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Rosalind Marmel


Year 2013 New Year’s Resolutions

By Rosalind Marmel, Los Angeles Correspondent, Jan. 3, 2013

Perhaps the best family musical I know of…




Unfortunately, I was born before Clifford the Big Red Dog in 1963 began teaching family values to infants, toddlers and anyone younger than I am. 


I am trying to catch up. I am watching the Emmy-nominated animated PBS Kids TV series available throughout the world. The late John Ritter voiced Clifford in the series from 2000 until 2003.  I’m trying to collect 84 year old author Norman Bridwell’s 126 million books, drinking tiny 4.3 ounce containers of Hansen’s fruit juices and waters, found at with Clifford, Emily Elizabeth and their pals getting into mischief right in front of my little, baby blue eyes. 


The Los Angeles Times said that the Warner Brothers movie, “Clifford’s Really Big Movie”, “brings the Big Red Dog, beloved by children from Norman Bridwell’s books and the TV series, to the screen with style and charm.”


Although voice over stars (including John Ritter), Jenna Elfman, John Goodman and Judge Reinhold played the roles of Clifford, Cleo, T-Bone and their pals in their first movie, I find it too scary. I scare easily. 


A. O. Scott in a New York Times review said, “Young children will snuggle up in the movie’s cozy good cheer.” Snuggled up with my Clifford snugglys does not help me like the movie.  


According to The Hollywood Reporter, Universal is pairing up with Illumination Entertainment, the company responsible for the box office giant, “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.”  They are bringing Clifford to the big screen as a feature film with Matt Lopez who wrote the screenplay, for the 2010 film distributed by Walt Disney starring Nicholas Cage, (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) to write the Clifford script. The last I heard Lopez would be making his directorial debut in what I heard is supposed to be a live action,  animated hybrid. Imax theaters are bigger than houses so Clifford should be able to get into an Imax, I suppose.


I am doing anything I can in my attempt to get a crash course in Clifford, the Big Red Dog, bigger than a house’s 10 BE BIG ideas.  


I’m exchanging emails with Christina Rose Rahm, a very talented young woman, who manages to get herself into lots of trouble as she sings, dances, talks and even emails her way from city to city playing the role of Emily Elizabeth. Christina is Clifford’s human, in David Miller’s touring production of, CLIFFORD, THE BIG RED DOG, a gigantic splash of a family musical that I went to huge lengths to see live, in California at one my favorite theatres, The Fred Kavli Theatre at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks, California. The Fred Kavli Theatre is bigger than a house. Emily Elizabeth showed me how Clifford got in and out of the door. I keep secrets luckily for Emily Elizabeth. Clifford might be my best friend. I’m loyal to my friends.


Bridwell was planning for Clifford to be a labrador but it turns out that the puppy was born a bloodhound.  Clifford shows that giant breeds do not always have shorter life spans. Clifford’s longevity in dog years is 350 years old. I am not even that old.


Norman Bridwell did not have an easy childhood. He was not good at sports or shop classes. His teacher told him that he was not good at drawing either. He kept drawing anyway. He loved drawing. He didn’t fit in with the other kids. He was shy. Like the 25 foot tall Clifford, he was kind of clumsy. 


He got married to Norma. Norma had an imaginary friend as a child named Emily Elizabeth. They had a baby girl in 1982. You guessed it. They named her Emily Elizabeth. Parents with babies need money. Diapers are expensive. Norma and Norman wanted to move from New York to San Francisco. California was expensive too. Norman needed a real job. He couldn’t make money as a commercial artist. 


Norma encouraged him to interview with Harper and Row. He got nowhere until an editor there found a sketch he made of a big red dog with a blonde, blue-eyed 8-year-old riding on his back in a pile of papers. That piece of paper contributed to the success of Scholastic Books as a big publishing house and Scholastic Studios and the onset of the PBS Kids series.  There was a jar of red paint on the table when he was sketching. The black Labrador then became a red Bloodhound. 


Editors at Scholastic realized that every kid would want a shy, clumsy dog like Clifford. Clifford is friendly and helpful. Usually, when he gets into trouble it is trying to get Emily Elizabeth, Jenna and their pals out of messes.


Norman planned to stop writing after the first book. Writers don’t normally make money either. Norma talked him into writing a second book based on her childhood fantasies. 




PBS and pre-school teachers, parents and caregivers in the 90’s were finding that kids’ TV was not having a good influence on kids. “The Power Rangers”, as an example derived from amine and its popularity has far too much violence.  


“Clifford’s Puppy Days”, is a 25-episode prequel to “Clifford The Big Red Dog.” It is recommended for ages 4 and up. Finally, there is an age range in which I might fit.  


Clifford’s 10 BIG IDEAS are:


*Be responsible.

*Be truthful.

*Be kind.

*Believe in yourself.

*Be a good friend.

*Have respect.

*Help others.

*Play Fair.

*Work together



Throughout the books, recordings, the TV series, the movie and the 50th Anniversary family musical, the 10 BIG IDEAS are introduced and reiterated by Clifford, Emily Elizabeth, Jenna and their pals. Young children need, enjoy and learn by repetition. 


In the musical, not knowing the lyrics of the song, toddlers with their siblings, parents and grandparents, knowing the tunes from popular music were able to sing along with the incredibly choreographed dancers and singers as we all repeated Clifford’s ten big ideas.  


Interviewing 3 and 4 year olds kept me really busy which is one of the reasons that I don’t have more information about the cast and touring schedule.


I need the right kind of repetition too. Don’t we all? We must repeat the right things. 


I keep writing about how history repeats itself and the need for never forgetting. Some of the issues addressed in age appropriate story telling, teaching children the social skills and values needed in facing life’s challenges include, responding to feelings appropriately, respecting others, resolving conflicts and understanding that our actions do make a difference. One of the wee toddlers was frightened and crying. She sat up front with her mommy and daddy. She was frightened a bit because she was not expecting Clifford to be so big. She was expecting him to be the size of their TV screen. Expect the unexpected. 


In the year 2013 we must respect and appreciate diversity. We cannot forget for a moment the importance of good citizenship and community living. 


Clifford, the Big Red Dog has a heart as big as Clifford is. Brains and egos can be too big. Hearts cannot be too big.


Clifford’s stories teach that we must approach our world with open minds so that we can gleam the rewards life offers us.


My family and the rather sheltered community in which I grew up instilled my family values in me. As a school teacher teaching children from less fortunate families, later at an all boys’ military academy and then at a private school on Hollywood Boulevard for child and adolescent stars of movie, television and music I learnt even more about diversity. 


Illumination’s family, fantasy and comedy film, “Bedtime Stories”, put me to sleep. That means the movie starring Adam Sandler, Courteney Cox, Kerry Russell and Guy Pearce did the job. Guy Pearce received the nomination for the 2009 AFI International Award.


I haven’t heard buzz about which really big movie stars might star in Universal and Illumination’s big screen movie. It’s award season in Hollywood and around the world. Israeli born Sharon Farber already won the 2012 Women in International Film and TV Award in Music for her film and TV scores. She did not think twice about getting on a flight to as scheduled to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv recently and then returning a few days later to accept her award in Hollywood. She was more concerned about giving others the flu she had. 


Sharon keeps secrets. She is trustworthy. She is a great friend. Sharon knows more than all of us about community, family values and the role all play in world peace. If Sharon’s next big movie is in competition with Clifford’s we all know that Sharon and Clifford will both play fair.


My New Year’s resolution is to practice repeatedly Clifford’s Ten Big Ideas. What are yours? 




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