Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Rein-Toon-Ation: Droopy, Master Detective (1993)

Droopy returned to television in a backup feature on Tom & Jerry Kids. The funny part is that those backup features led to Droopy getting his own series at last.

Droopy, Master Detective had one flaw. Da Droopster (Don Messick) now had a son/sidekick, Dripple (Charlie Adler). Not sure if Dripple was based on the offspring that Droopy had in at least one or two shorts at MGM, but the apple didn't fall far from the tree regardless. Fox originally had the show airing on Saturdays, then bumped it and shifted it to weekdays to burn off the episodes. Currently, they sit in WB's vaults, unused.

Here's the intro & close:

This might've worked better if, instead of picking up Droopy, H-B went with another father-son team of canines and revived Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy for this show. Then again, maybe not.

Rating: B.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Toons After Dark: Family Guy welcomes the Simpsons (2014)

This was one of the most one-sided crossovers in the history of crossovers.

Family Guy's season premiere on Sunday was a 1 hour special, as the Griffin family traveled to Springfield, USA, home of The Simpsons. Unfortunately, Fox really botched it, and at the same time, acknowledged whose creative bread they'd rather be buttering.

Let's just cut right to the plot, such as it is. Peter Griffin (Seth MacFarlane) decides to become a cartoonist, and starts a 1-panel humor strip in the Quahog newspaper. Being about as dumb as a doorstop isn't a deterrent, as Griffin's crude drawings get a negative reaction, and the family is forced to flee the city. The family car is stolen at a rest stop, and that forces the Griffins to hike to Springfield. Homer Simpson (Dan Castellaneta) takes the Griffins in, and the families bond. Well, everything seems to go smoothly. Lisa (Yeardley Smith) gives Meg (Mila Kunis) encouragement, then seethes when she sees that Meg has a talent as a saxophone player, just like her. Stewie (MacFarlane), after seeing Bart (Nancy Cartwright) bullied by Nelson Muntz, decides to avenge his new friend. Learning how to use a slingshot, Stewie captures and tortures Nelson. And if you thought that was wack.....

Brian (MacFarlane) and Chris (Seth Green, Robot Chicken) take Santa's Little Helper, the Simpsons' dog, out for a walk, and Brian unwittingly allows the greyhound to run loose after disengaging the leash. Talk about awkward. The best scenes, however, belong to Peter & Homer. First, there's a ridiculous car wash skit, set to Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me". Then, after it's exposed that Peter had been fleecing the makers of Duff beer, the Griffins lose a lawsuit, and that leads to an epic fight between Peter & Homer, which exposes all the tropes of animation in a matter of minutes.

Just to remind fans of his aborted Flintstones project, MacFarlane throws in a cameo by Fred (Jeff Bergman) as a judge. Well, he knows this will be on [adult swim] eventually, unless Fox prohibits it, since The Simpsons' cable rights belong to one of their cable networks.

Edit, 5/31/21: The trailer's been deleted. In its place is the car wash bit.

The right way to go about this would've been to do it old school style, with part 1 airing on Simpsons, but I'm guessing either Matt Groening, or the folks at Film Roman, which animates Simpsons, weren't asked, or were and declined. By putting this entirely in MacFarlane's hands, well, what did you expect? Too many cutaway gags, a MacFarlane specialty, plus a cameo by Bob of Bob's Burgers and the alien from American Dad, which, oh by the way, is leaving Fox for TBS after a brief fall run.

Rating: B+.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Toon Sports: Popeye & Bluto take up baseball (The Twisker Pitcher, 1937)

As baseball enters its postseason tournament, we thought it'd be appropriate to serve up a vintage Popeye short that takes a bit of a poke at the grand old game.

Popeye & Bluto are opposing pitchers on semi-pro teams, one would guess, in "The Twisker Pitcher".

Well, at least Bluto finally had a fan rooting for him. Too bad the result was the same as it always was.

Rating: A-.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Rein-Toon-Ation: GI Joe Renegades (2010)

When The Hub launched 4 years ago, one of their first original series brought back the GI Joe franchise, with a decided twist.

GI Joe Renegades recasts a small group of Joes as fugitives accused of a crime they didn't commit. Consider also that Cobra's involved (naturally), and you can figure out the rest.

Co-executive producer Jeff Kline came over from Sony, where he worked for their animation department (Adelaide) in the 90's and oversaw Men In Black and Jackie Chan Adventures, among others. Some of the character designs suggest that some of the Adelaide animation staff came with Kline. The creators drew inspiration from the 1983-7 series, The A-Team, which had been rebooted in theatres earlier in 2010 with Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper. That franchise, of course, is a spiritual cousin to The Fugitive, making Renegades a part of a very large family tree, if you will.

Shout! Factory holds the rights to the video distribution of the series, likely as part of a merchandising deal with Hasbro. Here's the open:

Back in the day, it'd been teased that Scarlett & Snake Eyes were potentially a couple. It was noted in Renegades that they trained together, and therein lies an emotional connection. Well, it's a start. There'd been talk of a new GI Joe series in the pipeline, but with The Hub giving way to Discovery Family next month, it's also been reported that Hasbro has talked to Time Warner about future projects. Recall that Cartoon Network had been home to a previous GI Joe entry (on [adult swim]), and also has had a couple of Hot Wheels series. Chances are pretty good, then, for Hasbro to work with CN down the road, provided they're not asked to dumb things down.......!

GI Joe Renegades gets a B.

The Hub (2010-2014)

I didn't know about this until I ran across a posting by Silverstar over at Twin Factor the other day. After 4 years of trying to run with the big boys of children's television, The Hub Network, otherwise known simply as The Hub, is being rebooted yet again.

Again, you say? Yes. After all, The Hub rose from the ashes of the Discovery Kids channel after Hasbro bought a significant stake in the network, and subsequently opened a studio so they could revive some of their previously animated properties.

But, therein lies the problem. Like the networks they wanted to compete with, namely Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, & Cartoon Network, not to mention each channel's sister stations, The Hub fell into the pattern of plugging every available hole in the schedule with the hottest property they have, namely, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, despite a deep vault of other shows, including the entire DK library that could've been kept on the air to fill time. Instead, shows like The Future Is Wild & Grossology were phased out after a few weeks on The Hub. You'll recall that the other networks have made that same mistake by overplaying their golden geese (i.e. Scooby-Doo, Phineas & Ferb, etc.), but also learned to diversify their product, for better or worse.

The Hub's idea of diversification was to copy Nick at Nite and fill primetime with classic, family-friendly sitcoms, such as, most recently, Blossom. Discovery Communications, which is taking back full control next month, is rebranding the network as----wait for it---Discovery Family. Not exactly original, I know, but their idea of prime-time programming figures to be mostly documentaries, also aimed at families. Like, I wouldn't mind if they could persuade Disney to lease out those "True Life Adventure" documentaries that were in theatres back in the day, and haven't seen the light of day on DC in seemingly forever, or even The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, but the kiddo's will be bored to tears and will be fleeing to the other channels.

What seemingly sealed the deal was the decision made by programming head Margaret Loesch to step down at the end of the month. Loesch, whose resume includes stops at Marvel and Hanna-Barbera in the 80's, would be a good fit at CN if they didn't already have someone in place to take over for Stuart Snyder, who left at the end of March. While Friendship is Magic and other Hasbro toons will continue, as Hasbro will program a significant chunk of daytime programming, the ratings will suffer once the new programming schematic kicks in on October 13.

It was not that long ago that I had declared that The Hub was better than Cartoon Network. The diff, however, is that Hub wasn't reaching as many homes as CN, Nick, and/or Disney combined. That and ratings fatigue from overplaying My Little Pony into the ground would be enough to write fini.

Toon fans have to hope, though, that Discovery will bring back their own line of toons, like the shows mentioned above and Tutenstein, the latter in time for Halloween. If they don't, then they're wasting everyone's time.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

You Know the Voice: Meet the voice behind Popeye (To Tell The Truth, 1974)

Well, blow me down!

Here's an episode of To Tell The Truth which leads with a guest appearance by Jack Mercer, the best known voice of Popeye. An excerpt from one of the spinach-eating sailor's 50's adventures precedes the game play.

I'll try to find the complete episode of Popeye & Olive on the moon soon.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Getting Schooled: The Flying House (1982)

When one thinks of the Japanese anime imported to the US in the 80's, one thinks immediately of Voltron or Star Blazers, a pair of serialized action anime that redefined the action cartoon, and introduced the idea of continuity into the genre.

However, before either one of those series reached our shores, Tatsunoko Productions of Japan, which was responsible for Speed Racer in the 60's, created an anime for younger viewers that would serve as a teaching tool at, say, a Vacation Bible School.

The Flying House lasted just 1 year total, 52 weekly episodes, from 1982-3, and was imported to the US for Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, coupled with Superbook, which we'll review another time. Today, the series' cable rights are held by Trinity Broadcasting and Smile of a Child, a children's network not as readily available as TBN is.

The plot sees three kids playing a game of hide and seek in a wooded area before a storm hits. They then encounter a scientist and his robot aide, whose house is really a time machine. The robot goes berserk, and the five are sent back to Biblical times. This series was rare in that it had both a beginning and an ending, as the kids were brought back to their own time in the series finale.

I never watched this show, so I cannot rate it fairly. We'll leave you with an intro:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tooniversary: Archie tries to avoid the Dance of the Killer Bees (Archie's Weird Mysteries, 2000)

From TBEntertainment and Archie's Weird Mysteries:

The episode is called, "Dance of the Killer Bees". Since I didn't see this, I can't rate it, but I think hypnosis plays a role in this one.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Isis uncovers the Lights of Mystery Mountain (1975)

With its 40th anniversary a year away, I thought we'd take another look at Filmation's Secrets of Isis.

This time around, Isis (Joanna Cameron) intercedes when two teenage boys get caught up in a con man's scheme involving fake UFO's and gold. If you pay close attention to Cameron's voice, both as Isis and her mortal alter-ego, Andrea Thomas, is similar to that of Yvonne Craig (Batgirl from Batman), which gets me thinking. Cameron didn't land another series gig after this show ended in 1978, but what if they'd tried a Batgirl pilot around that time, in the wake of the success of Wonder Woman? She'd have been perfect!

Marc Richards is credited with "developing" the series, and also created Ghost Busters for Filmation that same season. At least this was able to linger around for 3 years.

Rating: A.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Tooniversary: The 1st episode of Here Comes the Grump (1969)

DePatie-Freleng's Here Comes The Grump turns 45 this month, and here, we have the first installement, "The Bloonywoonie Battle", in which Princess Dawn & Terry, and eventually, the Grump himself (Rip Taylor) encounter a race of sentient balloons. The scene where Grump falls off his dragon was lifted from one of Friz Freleng's Looney Tunes shorts with Bugs Bunny & Yosemite Sam, with Sam in the Grump's role, riding a dragon.

And you wonder why DFE eventually landed a license to adapt Dr. Seuss' works......!

Rating: B.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Toon Legends: Pink Lightning (1978)

The Pink Panther encounters Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde---sort of---in this 1978 offering that doubtlessly ended up airing on his ABC show. Hyde (Bob Holt, methinks) decides to put his formula into his car, but Jekyll trades it in, and the Panther buys the Hydemobile for mere chump change. Of course, trouble follows.

Rating: B.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rein-Toon-Ation: The Jetsons, a la John Kricfalusi (2002)

After flopping with The Ripping Friends on 2 networks, including [adult swim], John Kricfalusi produced a series of shorts for [as], featuring The Jetsons, as well as Yogi Bear. Considering Kricfalusi's own warped imagination, well, this was bound to be a disaster, and it was.

Kricfalusi and his Spumco crew made George Jetson (Jeff Bergman, impersonating George O'Hanlon) and family far more dysfunctional than had been thought possible. This is not a good thing, especially considering it was the disrespectful dullards at [adult swim] who commissioned crap like "The Best Son":

Geez, you'd think the least they'd do is give Jane a pair of shoes. How many pairs of grey hose has she worn out over the course of 50+ years?

Rating: D--.

Saturtainment: Soul Unlimited (1973)

We've previously documented that there was a period in the 70's when American Bandstand was blacked out in my home district. The ABC affiliate at the time (now an NBC affiliate) opted for syndicated sports programming or other fare as a means of getting some extra local ad revenue.

What that meant in 1973, though, was that another Dick Clark entry would never be seen in upstate New York. Soul Unlimited was designed by Clark as his answer to Soul Train, which Don Cornelius took national two years earlier (the Train started as a regional show out of Chicago), perhaps feeling the ratings pinch in certain areas where the two iconic series would air head-to-head. Soul Unlimited would air on alternate weeks to give Clark a little time off the air, since he was also hosting The $10,000 Pyramid at the time.

Buster Jones was tapped as MC for the short-lived series, and because Soul Unlimited didn't air in my area, and perhaps several others, most of us would only become acquainted with Jones' voice 4 years later, as he signed on with Hanna-Barbera. His voice-over resume includes Super Friends (as Black Vulcan), Super Globetrotters, and, in the 80's, for Marvel-Hearst, Defenders of the Earth, and DIC's Real Ghostbusters.

Thus, the following clip is dedicated in Jones' memory, as he passed away recently at 71. Many thanks to fellow blogger Marc Tyler Nobleman for the tip. Marc has a short piece up at Noblemania.

Here's Buster, with the Sylvers.

Rest in peace, Buster. No rating for Soul Unlimited.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Blue (1973)

Pterixa brings a track from Butch Cassidy, with the Sundance Kids performing "Blue". Sadly, since we already have "Looking For Someone" elsewhere on this here blog, that represents the sum total of music from the show available presently on YouTube.

I'm begging WB to at least farm out the reruns to someone that's actually interested in them, since otherwise it sits in the vaults.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Rein-Toon-Ation: Eagle Riders (1996)

The third American adaptation of Japan's popular Gatchaman cartoons fell into the hands of songwriter-producer Haim Saban in 1996. Unfortunately, Eagle Riders, which adapted Gatchaman II & Gatchaman Fighter, failed to catch on here in the US.

While the characters and basic designs remained the same, the names were again changed. 65 episodes were produced, enough for 13 weeks of daily programs, much like the first American adaptation, Battle of the Planets. However, for whatever reason, only 13 episodes aired here, on Saturday mornings in syndication. Wikipedia claims it was a UPN series, but in truth it wasn't. It may have aired on UPN affiliates in different parts of the country (airing on the NBC affiliate here, which was a CBS affiliate when it aired Battle nearly 20 years earlier), but it was definitely not part of the network.

I didn't see much of the show to merit giving it a rating. We'll leave you with the intro. Part of the narrative was cut off by the poster, the cleverly monickered None.

For those who care, actor Bryan Cranston, before hitting it big in primetime with Malcolm in the Middle & Breaking Bad, is one of the voice actors in Eagle Riders. Like, who knew?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Toon Sports: Popeye takes up bowling (1960)

When Al Brodax, head of King Features Syndicate's TV division, began producing Popeye shorts, he in effect watered down the spinach-eating sailor's adventures into sitcom fluff.

Take for example "Strikes, Spares, & Spinach". Popeye (Jack Mercer) & Brutus (Jackson Beck) are frenemies in this one, but the rivalry over Olive Oyl (Mae Questel) remains. This time, the guys are taking turns teaching Olive how to bowl. The American Bowling Congress, thankfully, never considered using this as an instructional video.

During this era, if you've seen one, you've probably seen them all.

Rating: B.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Getting Schooled: Joya's Fun School, aka Time For Joya (1970)

I will freely admit I haven't seen any episodes of Joya's Fun School, or, to go by its alternate title, Time For Joya, and by the time cable TV came to upstate NY in the 70's, the series was already out of production.

Joya Sherrill had been a vocalist for jazz legend Duke Ellington, and reinvented herself with this series, which ran for 2 seasons of first-run episodes, airing on WPIX in New York, then continuing as a weekly series in reruns for an additional 10 years before signing off for good in 1982. It aired on Fridays from 1972-82, as Magic Garden ran 4 days a week in the same slot. Both shows moved to afternoons near the end of the run.

In a way, it was WPIX's answer to the more successful, long-running franchise, Romper Room. Let's take a look at an incomplete episode. Incomplete because it looks like the open is missing.

No rating.

Rein-Toon-Ation: The Three Musketeers (1973)

From Shogun1261 and Famous Classic Tales:

Five years after the studio adapted Alexandre Dumas' Three Musketeers into a component of the Banana Splits, Hanna-Barbera produced a more faithful adaptation of the classic novel. It's just too bad no cable network worth its salt can even be bothered to dust this off. Admittedly, this looks as though the open was edited off.

Edit: 10/7/15: The video has been deleted due to copyright issues.

My memory is vague when it comes to this. I can't recall seeing it, so I can't rate it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rare Treats: The backstory of Wacky Races

I happened across this little item, which comes, I guess, from the Wacky Races DVD. Interviews include Iwao Takamoto, Jerry Eisenberg (who did the character designs), and Hanna-Barbera's grand dame, Janet Waldo, one of two surviving cast members from the series (John Stephenson being the other). We know Janet can, at her advanced age, still do Judy Jetson, but can she call up Penelope Pitstop? Watch and see.

Wacky Races marked its 45th anniversary last year, and it's been 8 years since an attempt at a revival had at least reached the pilot stage. It wouldn't hurt to try again.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Toon Rock: Presenting......The Flintstone Canaries (1963)

From season 4 of The Flintstones:

Fred (Alan Reed) forms a barbershop quartet, but there's a problem. Barney (Mel Blanc) can only carry a tune singing in the tub. The newly formed Flintstone Canaries land a deal to do a commercial jingle, and, well, it doesn't end well........!

To give you some idea, here's the audition:

Henry Corden, who'd later be the full-time voice for Fred, reportedly did the singing in place of Reed. Blanc, on the other hand, had plenty of experience, having done some in-character numbers for Warner Bros. (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, et al). Shoot, for all we know, he could've released an album or two that'd be a collector's item today!

Rating: B+.

Monday, September 8, 2014

On The Air: Kid President: Declaration of Awesome (2014)

40 years ago, a little boy named Rodney Allen Rippy charmed viewers in a series of ads for Jack in the Box restaurants, if memory serves me correctly, such that CBS signed him on to co-star with the Harlem Globetrotters on their Popcorn Machine variety show, which lasted 1 season. Rippy's career didn't last too much longer after that.

Today, another precocious pre-teen has hit the airwaves, having used modern technology (read: YouTube) to spread his message of peace and fun, such that the Hub Network worked out a deal to bring Kid President to their channel. Had this been, say, 20 years ago, well, young Robby Novak would've been spreading his message on Nickelodeon.

Kid President: Declaration of Awesome, to use the show's full title, debuted as a Saturday night series in June, and presently, The Hub is sprinkling reruns on different nights of the week. I'm not sure if they have enough material available now to run the show 5-6 nights a week, but we gotta get this kid on earlier in the day. You know, like, after school, but that would break up the Hub's block of overplayed series (i.e. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, which was given mini-block treatment as recently as last week on weekdays), and they can't have that, can they? Of course not.

On YouTube, Novak has sat down with everyone from President Obama to Beyonce to NBA star Jeremy Lin. I haven't seen any of those interviews yet, but something tells me that the President isn't Robby's only role model. I wonder if he's been allowed to watch Arsenio or reruns of anything with Bill Cosby.........!

The Hub Network's YouTube channel offers this teaser:

We need more kids with fresh ideas. The problem is, Hub is already copying the other guys by playing their hits into the ground, and will burn out Kid President before his time. Not good. Stick to once a week with this kid, and the show will last longer.

Rating: A.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Daytime Heroes: Letterman in The Wigged Out Lady (1972)

It's been a while since we heard from The Electric Company's alphabetic hero, Letterman, so we'll start off today with the shortie, "The Wigged Out Lady". Posted in memory of narrator Joan Rivers, who passed away Thursday at 81.


If there was one failing, it's Rivers' lack of enthusiasm when introducing Letterman with a parody of Superman's famous intro. But when you consider these shorties usually run just 90 seconds or so, what can ya do?

Rating: A-.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

From Comics to Toons: Popeye in Goonland (1938)

Well, blow me down!

Popeye takes a trip to "Goonland" to locate his father, Poopdeck Pappy, who would return in a few more shorts down the line. Now that I think of it, maybe this Fleischer brothers short was part of the inspiration for Robert Altman's musical adaptation in 1980, with Robin Williams, Ray Walston as Pappy, and Shelly Duvall as Olive.

The thing I find most interesting is that, as Popeye sings at the start, Poopdeck had been missing for 40 years, which means Popeye himself isn't exactly a young man, quite a contradiction from prior and later adventures. The fact that Poopdeck wasn't exactly willing to go home was revisited when King Features revamped this story nearly 25 years later!

Rating: A-.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Toon Legends: Pink Panther in Pink Blueprint (1966)

Three years before he hit NBC, the Pink Panther was appearing in theatres in shorts that would later air on Saturday mornings. Hence, the "Official Pink Panther" channel on YouTube offers up 1966's "Pink Blueprint", complete with the theatrical open & closing cards. The subtle laugh track you hear was, I think, added for television broadcast.

William Lava conducted the orchestra utilizing Henry Mancini's iconic theme music. Lava had taken over as musical director at Warner Bros.' animation division before it was shuttered in the mid-60's. Otherwise, he's better known for the themes from F-Troop.

Rating: A.

Getting Schooled: Sweet Valley High (1994)

Teenage drama was popular in primetime during the 90's (i.e. Beverly Hills 90210), so Haim Saban figured, why not try this in daytime?

Saban had already gained a foothold with Mighty Morphin Power Rangers on Fox, which, for American audiences, mixed in some high school drama with the footage imported from Japan. His next move was to adapt Francine Pascal's Sweet Valley High series of teen paperback novels as a daily series. Granted, in some cities, it'd air opposite the Rangers, or would be a lead-in if the channel was a Fox affiliate. In all, Sweet Valley High ran for four seasons, the last an all-rerun year airing on UPN.

I wasn't the target audience, so I never saw the show and won't rate it. Never read the books, either. We'll leave you with the show open: