Monday, June 30, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Quick Draw McGraw vs. Dynamite Kaboom (1961)

From season 3 of Quick Draw McGraw comes McGraw's meeting with Dynamite Kaboom, blessed, or cursed, if you prefer, with one of the oddest outlaw names in cartoon history.

Andrew Youngs uploaded "Dynamite Fright":

This kicks off a lengthy look at entries from Saturday Morning Cartoons: The 1960's, Volume 1, released in 2009. Prepare to flash back to your childhood if you're from the "baby boomer" generation like I am.

For what it's worth, while Quick Draw is driving an empty stagecoach in the open, it's filled at the end of the show, with Baba Looey riding shotgun in the back, and co-stars Snooper & Blabber and Augie Doggie & Doggie Daddy as passengers. There were no bumpers on the DVD illustrating interaction among the six stars, unlike on Huckleberry Hound. Then again, they'd make up for that years later on Yogi's Gang.

Rating: B.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Daytime Heroes: Sinbad, Jr. in Elephant on Ice (1965)

"Elephant On Ice" is virtually a 2-man show, starring Sinbad, Jr. (Tim Matheson, Jonny Quest) and his sidekick, Salty (Mel Blanc), though one suspects Don Messick was responsible for the grunts of a wooly mammoth that was thawed out.

Could Sinbad make a comeback? Maybe, with his 50th anniversary next year, but Sony holds the rights, not WB, so we'll see.

Rating: B.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

From Comics to Toons: Martin Mystery (2003)

Martin Mystery is, literally, an international hero.

Based on a series of Italian comics, which were imported to the US by Dark Horse Comics several years ago, Martin Mystery made the transition to television in 2003, airing here in the US on Nickelodeon and its sister networks. A collaboration between France's Marathon studio (Totally Spies!) and Japan's Tatsunoko (Speed Racer), Martin went out of production in 2006, and, despite rumors of a planned revival as recently as last year, nothing has been done since. I should note that the comics didn't fare too well here in the US, either.

Here's the open:

I didn't see enough of the show to properly rate it.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Tarzan Boy (1985-6)

The mid-80's 1-hit wonder, Baltimora, wasn't just 1 person. Instead, it was an Italian studio band whose lead singer, Jimmy McShane, was from Ireland, and was working as an EMT with the Italian Red Cross when he met the rest of the band in 1984. McShane became the public face--and voice---of Baltimora, although there is some dispute as to whether or not he really sang lead on their biggest hit single, 1985's "Tarzan Boy". The subsequent CD, "Living in the Background", didn't land a release in the US until a year later, but, by then, a follow-up single, "Woody Boogie", failed to chart here.

And so it is that Baltimora, or, more specifically, Jimmy McShane, made the rounds here, appearing on Solid Gold and, in this clip, American Bandstand.

My first exposure to "Tarzan Boy" came when a dance club next door to my apartment would play it on the weekends, and the sound would carry into my apartment, specifically in my bedroom. The chorus, built around an approximation of the famous "Tarzan yell" made by Johnny Weismuller, was the hook. Sadly, McShane passed away nearly 20 years ago at 37 due to complications from AIDS. A budding talent, taken too soon.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Daytime Heroes: Extreme Ghostbusters (1997)

The Real Ghostbusters had solved their last case in 1991. Six years later, Sony's animation division, Adelaide, brought the franchise back, but with a twist.

Extreme Ghostbusters lasted just 1 season, 40 episodes, fewer than the norm for syndication, unlike Real Ghostbusters, which lasted 5 seasons on ABC, with some episodes also airing in syndication. Of the original team, only Egon Spengler (Maurice LaMarche, mimicking Harold Ramis) returned, along with receptionist Janine Melnitz (Pat Musick) and Slimer, the team's mascot (Billy West). Egon is now a college professor who only has 4 students in his class, and they become the new Ghostbusters.

The underlying subplot was the relationship between Egon & Janine, which was odd considering that in "Ghostbusters 2", Janine was flirting with attorney Louis Tully. Anyway, the series ending with the rest of the original team returning to help Egon and the kids. Apparently, the folks at Sony had forgotten that Frank Welker (Ray) was also the original voice of Slimer, and could've been brought back.

Veteran voice actor Jim Cummings wasn't a regular cast member, but he did record a punk rock cover of the classic theme song........

This series wasn't lacking in star power, with Alfonso Ribiero (Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) as Roland, who was a complete opposite of Carlton Banks. So, why did it fail? Viewers just wouldn't accept having just 1 of the original team in this new show, and Ray, Peter (Dave Coulier), and Winston (Buster Jones) came too late to prevent cancellation.

Rating: B-.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Toonfomercial: Remember when Apple Jacks had an Appleman? (1966)

In the mid-60's, Kellogg's began adding more cereals to their line, and creating their own mascots to go with them, to boot.

Take for example Apple Jacks. Ever stop to wonder why General Mills eventually added an apple-cinnamon flavor to their Cheerios line? Because Apple Jacks, basically, were Kellogg's answer to Cheerios. While General Mills had the Cheerios Kid fighting crime, Apple Jacks used their mascot to encourage kids. The apple headed fellow is voiced by the legendary Paul Frees, who was everywhere back then.

In this spot, a child is confronted by some mean, older kids, then gets some inspiration to fight back......

However, kids were still being bullied, and it still happens today. Kellogg's changed the focus of the ad campaign to encourage kids to have the energy to play, as evidenced in this next spot:

Unfortunately, the apple man went the way of a lot of mascots, and faded out a few years later. In this era of healthy eating, however, don't ya think he made a comeback?

Rein-Toon-Ation: Chipmunks Go To The Movies (1990)

After 7 seasons on NBC, Alvin & the Chipmunks shifted to Fox for what would be their final season. With the change in networks came a title and format change.

Chipmunks Go To The Movies consisted of 13 episodes, all parodies of well known films. DIC had taken over the animation from Ruby-Spears at the end of the NBC run, during which the title had been shortened to The Chipmunks, and part of the final NBC season was split with syndicated episodes, produced by Murakami-Wolf-Swenson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), some of which aired on NBC when the DIC episodes were delayed for unknown reasons.

Ye scribe never saw Chipmunks Go To The Movies, so there's no rating. However, here's the open:

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Toonfomercial: Jonny Quest for PF Flyers (1964)

There was a time when BF Goodrich didn't just make tires. They also made sneakers for kids!

The PF Flyers came from Goodrich, and were pretty big in the 60's, but less so as I was growing up. I don't recall ever owning a pair of PF Flyers. Ever. Enough digression.

Anyway, BF Goodrich contracted Hanna-Barbera to use Jonny Quest for advertising to promote the sneakers. Scope it.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Toons After Dark: Liquid Television (1991)

In the late 80's, MTV began expanding its programming to add other series that either had ties to music (i.e. The Monkees, the animated Beatles) or pop culture (i.e. Monty Python's Flying Circus). As the decade ended, the network began turning things in-house, meaning, they now had the confidence to produce their own series.

Liquid Television exists today as an online entity on MTV's website, but in its peak years (1991-4), it was a weekly amalgamation of live-action, animation, puppets, and outright avant-garde absurdity. Two series were spun off from Liquid: Beavis & Butt-Head (1993-7, 2011-2) and Aeon Flux (1995-6), while others could easily have as well. Down the line, we'll look at some of these features, as we all have our favorites.

Let's take a look at the open, which starts by twisting, literally, out of a screening for Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love":

Charles Burns' Dog Boy appeared in the pages of Art Spiegelman's underground Raw, but instead of being adapted as a cartoon, MTV opted for a live-action version, which, sadly didn't translate well. Let me show you what I mean, with help from Billy Godsey:

I think you can see where the nimrods at [adult swim] got their inspiration when they launched a decade later.

Rating: C-.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Game Time: Masters of the Maze (1994)

After working on game shows such as Break The Bank, Richard S. Kline struck out on his own, starting with co-producing, with Bert Convy & Burt Reynolds, Win, Lose, or Draw and its teen counterpart. In 1994, Kline sold Masters of the Maze to the then-Family Channel (now ABC Family), which at the time was owned by the Christian Broadcasting Network, and because of it, their flagship show, The 700 Club, still airs on ABC Family to this day. I digress.

In the course of its two seasons, Masters went through two hosts. J. D. Roth (ex-Fun House) hosted the first year, but was not asked back for a second season. One would guess that he filled the void when he was cast as Jonny Quest for Cartoon Network's revival of that franchise, but didn't last there, either. Saved by the Bell alumnus Mario Lopez, whose first hosting gig was another NBC series, Name Your Adventure, was hired to replace Roth. Unfortunately, Family Channel would've been well served to acquire reruns of Bell in order to draw viewers to Masters, which was a blatant clone of the generic, cookie cutter games that Stone-Stanley was producing for Nickelodeon at the time, right down to the odd "uniforms" contestants had to wear, which in this case looked like robot suits.

At least Lopez passed Game Show Hosting 101. He was fine, but Fam was having problems luring viewers, and was considered an inferior competitor to Nick and Disney Channel, which back then was a premium service.

Jared Oswald uploaded this sample episode. Mind the video quality, as it looks like Mr. Oswald used a VHS tape as a basis.

Rating: B.

Summertainment: Stoked (2009)

The folks at Canada's Teletoon have provided their American counterparts at Cartoon Network with some really silly stuff the last few years.

I will readily admit I haven't watched Stoked, as it isn't ye scribe's cup o'tea, but it is a summer-themed cartoon, and now would be the perfect time to talk about it.

Most of the action appears to be set around a beach, but the teenagers on this show seem to be descendants of, well, Beavis & Butt-Head, in that they don't come across as being of a modest IQ. Which would describe what the creative personnel perceive the target audience to be.

Here's the intro:

The theme song's about the best part of this show. How it lasted 4 years is a mystery.

No rating.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Toon Legends: What's New Mr. Magoo (1977)

Mr. Magoo (Jim Backus) mistakes an animal preserve for his alma mater, Rutgers University, in this episode of What's New Mr. Magoo. Casey Kasem is heard as Magoo's nephew, Waldo, and a tourist, as we conclude our tribute to the radio legend.

Here's "Magoo in the Zoo":

DePatie-Freleng thought that giving Magoo a dog that was as near-sighted as he was would help things out. Uh, no, it didn't, not when the series aired opposite Scooby-Doo's All-Star Laff-a-Lympics on ABC. Today, any attempt at reviving Magoo would be met with greater opposition from advocates for the disabled.

Rating: B-.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Saturtainment: Good Morning, Miss Bliss (1987) to Saved by the Bell (1989-2000)

With news that Lifetime is planning a TV-movie which apparently may have its basis in Dustin Diamond's tell-all tome about his experiences on Saved by the Bell, I thought we might go further back.

The series began with Good Morning, Miss Bliss, which was started as a pilot on NBC, but the network decided they didn't want to go with a series. Disney picked it up for Disney Channel, and the series ran for 2 years there before it wound up going back to NBC.

Following is the rarely seen original credits to Good Morning, Miss Bliss, followed by the syndicated version, which was packaged under the more familiar Saved by the Bell label to cash in on the series' sudden explosion in popularity on NBC.

Changes were made when Bell arrived at NBC. Hayley Mills chose not to return, and co-stars TK Carter (ex-Punky Brewster), Joan Ryan, Max Battino, & Heather Hopper left with her. Mark-Paul Gosselaar was then promoted to top billing, as the producers identified that he was, in fact, destined for stardom. He wasn't alone, of course. With Zack Morris (Gosselaar), Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies), & Sam "Screech" Powers (Diamond) now at Bayside, the rest of the "classic class" came together with the addition of Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley), A. C. Slater (Mario Lopez), & Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani-Amber Thiessen).

Unfortunately, most of the 1989-93 era is unavailable on YouTube. However, there is the intro everyone knows:

As noted yesterday, the late Casey Kasem made two guest appearances on the show, which also served as a launch pad for the likes of Tori Spelling, who appeared in a few episodes as the girlfriend of----are you sitting down?---Screech.

NBC, though, was not willing to let Bell end, so they introduced The New Class. Only Dennis Haskins (Principal Richard Belding) carried over, but after the first year, he wouldn't be alone. Now, meet the New Class:

Of that group, only Bianca Lawson made the transition to primetime and movies. The rest? Forgotten. Zack, Screech, Slater, & Kelly moved on to The College Years, which was meant to lead off NBC's Tuesday primetime lineup. However, that laid an egg, and lasted just 1 season, culminating with the TV-movie, "Wedding in Las Vegas", in which Zack & Kelly got married.

Former NFL player Bob Golic, in his acting debut, was part of the ensemble. Unfortunately, things, as noted, didn't work out. Reruns would resurface on TBS as a Saturday morning entry, hence its inclusion here.

After College Years ended, Screech returned to Bayside as Belding's assistant, largely because the New Class needed the help. Unfortunately, he was still the same bumbling imbecile.

Currently, reruns with the "classic class" air 6 days a week on MTV2 after an eternity on TBS, which farmed it out to [adult swim] for a short stint a while back. The New Class? In limbo. Not sure if either NBC or CBS (CBS-Paramount bought Rysher, the original distributor in syndication) has the distribution rights today.


Good Morning, Miss Bliss/Saved by the Bell (1987-93): B+.

Saved by the Bell: The College Years: B-.

Saved by the Bell: The New Class: C.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Chan Clan visit Scotland Yard (1972)

Many, many moons ago, the sage detective Charlie Chan traveled to London to solve a mystery. Hanna-Barbera paid homage by sending The Amazing Chan & the Chan Clan to England to work with "Scotland Yard" on a brand new mystery.

A few notes before we go on. As you'll see a 5-piece Chan Clan band performing "Happy" at the start of the episode, you can tell that the movements of Stanley and Suzie were copied from H-B stablemates Josie & the Pussycats. Simply sub Stanley (singing voice provided by Ron Dante) for Josie and Suzie for Valerie, since they both play the tambourine. Len Weinrib was the speaking voice for Stanley, and after wholesale changes were made with the younger Chans, future Oscar winner Jodie Foster was cast as Anne. Henry's speaking voice was done by future primetime star Robert Ito, better known for playing second banana to Jack Klugman on Quincy a few years later.

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

Actor Jamie Farr (M*A*S*H) served as a writer on this show, as well as the following year's Inch High, Private Eye, but it's curious that he didn't submit any scripts for M*A*S*H.

Rating: B.

Animated World of DC Comics: Superman vs. Nick O'Teen (1980's)

The following is one of a series of ads produced overseas, and never shown in the US until they surfaced on YouTube.

Superman wages war against that tempter, Nick O'Teen, whose goal in life is to get kids addicted to cigarettes. If only this ad campaign had actually made it here in the States. No idea as to the voice actors in this one.

There was also a 1-shot comic published overseas as well as part of the campaign, and that one, pilgrims, is harder to find on the secondary market than any of the early adventures of the Man of Steel.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Rein-Toon-Ation: The New Scooby & Scrappy-Doo Show (1983)

After three years of trying to reboot Scooby & Scrappy-Doo and Shaggy as their answer to the Three Stooges, Hanna-Barbera finally decided to bring back Daphne Blake to give the viewers a little girl power in The New Scooby & Scrappy-Doo Show.

Otherwise, it was more of the same nonsense of the previous three seasons, with two 11 minute shorts in each episode.

Following is the intro. Looks like Daphne got a driver's license while she was away.

Fred (Frank Welker) would return in the holiday episode, "The Nutcracker Scoob", while Velma would return much later. Even bringing Daphne back didn't bring all the fans back.

One wonders, though, if Daphne had considered getting busy, if ya will, with Shaggy behind Fred's back over three years. The series would undergo a title change to The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries the next year, before giving way to the short-lived 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo.

Rating: B-.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Casey Kasem Memorial Week: The Cattanooga Cats are Autograph Hounded (1969)

Back in the day, it wasn't quite so common to learn about obsessed fans in the media.

However, the writers of Cattanooga Cats thought it best to give the band one as a nemesis. Meet Jessie, president of the band's fan club, who won't stop until she gets the band to sign their autographs in her book, but the methods she uses are tame compared to today's mentally challenged stalkers.

Scope out "Autograph Hounded":

Notice how Groovy (Casey Kasem) always speaks in rhyme? He was a poet, and wasn't afraid to show it.

Rating: B.

Animated World of DC Comics: Aquaman takes on monsters (1967)

TheKingAquaman uploaded this installment of The Aquaman Show, which of course was spun off from The Superman-Aquaman Hour of Adventure, from which both shorts originally appeared. The middle feature to this episode is not included.

In the opener, Aquaman (Marvin Miller) & Aqualad (Jerry Dexter) face off with "The Volcanic Monster". Then, "The Crimson Creature From The Pink Pool" rises to the surface, supposedly bound for Atlantis, but is, naturally, intercepted by Aquaman and company.

Rating: B.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Toonfomercial: A message about your heart (1969)

It's a message as old as time itself. In 1969, the Heart Foundation, not to be confused with the American Heart Association, commissioned Hanna-Barbera to produce a 10 second PSA.

I guess it's as good as anything to begin a week long tribute to radio & cartoon legend Casey Kasem, who passed away yesterday. Casey is the narrator in this clip:

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Rare Treats: The Adventures of Superboy (1961)

The following also appears at The Land of Whatever.
Several years ago, I acquired the rarely seen 1961 pilot for The Adventures of Superboy, Whitney Ellsworth's last live-action adaptation of the Superman franchise. Coming three years after Adventures of Superman, one would think that one of the networks could've picked this up as a Saturday morning entry, five years before Superman would return as an animated cartoon.

You might recognize one of the villains in this story. It's Stacy Harris, who was a frequent guest star on both versions of Dragnet. Yes, the plot is right out of the same cookie cutter as the Superman series. No originality might explain why this wasn't picked up, but, to be fair, just judge for yourselves.

At least this was better than Ellsworth's Superpup pilot.........!

Rating: B.

Animated World of DC Comics: Superboy vs. The Revolt of Robotville (1966)

Superboy (Bob Hastings) must thwart a deranged scientist (is there any other kind?) who unleashes "The Revolt of Robotville". This is one of those deals where Lana Lang (Janet Waldo) is growing suspicious of boyfriend Clark Kent also being the Teen of Steel, but Superboy thwarts that, too.

The professor's true motives were never explained. It was assumed the robots had gone amok, Superboy thwarts the first attempt, but the professor, jealous, moves forward with an incomprehensibly mad plan. In 1966, they didn't expect anyone to read between the lines, but, nearly 50 years later, we can.

Rating: B-.

Casey Kasem (1932-2014)

The "King of the Countdowns" has been silenced.

Casey Kasem passed away after a lengthy illness at 82, leaving behind a legacy and a lifetime of memories for radio listeners and cartoon fans alike.

We've previously discussed his health issues, which caused a reopening of old wounds between his 2nd wife, Jean, and the grown children from his first marriage, over in The Land of Whatever, so we won't rehash it again. I think we all want to remember Casey at his best.

Most of us thought that America's Top 10, which he launched in July 1980, was Casey's 1st TV hosting job. It wasn't. In the late 60's, Casey hosted the Los Angeles-based music show, Shebang, which was produced by another music icon, American Bandstand's Dick Clark, and there've been a couple of clips posted here and at Land of Whatever, and we'll add one more. From 1967, here's Casey, on location in Anaheim, and one of his earliest "Long Distance Dedications", which would become a staple of American Top 40, which launched 3 years later.

In 1964, Casey made an attempt at the very same Billboard charts he would count down the Top 40 from years later, but "A Letter From Elaina" peaked at #103. We all know he was a Golden Throat from his attempts at singing in character as Shaggy on Scooby-Doo in the 70's & 80's, but here is the "pilot", if you will, for those "Dedications":

Casey's voice acting career took off in 1968 when he was cast as Robin in Filmation's adaptation of Batman, a role he would essay again between 1972-86, and in a 1-off for Cartoon Network in the 90's. You know most of the credits. Scooby-Doo. Super Friends. Battle of the Planets. Skyhawks. Hot Wheels. Cattanooga Cats. Josie & the Pussycats. Served as a house announcer for NBC during the late 70's, and thus was the announcer for the 1st Daffy Duck show (1979). Even tried his hand as an action hero in the 1971 thriller, "The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant", with Bruce Dern & Pat Priest. He also acted on shows such as Matt Houston, Saved by The Bell, Sweepstakes, and Hawaii Five-O. Beginning in the early 80's, Casey joined up with Jerry Lewis for the annual Muscular Dystrophy telethons. Around 1987, Casey was moved to bring one of his animated "alter-egos", if ya will, into play........

Rest in peace, Casey. We're all going to miss you, old friend.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Lulu's Back in Town (2004)

From Justice League Unlimited:

In the episode, "This Little Piggy", Circe (guest star Rachel York) had turned Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg) into a pig. That prompts Batman (Kevin Conroy) to recruit an old childhood crush, Zatanna (Jennifer Hale) to help.

We've already seen the Dark Knight croon Cole Porter's "Am I Blue",  but earlier, Circe, posing as a cabaret singer, belts out a version of Fats Waller's "Lulu's Back in Town". It does appear as though Circe's performance has been edited, as we move right into a climatic battle between Circe and Zatanna.

It's just too bad the entire episode isn't available intact, and if you've not seen it on CW, time's running out, as the Vortexx block will be discontinued in September.


Ya know, there are still some fans who think they could've furthered the prospect of Batman & Zatanna as a couple, instead of Batman & Wonder Woman, and I'm in that camp.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Looney TV: The Daffy-Speedy Show (1980)

After his first season on NBC, Daffy Duck would get a co-star to share the billing. That particular co-star also shared the stage with him in a few shorts in the 60's, and that was Speedy Gonzales.

With Bugs Bunny and Road Runner over on CBS, there was a bit of an embargo prohibiting those two from appearing on NBC. The rest of the Looney Tunes gang were able to appear on both networks at the same time, which at the time would be unprecedented, except for the fact that Batman had already done that three years earlier.

However, the two networks didn't share the library. NBC's playlist consisted mostly of those 60's shorts that paired Daffy & Speedy together, as well as Speedy and Sylvester, plus some new material to give Mel Blanc some additional work.

The downside was that The Daffy-Speedy Show was buried at the bottom of the NBC lineup, all to avoid a direct conflict with the Bugs Bunny-Road Runner Show (now 90 minutes by this time) on CBS. Given NBC's struggles back then, well.......!

Here's the open:

We'll get the rest of that short another time.

Rating: B.

Rein-Toon-Ation: Spaceballs (2008)

Mel Brooks had never adapted any of his movies for television. He never really saw the need, and who can blame him? However, someone offered him a pretty nice wad of change to bring his late 80's sci-fi farce, "Spaceballs", to television----as an animated cartoon.

Spaceballs: The Animated Series was a flash-animated comedy-adventure series that reintroduced viewers to Lonestar (Rino Romano, taking over for Bill Pullman), Princess Vespa, Dark Helmet, and President Skroob (Brooks), who is forever berating Dark Helmet for his incompetence.

The series aired for a while on Sunday afternoons on G4 (now Esquire Channel), but that didn't last long. Have to believe it also aired at night as well, but the only time I'd seen it was around lunch hour, of all places, and, given some of the content, as you could tell from the following promo clip, wasn't meant for daytime consumption.

Unfortunately, something else was lost in the transition from the big screen to the small one. John Candy had passed away in the 20-odd years since the film was released, and his character was not recast. The humor just didn't connect, largely because the film hadn't aired all that often in intervening years, either on cable or in syndication.

Rating: C.

Summertainment: Hey Dude (1989)

It was the first live-action scripted series produced in-house for Nickelodeon, still fondly remembered 25 years later.

Hey Dude launched in 1989, and aired during the summer months. Set on---what else?---a dude ranch, the series focused on a group of kids who were staying at the camp.

Nick aired the series on weekdays as well as weekends, but didn't play it into the ground the way they eventually would with their programming in the years to follow.

I didn't follow the series, so there's no rating. Here's the open:

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summertainment: Camp Lazlo (2005)

Summer is a week and a half away as I write. Let's get a headstart with Camp Lazlo.

Series creator Joe Murray had previously masterminded Rocko's Modern Life for Nickelodeon during the 90's, and got a call from Linda Simensky, who was now at Cartoon Network after a stint at Nick. Lazlo lasted three years, which, if memory serves, was about the same length of time as Rocko. In this writer's opinion, it might've lasted longer if CN didn't air it on weekdays when there weren't enough episodes to justify it. Since that's CN policy these days, should we be surprised?

Here's the intro:

Seems to me Murray tried to bring the Nickelodeon style to CN, but, seeing as how former CN talent such as Butch Hartman have thrived, at least for a while, at Nick, one wonders what the thought process is in the front office these days at CN.....!

Rating: C.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Flint the Time Detective (1998)

Flint, the Time Detective, was another Japanese anime imported to the US by Fox, making his American debut in 2000, airing on both Fox & Fox (now ABC) Family, two years after the series launched in its native Japan.

Flint is from prehistoric times, resurrected from a fossil, and given a job as a time detective, traveling across the boundaries of time & space, with two contemporary companions. However, he really wasn't a brain surgeon after all, as his assistants did all the work for him. His club was actually a sentient rock housing the consciousness of his father. Yeah, try figuring that one out.

Here's the American intro:

As bad as it seems. Rating: C.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Daytime Heroes: Sailor Moon (1992)

Japan has imported a number of anime series to the US since the 60's. While today's audience is accustomed to the likes of Pokemon, Digimon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and so on, there have been others that have come before them that remain in the pop culture fabric to this day.

One of those series is Sailor Moon, which ran for five seasons in Japan, starting in 1992, adapted from a manga series. DIC (now part of Cookie Jar) was the first studio to be licensed to produce an English language version of the series, but now the rights belong to Viz Media, which is streaming episodes on Hulu, mostly the original Japanese versions.

Sailor Moon did enjoy a network run, albeit briefly, on Fox a number of years back, but it did not last very long, due likely to the network's unpleasant habit of shuffling its lineup every few weeks. If you hadn't been following the series in weekday syndication before Fox picked up the rights, you were, in effect, S.O.L.. It can be suggested that Sailor Moon, while being the most successful girl-centric action cartoon ever, it did touch off the modern era's interest in creating new series with female protagonists.

Most of you know this intro:

For American audiences, at least in one translation, two of the Sailor Scouts (Wikipedia refers to them as the Sailor Soldiers) were rebooted as cousins, rather than depict them as being gay, the better to avoid the protests of certain watchdog groups from the South. The series was also immortalized in the lyrics to the Barenaked Ladies' mid-90's hit, "One Week", in which vocalist Ed Robertson raps that the Sailor Scouts are "boom anime babes that make me think the wrong thing". Can't see how, since I think they're all underage.

Rating: B.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

How does Chan Clan translate to Shoyu Weenie? (Harvey Birdman, Attorney-at-Law, 2001)

They say anything is possible in a cartoon. Heckle & Jeckle taught us that back in the day.

To that end, the creative noobs behind Harvey Birdman, Attorney-at-Law decided to traverse time and space, and do a little reconfiguring of characters as they went along. See if you can figure out what's wrong.

Since the license to use Earl Derr Biggers' classic sleuth, Charlie Chan, had long since expired, [adult swim] couldn't very well use the Chan Clan kids without any sort of litigation getting in the way. So, the Chinese-American Chans, based in Hawaii, are turned into a Japanese pop group, Shoyu Weenie. There has to be some sort of joke involved somewhere in there, don't ya think? Sure, they look the same as they did nearly 40 years earlier, as [as] lifted the character models from the Chan Clan series, but they don't speak English anymore, at least for the purposes of this story, and, even though I know absolutely little Japanese (I go no further than "sayonara" or "domo arigato"), I can tell that the attempt at using Japanese dialogue falls way short of the mark. Typical [as] nonsense, as you'll see.

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

The original configuration of the Chan Clan band was a trio (Henry, Stanley, & Susie), but the writers changed things around. The Neptunes, the pop group from Jabberjaw, are from the not-too-distant future, and couldn't possibly exist in the 21st century----or could they? There's a story waiting to be told there, but it would explain how Jabber could be in a fever dream of Scooby-Doo's a few years later, wouldn't it?

This was written in such a manner as to embarrass fans of Jabberjaw, Amazing Chan & The Chan Clan, or both. It is, as our frequent correspondent Magicdog often has said, meant for the viewer to be either stoned, drunk, or both when this show is on, because it's written for small minds, wasting the talents of Gary Cole, Stephen Colbert, and others.

Easily one of the worst, unfunniest episodes of the series.

Rating: F+.

Revisiting 1974: Can Korg make a comeback?

We're concluding our series on Hanna-Barbera's Class of 1974, marking their 40th anniversary this year, with the studio's 1st all-live-action series, Korg: 70, 000 B. C..

Veteran writer-producer Fred Freiberger (ex-Star Trek) had been writing for Hanna-Barbera for a couple of years, in what I think was his first foray into animated programming (he wrote for Josie & the Pussycats in Outer Space & Super Friends), and that allowed him to pitch Korg to Joe Barbera, who in turn ran the pitch by then-ABC executive Squire Brushnell, who was in charge of children's programming back then. Unfortunately, insofar as I knew, Korg would end up being Freiberger's coda at H-B. He would later resurface as a producer and/or writer on Gerry Anderson's Space: 1999 just a couple of years later.

70skidvid reminds us of Korg. The video is taken from a short-lived run on TNT:

If memory serves me correctly, Korg, narrated by Burgess Meredith, aired directly opposite NBC's canine take on The Fugitive, that being Run, Joe, Run, which was renewed for a 2nd year, while Korg, like the rest of the freshman class from ABC, was cancelled. It was either Joe or Land of the Lost, that much I'm certain of.

Anyway, the question becomes one of whether or not WB would be willing to take another shot at it. Like Filmation's family of live-action shows, H-B hired some educational consultants. GEICO has seemingly retired their modern-day caveman gimmick, so there's a chance that Korg could be rebooted, but not as a weekly series. No, the vision I have is to make it more of a historical drama in a miniseries format, which would give Time Warner the option of airing it on either TNT or TruTV. With Meredith having long since passed on, as has Joe narrator Paul Frees, if they need someone to be a narrator, there are plenty of options to be had.

What do you think?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Brats of the Lost Nebula (1998)

If there was an American equivalent to England's Gerry Anderson, it'd have to be Jim Henson.

The legendary creator of the Muppets had experimented with science fiction in the past, with the HBO series, Fraggle Rock (after all, the Fraggles lived underground), and its animated spin-off, which lasted 1 season on NBC in the 80's. The Jim Henson Company's last Saturday morning entry was another sci-fi series, but didn't get any love from Kids' WB!, which pulled the plug on Brats of the Lost Nebula after just 3 weeks, claiming low ratings.

The Brats claimed to be orphans, but technically weren't. Their parents were missing, so that oft-used trope was in play. The series used a combination of puppets created by Henson's Creature Shop and CGI animation, and, had it been on another network, like, maybe, Fox, it probably would've gone further than it did. I cannot rightfully say, since I never saw the show.

On the other hand, you can judge for yourself with this sample clip:

No rating.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Toonfomercial: Look who meets the Gecko! (2014)

The GEICO Gecko is in Colorado's Rocky Mountains on his cross-country journey, and runs into a pair of cartoon icons........

Enough said.

Saturtainment: Littlest Pet Shop (1995)

Ever since the Hub launched in October 2010, Hasbro has managed to revive several properties, some of which weren't originally theirs.

Kenner, which was later bought by Hasbro, introduced the Littlest Pet Shop line of toys in 1992. Three years later, a license was granted to Sunbow, which had previously collaborated with Marvel in adaptations of GI Joe, Transformers, & My Little Pony, among others, to create an animated series. Former DIC co-founder Jean Chalopin was on board as an executive producer, which, in hindsight, might've been the kiss of death, considering that Chalopin had last tried a revival of He-Man a few years prior, and that was a dud. As a result, this version of the Pet Shop lasted 1 season of 40 episodes, which meant that either it could air 5 days a week over 2 months, or 40 weeks as a weekend series. This strategy, ironically enough, would be employed by DIC a few years later.

Two years ago, Hasbro marked the 20th anniversary of the toy line with a new series, currently airing on the Hub, with a revamped line of toys to match. We'll look at the current series another time, but let's go back in time to the original Littlest Pet Shop.

No rating. Never saw the show.

Revisiting 1974: Why did These Are The Days fail?

We're back to our retrospective of Hanna-Barbera's freshman class of 1974, marking its 40th anniversary this year.

H-B sold four series to ABC that season, and we've previously looked at two of them----Devlin & Hong Kong Phooey. The live-action Korg: 70,000 B. C. is the final subject in our series, so we're looking at These Are The Days today.

Inspired by CBS' hit series, The Waltons, Days goes further back in time, to the start of the 20th century in small town America. The studio opted not to just rely on regular repertory performers such as Daws Butler, Don Messick, & Janet Waldo. Instead, they complemented them with a cast comprised mostly of actors familiar to primetime audiences:

Pamelyn Ferdin was already on the H-B payroll, having worked on Roman Holidays two years earlier. Ex-Monkee Micky Dolenz was also co-starring on Devlin, and this was three years after he'd made his cartoon debut in Funky Phantom. Frank Cady was, and still is, remembered as Hooterville's unofficial major domo, Sam Drucker, on Petticoat Junction & Green Acres between 1963-71. Henry Jones made quite a few appearances in guest roles during the 70's, but never had a regular series that I know of. June Lockhart turned H-B down a year earlier when they mounted an animated version of Lost in Space, but was brought in as the mother. Young Jackie Earle Haley was also working on Valley of the Dinosaurs over on CBS, and would later go on to a successful film career.

To refresh your memory, here's the open, courtesy of Muttley16:

So why did it fail, and could Warner Bros., which now owns the rights, be persuaded to bring it back?

Days---and, for that matter, Devlin----failed because they were buried near the bottom of the lineup, prone to frequent pre-emptions for college football late in the fall season, and in the summer for the British Open golf tournament. ABC just didn't believe that a dramatic cartoon could grab the same high ratings as a comedy or adventure show. That pessimistic thinking planted the seed in the viewers' minds, alright.

If WB were to relaunch the series, they'd have to re-set it closer to modern times, either in the 50's or the 60's, and allow the characters to deal with social issues of those periods. A turn of the century series won't work today. That much is certain.

So, what do you think?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Animated World of DC Comics: Superman in The Mummy Strikes (1943)

Superman is on his way to Egypt to help a woman falsely accused of murder in 1943's "The Mummy Strikes".

In the 80's, the classic Fleischer/Paramount shorts did have a cable home, on the now-defunct Satellite Programming Network (SPN), which is where I first discovered these cartoons. Of course, WB now owns the rights, though there's been a few public domain copies of the shorts released in recent years, as we've previously discussed.

Here's "The Mummy Strikes":

I'd like to see WB revisit these classic shorts, rebooting them for a new generation. Do you share that same sentiment?

Rating: A.

Vortexx is cancelled; an era ends

At the end of September, CW's Vortexx Saturday morning block will be no more. The articles I've read suggest that this marks the end of "traditional" weekend children's programming blocks, which leads me to suspect that NBC is also doing away with its current package. All that says is that these two networks were the last holdouts, believing that they could still generate a reasonable audience opposite cable's Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, & Cartoon Network and their respective sister networks.

Litton Entertainment, which already programs ABC & CBS' Saturday blocks, the latter as of 2013, will add CW to their schedule, under the umbrella title, One Magnificent Morning, which will launch October 4. CW is giving Litton 5 hours to program, as opposed to 3 on CBS and ABC. All of the programming is meant to be conforming to the FCC's E/I mandates, but that's not what kids want these days, and it's driving more of them toward cable.

Vortexx will end after 2 seasons, and the shows currently packaged by Saban will, with some exceptions, simply disappear, never to return (i.e. Bolts & Blip). Maybe WWE knew what they were doing when they decided a year ago to discontinue Saturday Morning Slam. They might've seen the writing on the wall, although their current web series, Slam City, previously reviewed here, ain't exactly helping things along.

Reportedly, one of the programs on deck for CW is a juvenile version of National Geographic Channel's popular Dog Whisperer. Hmmmmmm. Kids like dogs. I'd say, retitle the show Pet Whisperer so they can cover a wider spectrum, but we'll find out for sure in the fall.

The problem with cable, however, especially with Nickelodeon, is they tend to do blocks of episodes of popular series, rather than diversify. It's time we got past the mythical "sound byte mentality" and prove that there's a greater diversity of programming out there that kids can appreciate.

Pretty soon, if Litton can't get the ratings on 3 networks, they may just toss in the towel, and the next thing you know, Saturdays will be filled with reruns of the same syndicated shows you see at night (i.e. Everybody Loves Raymond, Golden Girls), which is already happening on cable. You may just want to give your alarm clock a day off if that happens.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Daytime Heroes: The Adventures of Superman (1952)

You know the intro:

"Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!"

The Adventures of Superman ran for six seasons (1952-8), becoming the first series based on a DC Comics book to be adapted for television. At a time when the Man of Steel was legitimately DC's #1 attraction, something that isn't the case anymore, Superman deviated from the usual comics format in that Superman (George Reeves) fought only gangsters, con artists, and the occasional mad scientist. None of his arch-enemies, such as Lex Luthor, would appear on television until Filmation's animated adaptation came along, eight years after the series ended.

As a result, the supporting cast was more of a repertory company, as actors were used in various roles on a recurring basis. Future TV stars such as Leon Askin (Hogan's Heroes) and The Rifleman's Chuck Connors & Paul Fix (in separate episodes) made early appearances. Askin appeared at least twice. For voice actor devotees, Herbert Vigran, a frequent player for Hanna-Barbera in the 50's & 60's, made a few appearances as various gangsters, and Sterling Holloway, years before being the original voice of Winnie The Pooh, played a well meaning scientist.

My first exposure to the series came when it aired in syndication in the 70's. I barely remember seeing it locally, but it was part of a swank afternoon block on WPIX that was an action lover's dream, as Superman would be bracketed in between Batman & Lone Ranger, with Gilligan's Island at the end of a 2 hour block.

Rating: B.

Edit: 9/20/14: The episode previously posted here was deleted by YouTube due to copyright issues. In its place is a promo, produced in color in 1966. Many of us have seen this during the series' run in syndication in the 70's.

Saturtainment: Hello Kitty's Furry Time Theatre (1987)

DIC imported Japan's Hello Kitty to the US in 1987. However, unlike other Japanese series that had been imported by Saban for Nickelodeon, and later, Fox, the franchise just didn't take off here in the States.

Hello Kitty's Furry Time Theatre led off CBS' Saturday morning block in 1987, but was cancelled after 1 season. Another Hello Kitty series was picked up six years later, but, yep, that was also a 1 year wonder. There's been a few more series since then, confined mostly to Japan, but available via YouTube.

Here's the intro:

No rating. Never saw the show.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Getting Schooled: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (2006)

Disney had to find a new way to utilize Mickey Mouse, and this was, bear in mind, before they began making new shorts last year. So, they decided that Mickey and friends would be doing some teaching after a sort.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse ended production last year after 7 years on the air, but reruns continue daily on Disney Channel and Disney Junior. It's meant to be an interactive show for preschoolers, one of a number of series that work in this fashion. Mickey, in the tradition of the late Fred Rogers, talks to the audience. After an expected viewer response, not one that is taped into the show, the fun begins.

Here's a sample open & close:

Hey, I look at it this way. If I were a parent, I'd use this as a starter kit if my kiddo's had any questions about Mickey.

Rating: A.