Tuesday
Oct122010

A Visitor from the Sun

February 11, 2010

 

So far, 2010 has been off to a rather dreary start.

For one thing, we've had days and days of rain, punctuated by oppressively gray days with no rain, and the rare and fleeting sunny day that serves as a cruel reminder of what we've been missing.

I don't ski, so unlike many Californians, I don't become giddy with visions of powder on the slopes when the rain falls. I work at home in a rather dark downstairs room that feels like a cave on days like these.

And the weather is amplifying the general malaise-y feeling I have of being stuck.

But last Friday evening I was momentarily jolted back into good cheer when the sun returned; or more accurately, when an ex-pat from the sun paid us a visit.

I'd better back up a bit.

Two years ago, some friends on our block returned from a trip to New York and brought us a DVD: Gustafer Yellowgold: Have You Never Been Yellow.

Gustafer Yellowgold is a very unusual and delightful character and the creation of singer-songerwriter-artist Morgan Taylor.

Morgan writes and animates songs about Gustafer, who came from the sun to find a cooler place and ended up, appropriately, in a lake in Minnesota. His friends include a pet eel and a pterodactyl with exquisite fashion sense. His hobbies include eating pine cones and finding creative ways to crush desserts.

If none of that makes sense, it really doesn't matter. His songs and drawings are so beautiful and engaging, so whimsical and dreamlike that you, like us, may convert to the Church of Gustafer after just one viewing.

Gustafer Yellowgold is art that an entire family can enjoy together, and that's hard to find these days.

Sure, there's great entertainment out there that engages different ages on different levels. Pixar is masterful at this. But there's something about Gustafer that doesn't require narrative segmentation, as in: The kids will love this and (wink, wink) here's a little something for you grownups to enjoy.

After becoming quickly enamored with Have You Never Been Yellow? we bought Morgan's two other Gustafer DVDs, we went to a live performance in a local record store, and Ben even dressed up as Gustafer for Halloween two years ago.

The DVDs are ideal for hyperlexic kids, since the lyrics to the songs are part of the illustrations and kids can read along. The DVDs even include a "sing-a-long mode" where the vocal track is removed - karaoke style - with the lyrics showing on-screen.

Morgan's wife Rachel Loshak told me that more than one family with a child with autism has commented on how attached their child has become to Gustafer.

That might be because the characters' expressions are very simple, and because there's no dialog - only simple animations with minimal movement. This probably makes it more accessible to those who might have challenges processing a lot of information at once.

So, back to last week.

When Chris found out that Morgan might have a free evening on an upcoming west coast tour, he schemed with the same friends on our block who introduced us to Gustafer in the first place to host a house concert where we and a bunch of friends could enjoy Morgan's music in an intimate setting.

It worked, and last Friday, Morgan, his wife Rachel and their little boy Harvey pulled up to our house in a van with Gustafer's face emblazoned on the side. Morgan performed for a group of very appreciative and captivated Gustafer initiates.

Ben got to sing a little of his favorite song for Morgan before the show even had the thrill of being the announcer. "Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls of all ages..."

I urge you to go to the web site or YouTube and experience Gustafer's world yourself, especially if, like me, you could use a little extra something from the sun right now.