Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rein-Toon-Ation: GI Joe Extreme (1995)

GI Joe returned in 1995, this time as a weekly series that aired on Fridays in most markets, as opposed to landing a Saturday morning berth. Gunther-Wahl Productions produced this series, in conjunction with Sunbow. Co-executive producer Lee Gunther had left Marvel Productions to form his own company, which was modestly successful during this period.

The series encompasses 26 episodes, or two seasons of a weekly series. Naturally, Hasbro produced new toys and commissioned this series to help sell the new action figures and accessories. A year earlier, Sunbow had produced a 1-shot pilot, Sgt. Savage & The Screaming Eagles, which didn't sell, and the characters were incorporated into this series.

Here's the open:



Rating: None. Never saw the show.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Toon Legends: Felix The Cat (1959)

There has been much dispute over who really gets the credit for creating Felix The Cat, whose adventures stretch all the way back to the silent film era.

Some say that Australian animator Pat Sullivan, who is credited in the intro to the TV shorts that bowed in 1959, such as the one you'll see below, created Felix. Others, including noted film critic Leonard Maltin (Entertainment Tonight), passed the credit to artist Otto Messmer, who worked for Sullivan. Regardless, Felix has delighted children of all ages for nearly 100 years.

After some of his early shorts were released to television in 1954, Felix began appearing in a brand new series of cartoons produced by Trans-Lux in 1959. This version is the one most of us are most familiar with, as Felix has a magic, shapeshifting bag that adjusts to whatever he needs at a particular time. Plus, there are the recurring villains, such as the Professor, whose nephew, Poindexter, is Felix's best buddy, and Rock Bottom, a bulldog who's about as sharp as a bag of stale dog biscuits. Periodically, the Professor would abandon his quest to acquire the magic bag and aid Felix on one of his adventures.

Winston Sharples, long time musical director for Famous Studios (Paramount), composed the theme song, sung by Ann Bennett, a big band singer of some renown. Continuing the Famous connection, all the voices in the Trans-Lux series were the work of one man------Jack Mercer (Popeye). Coincidentally, Mae Questel (better known as the voices of Olive Oyl & Betty Boop) was the original voice of Felix in the 1930's shorts. Considering that there were no credits or episode titles when the shorts reran in syndication in the 70's, the revelation is amazing in and of itself. Producer Joe Oriolo is another link in the Famous chain. He's also responsible for another cartoon icon---Casper the Friendly Ghost!

My first exposure to Felix came during the 70's, when the shorts aired on WPIX on weekday mornings. He'd return in 1995 with the CBS series, The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat, which returned Felix to his silent era roots.

Now, let's scope out why the Professor was after "The Magic Bag":



Too bad Felix doesn't have a home now on the cable, as he'd be a welcome addition anywhere.

Rating: A.

Rein-Toon-Ation: GI Joe (1989)

2 years after having had their original series "decommissioned" (cancelled for the rest of us), GI Joe returned in 1989 with an all-new series, and a new animation studio at the helm, DIC, which obtained the rights, even though Marvel was still publishing the comic books at the time.

Granted, the theme song is different, and sounds a little more macho, but it's cheesy at the same time. Judge for yourself, as superherocartoonsite uploaded the theme:



I remember the theme music, but didn't watch too many episodes. In fairness, I cannot rate this version.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Daytime Heroes: GI Joe: A Real American Hero (1983)

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the GI Joe: A Real American Hero comic book series from Marvel, which in turn rebooted the line of action figures that had been created by Hasbro some 2 decades earlier. Whereas before, GI Joe was just one person, Hasbro & Marvel reimagined it as an entire counter-terrorism force under the direction of the US Military.

In 1983, Marvel's television arm, in conjunction with Sunbow Productions, produced the first GI Joe miniseries. A second one followed a year later, and the fan response, coupled with sales numbers on the comic remaining strong, led to the decision to go full bore with a regular series, which launched in 1985, and lasted two seasons. During this time, pro wrestler Sgt. Slaughter, who had left the World Wrestling Federation for the American Wrestling Association (AWA) at the time, joined the cast, credited under his real name, Robert Remus. Slaughter stuck around through the end of the series in 1987, culminating with a direct-to-video movie, but didn't return for subsequent revivals and reboots.

GI Joe would return again in 1989, but this time produced by DIC, which didn't have the same kind of success, and the DIC-era series hasn't yet turned up on The Hub, the Hasbro-owned cabler that holds the rights to the series, at least as far as I can tell. Sunbow took back the franchise and produced a weekly series, GI Joe Extreme, in 1995, which lasted two seasons. The Joes have subsequently returned twice more since, first with the Japanese-produced GI Joe: Sigma Six, which aired on Fox initially, and has found its way to The Hub, which launched the current series, GI Joe: Renegades, in 2010, and thus there has been at least one series in each of the last four decades. Pretty good, don't ya think?

Here's the season 1 open. Jackson Beck is the narrator.



We'll catch up with the other incarnations down the road, but the original is still the best.

Rating: A-.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Mutant X (2001)

Marvel Comics' film division decided to get into first-run syndication in 2001, partnering with Tribune Entertainment to produce Mutant X, which aired in primetime in some markets, but in others, it aired in the afternoon or morning, hence its inclusion.

Because 20th Century Fox had the license, via Marvel, to produce the X-Men movies, Marvel had to be very careful about how they marketed Mutant X. The ensemble cast was built around veteran actor John Shea (ex-Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman), who starred as Adam Kane, the leader of Mutant X, which was created to protect a new generation of mutants, whose powers weren't granted as a result of genetics, but rather, illegal experiments performed on their parents years earlier. Marvel would produce a comics version of the series between seasons 1 & 2, but it didn't last very long. In fact, Mutant X, while it lasted three seasons, was meant to continue into a fourth, but co-producer Fireworks went out of business.

Here's the first season open:



20th Century Fox sued Marvel, claiming that, ironically enough, the series was too close to the X-Men, as if Marvel was covertly planning on incorporating Mutant X into the fabric of their comics universe down the road. The two studios settled out of court. Some people are just too sensitive, aren't they?

Rating: None. Didn't follow the show enough to rate it.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

It Should've Been on a Saturday: Sheep in the Big City (2000)

It was designed as a left-handed homage to Jay Ward's legendary Rocky & His Friends. Unfortunately for creator Mo Willems, Sheep in the Big City didn't have the popularity that Rocky & Bullwinkle have enjoyed since their debut. Introduced as a primetime series on Cartoon Network in November 2000, Sheep is about a singular sheep on the run from a lunatic named General Specific, who is trying to develop a---wait for it---sheep-powered ray gun. Not even Ward was this wacky!

Specific and Sheep were both voiced by ex-MTV personality Kevin Seal, who'd dropped out of sight after leaving the network in the 90's, and hasn't been heard from since Sheep was cancelled in 2002. Seal was also the voice behind the Ranting Swede, who'd appear usually at the end of the show for an angry commentary of some kind that really had 0 to do with the plot of the show.

Anyway, here's the series open:



Rating: C-.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Rubber Band Man (1976)

Discolarry124 uploaded this off a VHS he made of a VH1 rerun of American Bandstand from 1976. The Spinners perform "Rubber Band Man", which was a huge hit that summer & fall, and let me tell you, more than a decade later, when I saw them live on a package tour to promote Bandstand, they still had those ginormous rubber bands, which were totally wack.

Ya know, ABC kinda blew it three years later when they could've used this song to promote Plastic Man. Then again, what do some network suits know about synchronicity, anyway......

Toonfomercial: The Sundance Kids for the Girls Clubs of America (1973)

Here's one from the lost & found file.

Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kids explain the Girls Clubs of America to their computerized boss, Mr. Socrates (John Stephenson) in this spot, uploaded by Seanmc.



Amazingly, the computer didn't sneeze in the presence of the band's dog-mascot, Elvis. Go figure.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Looney TV: Wakko Warner's 2:00 travelogue of the USA (1993 or so)

From Animaniacs comes this delightful gem.

In what starts off as a sort-of parody of Jeopardy!, sans Alex Trebek, Wakko Warner is challenged to name all 50 states & their capitals. Abruptly, he pulls out a map and a fiddle and sings his answer. Uploaded by DCNorton to YouTube:



Enough said.

"Beware the Batman"? Viewers should be wary.

There is a teaser trailer that lasts less than 30 seconds currently circulating on YouTube for the forthcoming Beware the Batman, the latest CGI offering from Cartoon Network. I'm not posting it because it doesn't address the issues I want to talk about.

My brother was visiting today for the holiday and we shared information on what we knew. Prepare to cringe.

*Alfred is packing a gun. The idea is that Alfred Pennyworth, in this version, is a former secret agent before signing on as a butler to the Wayne family. For years, Batman has been presented as having no use for firearms, even though he actually did wield a gun early on in the Golden Age. So why have Alfred packing heat? Not only that, but instead of remaining confined to the Batcave, Alfred is actually accompanying the Dark Knight, based on what I've been told. Something tells me we won't be seeing much, if at all, of Bruce Wayne on this show, which would be two consecutive Bat-series.

*Batman's sidekick, at least for now, is Katana. The Japanese swordswoman was introduced back in the 80's in the first volume of Batman & The Outsiders, and more recently was a member of the Birds of Prey. Coincidentally, DC announced in their February 2013 solicitations that Katana would star in her own series. Hmmm. Y'don't suppose that Beware will be on the air by then?

*As of now, the classic villains, such as Two-Face, the Riddler, Catwoman, & Joker, the latter front & center in a current DC story arc in the Bat-books, are not scheduled to appear. Given how Joker was horribly handled on The Batman, miscast as a barefoot, dreadlocked sort, maybe it's just as well. Instead, Anarky, who was introduced in the comics in the 90's, is the central villain. That merits a......

SAY WHAT??

Actually, this shouldn't be a surprise, considering that one of the producers on the show is Mitch Watson, the man who has single-handedly ruined Scooby-Doo for a lot of fans the last couple of years with his revisionist retconning. Clearly, Watson is a fanboy whose roots are in the 80's, but by ignoring Robin and Batgirl, he's removing a large chunk of the Bat-mythos, and for no other reason than to put his own stamp on another icon that doesn't need this sort of abuse.

Look, I get that Watson thinks the viewers are tired of the Joker and Catwoman. The truth is, they're also a big part of Bat-history. Catwoman, one would think, would be a hot commodity again after the blockbuster success of "Dark Knight Rises" earlier this year. I've never met the guy, but so far, I've gotten nothing but bad vibes out of his work. Bear in mind, CN screwed viewers by scheduling Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated on weekday afternoons for season 2, as if they're saying they're just washing their hands of the show, but if that were a reason, why give Watson another iconic character to mess with?

The CGI looks nice, but the writing, if it isn't solely Watson (pray there are others involved), needs to be first-rate. The DC Nation block is on hiatus from CN, and they're not exactly forthcoming with the rationale on why, be it ratings or something else, though they're airing reruns of Young Justice on Boomerang lately to appease angry fans. However, the comics version of that series is ending, also in February. Clearly, Beware the Batman is being posited to move into the block, if not to expand it, but to replace Justice, but CN is remaining coy about their plans.

Those of us who've been detractors of Watson have but two words for supporters and fans anticipating Beware:

Caveat emptor. I will paraphrase the translation: Let the viewer beware.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rein-Toon-Ation: Godzilla (1998)

We are all accustomed to the classic Godzilla. Green, scaly, thirty stories high, as the theme to his 1978 series describes his height. Toho in Japan turned him from a villain to a hero in a series of sequels, and made him a beloved figure here in the US.

So why in the blue hizell did Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich ("Independence Day") decide to turn him into a crawling giant lizard for their 1998 feature film and subsequent Fox cartoon series? Lord only knows. The movie was one of the worst I'd ever seen, despite standout performances by Matthew Broderick & Jean Reno. The cartoon? All that did was perpetuate the mistake, and it managed to hang on over the course of two seasons, thanks to Fox's rotating their cartoons in and out without advance warning. Thanks, but I'll take the genuine model over this imposter.

As a public service, we present the open to the 1998 series.



And ya wonder why there hasn't been a sequel, though rumors persist of a reboot of the franchise.

Rating: C-.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Happy Anniversary (1961)

From season 1 of The Flintstones comes an all time classic bit.

Wilma (Jean VanderPyl) thinks Fred (Alan Reed) has forgotten their anniversary. With help from faithful sidekick-neighbor Barney Rubble (Mel Blanc), and four Bedrock cops, Fred manages a miracle.........



Many thanks to SaturdayMorningFan for helping provide some key information.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Gigantor (1964)

Gigantor was part of the first wave of Japanese anime imported to the US in the mid-60's, but to some it isn't as fondly remembered as, say for example, Speed Racer.

That could be because two years after Gigantor arrived in the US, Hanna-Barbera created their own super robot-----Frankenstein, Jr., complete with the boy genius "sidekick". While Frankie fought far more campy villains, Gigantor's "rogues gallery" might as well have come from some of Toho's monster movies. There wouldn't have been much difference, don't you think?

Years later, Gigantor was given a second chance in America, and we'll take a look at that another time. Right now, let's take a trip back nearly 50 years. OriginalErty uploaded the open to Gigantor:



Rating: None. Never saw the show.

The bane of a blogger's existence

Every now and then, I'll go through the backlog of posts here in the Archives, and also in The Land of Whatever, to revisit some past posts. Of late, I've noticed that a lot of the videos I've posted here have been removed from YouTube, and, thus, by extension, unavailable here, either by YouTube, the user that posted it, or at the request of a network or studio due to copyright issues.

It's not cool, I realize that, but that's just the way it is. I've had to edit some posts, but others will wind up being deleted altogether because I can't replace the video(s) at all. As a result, you'll see the post count drop a bit at a time while I attend to this matter. Bear with me, and I apologize for any inconvienence this may cause.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Saturday School: A musical lesson in brushing your teeth (1980's)

While not a part of ABC's Bod Squad series of animated PSA's, per se, this short piece had to have aired during the early 1980's. It happens to be a coincidence that Chopper is loosely based on Fonzie (Henry Winkler) from Happy Days, who happened to have his own Saturday morning show at the time. However, this was the first time I'd seen this one, which SatAMBrainfood has titled, "Exercise Your Choppers", meaning, of course, your teeth.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Toonfomercial: Why talking food should never be near a ski slope (1980)

With news that Hostess is going out of business, let's take a look back at two of the company's mascots.

In this 1980 commercial, Fruitpie the Magician (Allen Swift, using a variant on his King Leonardo voice) needs the help of Twinkie the Kid (Mort Marshall) when he gets caught in an avalanche while trying to entertain a couple of kids. They just don't do ads like this anymore.

Saturtainment: Mystery Island (1977)

As we've documented previously, Hanna-Barbera sought to recreate the magic of the Banana Splits with CBS' Skatebirds in 1977, nearly a full decade after the Splits' debut. Unfortunately, it didn't work so well this tme.

The serial part of the show, Mystery Island, wasn't a direct copy of Danger Island, but then again, it came across as a little too B-movie cheesy for viewers to handle. A family is forced to land on a remote island controlled by a crackpot scientist, Dr. Strange (not to be confused with the Marvel hero of the same name), who wants their robot, P.O.P.S. (voice of Frank Welker) as part of his scheme for world domination. Yawn. I think we know how this will end, don't we, kids?

Well, actually, we don't. The series was cancelled without a proper conclusion to the story, if memory serves, unlike Danger Island, which had a definitive ending. It sounds as though the narrator is Sunn Classic Pictures narrator Brad Crandall, but he is not credited according to sources I've read. I should point out that Sunn Classic was, I believe, a sister company to Hanna-Barbera at the time (both owned by Taft Broadcasting), so it would have made sense to fit Crandall into the mix here.

70skidvid uploaded the beginning & ending to the episode, "The Mind Blower". Sorry to say, that's all that is available at the moment.....



No rating. I didn't watch the show. (After all, the Super Friends had my full attention at that hour.)

On The Air: Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood (2012)

Growing up during the 70's, I don't think you could find anyone that didn't watch Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and travel into the "Neighborhood of Make-Believe", which at the time was populated by puppet characters such as King Friday & Daniel Striped Tiger. Today, Fred Rogers' legacy lives on through the spiritual successor to his seminal series. Welcome, then, to Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.

Young Daniel carries on the Rogers traditions from back in the day. He sings "It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" as he ties on his shoes, and speaks directly to the viewer as his "neighbor", just as Fred did for so many years. It's almost as if we've stepped through a time warp!

In truth, Daniel is the son of Daniel Striped Tiger from the original series, and has his own circle of friends, including Prince Wednesday, King Friday's son. In effect, he's the perfect playmate for the preschoolers tuning in. PBS has the series airing weekdays at 11 am (ET) presently, and I would imagine that if the series takes off---it's been on the air 2 months---additional airtimes will be added, depending on where you live. After all, back in the old days, local affiliates could schedule Mister Rogers to air in the late afternoon-after school block, right before dinner, so everyone could watch.

Following is the intro:



The animation is produced on computer such that it looks like it leaps off the pages of a storybook. Naturally, it wouldn't surprise anyone if PBS licenses out picture books and other merchandise based on the show. Fred Rogers is smiling up in Heaven, knowing that his mission is continuing.

Rating: A.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Daytime Heroes: Crusader Rabbit (1950)

Crusader Rabbit holds two distinctions in television history. It is the first made-for-TV animated series, and the first to spring from the imagination of maverick producer Jay Ward. The limited animation used on the show was the result of budget limitations imposed on Ward and his business partner, Alex Anderson, and so that explains why it doesn't have what would become the signature Ward style later used on Rocky & His Freinds. In fact, the reason Rocky, Bullwinkle, & Crusader never met, much less teamed up, is because by the time Ward conceived Rocky & Bullwinkle, he'd lost the rights to Crusader.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Crusader Rabbit aired on weekdays in syndication, even though it was partly owned by NBC (another one the network let get away). In addition, the one distinction that marks it as a Ward creation is the serial format later used on Rocky, which of course was more successful, achieving iconic status.

We are presenting the very first chapter of the first serial, and doing so in memory of actress Lucille Bliss, the original voice of Crusader, who passed away last week at the age of 96 after a long and distinguished career, which included working on shows such as The Flintstones & Smurfs.



The narrative, coupled with the limited animation, makes it seem like they were adapting a children's book. Hmmmm, maybe they could've taken that route, too. Crusader returned in 1957, with Creston Studios, which would later animate the primetime series, Calvin & The Colonel, handling the animation, and with a different actress as Crusader.

Rating: C.

Daytime Heroes: Mummies Alive! (1997)

After Disney's Gargoyles ended its run with an ill-advised Saturday morning, ah, reincarnation, two of the show's writers moved to DIC and developed a similarly themed show about ancient guardians coming back to life in the modern world. Unfortunately, Mummies Alive! didn't have the same kind of staying power as Gargoyles, and was cancelled after just 1 season, though some stations kept the show around for a few more years. Currently, Cookie Jar, which bought out DIC a while back, has the series airing on Sundays (check your listings).

The series is set in San Francisco where a young boy named Presley discovers that he is the reincarnation of a young Egyptian Pharoah, Prince Rapses (based on Ramses). A group of mummies are brought back to life as Presley's bodyguards to protect him from an ancient enemy, Scarab, who wants Rapses/Presley's life force to achieve immortality.

Poing2001 uploaded the open:



Cookie cutter cartoon drama, by the numbers. Rinse & repeat. Nothing really new to see.

Rating: C.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Saturday School: Bobby's World (1990)

Here's one that NBC is probably regretting they never bought.

You see, Canadian-born comedian-actor Howie Mandel had been on the network's St. Elsewhere, one of his first dramatic roles, and if memory serves, I believe he'd been nominated, or at least in the conversation, for an Emmy during the show's run. Quite a jump for a guy whose first impression on me was blowing up a balloon around his head on Make Me Laugh back in 1979.

The next jump came when Mandel pitched an idea for an animated series that would land on Fox, Bobby's World. Little Bobby Generic (Mandel) has a vivid imagination, which usually kicks in when he gets himself in trouble at home. Mandel also voiced Bobby's dad, who was basically the actor's animated alter-ego. Bobby's World spent the better part of 7 seasons on Fox, and rerun rights currently belong to Kabillion (check your listings). The series also aired on weekdays during its run, a typical Fox practice back in those days.

The following video comes from Kabillion's YouTube channel:



Mandel brought Bobby back for a guest appearance on Deal or No Deal a few years back, but if you thought NBC might ask about reviving the series......naaaaah. It's been reported, though, that the series is back in production, at least according to the not-so-reliable Wikipedia. Walter Mitty would be proud......

Rating: B.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

From Comics To Toons: The X-Men & the Spider-Friends team up! (1983)

During season 3 of Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends, Stan Lee thought it might be a good idea to mark the X-Men's 20th anniversary by having the team appear on the show. One quibble. The Native American Thunderbird had been killed off in the comics well before this point, and so his inclusion, one must assume, would be in answer to the Super Friends' Native American hero, Apache Chief, as if to say, we did it first.

When Marvel decided to revive the X-Men in the comics in the mid-70's, they did make them more globally diverse, with Canada (Wolverine), Ireland (Banshee), & Africa (Storm) represented. The Japanese mutant, Sunfire, briefly joined the team, but, like Wolverine & Banshee, he wasn't new, having previously appeared in Sub-Mariner. So it can be said that DC & Hanna-Barbera responded with Apache Chief, Samurai, & Black Vulcan being added to the Super Friends, despite the haterizing that would follow years later. I digress.

Warp to 1983. While some members of the X-Men's original team had appeared on The Marvel Super Heroes Show some years earlier, this was the first appearance of the more popular incarnation introduced in 1975 on TV. The plot sees a former boyfriend of Angelica Jones, aka Firestar (Kathy Garver, ex-Family Affair), now a cyborg known as Cyberiad, attack the Spider-Friends and the X-Men in the latter team's own Danger Room. The idea is that Angelica was originally an X-Man, but that wasn't really the case.

After production on Amazing Friends had ended, Marvel decided to bring Firestar into the Marvel Universe proper in a 4-issue miniseries produced in 1984. She would eventually join the Avengers instead of the X-Men, but hasn't been seen in years.




In 1989, the X-Men would return to TV in an ill-fated, but well-received pilot. Unfortunately, it would be 3 more years before they'd get their own show, which we've previously discussed. We will serve up Pryde of the X-Men real soon, so you can judge for yourselves.

Rating: B-.

Saturday School: Timer explains how "You Are What You Eat" (mid-70's)

It's been a while since we heard from Timer (Len Weinrib), so here's a gem from the mid-70's, uploaded by Muttley16. If you've ever wondered just what makes up your body, wellllll..........

Krofftverse: Dr. Shrinker (1976)

Dr. Shrinker was Sid & Marty Krofft's left-handed homage to the horror B-movies of the 40's & 50's, as part of the Krofft Supershow. Unfortunately, it lasted just one season, and was replaced by Magic Mongo in season 2.

Shrinker (Jay Robinson, "Train Ride to Hollywood") and his sidekick, Hugo (Billy Barty, fresh from Sigmund & the Sea Monsters) take three young people who crashed on their island and shrink them down to virtually doll-size, which recalls "Dr. Cyclops". The idea is that Shrinker wants to sell the kids to a foreign power. I can't see what that would amount to, but then again, a lot of things in the Krofftverse don't make sense years later.

Dr. Shrinker marked a rare on-camera gig for voice acting vet Ted Eccles, who might be better known for his work on The Herculoids and The Three Musketeers. Co-star Jeff MacKay would later star on Tales of the Gold Monkey in the early 80's, while Robinson made the guest star rounds in primetime, including Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

The cheesy production values hurt Shrinker big time, but if they wanted to remake this show, they now have the technology to make it work.

Edit: 2/21/15: We now have a sample episode available. Here's "Pardon Me, King Kong":




Rating: C-.

Monday, November 12, 2012

You Know The Voice: Bob Hastings (1974)

In the course of nearly 70 years in show business, Bob Hastings has had success on television & radio, but being a game show host wasn't the smartest of career moves.

Hastings began his career in radio during the Golden Age as the voice of Archie Andrews, which begs to ask why in the blue hizell Filmation didn't cast him when they picked up the license for Archie in 1968. Hastings was already on the Filmation roster (Adventures of Superboy), but for some unknown reason, Norm Prescott, Lou Scheimer, & Hal Sutherland went with Dallas McKennon (Daniel Boone), who'd gained voice-over cred with Gumby & Courageous Cat earlier in the 60's, and, if you pay attention, he does use a variation on his Courageous voice for Archie.

Of course, Hastings would wind up at Hanna-Barbera during the 70's, playing Henry Glopp, the sidekick to Cory Anders (Mark Hamill) on Jeannie, as well as D. D. on Clue Club, before returning to "face acting", and his longest running gig, as Bert Ramsey, on General Hospital. In between Jeannie & Clue Club, Hastings had a brief role as bartender Tommy Kelsey on All in the Family. Brief because I think the reason he left was for that game show gig I referenced at the start.

In 1974, Hastings was tapped to host Dealer's Choice, a game show taped in Las Vegas (the first of its kind, but not the last). However, despite his carnival barker style, Hastings was a flop and was let go rather abruptly, replaced by game show veteran Jack Clark. I remember seeing Dealer's Choice when it first aired, and perhaps the fault on Hastings was that he was too excitable. Judge for yourself.

The video has been deleted by YouTube due to copyright issues.

Of course, today's generation knows Hastings as the definitive voice of Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon on Batman: The Animated Series, marking the actor's return to cartoons after 15 years. I believe he's retired now, but the body of work he created from the 40's through the last decade will last forever.

Daytime Heroes: Tranzor Z (1985)

Not every anime imported from Japan makes a successful transition to American television.

In the mid-80's, audiences in the US were accustomed to Voltron & Robotech. Star Blazers had gone off the air. An enterprising soul decided to acquire a 1972 anime, Mazinger Z, and adapt it for American audiences under the title, Tranzor Z. However, a great deal of editing was required in order to get Tranzor sold to US stations such as WSBK in Boston, because, you see, Mazinger had not only more violence than most of the other anime, but it had mature content that didn't seem appropriate for daytime viewing.

As a result, Tranzor Z lasted just one season in America, lost amidst a growing market for first run syndicated cartoons. Because it had been heavily edited or "watered down", as some critics might suggest, it wasn't very popular, unlike Robotech, which landed merchandising deals, including a line of comic books, and Voltron, which quickly gained a cult following.

ElHijodelDuce uploaded the open for Tranzor Z.



Rating: C-.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Toon Sports: Speed Racer (1966)

As part of the first wave of Japanese anime to land in the United States in the mid-60's, Speed Racer has turned out to be the most enduring of those franchises, such that there have been revivals over the last 20 years, including an ill-fated live-action feature film adaptation that laid an egg at the box office in 2008.

Most of you probably know the story. Speed, or Go Mifune as he's known in the original Japanese version, enters a race against the wishes of his father, and unbeknownst to both, the original Mach 5's windshield includes some secret plans that Pops had developed. So, of course that means some cloak & dagger action with enemy spies.

Speed's younger brother, Spritle, and his pet monkey, Chim Chim, provided comedy relief, more than anything, setting the stage for similar comedy sidekicks to be introduced in the US in later years. Trixie was Speed's faithful girlfriend, but hardly a damsel in distress. In fact, a few years ago, GEICO took a clip from the show, with Trixie in her helicopter, and redubbed new dialogue to fit the sponsor. Silly stuff. Around the same time, Nicktoons had introduced a follow-up series, Speed Racer: The Next Generation. By this point, Speed, Trixie, & Spritle are all grown up, and it's assumed (since I never saw this show) that Speed & Trixie finally got married. Unfortunately, this, along with a 1993 revival, were done without the authorization of the Japanese producers who introduced the franchise all the way back in 1966.

Speed has made his way through a few cable networks, including MTV, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, and, finally and appropriately, Fox's Speed channel, which was the last network to hold the rights to the classic series.

Treadwell Jay uploaded the original open/close dating back to when the series first arrived in America in 1967. What you don't know is that the theme is performed by the country music group, Danny Davis & the Nashville Brass.



Dexter's Laboratory famously parodied Speed in the 90's in the episode, "Mock 5", with Dee Dee in the Racer X costume (as Racer D). Gotta remember to pull that one up sometime.

Rating: B-.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Animated World of DC Comics: Batman encounters "Two Penguins Too Many" (1968)

What happens when Joker & Penguin team up? Utter chaos, especially when the circus is in town. What happens, then, when a pair of stray penguins, confused by all the commotion, begin following the dire duo? Oh, the irony of it all, when Batman & Robin catch up, in "Two Penguins Too Many".

Unfortunately the video has been deleted due to copyright issues.

Enough said. Rating: A.

On The Air: South Park (1997)

I once coined the term, "animated colorforms", to describe my disdain for season 1 of Problem Child because of the poor quality of the animation. However, a couple of independent cartoonists took it to a whole new level.

South Park is one of Comedy Central's longest-running series, marking its 15th anniversary this year. It merits mention in the Archives because reruns air on weekdays on the network, though when it was in syndication the last 4 years, stations opted to air it in late night because of  the coarse language used in many episodes. Still, the biting satirical humor employed by creators and primary performers Trey Parker & Matt Stone has incurred the wrath of the Catholic League and other organizations over and over again over the course of the past 15 years.

With Parker & Stone, nothing is sacred, not even religion. They've depicted Jesus as a talk show host, for starters. However, even they realize that a joke loses its power when it's used too often, as was the case when one of the four core characters, Kenny, was killed in virtually every episode during the first 5 seasons, and after a vacation, returned at the end of season 6, and has been around ever since.

The other reason it's here is because of a Halloween episode from I believe 1999, with musical guest stars Korn in a episode that parodied not only The New Scooby-Doo Movies, but also gave the rockers a superhero gimmick that crossed Captain Planet (there are 5 guys in the band) and the Wonder Twins. With predictable results.

The90scartoons uploaded this brief sample clip that illustrates what I'm talking about.



What keeps South Park on the air is its timely, headline-ripping, topical humor. I believe I read that this week's episode was themed on the previous night's Presidential election. You may not agree with Parker & Stone's warped viewpoints, but somehow they just keep rolling along.

Rating: B-.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

You Know The Voices: June Foray & Bill Scott (1984)

June Foray would have to be considered the grand dame of voice actresses. June is still active, with a recurring part on Cartoon Network's The Looney Tunes Show, now in its 2nd season, but her career began in radio many, many moons ago, as it did for many other voice actors. June initially wasn't credited for some of the Looney Tunes characters she created for the classic shorts back in the day (i.e. Witch Hazel, Granny), since Mel Blanc had it written in his contract that he was the only actor to receive credit. Try figuring that one out.

June's most famous character, however, is Rocket J. (Rocky) Squirrel, star of Rocky & His Friends, aka The Bullwinkle Show, which passed its 50th anniversary a while back. She also was the show's lead villainness, Natasha Fatale, while Bill Scott was Bullwinkle, as well as Mr. Peabody & Dudley Do-Right.

In this clip from 1984, Bill & June are in Boston for an animation convention, and, as you'll see, even got to do their act on radio. Rocky queuing up a Kiss record? What next? Well, a year later, they appeared on Joe Piscopo's comedy-music CD, "New Jersey", not to be confused with the Bon Jovi disc of the same name that came out 3 years later.

Bill Scott passed away some time back, but as I noted earlier, June Foray is still with us, still entertaining audiences of all ages.......

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Animated World of DC Comics: Operation Rescue (1967)

TheTeenageTitans serves up the last of three Teen Titans shorts from 1967's Superman-Aquaman Hour of Adventure. "Operation Rescue" is self-explanatory.



To think that it would be more than 35 years before there would be new Titans cartoons........

Rating: B.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Animated World of DC Comics: The Death of Superman (1985)

8 years before DC dared to try it in print, Hanna-Barbera presented the coda, the final episode of Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians, in which Superman dies----for about half the show, anyway.

"The Death of Superman" comes across much better than the contrivance conceived at DC in 1993, as this would be the last meeting between the Super Powers Team (formerly the Super Friends) and Darkseid. This was the 8th and final broadcast in the series, as the episodes would continue to cycle through for the rest of the season before ABC cancelled the series, ending the Super Friends franchise after 13 seasons.



This episode would also mark the end of Danny Dark's run as the voice of Superman. When the Man of Steel returned in 1988, Beau Weaver was at the microphone, and that, as we've documented, lasted just one season.

Rating: A-.

Teenage Toons: All Grown Up (2003)

Nickelodeon, seeing how their 1991 series, Rugrats, continued to thrive in reruns, experimented with a follow-up series, the result of a backdoor pilot that was produced around the 10th anniversary of the series.

All Grown Up went to series in 2003, recasting Tommy & Dil Pickles, Chuckie Finster, and the rest of the gang as pre-teens or teens. Tommy, in fact, is already a successful filmmaker, for example. Production stopped on the series after 3 years and 55 episodes, but the series continues in repeats, just like the earlier series, airing on weekends on Nicktoons and, supposedly also, Nickelodeon (check listings to verify, since the MTV Networks channels tend to make last second changes).

All Grown Up also aired briefly on CBS, and I do mean briefly, maybe a few months at the most.

One positive, as exemplified by Tommy (EG Daily), is that the kids are pursuing careers, as most kids are wont to do. There are some new faces, and, as we'll see, Tommy has also found love and heartbreak.

Here's the intro, with the theme song sung by Cree Summer.



The voice cast for the series also includes TV vets Ron Glass (ex-Barney Miller) and Lara Jill Miller (ex-The Life & Times of Juniper Lee, Gimme A Break!). With David Doyle (ex-Charlie's Angels) having passed away while Rugrats was still in production, Joe Alaskey was called on to fill in as Grandpa. Otherwise, most of the original cast returned, which helped the continuity in a big time way.

Rating: A-.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Rein-Toon-ation: George of the Jungle (2007)

To mark the series' 40th anniversary, Classic Media commissioned a flash-animated revamp of Jay Ward's George of the Jungle, produced in Canada and broadcast there on Teletoon and here in the US on Cartoon Network. To say that George has been downsized, compared to the original series, would be a gross understatement.

There are some elements in this version that appear to have been inspired by the two feature films produced in the interim by Disney, the first of which starred Brendan Fraser (as George) & Thomas Haden Church. You may get a picture once you see the open, uploaded by RetroHeroes, which, come to think of it, might just be connected to Classic Media......



Like the original, the 21st century George was a flop in terms of ratings here in the US, and hasn't seen the light of day on CN, or even Boomerang, since initial cancellation.

Rating: None. Didn't see this version.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Animated World of DC Comics: Supergirl buckles up (1984)

Now, here's an ad I've never seen. Ever.

If you thought Supergirl made her television debut on Justice League Unlimited, you'd be mistaken. In truth, the Maid of Might appeared in a commercial/public service announcement for the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) in 1984. I find it very hard to believe that this never aired during Saturday morning programming on the networks at the time.

Uploaded by servewithchips:

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Young Hercules (1998)

Today, Ryan Gosling is known for his work in movies. What some of you might not know is that he was part of the same graduating class of The Mickey Mouse Club as singers Britney Spears (The X Factor), Christina Aguilera (The Voice), Justin Timberlake, & JC Chasez, and before going full bore into movies, Gosling's only other series gig was in 1998's Young Hercules for Fox.

Set up as a prequel and a spinoff from Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, as there was a backdoor pilot on that series, Young Hercules reimagines Herc (Gosling) as a teenager, along with his friends. Fox thought they had a hit on their hands, but the series was cancelled after 1 season.

Unfortunately, the series now languishes in Universal's vaults, as it isn't on any cable channel that I know of at present.

The following sample video presents an early battle between Herc and Apollo.......



Believe me, the parent series was much better. Rating: C.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Sugar Bear (1964)

Remember back in the 80's when Sugar Bear used his cereal like Popeye would power up with spinach? He didn't need to do that in the 60's, when he had his own backup feature on Linus the Lionhearted. While it seemed as though Sugar was more interested in playing his banjo all the day long, he really did have a girlfriend in Leslie Bear, who unfortunately wasn't around by the time Post introduced Super Sugar Crisp and turned Sugar into Super Bear.

In "Head Over Heels", it takes Leslie being in distress for Sugar to take his mind off his banjo, and ultimately settle up with Mervyn the Magician. Voice actor Gerry Matthews based his characterization of Sugar on Dean Martin, which wouldn't exactly make Lovable Truly, for example, to be Post's answer to Jerry Lewis, now, would it? I digress.......



Yeah, Sugar might've been a bit slow on the uptake, but when you're in love.......!

Rating: B.

Daytime Heroes: Star Blazers (1977)

Following the success of translating Japan's Science Ninja Team Gatchaman into Battle of the Planets, another anime series found its way to the US, becoming a major sensation.

Space Battleship Yamato (or, Space Cruiser Yamato) first premiered in Japan in 1977, and made its way into American syndication 2 years later under the title, Star Blazers. Claster Entertainment, better known at the time for Romper Room, handled distribution here, and ultimately became a player in the animation market after linking with Marvel Productions and Sunbow in the 80's.

Star Blazers was, for all intents & purposes, an anime serial, with a continuing story that ran for an entire season, and there were three in all. The series has been adapted into comics on a few previous occasions, most notably here in the US through the now-defunct Comico in the mid-80's, long after the series had ended. No local station in my market took a chance on the show, but thanks to cable, viewers would get their fix, thanks to WSBK in Boston, which aired the show weekday mornings. I can recall my brother & I watching before going off to school.

Oggmonster uploaded the season 1 open, which in turn was picked up from Retro Junk's website.....



During season 3, which wasn't quite as well received in the US as the first two, anime veterans Jack Grimes, Peter Fernandez, & Corinne Orr, who had all starred on Speed Racer back in the 60's, joined the cast. Sadly, I don't recall seeing too many, if any at all, episodes from the final season, but I believe all three seasons are available on DVD.

Rating: A.

Toon Rock: That Time is Now (late 90's)

When Cartoon Network really cared about its audience, they paid tribute to Super Friends with this remix mashup of the 1973 Super Friends theme, coupled with a collection of footage. The remix is credited to Michael Kohler. Enjoy.

Uploaded by Davis Gavitt to YouTube: