Monday, May 29, 2017

Celebrity Toons: Fonz & the Happy Days Gang become the Arabian Knights (1980)

Ayyyyyyyyy!!! Boy, did Hanna-Barbera blow a golden opportunity with this episode of Fonz & the Happy Days Gang!

In "Arabian Knights", Fonzie (Henry Winkler), Richie (Ron Howard), Ralph (Donny Most), Cupcake (Didi Conn), and Mr. Cool (Frank Welker) end up in Old Testament-era Babylon to help King Nebuchadnezzar II save the kingdom from a rival ruler.

Welker also uses his Fred Jones voice from Scooby-Doo as our announcer, coming out of the first commercial break. The open, narrated by Wolfman Jack (The Midnight Special) has been edited off.

Here's what I mean when I say H-B blew a golden opportunity. What with the use of incidental music from Super Friends being occasionally used here and on other H-B action shows of the period (i.e. Godzilla), it would've been a nice idea to bring some closure to one of the studio's 1960's series by using either the original Arabian Knights (from Banana Splits) and/or Shazzan and his time-tossed charges. Granted, Chuck & Nancy would be returned to 1967, as opposed to 1957, but ya never know.

Rating: B.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Toons You Might've Missed: Sh-h-h-h-h-h-h! (1955)

Legendary cartoon icon Fred "Tex" Avery finished his career at Universal, working for Walter Lantz. His final effort recycled a plot idea from one of his Droopy shorts at MGM, but this time, in "Sh-h-h-h-h-h!", Avery's protagonist, Mr. Twiddle, quits the jazz band he's playing with when his nerves get fried from excessive noise.

It didn't quite have the zip of Avery's earlier works, but it would be 25 years before Avery would return, this time at Hanna-Barbera, as he was partially responsible for the Dino & Cavemouse segment of the Flintstone Comedy Hour (2nd series) and created Kwicky Koala as his final coda.

Rating: B-.

On The Air: P. J. Masks (2015)

In 2002, Disney introduced Teamo Supremo as their initial answer to Cartoon Network's popular Powerpuff Girls. Teamo, however, didn't last, despite the fact that it had a more diverse cast (2 boys, 1 girl) of protagonists. The kids of Teamo Supremo were at least a couple of grades up from the Powerpuffs.

13 years later, Disney acquired P. J. Masks, a CGI series developed in France and England. Like Teamo Supremo, the team consists of two boys & one girl, but the gimmick here is that their pajamas magically convert into their costumes when danger threatens. It's been established that Catboy, Gekko, & Owlette are all 6 years of age, which would mean they're in the first grade. Of course, CN rebooted the Powerpuffs last year, and brought them forward to about the 2nd or 3rd grade, but to an indifferent audience. Y'think maybe that was because of P. J. Masks?

Unlike the Powerpuffs or Teamo Supremo, the kids of P. J. Masks don't answer to adult authority figures, and the vehicles they use are there strictly as product placement to induce parents to buy the toys for their kiddo's. As if a real 6 year old could drive a car or use a hang glider in real life......

Now, you'll have to wait until next year for new episodes, as Disney is cycling the first 52 shorts (26 half-hours in all) ad infinitum until a new batch is ready. Let's take a look at a sample episode:

The first season "finale" aired in February, which tells us there is a great deal of lead time between when the episodes are completed in Europe and brought to Disney Junior/Disney Channel here in the US, as it took roughly 18 months to complete the first season.

Rating: A.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Rare Treats: The pilot for George of the Jungle (1967)

George of the Jungle marks his 50th anniversary this year. A heretofore unseen pilot episode has recently been uncovered, which offers a couple of subtle differences.

First, Hans Conreid is the narrator, instead of Paul Frees. Second, George's mate, Ursula (June Foray), is named Jane, just like Tarzan's wife, in the pilot. Third, George (Bill Scott) is even more of an imbecile than we'd subsequently see. Not only that, but Ape (Frees) is a little more gullible.

Finally, the villains of the piece may not have been seen during the series proper, specifically, a greedy hunter (Frees, impersonating Humphrey Bogart) and his sidekick (Foray). The plot surrounds the fact that Shep, George's pet elephant, trumpets in E-Flat, as opposed to other elephants doing so in F-Sharp, as Conreid explains in the narrative. And, yeah, the iconic theme song is nowhere to be found. Sheldon Allman & Stan Worth would later write the famous theme.

The pilots for the back-up features, Super Chicken & Tom Slick, will be up soon.

Rating: B-.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Alphabetic Toons: A lesson on impoliteness (Sesame Street, 1969?)

Here's a simple teaching tool from the early years of Sesame Street. A man (Gary Owens, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, Perils of Penelope Pitstop, etc.) holds up an image of the letter "i", only to be heckled by an unseen party.....

This wouldn't play the same way nearly 50 years later, unfortunately.

Rating: B-.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Tooniversary: Deputy Dawg's Nephew (1962)

Deputy Dawg's lookalike nephew shows up, and chaos ensues when Ty Coon & Muskie think that the Deputy has shrunk because of drinking too much of their homemade blackberry juice concoction.

Here's "Deputy Dawg's Nephew":

All it is, really is a variation on an old gag used elsewhere. Not quite as effective in a shorter time frame.

Rating: B.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits (?): If My Friends Could See Me Now (1978)

In the spring of 1978, Linda Clifford had released a disco version of "If My Friends Could See Me Now", originally recorded 12 years earlier for the Broadway production of "Sweet Charity" by Gwen Verdon, with Shirley MacLaine doing so in the film version a few years later.

While it's likely that Clifford would turn up on, say, Soul Train, to perform & promote the record, which peaked just below the Top 40 on the pop chart, actress Melissa Gilbert (Little House on the Prairie) performed a cover version on American Bandstand. The sad part is that this wasn't released as a single for the then-teen star (Melissa was 14 at the time).