Andy’s Airplanes: Interview with John Pierre Francia

Posted on February 8, 2008 at 8:30 am

I spoke to producer/creater John Pierre Francia, who was inspired by his experience as a flight instructor to create a new DVD series about a boy who flies a different airplane to a new place every week, learning about geography, history, science and culture, and making new friends.

Andy’s Airplanes is a show and a company centered around a 8-year-old little boy. He is a sweet, loving character with a thirst for adventure and learning and he is kind. Everyone knows and loves Andy because he is interested in the places and people he finds. Most shows have the rude kid. We don’t have the kid with the bad attitude. Though we were told to have more conflict, we believe there’s enough natural conflict, in the logistical challenges he faces. It is enough to see him learn and have adventures. His best friend is Yaygrr, a black-footed ferret. He loves Andy and he’s the pratfall character, the one gets into trouble when he eats too much at the luau. Every time he’s on screen the kids light up.

In Episode 1, Andy flies to the USS Ronald Reagan and learns about aircraft carriers. He participates in a simulated dogfight. He loses pretty quickly to Angel, the admiral’s daughter, and they quickly become friends. Andy is not bothered by being beaten or by a strong girl. In another episode, Andy learns about Polynesian culture and volcanoes and meets Akele and teaches her how to fly. The series has very strong girl characters and there will be recurring roles. Andy might see Angel when he goes to other cities.

Each episiode ends with real kids from the place Andy goes. Our core audience is 2-8 but older kids love the real kids part.

We have a big reading and learning agenda for the series. Kids will learn true aviation principles. We will teach kids about navigation, and that will give them some strong math and science skills. Microsoft is creating a flight simulator plug-in for kids and it will be narrated, so they can fly Andy’s plane.

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Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas

Posted on December 2, 2007 at 5:21 pm

Judy Barber wrote a wonderful comment about this neglected gem:

One of THE sweetest movie or video is Emmet Otter Jugband Christmas, a muppet video. I make everyone watch it at Christmas. And the funnest thing about it is the bloopers with these muppets. You swear you are watching little people in costume. Hard to find the video to buy but soooo worth it. The “sell the hair to buy the watch” to “sell the watch to buy the hair ornament” theme.

The movie is available on Amazon — to find out more, click on the picture above.

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Chariots of Fire

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:17 am

A+
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for adult situations and language
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: Social drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Tense moments of competition
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: 1981
Date Released to DVD: July 9, 2012
Amazon.com ASIN: B00284AVN

In honor of the 2012 Olympics in London, this 1981 classic and winner of the Oscar for Best Picture has been reissued.

This is the true story of two athletes who raced in the 1924 Olympics, one a privileged Jewish student at Cambridge (Ben Cross as Harold Abrahams), the other a missionary from Scotland (Ian Charleson as Eric Liddell). Wonderfully evocative of the time and place, with superb performances, the movie shows us the source of the runners’ determination, for one a need to prove his worth to himself and the society that discriminates against him, for the other, a way of connecting to God.

The movie begins with the memorial service for Harold Abrahams, and then goes back to his first day at Cambridge, just after World War I. A speaker reminds the entering class that they must achieve for themselves and for those who were lost in the war. Abrahams is a bit arrogant, but finds friends and impresses the whole university by being the first to meet a long-term challenge and race all the way around the quad within the twelve strokes of the clock at noon.

Liddell is deeply committed to missionary work. But when his sister asks him to give up running so that he can go with her, he explains that “I believe God made me for a purpose. He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure.”

Abrahams is devastated when he loses to Liddell, saying he won’t race unless he can win. But his girlfriend reminds him that he can’t win unless he races. Both Abrahams and Liddell make the Olympic team. There is a crisis when Liddell’s event is scheduled for a Sunday, because he will not run on the Sabbath. But Lord Lindsay (Nigel Havers) graciously allows Liddell his place in a different event, “just for the pleasure of seeing you run,” and both Liddell and Abrahams win.

Both of the athletes must make difficult choices with a great deal of opposition. One uses a coach (who isn’t even English), in defiance of tradition and expectations. The other resists the urging of his sister, the person he loves most, who wants him to quit racing and defies the Prince of Wales, who wants him to race on the Sabbath.

One of the themes of the movie is the problems that the Jewish athlete has dealing with the prejudice of society. The other athlete has to confront the conflict between the dictates of his religion and the requirements of the sport (including the entreaties of the heir to the throne) when he is asked to compete on the Sabbath.

Families who watch this movie should talk about these questions: Why was running so important to these men? Was it different for different athletes? Why does Harold Abrahams think of quitting when he loses to Liddell? Have you ever felt that way? What did you do? Why doesn’t Eric’s sister want him to race? Why does he race despite her objections? Why don’t the teachers at Harold Abraham’s school think it is appropriate to have a coach? Would anyone think that today?

This movie deservedly won the Oscars for best picture, screenplay, costume design, and music.

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy a two-part made for television miniseries called “The First Olympics — Athens 1896,” about the American team entering the first modern Olympics in 1896. It features Louis Jourdan (of “Gigi”), David Caruso (of the original cast of television’s “NYPD Blue”) and David Ogden Stiers (of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”). While it does not have the resonance and meaning (or the production values) of “Chariots of Fire,” it is heartwarming, funny, exciting, and a lovely period piece. Not currently available on video, it usually shows up on television around the time of Olympic competitions. An extremely silly movie about the first modern Olympics is “It Happened in Athens,” with Jayne Mansfield and real-life Olympic athlete Bob Mathias.

“Miracle on Ice,” another made for television movie, is the true story of the 1980 U.S. hockey team, which astonished the world at the Olympics in Lake Placid. Yet another Olympic made for television movie, “The Golden Moment,” is the story of a romance between a Soviet gymnast and an American athlete. Its primary charm is the fact that it takes place at an Olympics in which, in real life, the U.S. never competed — that was the year the U.S. protested the Soviet invasion of Afganistan by boycotting the Moscow Olympics.

See also “Cool Runnings” about the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team, “The Bob Mathias Story,” with the real-life decathalon champion playing himself, “The Jesse Owens Story,” with Dorian Harewood as the legendary athlete, and “Babe” with Susan Clark as Babe Deidrickson Zaharias.

On the silly side, try “Animalympics,” an animated spoof of the Olympics with some comical moments, and the very funny “Million Dollar Legs,” with W.C. Fields as the President of Klopstockia, a country entering the Olympics.

And of course Bud Greenspan’s documentaries about the Olympics are always worth watching, for the stories and the personalities as much as for the athletic achievements.

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Holiday

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:17 am

After a whirlwind romance at a ski resort, Johnny Case (Cary Grant) is on his way to meet his new fiancée, Julia Seton (Doris Nolan). Overwhelmed by the mansion at the address she gave him, he assumes she must be on the staff, and goes to the back door to ask about her. But she is the daughter of the wealthy and distinguished family that occupies the house. He is surprised and amused, and enjoys meeting Julia’s sister Linda (Katherine Hepburn) and brother Ned (Lew Ayres). They promise to help him win over their father, who is likely to object to the engagement, because Johnny is not from an upper-class wealthy family.

Johnny is a poor boy who has worked hard and done very well. Julia likes him because she sees a similarity to her grandfather, who made a fortune. She wants him to do the same, and tells him, “There’s nothing more exciting than making money.” But Johnny, who has just taken the first vacation of his life, only wants to make enough so that he can take a “holiday,” to “find out why I’ve been working.” As the movie begins, he is about to achieve that goal.

Linda thinks this is a great idea. She is something of an outsider in the family, forsaking the huge formal rooms of the mansion for one cozy place upstairs, which she calls “the only home I’ve got.” She tries to persuade Julia and their father that Johnny is right. Even though he completes the deal that gives him enough for his holiday, Johnny gives in and promises Julia to try it her way, and go to work for her father for a while. As her father presents them with a honeymoon itinerary and explains he is arranging for a house and servants for them, Johnny balks. He knows that if he accepts all of this, he will never be able to walk away from it. Julia breaks the engagement, and Linda joins Johnny on his holiday.

Kids should talk about why it was so important to Linda that she be allowed to give the engagement party. Why did Johnny change his mind about trying it Julia’s way? If you were going to take a holiday, what would you do? Remember, this is more than a vacation, it is more like a journey of discovery. Where would you go? What would you hope to find? How do you think people decide what jobs they want to have? Ask your parents what they thought about in choosing their jobs, and whether they ever took (or wanted to take) a “holiday.” What do you think Johhny will do at the end of his holiday? If Linda thought making money was exciting, why didn’t she want to do it herself?

Many kids will identify with the feeling of wanting to take a holiday, to step back from daily life and study the larger picture. The idea that other things are more important than making money and living according to traditional standards of success may also have some appeal. This is a good opportunity to talk with them about what success really means, and about finding the definition within yourself instead of putting too much weight on the definitions of others. There is nothing inherently wrong with making a fortune, of course, just as there is nothing inherently wrThis movie has two exceptionally appealing characters in Johnny’s friends the Potters, played by Jean Dixon and Edward Everett Horton. Their kindness and wisdom contrasts with the superficial values of the Seton family.

Cary Grant began in show business as an acrobat, and you can see him show off some of that prowess in this movie. The same stars, director, author and scriptwriter worked on another classic, “The Philadelphia Story.”

 

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