Werewolves rock in Judge Erich Asperschlager's heart.
Our review of Gustafer Yellowgold's Infinity Sock, published March 24th, 2011, is also available.
"Keep it yellow"
It's a great time to be a parent. Modern science has yet to solve the 3 a.m. diaper change, but it's easier than ever to keep the kiddies entertained during normal waking hours. With the rise of hip kids music like that of They Might Be Giants, Yo Gabba Gabba, and singer-songwriter-artist Morgan Taylor—creator of Gustafer Yellowgold—parents don't have to choose between quality and kid-friendly.
For the uninitiated, Gustafer (pronounced like "Christopher") Yellowgold is an alien who fell from the sun and landed in a Minnesota lake. He lives in a house with his best friend, an eel, and has adventures with his animal friends. Morgan Taylor tells their stories in the form of two-minute pop songs backed by minimally animated pen and colored pencil illustrations. The effect is somewhere between the picture books Gustafer started in and the indie rock shows Taylor regularly performs.
Gustafer's latest DVD/CD combo pack Gustafer Yellowgold's Year In The Day (the fifth in the series) is a surreal 28-minute musical tour of the major holidays. It kicks off with "New Is The New Old," an upbeat ditty about the potential of the new year. "A Shadow" ignores the groundhog's legendary fear of shadows, suggesting they'd rather put on puppet shows instead. Valentine's Day is represented by the love song "Keep It Simple Sweetheart," which is as sweet as "Pancake Smackdown"—about Gustafer flipping flapjacks at his unsuspecting friends—is silly. The lucky "Four Leaved Clover" and colorful "Eggs" celebrate the vitality of Spring, giving way to warmer weather with "Midsummer's Son" (not a typo), a song about Gustafer's solar genealogy, and the bang-tastic "Fireworks!" Gustafer sprouts a furry coat for the fuzzy Halloween-focused "Werewolves Rock," a gleeful (and not at all scary) ode to all things creepy. "Pumpkin Pied" wraps itself in the crispy crust and "cinnamoninnamon" filling of a favorite Thanksgiving dessert. Wrapping up Gustafer's big year is the Holiday-themed "Fa And A La."
Year In The Day comes with a CD for on-the-go Yellowgold fun, but the best way to experience Taylor's charming creation is on DVD. Although his drawings are framed, literally, at smaller than the full screen image, they are bright, colorful, and sharp. Taylor's style translates well to the screen. The illustrations are enhanced by animation. These aren't full-on cartoons, but it's just as well. The laid-back approach fits the indie folk-rock music than slick computer-generated animation could.
The audio is presented in 2.0 stereo. There's no dialogue or special effects, so it all comes down to the songs, which all sound great. Unlike so much kids' music, Taylor isn't afraid to let his lyrics be absurd. The catchy songs aren't stories as much as glimpses into an imagined world, where pancakes are projectiles and eels smooch with sock puppets. Year In The Day's DVD comes with the options to play songs individually, all together, on repeat, or in sing-along mode.
The main program's half hour runtime is dwarfed by the two included bonus features, peeks behind the scenes at Morgan Taylor and how he brings Gustafer Yellowgold to life:
• "Gustafer Guitar Lessons" (18:02): A one-on-one sitdown with Taylor and his guitar. Don't expect your kids to come away knowing how to play these songs. Experienced guitar players may be able to follow along as he switches capo positions and explains E-flat tuning, but everyone else should just sit back and enjoy the live snippets of songs from other collections, including "Bluebird Tree," "Getting In A Treetop," and "Wisconsin Poncho."
• "My Yellowgold Life: Making of Year In The Day" (42:49): This lengthy extra is part video diary, part making-of featurette. Taylor (with cameos by his wife and infant son) gives us a peek into his process, recording music into his computer and mixing it together. A big chunk at the end of the featurette is dedicated to time lapse footage of Taylor drawing, coloring, and scanning a frame from "Pumpkin Pied," with raw audio from the rehearsal and recording of that song.
Gustafer Yellowgold's Year In The Day is a charming collection of loosely holiday-related songs, written and illustrated by a man who is just as charming. Morgan Taylor brings his considerable musical talents to this passion project, playing music that is in no way dumbed down for his target audience. He knows that kids appreciate good tunes just as much as adults, if not more because they haven't been inducted into the cult of cynical cool. Leave it to a golden extraterrestrial and his Minnesotan animal pals to extol the joy of sincere silliness.
Keep it simple, judge: Not guilty!
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