Coming soon…to a Happy Meal near you!

It’s often said that Necessity is the mother of Invention.  If that’s true, then Annoyance must be Invention’s Great-Aunt Clara.

I recently discovered this latest branch of Invention’s family tree on a lengthy road trip  with my brother and my 5 year old son.  I’ll give you a little background info, and then I’ll throw my new idea out there for your thoughts.

If you’ve ever travelled with children for a distance further than your mailbox, you understand that every set of The Golden Arches is a beacon that calls to everyone too young to pay for their own meals.  On this particular trip, I decided that since I was asking my son to sit still for 11 hours in the car ( a time frame that he chooses to measure in seconds instead of hours–39,600 seconds to be exact), I thought that the least I could do for the kid is treat him to a Happy Meal.  So 26,346 seconds into our trip, we pulled into McDonalds to grab some dinner.  We dutifully placed our order for one grown-up meal and one McNugget Happy Meal.  In no time at all, we had food in hand and were headed back to the car.  I’m gonna give you three guesses as to my son’s first request.  I’ll help you by letting you know that the request didn’t involve nuggets, apples (the sensible non-fry alternative), or beverage.  So go ahead….guess.

Yep, you guessed it.  The Toy!!

This particular toy is the source of my discontent.  Normally the Happy Meal toy is a promotional object for the latest Disney movie or the current children’s cartoon dujour.  But not today.  Today’s choice was a music CD.  Kidz Bop, to be specific.  I’m not even going to get into the whole “why do they have to spell ‘kids’ with a ‘z’?!?” conversation.  Another day, another blog.  Anyway…where were we?  Oh yeah….Kidz Bop.

For those uninitiated among you, the Kidz Bop series of CD’s takes songs that are currently popular among the 15-25 demographic, then hijacks them and has them sung by a choir of children that sound so sugary sweet that they make the kids who used to sing with Barney look like the cast from The Sopranos.  

On the whole, I have no problem with children singing. It’s usually pretty fun.  I do, however, have a problem with 8 year olds belting out “My Humps” by the Black Eyed Peas.  Some songs, no matter how catchy, just should not be covered by children.  Most of the songs that fall into that category can actually be found IN the Kidz Bop collection.  Hence, my annoyance.  This brings me to my latest brainstorming success.

Since we still live in a capitalist society (at least we did when I started writing this), I figured I could cash in on the trend with a slight tweak to the formula.  This is where I’ll need some feedback.  My idea?  

Kidz Flix!!  (Complete with funky misspellings!) 

I’m going to take some of America’s most successful films and remake them, using children as the main characters.  Who says “Goodfellas” can’t be kid friendly?  With a few dialogue alterations and Nerf baseball bat substitutions, that movie could be a perfect selection for Family Movie Night!   “Pulp Fiction” with it’s witty banter could easily  be shown as an after-school special.  “Fight Club” becomes a great lesson about dealing with bullies AND psychosis. It’s a can’t miss venture!!

All it takes it placing child actors in the roles and some simple script re-writes, and POW!…you’ve got KIDZ FLIX!  And don’t worry parents, the soundtracks will be available as well, due to a joint venture with your beloved Kidz Bop Music.  

So one day, when your child gets a Happy Meal and it comes with a DVD copy of “Raging Bull: Kidz Flix Edition”, don’t thank me.  

Thank Great Aunt Clara.

Music, Mice, and Megalomania

chuck_e_cheese4OK, I’ll admit it.  I’m getting older.  In some circles I am even considered an actual “grown up”.  However, never let it be said that I have forgotten how to PAR-TAY!!

To quote the great Stanley Ipkiss from “The Mask“:

“P.A.R.T. Why?  Because I…..GOTTA!”

So, given my  youthfully impulsive propensity to gravitate towards any opportunity for outward expression of my inward merriment, last night I found myself at one of Greenville’s hottest party locations.

 As usual, I rolled up fashionably late–shortly after work.  As walked up to the door, I could already hear the music thumpin’ inside.  Upon entering, I could see that the flashing lights were giving the entire building an energy all its own.  Everywhere I looked I saw people having the time of their lives.  Laughter, singing, and the occasional squeal of delight were the soundtrack for the evening.  Tonight was gonna be off the hook. (yeah, that’s really a phrase)  I patiently waited in line as I inched closer to the velvet rope that separated me from my fellow partiers.  A familiar nod from the bouncer, the hand stamp giving me full access, and finally the lifting of the rope…and I was in.  Already parched from the long day at work, I made my way to order a drink.  It was at that point that I knew this was my lucky day, because that’s when my wife handed me a small slip of paper and said, “I’ve got a coupon here that will get the kids 50 free tokens with our order!”   Man, you gotta love Chuck E. Cheese!  Fo shizzle!

So yeah, this particular party was in celebration of my son’s 5th birthday.  And yes, we had some killer coupons for Chuck E. Cheese.  But in my defense, there WAS loud music and there WERE flashing lights.  Oh yeah, and a 6 foot tall animatronic, singing rat.  I’m also being completely honest about the laughter, singing, and squeals.  Of course they were all generated by people still too young to fully appreciate the irony found in any episode of Hannah Montana.  But I digress.

The aforementioned rat is the cause of my consternation.  Please understand, I have no problem with rodents functioning as entertainers.  Obviously, Mickey Mouse sets the standard, but I also give props to Jerry, DangerMouse, and Stuart Little for their work in the industry.  While Chuck E. Cheese is no Mickey, I don’t hold that up against him.  That would be like holding Barry Manilow at fault for not being Elvis.  It’s just not a fair comparison.  Chuck gives it his robotic all.  It’s just that I question his song choices.

Given that the average audience member at Chuck E. Cheese’s is probably still trying to master his or her ABC’s, I would have expected songs like “The Wheels on the Bus” or “Itsy Bitsy Spider”.  However, as I was walking back from getting refills on our drinks, I heard this gigantic cheeser singing, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears.  Really?  Everybody wants To Rule the World?  Of all songs in the English language, THIS was considered the best choice for today’s preschool listener?  This song is basically about the bloodthirsty drive for power and the wars that come as a result.  I have to wonder whether Tears for Fears ever thought their music would be used for background noise as children hyperventilate from excitement and parents struggle to maintain their sanity and dignity.  

In a music industry that is rife with legally binding contracts and copy write laws, it’s logical to think that there was a royalty deal struck for Chuck E. to belt out this particular song.  While I understand a band’s need to survive in these tough economic times, is it fair to dismiss any claims they’ve ever made about wanting to be taken seriously?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  To me, it all hinges on one question.

Did they hold out for lifetime, limitless tokens on every visit to Chuck E. Cheese?  If so, who can blame them?

But I have to wonder what’s next.  Barney’s tribute album to Tupac?  The Wiggles duet album with Eminem?  It’s a slippery slope to be sure.  

Maybe this was The Big Rat’s first move in changing how we think about children’s entertainment.  Maybe he wants to be credited with this accomplishment as a power move to become “The Big Cheese” among showbiz mice.  Maybe his song choice was a cryptic message of sorts.

Maybe I had too much dessert pizza.