Monday, December 29, 2014

Toon Legends: Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976)

Christmas is over, but we still have New Year's Eve & Day later this week, and a pair of New Year's specials are on the ABC docket tonight.

The 2nd half of the double-bill is an encore of 1976's Rudolph's Shiny New Year, a sequel to the 1964 classic, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. This time, Rudolph (Billie Richards) returns from his annual Christmas Eve tour with Santa Claus (Paul Frees), only to be called on by Father Time (Red Skelton) to locate Happy, the baby New Year, who has fled to the Archipelago of Lost Years, unhappy because of his oversized ears (think "Dumbo"). Aeon the Terrible, a vulture, wants to keep Happy from succeeding Father Time so that the current year can continue uninterrupted, but you can't stop the normal nature of things, can you?

Morey Amsterdam and Frank Gorshin are also in the cast for this one, which moves back to ABC this year after airing on ABC Family the last several years.

For a sequel, there is a bit of a continuity error, and it has to do with Rudolph's antlers. Unless they regenerated after breaking, they should be bigger than they appear in the show. Also, around the same time this aired, DC Comics had released an oversize Rudolph comic book, which now is a prized collector's item.

Rating: B-.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Looney TV: Portrait of The Artist as a Young Bunny (1980)

I think this might have been one of the first times this next item has aired on Boomerang.

As part of the cable network's all-day Looney Tunes Christmas Day marathon, a made-for-TV short, "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Bunny", aired in primetime, and probably during other day parts, I don't know. Originally produced for the CBS primetime special, Bugs Bunny's Bustin' Out All Over, "Portrait" uses the title card and cue from the network's Bugs Bunny-Road Runner Show, which makes me think this might've eventually been used on the Saturday show as well.

Somehow, Elmer Fudd with corks in his guns really doesn't have the same impact.

Rating: B.

You Know The Voice: Allen Jenkins (1954)

Ask anyone about actor Allen Jenkins, and you're likely to get two distinctive answers:

1. He was a prolific character actor on radio, television, and in movies during the 40's & 50's, or.....

2. He was the voice of Officer Dibble on Top Cat, likely his only cartoon credit of note (1961).

Allen's in the spotlight today in a post that, were it not for my home computer being down again, would've been our last Countdown to Christmas entry. Jenkins guest-starred on The Red Skelton Show's annual Christmas show in 1954, an adaptation of O. Henry's The Cop & The Anthem. In it, Jenkins plays a hobo who's trying to convince Freddie the Freeloader (Skelton) to move to Florida for the winter. Good luck with that.

A lesser known actress, Sara Berner, who went uncredited on a number of shorts for Warner Bros. in the 40's, is also among the guests.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Literary Toons: The Puppy's Further/Great Adventures (1982)

In 1978, Joe Ruby & Ken Spears adapted a little known children's book, The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy, for the ABC Weekend Special. The episode proved so popular, with its annual replays, that ABC commissioned an ongoing Puppy series.

First, the adventures of Petey the Puppy were coupled with Scooby & Scrappy Doo in a hour-long block, which didn't really make much sense. The following year, Petey and pals were spun off into their own half-hour standalone series, under the title, The Puppy's Further Adventures, rechristened The Puppy's Great Adventures when the series went into all-rerun mode, first on ABC, then CBS.

Petey (voiced by Billy Jacoby here) doubles as narrator, and there was some sparks between Petey and Dolly (Nancy McKeon, The Facts of Life), too.

Following is a sample episode:

Too bad Cartoon Network is sitting on this one right now.

Rating: A.

Merry Christmas, everyone. We're off until Friday.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: The Tiny Tree (1975)

I previously posted this next item over at The Land of Whatever a ways back, but it belongs here, too.

The Tiny Tree, produced by DePatie-Freleng for CBS, bowed in 1975. Music by Roberta Flack, and Buddy Ebsen (Barnaby Jones) headed the voice cast as Squire Badger. There's no rating for this one. Just enjoy.

Monday, December 22, 2014

On The Air: Sonic Boom (2014)

Sonic the Hedgehog returns in all new adventures, and on a new home, with the launch of Sonic Boom on Cartoon Network.

Sadly, it seems the bloom's already off the rose for this CGI entry, as CN has slotted it in a double-play block on Sunday mornings at 6 am (ET), hardly a prime spot. The fact that it is, at its core, an action cartoon, moreso than a comedy-adventure show, works against it. Still, the CGI animation works better for Sonic, whose roots, of course, are in video games, than the Japanese anime of his last series, Sonic X.

Some new characters have been added, including Stix, a badger, but those who remember the first series from the 90's will be slightly disappointed to see that Sonic's old sweetie, Princess Sally Acorn, is not around. In fact, there are two schools of thought, if you go by message boards, in regards to Sally, as it seems the mallet-wielding Amy Rose is Sonic's current love. I've been out of the loop with Sonic for so long, so you'll excuse my ignorance.

Anyway, let's scope out this sample clip:

Dr. Eggman, nee Robotnik, hasn't changed. For a guy with a genius IQ, he's still a loser.

Rating: B.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

On The Air: Transformers Rescue Bots (2011)

The Hub (now Discovery Family) has kept the Transformers cartoon franchise alive here in the US, with one of the more recent entries being Transformers Rescue Bots. Of course, it is meant to drive sales of the long running toy franchise, especially now that FCC regulations regarding such things have long since been relaxed.

You won't see any of the familiar characters from the main franchise, as Rescue Bots is a sort of beginner level series, aimed at the younger kiddo's. Here's the intro:

Meh. Rating: B.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: A Pink Christmas (1978)

Part of the deal that brought the Pink Panther to ABC after 9 seasons on NBC was that ABC would offer something that NBC hadn't considered----a primetime special.

A Pink Christmas unspooled in 1978. I will tell you now that there won't be a rating, because I didn't see it when it first aired. It is also a loose adaptation of O. Henry's The Cop & The Anthem, most famously adapted years earlier by Red Skelton.

I'm not sure if this has aired on cable in recent years. You'd think it would.

Looney TV: Bugs Bunny & Elmer Fudd for Kool-Aid (1960?)

As we've documented, General Foods, now part of Kraft, had contracted with Warner Bros. during the 60's to use some of the Looney Tunes crew for commercial endorsements. Now, here's one that probably hasn't seen the light of day in over 50 years.

Here, Elmer Fudd is selling pre-sweetened Kool-Aid, which is new at the time, but Bugs Bunny is trying to cut in. In later years, Bugs would also pitch Tang and some of the Post cereals (Post now is owned by a German company.).

What makes this more of a collector's item is that this was directed by Fred "Tex" Avery, who hadn't worked with WB in several years.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Daytime Heroes: Code Lyoko (2003)

If you've wondered why the French studio, Moonscoop, has been very busy obtaining American properties such as Sabrina, chalk it up to the success they enjoyed after importing Code Lyoko to the US.

Code Lyoko debuted in 2003, airing in the US on Cartoon Network as part of its Miguzi block. In all, the series ran for 4 years, with a finite ending that not many of us have seen here.

The story is built around 5 teenagers, later 6, who fight in the virtual world of Lyoko against a rogue artificial intelligence, XANA, which has gained control of Lyoko. For a good part of the run, one of the kids, Aleita, was in Lyoko full-time, but eventually returned to the real world. In the last episodes I remember seeing, I think they were trying to build a relationship between Aleita & Jeremy, the team leader.

Today, Kabillion has the rights to the series, but on some cable systems is only available as a On Demand service.

Following is a sample episode:

Rating: B+.

Animated World of DC Comics: Chase Me (2003)

You've heard about this one, I'm sure.

Batman pursues Catwoman through the streets of Gotham City in "Chase Me", a featurette which accompanied the DTV, "Mystery of the Batwoman". There is no dialogue. Instead, there is a jazz soundtrack composed by Lolita Ritmanis.

The only downside is that this was based on the 1997 revamps of the Bat-toon cast when Batman shifted from Fox to WB. Catwoman looked much better in her grey costume (1992-7), in this writer's opinion.  If she wanted to steal something significant from Batman, she should've settled on the one thing that matters. His heart.

Rating: A-.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Toon Legends: The Mouse of Tomorrow (1942)

Mighty Mouse wasn't always using that name. Initially, Paul Terry had christened him Super Mouse, as he was always meant to be a parody of Superman. However, in 1944, after 2 years of shorts, Terry learned that Timely Comics (now Marvel) already had a copyrighted character named Super Mouse, forcing the name change. Subsequent reissues of the 1942-4 shorts included new title cards and dubbed over narration.

Here, then, is the short that started it all. "The Mouse of Tomorrow". Castle Films got their hands on a negative of the original, and it is a collector's dream. The narrator, it appears, would be radio (and later TV) announcer Ken Roberts:

Primitive, yes, but you have to start somewhere, right?

Rating: B-.

Toonfomercial: Bugs Bunny for Holiday Inn (1989)

Holiday Inn hotels sought to help honor Bugs Bunny on his 50th anniversary, so they asked Warner Bros. if they could use Bugs and any other Looney Tunes character for a promotion.

The end result is the following commercial, in which Elmer Fudd is aided by a Holiday Inn doorman (John Larroquette, Night Court), but you know how this ends the minute Elmer appears.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

On The Air: NFL Rush Zone (2012)

While the NFL is pushing its "Play 60" initiative for youngsters, they also sanctioned an animated series currently airing on Nicktoons.

NFL Rush Zone is in its 3rd season, airing on Sunday mornings, with replays during the week, including Saturday mornings, and for those who want action and adventure, well, where've you been?

It all started with a young boy named Ish in season 1, tasked to protect the shards of some sort of core device. The shards are hidden in all 31 NFL stadiums (32 teams, I know, but remember, the Jets & Giants share a stadium). Ish was given his own team of Guardians, and, subsequently, each succeeding season has had subtitles added. For example, Season 3 is subtitled, Guardians Unleashed. NFL players & coaches, including Jets coach Rex Ryan, Houston Texans star JJ Watt, and the ever-present Peyton Manning, have contributed to the series.

Why Nickelodeon isn't repurposing Rush Zone on Nick itself, I don't know. Their mistake, as usual.

Right now, here's the intro for the current season:

There's also been a comic book version of the series, and this year, Panini included the Rusherz as part of their NFL Sticker Collection, which is available at Target, Dollar Tree, and some hobby shops.

Rating: A.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Toons After Dark: Home Movies (1999)

UPN's loss ultimately became a boon for [adult swim].

Home Movies lasted barely more than a month on UPN in 1999, as the network had little patience when it came to ratings, especially for animated series. 2 years later, Cartoon Network acquired the show, and ran the complete 1st season on [adult swim]. The ratings got better, and 3 additional seasons were produced between 2001-4.

Whereas the first season was produced using the Squigglevision process created for Comedy Central's Dr. Katz, Occupational Therapist, and the ABC Saturday morning series, Science Court, the series changed animation houses for season 2 and switched to flash animation, which improved the quality of the show. Comic Paula Poundstone (Science Court) didn't return when production resumed for season 1, and the only other familiar name in the cast has become famous in his own right, H. Jon Benjamin (Archer, Bob's Burgers).

Here's a sample episode:

Rating: C.

Rein-Toon-Ation: Police Academy (1988)

The success of the Police Academy movie series gave rise to an animated daily series that lasted 1 year (1988-9). Perhaps the reason it failed to catch on might be that Ruby-Spears & Warner Bros. couldn't convince the movie cast (i.e. Steve Guttenberg, Bubba Smith, Michael Winslow, et al) to contribute to the cartoon, which was set between the 4th & 5th films in the series. Aside from veterans Howard Morris & Frank Welker, the cast for the cartoon was made up largely of unknowns. Ironically, Winslow got his start in cartoons (Space Stars) 7 years earlier, and would've had the easiest job reprising as Larvell Jones.

Today, the series sits in WB's vaults after having been released on DVD, and at no time do I recall it airing on either Cartoon Network or Boomerang. To help refresh your memory, here's the episode, "Worth Her Weight In Gold":

Rating: C.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

This year, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer marks its 50th annual broadcast. Next year, that honor goes to the very first Peanuts special, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

The plot is really very simple. Charlie Brown and friends improvise a Christmas tree in time for a school pageant. Predictably, the tree isn't up to standards, but it's the spirit of the season that counts more.

The highlights include the debut of Vince Guaraldi's "Linus & Lucy", an instrumental composition that has been used in many a Peanuts special since, and Linus reading from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2, explaining the birth of Jesus.

Edit, 12/4/2020: The video is no longer available in complete form. In its place, we will use a title card.

Many of us got our first Bible lesson courtesy of Linus. Who knew?

Rating: A+.

Countdown to Christmas: Cricket on the Hearth (1967)

The following was originally published on my other blog, The Land of Whatever, back in 2010:
Here's a Rankin-Bass production that somehow has been lost to the mists of time, having not gotten as much airplay as the rest of the R-B line. Cricket on the Hearth is based on a story by Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol), and, as with virtually every other R-B special, is star-packed, with an all-star cast headlined by Danny & Marlo Thomas. Marlo was starring in That Girl around this time, so this might've aired on ABC, I'm not sure. The cast also features actor-singer Ed Ames (Daniel Boone), Abbe Lane, and Roddy McDowell as the titular cricket. Also, Hans Conreid reunited with Danny Thomas, as he'd been a regular on Make Room For Daddy before turning to animation.

Right now, let's take a look. Turns out this was a collaborative effort between Rankin-Bass and Danny Thomas' production company he had with Aaron Spelling.

Edit, 12/4/2020: Had to change the video, and this version has a live-action intro with Danny Thomas at the piano.

Seeing as how I've never seen this show, I cannot rightly give it a rating. It is, however, available on DVD in a compilation package.
I'm just begging someone to air this now, with Christmas 2 weeks away.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Toon Rock: Popeye in Riot in Rhythm (1950)

"Riot in Rhythm" is a remake of the Fleischers' "Me Musical Nephews", in which Popeye's 4 nephews have taken up music, but rather than go through their boring lessons, the boys want to rock. Check it.

Simply one of the best.

Rating: A++.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

From out of the Recycling Bin: Toon Heads (1992)

One of the reasons older viewers have tuned out Cartoon Network in recent years might be the cancellation of the anthology series, Toon Heads, which usually aired on Sunday nights. Even though only three seasons worth of episodes were produced, the network kept the show running for 11 years (1992-2003), bringing it back for a 1 shot special in 2005.

Toon Heads was informative as well as entertaining. An off-screen narrator explained the history of certain characters (i.e. Tom & Jerry, Elmer Fudd) and offered trivial facts about creators such as Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, and Bob Clampett, or actors like Daws Butler and Mel Blanc. In fact, CN's subsequent anthology packages devoted to the works of Jones, Avery, & Clampett could be considered spin-offs from Toon Heads as they mined the same ground.

Unfortunately, no complete episodes are available. What is, however, is a network promo and the intro:

It's just too bad CN can't be bothered to bring this show back again.

Rating: A.

It Should've Been on a Saturday (Morning): The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo (1996)

Nickelodeon never believed in putting all their eggs in one basket. Their philosophy has been, and will remain until someone convinces them otherwise, is to take a hit series and drive it into the ground. Somehow, some of their live-action shows have avoided this dubious fate.

One of those shows was The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, about an Asian-American teen (Irene Ng, who was actually out of her teens when the series began) who solves crimes that baffle the police. Oddly enough, she works as an intern at the police department, and that's how she gets her cases.

Helping Shelby is her sage grandfather (Pat Morita, ex-Happy Days, in his final TV series role), an innkeeper, who keeps advising against solving crimes, but still ends up coming to his granddaughter's aid. The first three seasons were set in Florida, but after the Canadian studio, Cinar, joined the production of the series, the Woos were relocated to Boston. Go figure.

Here's a sample intro:

I think Shelby was meant to be an Asian Nancy Drew, but, aside from a rerun airing in 2011 during TeenNick's The 90's Are All That block, Shelby's been locked in the Viacom vaults. How's that for respect?

Rating: B.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: Christmas Comes But Once A Year (1936)

I think the last time Max Fleischer's "Christmas Comes But Once a Year" aired on TV was on Cartoon Network's now-defunct Toon Heads anthology series, and eventually, we'll get to that. For right now, though, let's take a look at this Golden Age Yuletide treat.

A break from the usual for the Fleischer studio. As we saw with Popeye's holiday shorts, the Fleischers know how to do Christmas right.

Rating: A-.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Countdown to Christmas: The Christmas Phantom (Archie's Weird Mysteries, 2000)

Let's start our annual Countdown to Christmas with a Yuletide offering from Archie's Weird Mysteries. To my knowledge, the episode, "The Christmas Phantom", may in fact be the only time Archie Andrews and his friends had a Christmas episode in any of their incarnations (I can't speak for the New Archies just yet). I didn't see this episode, so there's no rating. Rather, it's here for your perusal.