Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Birthday, John Astin!

John Astin was born on March 30, 1930, in Baltimore, Maryland. Over his career he has appeared in numerous films and TV shows, and also  performed in the one-man play, Edgar Allan Poe: Once Upon a Midnight, but for me, he will forever be Gomez Addams from The Addams Family television series (1964-1966).

With his wild eyes, his wickedly gleeful grin, and his irrepressible exuberance, John Astin's, Gomez, was the perfect foil for the elegant restraint of his beautiful wife, Morticia, played by Carolyn Jones.

A very Happy Birthday to you, Mr Astin!

Friday, March 22, 2013

"Hush, and shush, for the beldam might be listening."

I mentioned in my last post (here), that I had received two fun packages in the mail over the past week. The first was a picture book called Henry: The Heart Boy, by illustrator and animator, Ken Turner, and the second was a Coraline doll. I pre-ordered the re-released movie prop replica months ago and was happy dancing when it finally landed on my doorstep.

The 2009 stop-motion animated movie, Coraline, based on the novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman, is amongst a handful of my all-time favourites. The story is wonderful, it's visually gorgeous, and best of all, one of the heroes is a sassy black cat!

We first encounter the doll in the opening sequence of Coraline as the spidery, metal fingers of an unseen seamstress work to sew, stuff and transform an old doll to new. Later, a boy called Wybie finds the doll amongst his grandmother's belongings and gives it to his new neighbour, Coraline Jones, when he notices the doll looks just like her. I don't want to give anything away in case you haven't seen the movie, but suffice to say, there's more to Coraline's, "Little Me", than meets the eye.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Henry: The Heart Boy

After several weeks of sleepless nights, thanks to a relentless heat wave in Melbourne and the incessant barking, from dusk 'til dawn, of a neighbour's dog, I've been in a bit of a crappy mood of late. Over the past week however, the hot weather has eased and a couple of fun packages arrived at my door to put a smile on my face. The little demon dog is still barking, but I guess you can't have everything, right? Anyway, I'll save the second package for another post, but the first treat in the mail was a delightfully dark picture book by illustrator and animator, Ken Turner.

I first stumbled upon Ken's art (here) back in April, 2012, when a Google search for the Dark Shadows movie turned up some of his caricatures of the cast. Since then he has completed an animated series called The World of Snowboy and Crow, and is now embarking upon a short animated film called Henry: The Heart Boy, based upon the very book I purchased from his online shop. Ken also generously sent along some extra goodies with my book, including cards and prints featuring his wonderful illustrations.

Henry: The Heart Boy is the story of a boy who, quite literally, offers his heart to another only to be rejected. Although hearts being ripped from chests may sound like pretty dark subject matter, it's a poignant and fun Beetlejuice-y style of macabre. I won't give anything away, but I absolutely loved the ending and I really can't wait to see how this tale is translated to film.

If you're a fan of Tim Burton, Charles Addams, Edward Gorey or Ronald Searle, like I am, Ken's illustrative style is bound to appeal to you. You can see more of his work via the Ken Turner blog.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Garden Fit for Morticia!

Morticia Addams adores tending to her plants, whether it be snipping the pesky blooms off her roses, or feeding her beloved pet African Strangler, Cleopatra. Just recently, I became aware of a garden so delightfully Addams-worthy that it would surely bring a tear of joy to Morticia's eye.

Alnwick Castle  [Photo Source]

In the county of Northumberland, England, stands Alnwick Castle, the residence of the Duke of Northumberland. Attracting many visitors each year, the castle has long been used as a setting for film and television productions, and is perhaps best known as the stand-in for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films.

Gates of The Poison Garden  [Photo Source]

In land adjacent to the castle, Jane Percy, Duchess of Northumberland, has established a formal garden known as The Alnwick Garden. Inspired by a visit to a poison garden created by the notorious Medici family, in Padua, Italy, the duchess decided to include a similar touch of the charmingly macabre in her own landscaping plans.

Sign on Gates  [Photo Source]

The Poison Garden was opened in 2005, requiring 24 hour security and special licences from the British Home Office. It is filled with more than 100 deadly plants that produce either poisons like strychnine and hemlock or are narcotics like opium poppies, cannabis and magic mushrooms.

"I wondered why so many gardens around the world focused on the healing power of plants rather than their ability to kill... I felt that most children I knew would be more interested in hearing how a plant killed, how long it would take you to die if you ate it and how gruesome and painful the death might be."

Duchess of Northumberland

Seems the duchess is one fiendishly clever lady! I'm sure Morticia would thoroughly approve. You can find out more about The Poison Garden here.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Delightfully Dark Art: Seb Mesnard

Child of Woe (Wednesday Addams) by Seb Mesnard

I've had a love of illustration since I was a little kid, and for me, one of the most fun parts of this online world is being exposed to artists whom I would otherwise never have come across. After recently doing a bit of googling and reverse image searching, trying to find the source for a Halloween picture I had seen on Pinterest, I discovered the blog, Little White Bat, and the wonderful work of artist Seb Mesnard.

Eddie Munster and Edward Scissorhands

Not only am I smitten with Seb Mesnard's illustrative style, but I also adore the subjects he chooses for his artworks. Of course, being the huge fan of The Addams Family that I am, his drawing of Wednesday caught my eye instantly.

ParaNorman and Frankenweenie

Both Child of Woe (Wednesday Addams) and The Wolfies (Eddie Munster and his doll, Woof-Woof) are part of the Munsters vs Addams Exhibition at Susanita's Little Gallery. See more of Seb Mesnard's art at Little White Bat.