Back in the days when I didn’t have kids and therefore remained rather blissfully unaware of most children’s entertainment, I operated under the (pretty reasonable, I think) assumption that most of it was more or less linear, and easy to understand. I mean, it stands to reason, right? If you’re trying to entertain an audience that isn’t going to process anything you don’t explicitly spell out on the screen, you’re going to make sure it’s all spelled out, right?
I was totally wrong, obviously. Do you hear that bitter laughter? That’s the sound of other parents, remembering the days when they were new to the lawless frontier that is kids’ entertainment. I started to get my first inkling of just how weird this stuff can get when I took in my first accidental late-night viewing of the gibbering horror that is PBS’ Boohbah, which is still the scariest thing I’ve ever seen on late-night TV. These days, I am, of course, much more well acquainted with the kiddie continuum, and understand that you can go from the bone-simple (like Maisy) to the utterly surreal (The Wonder Pets!, which, I confess, I totally love) in the space of 15 minutes. I think it’s good for the kids, really — I mean, life doesn’t make sense, and the sooner they figure that out, the sooner they can get jobs and move out of my house.
Anyway. All this talk of linear and non-linear, obvious and esoteric, leads me to the insane wonder of Gustafer Yellowgold’s Mellow Fever, the third in Morgan Taylor’s Gustafer Yellowgold series. Prior to opening this handsome DVD/CD package, I’d never heard of nor experienced Mr. Yellowgold, but now that I have, there’s no going back; my daughter and I will look forward to these things as long as Taylor keeps putting them out.
The idea behind the character is a little difficult to explain, but I’ll use some of this handy press kit text to try and get you up to speed. Read on:
Groovy Gustafer Yellowgold is a little, yellow, cond-headed fellow, who came to Earth from the Sun and has an interesting magnetism for making friends with some of Earth’s odder creatures. His best friend is Forrest Applecrumbie, the smartly dressed pterodactyl, with whom he bulit a small cottage-style home on the edge of an uncharted wooded area in Minnesota. Gustafer has a pet eel named Slim (short for Slimothy) and a dragon named Asparagus who lives in his fireplace. For recreation, he enjoys punching cheese and jumping on cake.
That actually makes this stuff sound less nutty than it is. And really, if you demand some sort of sensible narrative in the music or television your children ingest, then Gustafer Yellowgold is most certainly not for you. But if you can let go of all that and just float downstream, you’ll quickly become entranced with Mellow Fever; Taylor’s songs are completely specific to the “plot” of the DVD, but they’re also very beautiful, built from gentle acoustic arrangements and lovely, sunny harmonies. Here’s a glimpse of the first track, “Getting in a Treetop”:
You get the idea. The animation is as rudimentary as anything you could put together with a few days of Flash training, but the soft colors and clear lines will be appealing to youngsters, even if it’s hard to understand what exactly is happening sometimes. (At one point, a creature that looks like a mole is crying and staring at what appears to be a Gustafter Yellowgold voodoo doll. Whatever.) The New York Times has described this series as “Dr. Seuss meets Yellow Submarine,” and that’s about as close to the spirit of the music and animation as anything I could come up with on my own, so I’ll just repeat it here. If your kids, like my daughter, have fallen in love with Danielle Sansone‘s Two Flowers, this will be right up their alley (not coincidentally, Sansone’s brother Patrick appears here, along with fellow Wilco member John Stirratt). Visit Gustafer at his official site, then check out samples from Mellow Fever at the purchase link above.