Friday, July 31, 2015

Saturday Morning Ringside: Piper's Pit (1984)

"Rowdy" Roddy Piper emigrated to the then-World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) in 1983, and, within a few short months, became one of its most hated and controversial figures, thanks to the polarizing Piper's Pit, which was initially meant to be a monthly feature in the promotion's magazine, which was soon going to be distributed nationally on newsstands. It became a popular interview segment on Championship Wrestling, which later changed its title to Superstars of Wrestling, and, then, just Superstars.

At first, Piper's Pit was the wrestler's bully pulpit, where he taunted opposing wrestlers, often attacking them without warning. However, beginning in 1986, when Piper returned after filming a movie (presumably "They Live"), he entered into a feud with cross-dressing Adrian Adonis, who was asked to host an interview segment in Piper's stead, but the Flower Shop was a bust from the get go, largely because of Adonis' gimmick and the fact that he had ballooned in size.

In recent years, Piper's Pit became a periodic special attraction whenever Piper returned to WWE, and more recently, Piper filmed an anti-bullying PSA.

Let's go back in time to 1984, and the debut of Piper's Pit.

Tame, compared to what would follow.

Rating: A.

It Should've Been on a Saturday: Giant Step (1956)

Giant Step was a short-lived primetime game show aimed at and featuring children that aired on CBS from 1956-7. Bert Parks, better known as the host of the Miss America Pageant until his passing in 1992, was the host.

To be honest, until seeing this on YouTube some months back, I didn't know the show existed at all. Today, something like this would be plugged into a Saturday daytime block as a teaching tool.

Here's a sample episode. No rating.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Toons You Might've Missed: Gabby in All's Well (1941)

Gabby was spun off from Max & Dave Fleischer's adaptation of Gulliver's Travels into a short-lived series of shorts for Paramount in the early 40's. To be honest with you, Gabby (Pinto Colvig) was one of the reasons I didn't like "Gulliver". Did we really need Jonathan Swift's novel to be adapted into a musical? Not really, but that's what the Fleischers decided to do. Paramount took a bath with "Gulliver", and eventually, the Fleischers left within a couple of years.

Away from Lilliput, Gabby's just another guy dealing with the usual tropes. In the case of "All's Well", from 1941, Gabby sees a crying baby, left all alone. Thinking the child needs his diaper changed, Gabby sets out to address the issue........

When the title song plays as an instrumental later in the film, it sounds like it was also used as the theme for Dennis The Menace more than a decade later. Of course, I may be wrong, but......!

Rating: C.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Toonfomercial: Fred & Barney shill for Flintstones vitamins (1971)

Internet Archive serves up another long lost animated ad.

The other day, we reminded some of you of the defunct Bugs Bunny brand of vitamins produced by Miles Laboratories (now Bayer). The Flintstones had been marketed in vitamin form beginning in 1968, thanks to a licensing agreement between Miles & Hanna-Barbera, continued to this day by Bayer & Warner Bros..

In this spot, which, admittedly, I hadn't seen until today, Fred & Barney (Alan Reed & Mel Blanc) are in a race to retrieve some alphabetic ingredients that Dino has swiped. This ad was produced either before or after the launch of Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm on CBS.

Literary Toons: Curious George (1980)

H. A. & Margaret Rey's Curious George first appeared on TV in 1980, although one would suspect that some of the books might've been read on the air before then by, say for example, Captain Kangaroo. Nickelodeon had the rights to this series of short cartoons, which now are lost to the mists of time. The cartoons were ultimately adapted into a new set of books. There is no real animation, so this would be similar to Nick's Video Comics (previously discussed) in that respect.

Obviously, when Universal adapted Curious George into an animated feature film in 2006, leading to the current PBS series, it was a large scale upgrade.

Right now, let's take a look at a sample episode from the 80's, "Curious George Walks the Pets".

I do remember seeing one or two of these back in the day after Nick was moved from a premium service to basic cable. I'll have to explain how that happened another time, but suffice to say, as I wasn't the target audience, I wondered why they couldn't afford to actually animate these stories.

Rating: B--.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

You Know the Voice: John Stephenson (1955)

The other night, I reviewed the short-lived series, The Whistler, over at The Land of Whatever. We're reaching back into that old well this time, as the late John Stephenson appears in the episode, "Cancelled Flight", starring Richard Arlen.

John appears at the 8:45 mark of the video, playing a mechanic. Arlen's character has just killed a man he thought was his business partner, whom he decided to double-cross. Have to tell you, this plays better than the episode I posted the other night.

After John passed away, I pulled up and printed out his IMDB file. Whew! Talk about an extensive resume. There's plenty more where this came from, believe me.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Toonfomercial: Remember Bugs Bunny vitamins? (1985)

There was a time when The Flintstones weren't the only cartoon characters to be featured as chewable vitamins.

In 1974, Miles Laboratories (now Bayer) added Bugs Bunny to their line of licensed properties, originally as part of their Chocks line. Unfortunately, Bugs Bunny vitamins didn't sell as well, and are long out of circulation. I know, hard to believe, right? Bugs, who'd been used to sell cereal and breakfast drinks for General Foods in the 60's, and did PSAs earlier in the 80's (which we'll do another time), should've been an easy sell.

Check out this ad from 30 years ago, with Mel Blanc as Bugs.

Maybe if they marketed Looney Tunes vitamins, it'd probably do better, but do kids really want to chew on Elmer Fudd?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Lone Ranger meets the Man From Pinkerton (1966)

As with most Westerns, the 1966 Lone Ranger animated series had its share of lighter moments, and this is one of them.

Achilles Smith, a file clerk for the Pinkerton Agency, wants to be promoted to detective, so he heads west to pursue his dream, and capture a notorious outlaw. Of course, it'll require the assistance of the Ranger (Michael Rye) & Tonto (Shep Menken). Here's "Man From Pinkerton":

Rating: A-.

Toon Rock: Love Rollercoaster (1996)

From "Beavis & Butt-Head Do America"'s soundtrack comes the Red Hot Chili Peppers' cover of the Ohio Players' "Love Rollercoaster", the only single from said soundtrack to get any major airplay on MTV.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Daytime Heroes: Clutch Cargo (1959)

Cambria Studios' infamous use of Synchro-Vox began with 1959's Clutch Cargo, regarded now as one of the worst series of all time. Its only real flaw was the use of Synchro-Vox as a cost-cutting measure in order to beat tight deadlines.

Synchro-Vox actually was first put in use earlier in the 50's in some shorts that purported to have animals talking, but that was just a gimmick. Speaking of talking animals, a local business in my area has resorted to this method to make its canine mascot talk in recent ads.

Clutch Cargo was off the air by the time I was able to start watching television in the mid-60's. After looking at the first minute or two of "The Haunted Castle", I can see how people see it in such low esteem.

Courtesy Internet Archive:

On a national level, talk show host Conan O'Brien has used Synchro-Vox to conduct fake interviews. At the end of the last decade in WWE, Mike "The Miz" Mizanin and John Morrison (Hennegan, now known as Johnny Mundo in Lucha Underground) borrowed the gimmick for their in-ring interview series, The Dirt Sheet, on a couple of occasions, but, given the poor creative quality permeating WWE, it didn't work as hoped. Such is Clutch Cargo's legacy, more than 55 years later.

Rating: C.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Animated World of DC Comics: The easiest puzzles of all time---Super Friends De-Coders (1977)

Since we've previously discussed The All-New Super Friends Hour at great length, there's no need to rehash after I acquired both DVD volumes of the series.

As we all know, Warner Bros. is guarding its copyrights very tightly, and some episodes that had been posted here before ended up getting taken down. Fans are now resorting to posting clips using sped-up audio and putting their cameras closer to the screen, it seems, and neither tactic appeals to me at all.

However, what the DVD does provide are the long missing bumpers, health, safety, & craft tips, magic tricks, and, beginning at the half-way station of each show, a de-coder puzzle, requiring three short segments.

Edit, 6/17/22: Unfortunately, the video has been deleted.

The added features are intact, thankfully. A featurette on the Wonder Twins had been up on YouTube, but has since been taken down, which, when you think about it, isn't so bad, considering the short piece played to the internet.

Rating for the DVD: A-.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Saturday Morning Ringside: Hulk Hogan shills for Honey Nut Cheerios (1985)

Hulk Hogan had been World Wrestling Federation champ for a year before the promotion began finding endorsement deals for him. One of them was with General Mills for Honey Nut Cheerios. Forgive the sound quality of this ad.

I recall seeing this ad when it first came out. Hogan seemed right at home interacting with a cartoon character, and a few months later, would become one himself.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Cheerios Kid vs. a merman (1961)

General Mills' Cheerios marks its 75th anniversary next year. About a decade in, they introduced Cheerios Kid and his girlfriend, if you will, Sue, in a series of ads that ran until the mid-60's. Why they stopped, I don't know. The Kid & Sue would return briefly in the 80's in a new series that depicted Sue as being equal to the Kid, instead of being a damsel in distress, as she's shown in this 1961 ad.

An evil merman tries to claim Sue as his own for some reason. Heh, I think she's too young for him........

In 2012, the Kid & Sue returned again in an online ad campaign, but no new commercials came out of this. Hmmmm, don't you think it's time to bring them back to television?

From Primetime to Daytime: Saved by the Bell: The College Years (1993)

A more comprehensive review of this entry appears over at The Land of Whatever.

NBC thought they could expand the Saved by the Bell franchise by bringing 4 of the Original Class into primetime with Saved by the Bell: The College Years, which the main series was given the sub-title, The New Class. Unfortunately, it didn't work, and College Years was cancelled after 1 season, while New Class continued with a rotating cast for 7.

Here's the intro:

Me-TV has College Years as part of the Bell package they acquired last year, but because only 13 episodes were made, it's already cycled through in the Monday night block Me-TV is using this summer.

Rating: C.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Animated World of DC Comics: Superman vs. Destruction, Inc. (1942)

Long before this Superman short hit theatres, the Fleischer brothers had parted company with Paramount Pictures in a dispute. Shortly thereafter, Famous Studios was formed to continue the various animated shorts series (Superman, Popeye, etc.).

"Destruction, Inc." was actually Paramount's Christmas present to fans of the Man of Steel, as the film was released on Christmas Day, 1942. How cool was that?

Courtesy of Internet Archive:

While the voices are uncredited, it should be noted that Louis, the analogue for Jimmy Olsen in this series, is voiced by Popeye himself, Jack Mercer.

Rating: A.

Game Time: My Generation (1998)

VH1 actually had two series bearing the name, My Generation. The first was a video oldies show emceed by Herman's Hermits frontman Peter Noone, which had a pretty good run. In 1998, the network resurrected the title, but rebooted it as a game show, hosted by comedian Craig Shoemaker.

It's standard quiz play along the lines of, say for example, College Bowl, but with, of course, an emphasis on music. Unfortunately, viewers weren't digging, and the show was cancelled in short order. VH1 would replace it with Rock & Roll Jeopardy!, spun off from a certain quiz show franchise that's still going strong today, though the Rock & Roll version only lasted a couple of years, and was previously reviewed.

Let's take a look at a sample compilation of My Generation in its quiz show itineration.

Rating: A.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Toon Legends: Betty Boop With Henry (1935)

We all know that Popeye debuted in what amounts to what we now call a back-door pilot, in a short with Betty Boop. In 1935, King Features Syndicate hoped lightning would strike twice in the same place by placing another of their comic strip characters, Henry, in a co-starring role with Betty.

Henry was created by writer-artist Carl Anderson a year earlier, when Anderson was 67, and appeared first in the Saturday Evening Post before being succeeded by Marjorie Buell's Little Lulu. While Lulu would eventually make her way into animated shorts, Henry ended up being a 1-shot.

Betty hires on Henry to look after her pet shop in exchange for a puppy that Henry wants, but can't afford. Chaos soon follows. Mae Questel voices both Betty & the otherwise normally mute Henry.

Courtesy of Internet Archive. This is a UM&M print, released 30 years after the film's initial release:

I remember reading Henry back in the day when a local newspaper carried the Sunday strip. It's still being run, but not in as many papers as it used to be. Too bad the Fleischers couldn't work their magic with him long term.

Rating: B-.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Getting Schooled: Art Linkletter & The Kids (1950's)

Art Linkletter and the Kids was a 15 minute program that either pre-dated or ran concurrently with Linkletter's better known daytime series, House Party. Unfortunately, the Wikipedia page on Linkletter, who passed away in 2010, doesn't include this series, and so the date in the title box is just an approximation.

Linkletter was one of several who made the transition from radio to television. House Party started on radio, as did People Are Funny, the latter famously parodied by Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck in one of their classic shorts. Dentel TV1 offers a sample clip:

From the looks of things, this was a prototype for the TV version of House Party, which we'll get to eventually.

No rating.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

You Know The Voice: Paul Frees (1953)

The late Paul Frees was so much in demand for voice work in the 50's & 60's, thanks largely to an extensive radio resume. Fittingly, Frees was cast as a radio reporter in George Pal's 1953 adaptation of H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, starring Gene Barry.

Savor this clip, as it is one of the rare times that Frees appeared in front of the camera.

Toonfomercial: The Tin Man wants a heart (1974)

Former Fleischer Studios animator Myron Waldman was the brains behind this indelible memory from 1974. The Tin Man (from The Wizard of Oz) is quizzed by some forest animals about why he needs a heart in this PSA for the American Heart Association.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Toon Sports: Tooter Turtle takes up baseball (Kink of Swat, or, Babe Rube, 1960)

It's been a while since we checked in on Tooter Turtle, who was one of two backup features on King Leonardo & His Short Subjects. In this episode, Tooter (Allen Swift) decides he wants to play baseball. Let's take a look at "Kink of Swat (Babe Rube)":

This was done better with Bugs Bunny and Popeye, from the looks of things.

No rating. No memory of seeing this episode.

Toon Legends: Popeye For President (1956)

After suggesting that Olive Oyl would be a good choice as the first woman president, Famous Studios went back to the well with a more traditional tweak at politics, pitting Popeye (Jack Mercer, who also wrote the script) and Bluto (Jackson Beck) in a race for last-minute voters (i.e. Olive) in 1956's "Popeye For President", which is one of the last shorts to bear the Famous Studios logo, as it would change to Paramount Cartoon Studios some time later.

Courtesy of Internet Archive.

I'd say it'd be implausible in this day and age to have a candidate mangling the English language, but we already had a Vice President who accidentally botched one speech (Dan Quayle). Popeye & Bluto would be better off campaigning for President of the local VFW.

Rating: B.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Game Time: Donkey Kong (1983)

Here's another segment of Saturday Supercade.

Donkey Kong was one of the biggest arcade games on the planet in the early 80's, such that it was an easy choice to be adapted for a cartoon, and headlined Supercade. Perhaps the biggest shock was DK's gutteral speech was uttered by comedy legend Soupy Sales (ex-Jr. Almost Anything Goes). Of course, Mario (Peter Cullen, ex-The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show) is on the hunt, and often has to rescue Pauline (Judy Strangis, ex-Electra Woman & DynaGirl, Wheelie & the Chopper Bunch) from DK's clutches.

Sometimes, though, the hunted helps his hunters once he realizes he's been duped. Other times, Mario has to resort to tricks. Let's see what happens in this sample episode, "Greenhouse Gorilla":

Donkey Kong would star in a new series having nothing to do with his classic game, more than a decade later, in the cable entry, Donkey Kong Country, which lasted about as long as this series did.

No rating.

Toonfomercial: Meet Alpha-Bits' original postman (1961)

It seems that the advertising agency hired by Post to create characters for their cereals were convinced a mailman (or postman, in this case) was a suitable pitchman for Alpha-Bits cereal.

Three years before Lovable Truly, a tall, lanky fellow, began appearing on Linus the Lionhearted to represent Alpha-Bits, comedian Jack E. Leonard gave voice (and form) to "your friendly neighborhood postman".

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Saturtainment: The Dogfather (1975)

One of DePatie-Freleng's lesser known creations was The Dogfather, a canine parody of "The Godfather", coming off the two movies based on Mario Puzo's legendary gangster novel.

Bob Holt, a DFE regular who'd been working on the studio's Dr. Seuss adaptations, voiced the title role, and was the only actor given screen credit in 1975's "Medicur":

Dogfather made his television debut as part of NBC's Pink Panther & Friends, but would resurface in a 1993 syndicated reboot of Panther, with Joe Piscopo (ex-Saturday Night Live) replacing Holt.

No rating.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Looney TV: Southern Fried Rabbit (1953)

With all the controversy about the Confederate flag these days, don't expect to see "Southern Fried Rabbit" airing on Boomerang/Cartoon Network any time soon, if Time Warner/Turner is as quick to cave in to pressure from the PC police as Viacom's TV Land was in dropping reruns of Dukes of Hazzard last week.

Anyway, Bugs Bunny walks all the way to Alabama, hoping for some fresh carrots when a drought destroys the carrots in the northeast, where Bugs makes his home. Problem is, Yosemite Sam, dressed as a Colonel in the Confederate Army, thinks the Civil War is still going on, even as Bugs correctly points out that the War Between The States ended nearly 90 years earlier. We've seen variations on characters like Sam's in other stories.

That does put the looney in Looney Tunes, doesn't it?

Rating: B+.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Sunday Funnies: Ultraforce (1995)

Malibu Comics was an independent publisher trying to make an inroad in the comics industry in the early 90's, along with sister company Aircel. Unfortunately, the imprint was discontinued 2 years after it had been acquired by Marvel, which, presumably, bought the company in order to get the rights to Lowell Cunningham's Men In Black, more than anything else.

The beginning of the end for Malibu came with a promotion known as "Black September" in the fall of 1994. At Marvel's insistence, a former member of the Avengers & Defenders, the Black Knight, was added to Ultraforce, Malibu's answer to the Avengers, but didn't appear in the short-lived 1995 Ultraforce animated series, produced by DIC & Bohbot for syndication. The series instead was set prior to "Black September", but lasted just 13 episodes, and was widely panned.

The open reminds viewers of X-Men, copying its distinctive opening sequence with the use of character logos, and that series had been on the air for 3 years. The comparison works unfavorably against Ultraforce from that point. If you don't believe me, judge for yourself with the series opener, "Prime Time".

I could see why people weren't too thrilled. I read a few of the books myself back in the day, and was not impressed. By this point, DIC was coasting. And it should be noted that one of the producers was one Brian A. Miller, who would later move on to Cartoon Network.

Rating: C-.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The embarrassment of Johnny Bravo (The Sensitive Male, 1997)

Johnny Bravo (Jeff Bennett) doesn't have clue one when it comes to women. That was the point behind his show, which stretched out 4 seasons across 7 years due to creative changes, among other things.

In "The Sensitive Male", Johnny, predictably, is rebuffed by a young woman, in her early 20's, I think. Dumber than a bag of hammers as usual, Johnny thinks she wants him anyway, but when a middle aged man (special guest star Jack Sheldon) appears, bearing flowers and acknowledging his own shyness, the girl gave him her phone number. Of course, that makes Johnny jealous. As if he thinks all women are his domain (and they're not).

Edit, 2/13/21: The video has been deleted.

To think that, in the course of the series, the only woman that actually wanted to be Johnny's friend was his little neighbor, schoolgirl-Girl Scout Susie (Mae Whitman). Considering that he's dated a werewolf and an antelope, I'd say series creator Van Partible missed the boat by not asking for a guest appearance by a certain Wonder Twin........

Rating: B.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Fireworks (1976)

In honor of America's 239th birthday, we present another America Rock treat from Schoolhouse Rock. "Fireworks", written by Lynn Ahrens and sung by Grady Tate, premiered in March 1976.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: A complete episode of Super 6 (1966)

Just for kicks, I went and ordered the complete Super 6 on DVD a week ago. Came in yesterday. I'm about 1/3 of the way through, and needed a break, so I'll finish it up this weekend.

Anyway, as I had suspected, Wikipedia's entry on the series needs a bit of a clean-up job. Actress Pat Carroll was credited for a male role as Super Chief, but upon closer inspection, Super Chief, the dispatcher, was actually voiced by Paul Frees, who played a good number of characters on the show,  including 2/3 of the Brothers Matzoriley. Percival, Granite Man's pigeon sidekick, was actually voiced by Daws Butler, not the otherwise obscure Lyn Johnson as Wikipedia claimed. Butler simply recycled his Elroy Jetson/Augie Doggie voice for the part, and was the 3rd head of the Matzoriley brothers.

Onward, then, to episode 2, first broadcast on Sept. 17, 1966. This is the only other episode currently available in its entirety on YouTube. We'll have to see if any other shorts, aside from the Brothers Matzoriley piece we posted a ways back, are out there loose.

Super Bwoing proves once again why he's considered an "apprentice" when he mistakes a ventriloquist dummy for a missing child in "Easy Kid Stuff". Then, the Matzoriley boys are Canadian Mounties trying to chase down "Dirty Pierre" (Frees, of course). Finally, Granite Man debuts battling Dr. Sabbo Teur in "Cement Mixup".

Funny thing. Super Scuba debuts in a bumper skit in week 3, and has his first adventure in week 4. He's a self-absorbed hero more at home under the ocean with his secretary/girlfriend, Bubbles the Mermaid (June Foray), and voiced by a pre-Laugh-In Arte Johnson, or so Wikipedia claims. If so, Arte's trying to do a fair Dean Martin mimic, and doing a decent job. I'd suspect that Arte actually was Captain Zammo (nee Whammo, who had his name changed when the Wham-O toy company raised a stink over copyrights), given the character's German roots.

If someone could help verify who did what, we can get this cleaned up in time for the series' 50th anniversary next year. For what it's worth, Friz Freleng and his writers rehashed as many old gags from the Looney Tunes library as they could. In fact, veterans like Hawley Pratt, Robert McKimson, and Norm McCabe were some of the directors. McCabe would also move on to Filmation to try some dramatic work. Pratt began a long association with DePatie-Freleng with this series.

Rating: B-.

Summertainment: Popeye in Beach Peach (1950)

This weekend, folks will be hitting the beaches just as much as they'll be looking for someplace to watch the fireworks go off on Saturday night (or, for that matter, tonight and Sunday, too). So, it makes sense to join Popeye in 1950's "Beach Peach":

So, Popeye gets a blond bully instead of Bluto for a change. Otherwise, same old story, same ending.

Rating: B.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Saturday School: The Shot Heard 'Round The World (Schoolhouse Rock!, 1976)

As America celebrated its 200th birthday in 1976, the folks behind Schoolhouse Rock added America Rock to the rotation. From March 1976, Bob Dorough wrote and sang "The Shot Heard 'Round The World".

The US turns 239 on Saturday. Ready to party?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Game Time: Q*Bert (Saturday Supercade, 1983)

Time to return to the Saturday Supercade. It's been a long time since we scoped things out here, so let's talk about Q*Bert.

All Ruby-Spears did was copy what Hanna-Barbera did a year earlier with Pac-Man, and create an entire community for Q*Bert's adventures. Nice idea, but who remembers this now? These cartoons don't air on cable anymore, and maybe that's because of rights issues, since I doubt WB owns these toons anyway.

Edit: 8/5/15: The episode previously posted was deleted by YouTube due to copyright issues. In its place, we will offer a bumper and the intro:

No rating.