Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Rein-Toon-Ation: Droopy, Master Detective (1993)

Droopy returned to television in a backup feature on Tom & Jerry Kids. The funny part is that those backup features led to Droopy getting his own series at last.

Droopy, Master Detective had one flaw. Da Droopster (Don Messick) now had a son/sidekick, Dripple (Charlie Adler). Not sure if Dripple was based on the offspring that Droopy had in at least one or two shorts at MGM, but the apple didn't fall far from the tree regardless. Fox originally had the show airing on Saturdays, then bumped it and shifted it to weekdays to burn off the episodes. Currently, they sit in WB's vaults, unused.

Following is the episode, "The Case of the Snooty Star", in which Droopy & Dripple have been hired to protect an actress (Sarah Silverman).

This might've worked better if, instead of picking up Droopy, H-B went with another father-son team of canines and revived Augie Doggy and Doggie Daddy for this show. Then again, maybe not.

Rating: B.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Toons After Dark: Family Guy welcomes the Simpsons (2014)

This was one of the most one-sided crossovers in the history of crossovers.

Family Guy's season premiere on Sunday was a 1 hour special, as the Griffin family traveled to Springfield, USA, home of The Simpsons. Unfortunately, Fox really botched it, and at the same time, acknowledged whose creative bread they'd rather be buttering.

Let's just cut right to the plot, such as it is. Peter Griffin (Seth MacFarlane) decides to become a cartoonist, and starts a 1-panel humor strip in the Quahog newspaper. Being about as dumb as a doorstop isn't a deterrent, as Griffin's crude drawings get a negative reaction, and the family is forced to flee the city. The family car is stolen at a rest stop, and that forces the Griffins to hike to Springfield. Homer Simpson (Dan Castelanetta) takes the Griffins in, and the families bond. Well, everything seems to go smoothly. Lisa (Yeardley Smith) gives Meg (Mila Kunis) encouragement, then seethes when she sees that Meg has a talent as a saxophone player, just like her. Stewie (MacFarlane), after seeing Bart (Nancy Cartwright) bullied by Nelson Muntz, decides to avenge his new friend. Learning how to use a slingshot, Stewie captures and tortures Nelson. And if you thought that was wack.....

Brian (MacFarlane) and Chris (Seth Green, Robot Chicken) take Santa's Little Helper, the Simpsons' dog, out for a walk, and Brian unwittingly allows the greyhound to run loose after disengaging the leash. Talk about awkward. The best scenes, however, belong to Peter & Homer. First, there's a ridiculous car wash skit, set to Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me". Then, after it's exposed that Peter had been fleecing the makers of Duff beer, the Griffins lose a lawsuit, and that leads to an epic fight between Peter & Homer, which exposes all the tropes of animation in a matter of minutes.

Just to remind fans of his aborted Flintstones project, MacFarlane throws in a cameo by Fred (Jeff Bergman) as a judge. Well, he knows this will be on [adult swim] eventually, unless Fox prohibits it, since The Simpsons' cable rights belong to one of their cable networks.

In case you missed it, here's a trailer:

The right way to go about this would've been to do it old school style, with part 1 airing on Simpsons, but I'm guessing either Matt Groening, or the folks at Film Roman, which animates Simpsons, weren't asked, or were and declined. By putting this entirely in MacFarlane's hands, well, what did you expect? Too many cutaway gags, a MacFarlane specialty, plus a cameo by Bob of Bob's Burgers and the alien from American Dad, which, oh by the way, is leaving Fox for TBS after a brief fall run.

Rating: B+.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Toon Sports: Popeye & Bluto take up baseball (The Twisker Pitcher, 1937)

As baseball enters its postseason tournament, we thought it'd be appropriate to serve up a vintage Popeye short that takes a bit of a poke at the grand old game.

Popeye & Bluto are opposing pitchers on semi-pro teams, one would guess, in "The Twisker Pitcher".

Well, at least Bluto finally had a fan rooting for him. Too bad the result was the same as it always was.

Rating: A-.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Rein-Toon-Ation: GI Joe Renegades (2010)

When The Hub launched 4 years ago, one of their first original series brought back the GI Joe franchise, with a decided twist.

GI Joe Renegades recasts a small group of Joes as fugitives accused of a crime they didn't commit. Consider also that Cobra's involved (naturally), and you can figure out the rest.

Co-executive producer Jeff Kline came over from Sony, where he worked for their animation department (Adelaide) in the 90's and oversaw Men In Black and Jackie Chan Adventures, among others. Some of the character designs suggest that some of the Adelaide animation staff came with Kline. The creators drew inspiration from the 1983-7 series, The A-Team, which had been rebooted in theatres earlier in 2010 with Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper. That franchise, of course, is a spiritual cousin to The Fugitive, making Renegades a part of a very large family tree, if you will.

Shout! Factory holds the rights to the video distribution of the series, likely as part of a merchandising deal with Hasbro. Here's the open:

Back in the day, it'd been teased that Scarlett & Snake Eyes were potentially a couple. It was noted in Renegades that they trained together, and therein lies an emotional connection. Well, it's a start. There'd been talk of a new GI Joe series in the pipeline, but with The Hub giving way to Discovery Family next month, it's also been reported that Hasbro has talked to Time Warner about future projects. Recall that Cartoon Network had been home to a previous GI Joe entry (on [adult swim]), and also has had a couple of Hot Wheels series. Chances are pretty good, then, for Hasbro to work with CN down the road, provided they're not asked to dumb things down.......!

GI Joe Renegades gets a B.

The Hub (2010-2014)

I didn't know about this until I ran across a posting by Silverstar over at Twin Factor the other day. After 4 years of trying to run with the big boys of children's television, The Hub Network, otherwise known simply as The Hub, is being rebooted yet again.

Again, you say? Yes. After all, The Hub rose from the ashes of the Discovery Kids channel after Hasbro bought a significant stake in the network, and subsequently opened a studio so they could revive some of their previously animated properties.

But, therein lies the problem. Like the networks they wanted to compete with, namely Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, & Cartoon Network, not to mention each channel's sister stations, The Hub fell into the pattern of plugging every available hole in the schedule with the hottest property they have, namely, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, despite a deep vault of other shows, including the entire DK library that could've been kept on the air to fill time. Instead, shows like The Future Is Wild & Grossology were phased out after a few weeks on The Hub. You'll recall that the other networks have made that same mistake by overplaying their golden geese (i.e. Scooby-Doo, Phineas & Ferb, etc.), but also learned to diversify their product, for better or worse.

The Hub's idea of diversification was to copy Nick at Nite and fill primetime with classic, family-friendly sitcoms, such as, most recently, Blossom. Discovery Communications, which is taking back full control next month, is rebranding the network as----wait for it---Discovery Family. Not exactly original, I know, but their idea of prime-time programming figures to be mostly documentaries, also aimed at families. Like, I wouldn't mind if they could persuade Disney to lease out those "True Life Adventure" documentaries that were in theatres back in the day, and haven't seen the light of day on DC in seemingly forever, or even The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, but the kiddo's will be bored to tears and will be fleeing to the other channels.

What seemingly sealed the deal was the decision made by programming head Margaret Loesch to step down at the end of the month. Loesch, whose resume includes stops at Marvel and Hanna-Barbera in the 80's, would be a good fit at CN if they didn't already have someone in place to take over for Stuart Snyder, who left at the end of March. While Friendship is Magic and other Hasbro toons will continue, as Hasbro will program a significant chunk of daytime programming, the ratings will suffer once the new programming schematic kicks in on October 13.

It was not that long ago that I had declared that The Hub was better than Cartoon Network. The diff, however, is that Hub wasn't reaching as many homes as CN, Nick, and/or Disney combined. That and ratings fatigue from overplaying My Little Pony into the ground would be enough to write fini.

Toon fans have to hope, though, that Discovery will bring back their own line of toons, like the shows mentioned above and Tutenstein, the latter in time for Halloween. If they don't, then they're wasting everyone's time.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

You Know the Voice: Meet the voice behind Popeye (To Tell The Truth, 1974)

Well, blow me down!

Here's an episode of To Tell The Truth which leads with a guest appearance by Jack Mercer, the best known voice of Popeye. An excerpt from one of the spinach-eating sailor's 50's adventures precedes the game play.

I'll try to find the complete episode of Popeye & Olive on the moon soon.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Krofftverse: It's All In Your Mind (Far Out Space Nuts, 1975)

It's way past time we checked in with Sid & Marty Krofft's Far Out Space Nuts, the first series the Kroffts sold to CBS, and it deserved a better fate than it got.

The episode "It's All In Your Mind" sees Barney (co-creator Chuck McCann) and Junior (Bob Denver) fall prey to an alien computer that apparently is hungry for knowledge. If you've seen this plot before, well, it is a standard cliche of the genre.

Fittingly, a YouTube poster named Know It All Joe posted this episode:

Space Nuts was the 2nd live-action series for Denver that failed to get past 1 season, Dusty's Trail being the other, and it would be Denver's last series gig. McCann, meanwhile, moved on to doing some serious drama, with guest roles on Matt Houston and The Rockford Files on his resume.

Rating: C.