Saturday, March 31, 2012

It Should've Been on a Saturday: Magic Garden (1972)

Back in the 70's, WPIX in New York was home to a group of programs that could have given PBS a run for their money. The most popular and beloved of these shows was The Magic Garden, a 4-days-a-week series that debuted in March of 1972, and continued to cycle through 13 weeks (52 episodes) until the series was taken off the air in September 1984 after 12 years.

Hosts Carole Demas & Paula Janis went on to careers as teachers after the series ended production, and also released three albums of music spun from Garden, one of which earned a Grammy nomination. 10 years after Garden was cancelled, Nickelodeon picked up the show to air in its Nick, Jr. morning block, but it was a short-term deal, unfortunately, despite the fact that it introduced Paula & Carole to a new generation of viewers. In 2002, WPIX produced a 30th anniversary retrospective and ran 2 episodes for the first time since 1984. Would they do that again to mark 40 years? I don't know. Unfortunately for folks in my district, WPIX was taken off local cable systems a number of years ago, coinciding with the launch of the then-WB Network (now CW), and thus I never saw the 30th anniversary special.

I didn't really discover the series until the early 80's. By then, Garden had shifted from mornings to afternoons, which made the "Goodbye" song seem so irrelevant, but it still ran 4 days a week, with Joya's Fun School filling the space on Fridays. I think back to when my brother and I had a babysitter care for us on Saturday nights during bowling season when we were younger, and she sometimes had a friend come over to help. Paula & Carole reminded me of those halcyon days. Just for the record, Carole was cuter.

Here's the "Hello" song, followed by a tune more familiar to those who picked up on Garden later in the run, when they sometimes edited off the "Hello" song, and the close:

Too bad none of the local stations in my district had the resources to try to create a similar show.

Rating: A.

Friday, March 30, 2012

From Primetime to Daytime: Johnny Bravo (1997)

Johnny Bravo started off as a pilot in Cartoon Network's World Premiere Toons series (aka The What a Cartoon Show) before being spun off into his own series in 1997. The series was in and out of production for a few years, including a period where series creator Van Partible had a parting of the ways with CN for whatever reason.

Partible used his imagination to put blond, dumber-than-a-bag-of-hammers Johnny (Jeff Bennett) in some very interesting scenarios, including parodies of Dr. Seuss ("Cookie Crisis", which riffed on Green Eggs & Ham), and Clement Clarke Moore's legendary Christmas poem, A Visit From St. Nicholas ("'Twas The Night", with Tom Bosley (ex-Happy Days) guest-starring as an injured Santa), but what drew fan attention more than anything was a guest appearance by Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Incorporated team, seemingly out of character in sending themselves up in "Bravo Dooby Doo".

CN would use this short as a base for two things. First, at least one or two interstitals were made suggesting that Johnny was harboring feelings for Velma, who certainly acted as though she was interested in him in "Bravo Dooby Doo", and, secondly, kickstarting the ongoing direct-to-video Scooby movie series, still going strong more than a decade later.

After Partible left, new characters were added, and the character designs were a little different, to boot. Bravo also benefited from some stunt guest-casting, ranging from Adam West (now a regular on Family Guy) to model Amber Valletta to Donny Osmond (who made 2 appearances) to Farrah Fawcett. Most, if not all, of which was done under Partible's supervision.

Edit, 2/13/21: "Bravo Dooby Doo" has been deleted. Here's the intro for the 1st season:

Early on in the series' run, there were rumors of a live-action feature film. Problem was, actor-wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, an admitted fan, was attached to play Bravo. The one thing Rock has in common with Bravo is that they may both be fans of Elvis Presley. Jeff Bennett does an Elvis mimic as Bravo. Luckily for us, the movie never got off the ground. Personally, if they want someone to play Bravo, it'd be perfect for Ryan Reynolds. Remember, that's just my opinion.

Down the road, we'll throw up some more Bravo classics, including the ones mentioned.

Rating: B.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Michael Ripley (Ripley's Believe It Or Not: The Animated Series, 1999)

I'm sure most of you are familiar with Ripley's Believe It Or Not!, which began as a single panel comic strip way back in the day, distributed by King Features Syndicate, chronicling the bizarre finds uncovered by Robert Ripley. In the late 80's, ABC aired a weekly series hosted by actor Jack Palance that lasted for three seasons. Sony revived the series for cable around a decade ago, with Dean Cain (ex-Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman) as host, and reruns of both series are turning up here and there on Chiller these days.

In between, Cinar (now part of Cookie Jar) produced a short-lived animated adventure series featuring a fictional relative of Robert Ripley. This animated Believe It Or Not! aired on Fox Family (now ABC Family) and lasted a year, clearly the least successful adaptation of the strip.

Here's the intro:

The 1999 Ripley's cartoon, had it been on another channel and better promoted, might've gotten an extra year or two. It was certainly an alternative to what the Fox network was offering on Saturdays at the time, but, as the strip isn't in as many papers as it used to be (or isn't being published at all anymore), parents who grew up with the strip or the earlier Palance series might not have appreciated a fictionalized version.

Rating: B-.

From Comics to Toons: X-Men (1992)

Marvel Comics' X-Men will mark their 50th anniversary next year, and of course Marvel will hype it ad nauseum and play it into the ground. Meanwhile, some of today's fans might have gotten their X-initiation from 1992's Fox series, which also aired weekdays.

At first, Marvel produced the show themselves, but by the time it ended its run, X-Men was being distributed and possibly also being co-produced by Saban, which didn't exactly endear themselves to Marvel fans by mishandling the Avengers in a short-lived Fox series. Some of the individual character logos, such as Wolverine's, for example, were already familiar to Marvel readers, since the now-immortal mutant had his own book back then, which has since been relaunched and retooled a couple of times over, largely because the editorial staff doesn't know any better.

Here's the open:

Some of the characters made their television debuts in an episode of Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends back in the 80's, but it's clear that in the decade that followed, the improvements in animation technology created a much better show. Amazingly, Disney, which is Marvel's corporate parent, hasn't seen fit to put the series on either DisneyXD or Disney Channel, much less let another cabler have the rights, but what are they waiting for? You'd think the cartoons would have been on the air last spring in the wake of the "First Class" movie, but who can figure out network executives these days? Sheeesh!!

Rating: A-.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rein-Toon-Ation: Alienators: Evolution Continues (2001)

In 1986, DIC adapted Ivan Reitman's 1984 smash, "Ghostbusters", into The Real Ghostbusters, and got 5 seasons out of it between ABC & syndication. 10 years after the series ended, DIC, in conjunction with DreamWorks and Sony, took another Reitman film and made it into a cartoon, but with less spectacular results.

Alienators: Evolution Continues, as the title implies, picks up threads from the "Evolution" feature film, which starred David Duchovny (The X-Files), Orlando Jones (ex-MadTV), and Seann William Scott (later of such films as "American Pie" and "The Rundown"). Obviously, none of the actors opted to return for the series, and, since it was on Fox, it was a miracle that it got 2 seasons worth of episodes, crammed into 1 (2001-2). Here's the open:

Unfortunately, the series is not available anywhere on cable presently, and there are rights issues, I think, between DreamWorks, Sony, & Cookie Jar, which bought out DIC a while back, that are preventing a DVD release. Reitman's vision was to make "Evolution" a variant on the "Ghostbusters" formula, but using a different kind of menace. The cartoon tried to follow, but, because of Fox's frequent, unadvertised schedule shifting, it couldn't find a steady audience, and was gone by the time 4Kids took over programming the Saturday block.

Having not seen the movie, I tried to watch this show and was, understandably, unimpressed.

Rating: C.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

From Comics to Toons: Savage Dragon (1995)

It is one of Image Comics' most enduring and successful properties. Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon made the transition to television in 1995, airing on the USA Cartoon Express until the anthology was cancelled in 1996, right along with the Dragon.

Set in Chicago, the series follows the title hero, who is also serving as a police officer in the Second City. Lacewood Productions, which took over animating Problem Child for its final season as we documented last time, handled the animation for this series as well, on behalf of Universal.

Here's the intro:

26 episodes were made, meaning that Savage Dragon had been more successful as an animated entity than fellow Image properties WildC.A.T.S., The Maxx, & Spawn. Larsen has continued the comic book since the cartoon's end, but the vision has long since moved away from the original concept. Something that happens to be problematic in comics in general for a number of reasons. Today, one must assume that since there hasn't been a DVD release of the series as of this writing, Larsen may be holding the rights and is unwilling to authorize a release.

Rating: B.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spiderversary: Spider-Man (1981)

Here's one that literally slipped right through the cracks.

While most of fandom knows Spider-Man returned to network television with the Amazing Friends series on NBC in 1981, a syndicated solo series that launched at the same time wasn't picked up in a lot of markets, including mine. For that reason, the 1981 Spider-Man solo series lasted just one season, while Amazing Friends hung on for a total of 3 seasons before being cancelled, then returning a decade later as part of the Marvel Action Universe anthology series in reruns.

I rented a VHS compilation of this series once. Just one episode, if memory serves me correctly, with Dr. Doom the villain du jour. What was interesting was that it sounded like long time Sunn Classic Pictures announcer Brad Crandall as Dr. Doom, which I believe is Crandall's only cartoon credit of note.

DirRudy uploaded the open to YouTube. A couple of frames also appear in the Amazing Friends open, and the title portion was modified for Amazing Friends.

I don't think the series has been collected on DVD as yet, but Disney, the current rights holder, would be wise to consider doing so in light of Spidey's 50th anniversary.

Rating: B.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Toonfomercial: a Bear on a cereal box (1961?)

In its early TV years, Hanna-Barbera had a strong business relationship with Kellogg's, such that several of their characters appeared on cereal boxes for a time, and they used some of Kellogg's in-house mascots on their programs.

OK's was Kellogg's attempt at replicating the success of Cheerios from General Mills. While Cheerios boasted having Rocky & Bullwinkle as commerical endorsers, Kellogg's turned to Yogi Bear after their initial in-house mascot for the product, a Scottish bagpiper, was a failure. OK's were taken off the shelves in 1962, and so Yogi began appearing on Corn Flakes boxes.

Anyway, here's Yogi extolling the virtues, with help from narrator Don Messick, of OK's.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Animated World of DC Comics: Superman's "Family Album" (1988)

This was the backup feature to Superman's 1988 solo series on CBS. As I wrote before when discussing said series, the Family Album, which traces the Man of Steel's formative years, was practically mandated by then-head of children's programming Judy Price, but the downside was that it ensured that the series wouldn't be as successful as it should've been.

Veteran comics writer Marv Wolfman, who was one of the writers for the Superman line of comics from DC in those days, also was a writer and story editor on the show, and wrote the opening installment of the Family Album. In recent years, Wolfman has proven he can write non-superhero stories, too, as he has worked on PBS' Dragon Tales.

Meanwhile, let's look at "To Play or Not to Play", authored by Cherie Wilkerson, who shared most of the writing duties on the show.

Edit, 7/25: The video has been deleted.

Diehard fans would only have to wait 7 years, after the series was cancelled, before the Metropolis Marvel would get another solo series, and of the three he had, this, sorry to say, was the least successful, if only because of network meddling.

Rating: C.

Rating for "Wildsharkk": B+.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Quick Draw McGraw (1959)

Westerns were fairly common on primetime television in the 50's & 60's, so it made a great deal of sense that Hanna-Barbera would develop a comedy character that was a parody of Westerns in general. In this case, perhaps they did it too well.

Quick Draw McGraw bowed in 1959, just one year after Huckleberry Hound. Quick Draw wasn't exactly fast on the draw mentally, though he always tried to convince his sidekick, Baba Looey, otherwise. In truth, Baba was the brains of this team.

Occasionally, Quick Draw would adopt the dual identity of El Kabong, a Zorro parody that ramped up the fact that McGraw wasn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, as he would freely acknowledge his secret, but, as we will see in the following video, the local constabulary wasn't exactly on the same page.

El Kabong, however, has left a lasting legacy in another venue. A number of wrestlers, most prominently the Honky Tonk Man in the 80's and in the present day, Jeff Jarrett, have used guitars as weapons in the ring, often for shady purposes, so totally unlike Kabong. By the way, don't ya think McGraw/Kabong's penchant for crashing into walls, trees, etc., inspired Jay Ward to create George of the Jungle just a few years later?

Here's the open & close, courtesy of squaresyourtrue:

Rating: B-.

Tooniversary: Lippy the Lion & Hardy Har Har (1962)

The last of the three features of 1962's Hanna Barbera New Cartoon Series was Lippy The Lion & Hardy Har Har, a comedy team similar in concept to Hokey Wolf and his sidekick, Ding-a-Ling, who debuted a year earlier on The Huckleberry Hound Show. I say similar because the common trait between Hokey & Lippy was that both were forever going from job to job, from one situation to another, and never progressing forward. Hardy (Mel Blanc) was a rare breed of hyena. He wasn't much for laughing, but rather was forever forelorn and worried about dire disaster pending. Lippy (Daws Butler) was the optimist, always beckoning when opportunity knocked.

Let's take a look at "A Thousand and One Frights". The open has been deleted.

If Lippy & Hardy's voices are familiar to some, well, they are. Butler would recycle Lippy's voice into Peter Potamus just two years later. As for Hardy, Mel Blanc transferred his vocal mannerisms into Bedrock's teen harbinger of doom, Schleprock, on Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm.

As far as being "the most laughable, lovable pair by far", however, Lippy & Hardy actually weren't, if you went by ratings, since the series was cancelled after 1 season's worth of episodes. H-B tried to posit them as a funny animal version of Abbott & Costello, but it just didn't click with audiences. Of course, as we've previously documented, H-B would eventually obtain a license to do an animated Abbott & Costello series just a few years later.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

On the Air: Dan Vs. (2011)

I originally wrote this over at The Land of Whatever on March 9.
We've all run across the occasional oddball, the delusional paranoid who thinks the whole world is against him.

The Hub launched a primetime cartoon 14 months ago about just such a man. Dan Vs. must've generated enough of a following to warrant a second season, which is underway at present. Dan (Curtis Armstrong, "Revenge of the Nerds", ex-Moonlighting) is always venting about something or someone, which would explain why he doesn't have many friends, other than best pal Chris (Dave Foley, ex-Newsradio) and his wife, Elise (Paget Brewster). Dan's pet cat, Mr. Mumbles, which is actually a female (Brewster), may in fact be his closest friend.

The Hub's YouTube channel offers up a sample of a recent episode, "Dan Vs. The Gym":

In the episode, we find that Dan can chew through metal, which might explain why he has such pointed, and probably filed, teeth. The series also replays at various times, including now on Fridays in the early evening, and on Saturday afternoons, hours before the next episode is to air. Whether or not it earns a 3rd season or more remains dependent on the ratings, of course, but it wouldn't hurt to see them tweak things by giving Dan someone else he can relate to, so that he can actually go on a double-date with Chris & Elise. After all, you can only take the basic premise just so far.

Rating: B.

Toon Legends: Huckleberry Hound (1958)

Howdy, folks! Today, we're going further back in time, all the way back to the early TV years of Hanna-Barbera, and the Emmy-award-winning Huckleberry Hound Show, which launched in 1958, sponsored by Kellogg's.

Huck (Daws Butler) taught millions of kids to sing, even if it was off-key, "My Darling Clementine", which was his theme song. Meantime, he got into all sorts of misadventures as he went from one job to another, depending on the plot, as he never held down a steady job.

Following is the color open, in which Huck mans the circus horns, replacing Kellogg's Cornelius the Rooster, who appeared on Corn Flakes boxes back in those days:

Now, let's give you a sample of Huck in action, in the very first episode, "Sheriff Huckleberry", which is also Huck's 1st encounter with the Dalton Gang:

Now, here's Huck & Cornelius, driving a circus jalopy and collecting Tony the Tiger (and son), and Snap, Crackle, & Pop, to close the show. Art Gilmore, later better known for Dragnet, but at the time was Red Skelton's announcer, also was the announcer for Huck.

Fellow icon Yogi Bear debuted as a backup feature, and was spun off into his own series in 1961, the same year Huck took home an Emmy. Just to show that success didn't spoil either, Huck became a regular part of Yogi's ensemble in later years.

Rating: B.

Monday, March 19, 2012

On the Air: The Aquabats! Super Show! (2012)

What do you get when you cross Devo with the Monkees and the Impossibles? How about........The Aquabats!

The Aquabats are a real-life band out of Southern California who've been around for nearly 20 years, and now are finally gaining the national exposure they've long sought, with the Hub's newest Saturday morning entry, The Aquabats! Super Show!, which launched last month, and currently has reruns airing in the early evening on Mondays.

Frontman Christian Jacobs, aka MC Bat Commander, is also one of the creative forces behind Nickelodeon's Yo Gabba Gabba!, and has shopped around the concept behind this series for a number of years. The bizarre, campy monsters shown in the following clip will remind many of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers franchise, which is still going strong as it approaches its own 20th anniversary in the US. Appropriately, the Hub recently made a programming change on Mondays so that the live-action Batman leads into repeats of Super Show!, especially considering that Jacobs has cited Batman as one of the influences behind the series.

Here's the open:

According to a Wikipedia entry on the series, and take it for as much as you think it's worth, given how Wiki-entries have often been tampered with, the band had a deal with Cartoon Network for a show, but it went south when CN shuffled out the executives who'd cut said deal. The band's previous link to CN was in composing music for Evan Dorkin's Welcome to Eltingville 1-shot special a few years back. The Hub, a relatively fresh network by comparison, signed the band for 1 season, 13 episodes, and if it goes over with the audience, you can expect renewal sometime before the end of the year.

I watched a repeat episode earlier with special guest star Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) as the villain, and I have to say, it is a throwback, not only to Batman, but considering its primary spot on the schedule, the live-action Saturday shows of the 70's, like, for example, Ghost Busters. The fake commercials mixed into the show take their cues from Saturday Night Live, but are geared for children.

Now, let's see if the Aquabats can bring their act to my neck of the woods......

Rating: A-.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Peter Potamus (1964)

Like Hanna-Barbera stablemate Magilla Gorilla, Peter Potamus began in syndication in 1964, and then was picked up by ABC a year later. By then, the two series had traded backup features, with Ricochet Rabbit joining Peter, and Breezly & Sneezly going over to Magilla's show. Ideal Toys, a Long Island-based company, sponsored both series.

Peter wasn't essentially a hero, but he was a time traveling adventurer, with So-So as his faithful sidekick. The lone thing that would put him with Ricochet and Touche Turtle in terms of being a funny animal superhero is his Hippo Hurricane Holler, which he uses as a last resort to defeat the bad guys. As you'll see in the following clip, Peter had a certain charm that enamored him to the ladies. Seems the idea was that Peter had a bit of a singing cowboy to him, too.

Toontracker uploaded this black & white clip montage, which includes the season 2 closing with Ricochet & Droopalong.

In recent years, Peter traded away his pith helmet for a three-piece suit as he appeared frequently on [adult swim]'s Harvey Birdman, Attorney-at-Law. The [as] idiots turned Peter into a bit of an annoyance based on one simple catchphrase. It's going to be hard developing a revival of Peter's original series as a result, since today's fans are only familiar with his [as] appearances. Personally, I'd rather see Peter unleash the holler on the [as] crew...........

Rating: B.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bad TV: Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills (1994)

It wasn't enough that DIC had sold the inept Superhuman Samurai SyberSquad to ABC as a mid-season replacement series in 1994. The studio also gave USA Network another Power Rangers rip-off, Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills, that same year. This show was videotaped as opposed to filmed, unlike the other shows, and the cheesy special effects used on the show reflect the low-budget mentality of the producers.

Currently, the series airs in back-to-back episodes on This TV (check local listings) as part of their Sunday morning block, but it clearly wasn't meant for Saturday morning consumption. Trust me, there was a reason the broadcast networks passed on this show.

Let me sum up the plot. Evil alien despot wants to conquer and control Earth. A sentient jello mold named Nimbar (voice of Glenn Shadix, "Beetlejuice") recruits four teens from super-rich Beverly Hills to be his warriors, or, to use the proper term, Galactic Sentinels. Here's the open, with Nimbar's narration edited out:

Even the music was lame, and I don't mean in gold lame, either. That it lasted a full year was a miracle.

Rating: D.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Family Toons: The Hillbilly Bears (1965)

The Hillbilly Bears were one of the backup features for Atom Ant, but it's clear these shorts were a funny animal knockoff of The Beverly Hillbillies, as if the Clampetts had never left the Ozark mountains.

Most of the humor centered on mumblin', bumblin' Paw Rugg (Henry Corden), perhaps the most unintelligible patriarch in television history. In "Leaky Creek", Maw (Jean VanderPyl, The Flintstones) has to drag Paw to the creek to take a bath, but a beaver has apparently staked out the area for himself.

Edit, 1/9/22: The video has long been deleted. We've located a screenshot:

More than a decade later, VanderPyl & Corden would team again, as Corden succeeded Alan Reed as the voice of Fred Flintstone. Unfortunately, after a rerun cycle as part of the Banana Splits & Friends syndicated package, the Rugg family hasn't been considered for a revival, and you'd think the lunatics at Cartoon Network would've given them at least a look. Of course, when you consider the idiots running that network have zero interest in doing anything right.........

Rating: B.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Saturtainment: Squiddly Diddly (1965)

Most of us know an octopus can't talk----it has no mouth. However, Hanna-Barbera had other ideas when they needed a second backup feature for Secret Squirrel in 1965. Enter Squiddly Diddly.

Squiddly was the featured attraction at a theme park based on the real-life Sea World. Just the same, Squiddly gave Chief Winchley (John Stephenson) plenty of fits. Sorry to say, I can't find an episode in English. All I can find on YouTube so far is in Spanish, save for this long-lost bumper that segues into each episode. Credit Muttley16 with this entry:

Squiddly was back in the public eye recently, along with a number of other cartoon stars of the past, in an ad for MetLife that premiered during the Super Bowl last month. Now, of course, it remains to be seen if they decide at Cartoon Network to do something worthwhile with him. Given that it's CN, I doubt it.

Rating: B.

Saturtainment: The CBS Children's Film Festival (1967)

The CBS Children's Film Festival first hit the air in 1967, airing as a series of summer specials for kids that aired on weekend or weekday afternoons. Four years later, CBS decided to move the show into a permanent slot at the bottom of their Saturday morning lineup and scale back on the repeats of older shows.

Puppeteer Burr Tillstrom revived his puppets, Kukla & Ollie, along with human sidekick Fran Allison, to serve as the show's hosts. Kukla, Fran, & Ollie had previously headlined their own series some years earlier, but the comeback for this trio lasted just a few years before the network decided to tinker with the formula and dismissed Tillstrom & Allison in favor of a shorter format and a new title, The CBS Saturday Film Festival. The series was subsequently cancelled in favor of a newsmagazine, 30 Minutes, anchored by In The News narrator Christopher Glenn, but was brought back for a 2 year run before ending for good in 1984. By then, however, the film festival was blacked out in most areas as network affiliates opted to fill the hours from noon (ET) onward with syndicated programming that would help increase local ad revenues.

The purpose of the film festival was to showcase short features from around the world that otherwise wouldn't see the light of day in this country. Today, some of those films, were they to be given another airing here, would probably air on either the Sundance Channel or IFC or some other arts-centric channel.

Tapthatt12 uploaded this open & close from 1967.

Regrettably, I didn't see this too often, largely because it was blacked out in my area for the majority of its run, for one thing, and for another, when it first aired, it was usually around nap time for a little toddler like me. No rating as a result.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Animated World of DC Comics: Super Friends vs. "The Rock & Roll Space Bandits" (1980)

Three alien outlaws use their brand of rock music to cause destruction and enslave others in this 1980 Super Friends short.

Edit, 9/10/2020: While the video isn't available, our friends at Twinsanity have a screen cap we can use.


I guess those guys couldn't land a gig on their homeworld, so this is how they pay their dues, and as Ringo Starr taught us a few years earlier, you've got to pay your dues if you want to sing the blues. Prison blues, in this case.

Rating: B.

Tooniversary: Wally Gator (1962)

Out of the three segments that made up The Hanna-Barbera New Cartoon Series in 1962, Wally Gator was clearly meant to be the breakout star of the show. Wally followed the template set by Yogi Bear in that he was almost perpetually in direct conflict with an authority figure, in this case, the pint-sized Mr. Twiddle, the zookeeper. Yes, despite the open that had Wally in his natural habitat, he was actually living in a zoo, and frequently escaped its confines to do some exploring, a ream later used by the Hair Bear Bunch nearly a decade later.

Here's the intro everyone knows:

Wally would eventually hook up with Yogi on Yogi's Gang in the 70's, and took part in Scooby's All-Star Laff-a-Lympics, once more aligned with Yogi. Aside from a Cartoon Network short done on the cheap a few years ago, there hasn't been any new material for Wally since then. Maybe the fact that there've been some horror movies about alligators since those peak years might have something to do with that.

Rating: B.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Saturtainment: Breezly & Sneezly (1964)

Hanna-Barbera was bound & determined to get over the concept of a freeloading comedy team. Previous attempts included Hokey Wolf, and, as part of The New Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Series, Lippy The Lion & Hardy Har-Har. In 1964, they tried again, this time with Breezly & Sneezly, which was initially a backup segment on The Peter Potamus Show, then was swapped over to Magilla Gorilla in season 2 in exchange for Ricochet Rabbit.

Now, using a polar bear and a seal in this context should've worked, except for one thing. The other series noted above had aired just a few years prior, and in Lippy's case, only 2 years passed before Breezly came along. Some older viewers might've recognized some of the similar plot ideas and gags and decided to pass. It's a shame, really, because the biggest difference was in Sneezly (Mel Blanc), whose unpredictable penchant for ill-timed sneezes, even if they weren't allergic in nature, created some interesting gags. Enterprising Breezly (Howard Morris) might as well have been auditioning to replace the Trix Rabbit, because his schemes never worked a large majority of the time. Part of the problem was that the action was centered on a military installation in Alaska, Camp Frostbite, whose major domo, Colonel Fuzzby (John Stephenson), always seemed to be prepared for Breezly's antics.

For now, we have just this short snippet:

H-B would revisit this concept again several years later with Dirty Dog, a backup feature on Kwicky Koala. Sad to say, that didn't work, either, as that series was cancelled after 1 year. Breezly, oh by the way, hasn't been seen since Magilla & Peter's respective series were cancelled.

Rating: B.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Animated World of DC Comics: Teen Titans go on a "Space Beast Round-Up" (1967)

We've got another Teen Titans short from The Superman-Aquaman Hour of Adventure, "The Space Beast Round-Up". Scope it!

To think it took some 35 years before the Titans would return to TV, albeit based on the 1980's incarnation, but done in Americanized anime. If it wasn't for the anti-violence movement that started the following year, there was perhaps the chance these Titans would've been spun off into their own series, with Robin joining them by that point. Ah, what was and what might've been.

Rating: B.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Ultraman Tiga (1996)

After a 15 year hiatus, Japan's most famous superhero, Ultraman, returned to the air in his native country in 1996 in Ultraman Tiga. The biggest question was whether or not Ultraman was still a popular beloved figure. Apparently, the answer was yes, but not in the US.

6 years later, 4Kids Entertainment obtained the rights to bring Ultraman Tiga to the US for Fox's Saturday morning lineup. However, translating the series from Japanese to English wasn't as easy, and Fox gave up on the show after about half the season had gone. CoreyXSasuke uploaded the English language open:

An earlier incarnation of Ultraman had aired on TNT here in the US around the same time, but hasn't been heard from since, either. In both cases, the show was poorly promoted, and in TNT's case, they never even bothered, airing the show on weekends without any advertising. They were, at the time, throwing stuff on the air around 6-7 am (ET) to see what would work. Today, TNT would rather shove reruns of Law & Order down everyone's throats at all hours every day if they could get away with it.

Where 4Kids failed was in lack of proper promotion as well. They expected older fans would remember Ultraman, but too much time had passed since the last time an original series of Ultraman adventures had made it to US screens. Also, because of the 6 year time lag, there had to have been some tape trading done online among fans worldwide by then, so that anyone that wanted to see the show had the original Japanese version and could do their own translations.

Around the time that Tiga had premiered in Japan, the Ultraman franchise had made a valiant attempt at reaching American audiences through comic books, but that didn't work out too well, either.

Rating: C.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sunday Funnies: Super Duper Sumos (2002)

Bad cartoon ideas aren't just confined to American studios & networks.

Super Duper Sumos, imported to the US, specifically to Nickelodeon, by DIC in 2002, came from England, and thusly, has a cast unfamiliar to most American audiences. The concept is just plain silly. 3 sumo wrestlers moonlight as crimefighters. Nick, predictably, snuck Sumos onto their schedule as a last minute replacement for one of their failing "Nicktoons", but the series was a dud, cancelled after 1 season. This TV (check local listings) currently holds the US cable rights to the series, but would you be interested after seeing this sample clip?

I can't see any rationale for these guys needing to bulk up any more than they already are to gain an upper hand against an enemy they could easily beat.

Rating: D.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Saturday Morning Ringside: Batman visits Memphis---sort of (1970's)

Just when we all thought Adam West was looking to get away from being typecast as Batman, it seems there was a time in the 70's, don't know exactly when, to be honest, when West would make the rounds in a modified Batsuit for personal appearances. As some of you might be aware, Jerry "The King" Lawler isn't just a wrestling icon in the Memphis area and color analyst for WWE Monday Night Raw, but he's also a comics fan. Lawler, in fact, recently drew a variant cover for Dynamite's recent dream-team-up miniseries pairing The Lone Ranger & Zorro. If you're lucky, you might still get your hands on a copy at cover price. I digress. Anyway, Lawler arranged for West to appear as Batman on the weekly wrestling show out of Channel 5 in Memphis. Rolochoshu offers this clip:

Lawler has alternated between being beloved and despised even in front of his hometown fans, but in recent years would be more inclined to be on the side of the angels in correlation with his WWE gig. If anyone has any further information on the above clip that they can share, please feel free.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Saturday School: Peabody's Improbable History (1959)

One of the rotating backup features on Rocky & His Friends, aka The Bullwinkle Show, was Peabody's Improbable History, which toplined a canine genius and his pet boy, a reversal on the traditional pairings of boys and their dogs. Bill Scott (Bullwinkle) voiced Mr. Peabody, with radio star Walter Tetley as Sherman. To my knowledge, this may be Tetley's only cartoon credit.

Peabody, it can be inferred, was a forerunner to Cartoon Network's short-lived Time Squad, which borrowed more from the live-action Voyagers! than it did Peabody, but that's another story for another time. In the following video, Peabody & Sherman meet "Geronimo".......

Word is that Peabody & Sherman will live again, as a CGI feature film is in the works for a 2014 release, with Robert Downey, Jr. ("Iron Man", "Sherlock Holmes") voicing Peabody. Whether or not that actually sees the light of day is still a point of conjecture, however........

Rating: A-.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Tooniversary: Touche Turtle (1962)

Before entering the superhero business full bore in the mid-60's, Hanna-Barbera experimented first with funny animal heroes. Quick Draw McGraw, for example, was given a masked alter-ego, El Kabong, a parody of Zorro, but it wasn't much in terms of maintaining a secret identity. File it under "transparent".

In 1962, as part of the syndicated Hanna Barbera New Cartoon Series, Touche Turtle sallied forth to combat evildoers. The setting could be medevial times or contemporary, but the only constants were Touche (Bill Thompson, the voice of Droopy) and his canine assistant, Dum Dum (Alan Reed, The Flintstones).

My first exposure to Touche was in the early days of cable and reruns aired weekdays on WSBK. However, it was originally intended as a weekly series, with a new episode each week for 52 consecutive weeks. Unfortunately, the series didn't click as well as it could have, and was cancelled after 1 season.

Touche would return as part of Yogi's Gang, but hasn't been seen since.

Rating: B.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Saturday School: NFL Under the Helmet (1999)

Major League Baseball has had This Week in Baseball for, like, forever. In 1999, the National Football League and Fox, which, oh, by the way, is the current network home for This Week in Baseball, decided they wanted some of that. The end result was NFL Under the Helmet, which, like its baseball counterpart, was slotted at the time at the bottom of Fox's Saturday morning lineup. Unfortunately, it didn't have the staying power, and was subsequently cancelled. Rebecca Grant served as lead host, joined by Fox game analyst Ron Pitts.

Here's a sample clip that Giants fans will appreciate:

Ok, so it aspired to be more like NBA Inside Stuff, which was a weekend fixture on NBC, then fizzled on ABC, during the 90's and early 00's. It still failed to catch on. Maybe that's because Fox didn't know how to promote it, even during NFL programming on Sundays! Then again, the cartoons that aired in front of it were in flux because of the network's obsession with overtaking WB and....!

No rating. Never saw the show.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Posse Impossible (1974)

What I wanted to do was pull up a Posse Impossible short from the 1977 CB Bears series. Unfortunately, none are available on YouTube, so I went further back to their very first appearance, introduced in an episode of Hong Kong Phooey 3 years earlier.

Sad to say, all the Posse got were 13 weeks to prove themselves in 1977. Part of the reason for that was because the show's producer, Hanna-Barbera, was being counter-programmed against itself across the then-Big 3 networks (ABC, CBS, NBC). CB Bears aired on NBC. CBS had The Skatebirds, and ABC, of course, had The All-New Super Friends Hour. Enough said right there. If the concept were to be revisited today, the Posse would be a hip-hop combo instead of cowboys.

Edit, 4/22/20: The video has been deleted.

Rating: B.

It Should've Been on a Saturday: Off To See The Wizard (1967)

Nearly 30 years after "The Wizard of Oz" turned Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, & Bert Lahr into cinematic icons, MGM revisited the characters from L. Frank Baum's classic tale, this time using them as the hosts of a weekly anthology series, Off To See The Wizard, which aired on Fridays on ABC 45 years ago, but lasted just one season.

Toontracker provides the open and partial close, in black & white, unfortunately, for the series:

Cartoon legends June Foray, Daws Butler, & Mel Blanc provided the voices for the framing sequences surrounding that week's feature, usually a family film from the MGM library that was split into two parts, similar in format to NBC's Wonderful World of Disney, which anchored that network's Sunday lineup for years until the 90's. Some of those same films would later resurface, intact this time, as part of SFM's monthly Family Theatre syndicated weekend package in the 70's.

Why did Wizard fail? It might be because it was on the wrong night or day. ABC might've been better served to use this as a bridge to American Bandstand at the bottom of their Saturday morning lineup. 10 years later, the network finally went in that direction by launching the ABC Weekend Special, which lasted nearly 20 years despite being restricted by a half-hour format. I barely remember seeing Wizard myself back then, so I can't give it a honest rating.