Mandalit del Barco

NBC's singing competition The Voice dominated the ratings game this spring and last fall. Now, the Spanish kids' version has become the top-rated show for NBC's sister network, Telemundo. The show, taped before an audience in Miami, features Latino children from the U.S. competing for a scholarship and a recording contract.

Twenty Feet from Stardom, filmmaker Morgan Neville's new documentary, is a reminder that most of pop music's catchiest hooks, riffs and refrains were sung by voices harmonizing in the background. Neville says he wanted to put backup singers — black, female and honed in church — front and center.

"I was really more interested in people who were voices for hire," he says, "who were able to walk into sessions never knowing what they had to do and could bring it."

For the past 42 years, José-Luis Orozco has been entertaining children with songs he sings in English and Spanish. He's passionate about teaching children to be bilingual through music, and he's also written books for kids.

"Let's say hello to each other," he says to a crowd of preschoolers at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. "Buenos días," he sings.

"Buenos días," they repeat in unison.

"Good morning," he sings back.

Ray Manzarek, the founding keyboardist of the Los Angeles rock band The Doors, died in a clinic in Germany on Monday after a lengthy battle with bile duct cancer, according to his publicist. He was 74.

The classic children's show Captain Kangaroo aired on TV for nearly 30 years, starting in 1955. After its creator and star, Bob Keeshan, died in 2004, his estate donated a few of his beloved hand puppets to the Smithsonian.

Menudo, the hugely popular Puerto Rican boy band, cycled through dozens of lineups in its decades together — but it's best remembered for the 1980s era that featured two stars in the making. One, a then-pubescent Ricky Martin, would become one of the most successful pop artists of the 1990s.

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Annette Funicello was the most popular member of the original 1950's "Mickey Mouse Club" television series. She's also remembered for starring in 1960s beach party movies. Funicello died yesterday at the age of 70, after decades of fighting multiple sclerosis.

Now it's time to say goodbye to former Mouseketeer Annette Funicello. The singer, dancer and actress died April 8 at the age of 70, having battled multiple sclerosis for more than two decades.

Throughout her career, she was devoted to Walt Disney, who famously discovered her during a Swan Lake dance recital when she was just 12 years old.

Hollywood studios are demanding more and more visual effects to make blockbuster films. But the artists who create this movie magic are protesting that they and their entire industry are in deep financial trouble. Even the most celebrated visual-effects companies face the risk of going under, and there are calls to revamp the way they do business.

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Okay. The movies "Argo" and "Life of Pi" and the actors Daniel Day Lewis and Jennifer Lawrence were among the winners at last night's Academy Awards. NPR's Mandalit Del Barco was backstage.

NPR's Sam Sanders and Mandalit del Barco were backstage at the Oscars on Sunday, covering the awards show. They sat in the press room, where winners go for interviews during and after the show. Here's a roundup of what they saw that you didn't see, in senior superlative form.

Most Likely To Stand By Her Man Until The End Of All Natural Time: Jennifer Garner

The film No revisits the moment in Chile's history when 56 percent of the country voted to oust a dictator from power. It's the tale of the ad campaign that helped persuade Chileans to cast their ballots against Gen. Augusto Pinochet in a national referendum.

"This is an epic story, the story of a triumph," says Director Pablo Larrain. "It's how they defeat a dictator — probably one of the biggest bastards that we ever had in humankind."

Among the hundreds of musicians vying for Grammy Awards this year is Al Walser, a Los Angeles-based disc jockey and singer whose song "I Can't Live Without You" is nominated in the best dance single category. Walser is not a widely known name — many Grammy nominees aren't — but he's competing in a category against some of pop music's heaviest hitters.

On 53rd Street and Vermont Avenue in South Los Angeles, violent members of at least six gangs run the streets. A landmark church is boarded up and tagged. There are liquor stores and abandoned lots. On Tuesday night, there was a drive-by shooting two blocks away, and folks are expecting retaliation. This is an area where murders, robberies and rapes are common — and so are guns.

"There's too many guns out there," says Randolph Wright, 18. "I can tell you right now, every hood has an AK[-47]. Regardless of whatever other gun they got, they have an AK."

In November, more than 1.5 million Los Angeles County voters passed the Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act. The new law orders porn actors to wear condoms during sex scenes.

"The porn industry has been sending a very bad message by saying the only kind of sex that's hot is unsafe," says Michael Weinstein, CEO of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which sponsored the measure.

Sitting in his office, just over the hills from the nation's porn film capital, Weinstein says the new law was meant to protect both performers and those who watch the movies.

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Dreamworks' animated movie Puss in Boots was a big deal. It won an Oscar, and its swashbuckling, sloe-eyed kitty was voiced by Antonio Banderas.

The meticulous computer-generated animation took four years and something like $130 million to make. But another cartoon, Puss In Boots: A Furry Tail, was hand-drawn in six months for less than $1 million. It went straight to DVD — one of the many low-budget productions riding the coattails of Hollywood blockbusters.

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