Spooky Sunday #1…
October is here and the witching season officially begun. Andy and I have planned a quintet of Spooky Sunday posts that’ll take you slightly off the beaten path and into the haunted hallows of some of our favorite things from times past, but first we’re going to alert you to our newest discovery.
Bite Sized BFF’s…
The cartoon series Vampirina just launched today on the Disney Junior network and will quickly roll out new episodes throughout October. The stories are based on Vampirina Ballerina (2012/Disney-Hyperion Publishing) written by Anne Marie Pace and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. We’ve seen t’weens enthusiastically embrace the stylized creatures of Mattel’s successful Monster High universe. Vampirina takes the concept to an even younger demographic.
The premise is simple. Vampirina Hauntly and her family move from Transylvania to Pennsylvania and experience the culture shock of becoming the neighbors who are different. At its heart is a traditional outsider themed concept that was the essence of both 1960’s “Monst-Coms” (I think I coined a new fandom phrase) The Addams Family and The Munsters, and even the later Saturday Night Live skit The Coneheads. Beneath their comic veneer those shows always carried the subtext of seeing the world through others’ eyes. The Addams Family in particular carried the DNA of creator Charles Addams’ wry, and always left-of-center, New Yorker Magazine cartoons. Vampirina shares the trope of putting monster archetypes in everyday situations. As Andy likes to say, “Hijinx ensue.”
Executive Producer Chris Nee is also responsible for the wonderful Doc McStuffins series, and Vampirina treads similar territory in teaching the advantages of diversity and acceptance. It’s nice to see a positive set of pointers for the next generation in this current time of division. One can only hope some of this message gets into the blood of the little ones.
Just Play Products…
We were first introduced to the series only days ago when we attended the Toys, Tots, Pets, and More Holiday Guide Event. Just Play’s amazing array of licensed Vampirina toys and tie-ins stopped us dead in our tracks. Collectibles with fang-filled smiles and predominantly purple color schemes generally do that to life-long “monster kids.” There are plenty of character figures of varying sizes and capabilities, plushes that sing, and even a skull shaped electronic guitar. Those who loved the George Barris designed Munster Koach or Grandpa’s Drag-ula may find the Hauntly’s Mobile an irresistible purchase.
Best of all is the impressive Vampirina Scare B&B Playset, It’s a 3 story mansion with beautiful interior and exterior details. I really love the “Marley knocker” on the front door and the gargoyle topped banisters that guard the entrance. Inside there are all kinds of secret spaces for your figures to explore. The included Vampirina figure glows when positioned at any of six special areas and the jumpin’ and jivin’ Victrola has a bone tone arm that most audiophiles would die for. I wonder if there’s any Dead Kennedys in that record collection.
I just finished watching the premiere episode and I’m happy to say Vampirina plays well on several levels. Like a good Bugs Bunny cartoon, the surface action is fine to satisfy the littlest viewer. The social themes are well integrated if a bit blunt. Doc McStuffins feels more subtle in this case.
Parents will enjoy Vampirina’s shared bloodlines with the aforementioned 60’s shows, and there are some fun homages. For instance, Vee’s Mom Oxanna (does she purposely resemble Melania?) cuts the blooms off the roses like her Addams Family predecessor, Morticia. There’s a hungry Venus Fly Trap ala Little Shoppe of Horrors. The in-one-door-out-the-other misdirection schtick of the “Scare B&B” segment has lineage back to Universal Pictures‘ Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, one of the earliest examples of monsters for laughs and a favorite around here.
I’ll be back to enjoy Hauntly’s adventures as they roll out this month.
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