Saturday, August 29, 2015

On DVD: Charlotte's Web (1973)

It's said that E. B. White wasn't fond of Hanna-Barbera & Paramount's adaptation of his 1952 book, Charlotte's Web. He'd wanted Gene Deitch to do the adaptation, but Paramount opted for H-B. The problem? The movie was a musical, with songs composed by Richard & Robert Sherman of "Mary Poppins" fame.

I remember reading the book, and until now, I hadn't seen the movie. Now I know why White was so upset. The songs disrupt the flow of the story. You see, back then, studios believed that an animated movie needed to be a musical. I'd seen "Snoopy Come Home" and Disney's "Peter Pan" & "Cinderella", and in each case, the songs were placed in a proper context. Not so here. While the songs are fun and fine, they surface abruptly.

I think we've all read the story at one time. To summarize the plot as quickly as possible, farmer John Arable (John Stephenson) decides that a newborn pig, the runt of his, well, litter, needs to be put down. Daughter Fern (Pamelyn Ferdin, The Paul Lynde Show, The Roman Holidays, ex-Curiosity Shop) objects, and pleads with her father to let her raise the runt as a pet, whom she christened Wilbur. After six weeks, Wilbur, now grown, is sold to Fern's uncle, Homer Zuckerman. With the encouragement of a chatty goose (Agnes Moorehead, ex-Bewitched), Wilbur (Henry Gibson, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In) discovers that he, too, can talk. He's soon befriended by Charlotte, a spider (Debbie Reynolds), who promises to save Wilbur from being turned into bacon & pork chops. Her plan? Convince Zuckerman through messages woven in her web that Wilbur is a special pig. Adding to the fun is Templeton, a rat, who reluctantly helps Charlotte with her messages. Unsurprisingly, Paul Lynde lends his voice to Templeton in his final performance for H-B. The cast also includes The Partridge Family's Danny Bonaduce (as Avery, Fern's brother) and Dave Madden.

Scope out the trailer:

To be honest, I have to agree with White. The songs do disrupt the flow of the movie, as if jolted by a bolt of lightning. Then again, I wasn't too fond of certain songs in "Snoopy Come Home", either.

Rating: B--.

Toonfomercial: Where's Deputy Dawg when you really need him? Dick Tracy & Muskie shill for Soaky (1963)

Now, friends, here's a real rare treat.

Dick Tracy (Everett Sloane) is in Deputy Dawg's territory, but there's no sign of the Terrytoons law-dog. Instead, Muskie Muskrat (Dayton Allen) is seen filching some eggs, but there's a little surprise, in the form of a pair of Soaky soap dispensers, each bearing the likenesses of Muskie & Tracy.

Not sure if Terrytoons completely animated this ad or got some outsourced help.

To think it would be eight years before Tracy would get another cartoon gig.

Friday, August 28, 2015

On DVD: Tom & Jerry: Spy Quest (2015)

"There's a right way and a wrong way."----Oliver Hardy.

3 months ago, Jonny Quest made his DC Comics debut, appearing in an issue of Scooby-Doo Team-Up. Nice idea, but poorly executed, as writer Sholly Fisch stuck to the same basic formula he's used for Scooby, inserting the Quest team into a generic Scooby story. It just didn't work.

A month later, Warner Home Video issued "Tom & Jerry: Spy Quest", in which the cat & the mouse are the ones being inserted, but there's a reason for that, as the viewer sees while the film progresses.

It begins with Tom & Jerry on a beach in Florida, enjoying some sun, or at least trying to. Jerry takes advantage of his small size having some speed to go with it, as he runs over to a tube of sunscreen left unattended, steps on it, and runs back to catch the gel as it lands on him. Not exactly Speedy Gonzales, but you get the idea. Tom literally throws some shade on Jerry, and the usual slapstick begins. Spike & Tyke make a cameo appearance, but before long, Tyke's role of barking Tom into a frenzy is given over to Bandit, which sets off a chain of events that put the main plot into motion.

Predictably, the villain is the Quest team's ancient foe, Dr. Zin (James Hong), whose henchmen are cats wearing robot suits. Something you don't usually see, but Zin got the memo, apparently. Either way, he's after Dr. Quest's latest device, which is meant to help mankind. Jerry, seeing how Tom reacts to Bandit's barking, uses it as a secret weapon, which flummoxes Zin. Oh, this is delicious fun.

Just as predictably, Benton Quest is captured, along with Race Bannon, forcing Jonny & Hadji, along with Tom, Jerry, & Bandit, to come to the rescue. Along the way, they run into Race's ex-girlfriend, Jezebel Jade (Tia Carrere), who's doing a cabaret act between mercenary jobs. Her assistant? None other than Droopy (Joe Alaskey)! They get to do a musical number together, which was just so cool. Well, we all know Da Droopster is a chick magnet......!

The following trailer also accompanies the previously reviewed "Looney Tunes: Rabbit Run":

Nice touch, too, bringing back the original voice of Jonny, Tim Matheson, to play the President, although the design skews closer to John F. Kennedy, who of course had been assassinated 10 months before Jonny Quest premiered on ABC. I wonder if someone at WB animation has/had an issue with the current President, since none of the fictional Chief Executives in recent DTV's have been analogues for President Obama.

All I can really say, though, is the door is open for Tom & Jerry to meet Scooby-Doo and friends, or other Hanna-Barbera characters down the line. Sales on this DVD, however, will dictate whether or not that happens.

Rating: A.

An idea unused-----yet

Earlier, I had suggested that maybe Hanna-Barbera, and, up to this point, Warner Bros./Cartoon Network, had missed the boat on what would've been a perfect primetime venue for Scooby-Doo, something that could still be done, in this writer's opinion.

Some years ago, CN presented the Fancy Anvil Awards, which was just an excuse to create some sort of honor for Scooby, whom network programmers were obsessing over at the time, using classic reruns to fill every available open space on the schedule, a practice currently being used for the dreck known as Teen Titans Go!, because the programming department doesn't know any better. Prior to that, Scooby's only primetime special for ABC, Scooby Goes Hollywood, was the real impetus for Scooby & Scrappy-Doo going to a more slapstick comedy format beginning in season 2, a fact that Scrappy's legion of haters haven't wrapped their collective head around yet. Scooby & Shaggy were being used in a bite-the-hand-that-feeds-us showcase parodying a number of ABC series.

Now, you would think, given the ratings, that ABC would've asked for a 2nd Scooby primetime special, but nothing came of it, and it would be 23 years before the WB served up a pair of half hour primetime episodes that easily fit into What's New Scooby-Doo. This short-sightedness could be explained away as the network's reluctance to offend a number of major stars, particularly those who were regularly partying, if you will, with Dean Martin on his Celebrity Roasts. See where I'm going with this?

Given the interaction Scooby had with various celebrities during the New Scooby-Doo Movies series (1972-4), and later on What's New, a special roast of Scooby would not and should not be out of the question. WB has the resources to make this happen. The dais would be filled with the likes of former major league ballplayer Mike Piazza (who guested on What's New while with the Mets), Dick Van Dyke, Cher, John Astin (ex-The Addams Family), Tim Conway, and various other H-B/WB stars in a mix of live-action & CGI animation. As an inside nod to the fans, cast members such as Frank Welker would also be included.

But, here we are, after 46 years of Scooby's adventures, and the roast hasn't happened, even though Comedy Central now does an annual roast that would be ripe for parody. Most internet fans are prepared to hate on the forthcoming Be Cool, Scooby-Doo, ticketed for Boomerang, because of some ill-advised character designs, but why couldn't WB commission a roast in the interim, especially in between DTV's? Is Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes that much of a clueless putz?

What do you guys think?

You Know the Voice: Frank Welker (1978)

It's too bad they never roasted Scooby-Doo. Then again, there's still time for that.

Anyway, Frank Welker made a rare appearance in front of the camera when he was invited to appear on the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast when they honored George Burns in 1978. Frank shows up around the 35 minute mark to do a mimic of Walter Cronkite, referencing Burns' hit movie, "Oh God!".

You'd think they'd have done a roast of Scooby by now, but no one at Hanna-Barbera or WB or their various network partners ever gave it much thought. Hmmmmm. It would make a pretty good DTV down the line, don't you think?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Saturtainment: Little Clowns of Happytown (1987)

By the late 80's, ABC was beginning to lean more on DIC for new product, especially to complement The Real Ghostbusters, which was in its 2nd season. Enter The Little Clowns of Happytown.

While there are those who claim they are afraid of or hate clowns for whatever reason, the Happy Clowns are just that. Happy, ready to put smiles on kids' faces.

Unfortunately, most viewers voted with their remotes. ABC was losing steam in the ratings, as their only ratings hits were the Ghostbusters and the Bugs Bunny-Tweety Show, which was also in its 2nd season. The clowns didn't generate enough ratings, and were gone by the end of the season.

Here's the open:

No rating.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Toonfomercial: How would an ant and a grasshopper save money? (1977)

You don't hear much about savings bonds anymore, but it was still something to consider in the 70's.

This 1977 cartoon ad takes the tale of the grasshopper and the ant, and tweaks it to serve as a cautionary tale about the Payroll Savings Plan. Paul Frees (who else?) narrates.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Godzilla vs. the Stone Creatures (1978)

It's been a while since we've seen Godzilla. Cartoon Network/Boomerang's sitting on the tapes of the 1978 series when they could dust them off to fill space on Da Boom's schedule, were it not for the insistence of network suits to shove CN's Amazing World of Gumball and Teen Titans GO! onto the Boomerschedule, where neither belongs.

Anyway, seems ol' 'Zilla (Ted Cassidy) was a globetrotter in this series, as "Attack of the Stone Creatures" finds him and the crew of the Calico in Egypt.

Rating: B.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Getting Schooled: Rootie Kazootie (1950)

Back in the 50's, kids were into puppets. At the head of the pack, of course, was Howdy Doody, but not far behind, especially in his home city of New York, was Rootie Kazootie, whose daily series began as a local entry in New York in 1950, then went national a year later, first on NBC, home of Howdy Doody, then on ABC, before the series was cancelled in 1954.

More than 40 years later, there was a brief, localized revival, produced for cable. Unfortunately, Rootie would not get a second chance at becoming a national or global icon.

Let's take a step back in time to 1953, when Rootie is threatened by Poison Zoomack and what otherwise is a simple magnet.

Today, if someone wanted to revive the series, it'd have to be done as a cartoon, likely in CGI, to get the children's attention. Recent attempts to use puppets have failed miserably. Yeah, I'm referring to Teen Titans GO!.

No rating.

Rein-Toon-Ation: The Flintstone Comedy Show, aka Flintstone Frolics (1980)

In 1980, NBC rebooted The New Fred & Barney Show as The Flintstone Comedy Show, recycling the title of the 1972 series that aired on CBS, except this time it was 90 minutes, with new segments, and some lifted from other Hanna-Barbera entries.

For example, there were craft lessons and puzzles, like on Super Friends over on ABC.

Dino & Cavemouse: The late Tex Avery directed these chase shorts, trying to recapture the magic of Tom & Jerry.

Pebbles & Dino & Bamm-Bamm (not shown): The Stone Age sweethearts (Russi Taylor & Michael Sheehan) turn detective, aided by their pals, Moonrock, Penny, & Wiggy, along with Dino, in a riff on Scooby-Doo, who never appeared on NBC. Basically, they rebooted the 1971 series to retrofit the Scooby Formula.

The Bedrock Cops (not shown): Fred (Henry Corden) & Barney (Blanc) are part-time Bedrock police officers, aided by the time-tossed Shmoo (Frank Welker).

The Frankenstones (not shown): Introduced in a primetime special some months earlier, Bedrock's new family of monsters lives next door to the Flintstones. Chaos ensues. Charles Nelson Reilly (Match Game, ex-Uncle Croc's Block, Lidsville) replaces John Stephenson as Frank.

Captain Caveman: Prequel to the 1977 series, and more of an outright parody of Superman, with Cavey adopting the alter-ego of Chester, copy boy at the Daily Granite, where Wilma (Jean VanderPyl) & Betty (Gay Autterson) are reporters, under the supervision of Lou Granite (Kenneth Mars, ex-Fernwood/America 2Night).

The Flintstone Family Adventures: The Flintstones & Rubbles go off on some comic misadventures, much like the original 1960-6 series.

Unfortunately, episodes have been jumbled together in 30 minute increments, rather than the complete 90 minute format. The series suffered from what I like to call "late start syndrome", in that it didn't premiere until mid-November 1980, and that proved to be ultimately costly, as the show was cut to an hour in season 2.

Here's the intro:

Outside the US, the series went under the name, Flintstone Frolics, but used the same theme song, with slightly altered lyrics. Hopefully, we'll have more stuff down the road, provided this doesn't get taken down.

Rating: B.

Edit: 9/18/15: Turns out I'd reviewed this once before. Oops, I did it again.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Animated World of DC Comics: Baby Plas in Bad Luck Stroll (1980)

Plastic Man (Michael Bell) didn't have to look far for a babysitter for son Baby Plas (that's also Bell making with the baby sounds), not when he had Hula Hula (Joe Baker, doing what amounted to a Lou Costello mimic) on speed dial, if such a thing existed back in 1980. This would be Hula's only appearance of the season. Here's "Bad Luck Stroll".

I've heard of stretching one's imagination, but this is ridiculous.

Rating: C.

Saturday School: Remember Bic Banana pens & crayons? (1973)

School's starting again soon, so there's a rush for last minute school supplies & clothes. That allows us to go back in time to the silliness of the 70's.

The folks at Bic are best known for pens & lighters. In the case of the former, they came out with the Bic Banana line in the 70's. Pens, crayons, markers. To shill for Bic, they hired actor Charles Nelson Reilly, who, around the time this was made, was a regular on Match Game after runs on The Ghost & Mrs. Muir & Lidsville:

Too bad Bic discontinued the Banana line by the end of the decade......

Friday, August 21, 2015

Animated World of DC Comics: Gulliver's Gigantic Goof (1973)

You can tell Hanna-Barbera's original Super Friends didn't have much of a budget. Everyone in the cast had to play multiple characters, and the animation coming out of Australia wasn't exactly on a par with the studio's output in the 60's. And that's with Alex Toth designing the characters!

Green Arrow was one of three 1-shot guest stars (Flash & Plastic Man were the others), and made his only SF appearance in the episode, "Gulliver's Gigantic Goof".

Edit, 2/11/19: The video has been deleted due to a copyright claim from an international rights holder.

The episode was a commentary on the population explosion, riffing at the same time on Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, except that in this case, Gulliver (Casey Kasem, doing a Peter Lorre impersonation) is a misguided scientist (and there were a lot of those back then) who thinks shrinking people will stop the expansion of the population.

Rating for the episode: A-.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Rare Treats: Love & the Old Fashioned Father (Love, American Style, 1972)

As everyone knows, the original Love, American Style spawned two spin-offs during its 5 year run (1969-74). The more famous one, of course, is Happy Days, which begat five more series. The other was Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home, which, amazingly, wasn't picked up by ABC, CBS, or NBC, but rather was sold into syndication by Hanna-Barbera. Locally, the then-ABC affiliate ran Father on Sunday nights.

Well, then, gang, let's take a time trip to 1972, and the pilot, which aired on Style, a few months before Father bowed. Tom Bosley, later of Happy Days, and Kristina Holland (The Courtship of Eddie's Father) are part of the ensemble, along with Jack Burns (ex-The Andy Griffith Show).

The minimalist animation style would prove to be Father's ultimate undoing.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tooniversary: Mighty Mouse in Krakatoa (1945)

Mighty Mouse didn't say a whole lot in his cartoons, save for those annoying operatic shorts, until the 60's and the made-for-TV episodes. He didn't need to. He came, he saw, he saved the day.

In "Krakatoa", released three weeks before Christmas of 1945, Mighty Mouse has to bottle up the titular volcano when it erupts. The narration is minimal, as the music carries the story.

Rating: A.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Toonfomercial: Spooks for breakfast? (1973)

General Mills' Monster line of cereals expanded by 1 in 1973 with the addition of Boo Berry, which is a play on, of course, blueberry. They simply substituted blueberry flavoring for strawberry (Franken Berry) or chocolate (Count Chocula), as if the kiddo's wouldn't know the difference.

Today, the Monster cereals are kept in limited release, available only during October, instead of being year-round as they were originally. Considering that some stores charge as much as $5 a box these days, maybe it'll help the parents' wallets.

Anyway, here's the debut of Boo Berry, who floats in as Choc & Frank (both voiced by Bob McFadden) are doing what they do best---argue. Boo's voice is done by---who else?----Paul Frees, doing a Peter Lorre mimic.

Saturtainment: You Can't Do That on Television (1979)

To its fans in its native Canada, You Can't Do That on Television was like a juvenile SCTV, but instead of parodies, the skits were mostly built around the inevitable moment where a cast member would be coated in green "slime" for simply saying, "I don't know". The "slime" was also a trademark of Nickelodeon, which picked up the series in 1981.

As you'll see shortly, the intro to the show has its roots with England's Monty Python's Flying Circus, simply in artistic form alone. Out a large cast of relative unknowns, only one performer went on to bigger and better things, well after leaving the show. Alanis Morrissette later became a million selling singer-songwriter, whose 1995 CD, "Jagged Little Pill", made her an international superstar. As memory serves, Nick put You Can't Do That on Television back on the schedule for a bit to capitalize on the success, as if they wanted to take credit for "discovering" Alanis.

At its peak, the series aired daily, including Saturdays, sometimes multiple times a day. Today, the "hot" show at Nick is SpongeBob SquarePants, and that's been a phenomenon for what seems like forever.

Following is a sample episode. I think you can detect the SCTV influence with the "cold open":

Silly fun. Too bad Nick won't bring it back out again.

Rating: B+.

Monday, August 17, 2015

On DVD: Justice League: War (2014)

As part of DC's "New 52" initiative in 2011, Geoff Johns & Jim Lee, ah, reinvented the Justice League. Cyborg, if you will, graduated from the Teen Titans after more than 30 years of comics time to the big leagues.

Unfortunately, Johns & Lee's initial story arc, adapted into the 2014 DTV, "War", winds up an uneven mix when transferred to the screen.

Writer Heath Corson fumbled the ball, badly, in adapting Johns' original script. Aquaman was left out of the movie, replaced by Shazam (formerly DC's version of Captain Marvel), who didn't officially join the League until much later, after his own storyline, run as a backup feature in the book, had run its course. And his reboot is a bad story unto itself.

The plot? Darkseid decides to invade Earth. The way the DCU was rebooted by Johns, Lee, & friends, all past history is no longer relevant. Our heroes have only been around a short while, and are only meeting, in most cases, for the first time. Victor Stone (Shemar Moore, Criminal Minds) is a football hero instead of a track star. Billy Batson is his biggest fan, but Billy is also living in a foster home, and steals Vic's jersey after a big game. That's not the Billy most of us know from back in the day, and I had a problem with Johns' reinterpretation of Billy. Green Lantern comes across as an arrogant jackass, continuing the narrative Johns established with Hal Jordan, and that includes the live-action 2011 movie that preceded the "New 52" by a couple of months. Shazam is no better, with Billy's mind in an adult body. That particular configuration has been in place since the late 80's, and it's even worse now. Wonder Woman (Michelle Monaghan) is new to "Man's World", of course, and acting as an ambassador. George Newbern, who voiced Superman in Justice League (2001-4), voices Steve Trevor here, with Alan Tudyk taking over as the Man of Steel.

Corson is trying too many things at once. The artists working on the film got Cyborg's armor coloring all wrong, as it looks more grey than silver. That makes no sense. In contrast, Moore is one of the better actors in the cast. Toon veteran Steve Blum voices Darkseid, and nails it.

Following is the trailer:

The DVD includes trailers for "The Lego Movie", and "Son of Batman".

Rating: C--.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

You Know The Voice(s): How many voice actors can you find in Gus? (1976)

Walt Disney's 1976 sports comedy, "Gus", offers a trifecta of familiar voices in this sample clip, two of whom would begin work in animation after the release of this film.

Bing, bang, boom! Start with Edward Asner (on a break from The Mary Tyler Moore Show), who would resurrect his career by moving to voice acting in the 90's (i.e. Spider-Man, Batman: The Animated Series). You can see Louise "Liberty" Williams behind him, and alongside Louise, we have Ronnie Schell (ex-Goober & The Ghost Chasers, Gomer Pyle, USMC, Good Morning World), who would return to toons 2 years later with Battle of the Planets. Not seen in the video are Happy Days' Tom Bosley, who would turn to voice work toward the end of his Days run (The World of David The Gnome), after having worked on Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home right before Days, & Harvey Korman (Great Gazoo from The Flintstones). The all-star cast also includes Don Knotts, Bob Crane, former NFLers Dick Butkus & Johnny Unitas, the latter playing himself as a sportscaster, and Tim Conway. Hasn't been seen on TV in years.

On DVD: Super Friends: The "Lost" Episodes (1983)

A quick history lesson first, if you please.

In 1983, the local ABC affiliate experimented with an all live-action program slate on Saturday mornings, bumping all of ABC's cartoons, but leaving in Weekend Special & American Bandstand. It was such an unpopular move that things reverted to normal in time for the Christmas holidays.

Supposedly, ABC had cut Super Friends, which would be marking its 10th anniversary, out of the lineup, but it was included when the cartoons returned during the winter of 1983-4. However, a new slate of episodes meant to air that season didn't air in this country until WB's Batman-Superman Adventures made-for-cable anthology package debuted on USA Network more than a decade later. These "lost" episodes aired in Australia and other countries, but for some reason were held out of American channels for over 10 years.

About 4 years ago, WB released the 1983-4 season of Super Friends on DVD with the sub-heading, "The Lost Episodes". It's a must for any fans who want to complete their collection. 

Edit, 6/17/22: The video was deleted. In its place is a screencap of the DVD itself:

Unlike the shorts produced the two previous seasons, writers were not given screen credit in the title cards. The closing credits suggest, however, that Jeffrey Scott might've been the sole writer, though I doubt that very seriously. Virtually all of the episodes from this season are off YouTube due to WB copyright enforcement. Those who want to try to post will use specific tricks, such as speeding up the audio or pushing their cameras closer to the screen, which makes their clips unusable here.

An added feature on the DVD includes a pair of comic book stories. The first comes from Super Friends (1st series) 12, the other from a tabloid-size reprint volume that featured wrap-around bumper segments by comics legend Alex Toth, who designed the characters for the TV show.

Rating: B.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Daytime Heroes: Sub-Mariner (1966)

Of the five heroes who comprised the Marvel Superheroes anthology package, only the Sub-Mariner has not yet made it to the big screen. One wonders why, considering that Prince Namor's history dates back as far as Captain America's does.

Like DC's Aquaman, Namor is a mixed breed. His mother is Atlantean, his father a human. And while most of the Atlanteans in Marvel, as first envisioned by Bill Everett, have blue skin, unlike DC's Atlanteans, Namor could pass for a white man, save for his pointed ears and the wings protruding from his ankles.

In recent years, Marvel has placed Namor with almost all of their super-teams. Yes, he has served with the Fantastic Four, as well as with the Defenders, Avengers, and, more recently, the X-Men, as Marvel reclassified Namor as a mutant sometime in the last decade or so. There had been rumors of a feature film a decade ago, but nothing came of it.

In 1966, Namor was considered a big enough deal, having shared Tales to Astonish with the Hulk, to be included in Marvel Superheroes. Actor John Vernon, then relatively unknown, is the voice of Namor. Now, let's scope the series opener:

In the comics, Namor was quite the ladies man back in the day. How Dorma was able to put up with that.......!

Rating: B.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Magnificent Muttley in (and is) Admiral Bird Dog (1969)

Muttley (Don Messick) is dreaming again, this time while jogging. Poor Dick Dastardly (Paul Winchell). If only he'd shown Muttley a little more respect, he wouldn't be cast in such a bad light in Muttley's daydreams.

Here's Magnificent Muttley in "Admiral Bird Dog":

The intro had to be edited, it seems, to keep the WB copyright enforcement dept. away. Too bad Dastardly & Muttley was cancelled after 1 season.

Rating: A.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

On DVD: Justice League: Gods & Monsters: The Movie (2015)

First, there were the minisodes made available by Machinima, and posted here in the Archives. Next came a series of shorts that DC has on their YouTube channel. After three one-shot comic book specials, DC launched a miniseries this week, two weeks after the release of the feature film version of Justice League: Gods & Monsters.

To be blunt, the DC Universe that you know doesn't exist here. As we've previously discussed, Superman (Benjamin Bratt, ex-Law & Order) has General Zod for a father, and was raised on Earth by migrant workers. Batman (Michael C. Hall, Dexter) isn't Bruce Wayne, but rather Kirk Langstrom, living vampire. Wonder Woman has her ties to the New Gods. Where it was previously discussed she was the daughter of Orion, in truth, she is his widow. They were married, but Orion died on their wedding night when the war between New Genesis & Apokolips erupted anew.

It is a world where Amanda Waller is the first female President of the United States. Where Lex Luthor has taken Metron's role as a seeker of knowledge, but where there is the traditional emnity between Lex & Superman, there is a surprise twist.

It is a world where Langstrom was best buds with fellow scientist Will Magnus (C. Thomas Howell), whose wife, Tina, was actually more interested in Langstrom, but settled on Magnus, presumably after the accident that turned Langstrom into a vampire. As noted, Langstrom is posited here as DC's answer to Marvel's living vampire, Michael Morbius.

The plot? Someone's trying to frame this world's Justice League by killing other scientists. How it plays out will shock you. Maybe. Here's a tease.

Commentary on the Gods & Monsters comics can be found over at The Land of Whatever.

Rating: A.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sunday Funnies: Incredible Hulk, a la Family Guy (2011)

Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane is a comics geek.

There, I've said it. We've previously seen Family Guy channel MacFarlane's inner geek/child with a replication of the opening to The All-New Super Friends Hour. From 2011, here's a satire on another popular series from the late 70's, The Incredible Hulk:

Honestly, Peter has never looked more appropriate in a parody skit.

Rating: A.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Toons After Dark: Cartoon Sushi (1997)

With Beavis & Butt-Head nearing the end of its initial run, MTV felt they needed to keep the animation train rolling. So they went back to the starting line.

Cartoon Sushi was supposed to do the same thing that Liquid Television did before it 6 years earlier, serve as a linchpin for a new wave of cartoons for the network. Where Liquid begat Beavis & Butt-Head and Aeon Flux, Sushi managed just one spin-off, that being Celebrity Deathmatch, which would outlive its parent show.

Danny Antonucci (ex-Brothers Grunt) designed the open as his last project for MTV before leaving to create Ed, Edd, & Eddy for Cartoon Network. Other than that, well, judge for yourselves. Here's a sample episode.

I think Stick Figure Theater had started somewhere else before being picked up for Sushi, but I can't be sure about that. I didn't watch enough of the show to merit a rating, so there won't be one.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Rein-Toon-Ation: The New Adventures of Beany & Cecil (1988)

John Kricfalusi hasn't had the greatest of luck on Saturday mornings.

In 1987, Kricfalusi was on Ralph Bakshi's staff for the ill-fated Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures, which, if not for some misguided criticism from Rev. Don Wildmon's American Family Association, would've actually succeeded. The next year, Kricfalusi was chosen by the family of Beany & Cecil creator Bob Clampett to work on a revival of the show, which DIC was producing for ABC.

Kricfalusi thought he could get away with some, ah, subversive humor, but network censors and suits had other ideas. As a result, the revival died stillborn, cancelled after barely a month on the air, with four episodes unaired. Only 9 were produced because production started late due to issues between Kricfalusi and ABC.

As you'll see, the hallmarks of Kricfalusi's later work on Ren & Stimpy, which bowed on Nickelodeon three years later, are present. Here's "The Framed Freep".

I tried watching this show once. Something felt wrong, and I never looked back.

Kricfalusi would give Saturday mornings another try with Fox's Ripping Friends in 2001. Unfortunately, that show wore out its welcome rather quickly as well, and was cancelled, only to be picked up by [adult swim], which didn't hang on to it for very long, either. Kricfalusi's subsequent reboot of Ren & Stimpy as a late night cartoon for Spike in 2003 was also a bust.

Rating: D.

Tooniversary: The Amazing Three (1965)

Japan's Amazing Three (Known as Wonder Three over there) marks 50 years this year. Unfortunately, it currently doesn't have any American cabler interested in picking it up.

It took two years before an independent company imported the series to the US, and it lasted just 1 season in both the US & Japan. It also started as a manga (Japanese comic book) before going to television. I had never seen the show, so there isn't going to be a rating, but reading the Wikipedia entry helped inform me about the series. Seems that one of the aliens, Bokko, who adopted the form of a rabbit, had a crush on the Earth boy the Three teamed with, known as Kenny Carter here in the US, or Shinichi Hoshi in Japan, and wanted to take on a human appearance to be with him. Talk about unrequited love.

At least one episode is available, but in Japanese with English subtitles. Instead of that, we'll leave you with the open/close of the American import of the series, with theme music by Ron Muller.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Saturtainment: Hot Hero Sandwich (1979)

After the Kroffts bombed out with The Krofft Superstar Hour/Bay City Rollers Show, NBC went back to the drawing board in 1979. Unfortunately, their lunch hour woes continued.

Hot Hero Sandwich drew the dreaded lunch hour death slot, but due to a writers' strike, I believe, which delayed the start of some shows that year, Sandwich didn't debut until after Thanksgiving. Bada-bing, bada-bomb.

The series was the brainchild of former Sesame Street writers Bruce & Carole Hart, and featured a couple of future stars in Matt McCoy (who would top-line an NBC sitcom, We've Got It Made, just 4 years later), and Denny Dillon, who would return to Studio 8H, where Sandwich was based, not too long after as a cast member on Saturday Night Live.

Following is the intro. Casey Kasem (American Top 40, Super Friends, etc.), who was a studio announcer for NBC at the time, handles those duties here.

Forgive the video quality. Some of these shows are hard to find as it is.

No rating.

Animated World of DC Comics: How does flying a kite give you a headache? (1977)

This has to be the cheesiest of the Super Friends health tips.

A young African-American girl tells Superman (Danny Dark) that she has a headache, this while flying a kite. She admits having access to her parents' medicine cabinet. Uh-oh.

The segment is followed by a promo for the following week's rerun of the season opener.

Danny Dark took full advantage of his fame by landing gigs as a studio announcer, first for CBS, and then, beginning in 1981, at NBC, as cast-mate Casey Kasem was transitioning out. He'd later serve as an announcer for In The Heat of the Night.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Animated World of DC Comics: Green Arrow vs. Cupid (2014)

DC Nation is no more, but the shorts produced for the now-defunct block are still being used as filler in between episodes of Teen Titans GO!, which is being played to death by the idiots at Cartoon Network.

Will Friedle (ex-Boy Meets World, Kim Possible, Thundercats) voices the Emerald Archer, who in these cartoons has a bow with an artificial intelligence (Kevin Michael Richardson). As bad as it sounds. Seems to me the jabroni who wrote this thought it'd be funny to tweak Marvel's Iron Man by giving GA a sentient bow for a sidekick.

Come to think of it, this might come from the same morons (i.e. Michael Jelenic) responsible for the continued atrocity known as Teen Titans GO!. Anyway, in this piece, GA meets Cupid. For all the wrong reasons.

I'd say they should quit while they're ahead, but I don't think they're ahead in anything right now.

Rating: C-.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Family Toons: The Beary Family (1962)

I'm not sure if The Beary Family appeared on TV, but for 10 years (1962-72), Universal commissioned a series of animated shorts. I seem to recall them appearing in Gold Key comic books, in support, of course, of Woody Woodpecker, so maybe they did hit the small screen after all.

Grace Stafford (Mrs. Walter Lantz) and Paul Frees are the principal voices for much of the run, although there was a stretch where Daws Butler filled in for Frees, who was working for just about everyone in the 60's, he was in such demand.

From 1969, here's "Cool It, Charlie", in which Charlie and his son (both voiced by Frees) have issues just getting an air conditioner home.

Nothing special, really. You can picture other cartoon families having similar issues.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Looney TV: Compressed Hare (1961)

"Compressed Hare" is the 4th & final pairing of Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote, and, aside from a Road Runner featurette a year later, it would be the last time that Wile would talk.

I'm thinking that Chuck Jones was looking for a new nemesis for Bugs, considering that they were running out of plot ideas for Bugs with either Elmer Fudd or Yosemite Sam. "Compressed Hare" is also the last of the Coyote "Super Genius" trilogy. The only other Bugs-Wile pairing saw Bugs sub for the Road Runner.

Edit, 11/4/2020: The video has been deleted by Dailymotion. In its place is a theatre lobby card:

Wile's business card should've had him described as a "professional glutton for punishment", don't you think?

Rating: A.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Toonfomercial: The Peanuts gang shills for Cheerios (1985)

In the mid-80's, Charles Schulz's legendary Peanuts characters were licensed to General Mills for a series of commercials to promote Cheerios. The basic theme was the same in just about all of the ads. One of the kids is short on energy due to not having Cheerios for breakfast.

Following is a compilation of the spots.

John Stephenson is the announcer.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Toon Rock: I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat (1950-2011)

"I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat", Tweety's catchphrase, was released as a novelty single, recorded by the inestimable Mel Blanc in 1950. Written by Billy May, Warren Foster, & Alan Livingston, it was resurrected with the following video in 2011, when it was released as a short featurette ahead of "Happy Feet 2".

Ageless June Foray (Granny) added some dialogue after Blanc's vocals were pulled from the archives. As we noted yesterday, the track is also on the "Looney Tunes: Rabbits Run" DVD, which was just released, and is on the "Happy Feet 2" DVD.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: George of the Jungle in The Sultan's Pearl (1967)

Perhaps the only animator daring enough to be nuttier than the Looney Tunes was Jay Ward. His George of the Jungle not only lampooned Tarzan, but would've felt right at home airing in primetime, too, as Rocky & His Friends originally did.

In "The Sultan's Pearl", George (Bill Scott) is tasked to locate the titular object, and is led to believe, along with the viewers, that the pearl is just that. But, of course, well........! Paul Frees narrates.

When a Canadian studio acqured the rights to George a few years back, it lacked the subversive, subtle comedy of the original. Like, what a surprise, eh?

Rating: B.

On DVD: Looney Tunes: Rabbits Run (2015)

An all-new Looney Tunes DTV, "Rabbits Run", goes into general release on Tuesday, but if you shop at Walmart, you're bound to get a copy now, as Walmart landed a deal for early release.

Most of your favorites are here. Bugs Bunny (Jeff Bergman) is a cab driver pulled into a chaotic adventure when Lola Bunny (Rachel Ramras) develops an invisibility formula that the airheaded Lola thinks would be the ultimate perfume. That's because Speedy Gonzales (Fred Armisen) went to Mexico to acquire a rare flower, not knowing the government was after it, too, much to the disgust of General (!) Foghorn Leghorn (Bergman). Unbeknownst to General Leghorn, however, the duplicitous Cecil Turtle has other ideas for the flower, and they involve Marvin the Martian.

Daffy Duck (Bergman again) is also a cabbie, but the world's laziest. He's been dumbed down even further than he was on The Looney Tunes Show, such that when he drives, he tries giving a tour, thinking a lot of the best known tourist attractions, such as St. Louis' Gateway Arch, are in New York. If you thought Lola being dumbed down was bad, this is even worse. Daffy's fans will not be pleased.

What pads out the film are some musical numbers, and while they help carry the plot, they stand out like sore thumbs amidst the chaos. "Rabbits Run" successfully lampoons the action comedy genre, but perhaps stretches it too far by mistreating Yosemite Sam (Maurice LaMarche). You'll see what I mean when you see the movie.

The DVD also includes a trio of Road Runner CGI shorts and the pilot for The Looney Tunes Show, plus trailers for "Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem", "Tom & Jerry: Spy Quest", in which the cat & mouse team with Jonny Quest (who's already met Scooby-Doo in the comics), and the latest Scooby-Doo DTV, co-starring Kiss ("The Rock & Roll Mystery" is already in stores as well). Last, but certainly not least, is a Sylvester & Tweety CGI music video that revives Mel Blanc's novelty record, "I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat", helped along by ageless wonder June Foray. We'll have this video, plus the Road Runner shorts, if they're available on YouTube, in due course.

Is it worth the investment? You bet it is. Now, scope the trailer for "Rabbits Run":

Relatively unknown Rachel Ramras has big rabbit's feet to fill, taking over for Kristen Wiig, who essayed the role on The Looney Tunes Show, but was busy with other projects, such as the recent Lifetime movie with Will Ferrell, one would guess, to record Lola's lines this time. A small quibble, is all.

Rating: A.