Monday, February 29, 2016

Animated World of DC Comics: Gotham Stories (2015-6)

This also appears over at The Land of Whatever:

To keep viewers up to speed on Gotham during its winter break, which concludes with the start of "Wrath of the Villains" tonight, DC, Fox, and WB decided to create a short series of motion comics under the title, Gotham Stories. The five short clips combine to form a sub-4 minute mini-movie, featuring the voices of series regulars Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, Robin Lord Taylor, and others.

Mr. Freeze is front & center as we begin:

To see where all this leads, you'll have to tune in tonight. That's all I can say. It's not exactly on the level, animation wise, of the infamous Marvel Superheroes Show from 50 years ago, and could've worked a little better.

Rating: C.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Looney TV: The Unmentionables (1963)

Bugs Bunny sends up The Untouchables, which had wrapped its run by the time "The Unmentionables" landed in theatres in 1963.

Elegant Mess (Bugs) is sent to capture wanted gangsters Rocky & Mugsy. The usual chaos follows. This is a rare bird in that another actor other than Mel Blanc shares screen credit. That would be Ralph James, later the voice of Orson on Mork & Mindy, who does the Walter Winchell mimic as the narrator.

Rating: A+.

And now, an important message from Batman (1966)

If it wasn't for the fact that episodes of the 1966-8 Batman series were not available on YouTube now, we would be doing our part to mark the series' 50th anniversary this year.

Luckily, the National Archives has a channel on YouTube, from which we find this long lost PSA featuring the Caped Crusader (Adam West) discussing US Savings Bonds.

I wonder if this is on any of the Bat-DVD collections........

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Looney TV: Duck Amuck (1953)

This might be what put Daffy Duck over the edge.

"Duck Amuck", released in 1953, and directed by Chuck Jones, puts Daffy (Mel Blanc) at the mercy of an artist who keeps messing with the scenery and Daffy himself. We've all seen this at least a dozen times.

2 years later, the same thing would happen to Bugs Bunny in "Rabbit Rampage", also directed by Jones. We'll have that one up another time.

Rating: A.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Project G.e.e.K.e.r. (1996)

Around 1996, Columbia-Tri-Star (now Sony Pictures Television) jumped into the business of producing animated series themselves, rather than outsource product to other studios. Adelaide was the name of their animation arm, and produced a pair of series that first year. Jumanji, a reboot of the Robin Williams movie of the same name from a year earlier, lasted three seasons on UPN as a Sunday entry. The other show?

Project G.e.e.K.e.r. landed in the dreaded 8:00 (ET) slot on CBS. Ideally, you'd want a new show to air in the middle of the lineup, somewhere between 9-11 am (ET), which worked really well for some shows (i.e. Pee-Wee's Playhouse) in prior years, but airing in the lead-off spot or at the bottom of the lineup, unless it was a pre-established franchise, usually meant certain cancellation.

G.e.e.K.e.r. (Billy West, Ren & Stimpy, Doug, etc.) was the creation of a no-good named Moloch (Jim Cummings), who wanted to use the shape-shifter as part of his plan for world conquest. Unfortunately, Lady MacBeth (Cree Summer, ex-A Different World, Inspector Gadget, etc.), a cyborg thief, and her dinosaur sidekick, Noah (Brad Garrett), stole G.e.e.K.e.r., and now must ensure that Moloch doesn't take G.e.e.K.e.r. back. Because he wasn't fully formed, if you will, G.e.e.K.e.r. suffers from the same problem that had plagued video game hero Space Ace (Saturday Supercade) more than a decade earlier, in that his transformations are random and involuntary, often leading to trouble. Aside from that, he's an imbecile, slightly up the intellectual ladder from, say, Beavis & Butt-Head. Suffice to say, while G.e.e.K.e.r. stumbles into and out of trouble on a weekly basis, like, say, Inspector Gadget, he had no real connection with the audience, resulting in a quick hook.

Here's the intro:

Co-producer Doug Langdale would move to Disney (The Weekenders, Dave the Barbarian), and is currently at Nickelodeon (Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness) and working on other projects.

Rating: D.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Toons You Might've Missed: Private Snafu (1943-5)

Here's a rarity in the Warner Bros. canon.

Private Snafu appeared in more than 2 dozen shorts produced by WB for the Army from 1943-5, but these cartoons, now in the public domain, have never been shown on television, save maybe for an episode or three of Cartoon Network's Toon Heads in the 90's.

Snafu (Mel Blanc) keeps finding himself in situations of his own making. His name is an acronym (Situation Normal-All Fouled Up), but the little guy was meant to be a morale booster for the soldiers. Created by filmmaker Frank Capra, a large chunk of Snafu's adventures were written by author Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss), and directed by some of the usual WB suspects (Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Frank Tashlin).

A number of years ago, my brother bought a bootleg video compilation of the Fleischers' Superman shorts at a convention. A Snafu short was included in the set, but not the one we're going to show you. I didn't think much of it at the time, partially because I was tired and half-asleep that night when he played the tape. Anyway, scope out "Private Snafu vs. Malaria Mike". Mike, you see, is a mosquito.

Bugs Bunny appeared in a pair of shorts with Snafu, and maybe we'll run those someday.

Rating: B.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Celebrity Toons: The Three Stooges in Flycyle Built For Two (1965)

If you thought the Wright brothers had issues inventing an airplane, try The Three Stooges' attempt at air travel in "Flycycle Built For Two". The live-action wraparound has the boys (Moe Howard, Larry Fine, Joe DeRita) trying to spruce up a house for incoming tenants, and finding a corpse inside a suit of armor, this after Larry donned the armor as a prank on Curly Joe.

These would be the only cartoons the Stooges would do themselves, as other actors (i.e. Paul Winchell) took over when Hanna Barbera obtained a license in the 70's.

Rating: B-.

Rare Treats: Remember the M & M's Man? (1970's)

Back in the 70's, M & M-Mars' ad agency concocted a series of ads that riffed on Sammy Davis, Jr.'s hit song, "The Candy Man" (From "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory", circa 1971). Meet the M & M's Man, a real Pied Piper of candy, if ya will......

And he even tagged along with the talking candies, Red & Yellow......

The animated clip has been brought back to set up a new ad campaign featuring the CGI versions of Red & Yellow, set to debut on Monday. Doesn't this bring back some memories?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Tooniversary: The Lone Ranger & Tonto vs. Wolfmaster (1966)

For all intents & purposes, Tonto actually goes it alone vs. "Wolfmaster" in this short. The Lone Ranger appears only in the bookend scenes.

By the numbers as per the practice of the period. Today, it'd be told differently.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Rein-Toon-Ation: When Animals Nap (1990's)

In the pre-[adult swim] days of Cartoon Network, they invited independent animators to put their own spins on their favorite characters. One such example is this Yogi Bear micro-short, "When Animals Nap". Yogi & Boo Boo try to hibernate, but must also deal with a nosy camera crew wanting footage for a "reality" show.

Lame & unfunny. Period.

Rating: C-.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Looney TV: What's Opera, Doc? (1957)

After sending up Rossini's "Barber of Seville", Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd had actually preceded it two years earlier with a parody of Richard Wagner's trilogy in Chuck Jones' "What's Opera, Doc?". Author Michael Maltese also wrote the song, "Return My Love", sung as a duet by Bugs (Mel Blanc) and Elmer (Arthur Q. Bryan). Worth noting is that toward the end, when Elmer calls out, "Smog!", Blanc speaks the line instead of Bryan. Don't ask.

Edit, 5/8/20: The video has been deleted. We will sub in this card:

What's Opera Doc Lobby Card.PNG

For all the times Bugs used ballet moves, including in this picture, I don't think he actually made a ballet film. Talk about wasted opportunities.

Rating: A.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Tooniversary: Insect to Injury (1956)

Popeye goes it alone for once in 1956's "Insect to Injury". The sailor has finally put the finishing touches on a new home when a nest of termites shows up, hungry. Chaos ensues.

Buggy, isn't it?

Rating: A.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Toonfomercial: Remember Big Yellow? (1978)

In 1978, Kellogg's changed the name of one of its cereals. Sugar Pops became Sugar Corn Pops, and would ultimately drop the Sugar part of the name 8 years later, as the movement toward healthier breakfasts was just beginning.

Kellogg's ad agency created the character of Big Yellow, a cowboy so designated by his yellow hat. No, they couldn't get the rights to H. A. Rey's Curious George, which would have made this so much easier. It's said that Big Yellow was modeled after actor-singer-songwriter Jerry Reed, but the voice is distinctively that of the inestimable Paul Frees..........

Frees was also the voice of Toucan Sam, touting Froot Loops, for a number of years. Unfortunately, Big Yellow was long gone by the time of the final name change to Corn Pops.

On The Air: Bunnicula (2016)

James Howe's vampire rabbit, Bunnicula, is back, this time in an all-new series airing concurrently on Cartoon Network & Boomerang.

Bunnicula doesn't say much, does a lot of chattering instead. I'm not sure if his owner, Mina (Kari Wahlgren) is aware he's a vampire, since his fangs are retractable, but the other pets, Harold, a dog, and Chester, a Siamese cat (Sean Astin), certainly do. Chester, in particular, sees Bunnicula (Chris Kattan, ex-Saturday Night Live, also heard as Mina's father) as a magnet for all kinds of monsters. The show is set in New Orleans, which suggests a likely encounter with voodoo would be on the docket.

Bunnicula also marks the return of writer-producer Maxwell Atoms to Cartoon Network for the first time since The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. Come to think of it, Atoms writes Harold as a canine Billy. That is to say, he's not very bright.

As with other recent CN debuts, each Bunnicula episode lasts 15 minutes, or 2 shows per half hour. It's also running on Boomerang in order to maximize viewer interest and ratings.

No full episodes are available as yet, as the series only premiered two weeks ago, but we have the intro:

The target audience will get a kick out of it, and maybe this will spur renewed interest in the books.

Rating: B.

Looney TV: Yankee Dood It (1956)

Some time back, we gave you a sample of this next short. Now, thanks to Dailymotion, we have the complete version of "Yankee Dood It", starring Elmer Fudd (Arthur Q. Bryan) and Sylvester (Mel Blanc).

Elmer is the king of progressive, industrial elves in a story set 150 years after the literary classic, The Elves & the Shoemaker. Sylvester is the pet of the shoemaker, who has some of Elmer's elves working for him. So, Elmer sets out to solve this problem without any fuss.

A brilliant teaching tool, too.

Rating: A.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Toons You Might've Missed: The Breakfast Pals (1939)

Cartoon Films produced this next item, which was included in theatrical trailers back in 1939. The Breakfast Pals was the original umbrella name for Snap, Crackle, & Pop, the long running mascots of Kellogg's Rice Krispies cereal. Call them the Golden Age version of the beloved characters, as their look has evolved over the course of the last 77 years.

The animation emulates the Fleischers, but it's definitely not them, though it'd be another feather in their collective caps if it was. To my knowledge, this has never been shown on television, though that could change as Snap, Crackle, & Pop approach their 100th birthdays.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Looney TV: Rabbit of Seville (1959)

Rossini's opera, "The Barber of Seville" gets sent up by director Chuck Jones as he puts Bugs Bunny, on the run from Elmer Fudd, into an opera house. Raise the curtain for "Rabbit of Seville".

Between this and "What's Opera, Doc?", you'd think the kiddo's would've learned to appreciate opera. I know my brother did, and back in the day was known to listen to radio performances of the Metropolitan Opera on a NYC radio station.

Rating: A-.

Toonfomercial: Mr. Jinx rocks for Raisin Bran (1964)

Hanna-Barbera produced this next item, as Pixie & Dixie, for once in collaboration with Mr. Jinx (Daws Butler) shill for Kellogg's Raisin Bran. Don Messick narrates.

Not too long after, Kellogg's created their own spokestoon for the product, Mr. Sun. Butler would use his Elroy Jetson/Augie Doggie voice for the character for a few years.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Teenage Toons: The Archie-Sabrina Hour (1977)

Archie and friends, including Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, moved to NBC in 1977 in the hour-long Archie-Sabrina Hour. That was the good news. The bad? It was slotted opposite The Bugs Bunny-Road Runner Hour on CBS and the start of Scooby's All-Star Laff-a-Lympics on ABC. Just a couple of months in, the series was split into two component parts: Super Witch (Sabrina), which we previously reviewed, and The Bang Shang Lallapalooza Show (Archie). Both were gone by April 1978. NBC was having trouble generating hits on Saturday mornings, and would dismiss The Pink Panther, who moved to ABC for the final 2 years of his TV run the following fall.

The series was a mix of new and old material, with the new shorts featuring a Latino teen, Carlos (Jose Flores), who to my knowledge never appeared in the comics, and was never seen again after the series was cancelled.

There was an attempt to market this as part of the syndication package in half-hour increments under the title, The Archie-Sabrina Surprise Package. Hewey1972 offers the intro:

Never saw it, so there's no rating.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Getting Schooled: The Man Who Hated Frogs (Sesame Street, 1973)

Aesop would be jealous of the writers of this Sesame Street animated short.

In "The Man Who Hated Frogs", a bitter fellow (Daws Butler) learns a lesson about the natural order of things in relation to frogs & flies.

Butler used a variant on his Huckleberry Hound voice for this one.

Rating: A.

Rare Treats: Justice League: The First Mission pitch (2001-5)

Included with the season 1 DVD compilation of Justice League is some preview animation for a pitch producers Bruce Timm & James Tucker made to Kids' WB! for a slightly retooled version of the series. One that would include Robin and Impulse (subbing for Flash) on the roster. Had this been sold to Kids' WB!, chances are we might not have gotten Teen Titans on Cartoon Network 2 years later.

Yes, there's a female version of Cyborg, if you will, who hadn't appeared in the books. Character models were borrowed from other DCAU series of the period (i.e. Batman Beyond). After seeing this, I'd have to say, WB did the right thing by turning this puppy down.

Rating: B.

Tooniversary: The Lone Ranger vs. the Deadly Glassman (1966)

The Lone Ranger rides again into action, this time taking on the "Deadly Glassman".

Cristal (Shep Menken, also the voice of Tonto) has stolen what he thinks is a priceless diamond, unaware that the Ranger (Michael Rye) replaced it with a glass replica. How ironic. Rye also voices Cristal's henchman, making this literally a 2-man show.

A commentator on YouTube said that Menken recycled his Clyde Crashcup voice (from The Alvin Show) for Cristal, but actually it was a variation on same.

Rating: B.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Toonfomercial: Alvin & the Chipmunks shill for Smokey Bear (1964?)

One of Ross Bagdasarian, Sr.'s last videos with Alvin & the Chipmunks is this PSA in which Dave Seville (Bagdasarian) and the Chipmunks are attempting to record said message for the Forest Service.

Too bad Nickelodeon, which launched a new Alvin series last year in the wake of the feature film series, can't be bothered to revive their old "Retromercials" for Nick at Nite and include this in the package. What say you?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Toons After Dark: Gary The Rat (2000)

Yes, the date is correct.

Gary The Rat began as an online series three years before it was picked up by Spike TV. In other words, series star and producer Kelsey Grammer began work on the series while still starring on NBC's Frasier and occasionally turning up on The Simpsons. Spike picked up the series in June 2003, and even though it was the best of the short-lived Thursday night animation block, Gary The Rat lasted just 1 season.

Knowing what we know now, it seems that the nimrods at [adult swim] had seen Gary online, and decided to rip it off, turning a 60's superhero into Harvey Birdman, Attorney-at-Law, which bowed a year or two after Gary. Spike then took a chance, hoping to siphon off some of [as]' audience. It didn't work.

Here's the initial installment, "Manrattan". As I understand, the 9 minute video represents the complete episode, even though it says "Part 1" on the title card.

Not even sure if this is available on DVD at present. It was fun while it lasted. Too bad [as] didn't learn from their fundamental mistake.

Rating: A-.

Toonformercial: A message from the cast of B. C. (1973)

The Ad Council struck a deal with Johnny Hart, the creator of the long running comic strip, B. C., to have the characters appear in an ad that blanketed a number of non-profit groups. The vocals are actually by the Four Freshmen and an unnamed female vocalist.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Valentoons: Bride & Gloom (1954)

More than 40 years before it was done in a comic book, Popeye ties the knot with Olive Oyl----but it's only a dream, isn't it? Here's "Bride & Gloom":

In the late 90's, noted comics and sci-fi author Peter David wrote a 1-shot that had Popeye & Olive getting married for real. However, it must not have sold so well, since there was no followup.

"Bride & Gloom" gets a B.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Valentoons: A Valentine From The Heart (For Better or Worse, 1993)

Lynn Johnston's seminal comic strip, For Better or Worse, was popular enough to merit a series of animated specials, all produced in Canada, and aired on cable here in the US, during the 90's.

Lacewood Productions, best known for producing, with Universal, Savage Dragon and the second season of Problem Child, both for USA Network, produced six of those specials, which aired here in the States on Disney Channel, back when it was a premium channel (an earlier special, produced by another Canadian studio, aired on HBO and Disney here before Lacewood took over the license).

For that reason only, there will be no rating for our Valentoon du jour, "A Valentine From The Heart":

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Looney TV: Mississippi Hare (1949)

Bugs Bunny finds himself aboard a riverboat bound for the South, not realizing for a minute he'd been shanghaied by accident, in "Mississippi Hare". Internet Archive has a Blue Ribbon reissue.

The character of Colonel Shuffle (an uncredited Billy Bletcher), it is said, was later rebooted as Yosemite Sam. Same size, attitude, everything. The hair simply changed from white to red.

Is it just me, or did Chuck Jones insist on Bugs being in drag for at least one scene in every film he directed?

Rating: B+.

Toonfomercial: For all you Sunday armchair QB's: Remember Piels Beer? (1955)

It's one thing if a famous cartoon character (i.e. Mr. Magoo) is recruited to endorse beer. Fred Flintstone & Barney Rubble pitched Busch beer back in the day, but the folks at Piels came up with their own animated spokesmen.

Meet Harry & Bert Piel, as voiced by radio funny guys Bob Elliott & Ray Goulding.

Posted in memory of Bob Elliott (Harry Piel), who passed away recently.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Toons You Might've Missed: The Alley Cat (1941)

Back in the not-too-distant-past, Cartoon Network devoted a half hour to MGM shorts that didn't star Tom & Jerry, which meant that Droopy would sometimes turn up in the block.

1941's "The Alley Cat", directed by Hugh Harman, was one of those shorts, but this is my first look.

A pampered, sophisticated feline is courted by a typical alley cat. If for some reason the male cat, Butch, sounds like a certain duck from another studio, it's because the voice is that of Clarence "Ducky" Nash, the voice of Donald Duck!

Butch would later resurface, with a different voice, in some Tom & Jerry cartoons.

Rating: B.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: One Time in a Million (1969)

It's been a while since we pulled a song from The Hardy Boys animated series.

I don't know which episode this comes from, but it seems the kids are at a county fair or somesuch, passed off as a country band. Here's "One Time in a Million":

Dandydeal didn't post this one, but some of the episodes he's posted of late on YouTube stop short of finishing the story, so it'll be a while before another full episode, uncut, can be posted here.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Toon Rock: Club at the End of the Street (1989)

The British animation house Animation City produced a few music videos in the 80's for various artists. Perhaps their best known work is Elton John's "Club at the End of the Street", from his 1989 CD, "Sleeping With the Past".

Yes, the animation is more limited than your average animated series of the period, but it also has some of the earliest uses of computer animation.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

From Comics to Toons: Popeye's Pep-Up Emporium (1960)

Jack Kinney directed this next Popeye offering, as the spinach-eating sailor (Jack Mercer) is put in charge of a gym. Jackson Beck (Brutus) doubles as the TV announcer urging viewers to try out "Popeye's Pep-Up Emporium".

Silly stuff.

Rating: B.

It Should've Been on a Saturday: Out of This World (1987)

Picture this if you can.

You've just turned 13. You attend a school for gifted children where your mother works. On the eve of your birthday, she begins asking if you've noticed anything different. Of course, you tell her no, but after midnight, things begin to change..........

Out of This World lasted four seasons in syndication, airing initially as part of a checkerboard package put together by MCA-TV, the then-parent company of Universal. While the title of this post files this under "It Should've Been on a Saturday", it did air on Saturdays in the home district. Not all of NBC's affiliates carried the show, you see. As memory serves, the Fox affiliate acquired the show, and moved it to Saturdays, ahead of the network Saturday block, which was just developing, around season 3.

Maureen Flannigan stars as Evie, who just turned 13, and discovered that the father she thought had abandoned her as a baby was actually from another world. Speaking of different worlds, Donna Pescow (ex-Angie) was cast as Evie's mom, who would eventually become Mayor as the series ended. Doug McClure (ex-The Virginian) played an ex-actor-turned-Mayor, as a sort of parody of then-President Ronald Reagan, whose final term was nearing its end during the 2nd season.

Edit, 6/13/22: Had to change the video. Let's move on to season 3 for "Cinderella Evie":

As I documented in an earlier post, Joe was from my neck of the woods, one of a rare breed to hit the big time coming from upstate New York. He'll be missed.

Out of This World gets a B-.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Animated World of DC Comics: Super Best Friends Forever (2012)

One of the more popular series of DC Nation shorts during its run on Cartoon Network was Super Best Friends Forever. Unfortunately, only 5 of these miniature shorts were made, which suggests that they didn't test well with CN suits or with the network's mostly male-skewing audience.

Comics' original Wonder Girl, Donna Troy (Grey DeLisle), is given an accent, presumably more Latino than Greek, which, in this writer's opinion, is a mistake. Throw in Supergirl (Nicole Sullivan, ex-MadTV, The King of Queens) and Batgirl (Tara Strong), and you have what CN hoped would be a distaff Three Stooges in tights, but without the eye gouges.

I'm sorry, but dumbing down three long time DC heroines for cheap laughs doesn't work. And people complain about this being passed over for the even dumber Teen Titans Go!? Apples & oranges, kids. Apples & oranges.

In the opener, Batgirl & Supergirl cajole Donna into taking Wonder Woman's jet for an "Invisible Joy Ride":

As they used to say back in the day, gag me with a spoon.

Rating: C-.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Looney TV: Wile E. Coyote meets Shamu! (1982)

You might remember, if you're of a certain age, a series of PSA ads featuring an animated Shamu, the killer whale, who was starring at Sea World back in the day. Until today, I had not seen this next one.

Shamu (Thurl Ravenscroft) schools Wile E. Coyote, who is in pantomime mode here about safety.

Don't ya wish the National Safety Council could dust these off for today?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Looney TV: Meet the newest Monkee----Bugs Bunny! (1969)

Just kidding about the title of this post. Anyway, with Peter Tork having left The Monkees, it certainly seemed as though Bugs Bunny (Mel Blanc) would've been a good fit as his replacement in this spot for Kool-Aid. Have to imagine this ad aired on CBS, which was home to both reruns of The Monkees and The Bugs Bunny-Road Runner Hour when this was made in 1969.

And, yes, that's Micky Dolenz singing the Kool-Aid jingle on the soundtrack. I'll have another one up soon with Bugs doing the honors in an earlier piece.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Arabian Knights foil The Sultan's Plot (1968)

For once, the Arabian Knights don't have to deal with the tyrant Bakaar and his faithful aide, Van-Gore. Instead, the menace comes from a sultan of sorcery named Avedon (Paul Frees), who makes an entire city disappear as part of "The Sultan's Plot":

Rating: A.