Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Looney TV: The Lion's Busy (1948-50)

Someone thought that Beaky Buzzard, depicted as dumber than a bag of hammers in a couple of meetings with Bugs Bunny, was worthy of his own series of shorts. Well, it's all according to how one looks at it.

"The Lion's Busy" carries a 1948 copyright, but wasn't released until 2 years later for reasons known only to WB. Kent Rogers, the uncredited actor who voiced Beaky in his earlier appearances, had passed away, so Mel Blanc took over the role, using a voice similar to that of a Native American in Porky Pig's adventure with "The Lone Stranger", a Lone Ranger parody.

Due to the 2-year time lag, I honestly don't believe it deserves to be filed under "Tooniversary". Do you?

Rating: C.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Toons You Might've Missed: Stupidstitious Cat (1946)

Paramount's Famous Studios division produced a series of shorts known as Noveltoons during the 40's and 50's. Some of the characters, such as Playful Little Audrey, would find their way into comic books, and why not? The Jack-in-the-Box that served as the logo for the Noveltoons series would later be used by Harvey Comics, and the Noveltoons were later rebooted as Harveytoons for television.

Buzzy stars in "Stupidstitious Cat", from 1946. Buzzy, a crow with the dignity of a Southern gentleman, takes advantage of a cat hung up on superstitions. Believe it or else, that's Jackson Beck as Buzzy.

Courtesy of the Internet Archive:

It's like they tried to cram as many superstitions into nearly 7 minutes, and failed. This lagged until the end, when it seemed like they had to rush to the finish line.

Rating: C.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Toon Legends: Heckle & Jeckle in The Intruders (1947)

Time to wind the clock again, this time to 1947 for Heckle & Jeckle in "The Intruders". The video comes from a broadcast on the USA Cartoon Express.

CBS now owns the rights to the characters, but are reluctant to commission anyone to revive the franchise. What are they waiting for?

Rating: B.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

You Know the Voice: Casey Kasem (1977)

Our 2nd You Know The Voice entry today showcases one of our favorites, Casey Kasem.

If you thought Casey only got to impersonate Columbo on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast, well, you thought wrong! Musician-turned-producer Glen A. Larson caught Casey's act in the roast of Telly Savalas, and cast the King of the Countdowns in a 2-part Hardy Boys-Nancy Drew Mysteries episode, broadcast in October 1977. Casey dons that rumpled raincoat again, but the only complaint folks seem to have is that he didn't completely impersonate Peter Falk. He only had the hand gestures down, and knew how to stoop down just enough to effect the look.

Here's "The Mystery of the Hollywood Phantom", also at The Land of Whatever.

Toons You Might've Missed: Snagglepuss for Cocoa Krispies (1961)

Snagglepuss (Daws Butler) stumps the panel in promoting Kellogg's Cocoa Krispies in a parody of What's My Line?.

Too bad they don't make 'em like this anymore.

You Know the Voice: Janet Waldo (1947)

This next item can also be found on my other blog, The Land of Whatever.

By the time The Jetsons launched in 1962, actress Janet Waldo had perfected the teenage voice she used for Judy Jetson, thanks to a lengthy run on radio's Meet Corliss Archer. Janet joined the show around 1946 or earlier, as she wasn't the original Corliss. Anyway, let's go back to 1947 for "The Beauty Contest":

Friday, March 27, 2015

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Heartbreaker & I Need A Lover (1980)

From American Bandstand comes a double dose of Pat Benatar.

First up is Pat's debut hit, "Heartbreaker". After an interview conducted by host Dick Clark, Pat and the band return to cover "I Need a Lover", which was a hit for John Cougar (Mellencamp) a year earlier.

Toon Legends: Mighty Mouse in The Mysterious Package (1960)

"The Mysterious Package" was one of the first shorts Ralph Bakshi worked on for Terrytoons. Mighty Mouse heads off to outer space to rescue some kidnapped children, and finds an intriguing surprise. Not only is Tom Morrison the voice of Mighty Mouse, but he does all the voices.

Rating: A.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Animated World of DC Comics: The Great Kryptonite Caper (1968)

Superboy (Bob Hastings) puts his dual ID as Clark Kent at risk when Lana Lang uncovers a piece of green rock that has a damaging effect on the Boy of Steel in both of his identities, a side effect of "The Great Kryptonite Caper".

Sorry, Lana, but kryptonite is not meant to be jewelry, a fact that Lex Luthor would discover to his sorrow as well, several years later in the comics.

Rating: B+.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Thing meets Bigfoot (1979)

While folks are still trying to verify the existence of Bigfoot, the concept of such a creature would seem to be in the public domain, such that just about anyone could use him in a story.

Hanna-Barbera's 1st attempt had Bigfoot meeting The Thing in this 1979 short.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't some of the instrumental music sound like it was recycled from Super Friends over on ABC? It would've been even better if the Yancy Street Gang, used here as a reincarnation of the Bronto Bunch from Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm 8 years earlier, had stayed out of this story.

Rating: C.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Saturtainment: Foofur (1986)

Foofur spent 2 seasons on NBC, and was the last of three series Hanna-Barbera co-produced with SEPP (Smurfs & Snorks being the others).

Foofur (Frank Welker) has inherited his owner's home, but the executor, a greedy Mrs. Escrow, wants to sell the estate. Adding to the complication is the fact that Foofur engineered the escape of a few furry friends from the animal shelter, and has them stored at the house. Mrs. Escrow and her dog, Pepe, try to expose Foofur's operation, but of course you know it won't work. If this part of the equation sounds familiar, well, it might be derivative of another H-B series airing around the same time, the original Pound Puppies over on ABC.

Never saw the show, so I can't rate it, but we'll leave you with the open:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Animated World of DC Comics: Superman-Batman: Apocalypse (2010)

You see the title of this movie. "Superman-Batman: Apocalypse". You think, "oh, they're going to fight each other". You wish.

The title is misleading, and that is just the start of the problems. The movie is actually a vehicle to reintroduce Supergirl (Summer Glau) to the DCAU. Based on a comic book story drawn by Michael Turner and written by Jeph "Ear" Loeb, who these days works for Marvel, Kara Zor-El draws the attention of Darkseid (Andre Braugher), who needs a new captain for his elite guard, the Furies. I'm not on board with Granny Goodness having more of a masculine voice (in this case, Edward Asner, reprising from Superman: The Animated Series). Like, wasn't Roseanne Barr available?

Superman (Tim Daly) has his work cut out for him. Not only does he have to teach Kara Earth culture, he also has to deal with his closest JLA allies, Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg), the latter of whom decides that Kara should train on Themyscira. That doesn't end well. Kara winds up on Apokolips and is brainwashed by Darkseid.

In all, the movie is just tiresome. I didn't read the original story, and it's just as well.

Here's the trailer:

Rating: D+.

Toon Rock: Gorilla For Sale (late 90's)

Michael Ungar took the theme from Magilla Gorilla and reworked it, adding some new lyrics. Cartoon Network and Boomerang have played this pretty often over the years, but with the latter channel's recent revamp, it's doubtful "Gorilla For Sale" will be used again. It'd be a crime, though.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Tonto and the Devil Spirits (1966)

From Jack Wrather & Format Films' 1966 Lone Ranger series comes a Tonto solo story.

Tonto (Shepard Menkin) has to prevent an uprising caused by a false shaman (guest star Hans Conreid) in "Tonto & the Devil Spirits". Uploaded by Cartoon Jam.

I have no memory of seeing this one. Enjoy and let me know what you think. No rating.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Animated World of DC Comics: The Batman vs. Dracula (2005)

In between seasons 2 & 3 of The Batman, or perhaps during season 3, I can't remember, Warner Home Video decided to try out a DTV feature version of the series, pitting the Caped Crusader (Rino Romano) vs. Dracula. There really isn't a lot to like.

In most vampire movies, it usually takes three nights for a vampire's victim to be transformed into a vampire him/herself. In this film, conversion takes mere minutes, in order to move the story along.

Not a good idea.

It all starts when a common skel, who we don't see again the rest of the picture, offers Penguin (Tom Kenny, SpongeBob SquarePants) an opportunity to share some loot with him, hidden somewhere in the Gotham City Cemetery. The Joker (Kevin Michael Richardson) escapes, and Penguin takes advantage to flee Arkham Asylum himself. I've always believed that Penguin doesn't belong at Arkham, but rather a common prison, such as Blackgate, and whomever it was that decided to put him in Arkham made a poor decision.

Anyway, Penguin encounters Dracula (Peter Stormare) and is hypnotized into becoming his servant. A night watchman is Dracula's first victim, and, as noted, joins the undead in mere minutes, blowing a hole in the main plot right away. Considering story editor Michael Jelenic's more recent track record, maybe I shouldn't be surprised that he let this slip through. Enough digressing. Penguin convinces Dracula that if he wants to be top dog, he needs to eliminate the societal top dog in Gotham----Bruce Wayne.

To do that, Dracula decides to target reporter Vicki Vale (Tara Strong), whom Bruce has begun dating, or at least, is trying to forge a relationship. Given their history in the books, well, you know that won't end well. Vicki bears a close resemblance to Drac's dead wife. Uh-oh. Making matters worse, Joker is turned, and later captured by Batman, who uses his nemesis as a guinea pig for an experiment he hopes will save the city and defeat the vampire lord.

I'll spare you the lameness of the movie. We'll throw up a trailer, instead.

Rating: C-.

Saturtainment: Mystery Theatre (1980's)

If you lived in Boston in the 80's, or had cable in the surrounding areas, such as New York, chances are pretty good you got to see some classic mysteries from the 30's airing on WSBK on weekend mornings under the umbrella title, Mystery Theatre, usually with a voice over introduction by either Dana Hersey or another staffer.

Most of the time, WSBK aired the Charlie Chan movie series, first starring Warner Oland, then Sidney Toler, and, finally Roland Winters. Once those cycled through, they switched to Peter Lorre in the Mr. Moto series before going back to Chan.

A friend of mine regaled me one afternoon with his account of seeing one of the Chan movies, and he was amused by Chan's timely use of "Contradiction, please!", or, "Excuse, please!" to make a point, as if he thought the sleuth was showing up a cop or a suspect. So, I started tuning in, especially considering that I had started reading Earl Derr Biggers' original novels, long having been reprinted. Oh, there was comedy, but it was from Charlie's eldest sons, be it Lee (Keye Luke) or, in the later films, Jimmy (Benson Fong), who were used as sidekicks and comedy relief, and in Fong's case, usually in tandem with Mantan Moreland as Birmingham Brown.

To give you an idea, we'll serve up 1936's "Charlie Chan at the Circus", in which we're introduced to the original Chan Clan, years before Hanna-Barbera's adaptation of the Chan franchise. Turns out Charlie had 12 kids, not 10. His wife wasn't used in the cartoon for whatever reason.

The brother-sister team of George & Olive Brasno might be familiar to fans of the Our Gang comedies from appearances in shorts such as "Shrimps For a Day", but they were also, as shown here, a pint-size version of dance teams such as Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers. So supremely talented, they turned down an opportunity to appear in "The Wizard of Oz" because they were making more money as a touring act. Olive would later marry one of the Munchkins instead of playing one.

Rating: A.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Celebrity Toons: More Tribbles, More Troubles (Star Trek, 1973)

Star Trek's most popular animated episode, some might guess, is a sequel to a well beloved episode of the live-action series.

Unfortunately, episodes are no longer available in full form. Here, then, is the trailer for "More Tribbles, More Troubles":

Edit, 1/5/23: The video has long since been deleted. In its place is a screencap of Cyrano Jones (special guest Stanley Adams) and some Tribbles:

Out of Filmation's freshman class of 1973, Star Trek, unsurprisingly, was the most successful, but it wasn't the only adaptation of a TV series the studio produced that year. It just happened that Lassie's Rescue Rangers (ABC) & My Favorite Martians (CBS) flopped, and I think it might be because either one or both were slotted opposite Trek if my memory serves me correctly.

Rating: A.

Teenage Toons: The Archies visit an abandoned mine (Who's Afraid of Reggie Wolf?, 1968)

The Archies check out a supposedly abandoned mine, only to discover it's something else entirely. Not surprisingly, a certain prankster arranged the whole thing in "Who's Afraid of Reggie Wolf?". Dreamworks Classic, the current rights holder, now has a YouTube channel, from whence we get this episode.

Reggie, as you can see, gave himself away by acting calm through the whole thing. No sooner had Betty & Veronica blamed Archie, than Reggie, predictably, turned the blame his way by laughing. Real smart, Reg. NOT!

Rating: B.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Saturtainment: Kwicky Koala (1981)

Kwicky Koala marked the end of an era in cartoons when the series launched on CBS in 1981.

You see, Kwicky was the last creation of animator Fred "Tex" Avery, who'd signed with Hanna-Barbera some months earlier, and had also developed the Dino & Cavemouse shorts for the Flintstone Comedy Show (2nd series) in 1980. However, Avery passed away while the latter series was in production, and didn't get to see his last effort make it to television.

Kwicky (Bob Ogle) was supposedly from Australia, but 1) didn't have an Australian accent, and 2) had super speed, which was illustrated when he would abruptly disappear. To the uninitiated, it would seem as if he was teleporting. As it was, Kwicky was making things difficult for Wilford Wolf (John Stephenson). Somehow, you get the feeling that Avery had hoped H-B would acquire Droopy, who was over at Filmation at the time, but that wouldn't happen for another decade. To make up for it, Avery dreamed up Kwicky, figuring a hyper-fast koala bear would suffice as a substitute. All that was needed was to alter a few old Droopy gags.

There were three rotating backup features. Dirty Dog was looking for a free meal, and never getting it. Crazy Claws, with a voice inspired by Groucho Marx, was always one step ahead of his pursuer. The Bungle Brothers, a pair of dogs, never seemed to get on the right track.

Unfortunately, none of the shorts are available in English, or at all. We'll settle for the open:

Since the series ended, Kwicky hasn't been seen in reruns. The show wasn't as bad as you'd think, but some people at WB don't seem to believe there's an audience for a DVD release.

Rating: B.

From Comics to Toons: Heathcliff has a Close Encounter (1981)

From season 2 of Heathcliff's ABC series comes this interesting short, clocking in at just over 4 minutes.

Heathcliff (Mel Blanc) becomes the target of a teeny-tiny Martian who's looking for an Earth specimen. Well, seems this little man from Mars picked the wrong target. Here's "A Close Encounter":

Near the end, when Heathcliff creates a finger puppet lookalike of the Martian, you'll notice how Blanc slips in a little dose of Marvin the Martian. Considering that WB now has the rights to this cartoon, it's no longer an issue, is it?

Rating: A-.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Personal Favorites: Baseball Bugs (1946)

Major League Baseball begins its regular season on Easter Sunday. While preseason action is underway, let's scope out Bugs Bunny as a one-rabbit team vs. the bullying Gas House Gorillas in Baseball Bugs.

Animator Tedd Pierce is heard as the announcer for most of the short, before being replaced by Mel Blanc. Bea Benaderet is heard as the Statue of Liberty, who comes to life to scold one of the Gorillas at the end of the picture.

Rating: A+.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Krofftverse: Wonderbug in The Not-So-Great Race (1976)

Time to serve up some Wonderbug from season 1 of The Krofft Supershow.

As the title implies, Wonderbug is entered in a race after someone begins eliminating the opposition. Nothing says I'm a stupid crook like using a steamroller in broad daylight in front of witnesses. Then again, the writing on this show wasn't anything to write home about. Heck, the theme song was the cheesiest of all time.

Edit, 11/5/21: The video has been deleted.

Rating: D-.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Toon Sports: The Hup, Two, Three, Four 500 (Fender Bender 500, 1990)

The Fender Bender 500 goes airborne in the above video. It's actually more fun listening to Shadoe Stevens (American Top 40, ex-Max Monroe, Loose Cannon) calling the race. Wacky Races was never this wack.

Rating: B+.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Animated World of DC Comics: Batman: Year One (2011)

In 1987, Frank Miller, after his futuristic magnum opus, The Dark Knight Returns, went in the opposite direction to try to define Batman's, ah, rookie year.

I had read the original Batman: Year One arc in the pages of Batman (1st series), as illustrated by relative newcomer David Mazzucchelli, and found it to be a deep, entertaining read. Miller had re-posited Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, into a dominatrix/prostitute, giving her a short buzzcut that simply was SO un-Cat-like. We were introduced to not only future commissioner Jim Gordon as a police lieutenant from out of town, but Det. Arnold Flass and then-commissioner Gillian Loeb, among others. The idea was that Gotham City was rife with corruption. You know, much like, say, Chicago, during the Prohibition era, for example.

The movie version compresses a diary of events across one calendar year into a 1 hour-plus film that does not do its source material justice. Once again, WB gives DC the short shrift (see also their adaptation of New Frontier). This should've been a sprawling, more faithful adaptation, perhaps 2-2 1/2 hours in length, to properly match the original story.

The story is told from the perspective of Gordon (Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad), who has arrived in town with his wife, Barbara, and their unborn son. Bruce Wayne (Ben McKenzie, currently starring as Gordon on Gotham) is back home after 12 years abroad in training. Wayne travels to the East End in search, presumably, of his parents' killer, but runs afoul of an abusive pimp berating a teenage prostitute. A brawl breaks out. The kid kneecaps Bruce with a knife, then gets swatted aside. That brings Selina (Eliza Dushku, ex-Dollhouse) into the fray for her first meeting with Bruce, though she doesn't realize it. And, thus, the legendary love-hate relationship between them has its roots.

Gordon, meanwhile, and predictably, sets out to clean up the city, going after Loeb, who has ties to mobster Carmine Falcone (pronounced "Fal-co-knee", as opposed to the current characterization on Gotham), aka, "The Roman" (Alex Rocco). The reason for the glasses? He's practically blind without them.

Here's a trailer:

The animation is lush and striking. Not quite the toon noir of the 90's, but close enough. Too bad the story just races by the way it does. It's as if someone at WB thinks the target audience can't be trusted to sit through a longer film.

Rating: A-.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Tooniversary: Kimba the White Lion (1965)

Kimba The White Lion began as a manga (Japanese comic book) in the 50's, then transitioned to television 50 years ago, migrating to the US around the same time. The series enjoyed a brief revival in the 80s, as the original series aired on, if memory serves, Nickelodeon, while CBN had the sequel.

The funny thing is, the sequel went under the title, Leo The Lion. Leo was the actual name of the titular star in the original series, who was rechristened Kimba for American audiences, likely to avoid copyright issues with MGM, whose lion mascot was also named Leo.

Edit, 8/25/16: Hulu has dropped the series, so here's the intro:

No rating.

On DVD: Scooby Goes Hollywood (1979)

Ladies & gentlemen, I present unto you people's exhibit A as to why ABC ultimately changed the format for Scooby-Doo.

In the spring of 1979, ABC commissioned Scooby's 1st (and only) primetime special, Scooby Goes Hollywood, which allowed Hanna-Barbera the opportunity to parody some of ABC's primetime shows, including Charlie's Angels, Happy Days, & Donny & Marie, the latter of which was, I believe, ending its run around that time.

The plot calls for a little suspension of disbelief for hardcore Scooby fans. What looks like a normal episode of Scooby-Doo really has the gang on the set of their show, a la Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo, if you will. Tired of retakes of hazardous stunts, Shaggy (Casey Kasem) and Scooby (Don Messick) decide the time is right to make a go at "the big time"---primetime, that is, and convince a network executive (Rip Taylor, The $1.98 Beauty Show) to let them screen a series of pilots that are actually the parodies I referenced. Each one is worse than the last.

Edit, 9/11/18: The video has been deleted, so for now, we have this sample clip:

Ironically, H-B would obtain a license for animated spin-offs of both Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley over the next two years. One interesting sequence has Fred (Frank Welker), Velma (Pat Stevens), & Daphne (Heather North Kenney, Days of Our Lives) recalling their first meeting with Scooby, a flashback that would be retconned out 9 years later with the introduction of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. The trio then break into song, particularly a rewrite of the theme to the 1972-4 New Scooby-Doo Movies. Well, compared to Shaggy & Scooby's attempt at singing at the start, it's better than nothing.

This really wasn't my idea of a 10th anniversary salute to Scooby. A few months earlier, H-B & ABC served up another anniversary present in the form of, of course, Scrappy-Doo.

Where writers Duane Poole & Dick Robbins, two writers more closely associated with the Kroffts, failed was not allowing Shaggy to wear anything but his standard wardrobe. Would it have hurt for the ol' Shagster to break out a suit & tie?

Then again, H-B & ABC also whiffed on what would've been a real ratings blockbuster, pairing the Mystery Inc. team with the Super Friends, who could've stood the primetime exposure themselves. I would've taken that over this farce.

Rating: D-.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Rein-Toon-Ation: Free Willy (1994)

After it was a surprise summer hit in 1993, "Free Willy" was spun off into a short-lived Saturday morning cartoon series, co-produced by Warner Bros. and Canada's Nelvana, for ABC. While there were some movie sequels, the cartoon was unable to sustain the momentum of the first film, probably due to the one year time lag in between.

Free Willy continues the story of Willy and his human pal, Jesse, who now have a recurring nemesis in a corrupt oilman turned cyborg known as The Machine. Like, was this really necessary? Y'think maybe forcing a narrative that didn't belong was what led to cancellation?

Here's the intro:

Too, I think viewers might've been expecting a soundtrack featuring the late Michael Jackson, who recorded the hit, "Will You Be There?", for the first film's soundtrack, but of course, that wasn't happening.

I have no memory of watching the show, so there's no rating.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Celebrity Toons: Nanny & the Professor and the Phantom of the Circus (1973)

Here's a rarity from the ABC Saturday Superstar Movie.

The cast of Nanny & the Professor reunited for "The Phantom of the Circus", in which Professor Everett (Richard Long), Phoebe (Juliet Mills), and the kids not only take in a circus performance, but solve a mystery at the same time, with the help of Uncle Skylark, a Sherlock Holmes lookalike (Bernard Fox, Bewitched).

Presented for your perusal. I hadn't seen this previously, so I won't rate it.

Daytime Heroes: Spartakus & the Sun Beneath the Sea (1985)

Spartakus & The Sun Beneath The Sea aired during the week on Nickelodeon between 1985-7, then moved to Sundays for a rerun cycle when it was brought back in 1990. Produced in France, it was one of the first animated imports from that country to land here in the US, after we'd gotten shows from Australia, England, and Japan.

No rating. Never saw the show.

Toons After Dark: Bernard (2004)

Bernard was imported to this country from South Korea, among other places, making his American debut in 2004. Cartoon Network aired some of the shorts as part of their now-defunct Sunday Pants series, but have since lost the rights. Sister network Boomerang could use the shorts to break up the monotony of their current schedule.

Let's scope out Bernard's visit to "The Gym":

I think some of the shorts might've aired as time fillers on CN and/or Boomerang, and that's where I first met Bernard.

Rating: B-.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Animated World of DC Comics: The Teen Titans finally tie up a loose end----or do they? (2012)

From DC Nation, back when Cartoon Network actually gave a rat's butt about it.

The Teen Titans think they've finally nailed an old foe in Red X, who hassled them in the 2003-8 series. However, the mass unmaskings recall a scene from the Johnny Bravo crossover with Scooby-Doo 15 years earlier. As you'll see, it turns out Johnny and the Mystery Inc. gang had better luck solving their mystery........

It has degenerated from these shorts to the current, abysmal Teen Titans Go!, which CN is pimping on Boomerang in order to maximize appeal, while at the same time, continuing to alienate hardcore fans.

Rating: B-.

You Know the Voice: Jess Harnell (2010)

Feast your eyes on this:

We knew Jess Harnell could sing. Examples of this could be found on Animaniacs, for instance. But who knew the man could rock out?

Rock Sugar is a rock cover band that specializes in mashing up classic rock songs. Usually 2 at a time, sometimes 3. For example, the above track, "Don't Stop The Sandman", takes Journey's classic ballad, "Don't Stop Believin'", and attaches it to the instrumental intro to Metallica's classic anthem, "Enter Sandman". The two songs are actually separated by 10 years (1981-91). Seems they've played almost exclusively on the West Coast, though they have played some European festivals. I guess you could say they're somewhere below bands like Fozzy and Anvil on the rock spectrum.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Saturtainment: All Dogs Go To Heaven (1996)

Seven years had passed since Don Bluth's original All Dogs Go To Heaven had been released in theatres. A sequel followed, and in 1996, MGM decided to give it a go with a weekly series.

Steven Weber (ex-Wings) takes over the role of Charlie, who had been voiced by Burt Reynolds in the first film, and Charlie Sheen in the sequel, heading up an all-star voice cast that also includes some of the performers who were in the movies, including Dom DeLuise, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Bebe Neuwirth (ex-Cheers). Oscar winner Ernest Borgnine replaced Vic Tayback (ex-Alice) as the villain.

Sadly, I never saw the show, so there won't be a rating. Hulu brings us the opener.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Toon Rock: Birds of Prey (2011)

We've previously shown this as part of the Batman: The Brave & the Bold episode, "The Mask of Matches Malone", but I think, since some of us are still dealing with cabin fever with spring around the corner, we'll give you Catwoman, Black Canary, & Huntress doing some, ah, harmonizing.

Like, who knew?

Reinventing Secret Squirrel: How to celebrate Secret's 50th anniversary

I realize that this is low on WB's list of priorities, but it'd be a nice idea once in a while to throw a bone to older fans. Two of Hanna-Barbera's comedy heroes mark their 50th anniversaries this year. For right now, we'll focus on Secret Squirrel.

I was but a toddler when Secret and his BFF, Morocco Mole, debuted on NBC in 1965, and didn't really catch up until the reruns aired as part of the Banana Splits syndicated package more than a decade later. It wasn't enough that NBC was home to another 1st year spy spoof, Get Smart, and that another, slightly more serious series, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., was in its 2nd year. The network felt they needed something the kiddo's could relate to.

As it happened, Secret lasted two seasons, with the 2nd all reruns. Nearly 30 years later, the series was revived as Super Secret Secret Squirrel, a backup feature on the syndicated 2 Stupid Dogs. This also lasted two years, but was set in an all-animal world where Secret & Morocco no longer answered to a human boss. Too, their arch-foe, Yellow Pinkie, was transformed into something called Goldflipper. It's not that hard to make the connection, really.

The upshot to the remake was the addition of a female squirrel, Penny, who graduated from secretary to field agent during the course of the series. And that, dear friends, is where we start considering a 50th anniversary for Secret.

I get what they were trying to convey from 1993-5, that Secret no longer needed to be interacting with humans. However, more people are apt to remember the original series than the remake. Sure, the writing was inconsistent at times in both cases, as the writers would fall off the track. However, if we were able to put together a movie that would recognize the history and pay homage to Secret at the same time, whilst allowing an opportunity to, ah, pass the torch, giving Penny all the weapons, plus the trenchcoat and hat-mask, it would reintroduce the cast to a new audience.

Warner Bros. is simply reluctant to reach into the H-B library to revive anyone not named Jetson, Flintstone, or, of course, Scooby-Doo. With Secret Squirrel, you have a story waiting to be written. Secret retires, Penny assumes his code ID, we learn something about the Pinkie/Goldflipper connection, and, perhaps, something else entirely regarding Secret & Penny.

Archie Comics used the 30th anniversary to have Secret team with Atom Ant in a 1-shot adventure. The ball's been in WB's court for a while, so what are they waiting for? Let me suggest, then, that when the next James Bond movie comes out in about a year or so, Secret should return. Period.

To refresh your memory, here's the intro to the original series:

What do you think?

Saturday, March 7, 2015

From Primetime to Daytime: The Adventures of Champion (1955)

Actor-singer-sportsman Gene Autry thought his horse, Champion, merited his own show. First on radio, then on television.

In 1955, The Adventures of Champion made the transition from radio to TV, but lasted just 1 season, airing first in primetime on CBS. The series later moved to Saturday mornings, but was long gone from the airwaves by the time I was old enough to watch TV, so there won't be a rating.

The transition made sense, since a radio show about a horse didn't seem to have much behind it, either.

PizzaFlix serves up the episode, "A Bugle For Ricky":

Saturtainment: Deputy Dawg in Penguin Panic (1962)

A penguin on dry land? Yep. It could only happen to Deputy Dawg. The Internet Archive brings us "Penguin Panic".

Rating: B.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Looney TV: A Corny Concerto (1943)

Can you picture Elmer Fudd (Arthur Q. Bryan) conducting an orchestra, and badly? Bob Clampett did, and that's the basis for this short, "A Corny Concerto", from the Merrie Melodies line.

Elmer should've checked with his tailor, since his suit looked too big.

Rating: B-.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Johnny Sokko & His Flying Robot (aka Giant Robo)(1967)

After successfully importing anime such as Gigantor, Astro Boy, & Speed Racer, and movies such as "Godzilla" to America, the Japanese brought over one of their first live-action adventure series not named Ultraman.

Giant Robo launched in 1967, and was imported to the US 2 years later by American International under the title, Johnny Sokko & His Flying Robot. Research says it was well received here, but I have no recall of ever seeing it on local or cable channels. The series lasted just 1 season, predictably, and the last few episodes were cobbled together into a feature film released in 1970.

Here's the intro:

No rating.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Toons After Dark: The Goode Family (2009)

After Beavis & Butt-Head and King of the Hill, what could Mike Judge do for an encore?

How about taking a look at a more responsible family?

The Goode Family was a spring replacement on ABC in 2009, and despite Judge's best intentions and past successes, the series represented his first TV failure, lasting just 13 weeks. Well, it aired on Wednesday nights, and viewers had already turned thumbs down to an earlier series airing on the same night (UPN's Game Over), sending a message that if a cartoon is to succeed in primetime on a broadcast network today, it has to be on Sundays. That's the way viewers have been conditioned for 2 decades and change.

Regrettably, I never got to see the show, so there's no rating. Shout Factory brings us the opener.

Programming for dummies, or, what's wrong with Boomerang in 2015?

By now, you know about Boomerang, Cartoon Network's sister channel, having made some changes. The bumpers, using Hanna-Barbera toys from the 50's & 60's, with voice-over narration by actor-game show host John O'Hurley (ex-Seinfeld, Family Feud), have been retired in favor of some slick new graphics and voice-overs done by a much younger actor. That's the good news.

The bad? Programming has gotten very lazy. Double-play blocks dominate the schedule as of now, with Tom & Jerry, The Garfield Show, and 2 different Scooby-Doo series airing up to 3-4 hours per day. With all the material in the WB/Turner vaults, you'd think they could diversify the schedule. Numb Chucks, which was originally ticketed for CN last year, airs on weekends on Da Boom, as does Grojband. Yes, they have Boomerang Theatre back on the schedule, weekends at 9 am (ET), but how much d'ya wanna bet they replay the same movies over and over again every three months?

We're told that there are more changes to come, and that the "rebrand" is a gradual process. Part of the problem is Boomerang giving 2 hours of primetime per night to a pair of current CN series, The Amazing World of Gumball and Teen Titans Go!, neither or which is really top shelf entertainment. They're being repurposed, you see, in order to maximize ratings for both shows. We all know that this incarnation of the Titans is an insult to fans of the long running DC franchise. Gumball puts animated characters on live-action backgrounds via computer. Not a new concept, but it just looks, well, lazy and unfunny. Both shows, of course, have been reviewed here previously.

Gumball & Titans don't belong on Boomerang since they're still in production, but CN's current head, Christina Miller, is listening to the marketing nerds instead of common sense and conscience. Boomerang should be for the entire family, instead of being geared for the same malleable minds that CN is marketed toward. Older fans want their favorites, too, you know. Someone on Toon Zone suggested that maybe CN/Boomerang should reacquire beloved DC toons from the 90's (i.e. Batman), but it all depends on whether or not Discovery still has rights.

The bottom line is this. If Da Boom doesn't get out of its programming rut by, say, Summer, it's in trouble. Period.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Literary Toons: The Lorax (1972)

This next item was originally reviewed over at The Land of Whatever around the time of the feature film remake, but DePatie-Freleng had the first crack at Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, which premiered on CBS in 1972, a year after the book was released.

It was Seuss' commentary on ecology, among other things. Eddie Albert (ex-Green Acres) narrates, but otherwise, the majority of the voices were performed by Bob Holt. Some of the work was edited and reused for a TNT special, In Search of Dr. Seuss, more than 20 years later.

Right now, in honor of Read Across America day, which took place today, here's The Lorax.

Rating: A.

Rein-Toon-Ation: Beethoven (1994)

After the success of a 1992 feature film, which has led to a sequel or three, Beethoven made the transition into a Saturday morning cartoon, airing on CBS. Director Ivan Reitman served as co-executive producer, as was the case on Real Ghostbusters.

Unable to convince Charles Grodin to reprise his role from the movie, Reitman turned to veteran Dean Jones, who played the villain of the piece, and had him take over for Grodin. Nicholle Tom (The Nanny) reprised her role from the film, and I think was the only one to do so.

One big diff was that in this series, Beethoven actually talked, mostly to other dogs and animals. Unfortunately, viewers were turned off by the slobbering St. Bernard's lack of manners, and the series was cancelled after 1 season.

Edit. 2/19/21: The video was deleted. In its place is the intro:

As of this writing, Universal has no plans to release the series on DVD.

No rating.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Saturtainment: The Cramp Twins (2002)

The Cramp Twins might actually be a bit of a misnomer. They're not identical by any stretch, considering that one has blue skin. Don't ask why.

Cartoon Network's European division co-produced the series, which aired first on Fox before moving to CN here in the US. The series launched in the spring of 2002 as a mid-season replacement series, and lasted 4 seasons before being yanked. However, 4Kids, which began programming Fox's Saturday lineup in the fall of '02, brought the show back in 2006 to finish the run.

Aside from the odd pigmentation on Wayne (the blue skinned one), he & Lucien behave the same way most brothers do. They argue, they fight, they prank each other. Typical stuff.

Dailymotion offers a sample episode.

Cramp Twins has the distinction of being Sunbow Entertainment's last series. What a way to go, eh wot?

Rating: C.