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Dr. Demento

Under the Smogberry Trees

A celebration of my lifelong fandom of The Dr. Demento Show & how demented its made me!

When I look back, several childhood memories pop up about Sundays. I think of things like holidays, and baseball games. I also think of things like yard work, and dreading going back to school the next day. But the first thought that springs to mind when I think of the Sundays of my childhood is sitting excitedly, only inches from my radio speakers, to hear THE DR. DEMENTO SHOW!

Dr. Demento is a disc jockey who has run his radio show filled with “Mad Music and Crazy Comedy” for over forty years now! If you don’t know who he is, (first off, shame on you!) then you for sure know some of the great artists he has broadcast to the masses over the decades. The Doc introduced his listeners to the likes of Spike Jones, Frank Zappa, Monty Python, and Stan Freberg, and played songs with titles like “Fish Heads” and “Dead Puppies”. He is perhaps best known for inspiring Alfred Yankovic to send songs into his show when he was still in high school, and catapulting “Weird Al” into superstardom.

THE DR. DEMENTO SHOW ran in syndication all over the country, but I was lucky enough to grow up in Southern California where Dr. Demento broadcast LIVE every Sunday. “Live, from under the Smogberry Trees”, he would open every show with, and I’d lay on my bed (on my Star Wars sheets, of course), hanging on every word the Doc had to say about all this insane music that was either brand new or new to me. Through the music he played, which ranges from funny hip-hop tracks recorded last week to comedy recorded in the 19th century, he taught me the importance of having broad tastes and appreciating all art for what it is first before judgment. I still carry these things with me as an artist today.

What also fascinated me was who Dr. Demento actually is. Under his trademark top hat, he is Barry Hansen, a music historian with a record collection so massive that he stopped counting after he hit 250,000! While Dr. Demento is some kind of mad genius about the oddities of recorded music , Barry Hansen has his Master’s Degree from UCLA in Folk Music Studies, and wrote a Bachelor’s thesis on Classical Music. How one person could know so much about so many different styles of music blew my mind, and encouraged me in learning every conceivable scrap I could find about my own obsession (which happens to be film, but more on that later).

When I was eleven years old, I had a brilliant idea while listening to the show. Remember, I listened to the show broadcast live from Los Angeles, and I happened to know the request line number of the radio station. I waited for the show to end, and jumped on the phone. Someone answered, and I boldly asked to speak to Barry Hansen, please. (Figured if I said his REAL name, it bettered my chances of getting through). Before I knew it, that familiar voice I had heard through my speakers was on the other end of the phone line! My whole body buzzed as I experienced my first celebrity encounter! Dr. Demento talked to me for a whole 15 minutes, and allowed me to interview him for a school project. He was everything I wanted my demented idol to be.

Afraid to say how many decades ago it was that I made that call, but within the last few months I had the true pleasure of being able to continue my conversation with Dr. Demento. I am now working on my first feature film, a documentary about Dr. Demento titled (what else?) “UNDER THE SMOGBERRY TREES”! The film is scheduled to be finished in 2014, and will be a celebration of THE DR. DEMENTO SHOW over its 4 decades and counting, as well as a biography of the brilliant scholar Barry Hansen. http://www.smogberrytrees.com

I have now been able to actually walk through the rows of his record collection, see where he continues to record his weekly show for http://www.drdemento.com, and have even had the insane honor of being able to direct Dr. Demento in a video for our KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN! (Oh yeah, shameless plug: Go to Kickstarter.com and search “Smogberry Trees” or “Dr. Demento” and you’ll find us still financing until May 3rd, 2013, or link here http://kck.st/XXXg30.) The whole “Smogberry” experience has been amazing so far, and I am proud to say that my childhood hero has ended up being one of the most humble and gracious people I have ever met!

Thanks for letting me share my demented experience. I know there are lots of other fans out there. Comment to me about some of your own Demento moments. Until we meet again, don’t forget to STAAAAAY DEEEEEMENTED!!

By: Smogberry Trees

“UNDER THE SMOGBERRY TREES: The True Story of Dr. Demento” by Meep Morp Studio

Wind up your projectors! “UNDER THE SMOGBERRY TREES” is the first ever feature length documentary about legendary deejay Dr. Demento!

“Dr. Demento has kept my career alive for many years!” — Stan Freberg, all around demented genius & legend.

I think it’s a great idea, and it’s about time somebody was ‘smart’ enough to do a feature doc on Barry!” — Artie Barnes of Barnes & Barnes, artists behind “Fish Heads”.

“A project like this is long overdue.” — Whimsical Will from “The Demented News”, heard weekly on The Dr. Demento Show.”

“Dr. Demento is an institution who has uniquely championed the history of novelty music and the creators.  A film that also shows his serious musicologist roots should be quite interesting” — Harold Bronson, co-founder of Rhino Records

“UNDER THE SMOGBERRY TREES” will be an engaging filmed history of “The Dr. Demento Show” from its humble start at revolutionary radio station KPPC-FM in Pasadena, CA and up to date at DrDemento.com, covering the lasting impact of funny music on popular culture, and including current interviews with Dementites (the famous and the nearly famous) connected to and/or inspired by the show over its four decades and counting.

It also serves as the definitive profile of Dr. Demento’s alter ego, the globally respected musicologist and historian Barret Hansen.  Through stories told in his own words, it will follow Mr. Hansen from his 1940’s Minneapolis childhood, to Reed College in Portland, through his Master’s degree in Folk Music Studies from UCLA, and on to donning the heavy top hat of Dr. Demento in 1970 and carrying it into the Comedy Music AND Radio Halls of Fame!

The film is being produced with the full participation of Barry Hansen.  He is allowing us to get you a very rare glimpse at both the professional and private man, and see how it is indeed difficult to know where the tuxedo tails begin and where they end.  Barry will tell us stories of his early motivations and inspirations, the history of his musical impact (including his rock band producing days in the 60’s), as well as taking us all into his massive music library (over 250,000 records and counting!) and to his home studio, where he produces The Dr. Demento Show to this day!

The style of the film will be more conversational (no disembodied narrator), allowing Barry and his friends to tell their own stories in their own words.  Several of the stories will be featured with all new original animation by us, in various artistic styles.  Of course, it’s all set to the Demented soundtrack you would naturally expect!

We are currently negotiating things with many of the Dr. Demento Show legends for their involvement in the film, and have built a tremendous list of people kind enough to let us announce their involvement here.  So far we are very proud to present the following participants:

Barry Hansen (Dr. Demento!!)

Barnes & Barnes (“Fish Heads”)

Bill Frenzer (“Dead Puppies”)

Tom “T-Bone” Stankus (“Existential Blues”)

Whimsical Will (“The Demented News”)

Sulu (“Locked in the Closet With You”)

MC Lars (“Dementia Revolution”)

The Great Luke Ski (“When You Wish Upon a Death Star”)

Grant Baciocco of Throwing Toasters (“Nursery Rhyme Lawyer Song”)

Devo Spice (“In the 80’s”)

Chris Mezzolesta of Power Salad (“My Cat is Afraid of the Vacuum Cleaner”)

Insane Ian (“Guitar Hero”)

Rapid T. Rabbit (Star of “THE RAPID T. RABBIT SHOW” in NYC)

Richard Cheese (Lounge Against the Machine)

We also aim to speak to members of The Dr. Demento Show’s “Cast” over the years, such as Musical Mike, Jovial Joan, Beeffalo Bill, and many more, plus several producers and disc jockeys who worked close to the legend over the decades, as well as Barry’s longtime friend and manager, world famous astrologer Arthyr Chadbourne.

As we all live in Southern California, most of the film will be shot in the Los Angeles area, the location of the original Smogberry Trees!  We also plan to travel across the country to meet and film all your favorite Demented Artists giving their two cents about Barry and the influence of his show.

Add all this to memories and allegations from friends and family, beautiful and rarely seen (if ever!) archival footage, and many more unique surprises to come!

We have been hard at work on this project for several months now, without any financing outside our own pockets, and have already collected tons of personal photographs, hours of home video footage, and first hand accounts from the people who are a part of the continuing history of The Dr. Demento Show. Support from Barry Hansen, his friends, featured artists and co-workers has been absolutely amazing and unending. They want to see this movie as badly as you do.

We begin filming at the beginning of Summer 2013, and hope to have the film finished entirely in the middle part of 2014.  From there, we hope to get it into some festivals and competitions across the country.  After that, the film will hopefully receive a theatrical run and eventually move onto DVD, iTunes, Netflix, etc.

Let’s celebrate the music we all grew up with as we FINALLY get to know the Man Beneath the Top Hat, who has served it to us on a black platter every weekend in “UNDER THE SMOGBERRY TREES!”

Make sure you also check out our official movie website at www.underthesmogberrytrees.com to find more info, to see more pictures of the items we have featured as rewards, or to follow us on Facebook and Twitter!  Don’t forget to tell all your demented little buddies about us and help get this movie made!

And most important of all, don’t forget to STAAAAY DEEEEEMENTED!!!!

Meep Morp Studio is an independent Animation/Graphic Design studio in Southern California that has built a steady reputation for top notch quality while meeting tight creative deadlines since 2009. The three members of Meep Morp Studio are Scott McKenzie, Christy McDonald, and Devin Lucas. This is the creative team that will be taking you into the heart of the Land of Dementia. www.meepmorp.com

As our first all “in-house” feature film, this project is very ambitious for us, but we know we are ready to take it on (and so does Barry Hansen!). We are at an advantage here as we can do so much of our film using equipment and programs we already have at our fingertips for our business, as well as our experience working on contract with six other feature-length documentaries.

We are asking for this $100,000 amount after a lot of planning, scheduling and budgeting, knowing that we can start production and clear our way through the shooting stage of our movie with it.

The costs for the upcoming stages (pre-production and production) are going to include legal and bookkeeping costs, some equipment upgrades to make this project look and sound as great as we can for you, purchasing certain essential research items, hotel/airfare/car rental for going to the locations of your favorite Demented Artists, the costs of shooting permits and locations in Los Angeles, the general cost of gas getting around Los Angeles (traffic can kill a budget!), meager living costs to allow us to survive with electricity as we work exclusively 24/7 on this film, as well as paying for the very valuable time of people we interview. The time for this film is NOW and we don’t want to be delivering the finished project in five years. Your donations allow us to focus just on getting “Under the Smogberry Trees” ready for you.

We also hope to get you some fantastic and unique rewards as contributing Dementites and Dementoids, and while we are going as minimal on cost as we possibly can, this certainly plays into our budget.

We are also giving some wiggle room for unexpected expenses and accidents. Don’t let one unavoidable camera accident cost us completing the film, for example.

There will be additional costs after production has wrapped for various parts of post-production that may not be covered by the amount we are asking for now, such as the high expense of music and video licensing (which we cannot do without).

Once everything has been finished, you will really be able to see, hear, and possibly even SMELL, every red cent spent on this.

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