Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Daytime Heroes: Captain Fathom (1965)

Cambria Studios, the folks that invented Synchro-Vox, created a 3rd adventure series to use the technology, but Captain Fathom is lesser known than Space Angel and Clutch Cargo, though it has one element common with Space Angel---both boasted the talents of comics icon Alex Toth, who would take his talents to Hanna-Barbera the next year.

Some can argue that Captain Fathom might've been derivative of Jules Verne's 10,000 Leagues Under The Sea, though Fathom is clearly a heroic, altruistic character.

The series had been taken out of circulation by the time I got around to scoping out cartoons as a child, hence no rating. Let's check out "The Loss of the Argonaut" (which was Fathom's sub):

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Toon Legends: Hello, How Am I? (1939)

Popeye thinks he's seeing double. That's because his roommate du jour, J. Wellington Wimpy, ever on the lookout for a free meal, decides to pose as the spinach-eating sailor in order to poach a dinner from Olive.

Here's "Hello, How Am I?":

As I understand it, this plot had been used in Thimble Theatre some time back, but I cannot be sure if Wimpy was involved in that one, too.

Rating: B.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Looney TV: Rabbit Seasoning (1952)

Elmer Fudd is such a tool.

Poor Elmer (Arthur Q. Bryan) is easily fooled by fake rabbit tracks left by Daffy Duck, who has posted signs all over the place, at the same time exposing the fact that he didn't exactly pass the spelling exam. Bugs Bunny finds his two favorite patsies might be more compatible with each other in "Rabbit Seasoning", the middle installment of Chuck Jones' "hunting trilogy".

Rating: A+.

Game Time: The Harlem Globetrotters shill for Vitalis (1971)

In memory of the greatest Harlem Globetrotter of all time, Meadowlark Lemon, who passed away over the weekend at 83, we present this 1971 commercial for Vitalis.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Game Time: Mini One-on-One hockey

In the early 70's, cable television made inroads in upstate New York, introducing viewers to New York City's three then-independent stations (WOR, WPIX, & WNEW), and one from Boston, WSBK, which was a boon to sports fans, since now they had additional options for baseball and hockey.

I don't know exactly when WSBK acquired the rights to carry the Boston Bruins' games, but the hook was in their intermission programming. Instead of just recapping what had just happened in each period, the station aired Mini One on One, a seasonal tournament involving youth hockey teams from throughout New England.

There would be, as memory serves, two matches per Bruins broadcast. Since the games are now cable exclusive, airing on the New England Sports Network (NESN), I'm not sure if they're continuing with Mini One on One.

Let's take a look at a match from 1981 between Milton, Massachusetts and Berlin, New Hampshire:

There were, I think two, maybe three divisions in the tournament. It has been so long, I don't remember.

Rating: A.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Tooniversary: DoDo, The Kid From Outer Space (1965)

You've heard, of course, of the British Invasion in popular music in the 60's (i.e. The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Petula Clark, etc.). The British also imported some television shows across the pond during that same time frame (i.e. Secret Agent, The Avengers, The Saint). To this list we add Halas & Bachelor's DoDo, The Kid From Outer Space.

Created by Lady Stearn Robinson, DoDo has settled on Earth, but it seems that the rhyming Professor Fingers isn't exactly proper father figure material, as you'll see in this sample cartoon.

The animation team of Halas & Bachelor are better known for having worked on some of the Popeye shorts earlier in the 60's, before Rankin-Bass hired them to animate The Jackson 5ive. How DoDo hung around for five years before being pulled from American syndication is a real mystery. The writing just isn't that strong.

Rating: C.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Countdown to Christmas: Little Drummer Boy-Book 2 (1976)

Eight years after the original adaptation of the classic carol, Rankin-Bass decided to create a sequel to The Little Drummer Boy.

Book II continues the story of Aaron, the young drummer from the original special. To be perfectly honest with you, I didn't even know they made a sequel until it began airing on cable some years later. ABC Family (which changes its name to Freeform next month----don't ask) holds the rights, as you can probably tell.

I didn't see enough to merit a rating.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Countdown to Christmas: Jingle Bell Rock (1995)

There's a reason why DIC's 1995 Christmas special, Jingle Bell Rock, hasn't seen the light of day since its initial airing on ABC.

The program purports to tell the story of an elf who supposedly wrote the song, which has been recorded by artists as diverse as Bobby Helms and Hall & Oates, among others, and brings it to the attention of a record executive (Milton Berle).

To think that 31 years earlier, one elf wanted to be a dentist. At least there's some improvement in career dreams, but not much.

Rating: C.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Toon Rock: Mistletoe (1980)

From the TV-movie "Yogi's First Christmas":

Cindy Bear (Janet Waldo) decides to rehearse a Christmas song she intends to serenade Yogi Bear with. Boo Boo is a captive audience of one. Insofar as I know, the song is called "Mistletoe".

Not sure if Dame Janet sang this one herself or someone took over uncredited.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Countdown to Christmas: A Vision of Sugar Plums (Bewitched, 1964)

This next entry was previously reviewed over at The Land of Whatever some time back.

From season 1 of Bewitched:

Darrin & Samantha (Dick York & Elizabeth Montgomery) take in a disillusioned orphan (Billy Mumy) for Christmas, and Samantha must take extreme measures to restore the boy's belief in Santa Claus (Cecil Kellaway). Here's "A Vision of Sugar Plums", colorized for rebroadcast after its initial airing.

Gerry Johnson, who took over as the voice of Betty Rubble on The Flintstones a year earlier, has a brief cameo at the end of the show.

Rating: B.

Animated World of DC Comics: The Creature Commandos in Lucky Day (2014)

Even though Cartoon Network discontinued its DC Nation block some time ago, they're still including some minute-plus shorts with episodes of Teen Titans GO!, which CN is playing into the ground as it is.

The Creature Commandos were created by writer J. Marc DeMatteis for DC 35 years ago in the pages of Weird War Tales (1st series). No self-respecting writer, however, should take credit for the following attempt at comedy:

Good thing this only goes 75 seconds. The joke would've expired had it gone longer.

Rating: C-.

Toons You Might've Missed: The Fantastic Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor (1996)

More than 30 years after Sinbad, Jr.'s last voyage, Sinbad the Sailor was brought back to animated life, this time by producer Fred Wolf (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, James Bond, Jr., etc.).

The Fantastic Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor recast the hero as a teenager, much like the 60's series, but substituting a tiger cub for a parrot and adding a younger orphan boy as Sinbad's sidekick. Research tells us that the series aired on Cartoon Network, but after the channel was added to my cable system at the end of 1996, I have no memory of seeing this show at all. Some of you will be looking at this for the first time, as well.

Here's "The Curse of the Gorgon":

I liked the 60's Sinbad, Jr. shorts better, let's put it that way.

Rating: C.

Friday, December 18, 2015

On The Air: Winx Club (2004)

In 2004, two different Italian studios imported similarly themed fantasy-adventure series to the US.

W.I.T.C.H. landed at ABC & ABC Family, but because it didn't meet FCC E/I guidelines, it aired at 12 noon (ET) on ABC, where, had it been able to be renewed the following season, would've been subjected to frequent pre-emptions for sports. As it was, the series lasted just the 1 year here in the US.

The Winx Club bowed on Fox, imported by 4Kids for the network's Saturday block, and was in and out of the lineup for 4 years (2004-8) before being cancelled. However, the series remained in production, and returned to US screens 2 years later, when Nickelodeon acquired the show.

Today, the series has been consigned to Nick, Jr., at last check, if not also Nicktoons, but with Christmas a week away, you'd think they'd at least air this episode, "A Magix Christmas", first shown in 2012.

The cast during the Nick era includes Nick alum Larisa Oleynik (ex-The Secret World of Alex Mack) and actress-singer Ariana Grande, the latter being reason alone to have this episode run on Nick over the next week.

No rating.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Getting Schooled: Donald Duck in Math-Magic Land (1959)

I remember seeing this next item at school in my younger days. Can't say exactly when, but I do remember seeing it.

Donald Duck in Math-Magic Land was made available to schools as recently as the middle 70's, and had its television premiere on The Wonderful World of Disney in 1961, two years after its initial release. It's basically a two-actor show, with Clarence Nash as Donald and the seemingly omnipresent Paul Frees as virtually everyone else.

Edit, 9/18/19: Had the change the video, so here's a complete Wonderful World of Disney. Walt Disney opens with An Adventure in Color, followed by Math-Magic Land. I believe QM announcer Dick Wesson had those chores here, too.

I'm pretty sure Donald actually knew something about math---he was just there to represent the kiddo's watching the cartoon.

Rating: A-.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Daytime Heroes: Laurel & Hardy in Can't Keep a Secret Agent (1966)

Larry Harmon's initial Laurel & Hardy cartoon for Hanna-Barbera and co-producer David Wolper has Stan & Ollie skewering the then-white-hot spy genre in "Can't Keep a Secret Agent":

To think that Harmon, who helped Filmation co-founders Lou Scheimer & Hal Sutherland get started while they all worked on Popeye for King Features, is still better known for Bozo The Clown.

Rating: B.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits (?): Ain't That a Kick in the Head (1990)

Most folks know Sherman Hemsley from The Jeffersons and Amen, but it seems he did some moonlighting in the recording studio from time to time, too.

In April 1990, Hemsley appeared on Soul Train to perform "Ain't That a Kick in the Head", and would be subsequently interviewed by host Don Cornelius.

Now, no one would ever consider this new jack swing, which was all the rage back then.

10 months later, on Amen, Hemsley would sing again. We'll have that over at The Land of Whatever another time.

Countdown to Christmas: Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983)

Mickey Mouse is cast in the part of Bob Crachit in Disney's adaptation of a seminal Charles Dickens classic.

Mickey's Christmas Carol posits Donald Duck (Clarence Nash, in his final performance) as Fred, the nephew of Ebenezer Scrooge, who in turn is, appropriately, embodied by Donald's Uncle Scrooge (Alan Young, ex-Mr. Ed). Many of your Disney favorites are crammed into this edition.

Edit, 11/29/21: The video has been deleted. Dailymotion has two backward copies to avoid the copyright patrol. As you can see above, we've subbed in the cover to a video package.

Subsequent cable replays have edited key scenes in order to fit in extra commercials, which is a terrible shame. Hal Smith (Davey & Goliath, ex-The Andy Griffith Show) is heard as Goofy for the first, and probably only, time, pinch-hitting for Pinto Colvig, who'd passed on.

No rating.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Literary Toons: Horton Hears a Who! (1970)

Nearly 4 full years after adapting Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Chuck Jones worked his magic on a Seuss property he was remotely familiar with.

Horton Hears a Who was the 2nd and last Seuss adaptation to be produced by MGM for CBS. The following year, DePatie-Freleng took over the license with The Cat in the Hat. Hans Conried (ex-Hoppity Hooper), who top-lined a live-action Seuss adaptation, "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.", a few years earlier, narrates and voices Horton in much the same manner that Boris Karloff handled the Grinch. Jones, June Foray, and Thurl Ravenscroft (uncredited) are among the other voices heard.

Horton had previously been on the big screen, adapted by Warner Bros. for an animated short some years prior. In 2008, the story was retold as a feature length movie, with Steve Carell & Jim Carrey lending their voices. Unfortunately, the need to stretch out the original tale neutered the plot and watered down the story.

Rating: B.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Inch High vs. Cat Burglars (1973)

Inch High, Private Eye (Len Weinrib) is on the case, trying to catch "Cat Burglars" at the risk of, as usual, losing his job.

An additional gimmick here is that Braveheart, Inch's faithful St. Bernard, has a phobia about cats. Who thought that was possible?

Rating: B.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Countdown to Christmas: A Flintstone Christmas (1977)

In 1977, The Flintstones, which had been in reruns on NBC earlier in the decade, made their first primetime appearance on the network with A Flintstone Christmas, the first holiday episode of the franchise in 12 years.

Fred (Henry Corden) & Barney (Mel Blanc) are out shopping, and Fred becomes perturbed when Barney drops a coin for every street corner Santa he meets. This runs counter to the 1965 (season 5) episode where Fred actually believed in Santa. "Who is the Real Santa Claus?" was previously used in a more contemporary special a few years earlier

Take note that Pebbles (Jean VanderPyl in a dual role) and Bamm-Bamm (Russi Taylor) are at least kindergarten age, or where they were for the short-lived Cave Kids series.

The whole idea of subbing for Santa would be done again with Johnny Bravo 20 years later, among others.

Rating: B-.

Rein-Toon-Ation: The Little Rascals (1982)

Hanna-Barbera obtained a license to produce a series of animated cartoons featuring The Little Rascals, better known, of course, as Our Gang to older fans, in 1982. That was the good news. The bad news? It was put together in a 90 minute block with fellow frosh Pac-Man and with Richie Rich (3rd season), largely because ABC felt none of the three could stand on their own, although that could've been proven otherwise with the Rascals, given that the original Hal Roach shorts were in syndication at the time, and airing as pre-school fodder in some cities, like New York (WPIX).

Scott Menville, son of writer Chuck Menville, was cast as Spanky. Impressionist Julie McWhirter (ex-Casper & The Angels) voiced Alfalfa and Woim, the sidekick of neighborhood bully Butch (B. J. Ward), with Patty Mahoney (ex-Far Out Space Nuts) as Darla.

The Rascals lasted just 2 seasons of new episodes, which is a shame, but that is the network's fault for not recognizing the appeal of the characters. The other problem was that H-B stablemate Smurfs aired opposite the block over on NBC. Ballgame over.

Edit, 9/4/2020: The video was deleted. In its place is the intro (or at least most of it):

Something got lost in the translation of the shorts to Saturday morning TV, notwithstanding that two other studios (or maybe just one?) had the license before H-B, as we've documented.

Rating: C.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Countdown to Christmas: The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)

Christmas without Santa Claus? Impossible, you say.

Well, there was a book that was adapted into the 1974 Rankin-Bass special, The Year Without a Santa Claus. Told from the point of view of Mrs. Claus (Shirley Booth, ex-Hazel, in her final performance), it seems that after a routine physical examination, Santa (Mickey Rooney) is convinced by his doctor to "change his routine". So, Santa goes on vacation, leaving two of his elves to try to pick up the slack with just one reindeer, Vixen.

Of course, that spells trouble, and the introduction of fan favorites, the Miser Brothers (Dick Shawn & George S. Irving). This is also a rarity in that the incomparable Paul Frees, usually present for a R-B special, isn't in the cast of this one.

 Note that I said this was based on a book, which, to be honest, I'd never heard of. Good luck finding it in a library.

Rating: C.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Lone Ranger vs. the Puppet Master (1966)

The Lone Ranger (Michael Rye) encounters Chandar, the evil "Puppet Master", in this short.

Predictable, don't you think?

Rating: B-.

You Know The Voice: Tim Matheson (1970)

This next clip also appears on my other blog, The Land of Whatever:

After 4 series in as many seasons at Hanna-Barbera (Jonny Quest, Sinbad, Jr., Space Ghost, Young Samson), and a failed Terrytoons pilot (Sally Sargent), Tim Matheson turned his attention to face acting, and landed a role on NBC's Bracken's World as aspiring singer Teek Howell in the episode, "The Country Boy". With a singing voice similar to that of pop-country star B. J. Thomas, Matheson performs covers of The Youngbloods' "Get Together" and James Taylor's "Fire & Rain" in this compilation of scenes from the episode.

It would be more than 2 decades before Matheson would step back into cartoon work with a guest gig on Batman: The Animated Series, and was last heard from on Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated during its ill-fated 2nd season.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

On DVD: Superman-Doomsday (2007)

I previously covered this over at The Land of Whatever a ways back.

With rumors that Doomsday, the monster that had killed Superman pro tempore 22 years ago, would possibly appear in the forthcoming "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice", I thought I'd revisit one of the worst DVD's WB ever produced for DC.

Basically, it boils down to this. Doomsday was killed off too quickly in the movie, and the film degenerates into a plot involving Lex Luthor cloning Superman for his own selfish purposes. Odder still is how Lex's sidekick, Mercy Graves, is presented. Instead of the familiar bodyguard role as established in Superman: The Animated Series, Mercy is recast as a mousy secretary who ends up getting killed by her boss in a fit of anger. If you think that's bad, it gets worse. In the wake of Superman's "death", Jimmy Olsen goes to work for a sleazy tabloid after leaving the Daily Planet. Seems like the writers were throwing ideas together on a Velcro dartboard.

Here's a sample clip:

To say that Doomsday wasn't treated well after all would be an understatement, considering how the character has been used in comics in recent times.

Rating: D.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Countdown to Christmas: Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (1970)

With high ratings for Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer on NBC and Frosty the Snowman on CBS, Rankin-Bass delivered another ratings winner, this one to ABC.

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, based on the song of the same name, explains the origins of Santa (Mickey Rooney) and assorted traditions, as told by postman S. D. Kluger (Fred Astaire, It Takes a Thief). The show starts with a mock newsreel, narrated by Paul Frees, who also voices the villain of the piece, Burgomeister Meisterburger.

Rooney would reprise as Santa in The Year Without a Santa Claus a few years later, while Astaire would bring Kluger back in 1977's The Easter Bunny Is Coming To Town. Today, ABC Family holds the cable rights, as this hasn't been seen on ABC or any broadcast network in several years.

Rating: B+.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Literary Toons: The Cat in the Hat (1971)

In 1971, DePatie-Freleng took over the license to adapt the works of Dr. Seuss (Ted Geisel) for television. Their first project was also the studio's first sale to CBS, The Cat in the Hat, which also marked the end of Chuck Jones' association with the franchise.

Jones, who would have a hand in ABC's Curiosity Shop that year, served as co-executive producer with Geisel, David DePatie, and Friz Freleng. Comedian Allan Sherman was cast in the title role of the Cat, and doubled as narrator. Additional voices include Daws Butler and Pamelyn Ferdin (who would also appear on Curiosity Shop). Universal owns the rights now, likely by virtue of having done a live-action version 12 years ago with Mike Myers (ex-Saturday Night Live) as the Cat.

To this day, the Cat and Things 1 & 2 have been used for merchandising. Like, every so often, you'll see someone wearing a Thing 1 or 2 shirt, for example.

Rating: A.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Literary Toons: Daisy-Head Mayzie (1995)

Dr. Seuss' Daisy-Head Mayzie was published posthumously after Seuss (Ted Geisel) had passed away. Not only that, but an animated special actually aired before the book was published!

Hanna-Barbera obtained a license to produce the special, which would be the last Seuss book to be adapted for television, and H-B's only Seuss special. Tim Curry (The Wild Thornberrys) is among the voices heard in the special. 

The Cat in the Hat (Henry Gibson, ex-Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In), essentially Seuss' mascot, serves as narrator, and this would be his last animated appearance until PBS' The Cat In The Hat Knows a Lot About That. Mayzie is your average, ordinary schoolgirl until a daisy sprouts up on her head. No one seems to know why or how, but there's something to this that makes this as much a teaching tool as a form of entertainment.

Update, 3/3/21: The episode is now available:

Rating: B.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Toons You Might've Missed: Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1944-9)

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer made his debut in, of all places, a department store catalogue.

It's true. Montgomery Ward introduced the world to Rudolph in 1939. He was originally meant to be a mouse, but the decision was made to make him a reindeer because reindeer were perceived to be more friendly for children.

Well, suffice to say, it worked. Five years later, Max Fleischer, now working for Jam Handy studios, directed the first cartoon based on Rudolph, which explained why his red nose, larger and brighter than the usual brown noses that reindeer have, resulted in his being ostracized by the other reindeer. After Johnny Marks wrote the classic song, recorded by Gene Autry, Jam Handy reissued their cartoon with the song included. That's the version we have for you.

Internet Archive's information is slightly off by a year. Thus, 15 years after the reissue came the Rankin-Bass TV special that we all know, which added some new elements, including giving Rudolph a girlfriend, among other things, and establishing that Donner was his dad. This version was remade in 1998, and merited a DTV sequel.

Don't worry, we'll have the 1964 model Rudolph soon enough.

Rating: None.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Lone Ranger in The Battle of Barnaby Bend (1966)

On CBS' Wild, Wild West, federal agents Jim West (Robert Conrad) & Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin) often had to deal with pint-sized but corrupt genius Miguelito Loveless (Michael Dunn). Seeing how popular Loveless was with audiences, someone at CBS decided that the Lone Ranger would have a similarly sized opponent, one Tiny Tom.

In "The Battle of Barnaby Bend", the Ranger (Michael Rye) and Tonto (Shep Menken) pursue Tom (Dick Beals, also the voice of Alka-Seltzer pitchman Speedy and Frankenstein, Jr.'s creator-sidekick, Buzz Conroy) into the small town, where Tom and his bouncing bandits find more than they bargained for......

Rye would recycle his Ranger voice, ironically enough, for the Super Friends' Native American hero, Apache Chief, more than a decade later.

Rating: A.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Looney TV: The Case of the Stuttering Pig (1937)

Porky Pig is up to his neck in trouble, trying to protect Petunia and their brothers (yes, they're all family in this one) from a double-dealing legal weasel in "The Case of the Stuttering Pig". Note how "Uncle Solomon Swine" bears some resemblance to Oliver Hardy. Cheap shot, perhaps?

Good thing Petunia got a makeover in the intervening years. That's all I can say.

Rating: B-.

Countdown to Christmas: The Nutcracker Scoob (1984)

I've waited a long time for this one, another piece that was previously here but deleted from YouTube due to copyright issues. Dailymotion seems to be a safe haven for videos that YouTube can't hang on to.

Case in point, "The Nutcracker Scoob" episode of The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries.

Edit, 12/21/2020: We've located a screencap from the episode:

Fred (Frank Welker) returns for this episode, one of several appearances he'd make during the season. Y'don't suppose that might be to ensure there is no chance at Shaggy & Daphne getting close, do you? And, man, don't ya think they could've used him for the later 13 Ghosts series?

Rating: B.