Monday, September 24, 2012

Andy Z's Master Plan: A Grand Scream

Not satisfied with having conquered childrens music, Andy Z has moved on to a new challenge – reviving the genre of recorded stories. I owned TUBBY THE TUBA on a 33" record. Nowadays, that sounds practically prehistoric to kids. Then again, I also listened to Jean Shepherd's final radio years when I was a preteen. But that was just me.

Andy Z's new project, THE GRAND SCREAM OF THINGS, is a one-hour adventure story that requires something special from its audience: their attention. Listening in a car, in segments, imperils your train of thought. But getting a tween's undivided attention for one solid hour? As I said, challenging.

What's the most notoriously fickle demo?

Males ages 8-17.

If you're not a video game manufacturer, you're going to have a tough time reaching them.

This is why video game consoles now play DVDs, stream videos, and connect to the Internet. Everybody wants to reach this demo with their product.

Educators are especially frustrated that this demo seems to hate to read (and to some extent, to learn). Publishers like Scholastic did cartwheels over Harry Potter and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series because the stories got young males to put down their controllers and pick up books.

GRAND SCREAM OF THINGS follows 12-year-old Andy Z on Halloween, as he prepares to enter the annual costume contest. He gets sidetracked when his Reggie, his pet chihuahua, finds a wand belonging to Sandy Witch (many jokes about people suddenly feeling hungry). If not reunited within a day, the witch will cease to exist. Thinking it will be a snap to return the wand, Andy and Reggie encounter a series of complications and characters on their journey – a teen punk rocker (Danger Dude), a skateboarding punk rodent (Blue the Rat), and Jam Master Z and the Baking Fools. There's even a love interest in Pleadia, for whom Andy sings the ballad, "Alien Girlfriend":

I told myself I know full well this girl is way out of my league.
But in my mind I see us dancing through the galaxy.
Will you be my alien girlfriend?

The San Francisco-based Andy Z said he was inspired to tackle this project because he wanted to entertain his original audience base as they started to "age out" of his simpler "Andyland" recordings. He noticed the lack of original music for tweens and conceived of GRAND SCREAM OF THINGS.

Does it work? As I said, challenging. I was interested in seeing how the story turned out, but I'm from another era. Andy covers a lot of ground in one hour, almost like he's planting seeds for future tales. "Punkin' Patch" and "How We Roll" will get younger kids dancing and amuse their older siblings. However with three BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA films (two on direct-to-DVD), the Mexican-accented pooch is almost a cliche (no fault of Andy's).

Towards the end of the disc, the messaging gets a little heavy-handed as Andy delivers one mouthful of a speech about how "being afraid of what COULD happen makes you unaware of what IS happening." That's the kind of thing that frustratingly drives tweens away from unique projects. We could certainly use more anomalies like GRAND SCREAM OF THINGS for the kids. In other words, head's off to Andy Z (to keep in the Halloween spirit) and let's see where the spirit takes him and his characters.

THE GRAND SCREAM OF THINGS is available on October 9 from his website, Amazon, CDBABY, and WalMart.

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