Saturday, May 31, 2014

Rein-Toon-Ation: The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest (1996)

Even Jonny Quest had to grow up sometime.

The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, which anchored Cartoon Network's weekday Toonami block for 3 years (1996-9), was a troubled production behind the scenes. Cross-promoted and repurposed on sister networks TNT & TBS, which weren't afraid to run action cartoons back then, the series aired on a daily basis, the culmination of three years of preparation. However, the off-air issues led to a total overhaul of the series after the first 26 episodes aired.

Only one actor from the previous 2 series had returned, and that was Granville Van Dusen, who reprised his role as Roger "Race" Bannon for 2 episodes after the overhauling of the cast & crew. Prior to that, Robert Patrick ("Terminator 2: Judgment Day", among others) had been cast as Bannon, with game show host JD Roth (ex-Fun House) as Jonny, and George Segal as Dr. Benton Quest. By that point, Don Messick, the definitive Dr. Quest, was in failing health, and even though his predecessor as Dr. Quest, John Stephenson, was still available, he wasn't contacted. For the final 26 episodes, John DeLancie (ex-Star Trek: The Next Generation) replaced Segal, and Quinton Flynn took over as Jonny. Rob Paulsen, who'd voiced Hadji in 2 TV-movies for cable, reclaimed that role for "season 2".

For the sake of perhaps gender equality, Jessie, rebooted as Race's daughter by Jezebel Jade (she was a scientist's daughter in the 1980's series), was added to the team, creating plenty of friction with Jonny, who hadn't yet gotten out of the "girls are icky" phase. Personally, I thought that maybe, just maybe, there was a way for Jonny to finally break the ice, but before long the series was out of production, and any thoughts of Jessie hooking up with either Jonny or Hadji would be left to the imaginations of fans and fan-fiction sites.

Following is an open:

It is this series that gave someone the impetus to mount plans for a live-action movie with Zac Efron ("High School Musical") as Jonny, but that never got past the talking stage, and likely would've bombed anyway.

Rating: B--.

Edit: 11/13/14: I realized after posting that this was the 2nd review of this series. Hey, we can't always be perfect.

Toonfomercial: Remember Choo-Choo Charlie and Good & Plenty? (1950)

These days, Good & Plenty licorice candies are now made by the folks at Hershey's, as it has passed through a number of corporate hands over the years. It's not advertised as much as it used to be----3rd party acquisitions by Hershey's usually aren't, unless it's the former Peter Paul candies such as Mounds & Almond Joy---and as such it makes older folks think back to when the brand's advertising mascot, Choo-Choo Charlie, a juvenile train engineer, would appear, shaking a box of Good & Plenty. Charlie made his debut all the way back in 1950, and the following was one of his first appearances. Uploaded from a tape made back in the 90's, when TV Land was running "Retromercials".

Friday, May 30, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Space Ghost in Planet of the Space Monkeys (1981)

From  Space Stars:

Space Ghost (Gary Owens) calls on the Teen Force's Elektra to help deal with her team's nemesis, Ugglor. Meanwhile, after botching a simple repair job, Blip runs away to "The Planet of the Space Monkeys".

Personally, I'd have loved it if ABC had rescued Space Stars from the scrap heap after it was cancelled. Like, imagine the prospect of Space Ghost and/or the Teen Force teaming with the Super Friends. Oh, what it could've been!

Rating: A.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Looney TV: The Bugs Bunny-Road Runner Hour/Show (1968)

Bugs Bunny didn't last very long in primetime, but once ABC moved his show to Saturday mornings, the "wascally wabbit" found his niche, beginning an astonishing 38 year run on Saturdays, split between two networks.

In 1968, Bugs and pals moved from ABC to CBS, two years after the Road Runner had been spun off into his own series on the latter network. You will see how the style and quality of animation changes in the intro to The Bugs Bunny-Road Runner Hour after the replay of the iconic theme song, "This Is It", which carries over from Bugs' earlier series.

The poster had originally included this in a montage with a black & white clip of Bugs from his ABC run. The hour long format initially ran for 3 seasons before Road Runner was split away from Bugs, and moved to ABC. Two years later, Bugs followed, but this time his solo series lasted just 2 seasons, and the gang moved back to CBS in 1975, spinning off Sylvester & Tweety into their own series a year in. However, that didn't work so well, either, and CBS decided to expand the series to 90 minutes for the balance of its run, which ended in 1986 after 11 seasons. ABC took the WB gang back in 1986 to replace Hanna-Barbera's Scooby-Doo, whose initial ABC run ended after 10 seasons, and the Super Friends, as that franchise was retired after 13 years. The only change this time was that Tweety was given co-star billing over the Road Runner for reasons I have never fathomed. Still, this lasted 14 seasons until ABC, by this point owned by Disney, finally parted company with Bugs and co. for the 3rd & final time.

Following is the rarely seen close to the 1968-71 version of the series.

In the 80's, some genius decided to scrap "This Is It" in favor of a new theme song, which might've spelled "Jump the Shark" for Bugs' CBS run. Here's "It's Cartoon Gold":

We'll look at the 1986-2000 run another time.

Rating: A.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Literary Toons: Puff, the Magic Dragon (1978)

Romeo Muller, in one of his first projects away from Rankin-Bass, adapted Peter, Paul, & Mary's 1963 classic, Puff, the Magic Dragon, into a half-hour animated special, the first of three such specials produced in as many years, all for CBS.

Burgess Meredith ("Rocky", ex-Korg, 70,000 B. C.) narrates and voices the titular dragon. The familiar story, co-written by Peter Yarrow (who voices the father), comes to life, as Jackie Paper (Philip Tanzini) starts off as a normal boy, Jackie Draper, who is so enwrapped in fear and doubt that he cannot speak. While Jackie is all alone in his room, Puff passes by, and invites himself in. He creates Jackie Paper, and there are references to other familiar stories, such as Peter Pan, Rumplestiltskin, and, of course, The Wizard of Oz, as Puff reaches into his bag. Puff, then, takes Jackie on a voyage to Hannalee, only to discover that Puff's homeland has been ravaged. The ratings must've been good enough to warrant two sequels.

Additional voice talent includes Regis Cordic, Frank Nelson (ex-Oddball Couple), and Robert Ridgely (Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle). I hadn't seen this when it first aired in October 1978, but, looking at this for the first time, well, judge for yourself.......

The classic song plays intermittently in order to carry the story along. I think, too, that this was Meredith's on-air singing debut, aside from a casual comic bit on Batman back in the day. Not too bad, I do declare.

Rating: B.

Saturtainment: The Wuzzles (1985)

In H. G. Wells' Island of Dr. Moreau, the titular scientist attempted to create a fusion of man & beast. Disney decided to go in a different direction.

The Wuzzles was a noble experiment in creating a new set of characters that were the fusions of two different animal species. For example, a hippo crossed with a bunny rabbit becomes a Hoppopotamus (Jo Anne Worley, ex-Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In). Unfortunately, the series lasted just 1 season on CBS. Disney then sold the series to ABC for a year of reruns the next year, and then, after a run on Disney Channel and Toon Disney (now DisneyXD), the series has fallen into the vaults, with the 30th anniversary next year.

Other voices include another Laugh-In alum, Henry Gibson, along with Alan Oppenheimer and Bill Scott. Scott, better known for his work with Jay Ward, signed on with Disney for this series and Adventures of the Gummi Bears, which bowed the same year on NBC, for his only known Disney work.

Right now, let's take a look at a Wuzzle-style parody of a certain hit movie. Here's "Ghostrustlers":

Oh, this was promising, but CBS aired this directly opposite Gummi Bears, and that proved to be a mistake.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Jana of the Jungle vs. The Animal Snatchers (1978)

A little backstory is needed before we get into our next video.

In 1977, Hanna-Barbera acquired a license to bring Rima, the Jungle Girl, who was created by author H. Rider Haggard in his novel, Green Mansions, and had already been licensed to DC Comics, to television, with Rima appearing in two short stories on the All-New Super Friends Hour. A year later, H-B came up with their own jungle heroine, with the help of an old friend.

Jonny Quest creator Doug Wildey returned to H-B and created Jana of the Jungle as a component of the Godzilla Power Hour, on which Wildey was serving as producer. Oh, H-B could've worked something with DC and/or the Haggard estate to give Rima her own series, and maybe they did, but neither ABC nor NBC or CBS were interested, we don't know. Wildey gave the studio a clean slate with Jana, who was raised in the jungle after her father was lost in an accident.

Jana (BJ Ward) is mentored by the shaman, Montaro (Ted Cassidy, also the voice of Godzilla), and has two pet sidekicks, Tiko, a ferret (I think), and Ghost, a white jaguar. And, then, for the sake of at least teasing a romance, there is Dr. Ben Cooper (Michael Bell), a vet working out of a jungle preserve (think Daktari). Stories ran along the same line as Tarzan over on CBS, and that was really the reason Jana came along in the first place. Unlike Edgar Rice Burroughs' legendary hero, however, Jana lasted just 1 season. You'd think that wouldn't happen, since Jana was eye candy for the boys, but it was airing opposite Scooby-Doo over on ABC, another case of H-B being programmed against itself.

Could Jana make a comeback? Under the right conditions.

Take for example Sheena, who was revived for a brief live-action run a few years ago, with Gena Lee Nolin (ex-Baywatch) in the title role. In this version, Sheena was rebooted as a shapeshifter who needed eye contact with a specific animal to effect her transformations. That series lasted two seasons, and will be discussed here another time. Would WB be interested in giving Jana those same powers in order to bring her back?

While you contemplate that, let's go back to 1978 and "The Animal Snatchers".

 I'd love to see this out on DVD, and not manufactured-on-demand (MOD), either, mind you.

Rating: B.

Literary Toons: Rikki-Tikki-Tavi (1975)

After leaving MGM, legendary animator Chuck Jones formed his own production company and began producing animated specials for the networks, based on literary works, such as A Cricket in Times Square, and Rudyard Kipling's Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, which aired on CBS in January 1975.

Jones' last Saturday morning work had come some time earlier, in which he was a on-screen contributor to ABC's Curiosity Shop, and he'd sold his adaptation of Cricket to ABC around that time. For Rikki, Jones called upon no less than Orson Welles (!) to narrate, whilst the rest of the voice cast was populated with the likes of Les Tremayne (Shazam!), June Foray, & Len Weinrib, all of whom had worked with Jones in past productions. Welles, of course, was better known in those days for his Paul Masson wine commercials and frequent appearances on The Dean Marin Celebrity Roast, coming as it did near the end of his career.

Now, let's take a trip to India, home to Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, in this sample clip:

I seem to recall reading the story as a youth, and seeing this for the first time in nearly 40 years brought back some memories.

Rating: A.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Rein-Toon-Ation: The Tom & Jerry Comedy Show (1980)

The only reason Tom & Jerry didn't stay with creators William Hanna & Joseph Barbera after their 1975 H-B series ended was because MGM still owned the characters. In 1980, MGM licensed the iconic duo to Filmation for a brand new series, airing on CBS. Fellow MGM stars Droopy and, if memory serves me correctly, Spike & Tyke, were part of a rotation of back-up features. Unfortunately, The Tom & Jerry Comedy Show lasted just 1 season before CBS booted them out for the 2nd time.

The new king of animal voices, Frank Welker, voiced Droopy for the first time, and was the only actor credited. He'd be reunited with the MGM crew when H-B not only reacquired Tom & Jerry, but picked up Droopy as well, 10 years later.

Here's the open & close:

The chases had resumed, but because of anti-violence restriction imposed during the duo's 1st CBS run, they really couldn't match the intensity of the classic shorts.

Rating: B-.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Literary Toons: Mr. Magoo in Sherwood Forest (Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo, 1964)

The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo had at least two two-part episodes, but it required three episodes to tell the tale of Robin Hood.

Magoo (Jim Backus, Gilligan's Island) is the gluttonous Friar Tuck, right hand man to Robin (Dallas McKennon, Daniel Boone), who wages war against the greedy Sheriff of Nottingham (Marvin Miller) and Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Paul Frees), the latter of whom has been promised fair Maid Marian (Joan Gardner), the sheriff's ward. As we all know, Marian pines for Robin, who remains loyal to King Richard (Miller). But with Richard on a crusade, Prince John (McKennon) has usurped the throne, but if you know the story, you know how it ends. Miller, Frees, & McKennon also voice a few minor characters between them.

The VHS copy I have edited out the familiar opening sequence to Famous Adventures in favor of some relatively fresh material with a civilian Magoo, while Carl Brandt's swinging theme song plays in the background. MartinOldiesTapes, who uploaded this video, edited off the closing credits in a case of poor editing, but has the open we all know.

When Paramount obtained the rights to the series, in releasing a multi-volume VHS set, they re-edited this under the title, "Mr. Magoo in Sherwood Forest", which suggested a feature film re-release. Included in the video are promos, narrated by Miller, for additional Famous Adventures volumes, issued under the alternate umbrella titles, Mr. Magoo's Storybook & Mr. Magoo's Favorite Heroes, although the VHS box is under Mr. Magoo's Literary Classics. There's also a trailer for Uncle Sam Magoo, which we previously covered.

Speaking of trailers......

A pity NBC couldn't be persuaded to repurpose the series in the morning after it ended its primetime run, although it did make its way to daytime in syndication, as we've previously documented.

Rating: B-.

Rein-Toon-Ation: He-Man & the Masters of the Universe (2002)

It's easy to assume that He-Man & the Masters of the Universe marked its 30th anniversary last year, but that would not be true. Mattel introduced the characters in 1982 with their initial toy line, and landed a licensing deal with DC Comics for a miniseries, and a then-once-in-a-lifetime meeting with no less than Superman. The cartoon we all know launched in September 1983, more than a year after the toy line debuted.

In 2002, Mattel marked the 20th anniversary of the Masters line with a relaunch, and tasked independent producer Mike Young (Butt Ugly Martians) to produce a new He-Man cartoon which, unlike its predecessor, didn't air in the daytime. Instead, Cartoon Network slotted He-Man in their Saturday primetime lineup for the course of its run, which only lasted two seasons, as opposed to three for the original.

Young adapted and/or reimagined classic episodes of the original series, but at the same time, he also added some backstory that Filmation couldn't do, such as the origin of Skeletor, He-Man's ancient nemesis.

Skeletor started off as a sorcerer named Keldor, and his bony appearance is the result of one of his potions backfiring against him in a final battle against then-Captain of the Guard Randor, as you'll see in the TV-movie, "The Beginning":

The animation's much better than the original, thanks to modern technology. Unfortunately, CN gave up on the show way too soon. Now, there are people hoping Mattel tries again. One can hope, but don't hold your breath.

Rating: A.

Edit: 5/25/15: This is the 2nd review of the series.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Blackstar (1981)

I must admit that I never saw Blackstar, due largely to the fact that I was more interested in NBC's lineup during the 1981-2 season. Meh, my bad, so there's no rating to be had for this show.

A quick summation. The concept of the show appears to be a variation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter, Warlord of Mars, except that Blackstar is set in the future, specific period unknown. John Blackstar (George DiCenzo) is an astronaut, pulled into a black hole which sweeps him to another dimension, specifically, to the planet Sagar, where he is thrust into a battle against the evil Overlord (Alan Oppenheimer). If this last part sounds somewhat familiar, well, Filmation mined the vein again 2 years later for their adaptation of He-Man.

Superherocartoonsite uploaded the open, narrated by DiCenzo:

Could this be revived? Dreamworks Classic now holds the rights, so anything's possible, except that a lot of Filmation's properties have been ignored of late.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The New Adventures of Captain Planet (1993)

In 1993, after three seasons, Captain Planet underwent a minor cosmetic change. The series basically was the same, but with the New Adventures label attached, and there was a change in animation studios, from DIC to Hanna-Barbera. Unfortunately, Ted Turner never saw the opportunity to have the good Captain (David Coburn) meet some of H-B's adventure heroes, like Jonny Quest, for example.

This version lasted two seasons. The first intro is from 1993, narrated by Coburn (LeVar Burton was the narrator in the DIC series). Unfortunately, someone decided that the basic intro, after 4 seasons, had to be replaced. The end result of this bone-headed decision was a lame-a-zoid rap by B52's lead singer Fred Schneider:

The disembodied mouth was originally used in the episode, "You Bet Your Planet", which was a send-up of Family Feud, with Gene Wood putting words in the mouth, his first cartoon work in 30 years. Nothing says jump the shark like bad rap.

One good move was a time travel story that posited a possible future in which Wheeler and Linka had eventually gotten married, after all that flirting. Too bad no one's bothered to consider revisiting Planet, who marks his 25th anniversary next year.

Rating: B.

Rein-Toon-Ation: Stargate Infinity (2002)

Even though MGM, which had the syndicated Stargate SG-1 airing in primetime and on cable's Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy), also co-produced the animated Stargate Infinity with DIC for Fox & 4Kids in 2002, the series is not considered part of the Stargate canon. Hmmmmmmm. A certain amount of disconnect seems to be involved. The fact that Infinity was cancelled after 1 season might have something to do with MGM suddenly deciding to disconnect it from the rest of the franchise, but we don't know that for sure.

Fox had Infinity leading off their first year Fox Box block, programmed by 4Kids, which clearly didn't know how to properly set the table, if ya will. Rightfully, Inifnity should've been placed in the middle of the lineup, not at the beginning, but 4Kids was afraid of breaking up the block of series imported from Japan that dominated the schedule. Idiots.

Anyway, here's the open:

I tried to watch, but since I wasn't following Stargate all that much to start with, I just wasn't into it.

Rating: C.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Rare Treats: Hanna-Barbera's All-Star Comedy Ice Revue (1978)

With The Flintstones 2 years away from its 30th anniversary, and a few months away from a Saturday morning relaunch----on NBC----, Fred (Henry Corden) is feted in a birthday roast in Hanna-Barbera's All-Star Comedy Ice Revue, which would be the last time Fred and his best bud, Barney Rubble (Mel Blanc) would appear on CBS before the relaunch.

Bonnie Franklin (One Day at a Time) & Roy Clark (Hee-Haw) are co-roastmasters for this special, built more as a promotional tool for the Ice Capades, a winter skating tour that, sadly, isn't around anymore. The musical guests are the Sylvers, with the dais loaded with familiar faces to cartoon fans, including Jabberjaw (identified as Mr. Jabber for some reason), Yogi Bear, Hong Kong Phooey, the Banana Splits, the Hair Bear Bunch, and, in what would be one of their last appearances, the Skatebirds, whose Saturday morning series was on life support. As noted over in Twin Factor, Don Messick subbed for Frank Welker as Jabberjaw, and it was a rare instance of a poor fit. We've noted previously how Messick once subbed for Howard Morris as Jughead in an Archies cartoon nearly 10 years earlier, and came off better there than here.

As the party begins, Fred & Barney are still in Bedrock, where Barney has to awaken Fred, who then realizes he's running late. Well, haven't we seen that before?

Anyway, this roast, Hanna-Barbera's 1st, isn't meant to parody Dean Martin's weekly celebrity soirees over on NBC, but it's a coincidence that this aired on a Friday night, two hours before Martin's show. In previous years, there'd been specials to promote the rival Shipstead & Johnston Ice Follies, featuring Snoopy from the Peanuts gang. As you'll see, the Skatebirds don't appear with the rest of the cast, but rather, in skits recorded for their show and reworked for the occasion. Bad form.

Edit: 9/25/15: The original video was deleted, so all we have now is this sample clip:

Of course you know, H-B's next---and last---roast was the 2nd part of the Legends of the Superheroes miniseries that aired a year later on NBC. Apparently, they needed better writers...........!

Rating: C.

Game Time: The Legend of Zelda (1989)

The Legend of Zelda was a once-a-week feature on The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, giving Mario & Luigi's animated selves a day off. Unfortunately, only 13 episodes of Zelda were produced, as both Zelda and Super Mario Bros. were cancelled at the end of the season, only for Mario & Luigi to move to NBC as part of a DIC-Nintendo block of shows for the next two seasons, albeit in new adventures.

Let's start with the opener, which includes the Super Show open:

No rating. Never saw these cartoons.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

On The Air: WWE Slam City (2014)

Nearly 30 years after Hulk Hogan's Rock & Wrestling. the WWE is moving back into animation.

March saw the release of the "Scooby-Doo Wrestlemania Mystery" on DVD, along with the launch of the online series, Slam City, a serial series of short (2-3 minute) toons featuring your favorite superstars in unusual roles. Slam City is tied into a namesake toy line from Mattel, of which I haven't really seen too many ads yet. Then again, I haven't been following WWE-TV like I used to.

The plotline has a mystery man taking over the WWE, firing all of the wrestlers, and forcing them into comparatively menial jobs. For example, Sheamus is a theatre usher. John Cena, who in real life has a fleet of cars, is, predictably enough, an auto mechanic. Rey Mysterio is a school crossing guard. Just who the mystery man is, we don't know, but it seems he's even overcome the maniacal Mr. McMahon.

It looks to me like they're using claymation for these toons, which isn't too bad, except that they're supposed to be in the likeness of the action figures in the line, hence the exaggerated limbs.

In "Perky the Penguin", former champ Mark Henry is stuck working at a restaurant that is meant to be a knock off of Chuck E. Cheese. If you don't have a computer, don't despair. Time Warner Cable has some of these shorts available On Demand-------via Kabillion. Go figure. Here's "Perky the Penguin".

These cartoons were made before CM Punk left the company at the end of January. I think once this serial is over, they'll release it on DVD so you can watch the whole thing in one sitting. If you can stand it, that is.

 Rating: B-.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Saturday School: Remember Woodsy Owl? (1970's)

Before Captain Planet was even a thought in the mind of cable mogul Ted Turner, Woodsy Owl was teaching kids about the environment. I'm sure you remember the phrase, "Give a hoot, don't pollute!", from back in the day, right?

Anyway, Woodsy was introduced in 1965, but the above phrase wasn't added until 1971, and that's when the PSA's began airing. Four different actors, including Sterling Holloway (better known as the original voice of Winnie the Pooh), Barry Gordon (the Nestle Quik Bunny, among other credits), and Frank Welker, have spoken for Woodsy through the years. I'm not sure if it's either Holloway or Welker in this one from 1977:

In the 90's, Woodsy was given a radical makeover, but the commercials stopped airing, insofar as I know. In his prime, though, Woodsy transitioned to comic books, as a short-lived series was published by Gold Key in the mid-70's.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Lonely Boy (1977)

No, Andrew Gold didn't cover an old Paul Anka tune when he appeared on The Midnight Special in 1977. "Lonely Boy" was his own composition, and his first big hit.

Uploaded by CountryRock2U:

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Toon Legends: The Tom & Jerry Show (1975)

It'd been a few years since Tom & Jerry ended their run at CBS & MGM, and, thanks to creators William Hanna & Joseph Barbera, the duo returned to television in 1975, this time on ABC, and, for the first time, under the H-B umbrella.

Anti-violence regulations forced the violence to be sacrificed in favor of friendly rivalries and the occasional dirty tricks. It just wasn't the same.

Anyway, here's the intro:

The series lasted three seasons, with the final season airing on Sundays, as was the case when they were on CBS. After two years off, Tom & Jerry would resurface at Filmation, returning to CBS in 1980. However, that homecoming was short-lived.

Over the course of the series' run, there were two backup features. Great Grape Ape debuted in season 1, then was spun off and moved to Sundays to make room for Mumbly, Muttley's lookalike cousin, and a parody of Columbo as if he were played by Droopy.

Rating: B+.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Toons You Might've Missed: Nancy (1942)

I think many of us assumed that when Filmation acquired licenses for Nancy and several other newspaper strips for Archie's TV Funnies in 1971, that it was the cartoon debut of Ernie Bushmiller's seminal strip. Nope.

In truth, you have to go back nearly 30 more years, to a short-lived theatrical series produced by Terrytoons. To tell you the truth, I didn't even know this existed until I ran across this next item the other day.

In "Doing Their Bit", Nancy, her best bud Sluggo, and friends raise funds for the USO.

The comic strip is still running, but not as many papers are carrying it like they used to. Unfortunately, "Doing Their Bit", to TV programmers, means another, more well known, movie franchise----Our Gang, better known as The Little Rascals, and for that reason, it's never aired on TV, even in Deputy Dawg, Mighty Mouse, or Heckle & Jeckle's syndicated packages.

Rating: B-.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Supercape (The Tom & Jerry Show, 1975)

Tom & Jerry get mixed up with a washed-up superhero, Supercape (Don Messick), in this 1975 short. Supercape, of course, is a parody of Superman. John Stephenson narrates and voices the police chief. The narrative, ironically, is another parody, this one of Dragnet, which Stephenson served as an announcer for a few years prior.

Edit, 1/6/16: Unfortunately, the video was pulled by YouTube. Dailymotion has a foreign language version that we can't use, so we'll settle for this sample clip from Cartoon Network UK.

Rating: B.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Animated World of DC Comics: Green Arrow (2010)

Beyond the Lot brings another DC Showcase featurette, this one starring Green Arrow.

The Emerald Archer (Neal McDonough) is pressed into service to protect a young royal who has ascended to the throne after her father, the king, has been assassinated. The hitch? The new queen (Ariel Winter, Modern Family) is the niece of Green Arrow's long-time nemesis, Count Vertigo (Steve Blum). Vertigo has sent Merlyn the Magnificent (Malcolm McDowell) to assassinate the child, so that he can become king himself. We've seen plots like this before, but in an airport?

Black Canary (Grey DeLisle) shows up as well, and wait until you see what awaits her.

Greg Weisman crafted a tight, tidy little tale, directed & produced by Joaquim Dos Santos. Great stuff.

Rating: A.

Game Time: Animal Crack-Ups (1987)

Animal Crack-Ups was based on a Japanese show, imported by Vin DiBona (America's Funniest Home Videos) for ABC, and given an American spin.

The contestants were all celebrities playing for various charities, with actor-singer Alan Thicke (Growing Pains) serving as host. The series began as a summer replacement in primetime, and if memory serves, it aired on Sundays in 1987, before moving across the calendar to Saturdays to finish its run. All told the series lasted three years, ending in 1990, perhaps a wee bit too soon, but the problem was, it was airing at the tail end (pun intended) of ABC's Saturday lineup, coupled with Weekend Special, after the network had bade farewell to American Bandstand. Bad move, eh? The smart move would've been to chance airing it opposite another live-action show, Pee-Wee's Playhouse, over on CBS, but, given that show's popularity, that would have ensured a quicker demise.

Here's a sample episode with Soleil Moon Frye (Punky Brewster), Dan Frischman (Head of The Class), Sally Struthers (ex-All in The Family, Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm), & ex-NFL star Todd Christensen.

Where was Marlin Perkins when you really needed him?

Rating: B-.

Tooniversary: The New Adventures of Heckle & Jeckle (1979)

Filmation had thought they could make hay by acquring a license to bring Mighty Mouse & Heckle & Jeckle back to television in 1979. Unfortunately, it didn't work out quite so well, largely because the original shorts with these characters were readily available in syndication. A rare Filmation original, Quackula, was H & J's backup feature (with Frank Welker voicing Quackula, Heckle, & Jeckle), but good luck finding any of his shorts in English these days.

Quackula shorts are hard to find----in English, but one wonders if he was the inspiration for the British Count Duckula a few years later. As for Heckle & Jeckle, what few shorts had been available have been removed from public consumption. All that is left is this promo, shown in the summer of '79, and narrated by then-staff announcer Danny Dark (Super Friends), who must've found it amusing that this would air opposite his ABC series.

 Rating: B-.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Revisiting 1974: Which was more deserving of a reboot: The Jetsons or the Partridge Family?

Time to get back into revisiting Hanna-Barbera's class of 1974, and the debate that has raged over one particular project.........

The story was that Joseph Barbera had pitched to CBS a revival of the 1962 series, The Jetsons, which logged time on CBS in reruns in the late 60's before moving to NBC. The idea, as I understand it, involved letting daughter Judy (Janet Waldo) and son Elroy (Daws Butler) grow up to a certain point. That being Judy, who was in high school in the original series, would've long since graduated and become a songwriter, or at least tried to get into the music business in pursuit of her idol, Jet Screamer (Howard Morris). Elroy, then, would be in high school, much like Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm three years earlier.

Unfortunately, CBS passed, opting instead to adapt The Partridge Family into an animated series, which, coincidentally, was set at the dawn of the 23rd century. Yep, practically in the Jetsons' backyard. This decision ultimately proved costly to both CBS & H-B, as Partridge Family 2200 AD, like The Jetsons before it, lasted just one season.

For the sake of debate, let's go back to 1962, and the intro to The Jetsons:

Partridge Family 2200 AD, by comparison, was a troubled series. Susan Dey (Laurie) dropped out early on, replaced by Sherry Alberoni (Super Friends, Josie & the Pussycats). Apparently, H-B couldn't come up with enough cheddar to get Shirley Jones or David Cassidy on board. Plus, some stations didn't carry the show at all, opting for syndicated programming. Those of us who missed it the first time caught up via reruns that were split into 2-3 parts on Fred Flintstone & Friends.

Consider the intro to Partridge Family 2200 AD, cheesy theme song included:

The Partridges would be given a robot dog, as if they needed one, because the mindset among network suits was that pets would attract the kiddo's. Maybe, but bad writing will ultimately turn them away, too.

The Jetsons would eventually return, but their pet, Astro, was brought back first as part of a comedy super-team on Space Stars, four years before The Jetsons was revived for syndication, with Astro & The Space Mutts having been mercifully retconned out, since it was never referenced. And, yeah, George Jetson and company would end up getting a weird new addition to the family in Orbitty, who had coils for legs.

Joe Barbera is long gone now, but his vision of sending Judy off to college, and maybe into a music career, coupled with Elroy moving on to high school & beyond, could still get done. Unfortunately, such brilliant thinking is lost on the nimrods at Cartoon Network. They commissioned John Kricfalusi (Ren & Stimpy) to do a couple of specials, one of which involved The Jetsons, some years back, but the results weren't good. We'll look at that another time.

That being said, with Jetsons having passed its 50th anniversary 2 years ago, CN & Warner Bros. blew a golden opportunity to honor Hanna-Barbera's "First Family of the Future". I'd say the opportunity's still there for someone to pitch an animated movie that would have George & Jane retired, with Elroy & Judy all grown up, each having gotten married and started families of their own. Yes, I'd go with a generational comedy-drama, which is also how we'd revisit another 1974 entry, These Are The Days, which we'll focus on another time.

What do you think?

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Yogi's Gang (1973)

Yogi Bear and his friends were still searching for "the perfect place" in the wake of the 1972 TV-movie, "Yogi's Ark Lark", which in turn was spun off into Yogi's Gang as part of ABC's 1973-4 freshman class.

The tone of the show was more educational than entertaining, as Yogi, Boo Boo, Huckleberry Hound, Magilla Gorilla, and others dealt with the likes of Lotta Litter, Mr. Smog, and the Greedy Genie, learning about sharing, environmental issues, and selfishness, along with the audience. Unfortunately, the show was way ahead of its time, and cancelled after 1 season.

Here's the intro:

Episodes would later be split into two or three parts and excerpted on Fred Flintstone & Friends, a syndicated anthology series, which is where I finally caught up with the series. Unfortunately, it now sits in Cartoon Network/Boomerang's vaults, ignored.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Toon Legends: Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids (1972)

It is, easily, Filmation's most successful series in the near quarter-century the company was operating. After all, Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids lasted for about half of that time.

To be fair, CBS nearly didn't get the series. An early pilot showcasing Weird Harold had aired on NBC, produced while series creator-star-co-executive producer Bill Cosby had his first self-titled sitcom on the air, I believe. However, Weird Harold was made at a different animation studio, and so Filmation landed a gold mine by signing on with Cosby.

Fat Albert bowed in 1972, but for the entirety of its CBS run, was left to air at lunch time (12 pm ET), which historically means bad news for a lot of children's shows. Despite a 12 year run at CBS, there weren't that many episodes made, just enough to get the series into syndication in 1984, which would be Fat Albert's final season, as Cosby moved back to primetime and NBC, and, of course, the rest is history.

Cosby had left the original Electric Company to focus on Fat Albert, but, then, he also sold tons of Jell-O through commercials. Toward the end of the run, Cosby would add a superhero satire, Brown Hornet, as a show-within-a-show that the gang would watch, and would take over the Picturepages segment of Captain Kangaroo. Can you imagine if Cosby & Danny Kaye, America's other ambassador to children, ever did anything together?

Following is an open-close from the mid-70's:

Rating: A.

Getting Schooled: ABC Afterschool Special (1972)

In the 70's, the networks, one right after the other, began experimenting with afternoon programming for children. However, this would not bump the usual soap operas & game shows off the schedule on a regular basis, oh, no. Instead, these would air once every 4-6 weeks or so.

This started with ABC and its Afterschool Special, which remained on the air for 25 years (1972-97), often airing on Wednesday or Thursday afternoons. Initially, the network commissioned animated programs, soliciting specials from Hanna-Barbera & DePatie-Freleng, the latter of which made their first sale to ABC with The Incredible, Indelible, Magical, Physical Mystery Trip, which we reviewed not long ago. However, it wasn't long before the Afterschool Special was exclusively aimed at teenagers with a series of live-action dramas. Toward the end of the run, the series was turned over to talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who would end up competing against herself in some markets, including mine.

I wish the original "gumball machine" intro was available, complete with its funky theme music, but we'll settle for the later version of the intro.

When they went to the live-action dramas exclusively, ye scribe tuned out.

Rating: B-.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Bad TV: Mega Babies (1999)

Christian & Yvon Tremblay were the masterminds behind Hanna-Barbera's popular 1993 series, SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron. So, how to explain how they could also come up with something so extremely opposite, it wasn't as funny as it was meant to be?

Mega Babies was a superhero satire that the Tremblays created for the then Fox Family channel in 1999, six years after they'd launched SWAT Kats. To follow the pattern, they were also involved in the 2005 series, Loonatics Unleashed, but, clearly, Mega Babies was their absolute worst.

A superhero in diapers had been done before (Diaper Man of the Mighty Heroes), in the 60's, but three of them? That, folks, is taking a joke too far. To try to compare this to the legitimately funny antics of Nickelodeon's Rugrats would've been an insult to that series.

Ya don't believe me, pilgrims? Then, check out "Dr. Franken Buck":

Rating: D-.

Toon Rock: Jabberjaw (Running Underwater)(1998?)

In the late 90's, when Cartoon Network actually knew what they were doing, the network commissioned a series of music videos, most of which used footage from some of the series in their library (i.e. Magilla Gorilla, Dexter's Laboratory, Jetsons), but others were fan-made videos, the fans being CN staffers, obviously, using new material.

Some of the videos used songs recorded by familiar artists, such as They Might Be Giants, Devo, and Shonen Knife. Some genius decided to match Sugar Ray's hit, "When It's Over", to a montage from the remake of George of the Jungle. Two songs by Soul Coughing were also used, one with footage from The Flintstones ("Circles"), and the other attached to a Betty Boop excerpt.

Here, though, is Pain, an otherwise little known band, with "Jabberjaw (Running Underwater)". Biff appears to be emerging from the cover of a lunchbox.....

Sorry, but the idea of a shark with a nose ring is just so wrong. Had this been made, say, when the network launched in 1992, when grunge was in, it might've worked.

Looney TV: Porky Pig, spybuster (Confusions of a Nutzy Spy, 1943)

During World War II, our favorite cartoon stars did their part to rally the US against the Axis powers, usually for laughs.

Take for example this 1943 Porky Pig offering, which hasn't seen the light of day on TV in I don't know when. "Confusions of a Nutzy Spy" was director Norman McCabe's last effort for WB before being drafted. DJLarryT, who uploaded the video to YouTube, identified which of the Termite Terrace animators did different scenes. Of these, Arthur Davis would later become a director himself, usually doing Porky's shorts.

Don Christensen would later go to work for Filmation and a few other studios, and most toon fans know his name from his Filmation work.

I don't think Egbert, Porky's bloodhound sidekick in this one, was heard from again. Here's "Confusions of a Nutzy Spy":

Rating: B.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Saturday School: Make a "Saturdae" (late 70's-early 80's)

Here's another animated PSA from ABC & DePatie-Freleng. This time, what normally constitues a sundae becomes, well, a "Saturdae":

Cinco de Mayo: Menudo on ABC (1982)

Hola, amigos. For Cinco de Mayo today, we will take a look back when ABC took a chance on the pop group, Menudo, helping the Puerto Rican teen group hit it big stateside. The lineup was interchangeable due to any number of factors forcing a turnover in the lineup, such as puberty and an age limit of 16. Unfortunately, the most famous alumnus of Menudo, Ricky Martin, joined the band after their run on ABC had come to an end, joining Menudo in 1984.

Menudo also recorded the theme to the 1983 series, Rubik, The Amazing Cube, which also aired on ABC, albeit for 1 season.

Menudo on ABC was a series of interstitals doubling as music videos, introducing the band to American audiences. Their first English language CD came out shortly before Martin joined the group, if memory serves. Here, the guys serve up their own version of the game, "Simon Says", in lyrical form, as in, "If Menudo Says":

The band's original run spanned 20 years (1977-97), and then reformed after a 10 year hiatus, only to dissolve again (2007-9). At least they didn't fall into the same trap as other popular bands, and be licensed into cartoon characters........

Rating: B.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Daytime Heroes: Batfink vs. Gluey Louie (1966)

It's been a while since we paid a call on Batfink, so let's scope out his adventure vs. Gluey Louie, who looks like a distant cousin to Batfink's main nemesis, Hugo-A-Go-Go, if not that much smarter.

Frank Buxton (Discovery) & Len Maxwell did all the voices, and in Maxwell's case, you can probably pick out the one he'd later use as announcer Nick Diamond on Celebrity Deathmatch, more than 30 years later.

I wonder who owns the rights to this series now? He could use a revival, with his 50th anniversary next year.

Rating: C.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Animated World of DC Comics: Catwoman (2011)

Boy howdy! Talk about a kitten with a whip!

As part of the DC Showcase series, Catwoman shines in her first solo cartoon, written by Paul Dini. The Princess of Plunder (Eliza Dushku, ex-Dollhouse) takes on a diamond-toothed smuggler named Rough Cut (John DiMaggio, ex-Futurama), who is not only smuggling diamonds, but, as Catwoman herself notes, "something more precious".

You can see she learned some lessons from The Batman after all these years.

Sadly, Dini took the money and signed on with Marvel's toon division to work on Ultimate Spider-Man a year after this 15 minute film was completed. Biggest career mistake ever.

Now, here's Catwoman.

Think Cartoon Network could be, ah, persuaded to run this on [adult swim]? They'd be stupid not to.

Rating: A++.