Posted in Fatherhood, Toys

An Androgynous Potato (Head)

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Somebody in my Facebook feed this morning referred to people getting freaked out over “an androgynous potato,” and I knew something was up.

Turns out Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head are rebranding. Hasbro is going to less prominently display the gender labels for the toy line. The brand will now simply be “Potato Head.” (See packaging below.)

This triggered some folks online, because that’s what the internet is and has always been for: Triggering people. How dare we cut Mr. Potato Head’s imaginary balls off! (What would you call Mr. Potato Head’s balls anyway? Spuds? Spudlings?)

My initial inclination was to say this is one of those things that’s been given way too much thought. Just how much will the world be improved by de-emphasizing the gender roles of toy potatoes? Is Hasbro fixing something that isn’t broken?

Then I read the AP story, in which Ali Mierzejewski, editor-in-chief at The Toy Insider says…

“It’s a potato. But kids like to see themselves in the toys they are playing with.”

Okay. I’ll buy that. It makes sense.

The older I get, the more I understand the importance of representation in popular culture. It’s not just toys that kids project themselves on to. It’s all kinds of mass media and merchandise. Everyone deserves to feel seen, regardless of sexuality, race, or however you want to measure difference.

I find it usually helps to look at these things through the lens of fatherhood. Baby Primary Ignition has a pretty conventional family thus far. It’s mom/dad/baby. But I’d like to think that if it were mom/mom/baby, or dad/dad/baby, or if there were a gender-neutral “they” mixed in there somewhere, she’d still be able to look out into the world and not feel like she doesn’t belong. I’d want her to know her family is beautiful the way it is.

And if genderless plastic potatoes can move us further in that direction, I’m game.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

 

Posted in Fatherhood, Movies

Intro to Tarzan

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

At one and a half years old, Baby Primary Ignition doesn’t see a great deal of TV. But she has been exposed very selectively. We have a Disney+ subscription at the PI household. She loves the Frozen movies, Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, and as we very recently found out, Tarzan.

Released in 1999, Tarzan came down the pipe a little late for Mrs. Primary Ignition and I. But she recently turned it on for Baby, and was amazed at how responsive she was to the opening sequence. So much that she showed it to us this morning.

The sequence that’s pretty dramatic even by Disney standards. Baby Tarzan loses his parents to a leopard attack, and we see blood next to their shrouded corpses. This is after said leopard kills a baby gorilla. So of course, the gorilla’s mom adopts baby Tarzan, and we’ve got ourselves a movie.

As she gets old, Baby has started to point to things and say, “What’s that?” (In her own special toddler language, of course.) She was quite responsive during the movie’s opening, as Tarzan and his parents escape a fiery blaze. She also responded to the gorillas. Animals of all sorts are big with her. She’s started to point to different ones and say “Cow,” “Sheep,” etc. She also calls fish “elmo,” which we think is supposed to be Nemo.

But what really surprised us was her reaction to the bloodthirsty leopard. When the tiger leapt out and attacked, she actually called out “No!” She wasn’t afraid for herself, but the characters on screen.

It’s both scary and exciting to think that she’s becoming more aware and responsive to the world around her. That can only mean being a parent is about to become harder, and we’ve got to make more small decisions about what content is and isn’t appropriate for her. My days of watching John Oliver while she plays nearby may nearly be over.

Then again, we just showed her a movie where a ferocious leopard kills two humans and a baby gorilla. So maybe the child psyche is more durable than we give it credit for.

Incidentally, that Phil Collins soundtrack? Highly underrated.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Television

Rob Watches The Mandalorian: The Samurai

SERIES: The Mandalorian
EPISODE:
S1.E4. “Chapter 4, Sanctuary”
STARRING:
Pedro Pascal (Voice), Gina Carano, Julia Jones
WRITER:
Jon Favreau
DIRECTOR:
Bryce Dallas Howard
PREMIERE DATE:
November 29, 2019
SYNOPSIS:
Mando and the child seek sanctuary on the planet Sorgon, but are drawn into aiding a village against vicious raiders.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Oddly enough, Pedro Pascal wasn’t there for the filming of this episode. He was apparently on broadway doing King Lear at the time. Apparently the performance we see in this episode comes from a combination of stunt doubles Brendan Wayne and Lateef Crowder. Apparently Pascal and Wayne worked closely together in developing the title character. What’s more, Wayne is the grandson of screen legend John Wayne. Ironic, considering what Mando has in common with a lot of the characters John Wayne played…

When Mando looks at the child and says, “Stop touching things,” he briefly becomes the personification of every parent who’s ever had a toddler.

Here we have Cara Dune, played by Gina Carano. Mrs. Primary Ignition isn’t sold on Carano as an actor. Me? I think she’s perfectly adequate for the role she’s in. The one aspect of the character I’m not completely sold on? The tiny Rebel Alliance/New Republic tattoo she has on her cheek. She’s supposed to be making her living as a mercenary, right? Isn’t that an odd thing for a mercenary to keep tattooed on her face? You’d think she’d want the thing removed.

The samurai film influences on The Mandalorian are quite evident in this episode. And that’s even if you discount the fact that this village on Sorgan matches many depictions of such places in feudal Japan. You’ve got the nomad warrior sought out by a community of innocents to help them overcome an invasive evil. Thus, he trains the villagers to fight alongside him. It’s essentially the same plot as the classic film Seven Samurai, by Akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa was famously one of the filmmakers who inspired George Lucas during the conception of Star Wars.

On the subject of connections to Lucas, our director for this episode is Bryce Dallas Howard. She’s, of course, the daughter of Ron Howard, who starred in Lucas’ first big hit, American Graffiti. She’s gotten quite a bit of praise for her work on The Mandalorian, and rightfully so. Carano credits Howard with helping her figure out how to best translate the Cara Dune character from script to screen.

The combination puppeteering/CGI work with Baby Yoda is at its strongest yet in this episode. It blends so seamlessly. It’s not a fair comparison, given the near 20-year gap, but it’s a far cry from how fake CGI Yoda looks in Attack of the Clones.

I give a lot of credit to Julia Jones, who plays Omera, Mando’s kinda/sorta love interest in this episode. She performs the hell out of her scenes here, playing off someone who essentially has a bucket on their head. Now that’s acting.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Television

Rob Watches The Mandalorian: From Animation to Live Action

SERIES: The Mandalorian
EPISODE:
S2.E3. “Chapter 11, The Heiress.”
STARRING:
Pedro Pascal, Katee Sackhoff, Mercedes Varnado
WRITER:
Jon Favreau
DIRECTOR:
Bryce Dallas Howard
PREMIERE DATE:
November 13, 2020
SYNOPSIS: 
Mando meets a trio of his own kind, and winds up taking on the Empire once again.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

This episode requires a decent amount of exposition, only some of which we actually got. Katee Sackhoff’s character is Bo-Katan Kryze. Long story short, her sister was the duchess of Mandalore. Thus, her trying to get the Darksaber. 

“The Purge,” meanwhile, was when the Empire killed most of the Mandalorian people, forcing the survivors into hiding. All this stuff was covered between the Clone Wars and Rebels cartoon shows.

I’m fairly certain this is the first time we’ve seen an ocean dock in live-action Star WarsIt makes for a different vibe. I like it. That’s one of the things that’s been so great about The Mandalorian. It shows us the Star Wars universe from different angles.

When Bo-Katan dropped out of the sky, Mrs. Primary Ignition exclaimed: “It’s a lady Mandalorian!” I’m hoping there were a lot of little girls in the audience saying the same thing.

There’s been a lot of talk about what a “true” Mandalorian is. We know Jango Fett and Boba Fett weren’t. And now we get talk that Din Djarin isn’t. Can we maybe get some clarification on this issue? I’m a Star Wars geek, and even I’m confused….

I was curious to see how they’d credit WWE’s Sasha Banks, who plays Koska Reeves. They used her real name, Mercedes Varnado. Which makes sense, of course. I’m not the world’s biggest Sasha Banks fan. But I was proud of her for this. She even got a decent number of lines and wasn’t just a muscular body in the background.

Even after all this time, I’m still getting used to Star Wars music that isn’t a classical score. Case in point, the sort of industrial-style beat they had going during the action sequence aboard the Imperial ship. It works. It’s just not traditional Star Wars.

Hey! Stormtrooper! When you see a grenade rolling toward you, maybe…I’unno…kick the damn thing away instead of staring down at it like a friggin’ nincompoop!!!

And there it is. Destination: Ahsoka Tano. Here’s my question: Katee Sackhoff voiced Bo-Katan Kryze for the cartoons, and now she’s playing the role live. Did they even ask Ashley Eckstein if she wanted to play Ahsoka? Nothing against Rosario Dawson, of course. But it seemed like Eckstein was up for it. Yes, Dawson is a renowned on-camera actress, as opposed to Eckstein who’s more famous for voice acting. But Eckstein had a hand in the creation of the character. She should have had the chance to play Ahsoka if she wanted it.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Television

Rob Watches The Mandalorian – The Galaxy’s Best Halloween Costume

SERIES: The Mandalorian
EPISODE:
S2.E1. “Chapter 9, The Marshal”
STARRING:
Pedro Pascal, Timothy Olyphant, Amy Sedaris, John Leguizamo
WRITER & DIRECTOR:
John Favreau
PREMIERE DATE:
October 30, 2020
SYNOPSIS:
Din Djarin’s search for the Jedi bring him to Tatooine. There, he encounters a familiar set of armor.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

The first minute or two of this episode is fantastic. Like the opening moments of Chapter 1, it’s a tremendous tone-setter.  And our hero once again gets an excellent entrance. I particularly enjoyed the graffiti on the walls. Have we ever seen graffiti in the Star Wars universe? I’m inclined to say no. At least as far as the movies are concerned.

Whenever we see the Din Djiarin in some kind of hand-to-hand combat situation, it always feels so hard-hitting. That’s a credit not just to the fight choreographers and the performers, but the sound team as well.

The Mandalorian is great at disguising established actors. I’d never have guessed in a million years that was John Leguizamo. Ditto for Horatio Sanz last season.

Mos Pelgo is a nice addition to Tatooine. It feels like one of those sparsely populated, desolate old west towns, which is a nice way to distinguish it from Mos Eisley and Mos Espa.

Upon seeing Timothy Olyphant’s character, Cobb Vanth, Mrs. Primary Ignition asked me, “Is he a new character, or have we seen him before?” My answer was that he’s new, but apparently that’s not the case. He makes some appearances in Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars: Aftermath novels, which are set closer to the events of Return of the Jedi. I must admit, I’ve read two of those books and didn’t remember him…

Vanth looks like a kid in a Halloween costume in Boba Fett’s armor. But of course, that’s the idea.

So the big monster shows up on screen, and Mrs. Primary Ignition asks me what it is. My answer: “If I had to guess, I’d say it’s a krayt dragon.” Low and behold, moments later they call it a krayt dragon. Now there’s something I did remember from a Star Wars book.

Part of me was disappointed that we started season two out on Tatooine. The Mandalorian has been so good at adding to the mythology of Star Wars, I’d have appreciated them either going somewhere new, or returning to one of the new locations from season one. On the other hand, the show has also been good about breaking new ground with classic Star Wars stuff…

Having the sand people use sign language was a stroke of genius. And yet it didn’t contradict anything from the movies. We’d never seen the Tuskens communicate directly with humans. Not in the movies, at least. But the Tusken language can be learned, as Din illustrates.

The music we hear when the Tuskens arrive in Mos Pelgo, and during their subsequent journey to the abandoned Sarlacc Pit is amazing. Pitch perfect work by Ludwig Göransson.

Boba Fett must have had a faulty jet pack. First an errant strike from Han Solo sends Fett into a Sarlacc Pit. Then a strategically placed strike from Din sends Cobb Vanth flying.

Question: When the dragon swallows Din, why doesn’t he fall victim to the stomach acid, or whatever it was that the monster puked up on to the Tuskens? Some of it appears to be on his armor. Is that what protected him?

So at the end of the episode we see a mysterious figure that is undoubtedly Fett. I give the show credit for not immediately bringing a classic character back in his classic outfit.

It’s always good to come out of an episode with questions that need to be answered. We certainly have no shortage of those here. Based on the few seconds we’ve seen of Fett, it looks like the last five years or so have been rough for him. But how does he have eyes on Din Djarin? Is he masquerading as a Tusken Raider? Is that why he has the gaffi stick? And what will Din think of Fett when they inevitably meet? As Fett isn’t a true Mandalorian, you’ve got to believe there won’t be good feelings there…

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Astonishing Art

Astonishing Art: Karen Hallion’s He/She Series

By Rob Siebert
Has great taste in art. Just sayin’.

Every year during C2E2, Mrs. Primary Ignition and I make sure to drop by Karen Hallion’s table over in Artist’s Alley. The wife is a big fan of hers, so naturally I became one too.

As far as that tradition is concerned, this was a pretty special year for us. We purchased a pair of very special prints that I’m happy to say are currently hanging in our living room.

The above two selections are from Hallion’s “She Series” and “He Series” respectively. The premise is fairly simple: Hallion draws profile shots of inspiring people, role models, etc. Next to them she places a verb associated with that individual. “Lead” next to Harriet Tubman, “Care” next to Fred Rogers, etc.

If I’m not mistaken, this concept started with Hallion using powerful female fictional characters, such as Disney princesses and Marvel superheroes. For my money, the concept is much more powerful with real-life heroes and role models.

As a new father, it warms my heart to see these every day. Because naturally, one day my daughter will ask who these people are. And we’ll be able to tell her about some of the best minds, hearts, and souls to ever grace humanity.

For more from Karen Hallion, check out her web site or her Etsy shop. She can also be found on Instagram.

Hallion also has a children’s book coming out called Never, Never Quit, which was funded via Kickstarter. It can be pre-ordered here.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Posted in Books, Mental Health

Mental Health Monday: Maybe Tomorrow by Charlotte Agell and Ana Ramírez González

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

When it comes to crying over movies, books, TV shows, etc, I’m a tough nut to crack. Until a few days ago, only one book had the distinction of making me tear up: The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. I’m sure it was read to me as a kid. But as an adult? I didn’t stand a chance…

But now, The Giving Tree has a companion this regard. Last week, Mrs. Primary Ignition showed me Maybe Tomorrow, written by Charlotte Agell and illustrated by Ana Ramirez Gonzalez.

It sounds odd to call this a “non-spoiler” write-up, as we’re talking about a kids picture book. But I want to be as vague as I can be, as it’s really worth going out and reading the book yourself.

Written for readers four to eight years old, is about a hippo and an alligator. (You know, that old trope…) Norris, the alligator, is perpetually happy. So happy that he’s always accompanied by a cloud of butterflies.

Elba, on the other hand, is very sad. She’s tethered to a big black block, which stays with her all the time. Norris makes it his mission to cheer Elba up. But it’s not as simple as it seems.

We later learn that the block represents a specific kind of grief that Elba is literally carrying around with her. But one of the reasons I adore this block metaphor so much is that it can represent virtually anything. When I saw it, it instantly came to represent anxiety, depression, and Attention Deficit Disorder. But whatever you might be living with, even if it’s not a mental illness, it’s so easy to project yourself into this story and relate to this little pink hippo.

One way or another, we all have our own “big black blocks” to drag around.

Every bit as important as the block, is how the Norris character reacts to its everlasting presence. He becomes a model for how to be a friend to someone in Elba’s situation. He does all the right things.

Maybe Tomorrow? also doesn’t have a cut and dry “happily ever after” ending. It’s not a sad ending by any means. I actually found it pretty uplifting. But the book doesn’t shy away from reality, albeit through its unique and colorful veil.

This book is meant to teach children about bad feelings, and how to help someone else when they have bad feelings. But the sad truth is, there are a lot of grown adults in this world who could learn from Norris the dancing alligator and his butterfly buddies.

That might be the best possible praise I can give to this, or any children’s book. It’s lesson is so elementary that even adults, mired in everyday callousness and cynicism, can learn from it too.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

 

Posted in Toys

Toy Chest Theater: Link and the Eyes

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

When I first saw this image a couple of months ago, I didn’t get it.

Obviously, it’s an amazing pic from Samia, a.k.a. @everydaylink. The placement of Link, the creepy and foreboding eyes, the murky green setting. It’s fantastic.

I’ve only played on Zelda game, A Link to the Past. But it had been so long, I didn’t understand the significance of the eyes. I naturally assumed it was a level in one of the games. But I wasn’t sure…

Then, Mrs. Primary Ignition got me a Super Nintendo Classic Edition for Christmas. One of the games on it is A Link to the Past. Wouldn’t you know it, eventually I would up eyeing down those same…er….eyes. Actually fighting the eye monster directed me toward an easy-to-miss, but still awesome detail in the image: The ground. When you give it an initial scan, it’s easy to dismiss it as dirt or something. But if you look under Link’s feet, it’s actually flooring. That attention to detail is one of the things that separates this image from the pack.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Posted in Television, Voice Acting

Why Brooklyn Nine-Nine Has TV’s Funniest Cast

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

As the sixth season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine continues to air on NBC, I was recently fortunate enough to be invited by Fandom to record for a video called, “Why Brooklyn Nine-Nine Has TV’s Funniest Cast.” I’d love for you to click the link and check it out.

Oddly enough, when I recorded the copy I hadn’t seen the show yet. But Mrs. Primary Ignition and I have recently jumped in, and are really enjoying it. I’ve you’ve never seen it, and are into shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation, then it’s definitely worth a shot.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Posted in Toys

Toy Chest Theater: Bird Box Starring TMNT

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I’ve got a soft spot for Bird Box, for obvious reasons. Mrs. Primary Ignition and I finally got to watch it the other night, and really enjoyed it.

So naturally, I love this image from Eric, a.k.a. @heatfour on Instagram.

In Bird Box, Sandra Bullock’s character has to guide to children through the wilderness as a ghostly monster pursues them. To further complicate matters, all three have to be blindfolded. It’s a very TMNT-ish look, so this shot is a natural play-off of the movie. Plus, using the figures based on the 1990 film always gets you extra points with me.

Intended or not, this image also has a certain intrigue to it in terms of the kids. How the heck did we get young mutant turtles? Are they supposed to be Raph’s kids? If so, how did that process work?

This image needs a backstory. Just sayin’.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.