Saturday, December 31, 2016

Toon Rock: Axel F (2005)

In the 70's, Sweden blessed American music audiences with Blue Swede and, of course, ABBA. They won't take any credit for inspiring the Muppet culinary bumbler, the Swedish Chef, however.

In 1997, a college student developed the animated musical act, Crazy Frog. Eight years later, the first single, a cover of Harold Faltermeyer's "Axel F" (From "Beverly Hills Cop"), was released, and became a global phenom, falling short of the top 40 here in the US. If you've been to a sporting event over the last 11 years, chances are pretty good you've heard this wacky version of "Axel F". The Tri-City Valleycats have played the video pretty regularly every summer, so I've gotten acquainted with it myself.

Like, totally wack, man.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Saturday School: Tennessee Tuxedo in Wreck of a Record (1964)

Would you believe Tennessee Tuxedo (Don Adams) tried making a record?

Right around the time that the Beatles made their first foray into the US, Tennessee, along with besties Chumley (Bradley Bolke) and Baldy (Kenny Delmar, who also narrated) form a band, angling to get into a variety show being organized by Stanley Livingston (Mort Marshall). It's too bad the song, "Abra Kadabra", wasn't released as a novelty record, at least as far as I know.

Here's "Wreck of a Record":

Little known fact: Bradley Bolke actually did make a record. He was part of the ensemble cast of Vaughn Meader's "The First Family" in 1961.

Rating: B-.

Bad TV: Tiger Woods, action hero? (2013)

When this first came out, I eventually put it up on my other blog, The Land of Whatever, just for kicks, despite the fact that this has one of the worst choreographed fight scenes in filmed history. Not since Yes' video for "Owner of a Lonely Heart" 30 years earlier had the cameras exposed how bad some fights are staged.

Anyway, Tiger Woods & Arnold Palmer are en route somewhere when they're intercepted by a few thugs looking to make a little hay with the golf icons' trophies. You have to feel sorry for the guy who had to sell a roundhouse kick from Woods that missed the target by about 10 feet......

Apparently, the injury curse that has plagued Woods since this ad might be a karmic response to this commercial for EA Sports. And you thought Sports Illustrated had a rumored jinx attached to it?

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Maniac (1983)

I'm sure you've heard the story about how Michael Sembello originally wrote "Maniac", intent on having it used in a horror movie (naturally). However, it wound up instead on the soundtrack to "Flashdance", and became a #1 hit.

Sembello appeared on American Bandstand to perform "Maniac". Not sure if the follow-up single, "Automatic Man", was used on the same appearance. Anyway, the lyrics appear on the screen in English & Spanish.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Tooniversary: Snow Excuse (1966)

Speedy Gonzales and Daffy Duck were paired in a series of shorts in the 60's, with Daffy replacing Sylvester as the antagonist getting bamboozled by the fastest mouse in not only Mexico, but the whole freakin' world. "Snow Excuse" wasn't one of their best, due to the predictable gags. Unfortunately, when it aired on CBS, it was edited when it didn't have to.

Here's "Snow Excuse":

True fact: cold weather will force mice to seek shelter indoors. Too bad Speedy wasn't in the big city......

Rating: B--.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Family Toons: A Date With Jet Screamer (The Jetsons, 1962)

The Jetsons took on pop music in the 2nd episode of the series, "A Date With Jet Screamer".

Judy (Janet Waldo) writes a song intended for her musical crush, Jet Screamer (Howard Morris). However, her lyrics are mixed up with a paper Elroy (Daws Butler) was working on for school. The end result is the novelty smash, "Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah".

Edit, 11/12/21: The video has long been deleted. We found the title card from the 1985 revival:

The advantages of manipulating gravity in the 21st century, as Hanna-Barbera saw it. Like, wild, man.

They actually did release a record with "Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah", coupled with the show's theme. Now, that's a collector's item.

Rating: B-.

Monday, December 26, 2016

You Know The Voice: Alan Reed (1954)

Well before The Flintstones, Alan Reed was well known for his work in radio, one of many radio personalities who embraced the new medium of television. In fact, virtually the entire cast of The Flintstones, especially during the first four seasons, came from radio (i.e. Mel Blanc, Bea Benaderet).

One of Alan's first television gigs was an ill-advised video version of the popular radio comedy series, Duffy's Tavern. Seems series creator Ed Gardner (Archie, the bartender) got it in his head that the show could work on TV, too, just like so many others, like Burns & Allen, Dragnet, Gunsmoke, & The Jack Benny Program. Unfortunately, Gardner made one fatal mistake. He didn't make any personal adjustments in his performance. More on this over at The Land of Whatever.

Reed, as Finnegan, shows up about 3 minutes or so into the episode, "Grand Opening".

Edit, 10/2/18: The video was changed due to copyright issues deleting the original clip. The show restarts at 26:00 to avoid the copyright patrol.

Toons You Might've Missed: Sadie Hawkins Day (1944)

Al Capp's seminal comic strip, Li'l Abner, was adapted into a Broadway production as well as a feature film, but did you know that the folks from Dogpatch, USA, also appeared in animated cartoons?

Columbia produced 5 shorts, beginning in 1944, but Capp wasn't happy with the final product, hence the discontinuation of the series. Not much is known about the shorts, and there are at least two of them available online at the moment. The radio version of the series, I'd imagine, was much more successful, largely because the producers consulted with Capp.

Anyway, check out "Sadie Hawkins Day". Capp invented the "holiday" himself a few years prior to the release of this cartoon in 1944, produced by no less than Dave Fleischer.

Edit, 8/7/23: I've found a copy with sound. The screen goes dark briefly about a minute in, but comes back.

It's just unfortunate that out of all the characters Capp created, only the Shmoo would later land on Saturday mornings, after Hanna-Barbera acquired a license for the character in 1979. Abner, Daisy Mae, and the rest? Not so much. You'd think that with the sudden success of Dukes of Hazzard earlier in '79, there might be interest in Abner, but no.

Rating: C.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Animated World of DC Comics: Comfort & Joy (Justice League, 2002)

Yep, a double dose of DC goodness on Christmas Eve. We close with a holiday entry from Justice League. Here, in its entirety, is "Comfort & Joy":

Edit, 12/8/2020: We're subbing in an excerpt focusing on the Martian Manhunter (Carl Lumbly):

Rating: A-.

Merry Christmas. See you Monday.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Countdown to Christmas: Santa's First Christmas (1992)

Seems the British have their own idea on the origins of Santa Claus.

Known as Father Christmas in the UK, Santa was the subject of a 1992 mockumentary from the cheeky folks behind SuperTed. Here's Santa's First Christmas, complete with cheesy music.

I prefer Santa Claus is Coming to Town, but then, I'm of a different generation.......

Rating: C.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Countdown to Christmas: Ziggy's Gift (1982)

Tom Wilson's long running single panel strip, Ziggy, was popular enough in the early 80's to warrant adaptation into a primetime special.

While Ziggy does actually speak in the strip, he doesn't in the course of the 1982 ABC special, Ziggy's Gift. Wilson and his son, Tom, Jr., are among the voice actors in this independently produced effort.

No rating.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Looney TV: Rabbit Hood (1949)

Bugs Bunny somehow ends up in medevial England and in the crosshairs of the Sheriff of Nottingham in 1949's "Rabbit Hood".

Chuck Jones depicted Little John as a bumbling goof whose tiny horn plays like a kazoo. Keep an eye open for a cameo appearance by Errol Flynn, as a scene from his 1938 film, "The Adventures of Robin Hood", plays into the climax.

I must've seen this a couple of dozen times between syndication and cable. This doesn't get old, and shouldn't.

Rating: A-.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Toon Rock: My Hero Zero (1973)

For those of you who can't get enough of a certain Volkswagen commercial these days, let me refresh your memories with this next item.

Bob Dorough's "My Hero Zero" comes from Schoolhouse Rock, circa 1973. Zero would later be repackaged as Schoolhouse Rocky, the franchise's mascot, before the decade was over.

Game Time: Finders Keepers (1987)

Nickelodeon, after the success of Double Dare, began adding other game shows for kids to their schedule.

Finders Keepers debuted on Nick a few weeks after MTV had entered the game show arena with Remote Control. However, Keepers wasn't quite as successful as Double Dare, as the series lasted just 1 year on Nick before moving to syndication. Wesley Eure (Days of Our Lives, ex-Land of the Lost) was tapped to host, but when the series shifted to syndication, and the set relocated from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, Eure was not retained.

The object of the game was to find hidden items inside various pictures, a simple enough game for the kiddo's, augumented with a simple quiz. When the series went into syndication, the producers got cute and decided to use colorforms, which doomed the syndicated version.

Since it's Christmas week, let's check out an episode from Christmas week in 1987.

The mono-monickered Harvey, the show's announcer on Nick, had those same duties on Double Dare. There, of course, he got at least a smidgen of screen time every now and again.

Rating: B.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Countdown to Christmas: A Garfield Christmas (1991)

Jim Davis' snarky comic strip cat, Garfield, returns to primetime with a 1991 Christmas special.

If the animation looks a little off at the start, it's to illustrate a dream sequence that Garfield (Lorenzo Music) is having. Instead of spending the holidays at home, Garfield is packed off for a trip to visit Jon's parents on their farm. Pat Carroll and David Lander are among the guest stars.

Here's "A Garfield Christmas":

If you've seen these scenes played out in the daily strip, you know what to expect.

Rating: A.

Rein-Toon-Ation: Little Shop (1991)

Marvel's television arm made a few mistakes linking up with Saban in the 90's. Obviously, the latter's mishandling of The Avengers at the end of the decade tops the list, but one of the first collaborations between the two studios for Fox was a a really bad seed.

Little Shop reimagines the core characters of Roger Corman's cult classic, "Little Shop of Horrors", as children. Something that had to be done to help the show pass muster with the media nannies of Action for Children's Television and its successors. Four Tops frontman Levi Stubbs, who voiced Audrey,  Jr. in the 1980's remake of the movie, was unavailable (he was working on NBC's Captain N: The Game Master) or priced himself out of Saban/Marvel's range.

Scope out "I Loath a Parade", and you'll see just how bad this was.

I tried watching this show back in the day, and it was putrid. The animation all by itself was a turn-off.

Rating: D.

Friday, December 16, 2016

You (Will) Know The Voice(s): Meet the cast of the new DuckTales

You probably know by now that Disney is reviving DuckTales in time for the series' 30th anniversary next year. The new version will air on DisneyXD, and one must hope that the original will resurface as well for the sake of nostalgia.

In a case of "getting to know you", the new cast gave it a go performing the familiar theme song. The cast includes David Tennant (ex-Doctor Who, Jessica Jones), Kate Micucci (ex-Raising Hope), and Saturday Night Live's Beck Bennett (the former AT&T pitchman who did those Linkletteresque ads with the kiddo's) and Bobby Moynihan.

No debut date insofar as I know, but ya gotta believe the anticipation will reach fever pitch before long. Tennant, in particular, will assume the role of Scrooge McDuck, previously played by the late Alan Young. Stay tuned.

On The Air: Justice League Action (2016)

After months of waiting, and having it premiere last month in the UK, Justice League Action is finally on Cartoon Network.

Tonight, the series made its American debut with a 1 hour season opener. Subsequent episodes will air on Saturdays, starting Christmas Eve, at 7:30 am (ET). Kinda early, I know, but ye scribe can remember waking up in time for Super Friends when it aired at 8:00 (ET) for several years in the 70's & 80's. Problem is, folks think CN is burying Action already when, as some have suggested, it can be coupled with the insanely annoying Teen Titans GO!, which CN is playing into the ground.

The other reason the two shows should be coupled lies in the casting. Khary Payton voices Cyborg on both shows whilst moonlighting, if ya will, on another comics-related show. Bet ya didn't know Payton's been in front of the camera lately on The Walking Dead.

Digression over. Fans will appreciate the casting of Kevin Conroy (of course) as Batman and Mark Hamill as not only the Joker AND reprising his role as the Trickster from both live-action incarnations of The Flash, but also as Swamp Thing. I guess it's something different. Diedrich Bader, who voiced Batman on Brave & the Bold, shifts over to Booster Gold. Sean Astin has been cast as Billy Batson/Shazam (to me, he'll always be Captain Marvel, but there are copyright issues with Marvel precluding the former Fawcett icon from using the name he originally had, and.....!).

The animation style will recall Ben 10 moreso than the 2001 Justice League series, with certain exceptions. I won't spoil things, other than to say that in this continuity, a certain hallmark makes a very brief cameo appearance, and won't be used again after the opener.

Here's a sample clip:

No, that is not Matt Ryan reprising as John Constantine. Damian O'Hare has that gig, though Ryan will be heard when the Justice League Dark animated movie comes out. Chris Diamantopoulos ("The Three Stooges") is Green Arrow. Well, they do want all except Batman to have some humor to them.......!

Fans will riot if CN wimps out on Action like they did with Beware the Batman three years ago. They hoped that Christina Miller's appointment as program director would solve the problems caused by her predecessor, Stuart Snyder, but it seems that it's out of her control. The blame, then, lies with Rob Sorcher, who's still at CN, and Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes, who has no clue what fans of shows like Action want, apparently, and doesn't care.

Some folks are already complaining about Hamill as Swamp Thing, perhaps because the character isn't meant to be so verbose. Blame the writers, not the actor.

Rating: A-.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

You Know the Voice: Mel Blanc meets the Beverly Hillbillies (1964)

The title says it all, folks. Mel Blanc guest-stars as a cab driver in this season 2 episode of The Beverly Hillbillies, "Granny Learns to Drive". Mel appears with Granny (Irene Ryan) during the first few minutes.

If memory serves me, I believe The Jack Benny Program had either ended or was wrapping up its CBS run around this time. Hadn't seen this before today, so I won't rate it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Countdown to Christmas: Malice in the Palace (1949)

This also appears over at The Land of Whatever:

The Three Stooges are Middle Eastern restaurant owners in 1949's "Malice in the Palace".

What stuns me is that there was never a true Christmas entry from the Stooges, and this is as close as we're going to get.

Rating: A-.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Saturday School: The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation (2014)

CBS' Saturday Dream Team block, one of four network blocks packaged by Litton Entertainment at present, contains perhaps the best lineup of shows that the whole family can relate to, not just the kids they're trying to reach.

Take for example The Henry Ford's Innovation Nation, now in its 3rd season. Humorist and cable personality Mo Rocca, who also is commentator on CBS News Sunday Morning, is the series host. Rocca, who also hosts a program on the Cooking Channel, and is a past contributor to The Daily Show, sets the stage for the magazine program, set at the Henry Ford complex in Dearborn, Michigan.

Let's go back to the series opener from 2014.

If you haven't been watching this with your kids, what are you waiting for?

Rating: A.

Toonfomercial: Remember the Cocoa Puffs Train? (1958?)

Before there was Sonny the Cuckoo Bird, the long time mascot for General Mills' Cocoa Puffs cereal, the company tried a group of kids who rode an imaginary train, the Cocoa Puffs Train.

Cocoa Puffs were introduced in 1958, so it stands to reason that the Train came along around the same time, supplanted by Sonny, who was introduced in the 1962-3 season, and has been there ever since.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Toons You Might've Missed: The Dry Spell (1936)

Farmer Al Falfa has been around for nearly a full century. Introduced in the silent era by animator Paul Terry, Falfa worked for a few different studios, including Paramount, before becoming one of the founding stars at Terrytoons, which inherited Educational Pictures' distribution deal with 20th Century Fox.

Unfortunately, after a 1-shot comeback in 1956, Falfa was retired. He had appeared in the first two Heckle & Jeckle shorts before disappearing for a decade, but was so far out of the public's consciousness by the time CBS brought Heckle & Jeckle and Mighty Mouse back to television, via a licensing deal with Filmation, in 1979, Falfa wasn't even considered.

The only memory I had up to now was dining at a Ground Round restaurant, and one of the Farmer Al Falfa shorts was playing with the sound turned off. And, no, this next item, 1936's "The Dry Spell", wasn't it.

Did you see that slight nod to Jack & The Beanstalk near the end? Too bad they couldn't use the giant. After all, that rain making formula Al bought was the equivalent of magic beans.

Rating: B-.

Friday, December 9, 2016

From Comics To Toons: Popeye's 20th Anniversary (1954)

It had actually been 21 years since Popeye made his film debut. Famous Studios & Paramount made up for that in 1954 with "Popeye's 20th Anniversary", which uses footage from two other shorts. It still comes down to the usual rivalry between Popeye and Bluto, who makes a tactical error at the wrong time.

Just not sure who was impersonating stars like Jimmy Durante and Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis, though.

Of course, as fans know, Popeye made his official debut in Thimble Theatre in 1929, so his 90th anniversary is just three years away!

Rating: A-.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Toonfomercial: A Raid primer (1960)

Here's a rarely seen ad for Raid House & Garden bug spray.

Produced in 1960, this ad has what appears to be a father & son (or teacher & student) set of mosquitos preparing to attack an unsuspecting homeowner. Voices by Mel Blanc (naturally).

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Toon Sports: Toro Pink (The New Pink Panther Show, 1979)

The Pink Panther steps into the arena to fight the fierce bull known as El Toro in "Toro Pink", first broadcast on The New Pink Panther Show in April 1979 before being released to theatres. This was a partial remake of an earlier short, "Bully For Pink", while one gag was lifted from a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Seems this was a popular trope. We've previously seen Porky Pig & Goofy in the bullfighting arena. Down the line, we'll see Bugs,  Droopy and Heckle & Jeckle. For right now, here's "Toro Pink":

The odd thing is, the Little Man didn't appear in "Bully For Pink". Go figure.

Rating: A-.

Retro Toy Chest: Remember Remco's Movieland Drive-In? (1959)

Remco's not around anymore, but their history dates back to at least the 50's.

From 1959, here's an ad for their short-lived Movieland Drive-In Theatre set. The company got licensing deals from CBS (Have Gun...Will Travel) and Terrytoons (Heckle & Jeckle, Farmer Al Falfa, Mighty Mouse), but apparently they weren't enough in terms of selling points.

This ad also features Patty Duke in one of her earliest television appearances.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Looney TV: A Hare Grows in Manhattan (1947)

This next Bugs Bunny short has its roots in two places. First, an autobiographical piece credited to Bugs (Mel Blanc) was published in Coronet magazine in 1945. Two years later, not long after the publication of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, the magazine story was adapted into "A Hare Grows in Manhattan".

Bugs is interviewed by Lola Beverly (Bea Benaderet, parodying Louella Parsons, a prominent gossip columnist of the day), and recalls his early days.

Up until today, I'd never heard of Coronet. The magazine existed for 75 years (1936-71), but I'd never seen a copy even in second hand stores.

Rating: A.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Countdown to Christmas: Santa's Surprise (1947)

Here's a Famous Studios Noveltoon that puts an entirely different spin on Santa Claus.

Contrary to later pop culture, Santa is depicted in "Santa's Surprise" as living alone at the North Pole, single and without elves to run his workshop. A group of kids from around the world stow away aboard Santa's sleigh to do some house cleaning while Santa sleeps.

As you'll see, this served as a back-door pilot for Little Audrey, who made her debut in this film, and would graduate to her own series the next year.

The only quibble is an aesthetic one. How did those kids survive without coats and hats, aside from the Dutch boy?

Rating: B+.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Retro Toy Chest: Give-a-Show Projector (1959)

Now, here's a product that I can actually say I've had as a youth.

Kenner's Give-a-Show projector launched in 1959, and I have a memory of having one of the early 1970's models as a kid. I say that with some certainty because I remember having a Josie & the Pussycats slide or two included in the package. Suffice to say, it didn't last very long, because once the battery ran out, it was never replaced.

Today, the projectors are still being made, but for overseas markets, and Hasbro, which took over Kenner 25 years ago, doesn't produce it for US markets anymore.

Here's a commercial from 1968, featuring Kenner's Gooney Bird mascot, who would be retired six years later.

You Know The Voice: Paul Winchell & Bea Benaderet (1962)

From season 1 of The Beverly Hillbillies:

Jed (Buddy Ebsen) and the family return to the Ozark mountains on a Christmas vacation, where Jethro's mom, Pearl (Bea Benaderet, The Flintstones) is still pining for Mr. Brewster, a businessman (Frank Wilcox). Paul Winchell guest stars as Homer Winch, who's got eyes for Granny (Irene Ryan).

Here's "Home For Christmas":

This was included on Mill Creek's Holiday Classics DVD box set.

Rating for the episode: B.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Family Toons: Popeye presents Pip-Eye, Pup-Eye, Poop-Eye, & Peep-Eye (1942)

Once upon a time, Popeye had quadruplet nephews. In later years, they took one of the nephews out, leaving three.

"Pip-Eye, Pup-Eye, Poop-Eye, & Peep-Eye" made their debut in 1942.

It's almost as if Popeye himself had been cloned 4 times over in juvenile form, but the quads lack maturity, it would seem. Then again, kids weren't that into vegetables, not just spinach, back in those days. We would later see the boys take up music in what would be their best effort.

Rating: B.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Countdown to Christmas: Bugs Bunny's Looney Christmas Tales (1979)

Bugs Bunny skewers Dickens, plus other craziness, in Bugs Bunny's Looney Christmas Tales, which premiered on CBS 37 years ago last night (November 27, 1979).

The parody of A Christmas Carol leads off, followed by a Road Runner short, then one last piece.

DePatie-Freleng was commissioned to produce the first short, while the Road Runner short was produced by Chuck Jones.

Edit, 11/28/21: The video has been deleted. In its place is a title card:

I've seen only the Christmas Carol parody, shown on its own on Cartoon Network in later years. The others I haven't seen.

Rating: B-.

Retro (NOT!) Toy Chest: The Hess Toy Truck (1966)

For 50 years, Hess Service Stations (now Speedway) have sold replicas of their famous trucks at Christmas. However, it wasn't until the 1980's when Hess began advertising on television, after years of in-store promotions and newspaper ads. The Hess name isn't on the pumps anymore, hasn't in a couple of years, but the trucks roll on.

Following is a 1985 ad narrated by John Bartholomew Tucker.

No, it's not the usual gas tank truck, but still......! Of course, figuring inflation, that truck today probably runs anywhere from $15-$30.

Saturday Morning Ringside: International World Class Championship Wrestling (1991-5)

It was a shock to some folks to learn that Kevin Von Erich had sold the rights to World Class Championship Wrestling to Massachusetts promoter and former WWF referee Mario Savoldi. The Texas-based World Class was now united with Jerry Jarrett & Jerry Lawler's group in Memphis, forming the United States Wrestling Association.

The Savoldi family had a regional television show, International Championship Wrestling, which went national in 1991 with cable deals through SportsChannel America and the Financial News Network (now CNBC), among other places. FNN ran what would become International World Class Championship Wrestling, complete with WCCW's iconic theme music, on Saturdays, but it didn't last very long there, and once FNN dropped the show, no other cable network available on local systems picked it up. Sure, there was a SportsChannel in New York (now MSG-Plus), but I don't recall seeing IWCCW there.

The roster was a mix of local indies and veterans from WCW & WWF, including Tony Atlas, who worked as a heel as the promotion's champion, his first major heel run at the time, Nikolai Volkoff, and others.

Let's take a look at a sample episode from 1991. The video is a bit choppy, and has both copyrights of 1991 and 1992 to create confusion.

The Savoldi family closed the promotion in 1995 after heel manager Tony Rumble left to form his own promotion, the Century Wrestling Alliance up until his passing in 1999. Atlas would, of course, return to the now-WWE in late '00's as a manager and ersatz talk show announcer.

The production quality wasn't that great, and the availability of episodes on a weekly basis was such that some episodes repeated several weeks in a row. Recipe for disaster!

Rating: C.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Daytime Heroes: Mighty Mouse in Dead End Cats (1947)

Now, lissen here, see! Mighty Mouse has caught the attention of a gangster cat (you can tell by the Edward G. Robinson mimic), who sends the cats of a local slum after not only the mice, but Mighty Mouse as well. Here's "Dead End Cats":

Not much dialogue was needed, but then again, the cats as a rule in this series aren't exactly quick on the uptake. Like, did they really think locking Mighty Mouse in a safe and coating it in cement before dumping it in the river would hold him? Please.

Rating: B-.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Retro Toy Chest: Billy Goat (1973)

Schaper Toys was one of those companies that eventually was swallowed up by its bigger competitors, or, at the very least, sold some of their products to those bigger companies.

Best known for Cootie, which ultimately became the company's mascot, Schaper came up with some imaginative, if also repetitive games for the kiddo's beginning in the late 60's and into the 70's. One of those games was the Billy Goat game, which was introduced in 1973.

Edit, 8/10/2020: The video has been deleted. We're subbing in a photo of the game box:

Billy Goat | Board Game | BoardGameGeek

The idea is to build the wall in a certain amount of time before the goat comes along and breaks it. The basic concept is similar to some of Schaper's other games (i.e. Don't Break The Ice). Milton Bradley (now part of Hasbro) borrowed the idea, if you will, when they introduced Jenga a few years later, the variation being that you had to avoid the bricks collapsing at the wrong time.

What kind of a bug is a cootie, anyway?

Friday, November 25, 2016

Countdown to Christmas: Parade of the Wooden Soldiers (1933)

It seems so fitting that our Countdown to Christmas for this year begins with a cartoon set in a toy store.

"Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" is not your average Betty Boop cartoon. Betty is a toy herself in this entry, released on December 1, 1933. The film starts with a short instrumental performance by David Rubinoff and his orchestra before giving way to the story itself.

Typical Fleischer surreality. That's all I can say.

Rating: B--.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

On DVD: Batman: The Killing Joke (2016)

In 1987, DC Comics made an editorial decision to have Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, retire her costumed alter-ego. A few months later, Alan Moore & Brian Bolland's graphic novel, The Killing Joke, appeared to have changed Barbara's life forever. Paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by the Joker, who subsequently abducted her father, Commissioner James Gordon, Barbara would later adopt the alias of Oracle as a information broker to her brothers-&-sisters-in-arms.

The Killing Joke also offered what could've been construed as the origin of the Joker, a simple, nameless engineer-turned-aspiring comic struggling to make ends meet for his wife and unborn child. Desperate, he volunteers to help some small-time crooks rob a factory next to his former employers. However, that robbery is thwarted by the Batman, and the Red Hood takes the fatal plunge into a chemical bath. We know the rest of the story, of course.

Warner Bros. Animation adapted the graphic novel into its first R-rated DTV, but with some slight alterations.

For starters, the film begins with a prologue, narrated by Barbara (Tara Strong), chronicling an otherwise untold case she and Batman (Kevin Conroy) had been working on. What this ultimately leads to has also been considered controversial in some corners of fandom. Allow me to explain.

The vision of writer-producers-animators Paul Dini & Bruce Timm, beginning sometime around Batman Beyond at the turn of the century, suggested that there was more than a student-teacher relationship between Batgirl & Batman, which ran contrary to what was being written in DC books off-&-on since 1976. DC editors thought it might add some spice to some Batgirl-Robin team-ups by having the Teen Wonder flirt with the Dominoed Dare-Doll, who, if you do the math, would actually be at least 6-10 years Robin's senior. What Dini & Timm were doing was taking a minor plot thread from the final season of the live-action Batman, as the producers of that series sought to pair Bruce Wayne with Barbara as a couple. It didn't take for a variety of reasons.

Of course, there is the camp that would rather buy into the belief that DC editors have already decided that Catwoman is meant to be Batman's true love, which of course explains the puppy love between their younger selves on Gotham, and that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish all by itself.

If you've read The Killing Joke, and chances are some of you have in the nearly 30 years since its release, you know how this plays. Yes, the Joker (Mark Hamill) kidnaps James Gordon (Ray Wise, Fresh Off The Boat), and paralyzes Barbara, unaware of her now-former guise of Batgirl. Yes, Batman tracks his prey to a carnival that the Clown Prince of Crime recently acquired. And, yes, there is that ending that had a lot of people talking back in 1988.

Bolland's original artwork leaps from the printed page to the screen in all of its magnificent glory. Moore has long disassociated himself from DC and Marvel, due to the former fumbling the ball, if you will, on an earlier adaptation of one of his works. Comics fans know that, 5 years ago, someone at DC decided to give Barbara back the use of her legs and the cape & cowl of Batgirl after 23 years as a female Ironside. One wonders how long it would take to remold that into a sequel to The Killing Joke, if they even think of it.

Here's a trailer.

Hamill plays the pre-Joker schlub as well, and you tend to forget that his range as an actor is more than Joker and Luke Skywalker. Some will look at the movie and wonder why, aside from the violence, the movie is rated R, when the love scene between Batgirl and Batman was actually rather tame in comparison to how a similar scene between Batman & Catwoman was depicted in the latter's mag 5 years ago. Language isn't too salty, either, and the graphic photos of Barbara taken by the Joker are actually downplayed and go by very quickly.

Rating: A.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving Toons: The Mayflower Voyagers (This is America, Charlie Brown, 1988)

CBS experimented with the Peanuts gang by producing an 8-part miniseries, stretched out over a period of months, not nights, that would place Charlie Brown and pals in various points in history, a la 1974's U. S. of Archie.

This is America, Charlie Brown launched in October 1988 with the first episode, the Thanksgiving themed "The Mayflower Voyagers".

Edit, 11/3/2020: The video has been deleted. All that is available now is a short excerpt:

I never saw this episode or any of the miniseries, so there won't be a rating. We will, however, make a concerted effort to locate the remaining seven installments for future posts.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Saturtainment: Lilo & Stitch (2003)

Disney thought they had a pair of new stars at the beginning of the 21st century to go along with action heroine Kim Possible.

However, Lilo & Stitch, spun off from the movie of the same name, lasted just 2 seasons on ABC (2003-5), with a few extra episodes having aired on Disney Channel. The series picks up where the movie left off, with the alien Stitch remaining in Hawaii as the pet/companion of young Lilo (Daveigh Chase). Dr. Jumba, Stitch's creator (David Ogden Stiers, ex-M*A*S*H), joins them on the island. This was a rare case where the movie cast was retained for the subsequent series, including Tia Carrere (ex-Relic Hunter) as Lilo's older sister/guardian. A subsequent DTV, "Leroy & Stitch", brought closure to the series.

With Disney's latest, "Moana", opening tomorrow, I couldn't help but think of a possible correlation. Simply subbing a Polynesian god given human form (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) for Stitch might not register with today's kids, even though it's only been 14 years since "Lilo & Stitch" was in theatres.

Here's the intro to Lilo & Stitch:

ABC was gradually losing interest in Saturday morning cartoons by this point, as their Disney-centric lineup went to auto-pilot after the series ended.

Rating: B.

You Know The Voice: Paul Frees (1955)

In the mid-50's, Paul Frees landed his first regular series gig, heard but not seen as John Beresford Tipton, and credited as such, the title character of CBS' The Millionaire. Around the same time, Frees accepted a rare role that would have him visible in front of the camera, appearing in an episode of TV Reader's Digest as a French police officer

"France's Greatest Detective" is also on view on my other blog, The Land of Whatever.....

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Toon Legends: Any Bonds Today? (1942)

Here's a gem from the 40's that now is in the public domain, warts and all.

The "warts" in "Any Bonds Today?" happen to be a brief bit where Bugs Bunny (Mel Blanc) morphs into a parody of sorts of actor-singer Al Jolson in blackface. Today, that particular bit has been excised from cable screenings of this micro-short, which only runs just under 2 minutes. Bugs is joined at the end by Porky Pig (Blanc) and Elmer Fudd (Arthur Q. Bryan) for a closing number.

Rating: A.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Animated World of DC Comics: The Super Friends meet the Balloon People (1973)

One of the better, more entertaining episodes of the 1973 Super Friends series saw the debut of a family of "Balloon People". Crim and his family have landed on Earth, and eventually become house guests of Marvin (Frank Welker). The Balloonians draw the attention of Noah Tall (Norman Alden in a dual role), and his marblemouthed sidekick, Twisty (Casey Kasem). Let's just see what happens:

Edit, 5/21/2020: Warner Bros. Online's channel on Dailymotion offers a small sample clip:

Unfortunately, when the series was revived four years later, no thought was given to revisiting the Balloonians or anyone else the Justice Leaguers encountered during the first season. Would've been a lot more fun.

Rating: B.

Sunday Funnies: Super Circus (1949)

Ya know, I don't get all the haterizing of clowns. Clowns bring joy and smiles to people's faces, especially at the circus.

In the early days of television, ABC banked on the positive appeal of clowns and circuses in developing a Sunday afternoon entry, Super Circus, which ran for 7 years (1949-56), based out of Chicago for the first six before moving to New York.

Claude Kirschner was the ringmaster, assisted by Mary Hartline, one of television's first "sex symbols" for adults. When the series moved to New York, comedian Jerry Colonna took over as ringmaster. Unfortunately for ABC, this proved to be a bad idea, as the series was cancelled after its lone season in the Big Apple. Kirschner, apparently, was unwilling to relocate.

There will be no rating, so we'll leave you with a 1954 episode from Chicago.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Looney TV: Rabbit Rampage (1955)

This is what's called karmic justice.

In "Duck Amuck", Bugs Bunny is secretly sabotaging a Daffy Duck feature as only he could. Now, it's a year later, and the shoe is on the other foot, except that it isn't Daffy turning the tables. Scope out "Rabbit Rampage":

Yeah, this not only was a sequel to "Duck Amuck", but a carbon copy, right down to the twist ending.

Rating: A-.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Saturtainment: Tennessee Tuxedo in Tick Tock (1963)

If anything, during the course of his three seasons on CBS (1963-6), Tennessee Tuxedo (Don Adams) served as a learning avatar for children watching at home.

One example is "Tick Tock", in which Chumley (Bradley Bolke) accidentally damages a clock donated to the zoo, and he & Tennessee must learn how to properly repair the clock, with help from their human friend, Phineas J. Whoopee (Larry Storch).

As we've noted, Storch would recycle his Whoopee voice for Dracula on The Groovie Goolies a few years later. Kenny Delmar is the narrator.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes (?): Commander McBragg (1963)

The World of Commander McBragg was a backup feature on Tennessee Tuxedo & His Tales, but, to tell you the truth, McBragg was a Baron Munchausen wanna-be, whose 90 second shorts followed a very simple, yet boring, formula.

Take for example the episode, "Chicago Mobster", in which McBragg imagines himself to be an undercover government agent in the 20's.

McBragg's like the guy at the bar who's got stories to tell that are just too good to be true. Because perhaps they're not.

Rating: B.

Retro Toy Chest: Lite-Brite (1967)

It is one of Hasbro's longest running toys, aside from the GI Joe line of action figures. Lite-Brite was introduced in 1967. and has evolved over the course of nearly 50 years. Hasbro also obtained licenses to use images of Bugs Bunny, Bozo the Clown, and other characters as part of their advertising campaign.

The following commercial comes from the 70's.

Today, Lite-Brite can be used on your smart phone. Gee, what a shock!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Saturtainment: Aliens in the Family (1996)

The track record of the Henson family's non-Muppet projects has not been very good. Aside from Fraggle Rock, the first series that Jim Henson created for HBO, Henson Productions' output has not had the staying power of Kermit and his pals, although Kermit and The Muppets ended up a 1 season wonder last season.

ABC thought Aliens in the Family would be a good fit for their Friday TGIF block. However, viewers voted with their remotes after reading advance reviews. Aliens lasted two weeks in March of 1996, then returned as a Saturday morning entry that summer to burn off the remaining six episodes. Singer-songwriter Todd Rundgren recorded the theme song.

The Stuffed Dog Company's only other claim to fame? NBC's Fresh Prince of Bel-Air comes to mind pretty quickly. The title animation is credited to Renegade Studios, although it bears some resemblance to the works of animators like Butch Hartman and/or John Kricfalusi. Stuffed Dog, whose logo was derivative of 20th Century Fox's from all indications, wasn't heard from again after Aliens left the air, as Fresh Prince had ended its run.

Here's a sample open:

Nice idea, but it seems viewers weren't interested in a fantasy-com that looked like a cross between The Brady Bunch and Mork & Mindy, if you get the drift.

No rating.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Goodbye Girl (1978)

The pop group Bread hadn't charted in nearly 6 years when lead singer David Gates went solo on American Bandstand in 1978 to perform the title song to the Richard Dreyfuss movie, "The Goodbye Girl".

Several years later, Gates would revisit "Goodbye" in a duet with country singer Billy Dean. After that, Hootie & the Blowfish would cover "Goodbye" for the TNT remake of the movie. As it happened, "Goodbye" was Gates' coda on the charts.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Tooniversary: Pawns of the Kingpin (Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends, 1981)

Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends become "Pawns of the Kingpin" when the web-spinner's long time nemesis hires an enemy of Captain America, Dr. Faustus, to use mind control on Cap and Iceman. Walker Edmiston, a long time voice actor for the Kroffts, voices Kingpin here.

Faustus was not heard from again after this one. Oddly enough, in the comics of the period, Marvel editors had transitioned Kingpin into becoming Daredevil's arch-enemy. Go figure.

Rating: B.

Retro Toy Chest: Weebles Circus (1977)

I'm not one of those people who think clowns are bad per se. Clowns are an intregal part of the circus, and so it is with the Weebles Circus, which was introduced in 1977.

The Weebles line was part of Hasbro's Romper Room division, the brand taken from the long running children's show. The Romper Room brand would later be merged with Milton Bradley's Playskool division after Hasbro bought the board game giant a few years later. Weebles are still being made today, but not as heavily promoted as before.

I must've seen this ad at least a dozen times during that first year, but where was it when I was the target age a decade earlier?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Animated World of DC Comics: Billion Dollar Limited (1942)

The Fleischers and Paramount rang in 1942 with this Superman short, "Billion Dollar Limited". The Man of Steel (Bud Collyer) has to stop a runaway train carrying a fortune in gold.

I first discovered these shorts in the early 80's when a local cable system carried the now-defunct Satellite Programming Network (SPN, not to be confused with, of course, ESPN), which used these shorts on an irregular basis.

Rating: A-.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Toonfomercial: Remember Sal & Arnie? (1970's)

The United States Department of Agriculture produced a series of short PSA's in the 70's, creating a pair of despicable characters in Sal Monella & Arnie Bacteria. The idea, of course, was to teach families how to properly prepare food and store the leftovers for future use.

Jackson Beck is heard as the announcer introducing this Sal & Arnie shortie.

Unfortunately, not much is confirmed about whether or not this series actually launched in 1973 or earlier. Today, we could still learn from these cartoons.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Looney TV: Foghorn Leghorn in Weasel Stop (1956)

Foghorn Leghorn never did like dogs. And when the Barnyard Dawg, his usual nemesis, is on holiday, Foghorn tries to take advantage of the substitute pooch by helping a visiting weasel. Well, you know this isn't going to end well.

Here's "Weasel Stop":

Foghorn shouldn't have trusted the weasel in the first place. I believe there was a sequel.

Rating: B.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

From Comics to Toons: Josie and the Pussycats in Swap Plot Flop (1970)

Josie & The Pussycats are in the Middle East, where Valerie is recruited to impersonate a lookalike princess and foil the plans of the Evil Eye in "Swap Plot Flop":

As we've noted over at The Land of Whatever, the Pussycats are back in an all-new comic book that reboots the band's origins. Alan is now a producer. Val is a vet before turning to music, and Josie & Melody are roommates.

However, when the band appears on Riverdale this winter, Josie has been rebooted as an African-American (with her mother played by Robin Givens). Well, when you consider that Hanna-Barbera originally wanted Valerie to be rebooted as a white girl in the 1970 cartoon.......!

"Swap Plot Flop" gets an A-.

Retro Toy Chest: Barbie's Star Traveler (1976)

With not only Thanksgiving, but Christmas, right around the corner, we're launching something new here in the Archives. We call it the Retro Toy Chest, focusing on toy commercials from the 60's, 70's, & 80's.

First up is for the ladies. In 1976, Mattel expanded their Barbie line of products with the introduction of the Barbie Star Traveler motor home. Actress Judy Strangis (Electra Woman & DynaGirl, ex-Room 222), who had spent a few years doing commercials for Dodge, is featured here.

That should stir some memories now, shouldn't it?

Toonformercial: A different look at the Three Little Pigs (1970's)

We all know the story of the Three Little Pigs, don't we? Of course. The American Cancer Society thought it'd be a cool idea if they took that and used it for an anti-smoking PSA in the 70's. Scope it.

Kinda makes you feel sorry for the wolf, doesn't it?

Saturday, November 5, 2016

It Should've Been on a Saturday: The CBS Library (1979)

Before CBS Storybreak and the CBS Schoolbreak Special, the network had experimented with a mid-week series of specials to rival the ABC Afterschool Special and NBC's Special Treat.

The CBS Library existed for 4 years (1979-83), before giving way to Schoolbreak. Like the Afterschool Special, this Library had a mix of live-action and animated entries. Unfortunately, not much else is known about this series. I never got to see it, so there isn't going to be a rating this time.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Toonfomercial: Remember Punchy, Hawaiian Punch's mascot? (1962)

Hawaiian Punch has been around since the late 30's. In 1962, an advertising agency raised the product's profile by creating its definitive mascot.

Punchy, always with a glass of Hawaiian Punch in hand, offers it to a simple fellow named Oaf. If you've seen these ads, you know the rest.

What you don't know is that Punchy's voice was originally performed by actor Ross Martin (ex-Mr. Lucky), three years before Wild, Wild West made him a cultural icon. Punchy & Oaf have been phased out over the years, but I'll bet there are some less than charitable souls who'd have wished Punchy took a swing as singer Donny Osmond, who, along with his sister, Marie, were brought in to pitch Hawaiian Punch in the 70's. Nothing against Donny & Marie, but don't you think there are subversive types out there with that kind of wish?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Toon Sports: How To Play Football (1944)

Disney needed to find something for Goofy to do as a solo act. A series of sports shorts, which began in the 40's, seemed to do the trick, except for the fact that, well, there's this one gag early in 1944's "How to Play Football". Seems there's a nation of Goofys......

If I'm not mistaken, this might've aired on either Mickey Mouse Club or Wonderful World of Disney or both. Think I might've seen this one back in the day, when they had a Movie Mobile that would have some of these shorts that local stations didn't have.

Rating: B-.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Literary Toons: CBS Storybreak (1985)

ABC's Weekend Special had been on the air for 8 years when CBS finally decided they wanted a show like that.

CBS Storybreak, however, lacked the staying power of Weekend Special, as it lasted a grand total of 8 years over two runs (1985-8, 1993-8). Like Weekend Special, Storybreak aired at lunch time, but some CBS affiliates were reluctant to carry the show at first, believing they would be better served continuing to collect ad revenues for themselves for airing syndicated programming.

Bob Keeshan, given an opportunity to do something other than Captain Kangaroo, served as host for the first run, which would mark the end of his 30+ year association with CBS. When the series returned in 1993, actor Malcolm Jamal-Warner (The Cosby Show) replaced Keeshan, and taped new intros and bumpers.

Hanna-Barbera's Australian studio produced the animation, as sister company Ruby-Spears was a primary supplier for ABC's Weekend Special. Notice how NBC stayed out of the fray?

Anyway, I never did see Storybreak, so there won't be a rating.

Edit, 11/18/21: Have to change the video. Here now is a Chinese interpretation of Cinderella, Yeh-Shen, with the voices of George Takei (ex-Star Trek) and Michael Bell, among others.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Spooktober: Zombies in Love (Archie's Weird Mysteries, 1999)

Our final Spooktober entry comes from Archie's Weird Mysteries.

Veronica uses a love potion intended for Archie, but it seems everyone's gotten a whiff.......

No rating.

From Out of the Recycling Bin: Bugs Bunny's Howl-oween Special (1978)

In order to produce holiday-themed specials for CBS, Warner Bros. would cobble together clips from a collection of older, classic shorts, and create a new, wraparound storyline.

Such was the case with 1978's Bugs Bunny's Howl-oween Special. Some of the shorts excerpted in this show had been used in edited form on The Bugs Bunny-Road Runner Show on Saturdays, so the challenge was on parents to recognize where they'd seen certain clips.

We've previously reviewed some of the shorts, such as "Hyde & Go Tweet". You try to figure what comes from where.

Edit, 9/14/23: Had to change the video. Here's a commercial promoting the show:

No rating. We didn't see this the first time.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Spooktober: Garfield's Halloween Adventure (aka Garfield in Disguise)(1985)

Earlier this month, we showed you a PSA featuring Garfield. I'm told that the images of Garfield and Odie were lifted from our next entry.

Garfield's Halloween Adventure, originally titled Garfield in Disguise when it first aired on CBS in 1985, has Jim Davis' orange-furred feline (Lorenzo Music) and Odie trick or treating as if they were kids. The episode also features songs performed by Music and the incomparable Lou Rawls.

Of course you know that a couple of years later, Garfield would begin a lengthy run as part of CBS' Saturday morning block. The more recent CGI-driven Garfield Show doesn't really hold a candle, and its only advantage is allowing for Garfield's lips to move.

Rating: B.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Spooktober: A McDonald's promotion you may remember (1979)

Back in the day, McDonald's used to emphasize selling gift certificates, usually around Christmas. In 1979, they tried the same promotion around Halloween, using a talking pumpkin.......

Funny thing. This is the first time I've seen this ad.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

It Should've Been on a Saturday: Faerie Tale Theatre (1982)

I will warn you now that I, because I don't have premium cable channels such as Showtime, have never seen Faerie Tale Theatre, which ran for six "seasons" between 1982-7. Hence, there won't be a rating for this next item, presented as more of a public service.

Actress Shelley Duvall ("The Shining", "Popeye", etc.) developed the series while on the set of "Popeye", as she was reading some classic fairy tales while on the set. Two of her "Popeye" co-stars, Paul Dooley and Robin Williams, would eventually appear on Faerie Tale Theatre. In fact, Williams, fresh from Mork & Mindy, starred in the pilot episode, "The Tale of the Frog Prince".

For now, here's one of the final episodes of the series, from March 1987, "Rip Van Winkle", starring Harry Dean Stanton in the title role, and co-starring Ed Begley, Jr. (St. Elsewhere):

Edit, 7/9/22: The YouTube poster decided to restrict his videos to YouTube. So, we've replaced it with a sample intro:

Duvall would follow up with Tall Tales & Legends, which didn't quite have the staying power. I have no memory of either series airing in syndication, but they should have. We'll look at Tall Tales another time.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Spooktober: The Halloween Door (The Real Ghostbusters, 1989)

The Real Ghostbusters, in its 4th season on ABC (5th overall---don't ask), were granted their only primetime special. The Saturday edition had expanded to an hour to give Slimer (Frank Welker) his own half-hour of comic adventures.

However, "The Halloween Door" is a half-hour in length, and, oddly, starts with a song. "Touchin' Old Magic", performed by the Ghostbusters themselves (Welker, Dave Coulier, Maurice LaMarche, & Buster Jones), before the drama begins.

Yeah, you're getting the "music video" twice. Can't be helped. 

Coulier (Full House) was actually trying to do a Bill Murray imitation, rather than Lorenzo Music, who'd left to do Garfield & Friends. Apparently, Jones didn't sing after all, as Bus Boys frontman Brian O'Neal sang Winston's parts.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Spooktober: Betty Boop's Halloween Party (1933)

Betty Boop's 1933 "Halloween Party" wasn't really banned. The person who posted this video to YouTube was looking for click bait from curious viewers. Instead, it's the Fleischers at their most surreal. Who else would have paintings of witches come to life to scare off a party-crashing gorilla?

Silly, harmless fun. That's all it is. They just don't make cartoons like this anymore.

Rating: A-.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Toons After Dark: Downtown (1999)

By the end of the 90's, MTV was looking for the next big hit cartoon. It had been two years since Beavis & Butt-Head had ended, and its spinoff series, Daria, needed something to complement it on the schedule.

Downtown, they say, should've been it. Series creator Chris Prynoski had worked on "Beavis & Butt-Head Do America", and was given the green light to develop his own series. Unfortunately, one season of 13 episodes was all Prynoski got, as MTV, seeing the ratings, cancelled Downtown. Prynoski, however, persevered, and would later work on Megas XLR for Cartoon Network, and Motorcity for DisneyXD. Both of those series were also short-lived for whatever reason.

I never got to see the show, so there isn't going to be a rating. For now, scope the episode, "The Con", with WWE superstar the Undertaker as a special guest star.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Looney TV: Hillbilly Hare (1950)

Where does Bugs Bunny find the funds to travel to such distant places as the Ozark Mountains without burrowing?

Not that it matters, but director Robert McKimson sent Bugs off to the Ozarks in 1950's "Hillbilly Hare". We've previously sampled the riotous dismantling of "Skip To My Lou", setting up the finale, but now we have the whole enchilada.

Edit, 9/29/22: The video has been deleted. In its place is a title card.

Apparently, the Martin brothers weren't exactly top of their class in school. Assuming, of course, they ever graduated.

Rating: A-.

Sunday Funnies: Funniest Pets & People (2006)

Nearly 10 months after it began airing as a digital subchannel for the local Fox affiliate here, Laff TV debuts on Time Warner Cable systems in the  home district. Among the entries on the schedule is a cable series that first aired 10 years ago.

Funniest Pets & People has been lurking around since it launched in 2006. Executive Producer Brad Lachman might be better known for the 80's variety series, Solid Gold, than for this 2 year America's Funniest Home Videos wanna-be. Voice actor Rob Paulsen is the host-narrator.

Funniest Pets airs on Laff in the pre-dawn hours every day just about. Truth is, it's worth recording when you need a laugh on a bad day.

Rating: A.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Tooniversary: Adventures From The Book of Virtues (1996)

I'd imagine that there are churches using videos from the PBS series, Adventures From The Book of Virtues as teaching tools for Sunday School or even Vacation Bible School, 20 years after the series first hit the air.

As memory serves, Virtues did air, fittingly enough, on Sunday mornings in some cities, but today, any PBS affiliate would be wise to pair it with the 2 hour Bookworm Bunch block and Redwall for a 3 hour block that would make the FCC proud. I know I would if I was a programmer.

I never got to see the show, so there won't be a rating. 

Edit, 11/18/21: The video was deleted. In its place, we'll insert a series title card.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Spooktober: Mr. Magoo as Dr. Frankenstein (The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo, 1964)

The gimmick to The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo was that Magoo (Jim Backus, Gilligan's Island) was acting in theatrical productions and putting aside his own disability. The usual gags about Magoo being nearsighted are used in the preambles, such as the one coming up, to set up the adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

The opening & closing credits have been edited off.

No rating. I have little memory of seeing this one.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Taka (1967)

You have probably noticed that the producers of the 1966 Lone Ranger series gave Tonto (Shep Menken) an eagle as a sidekick of his own, as if he needed it. Anyway, "Taka" stars in his own short, with cameos by Tonto and the Ranger (Michael Rye).

Rye doubles as Nakoni, the Native American scout accompanying the hunting party. Apparently, he's not from Tonto's tribe, else he'd have recognized Taka right away. Have to say this was highly amusing.

Rating: A.

Spooktober: The Devil Went Down to Georgia (1979)

This also appears at The Land of Whatever:

It is likely one of the biggest Halloween anthems of all time, even if it wasn't meant that way. Here's the Charlie Daniels Band, from The Midnight Special, with "The Devil Went Down to Georgia".

Toonfomercial: Remember Keebler's Soft Batch cookies? (1984)

Keebler is now part of Kellogg's ever-expanding food empire (the company also purchased Sunshine some time back, and recently took over the Pringle's line of potato crisps from Procter & Gamble). Back in the day, not a day went by without at least one commercial promoting one of Keebler's expanding line of cookies.

One such example is Soft Batch, which was introduced in 1984. Let's visit the famous hollow tree and look in on Ernie (Parley Baer, ex-The Andy Griffith Show) and his mom (presumably June Foray) as they inspect the development of their new product. Danny Dark (Super Friends), the long time announcer for Keebler, narrates.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Spooktober: Boo To You, Winnie The Pooh (1996)

A. A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh returned to primetime in 1996 in Boo to You, Winnie The Pooh.

Ever-timid Piglet (John Fiedler) wants no part of trick-or-treating, prompting Pooh, Tigger (both voiced by Jim Cummings), and company to organize a "Hallowasn't" party. Chaos ensues. John Rhys-Davies (Sliders) narrates, and comes off sounding almost like Sebastian Cabot, who narrated a number of previous primetime Pooh specials.

No rating.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Looney TV: Little Red Riding Rabbit (1944)

Bugs Bunny crosses paths with a rather obnoxious parody of a fairy tale heroine in "Little Red Riding Rabbit". This 1944 Friz Freleng entry is significant in that this is the first time Mel Blanc is credited for his work, although he's also joined by Billy Bletcher and Jack Benny Program castmate Bea Benaderet, who voices Red, depicted as a 40's bobby-soxer.

Edit, 11/13/19: The video has been deleted. There are others, but they've either been sped up or were recorded through awkward means (i.e. camera phone), and unusable. For now, we'll sub a still from the film's climax.


Pardon the obvious pun, but this bugged the bejabbers out of me. Satire is one thing, but this was way too mean to be that.

Rating: B--.

You Know the Voice(s): Paul Winchell & Pat Harrington, Jr. (1973)

The nights are getting colder this time of year, and with Halloween 2 weeks away, that would be appropriate, don't you think? Of course.

We have a 2-for-1 special in our You Know The Voice category this time, and probably the only time that Paul Winchell and Pat Harrington (who'd dropped the Jr. by this point) shared the screen together. This one is from the short-lived NBC series, Circle of Fear (formerly Ghost Story), and was first broadcast in March 1973.

In "The Ghost of Potter's Field", Paul plays a building manager who has a run-in with who he thinks is one of his tenants (Tab Hunter). Winchell was no stranger to drama, having acted on shows as diverse as The Virginian, Saints & Sinners, and 77 Sunset Strip during the course of his career. Paul shows up around the 22 minute mark, and Harrington first appears around the 5 minute mark or so. The ensemble also includes William Boyett (Adam-12), Robert Mandan (later of Soap), and Gary Conway (ex-Land of the Giants, Burke's Law).

All that's missing, because the particular vocal track has been long since deleted, is announcer Casey Kasem, who was heard at the beginning of the show.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Spooktober: The Witch's Arcade (1981)

We had this next Super Friends short up before, but it was deleted a ways back due to copyright issues. Thanks to Dailymotion, it's back. The Wonder Twins & Wonder Woman are trapped in "The Witch's Arcade" on what should've been a quiet day off.....

Edit, 12/5/22: We've found a title card:

One wonders which cartoon was recorded first. This one, or the debut of Videoman on Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends during the same season.

Rating: A.

From Comics to Toons: The Thing in Circus Stampede (1979)

The Thing has his hands full containing a "Circus Stampede". What he doesn't know is that the Yancy Street Gang caused the stampede, but they should be thankful they don't run into the the Big Orange.

A clip of this has previously been used when we first reviewed Ben's solo series.

The fact that Thing never crossed paths with the Yancy Street clowns in this story actually helped things along. I should note that the Yancy Streeters' designs were recycled from the Bronto Bunch from Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm 8 years earlier. I wonder how many other times Hanna-Barbera recycled designs.

Rating: B-.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Spooktober: Raggedy Ann & Andy in The Pumpkin Who Couldn't Smile (1979)

Raggedy Ann & Andy made their television debuts in a 1979 CBS primetime special, The Pumpkin Who Couldn't Smile. One of Chuck Jones' last projects for CBS, this is the Halloween answer to Charles Dickens' oft-adapted tale, A Christmas Carol.

Young Ralph is forbidden by his Aunt Agatha to go trick-or-treating, and Agatha won't give out treats. Much like Ebenezer Scrooge, Agatha has to be reminded of her own youth. That's where Raggedy Ann (June Foray) and Raggedy Andy (Daws Butler, using his Elroy Jetson/Augie Doggie voice) come in.

Foray is also Aunt Agatha, credited as "Mrs. Hobart Donavan", in reference to her second husband, who'd passed away three years earlier. Agatha does sound like Witch Hazel, doesn't she, to a point?

The rights to this special were passed to the Disney Channel in the 80's, but hasn't seen the light of day in recent times.

Rating: B.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Spooktober: Mighty Mouse vs. Frankenstein's Cat (1942)

Mary Shelley's most famous tale is given a parody in 1942 as Mighty Mouse battles "Frankenstein's Cat".

Now, Dr. Frankenstein doesn't appear in this short. Also, it's clear that this was originally made when our hero was known as Super Mouse, and the renaming of the iconic Mouse of Tomorrow was dubbed in for later syndicated broadcasts and airings on CBS.

One of the weaker entries in the series. Mighty Mouse would later adopt the yellow & red outfit to gain his own particular identity, as the blue & red makes clear his origin as a parody of Superman.

Rating: C-.

Getting Schooled: Remember Farmer Brown? (1970's)

The United States Department of Agriculture ran a series of PSA's in the 70's, dating back to about 1973 according to one source, but I can't be sure of that.

In these short bits, a pair of puppets, one being a banjo playing Farmer Brown, would do a short song about various things. In this spot, Farmer Brown and Fred, a horse, sing about energy generated from bread and rice.

There are others, one with a goose, and one with a cow. Used to see these all the time on WSBK back in the day.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Stunt Dawgs (1992)

Seems that Fox had doubled down on dumb ideas during the 1992-3 season.

It wasn't enough that snagging real-life comedy "stuntman" Super Dave Osborne for a Saturday morning cartoon. Oh, no. Fox also picked up a 2nd animated series involving stunt people, and it also bombed.

Stunt Dawgs counts Jeff Franklin (Full House) as one of its creators, but I'll bet you never knew that, judging from this show. How Franklin was unable to sell this series to ABC, home of Full House remains a mystery, but then again, maybe the programmers there knew something that Fox didn't.

In short, the world just wasn't ready for an animated series about stuntmen, and Fox failed twice in the same season.

Scope out the series opener, "Endangered Species":

No rating.

Toon "Sports" (?): Remember The Big Game? (1998)

For four years, before they started going totally cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, the geniuses at Cartoon Network decided to tweak a certain winter tradition by packaging together a series of classic shorts under the title, The Big Game. All it really was, quite frankly, was a means of counter-programming the Super Bowl, which is now played in February for ratings reasons after being a January tradition from the beginning.

The first installment, predictably, showcased Tom & Jerry, with commentary by Fox announcers Pat Summerall & John Madden. After that, CN turned to corporate siblings HBO and Turner Sports for the remaining three installments. There wasn't a real game being played, and if you didn't figure that out during the length of the broadcast, you must've been living under a rock or not watching at all.

Anyway, from 2000, here's The Big Game: Road Runner vs. Wile E. Coyote, hosted by the crew from Inside The NFL, which, oh, by the way, now airs on Showtime and NFL Network.

It got to the point where CN created an ersatz pre-game and halftime show, using various characters under Time Warner control. Apparently, the first Big Game brought in big ratings. So why did they stop after 4 years? There was only so much they could do without resorting to reruns (rematches). Like, I think they finished with Popeye vs. Bluto in 2001. They never got around to doing Bugs Bunny vs. Daffy Duck or either Elmer Fudd or Marvin the Martian.

I wasn't really that big on this convoluted excuse for a marathon. Unfortunately, CN has gotten worse since, although product quality has improved in recent years, with certain exceptions (and you know what I'm talking about).

Rating for The Big Game: C.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

You Know The Voice: Nicole Jaffe (and friends) (1969)

Jinkies! In addition to debuting as Velma on Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? in 1969, Nicole Jaffe also appeared periodically on Room 222, but she's not the only name familiar to Saturday morning devotees in this next video.

Nicole appears around the 7 minute mark in the series opener, "Richie's Story". Also, keep an eye open for future Saturday stars such as David Jolliffe (not credited in this episode), later of Clue Club, Michael Gray (5 years before Shazam!), and Judy Strangis, whose brother, Sam, had been a producer on Batman and other Fox series. Three years later, Judy would transition to voice work with The Roman Holidays, but, aside from commercials for Dodge and Mattel, she's still best remembered for Electra Woman & DynaGirl. Judy plays soft-spoken Helen.

Reruns of Room 222 currently air on Aspire (check local listings).

Toons After Dark: Family Dog (1993)

In the early 90's, ABC & CBS each attempted to develop animated primetime series in answer to Fox's The Simpsons, but couldn't find the right formula.

Family Dog had its roots in a 1987 episode of NBC's Amazing Stories, a Steven Spielberg-produced anthology series that lasted just 2 seasons. Created by Brad Bird, this was your typical domestic pet cartoon, assuming your pet was raised on, say for example, Harry the Dirty Dog and Dennis the Menace.

Unfortunately, viewers voted with their remotes, as six years had passed since the backdoor pilot had aired. Bird had moved on, and if memory serves he was working on, ironically enough, The Simpsons, by this point. The creative pedigree, aside from Spielberg, who had a couple of daytime toons on the air by this point, included Tim Burton and Paul Dini, the latter having graduated to icon status thanks to a certain Dark Knight.

Here's a sample episode:

This wound up filed under "troubled productions". Universal & WB collaborated with Amblin (Spielberg's company) on the show, and after showing dissatisfaction with the overseas animators, had Canada's Nelvana Studios redo the episodes.

Rating: C.

Monday, October 10, 2016

From Comics To Toons: Driven to Distraction (Archie's Weird Mysteries, 1999)

From Archie's Weird Mysteries:

Betty & Veronica have a new rival for Archie's affections, but it just so happens to be a cherry (or is that blood) red convertible that Archie has christened, Betsy. "Driven to Distraction" is a very loose adaptation of sorts of Stephen King's Christine. You'll see why as we go along.

By the time they made this series, the beaten up jalopy that had been Archie's mode of transportation in the 60's had been phased out, and "Betsy" had been used in the comics before this episode. 

Rating: B.

Spooktober: Darkstalkers (1995)

Darkstalkers was based on a series of video games made by the folks at Capcom. Graz Entertainment acquired a license to do a weekly animated series, which lasted just 13 weeks. As memory serves, the series aired in Boston on WSBK, but I don't recall any stations in New York carrying the show.

If you've wondered why no one has brought this show back, it might be because it's locked in Capcom's vaults.

I didn't watch much of the show when it first came out, so there won't be a rating. Here's the intro:

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Looney TV: Hippety Hopper (1949)

How can anyone confuse a baby kangaroo from Australia with a tiny American mouse?

It became a running joke in the course of 16 Hippety Hopper cartoons, produced between 1948-64. Hippety never had a short all to himself, although this next item bears his name. In it, a Brooklyn mouse, contemplating suicide, is saved by Hippety, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the rodent also mistakes Hippety for one of his kin. I guess it's because they have the same skin color. Anyway, inevitably, the mouse takes Hippety home with him to confront Sylvester. You can guess the rest.

Hippety never spoke---he was a baby, after all---so everyone else had to carry the action for him. Some folks must wonder why Sylvester drew the short straw to get embarrassed by Hippety every time.

Rating: A.

You Know The Voice(s): Len Maxwell & Jack Sheldon (1964)

This clip is also at The Land of Whatever.

We previously presented Jack Sheldon doing his stand-up act on The Nut House, a failed pilot from Jay Ward. Here, Sheldon & Len Maxwell (later of Batfink) help a soldier try to record a message to his mom. Alan Sues, later of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, shows up near the end of the skit as time runs out on the show. Literally.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Literary Toons: SuperTed (1983)

In 1978, animator Mike Young,  better known here in the US for his later reimagining of He-Man, among other things, developed a series of stories about a sentient teddy bear endowed with super powers. The idea was that Young wanted to help his son overcome his fear of the dark, and in the original stories, SuperTed would also have the same phobia.

Five years later, Young reworked the origin for a series of animated shorts that aired first in the UK, then were imported to the US by the Disney Channel. This time, SuperTed was just a discarded teddy bear deemed defective by the manufacturer. An alien named Spotty (Jon Pertwee, ex-Doctor Who) brought the bear to life with some cosmic dust. Mother Nature endowed the bear with powers to fight crime. Derek Griffiths voiced SuperTed.

In 1989, Hanna-Barbera obtained a license to adapt the series for American audiences. Since SuperTed had been out of production, the battling bruin returned in The New Adventures of SuperTed as part of the Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera anthology package, but, save for Victor Spinetti as Texas Pete and one other cast member, H-B opted to recast virtually every role. Danny Cooksey (ex-Diff'rent Strokes) took over as Ted. We'll review H-B's version another time.

Right now, though, let's join SuperTed & Spotty as they try to round up Texas Pete and his henchmen in "SuperTed and the Stolen Rocketship":

Droll, not so much different from any other action cartoon of the day, save for its length.

Rating: B-.

Toonfomercial: Bugs Bunny for Yellow Pages (1973)

I have no idea when this commercial first aired, but this is an obscurity I hadn't seen before.

Bugs Bunny (Mel Blanc) is a guest, apparently on a talk show, joined by Rose Marie (Hollywood Squares, ex-The Dick Van Dyke Show) and Johnny Brown (Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, later of Good Times).

Edit, 12/22/16: Updated text.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Spooktober: Who Believes in Ghosts? (The Brady Kids, 1973)

From season 2 of The Brady Kids comes today's Spooktober entry.

The siblings decide to refurbish a house belonging to a long-dead military man, but two crooks are hiding out, and, suspicious that the Bradys could find their loot, try to scare them out.

Here's "Who Believes in Ghosts?".

Lane Scheimer, Lou's son, took over for Barry Williams as Greg, and, well, Williams and some of the others leaving took the starch right out of the show. Scheimer comes off as flatter than a stack of copy paper. And that's being kind.

Rating: B--.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Toon Sports: The Harlem Globetrotters take up football (1970)

It all starts with the Harlem Globetrotters intent on taking in a charity football game as fans. But when one of the teams is unable to make it to the game, Meadowlark (Scatman Crothers) volunteers the 'Trotters onto the gridiron. Here's "Football Zeros":

Rating: B.

Animated World of DC Comics: The Super Friends Meet Frankenstein (1979)

I had this up earlier this year, then took it down in a panic when Dailymotion got wonky for a spell. Now, it's back, this time to stay.

As we've talked about before the World's Greatest Super Friends season was mostly loose adaptations, if you could call it that at least, of literary tales most of us would be familiar with, such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Now, in the then-present of 1979, Superman, Batman, & Wonder Woman investigate when a modern-day Monster terrorizes the countryside at the behest of a descendant of Dr. Victor Frankenstein. But when the iconic heroes are captured, it's up to Robin (Casey Kasem) to make a daring rescue. Gleek has the same idea, improvising a small plane to follow through stormy weather. Where were the Wonder Twins for this one, anyway?

Edit, 6.17/22: I've found an excerpt:

Easily one of the better episodes of the season. Considering that only 8 were produced per year from 1979-85, that says a lot.

Rating: A.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Looney TV: Yosemite Sam----commercial pitchman? (1976)

Most of us on the East Coast have never heard of the now-defunct Skaggs Drug Stores, which was folded into American Stores in 1979. Skaggs was founded in Idaho, and had locations all along the West Coast.

In 1976, Skaggs commissioned an animated commercial featuring Yosemite Sam (Mel Blanc, of course) in a rare solo appearance to promote a Father's Day sale.

Skaggs just didn't have the reach of Rite Aid or CVS, and it cost them.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Rare Treats: Archie & His New Pals (1969)

As CBS upgraded The Archie Show to The Archie Comedy Hour for a second season of teenage hijinks at Riverdale High, the network thought it best to give the gang a primetime forum.

Archie & His New Pals, fittingly sponsored by Pals vitamins for kids, hasn't seen the light of day since its initial broadcast in September 1969. It also marks the debut of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, who is making her debut at Riverdale High......

Edit, 4/12/19: The video has been deleted. In its place is the intro to the show:

Of course, we've showcased "Get on the Line" before. Now, you get the whole enchilada. I guess it seems appropriate that, with Election Day right around the corner, Moose besting Reggie for Student Council President might be a harbinger of things to come.

Rating: B.