Saturday, October 31, 2015

Tooniversary: Milton the Monster meets Zelda the Zombie (1965)

Milton the Monster, Hal Seeger's horror spoof, turns 50 this year. To celebrate, albeit appropriately on Halloween, we present the first Milton short.

Milton and his fellow monsters, Heebie & Jeebie, are introduced to "Zelda the Zombie" as potential suitors for marriage to end a feud.




Like, did you really think Zelda'd go for a monster with an open skull? Dobie Gillis, he ain't. Bob McFadden did all the voices, including the Peter Lorre mimic for Heebie.

Rating: B.

Looney TV: Hyde & Hare (1955)

Happy Halloween, everyone.

We'll start the final day of Spooktober with a Bugs Bunny classic, "Hyde & Hare", in which the "wascally wabbit" (Mel Blanc) meets a modern day Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, as only Friz Freleng could imagine it.

Unfortunately, the complete short is not available on YouTube, just some excerpts, like this one, in which Bugs takes to the piano, and, with a little Liberace mimic, tries out Chopin's "Minute Waltz".




Note that Bugs is also cribbing from Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason), referring to Hyde as a mental case. Well, it only proves he's up on pop culture.

Rating: A.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Spooktober: Creature Features (1969)

The following also appears over at The Land of Whatever:
========================
With Halloween tomorrow, we're wrapping up our look at New York City's troika of horror movie showcases.

Creature Features, which aired on WNEW (now WNYW), launched in 1969, and lasted 4 years before its initial run ended due to ratings woes and competition from WPIX's Chiller Theatre. Cable television, with the introduction of WNEW, WPIX, & WOR to upstate homes, came right at the end of the run. However, WNEW would bring the series back occasionally, but there was just no faith in keeping the product on the air.

I've often associated the classic Universal Monster movies with airings on WOR, but they debuted on WNEW before the rights shifted to their rival in the mid-70's. Of course, the exception to the rule with the Universal Monsters was the crossovers with Abbott & Costello, with WPIX holding the rights to those films.

Lou Steele, who was heard nightly intoning, "It's 10:00. Do you know where your children are?", before The 10 O'Clock News, was also the host of Creature Features as The Creep. Never got to see him, though.

Tapthatt2012 offers up this intro:



No rating.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

On DVD: The Adventures of Batman w/Robin, the Boy Wonder (1968)

With the notable exception of Superboy (due to legal issues that have been resolved), all of Filmation's DC Comics cartoons of the 60's are now on DVD.

Batman was the last series from that period, and, as has been well documented, due to the live-action series, the Caped Crusader couldn't be used by Filmation as long as the Fox-produced ABC series was on the air. Once it ended in the spring of 1968, all bets were off, if you will.

The series continues the campy spirit of the previous series, with Ted Knight doing his best to approximate the voice of live-action producer William Dozier as narrator. Knight also voiced most, but not all, of the villains, a daunting challenge for any actor. The notable exception, of course, being the Joker. Astute scholars have chalked that up to Larry Storch (ex-F-Troop), who began a lengthy association with the studio. Sadly, Filmation chose not to bring Storch back for the New Adventures series (1977-81), opting instead to have Len Weinrib do the yeoman's work that Knight did here.

There are healthy doses of Joker, Riddler, Penguin, and Catwoman, plus a generous helping of Mr. Freeze. The Scarecrow, long since rebooted as more of a malevolent menace than presented here, made only one appearance, as did the Mad Hatter. Knight's rendering of the Hatter suggested a cross between WC Fields and Jim Backus' Mr. Magoo. As a plus, the episodes are uncut, unlike the heavily edited versions that have aired on cable in recent years. Take for example, "The Jigsaw Jeopardy". You're not going to find the uncut version on YouTube. A key scene where Barbara Gordon (Jane Webb) prepares to change to Batgirl shows her pulling a second costume out of her secret closet, as she would go undercover as a Robin doppleganger in an attempt to fool the Riddler. Subsequent repeats on cable in the 90's edited that part out for time purposes.

Olan Soule (Dragnet) was cast as Batman/Bruce Wayne, beginning a very long association with the Caped Crusader that continued when he and Casey Kasem (Robin/Dick Grayson/various characters) reunited at Hanna-Barbera a few years later. For some reason, the producers decided to give Catwoman (Webb) a green bodysuit with white boots & mask, as opposed to the all-black ensemble worn by Julie Newmar, Lee Meriweather, and Eartha Kitt. Just as curiously, Commissioner James Gordon (Knight) was drawn as clean shaven with brown hair, not the look he had in the comics back then. Neil Hamilton, who played Gordon in the live-action series, had the right hair color, but was also clean shaven.

The theme music composed by John Marion really swings. Scope out the open/close video:



One must assume plenty of throat drops were at the ready for all the work Knight & Kasem did on the show.

Rating: A.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Monster Swim (1964)

Well, we promised you a follow-up to Bobby "Boris" Pickett's immortal "Monster Mash", and here it is. From the same episode of American Bandstand from exactly 51 years ago, come Saturday, here's "Monster Swim".



And for those of you who've ever wondered what the late announcer Charlie O'Donnell looked like, well, he shows up at the start of this clip, as he was on his first tour of duty as Bandstand's announcer, more or less Dick Clark's sidekick. O'Donnell would later do some of his best work in game shows, including a brief reunion with Clark on one of the Pyramid incarnations.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

On The Air: Be Cool, Scooby-Doo (2015)

18 months after it'd been first announced by Cartoon Network, Be Cool, Scooby-Doo hit the airwaves 3 weeks ago. That's the good news. Unfortunately, I also have to give you the bad news.

It's being done by the same team of idiots, led by Michael Jelenic, responsible for that other atrocity, Teen Titans Go!. That would explain some of the poor character designs. Also, because CN would still air replays during the week if it was a weekly series like every other Scooby series, Be Cool is airing 5 nights a week minimum. I'm not even sure if they have enough material ready for that sort of thing, and remember, CN screwed the pooch on the last series, Mystery Incorporated, by burning off the 2nd season episodes in daily format a couple of years ago. Did the same thing with The Tom & Jerry Show last year. Do they really know what their audience wants? Or is Rob Sorcher from the Vince McMahon School of Audience Manipulation?

Also, it seems they decided to throw away the classic designs, other than wardrobe. Well, then again, Daphne (Grey Griffin) apparently dresses like she's in junior high, swapping her pink hose for pink socks. Those nylon-encased legs were a big selling point to a lot of young boys back in the day. Now, she's slightly off-center, as if she's being dumbed down after the way Fred had the same thing done to him the last 13 years.

Following is a sample excerpt:



Scooby on bass? We know Shaggy can rock out. We saw that on Mystery Incorporated. What grade are they supposed to be in now?

I tried to watch an episode On Demand. 5 minutes in, I turned it off, and I thought, I can write better than these clowns. Unfortunately, I may be too qualified to work for them.

Rating: D.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: My Girlfriend's A Witch (1969)

Here's a real corker, courtesy of The Cattanooga Cats.

"My Girlfriend is a Witch" is a cover of a 1-off from a year earlier by The October Country. The track was written & produced originally by Michael Lloyd, who would be the singing voice for Country of the Cattanooga Cats.

"Witch", as a result, sounds much different than the rest of the Cats' tracks.

Fast fact: Lloyd was also the vocalist on the theme to the Kroffts' Lost Saucer six years later. He co-wrote the track with Tommy Oliver (later of Name That Tune & Face The Music).


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Daytime Heroes: The Disney Afternoon (1990)

It was one of the last vestiges of 1st-run syndicated animation, before Fox took over weekdays in the early 90's. Disney had already broken ground with DuckTales and Chip 'N' Dale's Rescue Rangers, and in 1990, the studio seized the opportunity to expand that block even further.

The Disney Afternoon, in all, lasted 7 seasons (1990-7), with a diverse lineup of programs, most of which have been reviewed here before. Adventures of the Gummi Bears was given new life, although no new episodes were ordered, after it ended its network run, and was one anchor of the block the first season. You know most of the shows by heart. TaleSpin. Bonkers. Darkwing Duck. Gargoyles. Goof Troop. Quack Pack. Aladdin. The funny thing about all this is, while Mickey Mouse appeared in the block open, he wasn't given his own show. That wouldn't happen until after the block ended, when Mickey landed at ABC (after Disney bought the network).

The following video collects the intros of all the shows that were in the block during those 7 years.




Everyone has their favorites, of course. Too bad Disney can't be bothered to have these classic shows air on Disney Channel or DisneyXD in a prime spot instead of flooding the schedules with lame live-action cookie cutter sitcoms.

Rating: A.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Toon Sports: Bailey's Comets in Loch Ness Mess (1973)

Dandy Deal has unearthed a rarely seen episode of Bailey's Comets.

This mish-mash of roller derby and Wacky Races heads for Scotland, where the Comets unwittingly befriend the Loch Ness Monster, much to the chagrin of the locals. The "evil" teams seek to take advantage in "Loch Ness Mess":




Now I see why the hometown CBS affiliate whiffed on this show.

Rating: C.

Teenage Toons: The Archies go to a Costume Party (1968)

From The Archie Show:

Archie (Dallas McKennon), Jughead (Howard Morris), Betty, & Veronica (both voiced by Jane Webb) decide to attend a Riverdale High "Costume Party" as "Martians", but with the simplest of costumes. Reggie (John Erwin), as usual, tries to sabotage his friends' efforts, if only because he wants 1st prize for himself. Kinda reminds you of Daffy Duck in those days, doesn't it?

DreamWorks Classic, which holds the rights to the Filmation era Archie cartoons (1968-78), uploaded this episode to YouTube:



Too bad Reggie didn't want to be a team player, else he'd be spared the humiliation that comes his way.....

Rating: B.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Spooktober: I'll be a Son of a Ghostbuster (1986)

Filmation's Ghost Busters marks 40 years this year, but the animated sequel, Ghostbusters, turns 30 next year. So let's split the difference, shall we?

The series opener introduces viewers to Jake Kong, Jr. (Pat Fraley) and Eddie Spenser, Jr. (Peter Cullen), the sons of the original Ghost Busters (the elders are also voiced by Fraley & Cullen, who also essay several other characters), and their nemesis, the robotic futuristic ghoul, Prime Evil (Alan Oppenheimer), against whom the Ghostbusters' dematerializer has no effect. "I'll be a Son of a Ghostbuster" is part 1 of a 5 part serial that ran through the series' 1st week.

For those who wonder, I think the reason Filmation didn't recall the original series' stars, Forrest Tucker & Larry Storch, was money, as in, Filmation chose to save it.



Rating: B.

Animated alphabetics: B is for Basket (Sesame Street, 1969)

From time to time, we're going to plumb the archives of Sesame Street via YouTube for more of our "Alphabetic Toons". This time, the focus is on the letter B in a short piece narrated by Casey Kasem.





Saturday, October 24, 2015

Spooktober: I Was a Teenage Werewolf (The New Archies, 1987)

From The New Archies:

After Reggie gives a karate demonstration, Archie dares him to come to a Halloween party at Frankenstein's Cave. However, the end result isn't what Archie had in mind.

Here's "I Was a Teenage Werewolf":




The audio sync is a bit off, but it looks as though DIC opted for a more anime style in drawing the beloved characters as junior high students. Small wonder, then, that The New Archies was a bomb, the 2nd time that NBC had failed with the series, and they had the cajones to bring the show back as a mid-season replacement a year and a half later.

Rating: C.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

On DVD: Super Friends "Season Six" (1981)

You've seen this Super Friends intro from the early 80's already, in the last DVD review we did of the franchise.




The 1981-2 season consisted of just six new half hours, all collected on the "Season Six" disc.

Season Six? Say what?

Bear in mind that the original series (1973) was brought back in reruns in each of the next three seasons (1974-7), usually as a replacement series. 1977's All New Super Friends Hour is considered season 2. The Challenge series is season 3, and so on. Beginning with this season, some episodes, but not all, had screen credit given to the writers, usually David Villaire or Michael Reaves, who got most of the work. Some of the shorts had previously appeared here, only to be deleted when YouTube terminated a poster's account due to copyright issues. Regrettably, those shorts haven't been replaced on YouTube yet.

Those shorts ranged from the ridiculous ("Colossus") to the sublime ("Creature From the Dump", "Evil From Krypton") to the surreal ("Three Wishes"). El Dorado debuted during this season, but only appears in two shorts ("Alien Mummy" & "Palette's Perils"), and was used sparingly afterward.

Watching these shorts again for the first time in a long time, I can now see that the writers were starting to reach for new ideas, but were dropping down to the levels of the mid-60's "super adventure" era at Hanna-Barbera. That is to say, the writing was falling in quality. Funny thing is, future animation icon John Kricfalusi worked as a layout artist on the show!

Rating: B-.

Toon Rock: Glitter & Gold (1987)

I'm sure you know by now that there's a live-action feature film based on the 1985 series, Jem. "Jem & The Holograms" opens tomorrow, but there are fears that this will be as big, if not a bigger, bomb than 2001's live-action adaptation of Josie & the Pussycats. To tie you over and get you ready, here's a track from the original series.

"Glitter & Gold" was heard in an episode that aired in March 1987, which, amazingly, was the final original episode of the first season. Talk about a long marathon!


Saturtainment: Motormouse & Autocat in Hard Day's Day (1969)

Time for some wheels of fun with Motormouse & Autocat.

"Hard Day's Day" is dedicated to the memory of Autocat himself, Marty Ingels, who passed away at 79.



If you've seen one, you've seen them all, it seems.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

From Comics to Toons: Archie's Halloween Horror (Archie's Weird Mysteries, 2000)

With Halloween 10 days away, let's take a step back to the winter of 2000 and an episode of Archie's Weird Mysteries. A Halloween party at the Lodge mansion doesn't go as planned. Need any more info?




No rating.

Spooktober: The Halloween That Almost Wasn't, aka The Night That Dracula Saved the World (1979)

In 1979, ABC served up a bizarre, live-action Halloween special aimed at the whole family. While it won an Emmy, The Halloween That Almost Wasn't wasn't a ratings bonanza for the network, and hasn't aired on broadcast television in years. It's been nearly 20 or so since it last aired on the Disney Channel.

Dracula (Judd Hirsch, Taxi) learns from a TV news report that he's been accused of threatening to put an end to Halloween. So he decides to clear his name by rounding up some of his closest friends, including the Monster of Frankenstein (John Schuck, ex-McMillian & Wife, nearly a whole decade before The Munsters Today) and the Wolf Man (Jack Riley, ex-The Bob Newhart Show), through his servant, Igor (Henry Gibson, ex-Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In).

But, as we're about to find out, there's no honor among ghouls, at least in this case.....



Starts out promising, but then it gets lame.

Rating: C.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Toonfomercial: Dexter's crushing on someone else's girlfriend? (2002)

Back in the day, before Cartoon Network degenerated into the channel it is now, it was common for them to make commercials like this next item.

Dexter (Christine Cavanagh) is finished "after a hard day at work", and asks on-screen nemesis Mandark (Eddie Deezen) if he wants to do something, but Mandark has a date. Enter Velma, voiced in this case, I think, by BJ Ward before Mindy Cohn took over the role in What's New Scooby-Doo that fall........



This actually continues a gimmick CN had where Johnny Bravo (Jeff Bennett) was crushing on Velma himself, to the point where apparently they were dating, and this was 5 years after the Mystery Inc. team guest-starred on Johnny Bravo. Unfortunately, they still haven't made a sequel to that episode nearly 20 years later......

Monday, October 19, 2015

Teenage Toons: A complete episode of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (1969)

Dailymotion brings us another pair of Sabrina shorts.

First up, Sabrina's cousin Hexter shows up unexpectedly and joins Sabrina, Archie, and friends on a tour of a marine aquarium, where Hexter decides to save the "Blue Whale". Then, get ready for some football!



With less than 2 weeks before Halloween, we've got more magic with Sabrina coming up soon.

No rating.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Toon Sports: The Trans-Transylvania 500 (1990)

Time to check back with the Fender Bender 500 from Wake, Rattle, & Roll.

Yogi Bear, Dick Dastardly, Winsome Witch, Top Cat, and the rest of the field get acquainted with some ghouls in "The Trans-Transylvania 500". Shadoe Stevens (American Top 40, ex-Hollywood Squares) is the race announcer.




Hanna-Barbera had previously tried a horrific road race a couple of years prior in "Scooby-Doo & the Reluctant Werewolf", a TV-movie whose plot fell apart about halfway. Unlike this cartoon.

Rating: B.

Toon Legends: Woody Woodpecker in The Mad Hatter (1947-8)

I wrote a while back that Woody Woodpecker had long been associated with Universal. Well, pilgrims, it turns out that wasn't always the case!

"The Mad Hatter", carrying a 1947 copyright date, and released in February 1948, was distributed by United Artists. Creator Walter Lantz wasn't too thrilled with the business agreement with UA, and a few years later, made the move to Universal.




Co-author Ben Hardaway was, I believe, the voice of Woody in this one. The script plays out as if Hardaway had tried to copy some of the gags from WB favorites Daffy Duck & Porky Pig, because you can imagine those two having the same kind of problems with the hat, although Porky would have an encounter with some magic shoes.......

Rating: B.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

From Comics to Toons: US Acres (1988)

Jim Davis' "other" strip, US Acres, was part of the package when CBS decided to promote Garfield to their Saturday morning lineup in 1988. Incredibly, the TV version outlasted the strip, which began in 1986, 2 years prior to the TV show, and continued after Davis ended the newspaper version in 1989 after a 3 year run.

In other parts of the world, it's known as Orson's Farm, after the lead character, a pig (Gregg Berger). I guess this is due to sensitivity toward offending other countries that have issues with ours.

As with the Garfield half of the show, the regular cast would voice multiple roles. Factor in also veterans Howard Morris and Frank Welker, and this is one underrated series.

In "Swine Trek", Orson has a fever dream that imagines him and his barnyard pals aboard a certain starship.....




The "Quickie" skits were equally distributed between the two feature segments of the show.

No rating. I have no memory of seeing "Swine Trek".

In Theatres: Goosebumps (2015)

The feature film version of "Goosebumps" is a homage and a celebration at the same time.

It's a celebration, though well past the 20th anniversary of the book series, which began three years after author R. L. Stine had started the Fear Street line of teen horror stories, which, amazingly, has never been adapted into movies or television, though Stine's other book series have. The TV Goosebumps marks its 20th anniversary this year, and I'd imagine Discovery Family, the last network to hold the cable rights, is doing a marathon of some kind this weekend to mark the occasion.

It's also a homage, as the producers crammed as many of the characters in the series, particularly Slappy, the Living Dummy, into the story, which is your typical Goosebumps plot, but with a few of the usual twists.

Stine (Jack Black) is presented as an anti-social recluse who moves from town to town, in the company of his daughter, Hannah (the real Stine, who appears in a quick cameo at the end of the film, actually has a son). A widowed vice principal and her son move in next door, and Hannah hits it off with the boy, Zack, who also makes fast friends with cheerful, but timid Champ. Stine forbids Zack & Hannah to be together, but you know how this will go, don't you? Of course you do.

After Stine leaves on an errand, Zack & Champ, concerned that something happened to Hannah, which Stine denies, break into the author's house. It takes them a while to figure everything out, but not before an accident unleashes an abominable snowman, which chases the kids to an ice rink. Unbeknownst to the kids, Slappy (Black again) has managed to escape, and Stine is faced with some unpleasant reality........




The film is not as bad as some critics make it out to be, though there are facepalm moments a'plenty, largely thanks to geeky, goofy Champ. Black plays his part well, although when the real Stine makes his appearance you can see why they opted for Black and a more dark humor approach.

Other trailers:

"The Fifth Wave" (January): Yep, another movie based on yet another youth sci-fi novel series. Color me underwhelmed, although I thought at first Sony might've snatched "Independence Day II" away from Fox....!

"Alvin & the Chipmunks: Road Chip" (December): Alvin, Simon, & Theodore are back. I think this is the 4th movie in the series?

"The Good Dinosaur" (Nov. 25): Disney & Pixar's latest postulates a different kind of Stone Age.

"Ratchet & Clank" (April) & "The Angry Birds Movie" (Summer?). Meh.

"Goosebumps" merits a B+.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Tooniversary: Pinkfinger (1965)

Y'think maybe Secret Squirrel's boss, The Chief, was moonlighting, trying to recruit The Pink Panther?

In all seriousness, Paul Frees used his Chief/Inspector Fenwick voice to narrate this 1965 James Bond parody, "Pinkfinger". The silent feline dons a trenchcoat & fedora after the narrator catches him reading a book on secret agents. While Friz Freleng got sole credit as director, other sources also credit Hawley Pratt as a co-director.




There was a reason the Panther shorts were mostly silent, and this is why.

Rating: B-.

Game Time: Small Talk (1994)

Remember Art Linkletter's Kids Say the Darndest Things? That popular segment of House Party was later spun off into its own series, first for CBS, then Nickelodeon (hosted by Bill Cosby), but didn't last long.

UK producer Reg Grundy, who had packaged Scrabble and a revival of Sale of the Century for NBC, developed a similar show, but Small Talk, which originated in England in 1994 before moving to the US in 1996, had more in common with a short-lived Goodson-Todman game, Child's Play.

Comic Ronnie Corbett (ex-The Two Ronnies) hosted the British version, which lasted two years. The American version, airing on the Family Channel, lasted just 1 season, and hosted by another comic, albeit one with game show experience, Wil Shriner (ex-That's My Dog), who doubled as his own announcer, taking his cue in that regard from Gary Owens' dual gig on Letters to Laugh-In nearly 30 years earlier.

Small Talk would be the last series to bear the Reg Grundy label, as the production company was bought out, and currently is part of Fremantle Media, which also acquired much of the Goodson-Todman library.

I never saw the show, so there's no rating. We'll leave you with a clip from the Shriner version.......




And a full episode of the Corbett version. Corbett is also his own announcer.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Toonformercial: Little Orphan Annie sells hairspray (1969)

Muttley16 blesses us with this rarely seen commercial, which reportedly was produced by Hanna-Barbera.

Harold Gray's comic strip heroine, Little Orphan Annie made her cartoon debut, which unfortunately would be her only one until an appearance in the 1972 ABC Saturday Superstar Movie episode, "Popeye Meets the Man Who Hated Laughter". After that, Annie has been, regrettably, ignored by animation houses.

Why is that? Well, it might be that Gray and his successors always drew Annie and her supporting cast without irises in their eyes. Today, that would lead the uninitiated to assume that Annie is/was blind.

Here, Annie and her dog, Sandy, shill for Alberto Balsam hairspray.




Now, there's a retromercial that TV Land missed!

You Know the Voice: E. G. Daily (1985)

Well before becoming an established voice actress, Elizabeth "E. G." Daily was doing more of her acting in front of the camera.

Take for example this scene from 1985's "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure". Dottie (Daily) is working at a bike shop, and pines for Pee-Wee Herman (Paul Reubens), who's more concerned about his bike....



All's well that ends well, though.

I might as well use this opportunity to mention that Reubens will reprise his role as Oswald (Penguin) Cobblepot's dad, a role he originated in 1992's "Batman Returns", on Gotham later this season, fulfilling a wish of the current Penguin, Robin Lord Taylor, who obviously knows his Bat-history.......

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Tooniversary: Josie shills for Kellogg's (1970)

In an era where bubblegum pop cartoons would routinely have cardboard 45's on cereal boxes, Kellogg's went in a different direction with Josie & the Pussycats.

Let's take a trip back to 1970 with Josie (Janet Waldo), and a 3 year old boy, now pushing 50, who posted the ad on YouTube.




Good luck finding those spoons in mint condition, or any condition at all.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Daytime Heroes: The origin of Battlecat (He-Man & the Masters of the Universe, 1984)

He-Man's faithful pet/sidekick, Battlecat, has his origin story told in this season 2 episode from October 1984. One of the hooks is that this was written by the husband & wife team of Richard & Dorothy (D. C.) Fontana. Ignore the 1985 copyrights in the closing credits.




Dorothy Fontana is better known for her writing on Star Trek, both the 1966-9 live action series, and the 1973-5 Filmation-Paramount animated version. He-Man's staff of writers also included a couple of future fan favorites in J. Michael Straczynski and Paul Dini.

Rating: B.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Spooktober: Little Dracula (1991)

In the 80's, British author Martin Waddell began a series of children's books that suggested that Count Dracula would become domesticated and start a family. Problem was, Waddell envisioned Drac and his son as having green skin. Must've watched that episode of Spider-Woman where she battled a Dracula type to get that idea.

Fox acquired a license for a Little Dracula series in 1991, then gave up on it very quickly. 13 episodes were ordered, but only six aired, five of them in a single week. 4 more would air on Fox Family (now ABC Family) 8 years later. It was an independently produced series, not attached to a major studio, so why did viewers, and ultimately, the network, crap on it?

The green skin, most likely. A vampire is more likely to have pale skin, colored a different shade of white. Very few exceptions.

Here's a sample clip:




No rating.

Toon Rock: Runnin' Down a Dream (1989)

Tom Petty pays homage to the Golden Age, and more specifically, Windsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland, with the bizarre, computer-animated "Runnin' Down a Dream", from his 1989 solo CD, "Full Moon Fever".


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Toonfomercial: A most unusual way to sell deodorant (1970)

In 1970, Gillette introduced Soft & Dri deodorant for women, their answer to Proctor & Gamble's Secret. To sell the product, Gillette decided to go for an animated ad campaign, with a talking, female octopus.




TV Land unearthed this gem in the 90's, as you can see. Too bad they can't be bothered to run those retromercials anymore.

Spooktober: Casper in Boo Hoo Baby (1951)

Casper, in his never ending quest to find mortal friends, gets a "job" of sorts, as a ghostly babysitter, in "Boo Hoo Baby".




I think this might be one of the few times we see Casper's parents, also ghosts, of course, but there is not much record of them appearing any other time that I know of.

I have no memory of seeing this in syndication in the 70's, so there's no rating.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

From Comics to Toons: Snuffy Smith & Barney Google in Ain't It The Tooth (1963-4)

Most kids, and some adults, don't like going to the dentist.

Snuffy Smith is no exception. Billy DeBeck's backwoods comic strip star does all he can to avoid a nearsighted dentist in "Ain't It The Tooth". The copyright says 1963, but it appears it might've been released to television the following year. Paul Frees voices Snuffy, the dentist, and Barney Google.




Writer Howard Post is better known for creating his own comic strip, The Dropouts, which would be adapted for television themselves as part of Archie's TV Funnies in 1971, and the DC Comics series, Anthro.

Rating: B-.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Big Bad Beetleborgs (1996)

Haim Saban's continued attempts to expand his "universe", using footage imported from Japan with new American actors and scripts, saw a 2nd series added to Fox's lineup in the fall of 1996.

Big Bad Beetleborgs tells the story of three comics geeks (2 boys and a girl) who accidentally free a phantasm from a pipe organ in an old, supposedly haunted mansion. The ghost, Flabber, grants them one wish, that they could become their favorite comic book heroes. Get the idea?

Otherwise, it's a by-the-numbers Saban series, as the kids battle monsters on a regular basis. Beetleborgs aired as much as six days a week, as Fox burned the show a little too quickly. In the second season, the title was changed to Beetleborgs Metallix as the kids' powers and costumes changed. Unlike the Power Ranger franchise, however, Fox's overplaying of the show left it to end with a cliffhanger after the 2nd and final season. 88 episodes were aired over 2 seasons (1996-8).

Following is the first season intro:




One minor casting change between seasons, with the departure of Shannon Chandler, created an awkward situation that ultimately proved costly.

No rating.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Toons After Dark: Puff the Magic Dragon & the Incredible Mr. Nobody (1982)

Puff the Magic Dragon (Burgess Meredith) returns one final time in a 1982 primetime special, in which he meets "The Incredible Mr. Nobody".

Producers Romeo Muller & Fred Wolf may have been running out of ideas by this point. Mr. Nobody is an imaginary friend to a lonely young boy.........




In hindsight, had the ratings been stronger, perhaps CBS could've gotten a weekly series out of this, although I am not sure if they could've gotten Meredith, whose only Saturday morning experience was as the narrator of the short-lived ABC series, Korg: 70,000 B. C. (1974-5) to commit to a series.

No rating.

Spooktober: The Vampire's Apprentice (Ghost Busters, 1975)

This might've been the first time that Count Dracula had been played as a buffoon.

Now, we all know the lore. Vampires usually don't end up as ghosts. Ghost Busters creator Marc Richards had other ideas, and presented a dimwitted Drac (Billy Holms), subservient to his wife, the Countess (Dena Dietrich, aka Mother Nature in those Chiffon margarine ads back in the day), in the episode, "The Vampire's Apprentice".




Richards and his staff might've been better off if they let co-star Larry Storch (Eddie Spencer) dub over Holms' lines. After all, he had some experience playing an animated parody of Dracula (The Groovie Goolies) a few years earlier, and would've made Dracula more of a traditional menace.

Rating: B.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Spooktober: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Mouse (1947)

Desperation will make anyone, including cats, do strange things. In the case of this Tom & Jerry short, Tom cooks up a bizarre potion bent on terminating Jerry once and for all. After all, it worked on a common housefly. However, it backfires on Tom. Oh, does it ever.

In "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Mouse", Bill Hanna & Joe Barbera's send-up of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Jerry ends up in the role of Edward Hyde, much like Tweety would 13 years later in "Hyde & Go Tweet", as we saw earlier this week. Expect plenty of chaos.




Don't show this to your pet cat.

Rating: A-.

Getting Schooled: Our Gang in Spooky Hooky (1936)

Here's a primer on how not to feign illness to avoid school.

In Gordon Douglas' 1936 Our Gang short, "Spooky Hooky", Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat, & Porky decide to pretend to fall ill all at once and skip school so they can go to the circus, unaware that their teacher is planning a field trip-------to the circus!



If only those boys had a clue among them, they wouldn't have tried a fool's errand.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Saturtainment: Catdog (1998)

Talk about a freak show!

Catdog sprang from the mind of creator-producer Peter Hannan, who thought a cat and a dog sharing the same body would get plenty of laughs. The fact that the show stayed in production for seven years might prove him right, because kids are so easy to amuse, but the premise didn't make much sense.

The problem? The cat and the dog each have their own basic instincts, which creates the predictable comic scenarios. In truth, to this critic's eyes, the whole idea of passing a dog and a cat as conjoined twins was better suited for Ripley's Believe It Or Not! than an animated cartoon.

Here's the intro:




Nickelodeon was able to get this show running for seven years, or six more than it had any right to.

Rating: C-.

Spooktober: Monster Mash (1962-4)

The story goes that Bobby "Boris" Pickett had aspirations of being an actor. And while I'm not sure if he ever achieved his dream, his talent for impersonation resulted in his most famous work.

"Monster Mash" was a #1 hit in 1962, and has been a Halloween staple ever since. 2 years later, Pickett appeared on American Bandstand to perform "Mash" and "Monster Swim", which we'll get to before the end of the month.


Sunday Funnies: Abbott & Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1953)

Abbott & Costello are American detectives working in London, and run afoul of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde in this 1953 comedy adventure.

Boris Karloff is Dr. Jekyll, but stuntman Eddie Parker, who went uncredited, was under the makeup of Jekyll's homicidal alter-ego, Edward Hyde. Chaos ensues, of course. Reginald Denny and Craig Stevens (a few years before Peter Gunn) co-star.

Check out the trailer.



Abbott, Costello, & Karloff would meet again. While this wasn't a faithful, but rather loose, adaptation of Stevenson's novel, this was by this point a by-the-numbers A & C adventure.

Rating: B--.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Toon Rock: Linus & Lucy (1965)

As A Charlie Brown Christmas marks its 50th anniversary in 2 months, we're not going to wait around for a classic piece of music from the show.

That's because "Linus & Lucy", widely known as the Peanuts theme, has been used in nearly every Peanuts special since. The Vince Guaraldi Trio is represented on screen by Schroeder (on his toy piano), Pig Pen (stand-up bass), and Snoopy (guitar), who gets a wee bit carried away near the end of the clip, as he's wont to do.

Jazz musician David Benoit recorded a faithful cover 30 years later for a Peanuts tribute album, but this is the original, definitive version.




Looks like Shermy created a new dance for the occasion, the Treadmill. Too bad Pig Pen was never shown to be this talented again.

Spooktober: Our Gang in Hide & Shriek (1938)

Hal Roach's last Our Gang short, from 1938, posits Alfalfa as a would be detective hired by Buckwheat & Porky, in a send-up of other comedies set in haunted houses & such. Here's "Hide & Shriek":



MGM took over the production of the series themselves soon after, and, amidst the inevitable cast changes, the quality of the series would start to nosedive.

Rating: A-.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Mighty Man & Yukk vs. The Creep & Dr. Icicle (1979)

It's been a while since we looked in on Ruby-Spears' tiny titan, Mighty Man (Peter Cullen) and his canine sidekick, Yukk (Frank Welker, using his Dynomutt voice), so we've got a two-fer for ya.

First up, our heroes are hired to protect Mr. Johnson (Michael Rye) from his villainous cousin in "Where There's a Will, There's a Creep". Then, while on a ski vacation, Mighty Man flies into action to battle "Doctor Icicle", not to be confused with the DC Comics villain of a similar name from the Golden Age.




Peter Cullen & Frank Welker have worked together for years on the Transformers franchise, but this is where the chemistry between the two actors formed. Unfortunately, the episodes are sabotaged by bad writing.

Rating: C.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Spooktober: Just how did Skeletor get the way he is? (2002)

One big advantage to reviving He-Man & the Masters of the Universe in 2002 is that Mattel finally saw the need to tell the stories that should've been told in 1983, particularly, how some of the central characters came to be.

In Skeletor's case, he was a power-hungry jerk named Keldor who, in the course of a battle with King Randor, attempted to disfigure Randor with an acidic potion, which instead deflected off the king's shield right back to Keldor. Upon returning to Skull Mountain, Keldor, accompanied by Evil-Lyn, whom producer Mike Young decided would be more of a romantic consort to the tyrant than just one of his minions, pleads to his former mentor, Hordak, for help......




Insofar as I know, the story may or may not have been adapted for comics after DC reacquired the rights about 3 years ago.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Animated World of DC Comics: Moon of the Wolf (1992)

Batman: The Animated Series adapts a classic tale from the 70's. Len Wein's "Moon of the Wolf" was brought to life in the episode of the same name.

Professor Milo (Treat Williams) has prepared a bizarre steroid for millionaire athlete Anthony Romulus (Harry Hamlin, ex-LA Law), which includes some timber wolf extract, the wolves stolen from the Gotham Zoo. This was Milo's 2nd appearance in the series.

Worth noting: Peter Scolari, most recently on Gotham, is heard as zoo security guard John Hamner, but does not appear in this scene.




In the original story, it was never suggested that Milo's formula was actually a steroid, but then, in the 70's, steroids weren't as prevalent an issue as they would later become.

Rating: A.

Bad TV: A Day in the Life of Ranger Smith (1999)

Even though John Kricfalusi's A Day in the Life of Ranger Smith is respectfully (?) dedicated to William Hanna & Joseph Barbera, the Spumco-produced short, which bowed on Cartoon Network in 1999, paints park ranger John Smith (Corey Burton, doing his best Don Messick impersonation) in a negative light. I'm not fond of the exaggerated facial features on Smith, but that's a Spumco trademark we have to deal with.




Draw your own conclusions, peeps. Kricfalusi ended his association with CN/[adult swim] after his 2001 series, The Ripping Friends, bombed on [as] after a short daytime run on Fox.

Rating: D-.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Looney TV: Hyde & Go Tweet (1960)

Friz Freleng must've been a fan of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. How else to explain the fact that Freleng used the book as source material for not one, not two, but three shorts, two of them starring Sylvester.

However, it's Tweety who gets top billing in 1960's "Hyde & Go Tweet", in which Freleng tweaks the traditional story by making the formula so unpredictable that both Dr. Jekyll, who appears briefly, and Tweety, after a dive into the bottle of formula to escape Sylvester, change at inopportune times during the day. None of this is going on at night.



Freleng's other adaptation featured Bugs Bunny, and if we're lucky, we'll see "Hyde & Hare" before this month is out.

Rating: B-.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Spooktober: Casper & the Angels (1979)

The calendar has turned to October, but here at Saturday Morning Archives, it's known as Spooktober, as we will be featuring the likes of Sabrina, The Groovie Goolies, Milton the Monster, Tales From The Cryptkeeper, and, of course, Casper.

The year is 1979. Hanna-Barbera, after acquiring licenses for Godzilla (NBC) & Popeye (CBS) the previous season, began an altogether too brief association with Harvey Comics by picking up a license to bring Casper back to television. However, rather than another solo series, like he had in the 60's on ABC, the Friendly Ghost was sent forward in time in a comedy-adventure series that was a cross-parody of ABC's Charlie's Angels (which H-B had already skewered at ABC with Captain Caveman & the Teen Angels) and NBC's CHiPs. Regrettably, Casper & the Angels fell victim to poor writing and even poorer ratings, resulting in a pink slip after 1 season.

Impressionist Julie McWhirter (ex-Wacko!) was the voice of Casper, who now had a sort-of-sidekick in Hairy Scary (John Stephenson), who actually was subbing for the absent Ghostly Trio in that he was trying to convince Casper to do what comes naturally to ghosts and scare people. Ultimately, Hairy gave up that tack and became more of a working partner with Casper and human space cops Minnie (Laurel Page, using her Taffy Dare voice from Captain Caveman) & Maxie. Minnie, a redhead, was just as much an airhead as Taffy was, to tell you the truth, but she didn't mind flirting with Hairy & Casper.

Here's the intro:



Even though Casper flopped, H-B would bring in another Harvey Comics icon, Richie Rich, the next season, for ABC, and Richie would last about 3 years there. It would be 15 years before Casper would return to Saturday mornings.

Rating: C.