Search This Blog

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Curious George

There's one thing that I want to talk about before I go ahead with this edition of the Saturday Smorgasbord.

Recently, the city of Calgary and the surrounding towns around it have been hit hard by excessive rainy weather, and as a result of this, a lot of the area is now flooded. At least reports, four people were considered dead, and thousands of people are now displaced from their homes and businesses. The scenes coming out of Calgary are devastating, and I can't even imagine what they're going through right now. So, I want to express my concern to the entire area affected by the floods, and am sending out my thoughts and prayers to the people of Southern Alberta.

And, now, onto this week's blog entry.

Since this is the fourth Saturday in the month of June, we're going to be taking a look at the world of literature. And, I'm hoping that many of you reading today's entry will have just as many fond memories of this book series as I do.

But before I go ahead with the blog, I want to tell you a little bit of a personal story.

When I was a kid, I think that I must have caused my parents and my siblings a lot of frustration and worry, as I was hardly considered to be the type of kid who would sit still in one place for very long. I was a very curious and inquisitive child, and it wasn't uncommon for me to make my way through every room of the house in a time span of just ten minutes.

Of course, just because I did make my way through the house faster than the speed of light didn't mean that I always did the most responsible things. Sure, I thought that I was helping out, but in actuality I ended up causing more trouble and damage than I really should have.

I remember one instance in which I found a snow globe in my eldest sister's bedroom, and I was completely mesmerized by snow globes and had to shake it constantly whenever I had the chance (to this day, I still love snow globes). Unfortunately, I ended up dropping the snow globe over the banister of the staircase and it went ka-blammo all over the hallway, sending shards of glass and little bits of fake snow all over the floor. Needless to say, my sister was not impressed, and my dad was incredibly angry!

But that was really the only thing I destroyed of hers. The other sister...well...I reckon I still probably owe her something like $500 for some of the things I ended up destroying with my curiosity. Let's see...I buried her Barbie dolls, I scribbled over a heart-shaped pillow, I cut up some of her Garfield books, and I destroyed her entire vanity filled with costly cosmetics and other hygiene products.

(Although, to be fair, that last one was a freak accident!)

And, as far as my parents and late grandparents go, my constant investigating of all things that did not belong to me was so apparent, it's a wonder that I didn't cause them to have a stress related heart attack. My grandparents cringed every time I went to their cabinet filled with knick-knacks and breakable collectables because I thought that they were awesome looking toys. My mom probably got so mad at me because it wasn't uncommon for me to rummage through the refrigerator and tear apart an entire head of lettuce to snack on (leaving a trail of lettuce leaves all over the floor from the kitchen to my toy box in the living room). And, I can't even begin to tell you how many times my dad screamed at me to stay away from his 1948 model acoustic guitar!

(Honestly, looking back at how I gravitated towards that guitar, it's a miracle that my father still owns it today, still in remarkable condition!)

But in many ways, although my curiosity almost always got me into trouble as a little boy, I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything. Always being one to be fascinated by new discoveries and wanting to know more about the world, and getting my hands dirty...well, that made me grow into the person I am now. And, it's only recently that I'm beginning to pursue my desire to be curious about everything and everything around me. I've always been one who loved to learn about new things, and I'm finding that I'm becoming more versatile and am capable of doing more than I thought I could because of my natural curiosity. After all, I wouldn't be moving towards a new job opportunity in electronics had I not been willing to learn how to use a cash register.

(Oh, yeah...that's right. I'm moving to my third department in a year. That's kinda exciting, right?)

So, is it any wonder that when I was a kid, I was drawn to a book series that also featured a main character that was just as curious as I was. He kept going to various places all over the city, and he was constantly getting into mischief. Mind you, he was never malicious in his intentions. He just wanted to help out, or have some fun. It wasn't his fault that he accidentally overdosed on ether, or threw pizza dough at random people, or sailed across the sky carrying ten thousand balloons. He was just going with the flow.

Although, I imagine the man in the yellow hat turned bright red with embarrassment over some of the trouble that his beloved friend got himself into.

But, such was the life of Curious George!

And, yes, we're going to be talking about that cute little monkey, Curious George in this week's edition of the Pop Culture Addict's Guide to Life!

From an early age, I was obsessed with everything that had to do with Curious George. Years ago, CBC used to air the old Telefilm cartoons that were made during the 1980s, and I would watch that show religiously alongside Mr. Dressup and Canadian Sesame Street. I would also make a trip to both my school library as well as my city's public library, checking out every Curious George book I could get my hands on. In fact, I believe that when my elementary school's library would have their annual book purging event where they sold the worn out, used books to the students at dirt cheap prices, I picked up a couple of coverless Curious George books to read. I didn't care...cover or not, Curious George stories were absolutely fantastic, and I simply had to read every single one.

Now, Curious George was born well over seven decades ago, the creation of husband and wife team Hans Augusto (H.A.) and Margret Rey. In 1940, the combat of World War II was well underway, and thousands of people fled the countries in Europe that were deep in the conflict. In June of that year, Margret and H.A. Rey fled Paris, France on self-made bicycles with very little possessions in their name, in an attempt to get out of town before the Nazis moved in (both Reys were Jewish).

One of those possessions was the manuscript for “Curious George”!

It wasn't the first time that the Rey's had written a story starring the cheeky little monkey. A year prior to their leaving France, they had published a story entitled “Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys”, which many believe to be the very first appearance of Curious George...even though he was called “Fifi” at the time.

TRIVIA: Initially in the United Kingdom, when Curious George was first printed there, George's name was changed to “Zozo”, to avoid any negative comparisons. You see, at the time that Curious George was written, the UK was still under the rule of King George VI, and I don't think it would have been very classy to compare the King of England to a curious little monkey. It's only my assumption that the name was changed back to George following the real life passing of King George VI in 1952.

When Curious George first began being printed, initially only H.A. Rey was given full credit on the cover. The reason being that the children's book market was already saturated by female authors, and the Reys felt that having a male name attached to the book would make it stand out from the rest. Eventually, Margret's name was also added to the cover, with Margret being credited for the writing while the pictures were credited to H.A.

The first book in the series, “Curious George” was released in 1941, and this is the book that many of the book series most iconic images came from. The story begins as we see George living in an African jungle. He's a happy and carefree monkey whose only fault is that he is very, very curious. And, in this book, that curiosity lead to his capture by a man dressed entirely in yellow.

Yes, the man in the yellow hat was also in Africa...but not to snap pictures. Instead, he was there to take home a little brown monkey.

Don't worry though. Lest you think that the man in the yellow hat is armed with a big yellow gun, think again. This man would never harm a fly, let alone a monkey.

The man takes off his yellow hat and leaves it on the ground as he hides behind a tree, hoping that the monkey would take the bait. Not only does George comply, but he ends up having a lot of fun with the hat...well...that is until the man in the yellow hat captures him.

Turns out that the man in the yellow hat wants to take George to an American zoo. But the journey to get there isn't exactly the smoothest ride. Let's see...he...

  • falls out of a boat into the water while trying to fly like a seagull
  • accidentally calls the fire department after seeing the man in the yellow hat use the telephone
  • gets thrown in jail by the fire department for calling them under false pretenses
  • breaks out of jail
  • grabs a whole bundle of balloons and ends up sailing across the skyline of the big city!

That last image is probably one of the most iconic ones in the whole series. Wouldn't you agree?

So, after all that, you might think that the man in the yellow hat is seriously reconsidering everything that he had to go through in order to bring George to America. But surprisingly, he is in great spirits, and he brings George to his new home at the zoo – after reimbursing the balloon vendor, that is.

But George doesn't exactly stay in the zoo for long, as in the second book, “Curious George Takes a Job”, he escapes the zoo and causes even more trouble than ever before! He eats an entire pot of spaghetti in a restaurant, he paints a jungle mural inside of a strangers living room, and in the escape attempt, he falls and breaks his leg. Then at the hospital, he accidentally opens up a bottle of ether, and well...

Needless to say, George's curiosity almost killed him off! Thankfully, the doctors and nurses revive him in time, and the man in the yellow hat decides to adopt him and bring him home. Even better, George's story was made into a film script and the second book ends with George watching his life story unfold on the silver screen!

The original Curious George series would continue for five more books, ending its original run in 1966. Eleven years later on August 26, 1977, H.A. Rey passed away at the age of 78. Margret would continue to be a huge part of the Curious George franchise, editing the series of children's books that were based on the 1980s cartoon series.

Here...I've posted links to four of the telefilms below. Maybe the stories will jog your memory.

Oh, that George!

Margret Rey would continue working on various Curious George projects until her death on December 21, 1996 at the age of 90. But even though the Reys are both deceased, Curious George continues to make a huge impact on the newest generations. A brand new animated series began airing on PBS in 2006, and that same year, a feature film which starred Will Ferrell as the man with the yellow hat was released, introducing children to the wonderful, curious world of Curious George.

And, in Harvard Square, Cambridge Massachusetts, a children's book store sits with the name “The World's Only Curious George Store, Harvard Square”, which features hundreds of pieces of Curious George merchandise which presumably includes books, DVD's, and stuffed animals.

Hmmm...I ought to find a way to get down there. I always wanted a Curious George toy!

And, to conclude this entry on Curious George, I thought I'd post this song from the film soundtrack!  

No comments:

Post a Comment