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Fab Gear: Toy Insider Names Best in Play for 2016

toy insider mom, laurie schacht, toy insider, toys, family circle, holiday of play

Adventure Publication’s Laurie Schacht and the Toy Insider team gave Holiday of Play attendees the lowdown on the latest & greatest modes of play.

Andy and Pete Say…
Once again it was our pleasure to join The Toy Insider team for the annual reveal of their choices for best toys for the holiday season lists. The HoliDAY of Play event highlights products in three categories, Hot 20 Toys, 12 Best Tech Toys, and 10 Best S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Toys.

You probably know “Toy Insider Mom” Laurie Schacht from her numerous television appearances demonstrating the operation of those products. The Toy Insider 2016 Catalog can be found nested inside the current issue of Family Circle Magazine, and you can get comprehensive details on each item at the Toy Insider Website link above.

Things to Make and Do….
There is probably no greater satisfaction for youngsters, really for anyone, than building something that works. That appeared to be the major theme this year at The HoliDAY of Play event. As we’ve seen in the past, from Lincoln Logs to LEGOS, the honing of dexterity skills, deciphering of instructions, assimilation of concepts, peaking of imagination and recovering from missteps, all make the final product a very personal thrill. The accomplishment makes the object all the more valuable to the builder.
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Shared Power: IAmElemental Donates “Courage” to Childhood Cancer Cause

iamelemental, action figures

Core Power Courage embodies all the attributes of IAmElemental figures Series 1 (Photo: Dan Larson toy galaxy.tv)

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and our friends at IAmElemental, makers of the first line of female action figures aimed specifically at young ladies, are sharing the empowering message of COURAGE with a Buy One, Donate One program. During the duration of the month IAmElemental will give one of their Core Power Courage figures to the cause, for every one purchased via their web store.

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A Freaky Friday @ Dark Shadows Fest 2011

Collinwood Rendered in a Brooklyn Zip Code


My name is Victoria Winters… well, no, it’s not, it’s Andy Melendez but it was a dark and stormy night over the Great Hotel Marriott, where Skeleton Pete and I attended the Dark Shadows Festival held here in Downtown Brooklyn this past weekend (August 18-21). It’s been a while since I’ve attended any kind of convention, but I have to admit, there was a feeling of “homecoming,” at least for me, when we arrived. These are my people. The Festival was celebrating the 45th Anniversary of the legendary cult TV series, created by the late Dan Curtis.

Impressions
I was surprised by the number of attendees for a Friday night alone (opening night tends to be light and a fun time to just explore without feeling too claustrophobic). I was even more surprised to learn that half of them had never been to a DS con before. Ah, “Convention Virgins,” I lost that distinction at 15 and have been a proud con-geek ever since… but I digress. For many others, it was like a family reunion… laughing, reminiscing and reconnecting with old friends.

I loved the setting created for the series’ stars onstage. It was a charming replica of the original Collinwood sitting room. I almost ran up there myself just to have a seat on the sofa and pretend I was having tea by the fireplace with the late Joan Bennett (Elizabeth Stoddard) or Grayson Hall (Dr. Julia Hoffman). The dealer’s room looked a bit sparse, but they were literally still unpacking as we arrived. I dare say most attendees were less concerned with memorabilia and more concerned with the honored guests in their midst, some of them already there, meeting convention goers and signing autographs.

Dark Shadows Memories
Fan favorites Lara Parker (Angelique Bouchard), Kathryn Leigh Scott (Maggie Evans, Josette du Pres), Roger Davis (Peter Bradford, Jeff Clark), Jerry Lacy (Reverend Trask, Tony Peterson), Marie Wallace (Eve, Jenny Collins), Christopher Pennock (Jeb Hawkes, Sebastian Shaw), and Kathleen Cody (Hallie Stokes, Carrie Stokes), were all there to meet and greet the fans on Day One, many with new projects to talk about. Unfortunately, we missed Jonathan Frid (Barnabas Collins) and David Selby (Quentin Collins), as both were only scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

Both Lara Parker and Kathryn Leigh Scott have new books coming out (both have been authors for some years now) — Lara has a third Dark Shadows novel coming out, and her first, “Angelique’s Descent,” is going to be re-released with a new 35-page chapter. Kathryn has been busy as well and her book, “The Bunny Years: The Inside Story of the Playboy Clubs and the Women Who Worked as Bunnies,” about her experience as a Playboy Bunny, has been co-opted for use in the upcoming NBC series, “The Playboy Club.” Lara and Kathryn noted rather cheekily, now is time to strike while the iron is hot, as things ramp up for the May 2012 theatrical film release of the Dark Shadows movie starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins. I have to admit, I was terribly excited to finally find out a release date for the film, as I hadn’t heard much since the news first broke. It was lovely to hear that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp asked the original series stars to film cameos for the movie. Jonathan Frid, Lara Parker, Kathryn Leigh Scott, and David Selby were flown out to London to film at the legendary Pinewood Studios where they had a blast.

Highlights
I was thrilled to learn the first two theatrical releases of the Dark Shadows films, “House of Dark Shadows” starring Jonathan Frid and Kathryn Leigh Scott and “Night of Dark Shadows,” starring David Selby and Kate Jackson, were coming to DVD. Stars from the original film were invited back to do Foley work on “Night of Dark Shadows” so they could include 30 minutes of lost footage on the new DVD as part of a long-time plan to restore the film since the footage was recovered in 1999. That is set to coincide with the release of the 2012 film.

As a veteran of these things, the highlight of the evening for me was seeing the unfinished, never-before-aired pilot of the 2004 remake of Dark Shadows. I’d only heard about it and had exhausted all avenues to obtaining a copy (and believe me, I have many). The remake had been intended as a replacement for the WB series “Angel.” It was more than fitting, as Angel and many other repentant vampires owe their fangs to Barnabas Collins. Dan Curtis was also involved after his 1991 “resurrection,” with Ben Cross and Joanna Going, was tragically cut short after only one season. However, sadly, part way through filming the 2004 pilot, they lost their Director and with it, their direction.

Associate Producer, and convention organizer (as well as marketing director for Dan Curtis Productions and consulting producer on the new film), Jim Pierson, explained what happened with the pilot and I was sorry to hear it never saw the light of day. It was a shame, as it showed promise, had some creepy special effects and if it had kept the intention of the original series and Dan Curtis’ gothic vision, I think it would have found a home, and would have rivaled newcomers “Supernatural” and “Vampire Diaries.” A glaring omission, however, was the loss of the original series music. I don’t know if they intended to replace it later on, but the classic title theme was missing, along with “Josette’s music box,” and to me, as a fan, these are too precious to lose.

Pertinent Links:
Darks Shadows News
The 2004 Remake
The Dark Shadows Festival

Click any image to launch gallery.

Digesting Dark Shadows

Hermes Press's Colorful Cover to The Dark Shadows Story Digest Reprint

(Editor’s Note: Please welcome guest editor Adriana “Andy” Melendez to the SkeletonPete blog. On her first visit she offers a view of the recently published reprint of Gold Key’s Dark Shadows Story Digest. She’ll be back with us regularly to lend her expertise in all things vampiric, anglophilic and episodic.)

Interrupted Voyage
“The one you seek is here,” she said, “I do not know why he has returned through the shades of time to trouble me, but he is here and he must be destroyed!”

Hermes Press resurrects one of television’s all-time favorite anti-heroes, the repentant vampire, Barnabas Collins, with a reprint of the Dark Shadows story, “Interrupted Voyage” written by Donald J. Arneson. This digest was first printed back in 1970 as part of a series of stories released by Gold Key Comics.

What it is…
When I think of “Interrupted Voyage” I recall the 1980 sci-fi film “Somewhere in Time” starring Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve as tragic, star-crossed lovers from two different times — only with zombies, witches and vampires!

While attempting to escape the clutches of his spurned lover, the evil witch, Angélique Bouchard, Barnabas Collins pledges to save two young lovers from the curse of time that separates them, only to put his own life and immortal soul in peril by doing so. Can Barnabas save Annabella and her fiancée Michael from another witch, the raven-haired Calandra, while avoiding the curse Angélique has placed upon him?

Set in Salem, Massachusetts during the height of the hysteria of the infamous witch trials, “Interrupted Voyage” uses this backdrop to full effect, complete with suspicious, torch-bearing, angry villagers. This story often brings to mind some of the popular fanzines and fanfic stories I’ve seen in the last few decades, using both prose and illustrations by comic book artist Joe Certa to engage the reader.

Melodramatic at times and over the top, perhaps, even a bit camp… but that’s what Dark Shadows does best, mixing the supernatural – tales of ghosts and witches, with romance, and yes, even time travel, all with a heightened sense of drama. It pushes the boundaries of disbelief and makes you want to believe in that other world… the world beyond the veil. It’s a world where you can rewrite a wrong, find and reclaim a lost love and erase your deepest regrets. It’s a world where anything is possible and good can triumph over evil.

Andy says…
In spite of some niggling bits here and there — for example, the overuse of “dark shadows” to describe… well… just about everything that is vaguely mysterious or foreboding, as well as the plodding pace, I can forgive it. “Interrupted Voyage” is of its time and very much follows the formula of the original Dark Shadows serial. Perhaps it’s my nostalgic love for the 1960s gothic-horror TV series created by the late Dan Curtis, but I can see this story working quite well on screen.