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Rhett Wichkam: Coming Too Soon to a Theater Near You!
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Rhett Wickham Discusses the All Too Present Inside Scoop on What's in the Animation Pipeline
Growing up in Central Florida in the 1960's there was a ritual to Sunday nights that will doubtless ring familiar to many from my generation: an early supper, maybe a bath - depending on your age and whether you'd been swimming before dinner - a game of Trouble, or cards, or, later on, Monopoly with my older sister, and then Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. Not that I was entirely fixated on Marlin Perkins's narration of poor Jim Fowler caught up in the coils of a Burmese python, but I was attentive enough to the din and the number of commercial breaks to know when it was time to settle in for what really mattered - Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color. Sometimes amused and delighted by the bill-o-fare for the next hour (I was nearly euphoric if it was animated, and at the very least entertained by The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, or Moon-spinners, Thomasina, or Darby O'Gill and the Little People) it was really just a giant 59 minute tease for what actually had me glued to the set - the millisecond flash of black between the last roll of the credits and ....the commercial end bumper. Oh how I simply could not wait for Wonderful World of Color to be over!
Before anyone takes this childhood obsession with looking forward the end of things and assembles a picture of me as an adult devoted to apocalyptic literature, allow me to course-correct your thinking down an even more deviant path predicted by this nose-pressed-to-the-tube fascination with the end credits of Uncle Walt's weekly offering. You see, I was destined for a life of obsessive devotion where the journey is frequently a blur and, a pathetic, cruel enslavement to the real mile-markers of my passing decades - the announcement of the next Disney animated film!
Alright, a little dramatic, I'll grant you that. But after spending my formative years listening to Marlin Perkins drone on in monotone you can hardly blame me for overcompensating! The point is that there was Christmas-morning anticipation to what was otherwise a slow walk to the gallows for most kids. After all, 8:30 p.m. marked the official end of the weekend and the slow and painful creep toward Monday morning and a return to school. Those coming attractions commercials kept all of that at bay, and the anticipation at age four or five or six of hearing the angelic proclamation "coming soon to theatres!â€? followed by a panoply of Technicolor characters I had never seen until that very moment - wizards and witches and owls and knights and...oh, look! Cool! A wolf!!! Well, that, that was heaven. I was crest-fallen in equal measure when that pesky Dean Jones showed up in his dreary live-action comedies. I lived live action, and my Father was ten times funnier. I wanted magic of a different sort. I wanted impossibly colored worlds inhabited by improbable characters that looked like picture book illustrations come to life. A world I knew was just out of reach, behind the hedges and paths of an enchanted land into which only Disney could tap. Thank heavens that Mary Poppins seemed, at first, to be magical enough not to turn my head away too quickly or I'd have missed the flashes of dancing penguins and singing farm animals. Sign me up! I've never been a gambler, I never could be - I'm too tight-fisted, thank you celestial influences on my Taurean essence - but I so fully â€˜get' the buzz, the jones, the aching thrill that must coarse through the veins of every slot machine or roulette playing lost-soul waiting as the wheel spins. Surely, we share the same anxious palpitation in that trembling moment between the final strains of the Sherman brothers closing theme and the scattered pixels that came next. Would they, could they, might they display a bit of cartoon magic to which I could look forward?