Saturday, April 30, 2016

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Astro & the Space Mutts vs. Reverso (1981)

Astro & the Space Mutts have to deal with a really dyslexic villain in "Reverso". Y'think Reverso (Don Messick) might've gotten dialogue coaching from Yoda?



Space Ace (Michael Bell) should thank Astro (Messick). Imagine what might've happened if Kid Comet showed up and found Ace hitting on Jan, whom Comet would be dating later in the season.....!

Rating: B-. One of the better entries in the series, and there weren't many.

On The Air: Chicken Soup For The Soul's Hidden Heroes (2015)

Here's a hidden camera show that isn't offensive to the senses, but rather comfort food for the whole family.

Chicken Soup For The Soul's Hidden Heroes, to use the full title, launched in October as part of CBS' Litton-packaged Saturday lineup. Actress-reality show vet Brooke Burke-Charvet (Melissa & Joey, ex-Dancing With The Stars) serves as host/narrator for the lunch hour series, which follows ordinary folks doing some extraordinary things to help people.

And, too, there is the occasional celebrity profile. In this case, from November, here's animal rights advocate Beth Stern, wife of radio icon Howard Stern.



With the networks moving back to programming Saturday mornings with non-animated fare, like in the early days of television, this is the sort of show that would make a good topic for a class report, don't you think?

Rating: A.

We'll be looking at other parts of CBS/Litton's Dream Team block in the coming weeks.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Tooniversary: The Origin of Captain America (1966)

With the 3rd Captain America movie, subtitled, "Civil War", opening next week, why not take a look back to the 1966 adaptation of Stan Lee & Jack Kirby's retelling of the Star Spangled Avenger's origin?



There were plans for a new series for Cap a few years ago at Fox, but they never got off the ground. 

Rating: B-.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Daytime Heroes: Mighty Mouse in Goons From The Moon (1951)

Terrytoons decided to poke fun at science fiction tropes in this 1951 Mighty Mouse entry, "Goons From The Moon". A planet-shaped meteor crashes on Earth, bearing a race of winged cats, bent on feasting on the rodent inhabitants of Terrytown.......



Tom Morrison, at the time the voice of Mighty Mouse, tells the tale using a Walter Winchell-esque reporter to move the story along. That joke got old very quickly, though. There's only so many variants on the central theme of mice vs. cats.....

Rating: B-.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

From Comics to Toons: The Origin of the Incredible Hulk (1982)

When Stan Lee decided to add himself to the animation mix at Marvel by narrating The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends, you knew that Lee was going to see to it that the origins of the heroes would be told.

In the case of the Hulk, Lee and Marvel Productions took full advantage of the resources available, contrary to Canada's Grantray-Lawrence and Krantz Films, which went the cheap route 50 years ago, adapting the Marvel Superheroes Show directly off the printed page. Sixteen years later, the more definitive "Origin of the Hulk" made its way to NBC.......



It's been 20 years since Da Hulkster's last series, so don't ya think he's overdue for a small screen solo series again?

Rating: A.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Animated World of DC Comics: Joyride (1977)

When The All New Super Friends Hour launched on September 10, 1977, we were, of course, still in the last days of summer. This week, schools in the home district are enjoying their spring break (the colleges had spring break last month), so why not give the kiddo's a little beach action?

The Wonder Twins made their debut in the episode, "Joyride". This has to do with a couple of boys stealing a plane, unaware it has engine issues. How the Twins' costumes magically appeared at the end of the story, when Jayna was dressed in a 2 piece bikini, and Zan in swim trunks, at the start, is one of those unsolved mysteries of animation production. Bob Hastings, who was still on All in the Family at the time or about to transition to General Hospital is heard as the mechanic and as Corky, the would-be pilot, as Corky sounds almost like a hero Hastings played a decade earlier----Superboy!



Another blooper, as you can clearly see in the title card. The Twins' costumes make it appear as though the picture is backwards. As Jayna would say, the production department was a little, ah, spacey during post-production editing. "Joyride" marked one of Bob Hastings' last voice jobs for Hanna-Barbera, as he had worked on Clue Club a year earlier.

Rating: A.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Tooniversary: Captain Caveman & Son (1986)

Captain Caveman returned to ABC in 1986, this time as a show-within-a-show backup feature on The Flintstone Kids. "The world's first superhero", as it was claimed 9 years earlier, had returned to the Stone Age when NBC picked him up and added him to the Flintstones mythos in 1980.

This time, Cavey (Mel Blanc) has a son, Cavey, Jr. (Charlie Adler), with whom he shares his adventures. In other words, this time around, it was even more for laughs than before.

In one instance, it was even a family affair, as Cavey's mom joined the fun for a day. Anyway, each episode opens with Fred and pals gathered in front of a TV for the show.

Here's "Leave it to Mother":



Geez, don't they look like Mr. Potato Head & family with hair?

Rating: C.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Me & Mrs. Jones (1972)

It's time to get back on board the Soul Train with a 1-hit wonder from Billy Paul, 1972's "Me & Mrs. Jones".



In memory of Billy, who passed away today at 81. Rest in peace.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Toonformercial: Captain America shows you how to save energy (1980)

Captain America hasn't had any solo series, although one was in the planning stages at Fox in the 90's, since his segment of The Marvel Superheroes Show launched 50 years ago. Now, we all know that Marvel purchased DePatie-Freleng Productions in time to produce Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends and a solo Spider-Man series in 1981, but did you know that their first project may have actually been the following PSA with Cap?



The PSA made the rounds for several years during the 80's, but, again, I have little memory of seeing it on TV.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Toonfomercial: Remember Energy Ant? (1980)

Ok, I will cop to the fact that I've never seen any PSA featuring Energy Ant until today.

As his name implies, Energy Ant was commissioned by the US Department of Energy to appear in a series of short spots that premiered in 1979. Unfortunately, they didn't last long, and Energy Ant was history in due course.

Here's a sample from 1980:

You Know The Voice: Michael Bell (1978)

Before launching his voice acting career in 1972, Michael Bell had already established himself as a serviceable character actor, having logged appearances on The Monkees, Then Came Bronson, The Streets of San Francisco, & M*A*S*H, among others, by the time he was hired for an episode of Three's Company in the 3rd season.

We've previously shown a clip from The Monkees and an episode of Diana. This time, Michael plays a shady yogi who finds an easy mark in Chrissy (Suzanne Somers). Scope out "Chrissy & the Guru":



Michael would return, in a different role, to Three's Company three years later, this time as a skeevy dance instructor who wants to put the moves on Janet (Joyce DeWitt) for all the wrong reasons. We'll locate that another day.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Animated World of DC Comics: Batman: Dead or Alive (1978)

The West was never this wild.

The Super Friends journey to the distant, Western-themed planet Texakana when the Capricorn Kid (Bill Calloway in a dual role) escapes jail after being initially captured by Batman & Robin (Olan Soule & Casey Kasem).

Seems the Kid feels embarrassed being captured by the Caped Crusaders, so he sets about getting revenge. See if you can spot one particular blooper in the course of "Batman: Dead or Alive":



When the Wonder Twins were captured, they weren't in costume, but when they're fished out of the flooding mine shaft, you can see that the artists mistakenly changed their attire. Make any excuse you want, but these errors were common back in the day.

I should note once again that during the Challenge season, the Legion of Doom episodes were in the 2nd half of the show, not the first half. I really wish some of these folks would get it right.

Rating: B.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967)

Gerry & Sylvia Anderson took viewers 101 years into the future with 1967's Captain Scarlet & the Mysterons, which, like most ITC series, lasted just 1 year, but was brought back with a CGI sequel in 2005.

Scarlet (Francis Matthews) is an American working for Spectrum who had been killed by the Mysterons and replaced with a "reconstruction", or doppleganger. When said double was also killed, it was brought back to life with the original's memories, freeing him from Mysteron control.

Producer Reg Hill would later work on the live-action Space: 1999. Ed Bishop, later of UFO, was heard as Captain Blue.

Following is the intro & close.



No rating.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Looney TV: One Froggy Evening (1955)

Michigan J. Frog didn't get his name in his first appearance, 1955's "One Froggy Evening", but after a sequel was produced 40 years later, the singing frog was made the mascot of the fledgling WB Network.

Chuck Jones not only directed "Froggy" and its sequel, but also co-wrote "The Michigan Rag", which is heard on the soundtrack.



There've been similar storylines where a singularly gifted animal would only perform for its owner, shunning fame. There's a lesson to be learned.

Rating: B.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Teenage Toons: Beavis & Butt-Head in Tornado (1993)

Only two morons like Beavis & Butt-Head would ride their bikes into the path of a "Tornado", and they think tornados are cool.

The soundtrack in this episode includes Ministry, Samantha Fox, & PJ Harvey.



Too bad the soundtrack didn't include what should be the boys' theme song. XTC's "Mayor of Simpleton".

Rating: B.

Toons You Might've Missed: Loopy de Loop (1959)

In addition to launching their own studio, William Hanna & Joe Barbera experimented with producing theatrical shorts under their own banner, with Columbia serving as a distributor. Sad to say, only one series was produced.

Loopy de Loop, the misadventures of a good natured French Canadian "gentleman wolf" (Daws Butler---who else?), ran from 1959-65 in theatres, and was later reissued in syndication on television in 1969. Loopy was put in all kinds of odd scenarios, much like stablemate Huckleberry Hound, for example.

In January 1961, H-B & Columbia released "Count Down Clown", in which Loopy, after rescuing a drowning man, only to get punched out because of human distrust toward wolves, signs on for an experimental flight to the moon. The first wolf in space? Hmmmmm.



Small wonder that aside from making his TV debut in 1969, Loopy wasn't given many other chances to shine. Pity.

Rating: B.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Chan Clan search for Captain Kidd's Doubloons (1972)

The Amazing Chan & the Chan Clan are on the case when it appears that "Captain Kidd's Doubloons" have been stolen.



Considering that Don Kirshner is the music supervisor, it should surprise no one that he brought in Ron Dante to provide the singing voice for Stanley Chan (whose speaking voice belonged to Len Weinrib). Gene Andrusco (Alan) would later become a music producer himself, perhaps as a result of meeting Kirshner. Future Oscar winner Jodie Foster was the voice of Anne, while Robert Ito (later of Quincy) had been cast as Henry. Save for Ito, most of the kids' parts had to be recast due to the heavy---so they say---Asian accents. You'll also notice Jamie Farr's name among the writers. Unfortunately, back in those days, you couldn't tell who wrote what, but were the show to be redone today, individual writers would now get screen credit.

Rating: B+.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Saturtainment: Yakky Doodle (1961)

Yakky Doodle made his debut in a back-door pilot episode of Augie Doggie & Doggie Daddy on Quick Draw McGraw, then was spun off into his own feature on The Yogi Bear Show in 1961.

Yakky, voiced by ventriloquist Jimmy Weldon, was based on Weldon's own puppet, Webster Webfoot, but also had his roots with a similar character created as a supporting character for Tom & Jerry over at MGM. Most of the time, if Yakky got in trouble, he got help from Chopper (Vance Colvig), but Chopper is not in this next video.

In "Hasty Tasty", Yakky has to avoid Fibber Fox & Alfy Gator (both voiced by Daws Butler), who seem to have 1) a similar dislike for Yakky's poor a capella singing skills, and 2) a mutual hunger for duck.

While Alfy was modeled after filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock (and Butler did a Hitchcock mimic), that collar & bowtie look awfully familiar. That's because H-B similarly outfitted Wally Gator (no relation?) the following year.

Edit, 10/3/16: Unfortunately, "Hasty Tasty" was deleted by Dailymotion due to a terms of service violation. In its place is a sample intro:




Weldon's only other notable voice credit at H-B is well known to DC comics fans. He was the voice of Solomon Grundy on Challenge of the Super Friends (1978). Funny thing was, while Weldon was available to reprise as Yakky when he appeared on Yogi's Gang (1973) and Scooby's All-Star Laff-a-Lympics (1977), other actors essayed the part. Don't ask.

Rating: A-.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Toonfomercial: Mr. Magoo shills for General Electric (1968)

Mr. Magoo (Jim Backus) encounters a pair of aliens in this 1968 spot for GE Soft White light bulbs. Of course, the near-sighted Magoo thinks they're two old ladies......



Not sure when exactly in 1968 this was made, but Backus (ex-Gilligan's Island) would return to television in Blondie that fall.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

You Know The Voice: George O'Hanlon (1966)

This will also appear over at The Land of Whatever because I've been waiting for something like this for a long time. Anyway, George O'Hanlon was making increasingly rare on-camera appearances after The Jetsons ended its first run. We've previously seen George on Petticoat Junction. This time, he turns up in a Honeymooners skit on The Jackie Gleason Show from 1966, taped in Miami. Game show icon Johnny Olson is the announcer.

George plays the brother-in-law of Alice Kramden (Sheila McRae), and ends up crossing swords with Ralph (Gleason).




Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Toon Legends: Mighty Mouse in Hot Rods (1953)

It's been a while since we last checked in on Mighty Mouse.

1953's "Hot Rods" offers a commentary on teenage rebellion, embodied by some high school mice who've taken up drag racing. A trio of cats try to exploit this for their own agenda, and, well.........



Mighty Mouse didn't utter a sound. In a lot of shorts, he didn't have to. I think they were out of the operatic phase by this point.

Rating: A.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Literary Toons: Winnie the Pooh & the Blustery Day (1968)

It's perfect weather for the middle portion of April. Cold, windy, with rain. In other words, a blustery day.

Fittingly, then, our next subject is Walt Disney's 1968 adaptation of A. A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh & the Blustery Day, which, like the other Pooh featurettes, would find its way to television as a prime-time special, airing on NBC, which at the time was home to The Wonderful World of Disney, and, as memory serves, sponsored by Sears.

Sebastian Cabot (Family Affair) narrates the tale of an atypical day in the Hundred Acre Wood, where Pooh (Sterling Holloway) thinks that "Windsday", as a gopher refers to this day, is a holiday. Piglet (John Fielder) tags along, but the two ultimately are blown right into the treehouse of Owl (Hal Smith, Davey & Goliath, ex-The Andy Griffith Show), which takes us to this snippet of joy......



Unfortunately, Disney no longer has the rights to Pooh, and whomever does hasn't authorized the full half-hour to be available at this point. While Christopher Robin makes the scene at the end of the above clip, we won't hear him talk. A pre-The Waltons Jon Walmsley essayed the part.

Rating: A.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Toonformercial: Remember Windal the Dental Wizard? (1979)

Here's one that I have no memory of ever seeing until today.

The American Dental Association commissioned independent producer Rick Reinert, the man behind the animated intros for ABC's Weekend Special & Afterschool Special, to produce a series of short PSA's to air on television.

This spot, from 1979, features Windal the Dental Wizard, voiced by----who else?----Paul Frees.




Game Time: Chuck Jones on To Tell The Truth (1980)

To Tell The Truth, having previously featured Ted "Dr. Seuss" Geisel and Marvel founding father Stan Lee, welcomed legendary animator Chuck Jones in this 1980 episode. Panelists Pat Collins, Nipsey Russell, Margaret Trudeau, and John Wade have to discern the real Jones from two imposters. In truth, Jones is easy to spot if you'd met him before.

It was a rare on camera appearance for the legendary animator-producer-director, who'd been heard, but not seen, on Curiosity Shop nearly a decade earlier.

Chuck's in the first game, so let's get right to it.



We'll see about Stan Lee's appearances on Truth another time, and maybe Dr. Seuss, too.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

On The Air: The Powerpuff Girls (2016)

Yeah, like, they're back, man.

The Powerpuff Girls have been revived by Cartoon Network with the blessing of series creator Craig McCracken, who is no longer with the network, having moved his creative tack to Disney some time back.

CN suits, inspired by the ratings success of the 2014 Powerpuff special, "Dance Pantsed", decided to bring the girls back, but there are some subtle changes.

First and foremost, the girls have aged a wee bit. If you are a comic book fan, you'd probably get the idea of characters aging very, very slowly. If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say that Blossom, Buttercup, & Bubbles are now in the 2nd or 3rd grade, and would be about anywhere from 7-9 years of age. Yes, they look the same, but for a slight growth spurt adding a couple of inches in height apiece. Bearing this in mind, they've also adopted some of the same traits common to young girls in their age group, such as crushing on boy bands. Not quite old enough to be in Taylor Swift's girl squad, you understand.

People are complaining about the cast changes, as CN recast the three leads, rather than bring back the original actresses (Cathy Cavadini, E. G. Daily, & Tara Strong, although the latter has been quite busy with Teen Titans Go! for CN). I think the idea is that CN wanted to remold and reintroduce the girls for a new generation of viewers, as the sisters marked their 20th anniversary not too long ago.

The new series is in the currently popular 15 minute format, so you can still get two episodes per half hour. There are also 4 online shorts that are available On Demand, such as "Air Buttercup".



I wasn't that impressed with "Air Buttercup", but "Escape From Monster Island", the series opener, was a clear representation of the show's new direction. The Narrator (Tom Kenny) is not used in every episode, and I thought he might've been phased out altogether. Kenny also voices the Mayor of Townsville, who calls on the girls as his plane crashes on the island. Concurrently, Blossom & Buttercup are arguing over who should accompany Bubbles to a boy band concert after Bubbles won a radio contest.

The problem with that particular subplot is that in normal circumstances, children under 18 aren't eligible to be radio contest winners unless there are certain conditions that waive the usual regulations. I've never known a 9 year old to win any contest on the radio. The parents, yeah, but where was Professor Utonium?

It's this kind of writing, which insults the viewer's intelligence, that CN prefers to employ, the attitude being, it doesn't matter to us, the kids'll watch it 2 or 3 dozen times anyway. Not a good attitude to take.

Nice idea to let the girls grow up a tad, but, as per normal, the CN folks need to find better writers.

Rating: C-.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Tooniversary: Popeye in Brotherly Love (1936)

"Brotherly Love" posits Popeye in a more pacifist light, this after hearing a speech by Olive Oyl, who's in charge of a group promoting brotherly love. However, the sailor finds that turning the other cheek isn't as easy as it looks.



Now, did you really think Popeye could go the entire picture without needing the spinach?

Rating: A-.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Getting Schooled: I Haven't Got a Hat (1935)

Isadore "Friz" Freleng's "I Haven't Got a Hat" is memorable for the debut of Porky Pig, voiced here by Joe Daugherty. Porky would ultimately be streamlined into the iconic shape we all know and love, but his signature stammering is much more evident than usual. Chalk it up to perhaps nerves having to recite a couple of poems in front of the class.

The title song is sung by twin pups Ham & Ex (Bernice Hansen & Billy Bletcher), but the climax sees Beans the cat try to sabotage Oliver Owl's number, only for it to first be a bigger success before Beans' ruse is revealed.



I spoke before about Porky's stage fright. Little Kitty certainly looked more nervous, didn't she? Unfortunately, we wouldn't see Kitty again.

Rating: B.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Dino Boy vs. Ant Warriors (1966)

Dino Boy had fought "Giant Ants" in one episode, but now he and Ugg square off with the "Ant Warriors":



Rating: B.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Toonfomercial: Remember the Scrubbing Bubbles? (1970's)

Dow Chemical, for many years, branched out to make household items such as Saran Wrap, Ziploc plastic sandwich & storage bags, and Dow bathroom cleaner, which featured some sentient "scrubbing bubbles" on the cans and in television ads.

The bathroom cleaner was introduced in 1968. Nearly 30 years later, it was sold, along with Ziploc, Saran Wrap, and other Dow products, to S. C. Johnson & Co., which rebranded the bathroom cleaner as Scrubbing Bubbles, in honor of the beloved "mascot".

Here's a sample commercial, with Paul Winchell voicing the leader of the bubbles, using his Fleegle voice from The Banana Splits.




Game Time: Blue's Clues (1996)

Not since, oh, I don't know, Winky Dink & You, perhaps, has there been a children's program that taught as well as entertained as well as Blue's Clues.

Blue's Clues launched in 1996 on Nickelodeon as part of what was then a morning block for preschoolers, before Nick Jr. was spun off into its own channel. Steve Burns was the clean-cut, genial host for the first six seasons (1996-2002), guiding young viewers through the everyday life of Blue, an animated dog. After Burns left, Joe (Donovan Patton) took over for the final 2 years of original shows, as production ended in 2004, though reruns would continue for another 3 years after. Blue's Clues also spent some time on CBS as part of its Nick-centric Saturday morning block.

Here's a sample episode, courtesy of Dailymotion:



 Those game pieces resemble the ones used in something like Parcheesi, which I played as a kid. Just sayin'.

Rating: A.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Looney TV: At Your Service, Madame (1936)

Back in the 70's, in the early days of cable television in upstate NY, WNEW (now WNYW) would devote an hour a day (half hour each in the morning and afternoon) to WB cartoons. Not just the usual suspects (i.e. Bugs, Daffy, Porky), but also rarely seen Merrie Melodies & Looney Tunes that hadn't been run since the advent of the more iconic characters.

"At Your Service, Madame" is one of those rare gems. Directed by Isadore "Friz" Freleng, we're introduced to the Widow Hamhock and her six piglets. Mrs. Hamhock is targeted by a con artist modeled after W. C. Fields. W. C. Squeals (Tedd Pierce, doing a near-perfect Fields mimic) sees an opportunity to fleece Mrs. Hamhock out of her recent inheritance, but the kids have other ideas......



This was actually the first time I've seen this in color. Back in the day, we had a black & white set, and didn't get a color one until years later.

Rating: A-.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Saturtainment: Beany & Cecil (1962)

Bob Clampett's Beany & Cecil was spun off from Matty's Funday Funnies into its own series for ABC in 1962. Only 26 episodes were produced, then recycled over the course of the next few years. I will note that it isn't included in the network Saturday morning ads published between 1966-9, so the run may have ended on Sunday mornings around 1967-8.

Beany (Jim MacGeorge) and Cecil the Sea Sick Sea Serpent would have three short adventures in each episode. One of these featured Lil Ace (Paul Frees---who was working for everybody back then), a monkey astronaut, who figures into this particular short. Frees also voices the news reporter in "The Rat Race For Space".



As we discussed a ways back, Beany was briefly revived in 1988 by DIC and maverick animator John Kricfalusi, but fell victim to viewer indifference and was cancelled after 5 weeks. Beginning in those days, the networks were quicker to pull failing series, losing patience as well as ratings points. You can see, however, from the above short where Kricfalusi got some of his ideas for Ren & Stimpy.

Rating: B--.

Literary Toons: Aesop & Son: The Fox & the Winking Horse (1960)

Here's an interesting Aesop & Son short.

Aesop (Charlie Ruggles, uncredited) relates to his son (Daws Butler, also uncredited) the tale of "The Fox & the Winking Horse". Butler also voices the fox.



Who knew one wink could cause so much trouble?

Rating: B-.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Looney TV: Devil May Hare (1954)

Bugs Bunny's doing some spring cleaning when he runs afoul of the Tasmanian Devil (in his first appearance) in 1954's "Devil May Hare" (a play on Devil may care). The copyright date is a year prior, meaning it was produced and recorded late in 1953, but held until the early part of '54.



Taz would, ahem, bedevil Bugs again, and would also share a picture with Daffy Duck. Someone at WB must've thought Taz could be a star in his own right, hence giving him his own series, Taz-Mania, in the 90's on Fox.

Rating: A.