How to sound like: Eeyore

eyore donkey winnie the pooh voice disneyOn the request of Marrianne, this week I’ll be going over Eeyore’s voice. Consider this fair warning, Eeyore’s voice is deep so you’ll have to get in touch with the lower parts of your vocal register. OK so without further ado lets start.

The first thing to point out is that Eeyore’s accent differs from Tigger and Pooh’s. Winnie the Pooh has a kind of transatlantic accent whilst Tigger’s voice just sounds like almost an accentless American (if that makes sense), albeit with a pile of lisps and growls thrown in. Eeyore on the other hand has a very obvious southern American accent (think Foghorn Leghorn the rooster, without the ‘Ah Say…Ah say…’). To get to something approximating Eeyore you simply take this accent and drop it as low in tone as you can get.

Once you’ve got there the next step is to get the pacing right. Typically Eeyore’s voice goes up in the middle of a sentence, it’s almost as though something cheerful is about to happen, only for him to drop back down again to a kind of wallowing tone. Overall this should set you in good stead and get you sounding a lot like everyone’s favourite melancholic donkey. The only extra thing I can think to add is Eeyore’s common phrases: “It figures…”, “Thanks for noticin’ me”, “…which I doubt.” (usually preceded by something cheerful) and “Ohhhhkaaaayy”.

Finally here’s a wee exercise to try out your Eeyore voice. He rarely gets long stretches of dialogue so to save you from having to jump between voices too much I’ve picked a few Eeyore quotes to have a go at (I found these over at winnie-pooh.org :

Eeyore: “I’m not asking anybody…I’m just telling everybody. We can look for the North Pole, or we can play ‘Here we go gathering Nuts in May’ with the end part of an ants’ nest. It’s all the same to me.”

*

Eeyore: “Good morning, Pooh Bear…If it is a good morning…Which I doubt.”

Pooh: “Why, what’s the matter?”

Eeyore: “Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing. We can’t all, and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it.”

Pooh: “Can’t all what?”

Eeyore: “Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush.”

*

Rabbit: “Eeyore, what are you doing there?”

Eeyore: “I’ll give you three guesses, Rabbit. Digging holes in the ground? Wrong. Leaping from branch to branch of a young oak tree? Wrong. Waiting for somebody to help me out of the river? Right. Give Rabbit time, and he’ll always get the answer.”

Pooh: But, Eeyore…what can we – I mean, how shall we – do you think if we -“

Eeyore: “Yes…One of those would be just the thing. Thank you, Pooh.”

*  *  *

Hope you are enjoying these, I’d love to hear how people are getting on, just pop a comment in the box bellow. Thanks for reading/listening, Cheers, John

eeyore winnie the pooh piglet tigget rabbit toy figures

Here’s Eeyore looking uncharacteristically perky with some of his friends, you can buy the figure here and practice your Eeyore voice

UPDATE 13.02.14 : My ‘How to sound like’ posts are getting a lot of interest and it occurred to me that people might like a message recorded by Pooh, Tigger or Eeyore (can do Rabbit and Owl too if asked). If you’d like this message me on twitter and I’ll see what I can do 🙂

5 ‘quality time’ toys and games for Christmas

gerry christmasThere’s really no such thing as a ‘perfect Christmas’ but a Christmas where your family takes a bit of time-out to strengthen bonds and renew connections must be pretty close. Well that sounded sickly sweet, apologies, but I’ll stand by the idea that if you don’t feel connected to your family (or those you regard as family) at Christmas it’s going to feel pretty lousy. I could apologise here for mentioning the word ‘Christmas’ but to be honest I don’t think an apology is necessary, November is here, Halloween has passed and so I feel comfortable mentioning the ‘C word’.

OK so here are my top 5:

  • gibsons spot the sillies crazy chirstmas 100 piece 5 years and up25. Puzzles: At the bottom of my list but nonetheless still a great one to make you feel Christmassy are puzzles, preferably one with a Christmas scene. It can take a while and I’d recommend getting started long before Christmas day, but a wee bit of time each night searching for parts of snow topped roofs and Santa boots is a great way to get some quality time and get right into the spirit of the thing. I should point out that this option isn’t going to work for everyone (hence popping it at number 5) as it’s more likely to be a stress-inducer for those with younger your kids. Even then there are plenty of puzzles out there that smaller kids can enjoy too so I’d still go for it and see how you get on. You can see some of our selection of Christmas puzzles by clicking on this link.
  • 4. Christmas crafts: Just like Christmas puzzles this activity probably works best if you start before Christmas. There are a host of different things you could work on together, from Christmas cards for family, to decorations, and my personal favourite food (though I’m not sure if food officially counts as craft I’m popping it in here). If your creations turn out particularly good you can always pop them in as wee extras with gifts. I’m currently adding Christmas craft stock to the web site so bear with me, here’s the link to our Christmas section.
  • wpid-Laser-maze-thinkfun-solitaire-single-player-puzzle.jpeg3. Logic puzzles: Yes, logic puzzles can be frustrating, aggravating and down right anger-inducing but solving them can leave you feeling like the next Einstein. I’ve talked at length about the mixture of feelings you get from these kinds of puzzle but when you have a bunch of people all trying their hand at it it can all get more intense. Failing to solve it (or being the slowest) irks you more, and being the fastest can give you an even more inflated ego. It’s definitely worth a go to test the brain power. Logic games are also a great leveller as logic is a skill that seems well formed even in kids as young as 8, so prepare to be beaten by someone who was born after ‘Friends’ came off the air. You can find a selection of logic puzzles over here.
  • story cubes2. Winner-less games: Sometimes you need to tone things down and keep everyone happy, sometimes you just need a level playing field so that younger people feel included. Whatever the reason there’s definitely something to be said for games which feature no clear winner. In terms of games of this ilk we only really stock one over at Fun Junction but it’s so good it makes up for that. ‘Rory’s story cubes’ are so simple that play can start straight away but there’s enough variety that you’ll never get the same story twice. Test your story telling skills by rolling nine pictured dice and telling a story using all nine pictures. Though there’s no winner, it’s still a test of skill and can be genuinely entertaining. There is now a variety of different types Rory’s Story cubes and you should be able to find them all over on our web site.
  • 1. Quiz/Board games: Whilst no winners can be a good thing, being the winners can be awesome. Up at the top of my list are those games we love to hate/hate to love (I don’t know, we have some kind of love/hate relationship with them). Incorporating elements of almost every other nomination in this list it’s not hard to see how these games come out on top. There are quiz games that test your wits (always more fun in teams, that way you can blame the other person if you get a question wrong). Then there are more active games like charades and Pictionary-type games which get you out of your shell and get people talking. Finally there are, of course, the classic styled board-games with dice etc. that can produce the most intense emotional reactions you could ever expect from the movements of a small piece of plastic. You simply can’t go wrong with a board game to get a group of people talking, laughing and perhaps crying (OK hopefully not the last one). We have a growing list of family board games over on our web site, click here to pop along for a look.

That’s my list of games, puzzles etc. that can contribute to some quality time at Christmas. I’ll have a closer look at each of these in more detail over the coming weeks. So what do you think, have I missed anything out? Would you have placed any of these differently? Let me know in the comments. As always thanks for reading, Cheers, John

How to sound like: Tigger

tiggerAs promised here’s my next instalment of character voice tips. Today we’ll look at Tigger from Disney’s rendition of Winnie the Pooh. First off Tigger is growly, you need to grumble your voice. Men will probably find this easier as our standard speaking voice is typically lower, though I’m certain women will be able to manage something suitably ‘Tiggerish’ too.

Lets try the growl now, it’s a slow and gentle background sound, it’s not a dog’s growl or even that of a big cat, I’d be more inclined to liken it to a deep purr sound (though Tigger doesn’t always make this sound with lips closed, as you would see in a purr).

The next thing to look at is the lisp, this lisp isn’t a side of the cheek lisp like you might hear from Sid the sloth (from the ‘Ice Age’ movies) or Donald Duck (a voice I find so hard that I won’t embarrass myself by showing you here). Tigger’s lisp is all in the front with a flattened hiss sound replacing most letters made by the tip of the tongue (‘s’, ‘ce’ and ‘sh’). It makes ‘this’ sound more like ‘thith’ and ‘ice’ sound more like ‘ith’. The only slight change to this is with a ‘sh’ sound which gets kind of whistlish (sorry for all the ‘ish’ words, dealing with Tigger makes me start to think in his language, more on that later).

Next comes pacing. Tigger is full of energy, that kind of goes without saying, and with that comes a kind of explosive nature to his speech. Where Winnie the Pooh kind of eases into a word, Tigger jumps into it full of energy and joy. This makes it a little difficult (though not impossible) to make Tigger sound sad.

There are two extra things worth including here. Firstly Tigger has a characteristic language which is difficult (though I’m sure not impossible) to do on the fly, the way his lines are written he sounds like someone trying to show a wide vocabulary but without much idea about what some of the words mean. As a result Tigger often mispronounces longer words, occasionally making up new words by splicing two or more words together, and the most common ‘Tiggerish’ word change of all is to add ‘y’ or ‘ish’ to the end of words (e.g. ‘debonairy’, ‘Tiggerish’, ‘impossibible’). Secondly Tigger has his own wee sound (like Pooh has his laugh/giggle) that sounds something like ‘woo-hoo-hoo-hooo’. He doesn’t use this nearly as much as Pooh uses his giggle, but it is worth throwing in every now and then, if you want to sound ‘Tiggerish’.

OK that’s the tips bit finished, here’s a wee example that you can use to test your Tigger voice (and your Pooh bear voice if you had a go at last week’s). I pulled the following script (from the Tigger movie) from a brilliant web site called ‘script-o-rama‘:

TIGGER- Hello! I’m Tigger. That’s T-l-double-geh-er. And that’s me. Hoo, hoo, hoo!

POOH- I know. You’ve bounced me lots and lots of times.

TIGGER- Yeah. Fun, ain’t it? Say, you want to go bouncin’ with me, on account of bouncin’s what Tiggers do…eh, best…Eww.

POOH- Well, I would go bouncing with you, Tigger, except that I must count all these honey pots…to be sure I have enough for winter.

TIGGER- Let me get that, please.

POOH- Bother.

TIGGER- Yech! What do these Pooh bears like… about this icky, sticky stuff anyway?

Anyway I hope you enjoyed that and next week I’ll have another Winnie the Pooh character for you, I’m still debating between Rabbit or Eeyore, let me know what you’d rather have a go at. As always thanks for reading, Cheers, John

tigger winnie the pooh eeyore piglet rabbit toys

Tigger decided to do a hand-stand for this picture, you can get your own Tigger figure here and practith your thplenfirerouth Tigger voith!

UPDATE 13.02.14 : My ‘How to sound like’ posts are getting a lot of interest and it occurred to me that people might like a message recorded by Pooh, Tigger or Eeyore (can do Rabbit and Owl too if asked). If you’d like this message me on twitter and I’ll see what I can do 🙂

Tuesday repost: Fashionable toys

In the run up to Christmas I always get asked about what ‘the big toy’ this year will be. Generally people are just making conversation but it does raise some interesting questions: 1) Given that children can have vastly different tastes how does it come about that one particular toy is desired by them all? AND 2) How much does this have to do with advertising, and how much is to do with the quality of the toy itself? Fortunately this post from back in February covers these questions nicely.

furbyToys become popular for a variety of reasons. Back in February we had just received a delivery of mini ‘Furbies’ into the shop (they don’t do all the things that their big cousins do but they do sing) and it got me thinking about the way that some toys get popular. Here are some recent examples of this:

  • Now everyone knows them but ‘Trash packs‘ started life as freebies from an in-school colouring competition which threw their popularity into overdrive from the start.
  • Then there’s ‘Moshi Monsters‘ which have lasted longer than any collectible I’ve seen in years (I think they’ve been on the go for about 3 years now and they’ve even expanded to include the new ‘Micro Moshis’ which we now stock), their popularity seems to come from the online experience you get from using the ‘secret code’ you get in a pack of moshis.
  • Then there are ‘Monchichis‘ (or as they were called when I was wee ‘Chicaboos’) the appeal of these hyper-cute wee characters is pretty clear but now there’s an added ‘retro’ element which allows parents to relive their childhoods by getting one for their kids (for more on this new trend of reselling childhoods click on this link), we sell these on our web site, here’s the link.

The main thing that seems to do it though is a peculiar mix of familiarity and unattainability, this typically comes from various forms of advertising combined either with ‘rare’ or ‘super rare’ items in a collectible series, or just good old-fashioned restricted supply.

buzz lightyearYears ago there was a ‘buzz’ about Buzz Lightyear toys; parents scoured the country trying to track the beloved ‘Toy Story’ toy down. The official story was that suppliers had underestimated demand. This didn’t stop many people from getting their conspiracy theory caps on, pointing out that the short supply was allowing Disney to maintain that big price tag across the board and no one was complaining. in fact people were so thankful to have Buzz that their criticism of price was dialled down significantly (or even absent). Fashionable toys don’t have to be overpriced, but in the case of restricted supply there’s always the option for people to drive up price to a level they know people will still pay happily.

When I was a kid I rarely, if ever, got hold of a fashionable toy. An Optimus prime transformer (you know the big one with the removable freight unit) sat on my Santa list for years as did game boys, calculator watches, and a huge pile of movie-tie-in merchandise. When Friday pocket money came along  I would even beg for football stickers despite the fact that I don’t even like football and the names on the cards could have been Martians for all i cared. My parents got me some stuff, if they could see its merits, and it didn’t help that they both worked in retail and were acutely  aware of what was being done to them as consumers.

We all know that fashionable toys can be expensive what I’m wondering is whether they really are better. You could advertise the life out of a lump of plastic and make it as rare as you like but is that enough? Does the toy need some ‘special spark’ to kick off a craze?

Furby_pictureLet’s go back to Furbies, the originals were one of the most advanced technological soft toys anyone had seen (bar perhaps ‘Teddy Ruxpin’). Furbies were responsive to what you said and did, what’s more they had their own language, making them seem instantly more exotic. Their similarity to fuzzy state ‘gremlins’ probably didn’t hurt either. The new ones have this going for them (though I doubt kids know what gremlins are now) plus there’s a now a smart phone app to go with them; it lets you ‘feed’ them, communicate, and interact with them in a way that you could never have dreamed of doing with their Furby ancestors.

To be honest if I was a kid today I would want a new Furby, the thing just looks awesome. The funny thing is there have been forays into smart phone compatibility for toys before (too many to list here). The thing that really seems to have re-ignited the Furbies craze is kids’ awareness that they are joining in with a pre-existing culture around Furbies: they’re ‘retro’, they’re unique. As I said earlier the particularly interesting thing about Furbies this time round is that their parents may have had one when they were younger, and so literally can’t say no without looking like a hypocrite.

I genuinely don’t have a problem with fashionable toys, for starters many provide a fantastically unique play experience. What’s more small swappable collectibles provide life experiences that you just can’t get in a classroom (how to make a deal, understanding the potential finality of actions etc.). I do however find it odd to see which toys kick it into high-gear to become the ‘big toy’ of that year and which fall by the wayside or find themselves pegged as stable and ‘dependable’ (that is, those toys for which demand doesn’t shift from one year to the next, though that demand could of course be pretty high e.g. Lego).

treasure glowThe ‘dependable’ toys, no matter how popular they might get, never quite seem to reach the dizzy heights of their ‘fashionable’ brethren. Such toys are seen as constant, unending; a steady background feature of childhood. The fashionable toys on the other hand are special, fleeting and slightly unattainable (or at least rare). Perhaps that is at the heart of the appeal, people are attracted to the exotic, the fleeting and the rare. These kinds of item allow us to somehow brake away from the every-day by encountering something truly unique. This in turn can make us feel more like individuals; more special and unique ourselves in light of this experience.

On a side note, there’s industry chatter that Meccano may be in trouble. Meccano was never a ‘fashionable’ toy when I was a kid so naturally I had a bucket of the stuff. It was genuinely one of my favourite toys (possibly even above Lego) and I can’t even imagine a toy shop without it. I can’t do much as an individual either, my eldest son is still 2 years too young for standard Meccano. They do produce a plastic version for Logan’s age which he’s tried and enjoyed but I’ll have to wait a while before i can start popping the big sets in front of him. I really hope Meccano survives so that I can get him some of the basic metal sets when he’s old enough, I really do. It would be so sad to see such a staple of my childhood just disappear.

Anyway back to fashionable toys. I’d welcome any comments about favourites of the past or ideas about what drives these toys to become ‘toy celebrities’. Again thanks for reading, look forward to seeing your comments.

moshi dressFor your enjoyment, teaming fashion and toys together as one, here is a picture of this ‘Moshi Monster’ dress, which was apparently doing the rounds at London Fashion Week. Kind of a different take on the notion of ‘fashionable toys’. (image found at MindCandy)

How to sound like: Winnie the pooh

winnie the pooh standing and smilingIn light of my previous posts ‘How to play‘ and ‘5 Hints for Telling a Good Story‘ I thought I might go through some of my favourite character voices for you to try out at home. I know I said in ‘How to play’ that you shouldn’t choose a character that your child knows well but there’s nothing wrong with experimenting a bit. Just remember not to use it too often, especially if you get really good at it, because you could end up spending the foreseeable future as Winnie the Pooh .

OK lets get started, first of all try the giggle; Pooh’s giggle is very distinctive and it’s a signature sound that instantly helps you to sound more like him. Even if you speak in a vaguely transatlantic accent (a kind of Americanised English or Anglicised American accent) and do this giggle it’ll help you sound like him. It takes the form of a kind of breathy ‘hoe hoo’ with your tongue slightly raised at the back of your throat and a tightening of the muscles at the back.

The same ‘hoe’ sound can be used before ‘bother’ but this time you deepen the tone at the ‘o’ and then make a kind of grumbling sound as you say ‘bother’. In fact if you use the same breathy element to the first word of anything you say it should get you well on your way to sounding like Pooh.

The next thing to remember is that Pooh doesn’t rush his speech, he takes lots of breaks as he goes through a sentence. Some of these breaks are simply a holding-on to the sound of a word but sometimes there’s a genuine pause in which you’ll occasionally hear a sort of lip-smacking sound. An easy way to work this one into speech is to just imagine that you’re eating something sticky, perhaps sucking on a couple of toffees.

Lastly don’t forget to vary your pitch, Pooh seems to vary his unpredictably so I wouldn’t worry too much about anything specific, just keep it fairly low and jump it up and down every now and then to keep it interesting.

That’s about it, if it helps let me know. I’m also open to requests. If it’s a voice I can do I’ll put together a wee guide like this one. As always thanks for reading, and feel free to add any comments in the box below. Cheers, John

winnie the pooh tigger eeyore piglet rabbit toys

Pictured here are toy figures from Bullyland, you can pick some up here and practice your Pooh voice

UPDATE 13.02.14 : My ‘How to sound like’ posts are getting a lot of interest and it occurred to me that people might like a message recorded by Pooh, Tigger or Eeyore (can do Rabbit and Owl too if asked). If you’d like this message me on twitter and I’ll see what I can do 🙂

jack-reusen-cover-front2ONE LAST THING: I’m also a children’s author. The Jack Reusen series is about a boy who accidentally tears holes between his world and a magical one called ‘Fey’. A host of weird creatures make their way into Jack’s world, along with them comes a girl who can turn into a polar bear. Despite her fearsome power she’s lost, scared and alone and seeks Jack out to help her find her way home. In the process of trying to undo the damage he has done Jack discovers that more sinister forces are interested in Jack’s world too, will Jack be able to close up the breaches between worlds in time? Please, please take a look at the official site if you have the time (I’d really appreciate it).