winnie the Pooh” meets “Avenue Q”

A scene from Walt Disney Picture's Winnie the Pooh--which is full of playful letters and words

Lizabeth suggested at about 12:45pm Saturday afternoon that we hit a 1pm showing of Disney’s new “Winnie the Pooh” film, which gave us little time to transition from Eeyore to Tigger mode. But we made it, and enjoyed every second of nostalgia nirvana in the short 73 minute film.

“Winnie the Pooh” is a literature lover’s dream — filled with images of books, letters and punctuation marks that come alive (as muses, not monsters), and scenes of Pooh characters bouncing, stumbling and flying through the pages of a “Winnie the Pooh” storybook.

Tigger doesn’t text or tweet. Kanga and Roo get letters the old-fashioned way — in their mailbox. Friends work together to solve problems. They’re creative. They cheer each other on. And they accept one another, foibles and all. Pull out the Pooh books before heading to the theater — you’ll want to extend the movie magic with a few good reads when you get home.

Robert Lopez wrote music and lyrics for both Avenue Q and Winnie the Pooh

“Winnie the Pooh” is a lovely musical jaunt, full of classical music in various tempos and styles. The movie features an original score by Henry Jackman and original songs by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, a married couple with impressive joint and individual credits.

Lizabeth spotted Robert Lopez’s name in the credits — because she’s familiar with his work on “The Book of Mormon” and “Avenue Q.” The couple share music and lyric credits for seven songs in the film. Anderson-Lopez voices Kanga and Playbill.com reports that Lopez makes the rumbling sound for Pooh’s tummy. It’s a gift, I suppose.

A careful review of the movie’s credits — which roll as some of the movie’s funniest antics unfold — reveals plenty of familiar names. There’s Zooey Deschanel, who contributes an original song and vocal performance for the film. And Craig Ferguson (the voice of Owl) of late-night fame.

Also actors who’ve voiced characters for Toy Story 3, Phineas & Ferb and SpongeBob SquarePants. Most endearing is the voice of Christopher Robin. It’s that of Jack Boulter, and it’s his first-ever voiceover role. I may have to enjoy the movie a second time just to relish all the voiceover talent — including narration by John Cleese, co-founder of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

A single line in the credits reads “Dan Read-In Memorium” — in honor of a longtime background and visual development artist for Disney Animation films who died in May of 2010 after battling melanoma. I read that donations to local SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) chapters were requested in lieu of flowers.

Film credits mention “caffeination by Carlos Benavides” and thank three museums, including Britain’s Victoria and Albert Museum, where film directors Stephen Anderson and Don Hall studied original “Winnie the Pooh” illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard. The original stuffed animals that inspired Milne’s stories for his son Christopher Robin Milne are housed at the New York Public Library.

Disney's Winnie the Pooh opens with pages from this 1961 book by A.A. Milne

Children and their grown-ups giggled throughout the film as Tigger pounced atop a downtrodden Eeyore, Owl recited his lengthy memoir, Roo braved the forrest in his tea cup helmet, Rabbit found comfort in a checklist and Pooh raced to escape angry bees. There were no angry birds back in author A.A. Milne’s day (1882-1956).

When characters ponder knotting a rope to rescue friends who’ve fallen into a pit, Eeyore suggest that “it’s all for naught.” Later he’s convinced that “we’re all gonna die.” Roo offers a deadpan “Send the pig” (Lizabeth’s favorite line) when scary noises loom, and Tigger spends a lot of time saying “it’s gonna be great.” Pooh dreams of honey, meeting frustrations with a simple “Oh, bother!”

Disney’s “Winnie the Pooh” website offers a “100 Acre Wood Personality quiz” for those of you who’ve yet to identify with a particular character, and there are plenty of games, activities and facts for younger “Pooh” fans. As other folks flock to Harry Potter’s Forbidden Forrest, I’m perfectly content to linger in the 100 Acre Wood.

— Lynn

Note: Lizabeth found a cool “10 Questions” interview of Robert Lopez by Belinda Luscombe of TIME Magazine in which he talks about his “personal connection with Pooh.” Click here to watch the video from TIME.com.

Coming up: Pardon my Pygmalion


Burning questions

Sunday night’s presentation of the 83rd annual Academy Awards left me with plenty of burning questions…

How did they wrestle enough gold from Glenn Beck to make all those Oscar statues? Will we ever actually see Florence’s machine? Who does costuming for Helen Bonham Carter’s off-camera wardrobe?

Can we recruit Mr. Pricklepants and Mrs. Potato Head to host next year’s Oscars? Who knew pregnant and purple was such a powerful combination? And when will I learn to say “JC Penney” and “Tim Gunn” in the same sentence without weeping?

I’ve also got lots of burning questions about Valley theater productions…

Who is the unfortunate 11th Jew who didn’t make it into Andy Warhol’s silkscreened “top ten” list? Why does technology conspire against me every time I try to interview playwright Josh Kornbluth? And how do I get my own “autobiographical monologist” gig?

How are all those folks over at Phoenix Theatre doing in the mastery of puppetry department? Are gay puppets made or are they just born that way? When will “Toy Story” be a Broadway musical so Toby Yatso can land the part of “Woody?” And what do you do — really — with a B.A. in English?

If famed actors Lunt & Fontanne were alive today, which network would carry their reality show? MTV? Bravo? Lifetime? What would all those “Design Stars” say about their tendency to confuse set design with interior decorating? And why were nine chimneys never enough for them?

Finally, a few notes to self…

Attend all future films starring actors who thanked their mothers. Buy a big girl phone so even acts of God won’t imperil interviews with really cool people. Do whatever it takes to wipe the image of Javier Bardem in a near-yellow tux out of your mind. And keep an eye on young Valley actors who may one day walk that famous red carpet.

— Lynn

Note: My three groups of questions for Valley theater companies refer to the following productions: “Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews?” (Actors Theatre, March 4-20), “Avenue Q” (Phoenix Theatre through March 20) and “Ten Chimneys” (Arizona Theatre Company, through March 6).

Coming up: “Macbeth” on the road, Art adventures: Roosevelt Row

Mommy, what’s a minion?

In movie land it’s a small capsule-shaped one- or two-eyed creature that bounces, whirls, blathers and twirls its way through “Despicable Me,” a family-friendly movie that opened Friday in 2-D and 3-D.

I enjoyed a 3-D preview Tuesday night with my 17-year-old daughter Lizabeth who pretty much laughed her head off the whole time.

The movie has a particular point of view that appeals to a certain brand of humor. Think “Airplane,” Pink Panther,” or “Monty Python.” It’s not my thing, but Lizabeth and her dad totally get that vibe.

Still, I had some good laughs and don’t begrudge the 95 minutes spent amidst kids, teens and grown-ups who appeared to be having a “who can chew and slurp the loudest” contest.

Credit: Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures

There’s an almost drinking game quality to this movie that’ll fly under the radar of younger viewers. It made me want to rush to the snack bar for a giant bag of M & Ms so I could pop one every time the movie spoofed another film or character.

Watch closely “Twilight” fans–especially if the shirtless Taylor Lautner is your hot button. 

The audience cheered when financial institutions were mocked, but seemed oblivious to the tongue-in-cheek portrayal of selling cookies ala the Girl Scouts. I might have to see this movie again just to take in the full splendor of the pop culture put-downs.

I saw a lot of the musical “Annie” in this movie, though the film has three adopted orphans (all girls) rather than one. And their new “dad” is more “poorbucks” than “Warbucks.” 

Credit: Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures

There’s no Sandy the lovable mutt, but rather a unicorn that inspires the delightful “it’s so fluffy!” There’s even Miss Hattie,who makes Miss Hannigan look downright charming (and strikes me as a play on the prudish Miss Umbridge of “Harry Potter” movie fame).

There’s plenty to reminisce about in this flick–playing for tacky prizes at the local street carnival, sheepishly performing in dance recitals and more. Music from the ’80s abounds, making it a fun flick whether you love or hate the likes of Barry Manilow or the Bee Gees.

But how evil can this Gru character really be if he’ll break into disco ala John Travolta at the drop of a hat?

Credit: Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures

With my mommy hat on, I found plenty of wholesome messages in this movie–the joys of reading, the importance of family playtime, the benefits of being inventive and taking initiative.

But be forewarned, a few of the minions have a little too much fun with their backsides and the copying machine, and sometimes voice their frustrations in a phrase your toddlers might find it fun to ape: “Oh, poop!”

It’s got more than a few explosions, though no one gets seriously hurt–and the three little girls have a rather disturbing lack of “stranger danger” that might make for a good follow-up discussion after seeing the flick.

There’s a wee bit of potty humor in this one, but hey–even “Toy Story 3” had a line uttered to the three peas-in-a-pod by Mr. Potato Head that went something like, “Hey kids, I thought I told you to stay out of my butt.” (Admittedly one of my favorites.)

Credit: Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures

If you haven’t yet discovered this, take note: Some of the funniest lines in movies these days are delivered in clips shown while the credits roll. (We find it’s polite to stay in any event to honor the work of the many creative team, cast and crew members it takes to create cinematic art.)

I loved the character development in this movie–especially for the featured females. The villain’s disapproving mom is priceless, as are the three orphaned girls named Margo (oldest), Edith and Agnes (youngest and cuter than all get-out).

The girls’ personalities, conveyed brilliantly through both their diagloue and body language, ring so true to life for each one’s developmental age and stage. I saw plenty of my own kids in their adorable, if not always smiling, faces.

For most, I suspect, the minions–with names like Tim, Bob, Mark, Phil and Stuart–will steal the show.

Not much diversity there, I’m afraid. It might be fun to try renaming some of them with your kids, who would no doubt be more inventive and represent a broader swath of the people population. (Are writers trying to tell us something with these names?)

Credit: Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures

Be prepared for the inevitable question: “Mommy, what’s a minion?”

The wordnetweb.princeton.edu site describes it as a “servile” and “fawning dependent” while freedictionary.com favors “an obsequious follower or dependent, a sycophant.”

Teens will easily recognize them as “kiss-ups” or “suck-ups”–but younger children who’ve yet to develop such charms might still be persuaded to dig out the dictionary.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m all for learning in the moment, but I’m equally fond of fun. I’m off to see what a minion might look like in a red dress and curly red hair.


Note: Please send photos of your art if you feel inspired to try an “Annie”/minion mash-up. I’ll be happy to post it for other readers to enjoy and marvel at. For those of you who prefer to read your art rather than create it, there’s a Tad Friend profile of actor Steve Carrell (voice of Gru in “Despicable Me”) titled “First Banana” in the July 5 issue of The New Yorker.

“GREASE” is the word! A limited engagement of the movie “Grease Sing-A-Long” comes to AMC Esplanade 14 in Phoenix July 15-18. Learn more at www.greasemovie.com. Don’t delay if you plan to attend–tickets in other cities have sold quickly and many shows have completely sold out well in advance. The movie is rated PG-13 and runs nearly two hours. Looks like a bit of “Grease”/minion imagining may also be in order.

Acting classes for all ages

Mr. Pricklepants, one of my two favorite thespians

If I had to choose an acting coach, I’d probably opt for thespian hedgehog Mr. Pricklepants from “Toy Story 3.” He’s a snappy dresser, he uses big words and he’s actually shorter than me.

But what’s available for the serious acting student, especially those still in their teens or even younger? Here’s a sampling of Valley options, some offered by professional theater companies and others offered by private studios.

I can’t speak for the possible pros and cons of each, since my 17-year-old daughter Lizabeth has done most of her training with Phoenix Theatre, Childsplay and Arizona School for the Arts, where she’s a senior majoring in theater.

Do your homework, looking for the things you expect in all experiences for your child–a safe environment, quality instruction, qualified and trusted professionals, convenient location and schedule, compatibility with your budget and the like.

Does your child want to be a triple threat?

Phoenix Theatre has an impressive roster of dance and theater classes, including several available this month. Think improv, Shakespeare, Fosse, musical theatre dance and more. (Master classes are for the 16 & up set.)

Teens and adults can enjoy an audition workshop with Daniel Solis, described by Phoenix Theatre as “one of L.A.’s leading Musical Theatre Casting Directors.” Solis is one of five musical theater casting directors for “California’s leading theme park.”

The Solis workshop is scheduled for Sat, July 24, at Phoenix Theatre. Solis will work with ages 12-17 from 11am-1:30pm and with adults ages 18+ from 2-4:30pm.

The latter “will also serve as an actual audition and could open up doors to potential employment with California’s leading theme park.”

I learned of another resource, Verve Studios in Scottsdale, from Laura Durant with Durant Communications, whose weekly audition notices are hailed as ‘free and safe’ by Janet Arnold, producing director for Arizona Jewish Theatre Company in Phoenix.

Good training can help your child stand out in a crowd

Durant’s website lists not only auditions, but also classes and workshops, consulting services for actors, production support classifieds and starving actor discounts.

Verve Studios offers group and individual classes in Phoenix, plus private lessons in both Phoenix and Scottsdale. Adult offerings include “foundational” techniques and “complimentary” specialties such as voice over, dialect, hosting, commercials and more.

Teen classes and workshops “are open to serious students ages 12-17 and are limited to 8 students per class in order to give each student individual attention.” Topics include film acting, scene work, monologue technique, character development and more.

Verve Studios also offers kids classes and workshops for ages 8-12. Kids classes prepare student for the “more rigorous teens curriculum” and serve “kids and parents who seek or already have agency representation.”

They also offer private acting coaching.

Always check teacher credentials and qualifications

Dearing Acting Studio with two Valley locations is proud to have been named a “2009 Parents’ Picks” winner. Their offerings include a movie camp dubbed “Valleywood” as well as a full range of classes.

Their website offers a convenient tool for searching for classes that match your needs in three categories–age group (kids, teens, adults), class type and location (North Phoenix/West Valley or Phoenix/East Valley).

Dearing Acting Studio classes cover diverse topics such as comedy, film, theatre and various specialty subjects.

I wonder if Andy is majoring in musical theatre...

Waymire Studio, with locations in Glendale and Mesa, offers diverse classes for all ages. New classes for ages 3-5, ages 6-8 and ages 9-13 begin on July 29.

The Waymire Studio teen program begins a series of six Sunday afternoon classes called “An Actor’s Life for Me” on Aug 8–which will feature training in “scenes, improv, auditioning, commerical, and more.”

Mesa classes starting July 26 include Monday night sessions for ages 5-9 and ages 10-17.

Can you tell which toy was classically trained?

One final class to note–from Theatre Artists Studio in Scottsdale, writing/acting/producing home to RAK’s own “Unmotherly Insights” blogger Debra Rich Gettleman.

They’re offering a fall singing class in “basic vocal techniques” Tuesday and Friday mornings 10am-noon from Sept 28 to Oct 29, which tells me its either for babies or grown-ups since all the other little darlings are in school during those hours.

Let’s assume grown-ups since most babies vocalize just fine–and I’ll let you know if I learn otherwise.

If you know of a Valley studio not mentioned here, feel free to comment below to briefly share their youth acting offerings with our readers.


Think outside the box by enjoying new works

Note: Phoenix Theatre’s “13th Annual Hormel New Works Festival,” featuring new works by emerging and established playwrights, opens this Friday (July 9) with a staged reading of James Christy’s “A Great War” directed by Pasha Yamotahari. Learn more at http://www.phoenixtheatre.com/page.aspx?title=New_Works_Festival

Coming up: Does your child need an agent?,  Musings on musical theater trends

The forks of July?

Even forks can be patriotic

As our thoughts turn to celebrating the 4th of July and the many things the holiday means for each of us, let’s not forget the simple joys of celebrating with art. Especially when paint and forks are involved. 

The Children’s Museum of Phoenix presents “Fork Painting Fireworks” for children on Sun, July 4, from 9-11am. I could explain it, but you’ll have more fun if you just roll with it. No real fireworks are involved so fingers and toes should be plenty safe. 

To enjoy free admission, head to the Children’s Museum of Phoenix Fri, July 2, between 6-10pm for “First Fridays,” a program from Artlink Phoenix that lets folks tour more than 70 galleries, venues and art-related spaces for free. There’s even a shuttle that travels between the Phoenix Art Museum and several other places along the route.

Phoenix Art Museum’s newest exhibition titled “Cezanne and American Modernism” opened July 1 and runs through Sept 26 in the Steele Gallery. Many of their visiting collections require tickets (not free) for admission so it’s always wise to call ahead when you can. But hey, I think free entry to the general museum during “First Fridays” is a good time if I only get as far as their gift shop. It’s among the Valley’s best–ala funky forks and more.

Keep the “free” theme going with a trip to the Heard Museum in Phoenix for the first of several “Target FREE Sizzlin’ Summer Saturdays” they’re presenting during July. Every Saturday this month from 10am-4pm, the museum will feature free hands-on activities (such as crafts and scavenger hunts) for kids along with music and dance performances. Admission to the museum’s 10 exhibition galleries and all museum programming is included for free during these six hours on July 3. 

Fork art trumps folk art

If you’re feeling especially “wild and free” this weekend, and you have the Bank of America equivalent of the golden ticket, you can enjoy Bank of America’s “Museums on Us and the Phoenix Zoo.” B of A cardholders who show cards with photo ID get in free for the first full weekend of every month the program runs. 

And no, the word “weekend” doesn’t imply that you can spend the night amidst the critters (although the children we know who’ve done another zoo program called “Night Camp” say it’s a hoot). You’ll have to leave and come back the next day to flash your B of A dealies once again. Kudos to B of A for giving folks something they can really enjoy. Arts and culture beat the heck out of coffee mugs and toasters! 

Has Bella hit her fork in the road?

When you’re ready to enjoy a respite from the heat, head to your favorite movie theater for a taste of the Washington town named Forks, setting for “The Twilight Saga” including the newest Bella beaufest titled “Eclipse.” I’m more of a “Toy Story” kind of a gal so I may hit the movies to get my Mr. Pricklepants fix instead. You don’t need a fork to feast on popcorn. And who doesn’t love a thespian hedgehog sporting lederhosen?

As always, check those dates and other fun details before you head out. And visit the Raising Arizona Kids online calendar if you’re looking for holiday-related and other family-friendly events this weekend. 

It’s not only a dry heat, it’s a free heat… 


Enough with the B-words!

The “boob tube” (as my mother used to call our tiny TV) brought us two compelling performances yesterday—one by legislators questioning a BP executive, another by athletes competing for a championship title. 

Image from Tempe Men's Basketball Summer Program 2010

By day’s end, I’d had it with all sorts of B-words, from British Petroleum to basketball. They got added to my list of other bothersome B-words… 

Barbies. Bella. Bluetooth. Botox. Bunions. Bigot. 

I felt ready for some better B-words. Bunnies, perhaps. Or brownies. 

I found them in a production titled “The Enchantment of Beauty and the Beast.” It’s being performed at Mesa Arts Center by East Valley Children’s Theatre through June 27. Two Bs for the price of one. Bravo. 

It’s a variation on the story of “Beauty and the Beast” so don’t go in expecting the Disney musical with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. Expect a timeless tale with a twist. It’s a good thing.

"Mary Poppins" Barbie from the U.K.--'Broadway' Barbies I can live with!

Disney devotees with a hankering for music by Menken and lyrics by Ashman and Rice can enjoy the final weekend of “Aladdin, Jr.” presented by Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre. 

And let’s not forget Buzz Lightyear, who made his way to Valley movie theaters in the wee hours with midnight showings of Disney’s “Toy Story 3”–which recounts the adventures of toy-loving Andy heading off to college.

We didn’t inherit anything like Buzz Lightyear when our oldest daughter left for college. We got left with a high maintenance bunny and a burgeoning bottle cap collection. Bummer. 

The Big Bug Circus” is bouncing through the big-top thanks to the Great Arizona Puppet Theater in Phoenix. 

If bands are your thing, you have several options in outdoor family entertainment. Kierland Commons in Scottsdale presents “local live music and entertainment” June 19 from 7-10pm. McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, also in Scottsdale, presents “favorite local bands” June 20 from 7:30-9pm (this week it’s “Rock Lobster” playing retro ’80s). Both events are free (though there is a modest cost to purchase optional carousel or railroad rides at the railroad park). 

Cynthia Baker also plays with Quartet Sabaku

Finally, for those of you eager to beat the heat, there’s the Chaparral MusicFest in Prescott. Their “New Music Arizona 2010” features “music by Arizona composers and their influences.” The concert takes place June 20 at 3pm at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Prescott, and features eight works including “Pieces After American Fiddling” by Marie Rhines, “Poems of Sarojini Naidu” by Henry Flurry, “Looping” by Jonathan Best and “Awakening Within” by Douglas Gibson (with my daughter’s ever-so-wonderful violin teacher Cynthia Baker on violin).

For an impressive list of activities that have nothing to do with the letter “B,” check the online or print edition of Raising Arizona Kids magazine calendar

Check out buycostumes.com if you're doing a Buzz Lightyear birthday bash!

Whatever you choose to do this weekend, wear your biggest, brightest smile and… 

Bring it on! 


Update: My daughter Lizabeth headed up to Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre Friday night to watch a friend perform in “Aladdin, Jr.” but it was sold out, so be forewarned and get those tickets early for the shows you’re eager to enjoy.