Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Best Next Craze That Kids Will Be Deemed To Like.

Remember penguins?

They look like this:

I got to thinking about penguins, for the first time a couple of years, the other day when I had to get Mr F and Mr Bunches dressed. I get easily bored if there's not 3 or 4 or 16 things being inflicted on my attention at once, so while I get twin nearly-3-year-olds dressed, I also tend to pop a DVD into their in-room DVD player (yes, they have a TV in their room, and there's nothing wrong with that, Dr. Spock or whoever is the Dr. Spock of my generation and is therefore in charge of telling parents that everything they do is wrong.)

This particular morning, I opted to pop into the DVD player, as background entertainment while I struggled to get the Babies! to wear shorts and shirts for the day, the movie March of the Penguins.

I don't recall exactly how long ago it was that March of the Penguins came out, but I do recall that it kicked off what I think of as the Era of Penguins -- a brief but (for penguins) glorious period of human history in which all children were deemed to love penguins, and so penguins were the star of virtually every single kids' movie or show that came out.

My memory is that there were about a thousand penguin-based or penguin-related movies, television shows, coloring books, and related paraphernalia (everything, it seemed, except radio-controlled penguins, and how did the company behind this -- I assume there's a company behind this, but I don't know who that company is, so I'll call it "Big Penguin" -- miss that one? It's a natural: A penguin that would waddle on land and then also go into water, all controlled by kids? I might invent that myself, right now.)

(Note to self: Go back to college. Study something useful this time, and actually pay attention in class. Then win the lottery to obtain funding. Found RC Penguins and invent radio-controlled penguin. Get even richer. Then realize that since you won the lottery, there really was no need to go to all that trouble and found a company and do all that work. Use now-useful college degree to create time machine. Go back in time to this exact day, and tell your earlier self not to bother with college, but instead to simply use the time machine you've invented to go back in time to win the lottery now, without all that college and penguins stuff. Become rich without going back to college. Wonder how this will all work out, paradox-wise, and then leave that up to wiser heads. Also, don't mention this plan to Sweetie, as she might object to meddling with the time-stream.)

To double-check my memory on The Thousand Penguin Movies, I did the only research anyone ever does anymore on anything: I googled "Penguin Movies" and found that there's an actual website, "" which, as it turns out, lists penguin movies. I manually counted the list on that site and came up with 10 different movies about penguins -- plus related soundtracks and books and plush toys.

I also came up with this question: Why does exist? The entire site is one page, with an incomplete list of penguin movies (they don't have Surf's Up, which is, so far as I'm concerned, the best movie about penguin surfing ever), and it links to all kinds of sites, not just one, so it's not run by some company that wanted to highlight all the Penguin Paraphernalia that the company has. It doesn't link to any other site, and it's not a subcategory of some site -- it's not like a zoo or something created a Penguin Movie page for those visitors that were particularly interested in penguins.

It's just an anonymous webpage created to highlight some (but not all) Penguin movies. So when I speculated, above, that there's a Big Penguin out there, maybe I was a little closer to the truth than I knew... maybe I've fallen through the cracks, like a character in a thriller who suddenly has the truth become apparent to him and then realizes, at the same time, that they -- the government, the tobacco companies, Big Penguin -- can't let him live, and he's suddenly on the run for his life, aided only by, for some reason, an aging actor who once could carry a movie but now is reduced to playing colorful roles in the big movies he once headlined (Tom Selleck is next in line for this type of role...), leading you, the viewer, on a roller-coaster ride of suspense and terror as me and Tom Selleck flee the mysterious organization whose minions smell vaguely of herring, leave wet footprints behind... and show no mercy.

Penguins & Demons, coming to a theater near you in 2010.

Although I might prefer Penguin: Impossible.

Those are the kind of thoughts that run through my mind as I struggle to get the Babies! dressed while listening to the soothing tones of Morgan Freeman describing Antartica, but later on, then, I started to think: whatever happened to the penguins? After starring in March of the Penguins and stealing the Madagascar movies and being in Surf's Up and making people suffer through a Robin Williams' Elvis impersonation in Happy Feet and more, penguins just ...faded away.

For a year or two there, kids were deemed to love penguins, and then, suddenly, kids were entirely penguin-deprived, without even a Penguin Patch to help ease them down.

That's not the first time that kids have had something crammed down their throat as The Thing That Kids Must Love; everytime Hollywood and the entertainment industry stumble on something they think is cute or funny, they produce reams and reams and reams of it until kids and parents are so sick of that thing they hope never to see it again, and Hollywood moves on to something else.

Hence, myths and fairy tales (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, Pocahontas, Beauty & The Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Treasure Planet, The Prince of Egypt, Sinbad, and The Road To Eldorado), lovable-but-gruff monsters (the Shrek Movies, Monsters' Inc.), bugs (A Bugs Life, Antz, Bee Movie), fish (Shark Tales, Finding Nemo), talking lions (The Lion King, Madagascar 1 and 2, The Wild)... all dragged up and then paraded around for a year or two, and then put away.

There've been efforts to create other crazes, too, that caught on to varying degrees: Talking bears, talking farm animals, live-action talking farm animals, aliens, fairies, and princesses, all at one point or another dominated the minds of Hollywood and the entertainment industry, and, in theory, dominated the minds of kids.

I'm not so sure that kids' minds were dominated by them -- having watched our older kids over the years, and now the younger Babies!, I don't know that they were, in fact, overwhelmed by a love of all things Penguiny, or all things Liony, or Princessy, or whatever-y.

But I do know this: I know that as parents, we felt compelled to buy those things because the entire organization of society seemed to indicate that if we didn't buy those things, our kids would be missing out on the very, and only, thing that kids loved -- whether that be penguins or bugs or grumpy old men or poorly-drawn, Demi-Moore voiced gypsies in France -- and so we bought them, whenever a new craze started. We took the kids to see Shrek, long after Shrek stopped being even slightly amusing and even after Shrek started seeming like just one big inside joke aimed at Steven Spielberg. We bought (and buy) Disney DVDs whenever they are "released from the vault" because we want our kids to be able to say that they, too, know what the monkeys are singing about if monkeys happen to be the craze at that moment. We get the sheets and shirts and shoes and shiny objects covered with one-eyed monsters or big-footed bears or whatever else it is that McDonald's is putting into the Happy Meals' box, and we do that because the overwhelming prevalence of Greek gods or, for some reason, rats...

... and I still can't believe that for a period of time there, Hollywood's Kid Division tried to sell the public on rats, but they did, and the only thing more disgusting than a rat working in a kitchen is a movie about a rat who gets flushed down a toilet, and I began to wonder at that point whether Hollywood's Kids Division wasn't feeling a little too powerful: I could picture studio executives sitting around, on their third Pome-tini, ties a little loosened, laughing hysterically and saying to each other:

"What next? What can we make them buy? I know. How about a rat! We'll make parents actually buy rat-based things for their kids, so that their skin never stops crawling when they look at their childrens' toys. And they'll do it because we own them!"

Be that as it may, I'm not actually complaining about the fact that I have to keep buying new toys and shirts and posters based on whatever it is that Hollywood decides my kids like -- except that I will complain if they follow up rats with something even more disgusting, like germs.

Having typed that, I just became frightened that they will, in fact, try to make kids like germs, next. It's not so far-fetched. They already made a kids' movie about blood cells. So can germs be far off?

Coming Next Fall From Pixar: You've visited the world of the toys. You've gone undersea with Nemo, and crawled through an anthill with Flik. You've sailed away on balloons to faraway lands filled with wondrous creatures. Now, take the trip of a lifetime with your child's newest friend, Germy... Germy, created one morning in an asexual reproduction method of cell division, is all set to enjoy an idyllic childhood with his unicellular Mom/Dad until suddenly the White Blood Cells show up to try to corral all the germs and send them packing. Separated from Mom/Dad in the chaos, Germy is on the road through the human body, joined by his only friends: Tommy The Chromosome and Professor Demodes Follicularum, running from the White Blood Cells and trying desperately to be reunited with Mom/Dad before it's too late...

You scoff, but can you, deep down inside, actually rule that out as an animated feature? No, you can't, and it won't be long before you'll be taking your kids to see it.

To head that off, and to cash in on the next big craze, I have decided to devote my not-inconsiderable (but easily distracted) talents to creating The Best Next Craze That Kids Will Be Deemed To Like. And I'm not just going to create that and tell you what it is; in the interest of benefitting you and humanity, I'm also going to go ahead and claim that I have a trademark, or copyright, or patent, or dibs on this idea, so that not only will it be the next craze, but I will also make billions off of it.

(And if you don't think my making billions off of having dibs on a craze helps humanity, maybe you should reexamine your conscience. I am a part of humanity, so giving me billions benefits a part of humanity, and as science tells us, benefitting a part (me) benefits the whole (all of you), so, yes, my calling dibs/trademarksies on this craze benefits humanity.)(Sending me money for no particular reason also benefits humanity, so keep that in mind.)

Using my not-inconsiderable but easily-distracted talents, I have deemed that The Best Next Craze That Kids Will Be Deemed To Like is...


No, I'm not nuts.

Shoes is perfect for the next big kids' craze. It's a natural. Everything else has been done in one form or another: Cars, tools, animals, magical creatures, giant robots... all done and done and done and over. The only thing left is Shoes, and Shoes will be the next big craze.

The possibilities are endless: the secret life of shoes, shoes on the road. Married shoes. Single shoes. Shoes fighting with socks. Sandals portrayed as beach bums who want to surf, voiced by

Matthew mcccona Matthew mocna Matthew McCau

voiced by Owen Wilson. Military boots sternly lecturing a kid as they walk. In fact, that's what the first movie will be: A live-action/animated feature: Shoes, in which live-action actors are accompanied by computer animated shoes that also are alive and have distinct personalities of their own. Here's how it'll work:


Opening: We see Kid (Nick Jonas) sleeping in bed. From far away, a mother's voice calls him to breakfast and tells him he'll be late for school. As Nick slowly opens his eyes and gets out of bed and begins to dress, we hear other voices in the background begin, too.

Voice One: What's going on?
Voice Two: You always say that. Every morning.
Voice Three: Oh, let up on him. He's not been the same since Left went missing.
Voice Two: Not my fault. They're irresponsible, those sandals.
Voice Four: You're all irresponsible.

All this has been going on while Nick gets dressed. As he walks around his bed we see the source of the voices: A flip-flop sandal, sitting forlornly and looking sad. A set of hiking boots with a stern look. A pair of running shoes. And a pair of dress shoes. Each pair of shoes has a face and each is made up of one male, one female shoe. The sandal is a male. As Nick looks at them, they clamor to be picked that day.

Running Shoes: You should wear us. It's the last day of school! You'll want to get home fast.
Boots: He doesn't need to run. He needs something sturdy and reliable.
Sandal: He should be wearing me. It's almost summer, man. Free the toes!
Dress Shoe: He can't wear you! For pete's sake...
Other Dress Shoe: Hush, you. Leave him alone! He's heartbroken.

* * * * * *

Later scene: Nick is in school, taking a final exam. Up front, the teacher (Dame Judy Dench) grades papers while below her desk, her Sensible Teacher Shoes watch the class observantly. Suddenly, the Left Shoe taps.

Sensible Left Shoe: Miss Ogleby! Tina's up to something!
Miss Ogleby: (Looking up) Tina, what is that?

Cut to Tina (Selena Gomez), who is picking up a piece of paper held up by the tongue of her dressy boots.

Tina: Nothing, Miss Ogleby.
Dressy Boots: Busted!

(A chorus of shoe-y whispers and giggles breaks out.)

* * * * * *

You get the point. Nick, of course, likes Tina and feels bad for her getting busted on the last day of school -- Tina has to take summer school or she'll be expelled, which puts her plans to go to Hollywood to audition for a TV show with her newest pair of shoes in jeopardy. So Nick and Tina plan, with the help of their shoes, to get her to Hollywood for the audition and back while not missing any summer school, but further problems ensue when Nick's Flip Flop decides that Nick isn't doing enough to find his missing wife, Lefty, causing Flip Flop to enlist the help of Crazy Duff (Nick Nolte), a man who's more than willing to wear one Flip Flop while walking around town looking for Lefty -- something that Nick might be willing to let go, except that when Flip Flop left, he also took with him Tina's ticket to get into the audition.

Will Nick and Tina find Flip Flop, locate Lefty, appease Crazy Duff, get to the audition, get the part and get back in time to have Tina avoid expulsion from school? Watch Shoes and find out!


That's right. Let that sink in for a while, and imagine the possibilities. Flip Flop will be the breakout character, of course -- and you'll be able (forced!) to buy Flip Flop flip flops for your own kids, plus you'll have tiny wind-up shoes in Happy Meals, and Shoe action figures, and Shoe shoes, and Shoe shirts, and stuffed Shoes on beds.


They're The Best Next Craze That Kids Will Be Deemed To Like.

And remember: I've got Dibs.

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