Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Teenage Toons:The Thing gets back into movies (1979)

The Thing's teenage adventures included this next item, in which Benjy and friends stumble onto a movie set, quite by accident, thanks to the bumbling of self-styled yachtsman Ronald Radford (John Erwin). Here's "Lights, Action, Thing!":



I've seen worse. Then again, I can picture a certain pair of DC teens in a similar sitch..........

Rating: D.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

It Should've Been on a Saturday: Sky Commanders (1987)

Sky Commanders joined the Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera in 1987, and in a surprise, launched in July of that year. Unfortunately, it lasted just 1 season.

Mike Summitt (Robert Ridgely, ex-Flash Gordon, Thundarr, Tarzan) leads the Commanders against the evil General Plague. Why the networks passed on this show, I don't know.

Following is the intro. Danny Dark (ex-Super Friends), by this point a studio announcer for NBC, narrates.




Dark, unfortunately, was not credited, which is a shame, as this was his last job for Hanna-Barbera after being with the studio for nearly 15 years.

No rating. Didn't see the show.

Animated World of DC Comics: The Time Trap (Challenge of the Super Friends, 1978)

The Legion of Doom, in one of the first uses of time travel in the course of the Challenge of the Super Friends series, undertakes a plot to steal some legendary treasures before they're famous. Of course, you know "The Time Trap" isn't going to end well for the Legion.

Edit, 11/29/15: From Dailymotion comes the complete episode:




Yeah, there's some blooper reel material, but it looks like it was cleaned up when the series was released on DVD.

Rating: B.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Toon Legends: Popeye & Bluto join the Mounties (Yukon County Mountie,1979)

From season 2 of The All-New Popeye Hour:

For once, Popeye (Jack Mercer) & Bluto (Allan Melvin) are on the same side. The guys are in Canada as members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Olive (Marilyn Schreffler) works out of the trading post. The usual chaos abounds, but Popeye has to save both Olive & Bluto, plus the money from the trading post.

Here's "Yukon County Mountie":



The ending is a variant on an old Fleischer short, which we'll have up soon.

Rating: B-.

Daytime Heroes: Johnny Cypher in Dimension Zero (1967)

Johnny Cypher in Dimension Zero was first produced in Japan in 1967, then imported to the US by Seven Arts a year later. Joe Oriolo's studio had a hand in the production, but there's little to explain the jump cutting between scenes, not that it helps the pacing, as each short runs about 6 minutes or so.

Would it work today? Hard to say. The series didn't even last a year.

Here's "The Mothmen":




The Japanese were more proficient with half-hour-length stories, something we'd pick up on a few years later. Copying the 3 shorts to a half-hour format with Johnny Cypher? Not so much.

Rating: C.

Toonfomercial: Remember Johnny Wrappleseed? (1978)

Kraft experimented with something called Wrapples in the mid-70's. In an effort to try to better sell the product to kids, the company contracted an animation house to produce the following commercial, introducing in the process a Johnny Appleseed parody named, of course, Johnny Wrappleseed (Marty Ingels):



Johnny certainly looks familiar, kind of like Ingels' Arch Fenster character from I'm Dickens, He's Fenster, moreso than Beagle Beagle (The Great Grape Ape). Unfortunately, Wrapples were gone by the turn of the decade.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

You Know the Voice: Mel Blanc (1980)

In the summer of 1980, CBS asked Mark Goodson & Bill Todman to develop a reality show similar to NBC's Real People and ABC's That's Incredible. The end result, That's My Line, would spend 2 summers on the network (1980-1), keeping Bob Barker busy during summer breaks from The Price is Right. We'll discuss that further over at The Land of Whatever, but for right now, let's focus on the following clip with father & son voice actors Mel & Noel Blanc, from 1980.

The set-up: Mel is interviewed by Barker, questions that he's probably fielded a bazillion times (and would field a few years later from David Letterman). When he mentions that he's looking for a successor, Barker pipes in, setting up a "contest" that is really a means for Noel to join his dad on stage, a stunt worthy of one of Barker's earlier series, Truth or Consequences.



Rare Treats:The Panther & the Aardvark (1971)

Even though The Ant & The Aardvark replaced The Inspector as the back-up feature on The Pink Panther Show in 1970, the following year, the blue anteater became more attention-needy, bigfooting the show open, and appearing in interstital skits with the Panther.

Here, the Aardvark and the Panther duel in replicating sounds, and we see that the aardvark's trunk can change shape. Marvin Miller (ex-Aquaman) is the narrator.




The Aardvark could've had a future without Charlie Ant, but......!

Rating: A.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Teenage Toons: What's With Andy? (2001)

By the time What's With Andy? had ended production in 2007, it had lost its American cable channel (had aired on ABC Family as part of a Jetix block), and so you can't be blamed if you assumed the show had already been cancelled.

The truth is, Andy stretched out three seasons across six years (2001-7) for whatever reason. After ABC Family had cancelled the show, no other American cable network opted to pick it up. From what I had seen, I wasn't impressed.

Here's the intro:



I think that while Andy was presented as a prank-happy kid, the producers had tried to also mine the vein of comedy from the former NBC series, Saved by the Bell, which had been laid to rest in 2000. Unfortunately, Andy was no Zack Morris.

Rating: C.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Bang-Shang-A-Lang (1968)

"Bang-Shang-A-Lang" was The Archies' follow-up to their #1 hit, "Sugar, Sugar", but didn't get quite as far up the charts.

Uploaded by DreamWorks Classic's YouTube channel:


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Toon Rock: Street Frogs (1987)

Street Frogs is the 3rd of 4 segments from the 1987 Rankin-Bass anthology series, The Comic Strip. We'll be taking a look at Mini-Monsters during "Spooktober" next month.

The 80's were the golden age of hip-hop. MTV jumped on the bandwagon with the emergence of Run-DMC, Doug E. Fresh, and Public Enemy, among others. So, the folks at Rankin-Bass figured, why not try humanoid frogs as rappers?

I never got to see the show, so there won't be a rating. Let's leave you with a sample episode.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Looney TV: Baby Looney Tunes (2001)

Well, you knew this was going to happen sooner or later.

In the 80's, the success of Jim Henson's Muppet Babies prompted Hanna-Barbera to try "prequel" series to a couple of their franchises, and got a couple of years out of The Flintstone Kids and 3 out of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. Similarly attempting to duplicate the formula with Yogi Bear bombed, and that was the end of that, or so we thought.

10 years after the debacle that was Yo, Yogi, Warner Bros. decided to try a non-canonical "prequel" with Baby Looney Tunes. The series initially aired on Kids' WB!, then moved to Cartoon Network the following season. 53 episodes in all were produced, and the series would continue on CN, particularly as part of its short-lived Tickle U block, until 2006. Earlier this month, the series resurfaced on Boomerang for however long that'll last.

Let's look at the intro:



Don't Bugs & Lola look so cute at toddlers?

Rating: B.

Getting Schooled: The Mouse Factory (1972)

I regret that I never got to see The Mouse Factory when it first ran in syndication from 1972-4. The series didn't find a home in my home area, and the closest affiliate was, IIRC, WNBC in New York. 43 episodes were produced over the 2 seasons. Why Disney chose 1st run syndication over perhaps selling it to NBC as a companion to The Wonderful World of Disney, I'll never know.

Each episode covered a specific topic, illustrated in the form of edited shorts and narration by a celebrity guest, billed as a friend of Mickey Mouse. Guests included Charles Nelson Reilly (ex-Lidsville, Ghost & Mrs. Muir), Wally Cox (Hollywood Squares, ex-Underdog), Jim Backus (ex-Gilligan's Island), Jonathan Winters, Jo Anne Worley (Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In), and, in this episode, Bill Dana, who, because of his past as Jose Jiminez, feels right at home narrating a show about "Bullfighting":



Methinks we'll locate Goofy's "For Whom The Bulls Toil" another day.

No rating.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

On DVD: Scooby-Doo Meets Batman (1972)

We've previously reviewed each of the two New Scooby-Doo Movies episodes that enabled the Mystery, Inc. team to meet Batman (Olan Soule, ex-Dragnet, Captain Midnight, etc.) and Robin (Casey Kasem, also the voice of Shaggy). The DVD compilation putting these two episodes together, unfortunately, leaves something to be desired.

The first problem is that the familiar open to New Scooby-Doo Movies was edited off each episode, and they used an edited closing credits package. Also, a laugh track, which wasn't used originally, was edited in, which killed the vibe. Would it have hurt to keep these two shows intact? The total running time is 82 minutes, or 41 minutes apiece.

As others have noted, the artists messed up coloring Batman's costume, leaving his neck exposed in several scenes in both episodes, and his tights were mistakenly left off a scene in "The Caped Crusader Caper". Sadly, the first episode, "The Dynamic Scooby-Doo Affair", is off YouTube until someone can post a clean copy, but just take my word for it. Either Janet Waldo or Jean VanderPyl guested as Mrs. Baker, who was the secret ringleader of a group of counterfeiters who hired the Joker & the Penguin to pass the phony money for them. The master villains were captured too early, gone halfway through, but would stick around to the conclusion of "Caped Crusader Caper".

We reviewed "Caped Crusader Caper" more recently. To recap, Don Messick (Scooby) pulls double duty as Professor Flakey, a befuddled scientist whose experimental flying suit is targeted by Joker & Penguin. We used the following clip then, and now.....



Fortunately, H-B's artistic team would finally figure out how to properly draw the Batman over the next 13 years........

Rating for the DVD package: C. Each individual episode merited an A.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Toon Legends: Popeye in Strong to the Finich (1934)

Popeye is up against an unlikely opponent----orphans----in "Strong to the Finich".

The spinach eating sailor (Billy Costello) delivers a crate of spinach to a health farm owned by his girlfriend, Olive Oyl (Bonnie Poe; Mae Questel would not assume the role for a while yet), unaware that the kids absolutely detest spinach, and, likely, all vegetables in general. That forces Popeye to try to explain the merits of spinach, with predictable results.




The stereotype back then was that kids hated having veggies and fruit forced upon them as part of their meals. Not so today, with more of an emphasis on healthy eating.

Rating: B+.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Toonfomercial: Fred & Barney do a sleepover? (1973)

Here's a long forgotten ad for Post's Pebbles line of cereals. Fred Flintstone (Alan Reed) and Barney Rubble (Mel Blanc) have somehow wangled an overnight visit with a couple of 20th century kids.




You don't see this too often anymore, and that's a shame.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sunday Funnies: Karate Kat (1987)

From Rankin-Bass' final series, the anthology series Comic Strip, comes a feline crimestopper whose exploits pre-dated Hanna-Barbera's SWAT Kats by 6 years.

Karate Kat was an operative for McClaw's Detective Agency, but his biggest flaw was his own ego getting in the way, kind of like Hong Kong Phooey (due to the martial arts angle) or The Inspector (everything else). He narrated his own adventures, in a send-up of detective dramas like Magnum, P. I., but if the writing was better, maybe this could've been spun off on its own. Then again, maybe not.

Scope the episode, "The Mousemobile Kaper":




I'm guessing the "Aristokratic Kapers" title was an umbrella title for a subsequent VHS release. It has not been issued on DVD as of this writing. Warner Bros., which now owns the rights, is in no hurry.

Rating: B-.

Tooniversary: Josie & the Pussycats in Paris (The Great Pussycat Chase, 1970)

As the title of this entry implies, Josie & the Pussycats' world tour takes them to Paris, and into another bizarre adventure.

In "The Great Pussycat Chase", the band and friends are entrusted with a strange black box by a French secret agent to guard it from the Shadow (John Stephenson), who has evil intentions, unlike the pulp/radio namesake that Melody (Jackie Joseph) references.......




The wiggling ears gimmick Hanna-Barbera gave Melody didn't extend to the comic books, in case anyone wonders.

Rating: B.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Saturday School: The Inspector teaches traffic safety---NOT! (1969)

From The Pink Panther Show:

The Inspector seems to have his signals crossed, or has some issues with color-blindness. You see, as we all know, we cross the street on the red light, not green, as the Inspector would insist. Maybe that's how they do things in France, but not here. Green means the cars have the right of way, and red is for the pedestrians.

Scope this nugget from Muttley16:







Animated World of DC Comics: Batman meets Zatanna (1992)

Most of us envision Bruce Wayne, aka Batman, settling down with Selina Kyle, alias Catwoman. Christopher Nolan certainly thought so, based on the ending to "The Dark Knight Rises". 20 years earlier, however, Paul Dini had other ideas.

Dini came up with the idea that as a young man, Bruce (Kevin Conroy) had sought advice on being an escape artist from magician John Zatara, and gained the attention----and affection---of Zatara's daughter, Zatanna (Julie Brown, The Edge). Years later, Zatanna is performing in Gotham City, and framed for armed robbery by one Montague Kane, who was modeled after Orson Welles, from the looks of things. Zatanna, unaware that the Dark Knight is her lost love, convinces Batman to let her help him clear her name.

Too bad they didn't make a sequel. The Princess of Prestidigation would not return until Justice League Unlimited, more than a decade later, with Jennifer Hale taking over the role.



Dini, during his run on Detective Comics, tried to at least rekindle the sparks of romance between Zatanna & Batman, but it was a short-lived story arc.

Rating: A.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Magnificent Muttley becomes Professor Muttley (1969)

When Muttley has his Walter Mitty-esque daydreams, it's usually at Dick Dastardly's expense, one way or the other. Such is the case in this Magnificent Muttley entry, where Muttley (Don Messick) dreams of being a brilliant inventor, but Dastardly (Paul Winchell) keeps stealing his inventions, with disastrous results---for Dastardly, until "Professor Muttley" finally figures out how to stop him.




Small wonder that when Winchell recycled his Dastardly voice for Gargamel on The Smurfs (1981-9), he also gave the bumbling wizard a lot of Dastardly's traits, too, particularly the perpetual failure.

Rating: A.

You Know the Voice: John Stephenson (1967)

Time for another You Know The Voice entry for the late John Stephenson.

This time, John is prominently featured in The Invaders in the episode, "Task Force", from 1967. Enjoy.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Toons You Might've Missed: The Fox & the Crow (1941)

Once upon a time, virtually all of the major Hollywood studios were producing animated shorts. Walter Lantz, of course, was long associated with Universal. WB & MGM had their own animation houses. For a while, so did Columbia.

Over the course of 7 years, Columbia nurtured their own funny animal comedy team, The Fox & the Crow, before they were shipped off to UPA. Legendary director Frank Tashlin helmed their first effort, 1941's "The Fox & the Grapes", but he left for WB and forged his legacy there. Bob Wickersham took over, and is at the controls for 1942's "Toll Bridge Troubles":



Crawford Crow and Fauntleroy Fox also appeared in comics, debuting for DC in 1945, and staying their through the mid-60's. However, their animated shorts haven't seen the light of day in what seems like forever. They were last seen on television more than 50 years ago, when a syndicated package included them with either Hanna-Barbera's Ruff & Reddy (H-B was a Columbia subsidiary at the time) or Total Television's King Leonardo. I'm not even sure if these shorts are even available on DVD presently.

Rating: B-.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Toon Legends: Popeye in Spree Lunch (1957)

Blow me down! How could Jack Mercer, the voice of Popeye, forget how much of a moocher J. Wellington Wimpy is? Mercer wrote "Spree Lunch", which was the last theatrical short to feature Wimpy and Bluto, and was released in 1957.

Bluto (Jackson Beck) must have some money in the bank. How else to afford neon lights and other electronic gadgets for his mobile diner, which moves in across the street from Popeye's? All this really is, when you think of it, is a variation on the ages old fight over Olive Oyl, who is curiously absent.




Bluto's right about competition being necessary in business. It's just that Popeye doesn't see it, which makes one wonder just exactly why one eye is always shut, blinding the sailor to reality in the worst possible scenarios.

Rating: B-.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Looney TV: Daffy Duck & the Dinosaur (1939)

Daffy Duck (Mel Blanc) is way out of his usual element----or is he?----in 1939's "Daffy Duck & the Dinosaur", directed by Chuck Jones. Well, this is set in the Stone Age, and Daffy is being targeted for breakfast by a hungry caveman (Jack Lescoulie, doing a Jack Benny mimic of a sort), aided by a dinosaur named Fido. Well, that's one strike. Against the caveman, that is.




Portions of this cartoon were later used, with Fido recolored brown, in Was (Not Was)' "Walk The Dinosaur" some 50 years later.

Rating: B.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Looney TV: Foghorn Leghorn & Daffy Duck meet Pat Paulsen (1970)

Pat Paulsen is remembered for his comic attempt at running for President, going as far back as 1968, when he was a frequent guest on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. In January 1970, ABC picked up Paulsen for his own Half a Comedy Hour, which lasted 13 weeks before being cancelled.

The point of this exercise, peeps, is a pair of clips from the show featuring Looney Tunes characters. The first is from week 3, where Pat opens with Foghorn Leghorn. Two weeks prior, as shown in the 2nd clip, Daffy Duck drops by. Paulsen must've been a cartoon fan.




In each case, Mel Blanc was given customary credit at the end of the show by announcer Billy Sands (ex-McHale's Navy). The entire series is out on DVD, if you want to scope it out for yourselves. A review on the show will be over at The Land of Whatever.

Toon Rock: Hep Cat Symphony (1949)

This Famous Studios Noveltoon is really swingin'.

In "Hep Cat Symphony", an enterprising feline forms a 1-cat band, but his rehearsal is ruined by a mouse orchestra's rehearsal. The mix of jazz and classical music provides a showcase for Famous-Paramount musical director Winston Sharples, who puts a capper on the festivities with a rousing rendition of Rossini's "William Tell Overture", otherwise known to laymen as the theme of The Lone Ranger. Like, dig it, man!




Nothing short of awesome.

Rating: A.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Fall Preview Week: NBC Saturday Morning Preview: Alf Loves a Mystery (1987)

Back to NBC we go for the next installment in Fall Preview Week.

Alf was white-hot leading off NBC's Monday night lineup, such that series creator Paul Fusco and NBC decided to add a Saturday morning animated prequel, which, in turn, would begat a 2nd cartoon, Alf Tales. To set things up for the 1987 season, NBC built their preview special around Alf in Alf Loves a Mystery. Danny Dark (ex-Super Friends), at the time a studio announcer at NBC, handles those chores here.




The animated Alf ended around the same time the Monday show did. New Archies was a bad idea, as DIC attempted to reboot the franchise with Archie Comics' blessing, but it wasn't the same. Most of the kiddo's were gravitating to CBS (Muppet Babies, Pee-Wee's Playhouse) or ABC (Real Ghostbusters) instead.

No rating. No memory of seeing this show.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Animated World of DC Comics: Harley & Ivy (Batman: The Animated Series, 1992-3)

Paul Dini had found a gold mine when he blessed comics & cartoon fans with Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin, Days of Our Lives) during season 1 of Batman: The Animated Series. Not content with casting Harl as the on-again-off-again girlfriend/partner of The Joker (Mark Hamill), Dini saw a means to expand on Harley's world.

In "Harley & Ivy", the Clown Prince of Crime is in one of his worse moods, and sends Harley packing. This wouldn't be the last time this would happen, but it just so happens that Harley makes good on her promise to prove Joker wrong and become a big shot crook in her own right. It just was a matter of finding the right partner, namely, Poison Ivy (Diane Pershing). The two cross paths when each tries to rob a museum, and, finding common ground, join forces.

Here's how they met:




Small wonder, then, that 17 years later, Dini was asked to write a pair of Bat-centric books for DC. Gotham City Sirens showcased Harley & Ivy, along with Catwoman, with Riddler, now operating as a PI on the side of the law, as a male foil. Dini wrote the first couple of issues, then left to concentrate on Streets of Gotham. Both series should still be running if not for DC's insipid New 52 initiative in 2011.

"Harley & Ivy" gets an A.

Fall Preview Week: ABC Pac Preview Party (1982)

Let's move back just a wee bit in the timestream, shall we? Time to take a look, at least in part, at ABC's 1982 Saturday preview special, which headlined Pac-Man. Dick Clark (American Bandstand) is your host, and, presumably, also produced the show for his production company. Dick Tufeld, who was a staff announcer for Ruby-Spears at the time, after moving from DePatie-Freleng, and would later work for Hanna-Barbera, is the announcer.

What you'll see in this clip, though, is a treat unto itself. The audience is treated to an in-studio demonstration of recording for Laverne & Shirley in the Army, season 2, as Henry Winkler (Fonzie, of course) and Frank Welker (Mr. Cool) move over from Fonz & the Happy Days Gang. As we've documented before, there was never any closure to the latter series, and, depending on the timeframe of the animated Laverne, you had to figure Fonzie and the gang did come home.

What we won't see, because the show was split into 5 parts, is an appearance by actor-turned-agent Marty Ingels, the voice of Pac-Man. Marty offered the kiddo's a primer on how to say, "Wocka-Wocka", the sound Pac-Man supposedly makes in the video game. Heh, they could've learned that from Fozzie Bear! (The Muppet Show)




Willie Tyler & Lester were the hosts of Weekend Special at the time, in case anyone wonders. Too bad they couldn't get a better gig.

Rating: B-.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Rare Treats: Busch Beer hits Bedrock (1967)

In the 80's, Anheuser-Busch invited consumers to "head for the mountains" with Busch Beer. If you were unfamiliar with what was the brewery giant's 3rd brand, behind Budweiser & Michelob, you're forgiven, since Busch had actually been around for over 25 years.

Introduced as Busch Bavarian Lager in 1955, the brewers shortened the name to Busch Beer in 1979. To help with the relaunch, Anheuser-Busch contracted Hanna-Barbera to produce a promotional short starring Fred Flintstone & Barney Rubble from The Flintstones. However, this cartoon was produced in 1967, a year after the series ended.



What do you think?

You Know The Voice: Robert Ridgely (1978)

Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle had ended production. Robert Ridgely was a year away from returning to Filmation to work on Flash Gordon. So, you figure, he must've been doing some primetime work to merit appearing on You Don't Say.

Producer Ralph Andrews had revived You Don't Say some months earlier, but instead of going back to NBC, where the original series aired during the 60's, Andrews went to ABC, but the show was canned after a 5 month run in 1975, only to return as a syndicated pre-primetime show, hosted by Jim Peck, as Tom Kennedy, who helmed the daytime version, was doing Name That Tune at night. Anyway, Robert uses some odd character voices in this installment from November 1978.


Fall Preview Week: CBS Saturday Morning Preview (1983)

Our look back at Saturday morning previews of the past continues as we warp ahead to 1983, and flip the dial to CBS.

Sid & Marty Krofft, at this point, sold only one series to CBS, and that was 1975's Far Out Space Nuts. Pryor's Place wouldn't come for another year, but CBS commissioned the Kroffts to produce this primetime entry, which, in addition to a clip from The Dukes, was built around a crossover with its parent series, The Dukes of Hazzard. J. D. "Boss" Hogg (Sorrell Booke) and Roscoe P. Coltrane (James Best) are looking to crash the party to feather their own nests, but why is Happy Days star Scott Baio in Hazzard County? Why didn't WB co-produce this show?

It does sound like Danny Dark (Super Friends), in one of his last jobs for CBS before moving to NBC, was the announcer, but I'm not sure. Didn't see this, so we'll pass on a rating again.





Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Toons You Might've Missed: Luno the White Stallion (1963)

Terrytoons had been experimenting with more human protagonists in the 60's, starting with Hector Heathcote. In 1963, Luno the White Stallion made his debut, first appearing in theatrical shorts, just like most of the Terrytoons roster (save for Lariat Sam & Tom Terrific, who were created specifically for television). Luno actually was a figurine owned by a human boy named Tim (voiced by Dayton Allen), who brought Luno to life with the reciting of a short incantation. Bob McFadden was the voice of Luno, and he & Allen did most of the supporting characters as well.

Luno made his TV debut in 1965 as a backup feature on The Astronut Show, but the shorts haven't been seen since that series ended. From 1964, Tim & Luno meet a different kind of Captain Ahab, a bumbling sort given to tall tales, in a subtle send-up of Herman Melville's famous novel, Moby Dick, in "Adventure by the Sea".




Of course you know that 3 years later, Moby was rebooted as a hero by Hanna-Barbera and CBS, in an effort to duplicate what Rankin-Bass did for King Kong a year prior at ABC. This, despite the comic overtones, is closer to Melville's story, even with a happy ending.

Rating: B.

Animated World of DC Comics: Almost Got 'Im (Batman: The Animated Series, 1992)

What happens when 5 of Batman's enemies gather for a game of poker? Chaos.

In "Almost Got 'Im", Joker (Mark Hamill) hosts Two-Face (Richard Moll), Penguin (Paul Williams), Poison Ivy (Diane Pershing), and Killer Croc for a night of criminal bonding. We're reminded of Ivy & Harvey Dent's brief relationship. Oh, and where's Batman (Kevin Conroy)? Ah, that would be telling. Throw in Harley Quinn and Catwoman, not seen in this preview clip, and you've got one of the best episodes of the series.




Penguin unwittingly came close to figuring out Batman's origins with his remark about crime-related trauma. I've always regarded him as one of the more cerebral villains.

Rating: A.

Fall Preview Week: The Great NBC Smilin' Saturday Morning Parade (1976)

In 1976, apparently buoyed by poor reviews and/or ratings of past specials, NBC opted not to have the Kroffts produce another Saturday morning preview special. Instead, they turned to pre-fab pop impresario Don Kirshner and In Search Of..... producer Alan Landsburg to create The Great NBC Smilin' Saturday Morning Parade, hosted by Chico & The Man star Freddie Prinze. Sounds like John Harlan, who was Bob Hope's announcer for his many specials during this period, and also announced for Name That Tune and other game shows, is the announcer here.

During this season Pink Panther expanded to 90 minutes with the addition of the Texas Toads (nee Tijuana Toads). There's also a bumper with Misterjaw trying to scare Tyrone, the "Dirty Old Man" from Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (both voiced by Arte Johnson), a year before Tyrone would be given his own show.

Didn't see this show, so there will be no rating.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Summertainment: Mickey Mouse & friends are on a Hawaiian Holiday (1937)

Walt Disney's beloved, legendary characters don't get enough love in this space. Labor Day usually means the unofficial end of summer for the kiddo's, as they're heading back to school this week, so our final Summertainment entry sends Mickey Mouse (who doesn't speak), Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, & Minnie Mouse on a "Hawaiian Holiday". This might've been shown on The Mickey Mouse Club, but don't hold me to that. Anyway, it starts with Mickey playing a guitar flat on his lap while Donald has a ukelele. Donald later swaps the instrument for a grass skirt to pick up for Minnie in doing some hula dancing. Meanwhile, Goofy tries surfing.



Hilarious fun.

Rating: A.

Fall Preview Week: NBC's 1974 Saturday Morning Preview

As long as we're waxing nostalgic on this Labor Day weekend, we're going to start a week long series of features on a lost tradition in children's programming.

As far back as the late 60's, CBS, ABC, & NBC would preview their Saturday morning slates in primetime specials, treating them the same as their regular schedules. Often, there were gimmicks attached.

At NBC, for example, it wasn't always a network star who hosted these specials. For 1974, the network signed the youngest of the Osmond family, Jimmy Osmond, to host their Saturday morning preview show, which was produced by Sid & Marty Krofft, who had 2 series on the schedule (Land of the Lost and the returning Sigmund & The Sea Monsters), and some familiar faces, such as H. R. Pufnstuf, were in the audience. Pufnstuf returned to NBC after a brief rerun cycle at ABC, but his show was no longer on the air, and it'd be a few more years before it would resurface in syndication.

Unfortunately, young master Osmond was not exactly brimming with charisma, and 11 year old me avoided this show like the plague. Well, that might be because the parents had baseball or something else on that night.

Commercials are included.




Not one of the Kroffts' brightest moments.

Rating: D.

On DVD: Saturday Morning Cartoons: The 70's, Volume 1 (2009)

Warner Home Video's Saturday Morning Cartoons compilations must not have sold very well. How else, then, to explain why some copies were reissued with "4 Kids Favorites" and pictures of 4 different characters, all of whom would appear on the DVD, on the cover, and redistributed to places like Walmart, Five Below, and other dollar/discount stores?

Part of the overall reason might be that some of the series represented on Volume 1 of the 1970's collection would eventually be released on their own stand-alone DVD compilations, such as The New Adventures of Batman and Josie & the Pussycats, and fans preferred to wait for those releases.

Anyway, this is what you get:

The Jetsons: This one's a bit of a cheat, since the 1962 series was in repeats on NBC during the 70's to fill time because the network didn't buy enough new series. "The Space Car", in which George (George O'Hanlon) & Jane (Penny Singleton) are mistaken for bank robbers after a vehicle mix-up, also has the title card from when the series was revived in the 80's, and they created episode title cards for the 1962 series episodes that were part of the package. We'll discuss this one another time.

The New Adventures of Batman: The series opener, "The Pest", was previously reviewed. Joker (Len Weinrib) steals a car that runs on water instead of fuel, with hazardous consequences.

Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle: Tarzan (Robert Ridgely, ex-Uncle Croc's Block) meets two warring armies in a homage to Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels. Unfortunately, no individual episodes are now available on YouTube.

Goober & the Ghost Chasers: The series opener,"Assignment: The Ahab Apparition", set the tone, as Hanna-Barbera contracted with Screen Gems (now Sony Pictures Television) to use four of the kids from The Partridge Family, so they must've known this was a real dog.

Hong Kong Phooey: The kung fu pooch (Scatman Crothers) battles car & jewel thieves in two interlocking shorts, the overarching plot being Sgt. Flint (Joe E. Ross, ex-Help! It's the Hair Bear Bunch) needing the precinct in top shape for the commissioner's inspection.

Speed Buggy: Speedy (Mel Blanc) and friends are out west to help Debbie's aunt fend off some cattle rustlers. Blanc also voices the sheriff.

Wheelie & the Chopper Bunch: Three short vignettes, all basically the same plot. Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch are entered in a race where the winner goes on a date with Wheelie's girlfriend, Rota (Judy Strangis). After that, a little bike wants to join the Chopper Bunch, but after Wheelie rescues him from quicksand, he turns on the Bunch after Chopper has him spy on Wheelie & Rota. Finally, Wheelie takes part in a stunt show, which Chopper stupidly tries to sabotage, with hilarious results.

Yogi's Gang: Yogi Bear (Daws Butler) and pals encounter the Greedy Genie (John Stephenson), who has convinced Yogi's hobo pal, Smiley, to look out for himself.

Amazing Chan & The Chan Clan: Charlie Chan (Keye Luke) and the kids are in England to rescue an important artifact attached to an ancient throne (previously reviewed).

Josie & the Pussycats: Alex Cabot (Casey Kasem) books the band for a gig in Pago Pago, but, predictably, the gang has to do some chores to pay passage when Alex comes up short of money. Before long, they're prisoners of a modern-day descendant of Captain Nemo (Stephenson).

The Roman Holidays: Gus Holiday (Dave Willock) poses as a teenager in order to take his landlord's niece to a school prom, where son Hap is in the band. This after summoning his bumpkin nephew in an effort to pair him up with the lass.

The New Scooby-Doo Movies: Scooby and Mystery Inc. team with the Harlem Globetrotters, one of three such team-ups, which marked the end of the 'Trotters' 1st go-round with Hanna-Barbera, only to return in Super Globetrotters in 1979.

The Funky Phantom: Jonathan Muddlemore (Daws Butler, recycling his Bert Lahr-inspired Snagglepuss voice) and his mortal pals meet a pirate posing as the ghost of Jean LaFitte. Ex-Monkee Micky Dolenz made his H-B debut as Skip, and tries to serenade April (Kristina Holland, The Courtship of Eddie's Father). 1st H-B series produced in Australia.

A Saturday Morning Wake-Up Call is heard on each disc, as Casey Kasem highlights the contents of the discs. If you were listening to Casey's radio shows around 2009, before he retired, well, that's what you'll get here.

Plus, there are commentary features on Funky Phantom and Chan Clan. In the latter, Jamie Farr, who was moonlighting from his other gig on M*A*S*H as a writer for H-B, discusses how the show came together. Fellow writer Eddie Carroll lets ol' long-of-nose do virtually all the talking. (Jamie got the nickname "long-of-nose" from Chuck Barris on The Gong Show)

As for the story behind Funky Phantom, let Paul Dini, Donovan Cook, and others explain it to you, in "Heavens to Betsy Ross: The Spirit of the Funky Phantom":



My own take: I'd seen the Batman, Josie, & Scooby-Doo Movies entries before, and this was the first time I'd actually sat through an episode of Roman Holidays. Part of the reason people are so down on the 70's is the fact that in a lot of cases, the writing was getting weaker, almost on auto-pilot, which, in hindsight, was not good.

Rating: C.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Incredible Crash Dummies (1993)

The popularity of a series of PSAs featuring a pair of living crash dummies led to Tyco Toys obtaining a license to create their own line of The Incredible Crash Dummies, but a 1-shot special that aired on Fox in May 1993 didn't lead to a regular series. Hmmmmmm.

Instead of Vince & Larry, the PSA dummies, voiced by Jack Burns & Lorenzo Music, as discussed over at The Land of Whatever the other day, The Incredible Crash Dummies feature Stick, Spin, Ted, Spare Tire, and the villainous Junkman. Stick & Spin are the subs, if you will, for Vince & Larry, since the Ad Council wouldn't license those characters to Tyco or Canada's Nelvana Studios, which produced the following CGI special. The first few minutes, I'm told, are exclusive to a subsequent VHS release.




The Incredible Crash Dummies, then, becomes the first CGI cartoon to air on Saturday mornings, preceding Reboot by 16 months (Reboot bowed on ABC in September 1994). Fox neglected to note this particular fact, figuring kids wouldn't care how the show was animated. Unfortunately, if you wanted a sequel, as noted, you were left wanting.

Rating: B.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Literary Toons (and other things): Free to be....You & Me (1974)

Actress-turned-activist Marlo Thomas (ex-That Girl) was the founder of the Ms. Foundation, formed in 1972. In November of that year, the Ms. Foundation released a picture book, Free to be....You & Me, which was turned into a primetime special for ABC in March 1974. Amazingly, it was never repurposed as an ABC Afterschool Special, though it could've easily done so.

Thomas leads an all-star cast, including football player-turned-actor and sometime singer Roosevelt Grier (ex-Daniel Boone), Alan Alda (M*A*S*H), Tom Smothers, and Michael Jackson, in a enriching, educational, and enlightening, tune-filled hour, which was last seen on TV Land a few years ago. Glen Murakami & Fred Wolf's studio provided the animation, but there were some live action moments, too, including musical numbers by Grier and Jackson.

I can recall my 6th grade music class performing the title song at a school function a year later, but, today, I couldn't remember the lyrics if I tried. Just saying and sharing.

To give you some idea, we present an animated clip, "William Wants a Doll", a duet between Alda & Thomas.




Today, Marlo Thomas is the national spokesperson for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, founded by her father, Danny Thomas. And while there was a Free to be..... sequel, produced in 1988, you'd think there'd be interest in doing another, but not now.

Rating: B.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Goober & the Ghost Chasers vs. the Ahab Apparition (1973)

Featured on Saturday Morning Cartoons: The 70's, Volume 1 is the series premiere of Goober & the Ghost Chasers.

Ted (Jerry Dexter), Tina (Jo Ann Harris), and Gillie (Ronnie Schell, ex-Gomer Pyle, USMC, Good Morning, World) work for Ghost Chasers Magazine, but as you can see in this episode, their technique in getting stories needs a little work. For some reason, ABC must've insisted on having four of the kids from The Partridge Family (Susan Dey, Danny Bonaduce, Suzanne Crough, Brian Forster) appear on the show as well, which, coupled with shoddy writing, doomed the show.

In the opener, Goober (Paul Winchell) and friends are called by Laurie Partridge (Dey) to a remote beach, where the ghost of Captain Ahab (John Stephenson) haunts the island. Turns out there's also a fake Ahab (Stephenson again). Of all the Scooby-Doo clones Hanna-Barbera produced off an assembly line in the 70's, this was one of the weakest. Don't believe me? Scope for yourselves. Part of the open was edited off for copyright reasons.

Edit, 8/15/16: The Toon.is site is no longer feasible, and thus the video is deleted. Hopefully, it'll resurface on Dailymotion or YouTube at some point.

Sony owns the rights to Goober due to the Partridge crossovers, but understandably, they're in no hurry to relaunch.

Rating: C-.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Animated World of DC Comics: The Laughing Fish (Batman: The Animated Series, 1992)

Batman (Kevin Conroy) battles The Joker (Mark Hamill) in "The Laughing Fish", which is a loose adaptation of some classic Bat-mysteries involving the Clown Prince of Crime from the 70's. Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin) wasn't in the original story that introduced the Jokerfish, but Paul Dini's adaptation found room for her. Dini borrowed from not only Steve Englehart, who introduced the Jokerfish some 15 years earlier, but also "The Joker's 5-Way Revenge".

Joker doesn't really kill anyone in the TV version, as, rather, an anti-toxin is administered by Batman to each victim. The first such victim is a meek clerk named Francis......




Having read the original stories, I can honestly say Dini actually did justice.

Rating: A.

Looney TV: The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show (1986)

ABC reacquired Bugs Bunny in 1985, as his 2nd run at CBS had come to an end. However, that season, his show was billed as The Bugs Bunny-Looney Tunes Hour. Tweety and Speedy Gonzales were MIA, and in Speedy's case, 4 years removed from his NBC run, it might be where the PC Police decided to banish him to cable. No one's really sure why Tweety was left out, as Sylvester appeared in shorts with Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig, Hippety Hopper, and Sylvester, Jr., which had kept him busy.

The next year, with network tentpoles from Hanna-Barbera (Super Friends & Scooby-Doo) having been dropped, Tweety was finally brought aboard, hence the title change to The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show, which would remain in effect, in either half-hour or hour-long increments, for the next 14 years. As was the case at CBS during two runs (1968-71, 1975-85), the anthology package had a fluid format in terms of time. Time Warner's acquisition of WB in the late 90's, around the same time Disney bought ABC, would lead to the end of the series, and the end of Bugs' broadcast TV run after an astonishing 40 seasons, 2 in primetime, once the contract ran out in 2000.

In 1988, the familiar theme, "This Is It", was reinstated, having not been used since the end of the CBS run. This open comes from 1992.




Cartoon Network would try an expanded block under the Bugs & Daffy and Looney Tunes labels early in the aughts, but now, scheduling depends on programmers' preferences.

Rating: A.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Birth of a legend: The Talking Magpies (1946)

Heckle & Jeckle are otherwise known as the "Talking Magpies". That happens to be the title of our next subject.

"The Talking Magpies" was released in January 1946, and technically is also a Farmer Al Falfa cartoon, as he appears with a prototype for Heckle & Jeckle's occasional foil, Dimwit Dog. The big difference, as you'll see, is that the birds in this story are a married couple looking for a place to call home. By the time Terrytoons came back with another short, the marriage was, well, dissolved, and the team we came to know as Heckle & Jeckle took over.

This has, to my knowledge, not been a regular part of the Heckle & Jeckle syndicated package.




Sid Raymond, the voice of Baby Huey, also did the voices for this cartoon.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Toon Sports: Beetle Bailey takes up football (A Pass is a Pass is a Pass, 1963)

Time to go back to the Beetle Bailey shorts from the 60's, and this one is appropriate, since football season, at least for high schools & colleges, begins this weekend.

Sgt. Snorkel (Allan Melvin) leads Camp Swampy into action against a rival Army base, but don't be looking for miracles here. Melvin also voices the play-by-play announcer, whose vocal patterns would later be recycled & modified at Hanna-Barbera with Punkin Puss the next year, and Drooper of the Banana Splits 4 years after that.

We know Beetle (Howard Morris) wants a weekend pass, but the lengths he goes to get it........



Only in a cartoon would officers and enlisted men join forces like this. And "The Longest Yard" was a few years away.

Rating: B.