Author Matt Brady talks about his new book “The Science of Rick and Morty”

Matt Brady is a high school science teacher and pop culture writer based in North Carolina. Prior to working in education, Brady co-founded and was editor-in-chief of Newsarama, which received the first Eisner Award for Best Comics-related Journalism. Brady is also the founder of The Science Of…, a website that uses pop culture to help us better understand science. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Matt about his new book “The Science of Rick and Morty”.

Mike Gencarelli: When did you first encounter Cartoon Network’s Rick and Morty and why did it spark your interest?
Matt Brady: I think I found it like a lot of its audience – through the word of mouth of the internet – memes, clips and jokes. I got into it shortly after season 1 had wrapped so I inhaled that, and was waiting and then watching along with everyone else for season 2 and 3.

I dug it from the start due to the characters. I guess it’s probably not the best thing to say that every now and then, Rick would have a line or a comeback I wish I had – or rather, could – use with someone, and I love it. The dynamic between all the characters was something new, and went in directions that I hadn’t seen before – which made it even better.

The science was honestly, at the start, gravy. I really liked the call outs and the references to larger concepts with scientific footing, but yeah – it was the characters that hooked me, and the science that helped to keep me.

MG: Being a high school science teacher, tell us how and why you use pop culture, like Rick and Morty, in your classroom?
MB: After I left ten years or so ago, I went straight into teaching at a Title 1 high school. “Title 1” has nothing to do with athletics or honestly, anything that…braggy. It’s just a classification that schools are in when a set percentage of their students qualify for free and reduced lunch. In simpler words, it’s an index of poverty.

So there I was, a middle-aged white dude in a class of minority students who were giving me nothing but the side-eye. I figured out fast that I needed some kind of middle ground where we could all meet, and that was pop culture. I was still steeped in it, so I tried it out with my students…I think my first foray was a Flash problem set about velocity. Looking back on it, it was pretty rough, but hey – there was a sheet with a picture of The Flash on it, and some science stuff that they recognized.

Using pop culture helps to engage my kids with the material, and gives them a sense of “ownership” – they feel that they, in a way, “own” say, the CW’s Flash or Arrow (at that time, they were huge with my kids), so their attraction would pull them along. Moving on, I found The Fast and the Furious, Deadpool, Black Panther, Ant-Man, and loads more references that helped to engage my kids.

I mean, when you think about it – pop culture has no native language…it’s just cool. With some judicious picking of samples that are appropriate for your students and aligned to the science standard you’re teaching, you can have kids eating out of your hand. And on top of that, my kids started seeing me as a person, rather than “that white guy,” or just a “teacher,” something just a little bit better than a robot.

Bringing pop culture in was and has been one of the most rewarding things about teaching in my career to date.

MG: Which of Rick’s experiments were you most shocked about being able to becoming a reality?
MB: Easy – altering memories. Memories are largely structure – the connections between various neurons in the brain that make a pathway. Once that pathway is laid down, you’ve got a memory. Want to remember something? That pathway lights up again, either directly “p comes before t in the alphabet,” or indirectly like when you have to sing the alphabet song to find that piece of information. You’re coming in a side door to that particular memory.

But – the thing is, when those memories are being recalled – remembered – they’re vulnerable. They’re open to re-forming their pathways if you repeat the information that made them, but those pathways can re-form in different ways if new information is added in or swapped out for some of the original information. Do it subtly enough, and you can change people’s memories. I mean – not like to the point you’re remembering Hamurai or Cousin Nick who’ve always been around and part of the family, but in pretty insidious ways.

There’s evidence that some “repressed” memories that have put people in jail were memories that had been altered – innocently – by therapists in this fashion. Also, there was a study that was being conducted where the researchers were testing their ability to change the long-held memories of people, and they did it so well, they had to cancel the study, and assure the subjects that their original memories, which they were now questioning, were in fact, real.

It’s fun stuff when it shows up on Rick and Morty, but in real life…yikes.

MG: What do you think makes this show so popular?
MB: The characters and their relationships. They’re so rich, and have grown over the three seasons, and we still have no idea how much deeper they go.

Don’t get me wrong – the science is great, but if the characters weren’t who they are, no one would even tune in to hear about “concentrated dark matter” or uplifting Snowflake into a hyper-intelligent dog.

This show has such an expansive and complicated universe surrounding it. Did you ever this you would be discussing turning yourself into a pickle in the same sentence as dark matter and energy and intelligence hacking?

Well, honestly there were some things I did skip that were just waaaay too out there to consider – like turning yourself into a pickle. But yeah – dark matter and intelligence hacking are in there.

But all in all, I never thought I would end up covering such a wide swath of science, no. But that’s the show for you – anything’s possible, and whenever they can, Justin Roiland, Dan Harmon and the writers like to tag some real science mention to it that gives fans a hint of the real deal that gave the idea in the show its inspiration.

MG: What was your biggest challenge in writing The Science of Rick and Morty?
MB: Leaving stuff behind was one. You mentioned turning into a pickle. Given enough time, I could’ve probably finished thinking of a way to throw some science at it…maybe he placed just a replica of his brain in there, and then…hmmm…

Also – just getting what I got in there in the first place. A lot of the science in the show that I did pull into the book is at the fringes of what we think we might…someday be able to do with it, but that meant going to those fringes, talking to researchers there and turning what they said and what I read into something I could wrap my head around. There were days, after talking to some folks that literally felt like I was stoned, and maybe started to question reality a little too much.

MG: You are the founder of website. How did your idea for the site come about and what can readers learn from the site?
MB: The site is something that my wife and I started (she’s a science teacher too) when we realized that we could use it to reach other teachers who wanted to use methods similar to what we do, and also as a place where I could just write about pop culture meeting science. In all the articles there, I’m always careful to approach the subject so as not to rain on anyone’s parade. I’m not interested in telling people that Superman can’t fly, or Iron Man’s suit is impossible. That’s just not cool.

I want the science in pop culture to do for others what it did for me – inspire. I’m old enough to have watched Star Trek after school when I was young, and – along with a lot of other folks who went on to NASA, JPL and a lot of other places, dreamed about a world where communicators were real things, and we could visit other planets. I firmly believe that we imagine our collective future, and science fiction and pop culture is one of our most important guides. Why would I ever want to throw the door closed on someone who’s thinking that a world with Iron Man suits would be really cool, and is starting to play with their school’s 3D printer and some cardboard, along with some circuit boards and LEDs? I want that kid to build that suit, not have a dream crushed because someone smacked their hero with science. So yeah – please come on by and check out some of the articles. It’s not updated as frequently as I’d like, but hey…that classroom keeps me pretty busy, too.

MG: What can we expect next from you?
MB: More on the site – I hope…and hopefully, another book. Still working out some details now, but there is something definitely on that back burner that’s moving up to the front. I’ve also written science columns in Tom Peyer and Jamal Igle’s “The Wrong Earth” and have more coming up in the Dragonfly Man miniseries this fall. Bits and pieces of science and pop culture all over.

Matt will be signing copies of “The Science of Rick and Morty” at the Simon & Schuster booth at NYCC on 10/5 at 10:30 AM

And also be sure to follow him on social media:
Twitter: @Scienceof_org
FB: @thesciof


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Free Tickets to Advance Screening in Boston for “White Boy Rick”

Media Mikes is proud to be hosting an advance screening of “White Boy Rick”.  Columbia Pictures is really the drama/thriller on September 14, 2018 in theaters! Click below to get tickets, first come first serve! Good luck and like always leave a comment here after you’ve seen the film!

September 10th
AMC Boston Common

Set in 1980s Detroit at the height of the crack epidemic and the War on Drugs, WHITE BOY RICK is based on the moving true story of a blue-collar father and his teenage son, Rick Wershe Jr., who became an undercover police informant and later a drug dealer, before he was abandoned by his handlers and sentenced to life in prison.

Blu-ray Review “Rick and Morty: The Complete Second Season”

Creators: Dan Harmon, Justin Roiland
Starring: Justin Roiland, Chris Parnell, Sarah Chalke, Spencer Grammer, Kari Wahlgren, Brandon Johnson
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Warner Home Video
DVD Release Date: June 7, 2016
Run Time: 220 minutes

Season: 5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4 out of 5 stars

If you haven’t heard of Rick and Morty, seriously just stop reading and watch this show immediately since it is literally one of the best cartoons to hit TV since “The Simpsons” (and feel free to quote me on that Cartoon Network). Adult Swim really has a huge hit on their hands with this show and I just honestly can’t get enough of it. The show has amazing replay value and I feel like I can watch it over and over and over. It is also so extremely quotable that sometimes I laugh completely out of the blue just randomly relating daily life situations to events from the show. Totally classic and must see! Can’t wait for season three later this year!

Official Premise: Rick Sanchez (Justin Roiland) is still living with his daughter Beth’s (Sarah Chalke) family and causing more trouble than ever. This season the rest of the family, his son-in-law Jerry (Chris Parnell), grand-daughter Summer (Spencer Grammer) and grand-son Morty (Justin Roiland) are dragged into Rick’s intergalactic adventures, as he faces new threats and mysteries of his secret past are revealed. Can the family survive Rick’s insanity and all the chaos the universe throws at them?

Cartoon Network and Warner Home Video really stepped up their game for this Blu-ray release. Since they usually only go 1080i and a Dolby Digital 2.0 track for shows like “Adventure Time”. This second season of “Rick and Morty” comes stocked with a beautiful 1080p resolution with an
original aspect ratio: 1.78:1 and really kick ass HD Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track for each episode. Also they include a digital HD copy of the entire series to add to your streaming accounts.

There some good bonus content included for this season as well. Most importantly there are not only animatics for every episode but also audio commentaries for every episode with cast and crew. This is worth the purchase of the Blu-ray alone!! There is also a Behind the Scenes into the season as well as Deleted Animatic Sketches. Lastly a really amazing bonus that is given for us hardcore fans is an actual Plumbus Manual Premium included.

Blu-ray Review “Rick and Morty: Season 1”

Starring: Justin Roiland, Chris Parnell, Sarah Chalke, Spencer Grammer, Kari Wahlgren, Brandon Johnson
Studio: Cartoon Network
Rating: TV-14
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Run Time: 242 minutes

Season: 4 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4 out of 5 stars

I firstly need to thank my sister in law for pushing me to watching this show but I missed it in its initial airing on Adult Swim. I have been taking a bit of a break from the station since I haven’t been thrilled with their product recently. “Rick and Morty” is a real trip and a very fun show. I love the animation and I was laughing till I was crying with some of the episodes in this season. This show is crazy messed up mix of “Back to the Future” and “Futurama”. Bring on season two!!

Official Premise: From comedic masterminds Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland comes Rick and Morty. Adult Swim’s newest series follows the adventures of mad scientist Rick Sanchez, who returns after 20 years to live with his daughter, her husband, and their children Morty and Summer.

Cartoon Network and Warner Bros are releasing this series on Blu-ray along with an Ultraviolet digital copy of the season. They are not huge when it comes to home releases for their Adult Swim shows, so this is a big deal. I have been waiting for a Blu-ray of the “Metalocalypse” movie but I have a feeling I shouldn’t hold my breath since it has been a year already.

The 1080p transfer are amazing. The colors are just so stunning, crisp and vibrant. I honestly think that is one of the main reasons I have come to now love this show is due to its visual aspect…of course besides the fact that it is funny as hell. Also this Blu-ray includes solid uncensored Dolby TrueHD tracks, which is a really a treat since even “Adventure Time” only get Dolby Digtal tracks for their Blu-rays.

Included on the Blu-ray are the season’s 11 episodes along with some solid special features. There is a behind-the-scenes featurette on the season. There are literally commentaries and animatics for every single episode, which is real fan dedication. Some of the special guests you will find on the tracks are Matt Groening, Robert Kirkman, Pen Ward, Al Jean and many more, so these are a must listen. Lastly there are also some deleted scenes included. If you are a fan of this show, you will not be left wanting more.

Rick Alverson talks about directing Tim Heidecker in “The Comedy”

Rick Alverson is the director of the film “The Comedy”.  The film stars Tim Heidecker, known best for “Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job!” & “Tom Goes to Mayor”, taking on his first dramatic role. Rick took out some time to chat with Media Mikes about the film and its serious underlying themes.

Mike Gencarelli: Your new film is called “The Comedy” but tell us about the serious themes underlying in the film?
Rick Alverson: The initial plan was to make a film about desensitization. It was a movie about the desire for an idiosyncratic and creative interaction with language and people. An idea of flirtation with the world, antagonism, desire to both connect and potentially irate or change or alter the world or be altered by it. There is a lot of underlying interest in inertness and mortality. Yeah, it is all there [laughs].

MG: How did you end up working with Tim Heidecker with his first dramatic role?
RA: Tim has a very unique set of skills. He has this capacity for a very particular kind of social engagement that I knew would, and did, work very well for the role. He was kind enough to come in, since we did not know each other prior. He saw my previous film “New Jerusalem” and him and Eric were interested in my work after that. We managed to portray Swanson in a way that is very volatile and most importantly ambiguous. It lightly straddles the line between the passive and the antagonistic and between humor and pathos, I suppose.

MG: The film still has some unsettling moments, were you concerned about offending?
RA: Well, that was impulse of the project. It is about the desire of an individual to push envelopes and to activate, whether it is disgust, it is pity or anything. There is a perfect parallel between the way the movie should act on an audience and the way the character acts on the other characters in the film. There is a symbiotic nature between the form and the content that way. It is strange to me how some individuals have been repelled by the movie, which actually isn’t a bad response. I would think to be repulsed by something would mean that it is serving a kind of larger purpose. I think, as American mainstream film-goers  we are used to being playcated and self-affirmed by our entertainment. We would our entertainment to do a very specific thing. We have been conditioned for that. Literally when that entertainment fucks with us, we get angry. This is a very gulf between what some people describe as the institutions of fine art and the mass-marketable, consumable enterprise of commodity entertainment. People go into museums to be perplexed. People go to theaters to be massaged. I think that needs to be shaken up a bit.

MG: This film kind of sticks with you after viewing; was that your intention?
RA: That is what I got to see movies for. If I am going to spend my time and money in something it should change me. It is worth you money that way. It is funny how people go into movies that advertise recreational escape and expect to have a good time.

MG: Tell us about the production; what was your most challenging aspect?
RA: Well, working against New York City. I mean with trying to work with a landscape that is so emblazed and cauterized in our mind as this particular place. I had to figure out how to literally film in that place and do it justice and respect, while at the same time not to be redundant. That was quite a challenge. I think the other challenge – probably the biggest challenge was finding those particular notes and walking that tight rope between the engagement of the thing and the dystopian kind of awfulness of the things, like the antagonism, cruelty, disrespect and obscenity. How do you do two or three things at once while making it palatable to the characters and also palatable to the audiences if the film was couched as a comedy entirely. Also how to also show some real distance where we recognize that as uncomfortable facts. I don’t know but it is a real tight rope to walk. People love to go to movies and to hate the bad guys and love the good guys. I think that it doesn’t help anyone outside the theater and we should likely be the other way around sometimes.

MG: Tell us about what you have planned next after “The Comedy”?
RA: I am making a movie called “Clement” that takes place in 1868. It deals with the early clan and freedmen communities in rural Virginia. It is kind of an anti-epic cruelty tale. It is something that looks at the literal root causes of the dystopian world that we see in “The Comedy”.


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Rick Yune talks about new film “The Man With the Iron Fists”

Rick Yune is known best for his roles in films like “Die Another Day” and “The Fast and The Furious”. He is starring in the new film “The Man With the Iron Fists” directed by RZA. Rick took out some time to chat about the film and what we can expect next.

Mike Gencarelli: What can we expect from the film “The Man With the Iron Fists”?
Rick Yune: It’s a great movie that is a martial arts themed film but it is also an epic adventure that brings characters together from all around the world to focus on a common cause.

MG: Can you tell us about your character Zen Yi and the inspiration for the character
RY: Zen Yi is the son of a warlord who has turned his back on that life. Instead he has fallen in love and lives in the mountains with the woman of his dreams. He finds out that his father has been killed and leaves the mountains to avenge his father’s death. It’s interesting because here is a guy who wants to do the right things but gets pulled back in to a life he doesn’t agree with. It’s just a kick ass film!

MG: What was it like working with such an amazing cast?
RY: I have known Rza for about 8 years. He has an uncanny ability to draw the best out of people. He can get people to raise themselves to a level they have never been to before. I saw him do this with people who couldn’t even speak English. He did things that I am surprised any director let alone a first time director could do. Because of him I was able to do stuff I didn’t think I could. Russell Crowe is one of the nicest, gentlest people you will ever meet. He spent so much time giving advice and support to others. Lucy was great on set kicking ass and was really fun and professional.

MG: What do you think was the most challenging part of the project for you?
RY: I lost 30 pounds for this role. I am a food addict so losing that weight and keeping it off was hard. All I could eat was yams and egg whites.

MG: You have played a number of villains in films like “Die Another Day” and “The Fast and The Furious” but in this film you play a hero. What did you like most about taking on that role?
RY: I don’t generally look at a role as being a hero or a villain or it being in a certain genre. I look at the character and the story. When I do play a villain I try and make him human. When you play a hero you have to understand the dark side because that is something that everyone has. No one is born Luke Skywalker. Most people are more like Han Solo.

MG: What other projects do you have in the works?
RY: I just finished “Olympus Has Fallen” with Gerard Butler and Antoine Fuqua who is just great. Working with guys like Antoine who know what it likes to be in a less than bad situation can convey that very easily on film. These guys grew up in tough neighborhoods so risk is not unknown to them. You will see that in the movie

Rick Hornyak talks about his new CD

What makes a hard working union man in Pennsylvania suddenly decide to chuck everything aside and head to Texas? That’s one of the things I made sure I asked Rick Hornyak when we spoke. A singer/songwriter with a great gift for lyrics, Hornyak is currently embarking on one of several short tours planned for 2012 in support of his new CD, “Marigold.” I recently talked to Rick about his music, his passions and, of course, why Texas?

Mike Smith: How long had you been writing songs before you decided to pursue music as a career?
Rick Hornyak: I guess I started writing songs when I was about 19. I used to work in a steel mill and that kept me pretty busy so there weren’t a lot of songs from age 20 to 27, when I finally had a dozen or so that I was kicking around. When I was 27 I moved to Austin (Texas) and I’ve written a lot more since. So probably when I was around 19 or 20 years old was when I started coming up with original songs.

MS: How was it adjusting from quiet, sleepy Pennsylvania to wild and crazy Austin?
RH: I have to tell you it was really terrifying for the first six months. I really am from one of those middle-of-nowhere, one traffic light towns in Pennsylvania. I was afraid of the city. My parents had lived in Pennsylvania as did their parents and we grew up thinking that the city was dangerous. I was always afraid I would end up in the bad part of town or that something was going to happen to me. But as soon as I learned the names of a few main roads I discovered I could get where I needed to go. I’d have to say it was terrifying, but exciting, at the same time.

MS: “Marigold” is your first full length CD. Is there a deliberate tone to the album? You have a nice collection of ballads mixed in with some up-tempo tunes.
RH: We actually sent around a pre-release survey to friends and family and people we already knew who were familiar with the band. We sent them mixes of the songs and tried to get an idea of the order to put the songs in…what were their strong points. We went through about 30 of those. I’m so happy that people took the time to fill them out. To listen to the songs and fill them out. The song “See This Through” was a very popular one. Another song that people were really leaning towards is “Right in Front of Me.” As for any kind of theme, I’ve recently just discovered that I was reaching a kind of inner peace when I was writing. I fell in love again after ten years of sort of being single and a little bit bitter. My life was starting to get a little more stable. I wanted to start taking care of my body more…to be a little less self destructive. So that’s really the kind of general tone…it captures a time of my life when I did a lot of reflecting.

MS: I’m glad you mentioned “See This Through.” It’s one of the songs that I really took notice of on the CD. I’m a fan of great lyrics and that song definitely fits the bill. Were there any musicians that influenced you when you were growing up…made you say “Wow, this is what I want to be!”
RH: I have a really diverse music sense because I listened to everything growing up. When I was a kid I listened to 50s and 60s pop records that my parents had. I’ve loved music, as I’m sure you have, probably since I was 5 years old. It made me want to dance around the living room. I grew up listening to Tommy James and the Shondells…the Supremes…the Beatles. Those were my parent’s records. I don’t know how much of his actual style I picked up, but Bob Dylan, when I was in my early 20s, he showed me the power of what a songwriter could be. The way that somebody else’s words can make you think that song was written just for you. I’ve had people tell me that about a couple of my songs and it’s so flattering. The song we were just talking about…”See This Through”…a friend of mine was inspired by the song to put her bar up for sale and move to Hawaii. She gathered enough money for a couple of months, got an apartment and got a bartender job. She let her employees run the bar until it sold. I kind of got off the question (laughs)…I’d definitely have to say Bob Dylan was a real influence.

MS: You’re on the first leg of several short tours this summer. Do you have any plans to record again soon?
RH: I’ve got some songs in the works. All of the new candidates are here. A few that are done and about a dozen or so in the refining process. That’s something that’s tough to do when you’re on the road and touring. You’ve got so many things to do that you often lack that three hours you need to go in and try to write every day. But that’s what I’m doing in my free time. I’m trying to make sure that I’ve got a lot of new material ready. I feel I need to push myself. I want to top my next record in my own head. That’s how I felt with “Marigold.” I felt I had taken a big step. That I was getting better. I could hear it and that’s a great feeling for a song writer.

Rick concludes this leg of his 2012 tour with a stop Sunday night, May 13, at Ernie Biggs in Kansas City. For more tour information, or to order his new CD, go to


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CD Review: Rick Hornyak “Marigold”

Rick Hornyak
Produced by: Rick Hornyak
11 tracks
Running time: 45 mins

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

It was about three songs in, on the second listening of Rick Hornyak’s new CD, “Marigold,” that I put my finger on how to best describe his sound. The Austin, Texas resident, by way of Clarks Mills, Pennsylvania, was spinning beautiful stories that made my mind wander. And then it hit me. Hornyak’s music is best described as Mike Nesmith (his solo stuff (“Different Drum”), not his Monkees years) meets Jimmy Buffett. Like Nesmith, who hailed from Houston, Hornyak has a smooth, folksy delivery that emphasizes the moods of each song. Like Buffett, his lyrics tell amazing stories. He is also an accomplished guitarist, starting of songs like “So Many Times Before” with some fancy guitar work. To me the standout song is “See This Through,” delivered so sincerely it could have been part of Bad Blake’s concert set in the film “Crazy Heart.” Other notable songs are “Foolish Love” (good for slow dancing) and the cheerfully delivered “The
Monkey Song.”

Track Listing:
1. So Many Times Before
2. See This Through
3. Right in Front of Me
4. Cigarettes
5. Homesick Blues
6. Don’t Hide Away
7. Foolish Love
8. Door to Your Heart
9. Far From Home
10. The Monkey Song
11. Moving On (Without You)

Interview with Rick Goldschmidt

Rick Goldschmidt is the current Rankin/Bass Historian and Biographer. He is a lifetime for an Rankin/Bass’ work. He has published three books to date about their work including his latest called “Mad Monster Party”, which focuses solely on that film. Rick is also a musician and has worked with members of the band Gin Blossoms. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Rick about Rankin/Bass and also his book.

Mike Gencarelli: What was the first Rankin/Bass production that made you a lifetime fan and their current historian and biographer?
Rick Goldschmidt: I think it would probably be “Rudolph”. That is still probably my favorite of the bunch. I like the simplicity of it especially the design work by Tony Peters. I really think it’s their crowning achievement. “Mad Monster Party” runs a close second as I am a big Jack Davis fan. I like the classic monsters.

MG: What was your most challenging part making your first book “The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass”?
RG: Rounding up as many images as I was able to get was probably the hardest part. Rankin/Bass really didn’t save much. A lot of their stuff went into dumpsters. Years later I found out from some friends that the Rifkin/Bass office used to be above I think the TV museum in New York. I actually got a Jack Davis painting from a friend of a friend who stated he garbage picked it. They really didn’t hang on to a lot of their artifacts. I had to go out and search conventions and toy shows.

MG: The book is currently out of print, any idea when another printing will be released?
RG: I still do a print on demand type of thing. They are still available but on a very limited basis. I think going into Christmas of this year we may go in and update the book and do more of a mass printing. It will probably be similar to what we did with the “Mad Monster Party” book. I am going to try and do an Easter book and cover “Here Comes Peter Cotton Tail”. Vincent Price was a big part of that as Evil Iron Tail. I think that had a big influence on Tim Burton. That was a very gothic type character.

MG: Tell us about your latest book “Mad Monster Party”?
RG: I have been collecting a lot of stuff related to “Mad Monster Party” and “Rudolph” especially as they are my favorites. The Jack Davis aspect was a big part for me. That’s sort of how I found Rankin/Bass by talking about “Mad Monster Party”. Jack was still doing odds and end for them and in fact he even did a newer version of “Mad Monster Party” with Arthur Rankin not that long ago. They tried to do something with CGI however I never got to see it because Arthur is pretty protective about things that don’t see the light of day. I am always trying to find out more about the classic holiday specials because I really enjoyed those works the most.

MG: What do you like most about stop-action animation compared to CG which is commonly used today?
RG: I think the stop motion stuff has a completely different feel. Arthur Rankin describes it as a warmer style of animation. The CGI stuff comes across colder. 85-90% of what’s being done in CGI these days is not looking unique. There is a lot of it out there that doesn’t have any particular style or finesse. Even thought they were CGI assisted I prefer Tim Burton’s work on things such as ”The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “The Corpse Bride” over a lot of the CGI films that are out. I did like Pixar quite a bit because they focused on the story over the CGI however, when I saw “Cars 2” the story went completely out the window. I think Disney’s involvement with the company has hurt it more than helped it.

MG: Do you still keep in touch with Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass today?
RG: Yes. Jules is not as open to doing discussions about Rankin/Bass and his previous work. He is not very involved in that kind of thing but Arthur still talks about that stuff and I talk to him on occasion. Arthur has sort of always been the voice of Rankin/Bass. Jules was more involved with the voice actors and songs. He has moved on and written books for children. He recently had one of his novels “Monte Carlo” adapted into a movie. I was surprised that that film finally got made as I had heard some time back that Nicole Kidman had bought the script and that she was going to star in it with some other big name actresses. I have heard before that “Mad Monster Party” was going to be made into a motion picture also but I don’t know how you would do something like that. The charm of that movie is the puppets.

MG: What is next for you and Miser Bros. Press?
RG: I am definitely going to do the Easter book and have it ready to come out on Easter. I have some cool things that I want to put in it. I want it to look very Easter candy basket. Their specials for Easter make the holiday for me as they really capture the spirit of the holiday. We will probably also being doing some updates to the first two books and release them in mass printing form.


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“The Play’s The Thing…”: An Interview with Rick Wakeman

To say that Rick Wakeman is an excellent keyboardist is a grotesque understatement. Throughout his career – and most notably as the keyboardist for Yes during thier “classic” era – Rick’s astoundlingly fast dexterity and fluidity made it seem as if he was channeling higher powers through his nimble fingers.  Often dressed in a long satin cape, Rick dazzled audiences with 70’s-era Yes classics such as “Roundabout”, “Long Distance Runaround”, “I’ve Seen All Good People” and long-form pieces such as the title track from the “Close to the Edge” album.

In addition to Yes, Rick has had an extensive career as a solo artist, often releasing albums that have famous historical figures (“The Six Wives of Henry VIII”) or renowned works of literature (“Journey to the Centre of the Earth”) as their inspiration.

2011 finds Rick on tour with his former Yes-mate, vocalist Jon Anderson, supporting their recent collaboration “The Living Tree”.  We were fortunate to be able to catch up with Rick and discuss the tour with Jon, his feelings about how technology has affected his work and one particular Yes album that brings tears to his eyes.

Dave Picton:  Your recent collaboration with Jon Anderson, “The Living Tree”, is – much to my surprise – simply that: you on keyboards and Jon on vocals.  Was this minimalist approach there from the beginning of the project or, at any time, was a more augmented version contemplated?
Rick Wakeman:  No, that was always the plan.  About six years ago, Jon and I were talking about how there was very little new material around because you have to get together with people and people are very much scattered all over the world these days.  So Jon and I wondered if this magical thing called the Internet is so wonderful, maybe we could send each other music and do something that way.  So Jon said: “Send me some stuff and let’s see what happens.”  So I sent him some music and he came back and said: “I like that bit, or I think I can work on that bit.”  So we just kept flying stuff back and forth.  Then, when we did the first duo acoustic tour together a few years ago, we tried out four of these songs and we were amazed at the really good response we got.  That’s when we knew we were on to something.  We kept sending things back and forth, but we only kept the good stuff, so by the time it came to putting the tracks we wanted on the CD, we were both 100% happy with everything that we’d done.  And I think that shows.  And the response we’ve received from the CD has been just amazing.

DP:  You’ll be joining Jon on a number of tour dates later this year. What can audiences expect to see and hear?
RW:  This, that and a lot of things.  The truth is, Jon and I are very similar people.  We don’t like to stand still, we don’t do what comes easily, and we don’t live in the past.  We also hate managers.  Too many bands today seem to work for the management.  When we bring management in to do things for us, they work for us – not the other way round.  So we’ll do this tour the way we want it to be – new songs, past songs, re-interpretations and interacting with the audience – which, it just so happens, is how we believe the way our fans want it to be.

DP:  Yes’ “Union” tour in the early ‘90s featured many members of the “classic” ‘70s era of Yes – of which you were a part – as well as members of the ‘80s 90125-era band all on one stage. How was that experience on your end?
RW:  Well, it really all began in January of 1980. The band was an absolute shambles at that point, nobody was talking to anybody and everyone was fighting.  The whole thing was just a disaster.  Jon and I’d had enough and so we both left.  But the rest of them carried on.  The Buggles were added and they did the “Drama” album. Then at the end of the ’80s, Anderson Bruford, Wakeman & Howe was formed and now we had a real mess because ABWH was playing all the Yes stuff that we’d written, and what people came to call “Yes West,” which was basically Chris [Squire] and Alan [White] and Trevor [Rabin] and Tony [Kaye] were also doing stuff.  So, the two managements came up with the idea to join forces.  Now, I have to say, for the stage show, was fantastic, but the album was just awful.  I don’t even classify it as a Yes album, the “Union” album.  I always call it “Onion” because every time I hear it, it makes me cry.  It was an absolute pile of junk.

DP:  In your career as a solo artist, you’ve made many albums that have historical figures or classic novels as their inspiration (e.g. “The Six Wives of Henry VIII”, “Journey to the Centre of the Earth” and “Myths & Legends of King Arthur & the Knights of the Round Table” – just to name a few).  Are there any projects like this slated for the future?
RW:  Well, I have plenty in mind.  For instance, I’d like to do a full-scale ballet someday.  I’ve had some stuff used in ballet in the past, but I think a whole, new full-scale ballet would be fantastic.  Ballet’s a really interesting area.  I go to Milan a lot, to the Scala.  I’m friends with the director there and also in Florence.  Both are continually getting more adventurous with their music.  So I think there is an opportunity to bring progressive rock music to a new audience.  The trouble is, I know what it would cost to do something big and dramatic and these days, no one wants to back anything.  And frankly, a ballet soundtrack probably wouldn’t be much of a winner in the market today.  But, you never know.

DP:  The 5-CD set “Caped Crusader Collectors Club: Bootleg Box – Volume 1″ was recently made available here for sale in the States.  What was the inspiration to release these recordings and how much material do you plan on releasing in the future?
RW:  We just wanted to come out with a nice collection of back-to-basics live performances.  Obviously, something recorded live sounds different from something recorded in the studio, so we wanted to put something out there that was the other side of the coin, so to speak.  As for the future, who knows?  I like to think that the best parts of the past and the best parts of the present will add up to a very positive future.  If that holds true, then lots of good stuff should be on the way.

DP: Which artists’ music do you currently find appealing and perhaps even inspirational?
RW:  That’s a bit difficult to answer at the moment, other than the obvious choices.  But going into the past a little bit, I can tell you that David Bowie is far and away the cleverest man I’ve ever worked with.  He was just so far ahead of the game.  He wasn’t into listening to managers and record company executives because they weren’t musicians, so they didn’t really know what it was like.  And that was a wonderful attitude.  He was also always incredibly prepared in the studio.  He never wrote in the studio.  He was always what he called “75 percent prepared.”  He’d get the piece that far, and then go to the studio and take it that extra 25 percent.  He respected the studio, and I think that’s the one thing he taught me more than anything else: respect the studio.  It’s not a plaything.  He was an absolute pleasure to work with him.  Amazing character.  Amazing man.

DP:  In a few short decades keyboard technology has gone from fully acoustic and mechanical to fully computerized and you’ve been at the front line of that wave for your whole career.  How have these changes affected your work?
RW:  I don’t consider myself a technician.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like all the technical things I use.  But as far as the engineering side, I’m lucky to have a friend, Larry Jordan, who is a very talented guy.  Electronics, recording, whatever – he knows it all.  When some new technology comes along, he’ll come to the studio and tell me: “We can do this now.”  And it always something that sounds fantastic.  And then he’ll ask: “Do you want to know how it works?”  And I always say, “No.”  You can fall into the trap of making use of something just because it’s there and available and not because it necessarily adds to what you are trying to do. So I don’t need to know the technical things. If we’ve got it, maybe I’ll use it or maybe not.  But, at the end of the day, I just want to play.


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Interview with Amanda Silver & Rick Jaffa

Amanda Silver & Rick Jaffa are the husband and wife duo behind the screenplay for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”. The couple has worked together on various projects, including “Eye For An Eye” and “The Relic”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Amanda and Rick about how they came up with the idea for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and we came across with one amazing story.

Mike Gencarelli: What do you like most about collaborating with each other?
Amanda Silver: We are married, which I’m not sure if you knew or not but, we have been writing together for about 20 years. The collaboration just works. We each have different strengths and we complement each other very well. Because we have been doing this so long there is kind of a short hand in how we communicate.
Rick Jaffa: We also have certain rules since we are married and raising a family which we kind of established in the beginning which we really don’t need to apply anymore but, for example if one of us has the lead in a project and or it was their idea that person would ultimately have veto power if there was some sort of creative road block or disagreement. The truth is we thought we would just establish that if there was ever any trouble and I don’t think there ever has been. Maybe in the very beginning but we just will work things out and find solutions together. For a husband and wife it’s been a really fun adventure. It just works out really well.

MG: How did you become attached to “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”?
AS: That was actually Rick’s idea. It was a genius idea as Rick was cutting out these articles he was interested in about chimps being raised like children in a home setting.
RJ: Especially when the chimps become teenagers which in chimp years is about 7 or 8 years old. During that time the chimps become bigger and stronger and really are not meant to live in a home. A lot of the attacks you read about are during this time of development because the chimps are acting as the animal they are supposed to be.
AS: Rick had been staring at the articles for almost two years and all of the sudden he had the idea for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” We at the time had no idea where Fox was with the franchise and what they were developing. We had worked for Fox before and knew one of the executives really well, so we brought this idea to him. Luckily they had nothing in the works and reslly liked our idea. They then bought our idea and had us write and produce the film.

MG: What did you find as your most challenging part of rebooting the series?
RJ: Our attitude was going to be as though the Tim Burton movie never happened. We are huge fans of certain aspects of the Tim’s film but ultimately we knew that if we were going to pull this film off we would have to act as though that film had never happened. We wanted to craft a story that could stand on its own while still paying respect to the original movies and allow younger people who don’t know much about the “Planet of the Apes” franchise to become familiar with the story.

MG: Since this is a prequel, are there any hints or tributes to the original films/series?
AS: Yes. Throughout the entire film there are easter eggs, as we call them. Rick was much better at this than I was. There are little hints such as character names and other things, but I am not going to give anything away. For the people who love “Planet of the Apes” there are a lot of fun things in there for them.
RJ: Some things are really obvious, while others are so obscure that I don’t think people will be able to put them together. I don’t even know how we were able to. (Laughs) There are lots of nods to the original and hints to where the story could go which is a nod to the original mythology of the series.

MG: Is it safe to say you are shaping this to become a new franchise?
AS: We will have to wait and see about that as the film has yet to open. There are characters that we have created for this film that we can’t wait to see what will happen. The premise of the film is what would have to happen today currently in 2011 to eventually get Colonel Taylor on that beach some 3,900 years from now. The apes that we created are present day apes.
RJ: When you see the movie and it feels like we are setting up for a sequel. We know that if the film does well and a sequel presents itself then there are very specific ideas as to what we would like to do. Now that there is a whole kind of “Ape” team made up of the Chernin Company along with Dylan Clark and the Fox team. Everyone has been great to work with and I am sure they all have ideas about where they think the film could go. Amanda and I have very specific ideas but no one has talked about as they are afraid to jinx it I think.

MG: How was it working with Rupert Wyatt and did he have any input on the story?
AS: He was spectacular! Rupert really gave us great notes on the script and when he came on he helped shape the movie. His job was huge on this movie as he had to get not only the script right but he had to cast the right people as well. Rupert also had to communicate with WETA, which is the group responsible for the visual effects and performance capture. He really had to make sure that all the performances were translated from the actors.
RJ: Rupert was a really great listener and collaborator. He would stick to his point of view but would listen and be open to everyone else’s thoughts. He really hung in there despite all the pressure which was present very early on at the start.

MG: Do you guys have any other upcoming projects?
RJ: We just turned in a re-write of a script for Sony, which is a big action/time travel project that we are really excited about. We also are pitching some television ideas, as it is that time of the year. We are also developing some of our own stuff along. With the heat coming of the movie, we have started to receive some things for consideration as well.