Sunday, November 30, 2014

Toon Sports: Popeye & Bluto play football (The Football Toucher Downer, 1937)

You would notice that many of the titles of Popeye's shorts in the Fleischer era referenced the spinach-eating sailor's speech impediments. No one outside of Norm Crosby fractured the English language like Popeye did. It was part of his charm.

Last month, we featured Popeye in a baseball themed short, "The Twisker Pitcher". Now, from 1937, here's "The Football Toucher Downer".

Today, someone like Bluto would land on an NFL team as a defensive lineman. Popeye? A place kicker, given his size.

Rating; A.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Literary Toons: Tarzan and the Vikings (1976)

From Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle:

The Ape Man (Robert Ridgely) discovers a tribe of Vikings, descended from a tribe that had landed in Africa more than 1,000 years earlier. Everything else is, well, predictable......

Lord of the Jungle has been described as the most faithful adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs books, topping not only the movie series, but also Ron Ely's 1966-8 live-action series. Disney's subsequent adaptation, while it went far off the track, also enabled Tarzan to be well spoken.

Rating: B.

Sunday Funnies: Fantastic Max (1988)

The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera was looking for new concepts as it began its 4th season in 1988. What they got was their first preschool hero.

Fantastic Max lasted two seasons, and told the story of a toddler blessed with coherent speech and intellect at such a young age, aided by a robot from the planet Twinkle-Twinkle. I never saw the show, so I can only rely on the research I did. Let's serve up the intro:

FX, Max's alien doll sidekick, was voiced by Nancy Cartwright, who did some work for Hanna-Barbera in the 80's before a certain yellow-skinned juvenile made her famous, first on The Tracey Ullman Show. The voice cast also included Lorenzo Music (Garfield & Friends), Gail Mattheis (ex-Saturday Night Live), Phil Hartman (Pee-Wee's Playhouse), and Benji Gregory (Alf).

No rating.

Friday, November 28, 2014

On DVD: Superman: Brainiac Attacks (2006)

2006 was not a good year for Superman.

The live-action "Superman Returns", meant to be a retelling of "Superman 2", wasn't exactly big box office. Making matters worse, Warner Bros.' animation division released a DTV that was even worse.

"Superman: Brainiac Attacks" has one thing going for it, and that's the return of Tim Daly as the voice of Superman, with Dana Delany as Lois Lane. After 6 years away, Daly can still pull off the dual role of Superman & Clark Kent. Unfortunately, casting the villains was hit or miss.

Powers Boothe was called in to play Lex Luthor, as apparently, Clancy Brown was either unavailable (SpongeBob SquarePants might have something to do with it), or wasn't asked back after yeoman's work for nearly a decade as Luthor. The end result? Well, Boothe paid more attention to Kevin Spacey's attempted homage to Gene Hackman in "Returns", and went a little over the top. Lex's sexy sidekick, Mercy Graves, ends up going 1-on-1 with.........Jimmy Olsen, who has a crush on her. Granted, Mercy (Tara Strong, replacing Lisa Edelstein) tells Jimmy she finds him cute, but that may have been just a ploy, nothing more. Meanwhile, Jimmy finds that a Daily Planet food critic has the hots for him, and that's a running joke for much of the 76 minute movie.

The plot, such as it is: Brainiac returns to Metropolis, his ship disguised as a runaway meteor, which happens to crash into LexLabs. Brainiac (Lance Henriksen, ex-Millennium) steals the data from the computers, then hijacks a multi-million dollar satellite that Lex just sent into space, and uses it against Superman. Somewhere along the way, Lois is taken ill, thanks to something injected into her bloodstream, and Superman must travel to the Phantom Zone to find a cure.

Here's the trailer:

Complicating matters is Supes contemplating disclosing his dual ID to Lois, but we don't quite get there. I think if they'd continued to animated series, they'd have gotten to that point eventually. Bruce Timm's designs still work, but Timm had nothing to do with the movie, which is a shame, because he would've made more sense out of this. Too many subplots spoil the party.

Rating: C.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sunday Funnies: Secret Squirrel meets Scirocco Mole (1993)

In 1993, Hanna-Barbera brought back Secret Squirrel as the backup feature of 2 Stupid Dogs. In fact, the Dogs make a cameo appearance, along with Yogi Bear, when Super Secret Secret Squirrel (Jess Harnell, mimicking Mel Blanc), is on a talk show to discuss Morocco Mole's twin brother, Scirocco.......

Oh, you didn't know Morocco had a brother? Well, at least we can give the writers credit for expanding on the family tree.

No rating, as I never saw this episode.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

You Know The Voice: Janet Waldo on The Lucy Show (1962)

Episodes of The Lucy Show have become available on YouTube, Dailymotion, and elsewhere, and if memory serves, they have been on Hulu of late. Anyway, we told you before that cartoon grand dame Janet Waldo had made a guest appearance on the show, and here it is, from the 1st season (1962). She plays Marge, the newlywed sister of Lucy Carmichael (Lucille Ball), who visits Lucy after her first spat with her husband. Funny thing. Said husband is played by Peter Marshall, 4 years before The Hollywood Squares made him an icon!!

Janet has long since been bestowed iconic status, and now you know why, having worked with not only Bill Hanna & Joe Barbera, but also Lucy, and Andy Griffith, among others. At 90, she's still going strong.......

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Personal Favorites: Stalker From The Stars (Thundarr The Barbarian, 1980)

Thundarr The Barbarian faces a very odd foe in the episode, "Stalker From The Stars".

A spider-like space vampire lands on 40th century Earth, and begins capturing human prey to take back home for food. One of his victims is Princess Ariel, and for Thundarr (Robert Ridgely) and a flu-ridden Ookla (Henry Corden), that makes it personal.

The quirk in the script is obvious in the final part. Earlier, the Stalker had webbed up Ariel's hands to block her magic, but she seemingly has magic powers throughout her body. One simple kick frees her hands. Later, after being completely coccooned, Ariel is able to get herself out by making the coccoon disappear, when Thundarr wasn't able to penetrate the alien webbing to save an elderly man. The easy excuse is that the Stalker caught Ookla's cold, which weakened the strength of his webbing as the story went on.

Edit, 7/20/20: The video was deleted. For now, we have a screen shot of a scene from the show:

Stalker from the Stars

Rating: A.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Animated World of DC Comics: The New Adventures of Batman (1977)

Batman returned to CBS after 7 years away in February 1977, even though reruns of Super Friends were still airing on ABC at the time. The series cycled though in reruns on CBS until 1980, when it moved to NBC for one last cycle. The fact that rival Hanna-Barbera held a license of their own for the DC characters, one that would be renewed a few months after New Adventures launched, precluded Filmation from moving forward with a 2nd season.

There were a number of changes:

1. Villains: Even though he was included in the open, the Riddler wasn't used, as he'd been acquired, along with Scarecrow, by H-B, and would return in Challenge of the Super Friends the next year. Made-for-TV foes from the 1968 series, Simon the Pieman & The Judge, were not brought back. Instead, new villains were developed in the form of Sweet Tooth, Prof. Bubbles, Electro (not to be confused with the Marvel villain of the same name), and the Moonman.

2. Character designs: The only cosmetic changes were on three characters. For starters, Police Commissioner James Gordon was given the same look he had in the comics, with silver hair and a mustache, as opposed to being clean shaven & brown haired 9 years earlier. Robin's costume tunic had been color-reversed to avoid confusion with the Super Friends model. Catwoman traded in her green turtleneck jumpsuit for a brown leotard & tights, and her hair color changed from black to brown as well. The Princess of Plunder got the worst of the deal.

3. Casting: The big selling point, of course, was the return of Adam West & Burt Ward as Batman & Robin. Filmation needed to recast the leads with Olan Soule & Casey Kasem now at H-B. The studio's leading lady, Jane Webb, however, was not brought back to reprise as Batgirl & Catwoman. Instead, a relative newcomer, Melendy Britt, stepped in, as Webb was being phased out. Webb's last Filmation job was the Archie-Sabrina Hour for NBC in the fall of '77. Also, with Ted Knight wrapping up The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and seemingly retired from toons (his last Filmation work was Lassie's Rescue Rangers), veteran writer-actor Len Weinrib took over the roles of Gordon, Joker, Mr. Freeze, & Penguin, in addition to various subordinates and the new villains. His Sweet Tooth voice, for example, was a riff on Paul Lynde, and, as noted before, his Moonman might have been partially inspired by Casey Kasem, but not all the way. Co-executive producer Lou Scheimer went uncredited as the Bat-Computer, various incidental characters, and Bat-Mite, the 5th Dimensional imp whose attempts at aiding the Masked Manhunters were disasters waiting to happen, counter-balanced by his crush on Batgirl. Weinrib voiced the villain Zarbor, who came from Bat-Mite's world, and appeared in the final 3 episodes. Scheimer would recycle and modify his Bat-Mite voice for Orko (He-Man & The Masters of the Universe) just 5 years later.

In addition, in keeping with the comics of the day, Batgirl's dual ID of Barbara Gordon was known to the Dynamic Duo, and otherwise, Barbara was now an assistant district attorney, in contrast to the books, where she had been elected to Congress, a role she'd have until the early 80's. Also, as noted, while Bat-Mite carried a torch for her, in the books, Batgirl had to deal with Robin developing a similar crush that would lead to an on-again, off-again romance. Shoot, they'd even discussed marriage at one point. Bat-Mite couldn't be that lucky, even if he tried.

Some of the incidental music, composed by Ray Ellis (under the dual pseudonyms of Yvette Blais & Jeff Michael, which Ellis used at Filmation throughout the 70's), was lifted from live-action shows such as Shazam!. Like, couldn't they afford new music?

To refresh your memories, here's the open & close:

Rating: A.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Getting Schooled: Reading Rainbow (1983)

We all know that PBS' longest running children's program has been, and forever will be, Sesame Street, which marks its 45th anniversary this year. Few have come close to matching its longevity, and on a short list of series that trail behind Sesame, you're bound to find Reading Rainbow.

Reading Rainbow ceased production in 2006 after 23 seasons, all of which were hosted by actor LeVar Burton, who, at one point in the show's run, turned a rare hat trick by working on two other series concurrently. You might have heard of them----Star Trek: The Next Generation & Captain Planet. Talk about being busy.

For the balance of its run, Rainbow anchored PBS' afternoon block, and in some respects can be credited with a back-door pilot of a sort. After TV icon Bill Cosby read one of Marc Brown's Arthur  books, the titular character was given his own series, which continues to this day. The segments where celebrities such as Cosby read various books has its roots in CBS' long running Captain Kangaroo, which gravitated to PBS to finish its initial run in the mid-80's after CBS dropped it. Regardless of what you might think of Cosby now, given the torrent of salacious accusations lodged against him, his inclusion on Rainbow marked the entertainer's return to PBS, after being an original cast member of The Electric Company.

Given how PBS rebooted Electric Company into something completely different a few years ago, one would assume that if they choose to bring back Reading Rainbow at some future point, it too would undergo a needless reboot. Seems to me that when they relaunched Electric Company, they did so with the idea of trying to compete with certain broadcast cable networks that needn't be named here (though you know who they are). Can't see that happening with the Rainbow.

Here's a sample clip:

Too bad PBS took the reruns off the air in 2009, else today's kids could really learn something.

Rating: A.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Looney TV: Foghorn Leghorn for Oscar Mayer (1981)

Now, here's an ad that I have zero memory of seeing the first time around.

Oscar Mayer, now a part of the Kraft family at last check, contracted Warner Bros. to use Foghorn Leghorn (Mel Blanc) in a 1-shot ad in 1981. Foggy's on the beach, and, as usual, is befuddled by the kids he's with, in this case, humans.

And you wonder why Foghorn doesn't get that many commercial endorsements?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bad TV: Fighting Foodons (2002)

In 2002, Fox outsourced their Saturday morning lineup to 4Kids Entertainment. Unfortunately, the anime-heavy lineup did manage to lay a couple of eggs.

One was Fighting Foodons, which, as I understand it, was meant to be a satire on another, more popular import, Pokemon, and perhaps, in general, card games from which Pokemon and others were adapted for television. The series lasted just 11 1/2 months on Fox before being cancelled. Well, there was one worse anime on the roster, and we covered that a long while ago (Ultimate Muscle), which somehow lasted longer.

Anyway, to refresh your memories, scope out the open, and try to get a handle on how food recipes can become monsters..........

The theme music borrows a familiar melody that has been used for supermarkets such as Shop Rite in the past. The concept, if it was meant to be funny, wasn't.

Rating: D.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Looney TV: How not to record an audiobook, as taught by Foghorn Leghorn (2011)

GEICO went back to the Looney Tunes kennel to bring old foes Foghorn Leghorn & Henery Hawk together for an ad. Seems our favorite rooster was asked to record an audiobook version of an old Dickens novel......

Where was the Barnyard Dog when you really needed him?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Toon Rock: (Open Your Heart &) Let the Sunshine In (1965)

Hanna-Barbera missed out on a golden opportunity to do a soundtrack album from The Flintstones, that much is clear.

Consider that in addition to Fred doing the occasional number (with either Henry Corden or Duke Mitchell as a singing double for Alan Reed), you had Barney & Betty (Mel Blanc & Bea Benaderet) doing a duet in one episode, Ann-Margret and the Beau Brummels as musical guest stars, and, to top it all, they had Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm doing their first number, 6 years before their elevation to teenagers and forming their band, the Bedrock Rockers.

And, so, we present our preschool pop stars, performing "(Open Your Heart &) Let The Sunshine In", which was used as a closing theme for some episodes in the final season.

Toonfomercial(s): Two ads for Kellogg's (1959-60)

Here's two for the price of one.

As we have discussed in the past, Kellogg's sponsored some of Hanna-Barbera's earliest shows. That meant the stars would be doing in-show ads for various cereals.

First, Quick Draw McGraw (Daws Butler) is filming an ad for Rice Krispies. Eventually, after Kellogg's ended their association with H-B, Snap, Crackle, & Pop would be brought to animated life.

Then, Hokey Wolf (Butler again) schools Huckleberry Hound (Butler) on how to shill for Corn Flakes.

Hokey never got his own show, but H-B used Phil Silvers as inspiration for Top Cat, and, a decade later, Butler recycled his Hokey voice for Hair Bear, while Arnold Stang was cast as Top Cat, largely to avoid TC & HW sounding too much alike.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

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

PBS got into the Saturday morning business waaaaaaaaay too late. Their Bookworm Bunch block a few years back was a throwback to simpler times, but the Public Broadcasting System could've been a playa, if ya will, if they only were able to line up some of their weekday programming for Saturday consumption and as an alternative to the broadcast networks.

Exhibit A in this regard is Zoom, which had two runs totalling 13 seasons in all (1972-8, 1999-2005), and could've easily been plugged into a Saturday slot if needed.

Zoom was the creation of one Christopher Sarson, who served as executive producer for the initial run. The cast would change on a yearly basis, though there would be at least one or two holdovers each year. The kids did comedy skits, musical numbers, and even some dance routines, which might explain why the co-ed troupe all performed barefoot in the first two seasons, but added socks & sneakers in season 3.

Following is a sample open from the 1st season:

PBS and affiliate WGBH, out of Boston, revived Zoom in 1999, 21 years after the original series ended, with the same format. Sarson was no longer involved with the show, but his vision remained vital. Too bad PBS has it in the vaults now.

Rating: A.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Rare Treats: How ABC affiliates were introduced to Bugs Bunny & the Flintstones (1960)

Following is an excerpt from a closed circuit ABC affiliates presentation from 1960.

A trio of "network executives" are discussing the network's 1st primetime animated series, The Flintstones & The Bugs Bunny Show. One of the actors is radio veteran Harold Peary (ex-The Great Gildersleeve).

Of course, we all know the result. Bugs Bunny was moved to Saturday mornings after 2 seasons, and Flintstones lasted 6 years. The above clip was played for affiliates on the West Coast, but what I'd like to know is if they did this for the East Coast, as well.

Animated World of DC Comics: Batman Beyond vs. Bat-bot (2014)

Writer-artist Darwyn Cooke, the mastermind behind DC's successful New Frontier miniseries a few years back (which later became a movie), has crafted a salute to Batman as part of DC's ongoing celebration of the Dark Knight's 75th anniversary. Here, Cooke takes us back to the futuristic world of Batman Beyond as Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle) & Bruce Wayne (Kevin Conroy) have to deal with an intrusion of Bat-robots in the Batcave........

The problem with this one is that it starts in the middle, and doesn't have an ending, as if this was a teaser for something bigger. Like maybe a full-length movie that we haven't heard about. I was never keen on this alternate future in the first place, but it has its fanbase, like everything else in the Batfranchise.

Rating: C.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Toons You Might've Missed: Sgt. Savage and the Screaming Eagles (1994)

A while back, we discussed the 1995 G. I. Joe Extreme series. That wouldn't have happened had Sunbow, which gained a fresh license for the franchise, had succeeded in adapting a new addition to Hasbro's long running line of G. I. Joe action figures.

Sgt. Savage and the Screaming Eagles never aired on television. It was one of the earliest animated DTV's (Direct to Video), released in 1994, and used to promote Hasbro's newest action figures (commercials are included with the following video). Unfortunately, the toys didn't sell, and a year later, Savage was incorporated into G. I. Joe Extreme. Of the Eagles, only Mouse would later resurface, in a cameo appearance in the movie "G. I. Joe: Retaliation", last year, nearly 20 years after his debut.

And, so, for your entertainment pleasure, this is our way of marking Veterans Day. There will be no rating.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Meet Spider-Man's new teammate (for a night): Jessie! (Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors, 2014)

As if having Phineas & Ferb meet Spider-Man and some of the Avengers wasn't enough, the Web-Spinner (Drake Bell) welcomes another Disney Channel star to his show.

Jessie (Debby Ryan, ex-Suite Life on Deck) and her charges meet Spidey, and tangle with Morgaine Le Fey in the Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors episode, "Halloween Night at the Museum", which premiered on Disney Channel last month before airing on DisneyXD, home to the Marvel Universe block.

In the books, Spider-Man has hobnobbed with celebrities before, but not like this.....

Sorry, but the teaser is all we got for right now. Suffice it to say, it plays out as a typical Web Warriors episode, except that Spidey is the only hero on hand, and doesn't break the 4th wall as much as he normally would. Which is an improvement, given how badly this show started two years ago.

Rating: C+.

Looney TV: Yankee Doodle Daffy (1943)

Back to the Golden Age we go.

Daffy Duck is a talent agent, while Porky Pig is a studio executive looking to slip away for a round of golf. Daffy thinks he's got the talent find of the year. Notice how he doesn't mention Lana Turner by name ("The Sweater Girl"). Hmmmmm.

Either Daffy's skills as a talent scout are questionable, or Sleepy, his new protege, isn't all he's quacked up to be. Scope for yourself in "Yankee Doodle Daffy" from 1943:

I've seen this one at least a dozen times, and I've never really been totally impressed. And we would see better material from writer Tedd Pierce and director Isadore "Friz" Freleng down the line.

Rating: C.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Tobor, The 8th Man (1963)

Japan's Tobor, The 8th Man started as a manga (Japan's version of comic books), and made his way to television in 1963, imported to the US by ABC, but not airing on the network itself, 2 years later.

Tobor, or, 8-Man, as it was known in Japan, was the story of one of comicdom's 1st cyborg heroes. A police detective, killed in the line of duty, is brought back to life by a scientist who transfers his brain into an android, giving him fantastic powers. Tobor (robot spelled backwards) continues to this day in Japanese manga, but has not found the going any easier in America. The original cartoon lasted just 1 year, and out of 56 episodes produced, only 52 were successfully dubbed for English language broadcast. Winston Sharples, better known for his work with Famous Studios/Paramount/King Features, composed the English language theme, as cheesy as it sounds.

There will not be a rating, as I never saw the show, but we'll serve up the series opener as a service.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Looney TV: Pigs in a Polka (1943, 1948)

We all know the story of the Three Little Pigs. Shoot, both Disney & Warner Bros. have adapted it. In WB's case, it's been done multiple times.

WB's most famous adaptation would be the swinging "Three Little Bops", with Stan Freberg narrating. However, some years earlier, WB's then honcho, Leon Schlesinger, decided to do a satire on both the classic tale and Disney's "Fantasia" with "Pigs in a Polka".

The Blue Ribbon reissue was released 5 years after the original release, just in case anyone's keeping score at home.

Rating: B.

Krofftverse: Electra Woman & Dyna Girl vs. the Sorcerer (1976)

I think it's time we finally showcased Electra Woman & Dyna Girl, don't you?

Our distaff do-gooders lasted just the first season of Krofft Supershow, but would later get a new life on cable via reruns. A 2001 primetime revival never got past the pilot stage, but that will be discussed another time. Anyway, our heroines (Diedre Hall & Judy Strangis) tangle with the Sorcerer (Michael Constantine, ex-Room 222) in this two-part adventure.

Norman Alden co-starred as the duo's aide, Frank Heflin, and after the series was cancelled, went back to Hanna-Barbera to resume his role as Aquaman when Super Friends returned to all-new stories the following season. Speaking of the Sea King, the original voice of Aquaman, Marvin Miller, is the narrator.

Edit, 4/19/22: The video was deleted. In its place is a short excerpt that does more to acknowledge its Bat-origins, if you will:

Totally cheesy, and that was by design, but if this was supposed to parody Batman, it didn't quite work out that way.

Rating: C.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Toonfomercial: Remember Sugar Chex? (1970)

Chex cereals were the signature brand of Ralston-Purina's cereal division for years. But did you know there was something called Sugar Chex (formerly Sugar Frosted Chex)? To be honest with you, I didn't even know this existed, as it came and went in about a year or so.

Ralston-Purina obtained a license from Harvey Comics to use Casper and his nefarious uncles, the Ghostly Trio, in this spot.

A few years ago, Ralston sold their cereals, the ones that were still being made anyway, such as the Chex line and Cookie Crisp, to General Mills. Purina, meanwhile, is part of the expanded Nestle company. Go figure.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Krofftverse: Here's the story......of a werewolf named Brady (Bigfoot & Wildboy, 1977)

Yes, kids, Christopher Knight (The Brady Bunch Variety Hour) guest-starred on the Bigfoot & Wildboy segment of Krofft Supershow, which was likely in exchange for Kaptain Kool & the Kongs visiting the Bradys' Sunday night soiree. Christopher played a young man seemingly afflicted with lycantropy. Stress seemingly.

Edit, 11/5/21: Had to change the video, now in 2 parts:

Series creators Joe Ruby & Ken Spears also were responsible for the segment Bigfoot replaced, Electra Woman & Dyna Girl, so they were working for the Kroffts AND Hanna-Barbera for those two seasons (1976-8) before launching their own studio. Ya wonder, though, if they were able to reclaim the rights from the Kroffts, and if they did, could Bigfoot & Wildboy make a comeback?

No rating. I have no memory of seeing this episode.

Monday, November 3, 2014

From Comics to Toons: Popeye in Ancient Fistory (1952)

Popeye (Jack Mercer) parodies Cinderella in the 1952 short, "Ancient Fistory". In this story, Bluto (Jackson Beck) owns a pub, and Popeye is his chief cook, bottle washer, and servant.

As it happened, even though I never saw the film, it seems Jerry Lewis did it better a few years later in "Cinderfella". Go figure.

Rating: C. Not one of Popeye's best.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Piledriver (1987)

Although the chyrons on this next video appear to have been from both Saturday Night's Main Event and Friday Night Videos, trust me, "Piledriver", the title track from the then-World Wrestling Federation's 2nd CD in 1987, aired on the promotion's programming on Saturday mornings, too.

Wrestler Koko B. Ware had sung in his church choir growing up in Tennessee, and one wonders what might have happened had he chosen a musical career over wrestling. You know the supporting cast, I'm sure...........