Considering Closing Credits

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

I was checking out YouTube the other night when I came across a video of the closing credits for one of my favorite shows from the past.  Watching it again, it moved me in a strange way and it caused me to think of other closing credit sequences which have stayed in my memories, in some cases long after the shows they were part of stopped airing.  The shows may now be over, but the curtains have never closed on these end title gems in my mind.

Astro Boy- 1st ending theme, Japan only

The video above is the one I was watching that inspired me to write this blog post.  It’s from the 2003 Astro Boy TV series that aired for only a short while in the U.S.  I’m a big fan of Osamu Tezuka’s Japanese robot hero, and I think this series is one of the best depictions of him ever done outside of the comics.  There were a lot of changes made to the series for its U.S. airing, though, including changing the closing credits sequence.  The end title sequence in the video (without all those annoying names in front) is one of the things that I was never able to see in the show’s original U.S. run, but I discovered it a few years later on YouTube, and boy, did we miss out on a real gem!  In the sequence itself, the main character, Astro the boy robot, is looking out over Metro City during a sunset, possibly contemplating some mystery of life judging from his tapping feet and his apparent wiping away of a tear (don’t laugh, he does shed a few tears in the show’s final episodes).  As the sequence ends, he looks over his shoulder at the viewer and gives a big smile, as if to say, “Don’t worry, it’s all right.  We’ll meet again soon.”  I find this sequence very moving in its simplicity, speaking volumes in a minute and a half.  I wonder why this sequence was never used in the U.S. version (or on the DVD either, for that matter).  Is it because Astro is sitting on top of a building and the show’s translators were afraid kids might duplicate such an action?  Darn shame, because I think this thing is just beautiful, and I wouldn’t mind seeing it used in some way if the series ever comes back on the air.

Blue’s Clues– Clap, Sweep, Clap, Clap, Clap

I loved Blue’s Clues when it started airing in 1996.  It’s combination of simplistic problem solving, cute visuals, and the seemingly naivete of host Steven Burns was very appealing to me for the longest time, and I’ll still watch an episode from time to time for nostalgia’s sake.  One part that I think a lot of people forget about when they talk about the show, however, is the closing credits right after Steve’s “Now It’s Time for So Long” song.  Most viewers might flip to another channel after that song, but not me.  I stuck around just to see Blue, Tickety Tock, Mr. Salt, Mrs. Pepper, and all the other characters dancing around while the credits rolled, something you don’t really see these days because they speed the credits up to add more commercials.  Also, I wanted to hear what instruments or sounds would be added to the theme’s basic bass line and “clap, sweep, clap, clap, clap.”  Depending on the subject being addressed in that particular episode, you could hear anything from wind chimes to industrial machinery to an energetic piano solo.  It was an extra thing that made each show that much more special for me, like a unique snowflake.

The Flintstones/The Jetsons– Pet Peeves

I am attracted to closing credits that give the viewer something extra beyond just listing the names of the show’s production crew.  In the case of The Flintstones and The Jetsons, I was able to see a few more minutes of funny cartoon scenes, an awesome way to end a show.  Both of these shows’ iconic ending sequences involve household pets.  Fred Flintstone gets locked out of his house by a smart-aleck saber-toothed cat, pathetically calling out, “Wilma!”  George Jetson gets stuck on the treadmill while Astro the dog (Wow, Astro’s both the name of a robot boy and a dog!  That name sure gets around the cartoon world!) and an unnamed cat watch with delight as George calls out pathetically, “Jane!  Stop this crazy thing!” (You’d think she would; maybe she lets it happen to deal out some kind of cosmic justice to George or something.  It certainly couldn’t be for his health.)  These things will happen every single episode until the end of time (or until people get sick of watching these shows, but I don’t think that’ll happen for a long time).  I have never thought that these endings were particularly funny in any way, but I do smile when I see them.  They’re like comfort food, one last warm feeling before heading back to the present day where cats don’t have saber teeth and treadmills don’t normally suck people under them repeatedly (and don’t hang out in midair on the outside of a building, for that matter).

Spongebob Squarepants– Ukelele Ditty

You may not know it from watching it today, but Nickelodeon shows used to have closing credit sequences, too.  A few years back, though, they stopped showing these for some strange reason, probably to fit in more commercials, I guess.  It’s too bad, though; I used to enjoy listening to the familiar strains of some of them, but none more so than the Spongebob Squarepants closing music.  It plays over a static screen of flower print and standard credits, but I feel that the music is much more outstanding than the visuals.  It’s a continuous ukelele riff that was sometimes used as background music within the show itself, and I guarantee that you’d likely know what show it’s from just from hearing it.  In my mind, it’s an encapsulation of all of the happiness and simple pleasures I have gotten from watching Spongebob’s antics for the first, tenth, hundredth, maybe even thousandth time.  The only place I usually see this sequence now is in “Nick on Demand” showings of Spongebob on digital cable systems and on DVD compilations.  It’s quite the reversal from how often I saw it just a few years ago.  May it rest in peace, floating ever on through the flotsam and jetsam of TV’s past.

Before this discussion of closing credits comes to a close, I’d like to know: Do you have a favorite TV closing credit sequence?  What do you like about it?  Do you still see it anymore?  Open up about your favorite closings in the comments.

Pop Culture Questions (and My Answers!) 3: Stopping Crazy Things

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013
How did that other question mark turn upside-down anyway?

Some questions turn you upside-down and inside-out.

For those of you who were looking forward to another edition of Pop Culture Questions on Tuesday, I apologize.  Due to circumstances beyond my control (and also because I hadn’t really thought of any good questions yet, and also I was kinda tired), I decided to do a shorter post, the first ever Random Top Five list.  I’m feeling a bit more at the top of my game, now, though, so let’s get back to exploring the nooks and crannies of pop culture for new queries to consider.

How come no one trips on the moving sidewalks on The Jetsons?

The future world presented on The Jetsons is one of my favorite TV environments.  I love seeing all of those high-rise buildings and flying cars and imagining what it would be like to live there.  One part of the show I think I would absolutely hate, though, would be the “moving sidewalks,” those conveyor belts on the floor that the characters are always stepping onto to save time from walking everywhere.  George Jetson, his family, Mr. Spacely, and just about everyone else in the universe seems to manage just fine in handling these sidewalks, a phenomenon which I took for granted when I was younger but which greatly bugs me now. 

No one trips on the sidewalks and ends up having their feet crushed under a doorway or wall or wherever those sidewalks start or end.  The sidewalk never moves too fast and sends someone hurtling through a glass window and falling hundreds of feet to the planet below (if there even is a planet down there).  Every other machine seems to go haywire at least once an episode, but those moving sidewalks always work the way they’re supposed to.  Even during the closing credits when George gets caught on the treadmill (“Jane, stop this crazy thing!”), he just keeps going around and around, the forward momentum always carrying him but never throwing him off.  I would be terrified out of my mind if moving sidewalks became a common mode of transportation in real life; I have seen a few in action in various places, but I still feel uncomfortable about getting on one myself.  I feel a bit more comfortable with escalators and elevators, but not by much.

How come there are so many turtles and walking mushrooms in Super Mario Bros.?

My favorite enemies in the Mario series are none other than the first ones I ever saw, the turtles (Koopa Troopas) and walking mushrooms (Goombas).  I’m still curious, though, as to how their numbers became so big.  They seem to multiply like rabbits with each new game that comes out.  It’s come to the point that I’ve seen them start long Broadway-style chorus lines in my dreams.  What has caused this surge in their populations?  Sure, they are pretty cute, and I guess they’d have to be popular if they keep showing up.  Real turtles do produce a lot of baby turtles and you can find mushrooms just about everywhere.  But still, these guys show up everywhere in Mario’s universe, whether they’re in grasslands, underwater, in frigid snowscapes, and even in outer space.  To me, it can seem a bit like overkill at times.  I’d like to imagine that King Bowser has a section of his castle estate designed to be a huge breeding ground and training center just for Koopas and Goombas.  They are probably subjected to all sorts of rigorous tests to make sure they can survive in any type of environment, and luckily for Bowser, most of them do pass with flying colors.  It’s too bad Darth Vader never turned these guys into his stormtroopers; who, besides Italian plumbers, could possibly fight back against turtle shells flying right at their heads?                  

How come the song’s called “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?”

I think love is one of the greatest things a person can experience in this world.  No wonder so many songs have been written about it!  Through these timeless tunes, we’ve learned that love “is a many-splendored thing,” “takes time,” is “hard to find,” “knows no season” or “clime”, and, in short, “does exactly what it wants to do.”  Obviously, love is very demanding, so maybe there’s a good point to Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers’ age-old musical question, “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?”  Still, I feel there’s a negative tone to the question that Lymon and the Sour Bunch raised, because I’m sure most people don’t feel like fools when they fall in love with someone.  They probably think all is right with the world and that nothing could possibly go wrong.  Even though I do think that is a foolhardy way of thinking, that doesn’t make lovers fools.  Some pretty smart guys have fallen in love, too.  Just look at Peter Parker (you know, the Spider-Man guy) who has fallen in love with Mary Jane Watson, Gwen Stacy, Felicia Hardy, and a bunch of other girls over the years.  Of course, some of the girls he has gone out with later turned out to be bad eggs, but that doesn’t make him a fool.  I haven’t even fallen in love with anyone yet, but does that make me a fool?  Let’s just agree to disagree here, Frankie Lymon and the Funky Bunch: everyone, including fools, smart guys, and everyone in between, can fall in love.

So, did you love this question-and-answer session?  Did it help you to come out of your shell?  Did it move you like the sidewalks on The Jetsons would move you?  I wait with bated breath for your comments.