Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Looney TV: Blooper Bunny (1991-7)

18 months had passed after Bugs Bunny's 50th birthday when WB was supposed to release the short, "Blooper Bunny", to theatres. For reasons known only to the studio, the film sat in the vaults for 6 years before Cartoon Network saw fit to premiere it in 1997.

The late Gordon Hunt, better known as a voice director than a voice actor during his career, and Jeff Bergman are the only actors heard in this piece. The plot is sort-of backwards, as we see the beginning of a mock special, followed by the gazillion retakes in rehearsals (the bloopers, of course).

The same creative personnel also worked on "Invasion of the Bunny Snatchers", and that actually was released without incident. Go figure.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Toon Sports: Total Drama (2007)

In the last decade, Cartoon Network began importing a number of series, usually flash animated, from Canada. Some were successful, while others couldn't be sustained.

Total Drama was designed as a parody of reality TV, particularly, Survivor, which had been on the air for 6 years by the time the first installment, Total Drama Island, hit the air in 2007. "Host" Chris McLean is the only recurring character in each of the 5 incarnations of the franchise, as he's meant to be an analogue for Survivor host Jeff Probst.

Here's a sample of Total Drama Island:

The series had to be heavily edited upon crossing the border from Canada to the US. Not only that, but each series had to have two endings, in order, perhaps, not to offend certain sections of the world. Don't ask. I can only guess.

Rating: C.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Toon Legends: Scooby-Doo vs. dancing zombies? (Dance of the Undead, Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated, 2013)

We've previously shown you some musical clips from the Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated episode, "Dance of the Undead". Now, we're finally able to show you the complete episode, sans commercials.

To recap, Rude Boy & the Ska-Tastics have returned from the dead, and their new sound is turning people into dancing zombies, leading to a battle of the bands between the Ska-Tastics and the Hex Girls, the latter aided by Scooby (Frank Welker) and Shaggy (Matt Lilliard). Original MTV VJ Martha Quinn guest stars as herself, represented as a music store owner. Dave Wakeling, formerly of General Public, wrote all of Rude Boy's music, and voices Rude Boy.

Edit: 4/28/15: Unfortunately, no sooner than this video was posted than the YouTube account it was attached to was terminated and the video deleted by YouTube. Hence, we have this excerpt with Shaggy and the Hex Girls.

As has been previously been documented, season 2 episodes were "stripped", or aired on weekdays, in two chunks, as Cartoon Network burned off the series. They also did show runner Mitch Watson no favors with his next project, Beware the Batman, pulling it out of daytime after a few weeks in the fall of 2013.

No rating.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Magician (1997)

Toward the end of the 90's, Fox began importing series from Europe, usually through Gaumont. In 1999, the network acquired The Magician, which had made its debut overseas 2 years earlier. Unfortunately for Fox, US audiences didn't quite warm up to this adventure series, and with Fox's own scheduling sleight of hand at work on a regular basis, it did not maintain a firm place on the Saturday schedule, so not all of the 39 episodes produced made it to the US.

Here's the open:

Tried to watch this one morning. Not impressed.

Rating: C.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Jason of Star Command in Mission to the Stars (1979)

It was a bit of a surprise that Jason of Star Command was actually spun off from Tarzan & the Super 7 for its 2nd season. Perhaps not as surprising were some cast changes.

James Doohan left the series after season 1 to work on "Star Trek: The Motion Picture". As a result, John Russell (ex-Lawman) became the new Commander. 70's movie legend Tamara Dobson ("Cleopatra Jones") joined the cast as well. Unfortunately, CBS didn't do Filmation any favors by burying Jason at the bottom of the lineup, where few affilates bothered to carry the show.

Let's take a look at the season 2 opener, "Mission to the Stars", in which Dragos (Sid Haig, ex-Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman) plots his revenge on Star Command.

No rating. Didn't see any of the season 2 episodes.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Looney TV: Porky Pig gets schooled on the Constitution (1986)

Oh, man, poor Porky Pig puts his hoof in his mouth when he tells his girlfriend, Petunia, that a woman can't be President. Too bad they didn't revisit this ad for an episode of The Looney Tunes Show 25 years later.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Daytime Heroes: Spider-Man vs. The Wall (Electric Company, 1974)

Here's a baseball themed Spidey Super Stories short from the original Electric Company. Spider-Man (Danny Seagren) attends a Mets game at Shea Stadium, but the defending NL champs have to also deal with The Wall. Series regular Skip Hinnant plays a Mets outfielder, while Morgan Freeman is the umpire. Does sound like Morgan unwittingly did a Scatman Crothers mimic.

Not one of the better ones in the series. The producers couldn't come up with enough cheddar in the budget to actually replicate even a portion of Shea Stadium. When the series was revived several years later, Sesame (formerly Children's Television) Workshop, despite the fact that Marvel Comics and some of the Muppets are now Disney property, couldn't reach a deal with Disney to revive this feature, even with today's advanced technology. Their loss.

Rating: D.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Rare Treats: A pair of Milky Way ads from the 60's

Here's a pair of forgotten Milky Way candy ads from the 60's, back when Mars, Inc. actually promoted themselves.

The first spot is animated, with the inestimable Paul Frees as the voice of the candy bar. The second is a live-action piece with silent movie legend Buster Keaton.

A check of Wikipedia claims that the defunct Forever Yours bar was a dark chocolate version of Milky Way that had been around for years. Not that I could recall. Forever Yours actually was a short-lived brand and was revived under the Milky Way label twice in later years (Milky Way Dark & Milky Way Midnight), neither of which got over all that well, either.

Looney TV: Pinky, Elmyra, & the Brain (1998)

Pinky & The Brain were fine by themselves, but some jabroni at Warner Bros. decided to shake things up by giving them a human foil who proved to be even more clueless than Pinky (Rob Paulsen), if that was even possible.

That would be Elmyra Duff (Cree Summer), formerly of Tiny Toon Adventures, who one day went into a pet shop to buy a turtle, and ended up with more than she bargained for. Combine her IQ with that of Pinky, and, suffice to say, it ain't much. Brain (Maurice LaMarche doing a Orson Welles mimic), who's had to suffer with Pinky's mental shortcomings to begin with, now must deal with Elmyra's suffocating presence.

Pinky, Elmyra, & The Brain, however, proved to be the last straw for Amblin Entertainment's collaboration with WB. Viewers voted with their remotes, and after six weeks, the series was cancelled. The remaining seven were divided up and mixed into an anthology series combining other WB cartoons.

Here's the intro:

It turns out that Elmyra's red hair is actually a wig, suggesting a connection to Elmer Fudd, as if her first name and facial features weren't enough. Her personality, though, reminds me of a minor character in "Snoopy Come Home" who claimed possession of Snoopy for a time, and was just suffocating.

No rating.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

From Comics to Toons: The origin of Iceman (Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends, 1982)

We've previously covered the origins of Spider-Man (twice) and Firestar. This time, we're going back to season 2 of Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends, which kicks off with the origin of Bobby Drake, aka Iceman (Frank Welker).

Friends, I have an ulterior motive for posting this particular episode. In case you didn't read the news online earlier today, the idiots at Marvel have green-lighted writer Brian Michael Bendis' latest twist in X-Men history, taking effect with issue 40 of the current series, out tomorrow. You see, what Mr. Bendis, an acclaimed writer, but not quite so acclaimed when it comes to television, has decided to do is ret-con Mr. Drake into a gay man, becoming the 3rd (at least) pre-established Marvel character in the last decade, after the Rawhide Kid and Northstar, to be rebooted as gay.

Why take this step? For the sake of a cheap headline on a slow news day. Under publisher Dan Buckley, Marvel has made way too many of these moves, aimed at mainstream cross-promotion, but at the same time, it devalues characters who've been around since the 60's (Rawhide Kid and Iceman) or late 70's (Northstar). To my knowledge, Marvel hasn't developed a totally original gay superhero, though DC has in recent times, and instead will randomly choose pre-established characters and trot them out to the press, and, in particular, the gay & lesbian community, which comics publishers feel is still an under-served portion of their audience.

As noted, DC created a totally new gay superhero for a recent reboot of Teen Titans, but they've also rebooted pre-established characters, same as Marvel. Archie introduced their first gay character, Kevin Keller, as a positive role model (Is there any other kind of role model in Riverdale, anyway?), about 3-4 years ago, but his series was quietly cancelled recently, although he'll probably figure in the Archie reboot that begins in June. The shock value wore off a long time ago. I don't read the X-Men books anymore, haven't in years, and according to the articles I've read, they're using the time travel gimmick currently in those books as an excuse to reboot Iceman as gay. A poor excuse at that.

"The Origin of Iceman" gets a B.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Toons After Dark: The Great Cartoon Massacre (Robot Chicken, 2013?)

I ran across this next item when I scoped out Twin Factor the other week. Another instant classic from Robot Chicken.

Inspired by Steven Spielberg's 2005 film, "Munich", Seth Green and friends imagine the 1972 Olympic massacre in Munich with characters from Scooby's All-Star Laff-a-Lympics. It's going to get graphic, gory, and ugly in a hurry. For what it's worth, Frank Welker was not called upon to reprise as Scooby-Doo or Dynomutt. In fact, Green takes his turn as Scooby, though Matt Lilliard reprises as Shaggy.

Here's "Laff-a-Munich":

The sketch title is also a play on the phrase, "laugh a minute".

Rating: A-.

Rare Treats: Mission: Magic (the complete song) (1973)

A long time ago, we reviewed Rick Springfield's 1973 series for Filmation & ABC, Mission: Magic. Now, you know that Rick also recorded the show's theme song. Not just the usual minute-or-less ditty you usually get on a Saturday morning show. In this case, that was an edited version of the actual song, which I think Rick also wrote and released on an album coinciding with the series' debut.

Until today, I'd never run across the complete version of that song, but here it is. Unfortunately, there's only a photo of the album cover. No series footage.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Toonfomercial: The introduction of Lysol (1950)

From the Internet Archive comes this rarity.

Back in the early 1950's (they say it is 1950, in fact), Lysol disinfectant didn't have a whole line of subsidiary products. It was a stand alone product all by itself before becoming a household name.

Here's an animated spot, the concept of which would later be copied by Johnson Wax's advertising agents for their Raid line of products. The two talking germs? Voiced by Mel Blanc (naturally).

You Know the Voice: Jackie Joseph (1966)

This is really a 2-for-1 special.

Jackie Joseph, 4 years before being cast as the voice of Melody on Josie & The Pussycats, guest-starred on Run, Buddy, Run as a secretary in the employ of "Mr. D." (Bruce Gordon, ex-The Untouchables), who's still on the hunt for Buddy Overstreet (Jack Sheldon, later one of the Schoolhouse Rock singers).

It's a  coincidence of comical timing as Jackie's character is taking instructions from her boss on a fancy TV monitor just before Buddy shows up........

Too bad Jackie wasn't given a chance to star in her own sitcom..........

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Looney TV: Duck Dodgers, Green Lantern? (2003)

I had this particular episode of Duck Dodgers up before, but it was taken down when the poster on YouTube lost his membership due to copyright issues. Now, it's back.

In "The Green Loontern", Duck gets a Green Lantern uniform by mistake due to the stereotypical dry cleaner mix-up, a trope that goes back years. Filmmaker Kevin Smith makes a brief appearance as Hal Jordan.

D'ya really want any more reason for DC & WB to do another crossover?

Rating: B.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Daytime Heroes: Defenders of the Earth (1986)

King Features Syndicate, their TV arm, Hearst Entertainment, and Marvel teamed to develop Defenders of the Earth, which brought together three of KFS' greatest adventure heroes, Flash Gordon, Mandrake the Magician, and The Phantom. Not only that, but Flash and Phantom were given teenage offspring. Mandrake's aide, Lothar (Buster Jones, Super Friends), was also given a son. It had only been a few years since Flash's NBC series had come to an end, so it was a bit of a shock to see him and nemesis Ming the Merciless return so soon.

The weird part? The team was given a super-computer that had the memories of Flash's slain wife, presumed to be Dale Arden, according to a Marvel-Star Comics adaptation of the series. Judging by the copyright at the start of the series opener, "Escape From Mongo", Defenders had been in development for a year before hitting the air in 1986. Unfortunately, the series lasted just 1 season.

Here's the intro:

Nearly 30 years later, the Defenders came back together, this time on the printed page, as Dynamite Entertainment produced the miniseries, King's Watch, which has since spawned solo series featuring Flash, Mandrake, and Phantom under the King imprint. After a cable run on Sci-Fi (now SyFy) in the 90's, Defenders of the Earth hasn't aired on television. Hulu, I think, would fill that void, if they had all 65 episodes (and they don't at the moment).

Rating: None. Didn't see enough of the show to merit a rating.

Getting Schooled: CBS Schoolbreak Special (1984)

To think that ABC started it with the Afterschool Special. NBC followed with Special Treat, which, unfortunately, was long gone by the time CBS rebooted their Afternoon Playhouse into Schoolbreak Special in 1984. The Playhouse format wasn't working, so CBS figured they needed to try to cut into ABC's audience.

For 12 years, it worked. Unlike the Afterschool Special, CBS didn't have any animated entries in their series. Like their competitors, CBS used this time to tackle some difficult issues facing teens and young adults. Never was this more evident than in the 1987 season finale, "An Enemy Among Us", which starred Danny Nucci, Dee Wallace Stone ("E. T.", "Poltergeist"), and Gladys Knight.

No rating.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Fireball XL-5 (1962)

Gerry Anderson's "Supermarionation" series, such as Stingray, Thunderbirds, and Supercar, usually ended up in syndication when they came to the US. Not so with Fireball XL-5, which made its American debut on NBC a year after the series launched in England. Fireball would cycle through its 39 episodes over two seasons on NBC before joining its brethren in syndication, which is where I recall seeing it sometime in the early 70's, if memory serves.

Dennis Spooner, one of the show's writers, was more closely associated with ITC's line of spy & mystery series, such as Department S.

I don't have much memory of seeing the show, so we'll forego a rating. Meanwhile, here's the opener, "Planet 46":

Looney TV: Bugs Bunny as Superman (The Looney Tunes Show, 2014)

Back in the 40's, Bugs Bunny starred in a satire of Superman, "Super Rabbit". At the time, Warner Bros. didn't have the rights to the Man of Steel (Paramount-Famous Studios did), which they would obtain a couple of decades later.

As WB wrapped up The Looney Tunes Show last year, producers Spike Brandt & Tony Cervone, who'd already had Daffy Duck, as Duck Dodgers, meet Green Lantern 11 years earlier, decided to pay homage to Superman, and, more specifically, "Superman 2", with the series finale, also entitled, "Super Rabbit".

Going out of continuity, Bugs (Jeff Bergman) spins a yarn to Daffy (Bergman) about his time as the Hare of Steel, battling Brainiac (Marvin the Martian), Luthor (Elmer Fudd), and finally, in the "Superman 2" portion, General Zod (Daffy).

And dig that twist finish involving another DC legend.........

Blowing up the thumb for a super-punch was an old Popeye gimmick, but, whatever.

Rating: A.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Toonfomercial: Do you remember Sir Grapefellow & Baron von Redberry? (1972)

It wasn't enough that General Mills had the Monster Cereals line. In 1972, the company introduced two more cereals whose animated namesakes feuded with each other. Instead of classic monsters, Sir Grapefellow & Baron von Redberry were WWI pilots. Scope these ads.

Because of the similarities between these cereals and other "Big G" products, particularly Boo Berry & Franken Berry, Grapefellow and von Redberry didn't last too long. In fact, I have 0 memory of seeing either cereal in my area.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

From Comics to Toons: The Fantastic Four vs. The Terrible Tribunal (1967)

The Fantastic Four are forced to stand trial for---get this----crimes against evil, charges levied by three of their previous foes, Blastaar, Klaw, & Molecule Man. Flashbacks pad out the tale of "The Terrible Tribunal":

Of course there had to be a bizarre world where evil was embraced. What didja expect?

Rating: B.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Getting Schooled: Bananas in Pajamas (Pyjamas)(1992)

G'day! Australia's Bananas in Pyjamas (Pajamas here in the US) bowed in 1992, and enjoyed a 9 year run the first time around. 4 years in, they tried syndicating it here in the States, but it didn't take so well. The series was revived in CGI format 4 years ago and while that version is available on Hulu, let's take a look at the show open from its original run:

I think around this time Disney had started their line of daily programming on Disney Channel, which at the time was a premium service, and enough viewers preferred the characters they knew over B1 & B2, which, sadly, would translate to vitamins here.

No rating.

Toon Sports: Tom Slick in the Bad Year Blimp Race (1967)

Tom Slick converts his Thunderbolt Kneeslapper into a blimp. Why? Because this is "The Bad Year Blimp Race", that's why.

Note that Paul Frees is both the announcer and uses his Boris Badenov voice for Baron Otto Matic.

Does anyone want to see Tom return for his 50th anniversary in 2017? No? Why am I not surprised?

Rating: B-.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Teen Force in Word Star (1981)

Here's another Teen Force short from Space Stars.

In what is probably a knock-off of "Star Wars", the Teen Force must protect one of the galaxy's most important artifacts from Uglor. Here's "Word Star":

Unfortunately, the video's been deleted as the user's account was terminated due to copyright violations.

Rating: B+.

Rare Treats: Betty Boop comes to life! (1931)

Ya know, with rumors circulating off and on about a live-action film based on Betty Boop, it allows us to turn back the clock, all the way back to the Golden Age, and the first instance of Betty in flesh & blood form, embodied by the actress most associated with her, Mae Questel.

Betty was modeled after another actress, Helen Kane, and covered "Don't Take My Boop-Boop-a-Doop Away" in one of her shorts. It's also covered here, in this rarely seen piece. Seems Betty has been brought before a judge (Rudy Vallee) on a charge of disturbing the peace.......

If anyone can tell me where the above clip comes from, I'd appreciate it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Looney TV: Chariots of Fur (1994)

I'm not entirely sure if this next item has aired too often, if at all, on Cartoon Network or Boomerang, but what are they waiting for?

To mark the 45th anniversary of their debut, Chuck Jones produced a brand new Road Runner & Coyote short as a warm-up act for "Richie Rich", which starred Macaulay Culkin in an adaptation of the Harvey Comics series. "Chariots of Fur", directed by Jones, recycles and reimagines a number of familiar gags. You'll recognize them right away, I'm sure.

Heh, tough act to follow.

Rating: A.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Moby Dick in The Undersea World (1967)

The title says it all, folks. Moby Dick and his human pals, Tom & Tubby, explore "The Undersea World" in this short.

The intro to Moby Dick, narrated by Don Messick, explains how the boys met Moby, but there was never any mention of their uncle or his ship again in the series. Hmmmmm.

Rating: B.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Toons You Might've Missed: His Mother Marveled (1963)

3 years before Filmation became a household name in the animation business, two of its founders, Lou Scheimer and Hal Sutherland, shared directorial chores on Family Films' His Mother Marveled. A 3rd name familiar to Filmation in its history, Ervin Kaplan, was also involved.

Mother is an adaptation collected from the Gospels, from the Birth of Jesus, to early after his 12th birthday, when Jesus tarried in the temple in Jerusalem, learning from the priests, while his parents, Mary & Joseph, backtracked to find him when he had left their party.

Actor Marvin Miller (ex-The Millionaire), later the voice of Aquaman for Filmation, is the narrator.

Today, we celebrate His Resurrection after He gave His life so that we would live.

Rating: A.

Happy Easter.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Saturtainment: Pop! Goes The Country (1974)

Back in the day, it was fairly common to find not just Hee Haw, but also other country music programming in syndication. Hee Haw, cancelled in 1971 by CBS, found new life in syndication,  treading ground already trod by the likes of Porter Wagoner, from whose series POP! Goes The Country supposedly was spun off from.

Radio personality Ralph Emery was the series' 1st host, but for some reason, the producers replaced him with singer-songwriter Tom T. Hall for the final 2 seasons (1980-2). Comic Jim Varney, better known for his alter-ego, Ernest P. Worrell, would join the show in the final season.

From 1980, here's a clip that also appears over at The Land of Whatever. Comedian Foster Brooks gets serious and nails a cover of "Release Me". Whod'athunk?

Rating: A.

It Should've Been on a Saturday: Grossology (2006)

Call it The X-Files for the hygiene-conscious set.

Grossology never aired on NBC when the network had a deal with Discovery Kids (now Discovery Family), but, to be honest with you, they should've.

Based on a Canadian children's book, Grossology premiered first in Canada in 2006, then migrated to this country a year later. Built around teen siblings Ty & Abby, the series teaches important lessons about hygiene and other matters, such as insects. Ty & Abby also have individual issues to deal with in school during the series. I think some of the artists might've also worked on those Esurance ads with Erin Esurance before this, but I don't know for sure.

In the episode, "New Recruits", Ty & Abby recall how they started as Grossologists while tracking down rogue agent turned villain Lance Boil.

When Discovery Kids morphed into the Hub (2010-4), Grossology inexplicably wasn't featured and phased out. Their loss.

Rating: B.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Toons You Might've Missed: Rocket Robin Hood (1966)

Krantz Films introduced itself to audiences in 1966 as the company packaging The Marvel Superheroes Show here in the US, and Rocket Robin Hood in Canada. Unfortunately, after Rocket and Spider-Man ceased production in 1969, the studio simply faded away.

Rocket Robin Hood, like Spider-Man, which would follow the next year, lasted three seasons, and picked up future animation legend Ralph Bakshi as a producer-director. In this case, Bakshi came aboard in the final season, as he took over Spider-Man in its 2nd season.

The basic story is a futuristic reboot of the Robin Hood legend, set at the dawn of the 31st century. Aside from the setting, the story is the same. Robin and his Merry Men are outlaws, fighting the tyranny of Prince John. Bernard Cowan, who narrated each of the Marvel shorts, does the same honors here.

To give you an idea of what you might've missed, since there were so few American stations that picked up the show in syndication, here's the open & close, plus some bumper vignettes.

A golden opportunity was missed in the late 70's-early 80's when WPIX in NYC brought back the Marvel show, under the title Marvel Men, sans the actual opening & closing. The station was home to Rocket Robin Hood during its run, and had they retained rights by, say, 1980, they could've coupled the two shows together.

Rating: C.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Tooniversary: Tom & Jerry take up bowling (1975)

I had this Tom & Jerry TV short up before, but it was taken down due to copyright issues with YouTube. Back for another go-round is "The Super Bowler", in which the cat & the mouse test their skills, be that as it may, on the lanes.

Yes, it does sound like Len Weinrib is the narrator.

Rating: B.

From Primetime to Daytime: The Lion & The Mouse (Aesop & Son, 1959)

It's been a while since we scoped Aesop & Son, one of the rotating back-up features from Rocky & His Friends (aka The Bullwinkle Show). Here, Jay Ward and his crew of zanies send up the oft-adapted tale of The Lion & The Mouse:

Yes, that's Bullwinkle himself, Bill Scott, as the voice of the lion, in case you wondered.

Rating: B+.