Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Gods of Mars - Release through The Premium Classic Tales Podcast

This week marks the release of the The Classic Tales Premium Podcast.  This means we get THREE episodes a week, when you count the regular Classic Tales Podcast. BJ Harrison will be releasing two episodes each week of the Premium Podcast as well as the Friday edition of the Classic Tales Podcast we all love and look forward to each week.

BJ was really intimidated about the prospect of committing to produce three podcasts a week, but it looks like it will work out just fine.  Just make sure to subscribe and tell all your friends to do so too!

How is he managing to produce three podcasts a week, you ask?  He’s figured out a way to "punch record" which basically erases the editing process, so he can get a great recording by using a little more care.  Lucky us!

The first work BJ is producing for the Classic Tales Premium Podcast is The Gods of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  This is the second installment of Burroughs’ famous Barsoom series.  Because of this series, Burroughs is considered one of the first masters of the Science Fiction genre.

The story opens on the other side of the rivers Iss, in the Valley Dor, where our gallant protagonist John Carter finds himself after a decade of being away from Mars (or Barsoom, as the Martians call it).  This is commonly known to be the entrance to the land of heaven, as the Grey Havens of Tolkien’s imagination.  But in the Gods of Mars, we realize that this is an entire fabrication.  The river Iss leads to a horrible, horrible place.  John Carter’s task, with the help of his old friend Tars Tarkas, is to escape the terrors of the Valley and get back to his bride, the Princess of Helium and their son. The snag is, if he returns to the "land of the living", he is sure to be killed as a blasphemer. 

Image copyrighted by Disney
One of the reasons BJ chose to produce the Barsoom series was his being invited by Disney to participate in the production of John Carter.  BJ had to decline, as he was already working on the James Franco film 127Hours.  Fun fact: when BJ is not producing fantastic audio programs, he is building movie, television and all kinds of other scenery sets.  He was the Lead Sculptor for 127 Hours.

BJ enjoys voicing characters for Science Fiction because there are no bounds, and he can get really imaginative and inventive.  A perfect example is his approach to voicing Tars Tarkas, where he tried to imagine what it would be like to speak with tusks coming out of both sides of his mouth, no picnic, he tells me!

As to what else he has in store for us who subscribe to the Premium Podcast?  Charles Dickens and David Copperfield!  This is BJ’s favorite book, and he tries to read/listen to it every year. He tells me he saved it up for the time when his skills were sharper, and he could do justice to the text.  Dickens referred to it as his "favorite child".  If you haven’t, check out the 1939 film with WC Fields and Basil Rathbone.  It is really sweet. Incidentally, BJ's eldest child is named after Basil Rathbone. 

The Bronte classic Wuthering Heights will follow David Copperfield. Between the three books, the running time is an estimated 67 hours. 

If you don’t want to subscribe to The Classic Tales Premium Podcast (why wouldn't you?!), you can also get each of the titles separately if you like. Each will be released as its own product.  How great is that?!

So join us today for The Gods of Mars!  And if you haven't already, check out his production of  A Princess of Mars!  If you still need more Burroughs in your life, then pick up Tarzan of the Apes too.

And look for the second part of Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll on the Classic Tales Podcast!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Through the Looking Glass – Free release through The Classic Tales Podcast

This week, we start on the sequel to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.  Published in 1781, many critics thought Through the Looking Glass was more mathematical and cerebral than Wonderland.  Thankfully, the story had passed down to us through the generations, so we can make our own judgments on the playfulness and darkness in the story.

The story opens six months after Alice’s first adventure, on a cold and snowy November day.  Alice is playing with Dinah’s kittens and pondering, like only she can, on what the other side of her mirror might be like.  She gets up on the mantelpiece and finds that she can easily step through the mirror and find out.  On the other parlor, she reads, with the aid of the mirror, a poem called "The Jabberwocky."  As you listen to BJ read this poem, enjoy the level of darkness he puts into his narration of the poem.  Did you know that his favorite version of this is from a Muppets episode?  He’s got a good point!

Eventually, Alice makes it into the garden which is now full of sunshine.  After meeting the Red Queen, Alice sets on a quest to become a queen herself.  For you see, just as with Alice in Wonderland where there was a deck of cards, in this story we are on a chess board.  Alice is a pawn on the White Queen’s army and has to move to the other end of the board to win her crown.

Along the way, we meet the disturbing, yet wonderful Twiddledee and Twiddledum, who tell us the story of “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” one of my favorite poems in the book.

BJ tells me that the Alice in Wonderland was one of his favorite Disney movies, mostly because of the actors.  I mean, can there be a better Mad Hatter than Ed Wynn?  By the way, did anyone notice that King Candy in Wreck It, Ralph is a total homage to Wynn's Hatter?  When as a kid,  BJ figured out that that both the Walrus and the Carpenter were voiced by the same person and was enchanted by the idea.  I see the seeds of his later career sprouting, don’t you?

It is rather fascinating how these stories have permeated pop culture.  In Warehouse 13, the Syfy Channel series, they mention that Alice was a real person, and that Carroll was simply writing of her descent into madness in these stories.  As BJ was reading of Alice's trouble in navigating to the garden from the house, he got a sense of what they were going for.  There is a definite dark twist that has been explored by many movies and video games. 

Join BJ Harrison this week for the first of a five part series of Through the Looking Glass, and don’t forget to check out his performance of Alice in Wonderland.

And tell us, what’s your favorite part of the story?  Are you discovering it for the first time through The Classic Tales?  Do you have a favorite movie version or pop culture reference?