Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How to reinvent Wheelie & the Chopper Bunch

Let us consider Hanna-Barbera's freshman class of 1974, marking their 40th anniversary this year.

*----These Are The Days: A period drama set around the same time as---and inspired by---The Waltons.
*----Korg: 70,000 B. C.: A live-action drama set in the Stone Age.
*----Valley of The Dinosaurs: H-B's animated answer to the Kroffts' Land of The Lost, which premiered the same year, and lasted three seasons to Valley's one.
*----Hong Kong Phooey: K-9 kung fu crossed with Get Smart, except that HKP's alter-ego is a police janitor.
*----Devlin: A stunt cyclist on the road with his brother & sister.
*---Partridge Family 2200 A.D.: The Partridges shift from live-action to animated in a poorly conceived series that was meant to be a revival of The Jetsons, and that wouldn't happen for another 11 years.

And, then, there is Wheelie & the Chopper Bunch, which owed some of its existence to the sentient vehicles that Tex Avery dreamed up at MGM some years prior. A car whose "voice" was a horn, although his girlfriend could talk, opposed by 4 sentient, bumbling motorcycles. Remember, this was well before Disney & Pixar came up with "Cars".

The common link is that all six series were cancelled after one season of episodes, and of this group, only Hong Kong Phooey would return in a rerun cycle, after changing networks.

A few short years ago, I began a series of posts on ToonZone postulating potential revivals of older series. A fellow poster suggested that Wheelie could be rebooted by making the title character, his girlfriend Rota, and the Chopper Bunch human, and active in extreme or action sports, as the kids call it these days. You know, motorcross would be perfect for Chopper and his crew if they weren't so obsessed with Wheelie. The more I thought about it, the more I realized this guy was on the right track.

Warner Bros. now holds the rights to Wheelie, and, given the success of "Cars", would be inspired to stick to the original concept, with a few revisions to fit the modern era. It's either that, or they go the action sports route. If they stick with the sentient cars/bikes, they could fit this to satisfy Cartoon Network's obsession with lame comedy that actually goes right over the heads of the younger half of their target audience.

Personally, I'd try the action sports angle, except that Wheelie & Rota would be riding bikes themselves, with Chopper and his crew as rivals who would/could take shortcuts to beat them in races, but like Dick Dastardly on Wacky Races, they'd always fail, and badly.

An action sports reboot of Wheelie wouldn't need to be a cartoon, though, really, and it'd be shopped to any number of networks that'd be interested, especially considering that Cartoon Network would screw it up badly as only they can.

Cartoonsintros reminds us of the series as it was.

What do you think?


magicdog said...

I remember this show back in the day and even then I wasn't crazy about it!

I think the show was inspired by Speed Buggy. Someone at HB probably figured if Speedy was fun, maybe having a bunch of sentient vehicles would be even better!

I remember that TZ discussion - and I agree that the suggested reboot could work - but since we're not working as execs at CN......

hobbyfan said...

Well, the new version, as I said, could be shopped to other networks, such as Nickelodeon and The Hub, since CN won't see any value in it. If they think they can reboot it as it was originally constituted, it'll end up like Teen Titans GO! with a bunch of lame jokes that will sail right over the heads of their target audience.

In short, this series can't hold up as originally presented.

-DS- said...

Not quite related, but in the late 1980s, there was a superhero cartoon called the Bionic Six. Among the villains was a man named Chopper who used a chain as a weapon. Frank Welker not only voiced this other Chopper, but he did so using the exact same voice he'd used as Chopper in Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch, motor noises and all.

So it's almost like there was a human version of Chopper after all.

hobbyfan said...

Maybe the Chopper from Bionic Six was a cyborg.