Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Toons After Dark: Coneheads (1983)

Original Saturday Night Live cast members Dan Aykroyd & Jane Curtin reprised one of the show's most beloved sketches of the golden era when Rankin-Bass was commissioned by Lorne Michaels' Broadway Video to produce an animated Coneheads primetime special in 1983 for NBC (of course).

This pretty much explains how Beldar and Prymaat ended up on Earth in the first place......

This would be one of the last uses of Rankin-Bass' classic logo, as it was discarded two years later with Thundercats, but this was one of their first efforts in conjunction with Telepictures, now a branch of the WB tree.

No rating.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Game Time: Popeye shills his video game (1983)

Yes, it's true. Popeye merited his own home video game in 1983, produced by Parker Brothers. Have to assume that even though they'd stopped making Popeye cartoons a year earlier, Hanna-Barbera might've been involved in the production of this ad. John Bartholomew Tucker is heard as the announcer at the end of the clip.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Toon Sports: Sport Chumpions (1941)

Here's a Looney Tunes entry that hasn't seen the light of day in way too long, insofar as I know. Haven't seen this turn up on either Cartoon Network or Boomerang of late.

"Sport Chumpions", narrated by Robert Bruce, Jr., is a satire of sports newsreels.

Today, of course, I don't think you see too many women using caps when swimming.

Rating: B-.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

You Know The Voice: Marvin Kaplan (1980)

This also appears at The Land of Whatever.

Marvin Kaplan (ex-Top Cat) was appearing on Alice (he was Henry, the telephone repairman) when he made this spot for Sun Giant with James Hampton (ex-F-Troop, The Doris Day Show).

Sadly, I believe Kaplan passed away earlier this weekend, leaving Leo DeLyon as the last cast member still living.  Rest in peace, Marvin.

Toon Legends: Supermarket Pink (1978)

Here's a case where the Pink Panther is just like you and me.

The Panther goes shopping when he realizes his cupboards and refrigerator are just as barren as, say for example, old Mother Hubbard. Pity the Little Man when he encounters "Supermarket Pink":

As you can tell from the background music, this was used on the New Pink Panther Show when it aired on ABC.

Rating: B.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Toons After Dark: Welcome to Eltingville (2002)

Evan Dorkin's Welcome to Eltingville didn't get beyond the pilot episode commissioned by [adult swim] in 2002, but, by all rights, it should've.

Spun off from a feature he created for Dark Horse Comics' Instant Piano anthology comic, Dorkin presented the four members of the Eltingville Club behaving like normal kids. Arguing, fighting over petty things. The language and other mature themes landed Eltingville on [adult swim] rather than Cartoon Network proper. Dorkin took on a supporting voice role in the show, as you'll hear.

Director Chuck Sheetz would also work on What's New Scooby-Doo, and other projects for WB. The music was composed and performed by the Aquabats, who'd later land their own series-----but not on CN/[as]. And, yes, the intro sequence is a homage to the 1966 Batman series, as envisioned by Dorkin.

I think Dorkin was hoping this would work, because his more familiar creations, Milk & Cheese, would've been [as] material. 

Rating: B.

Tooniversary: The Case of the Lighthouse Mouse (Clue Club, 1976)

CBS got the jump on everyone else 40 years ago this month with the launch of Clue Club. In this writer's opinion, Clue Club cannot be considered a knockoff of Scooby-Doo, whom the Club was ironically replacing on the CBS roster.

Clue Club was launched early due to the US Open tennis tournament, which CBS held the rights to at the time, and would otherwise hold back the start of their children's lineup for a week or two. While this was a novel idea, it was never duplicated, due to the simple fact that Clue Club was not renewed for another season. As we've documented before, the series was reworked into edited reruns under the title, Woofer & Whimper, Dog Detectives, as part of Skatebirds the following year, before reverting back to the original title and 30 minute format in 1978.

In "The Case of the Lighthouse Mouse", the Club has to clear their Uncle Salty (Paul Winchell, also the voice of Woofer) of the theft of some priceless jewels.

Edit, 9/17/23: Had to change the video. We have just this short excerpt.

At least we know both of the boys, Larry (David Jolliffe) and D. D. (Bob Hastings) were old enough to drive. Not sure about Pepper.

The biggest difference between Clue Club and Scooby-Doo was that this was more of a procedural crime drama, with the dogs acting as comedy relief. Should it surprise anyone that Whimper (Jim McGeorge) was actually smarter than Woofer ever gave him credit for?

Rating: A-.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Looney TV: Cool Cat (1967)

Cool Cat appeared in just six shorts from 1967-9, as Warner Bros. tried to adapt to the period with a hip, jive talking tiger (Larry Storch, fresh from F-Troop), pursued by big game hunter Colonel Rimfire (Storch).

Unfortunately, it would be 26 years, following the release of "Injun Trouble", the coda to the Cool Cat series, before he'd show up in The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries. By then, local actor Joe Alaskey took over the role.

Right now, though, here's the debut of Cool Cat. Dig it.

I can't help but think that if WB took a chance on doing a TV series with Cool Cat in the 70's, chances are they could've gotten Scatman Crothers to essay the part. I just can't get the idea out of my head that in the 70's, ol' CC would've sounded like Hong Kong Phooey.

Rating: B+.

You Know The Voice: Stan Lee on To Tell The Truth (1971)

You might not recognize him right away, since he doesn't have the glasses he'd begin sporting a few years later, but "Mr. Marvel" himself, Stan Lee, made the first of two appearances on To Tell The Truth in this syndicated episode from 1971. Stan appears in game 2, so we'll just have to navigate through the 1st game before we get to him.

Funny thing. Dick DeBartolo, a long time writer for Mad Magazine, was a writer for Truth during this period. Ya wonder if maybe Stan was trying to lure him to Marvel?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Tooniversary: Frankenstein, Jr. vs. The Shocking Electrical Monster (1966)

Frankenstein, Jr.'s 1st adventure pits the high flying robot (Ted Cassidy) vs."The Shocking Electrical Monster". Scope!

This plays better in a comic book, and Frankie would make his comic book debut about a year later, with Gold Key acquiring a license.

Rating; B--.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

From Comics to Toons: Spider-Woman in Games of Doom (1979)

No, Dr. Doom doesn't figure in this Spider-Woman adventure, but in "Games of Doom", Spider-Woman (Joan Van Ark, Knots Landing) has to deal with a duplicitous, would-be conqueror who's using androids to take over the world. Or, at least he thinks he can get away with it.

Marvel never carried over Jessica Drew's occupation as a reporter-magazine publisher on the show into the comics. That was done because the origin she was given at the time was a little complicated for the SatAM crowd.

Rating: B-.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Rein-Toon-Ation: The New Adventures of Peter Pan (2012)

J. M. Barrie's immortal juvenile, Peter Pan, is back in all new adventures. Well, new for American audiences, anyway, as The New Adventures of Peter Pan, currently on Discovery Family here in the US, is actually a 4 year old French CGI series that was acquired by Discovery Communications.

While Peter doesn't appear on Disney's Jake & The Never Land Pirates all that often--just a 1-shot special, it would seem--his nemesis, Captain Hook, appears on both shows in fine fettle, frustrated as per usual by perpetual defeat.

Just scope the trailer. I think you'll dig the CGI version of Peter.

Rating: A.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Toonfomercial: Popeye, Olive, & Brutus shill for Soaky (1960's)

Don't know the exact date on this one, but here's Popeye (Jack Mercer), along with Olive Oyl (Mae Questel) and Brutus (Jackson Beck) shilling for Soaky soap bottles. Not pictured: Olive would later get her own bottle.

Animated by one of the studios working with King Features. I don't remember seeing any of the Soaky bottles when I was younger, but it turns out Soaky was another brand produced by Colgate-Palmolive. Hmm.

Literary Toons: Mowgli's Brothers (1976)

Chuck Jones spent most of the 70's making animated specials for ABC & CBS, usually adaptations of various literary works, including A Cricket in Times Square and, in 1976 for CBS, Rudyard Kipling's Mowgli's Brothers.

This is a nearly perfect adaptation of Kipling's original story, except that Shere Khan, the tiger, is not lame or disabled as in the story, and was rebooted from a bengal tiger to a white one. All that remains is that he is the villain of the piece. Roddy McDowell (ex-Planet of the Apes) narrates and voices most of the characters, assisted by June Foray.

All we have is a trailer for the DVD release:

In some respects, Mowgli, raised by wolves, might've been Kipling's answer to Edgar Rice Burroughs' legendary hero, Tarzan, who would return to television, also on CBS, 7 months after this special aired.

No rating. No memory of seeing this one.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

On The Air: Robin Hood: Mischief in Sherwood (2014)

Robin Hood: Mischief in Sherwood transforms the legendary outlaw, his Merry Men, and Maid Marian, into teenagers in this overseas-produced CGI series currently airing on Discovery Family. The series was originally produced in 2014 with 26 half hour episodes.

Following is a sample episode:

I get that the idea is to introduce Robin, Marian, et al to a new generation of viewers who probably have never read the original story or had seen adaptations thereof. However, ever since the change-over from The Hub to Discovery Family, the network has become an afterthought to cartoon fans, aside from anyone that follows any of Hasbro's properties with, ahem, religious fervor (i.e. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Transformers), dropping the network's stock even further.

Rating: B.

Friday, August 19, 2016

On The Air: Blazing Team: Masters of Yo Kwon Do (2006-15)

Last year, Hasbro and Discovery Communications, partners in Discovery Family, acquired a nearly 10 year old series from China, Blazing Teens. All that was needed was to make one subtle change to the title, in addition to dubbing in English voices, to make the transition to Blazing Team: Masters of Yo Kwon Do, which currently is running at least on Fridays on DF.

Call it China's answer to the American-produced Xiaolin Showdown, which bowed on WB some time prior. A group of teens under the direction of a mysterious sensei, seek to restore the balance between light & darkness.

Following is a trailer for the show, courtesy of Hasbro:

Blazing Team is one of three new animated series DF added last year. We'll be looking at the others this weekend.

Rating: B-.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Looney TV: Screwball Squirrel (1944)

The only reason an MGM character like Screwball Squirrel falls under the heading of "Looney TV" is because WB now owns the rights to ol' Screwy, who was last seen cavorting with Tom & Jerry in a DTV DVD 3 years ago.

Screwy was the creation of Fred "Tex" Avery, who was looking to develop something akin to WB legends Daffy Duck & Bugs Bunny for MGM. Sadly, Screwy lasted just 5 shorts and was presumably killed off, only to return years later in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?". Dark Horse Comics acquired a license to adapt Screwy for comics, which led to a 3-issue miniseries. Unfortunately, it must not have sold enough copies to warrant any continuation.

Anyway, let's go back to 1944 and the debut of Screwball Squirrel:

Typical Tex, but in this case, badly underappreciated.

Rating: A-.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Solarman (1992)

Solarman began as the brainchild of writers David Oliphant & Barbara Kalman in the 70's, in response to the national energy crisis. In 1989, Oliphant landed a deal with Marvel Comics, but the comic book lasted just 2 issues.

Then, Oliphant struck a deal with Marvel's television arm, leading to a 1-shot pilot that aired on Fox in October 1992. Marvel Productions had sold a number of series to Fox during this period, including Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Solarman, however, would not go beyond the one episode.

More than 2 decades later, Oliphant is still trying, but the character has now been rebooted into a bi-racial teen who's been bullied, which speaks to the social issues facing today's youth.

In 1992, Solarman's alter-ego is that of an aspiring artist who wants to pursue his career over the objections of his father, who runs a gym in California. The first mission? Solarman has to stop a despotic alien dictator from destroying the sun.

The poster assumed it was 1991, but it was actually a year later.

Rating: B-.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

From Comics to Toons: Pryde of the X-Men (1989)

Everyone knows that the X-Men eventually would star in their own hit series after guest appearances on Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends. However, while the series we know launched in 1992, airing in syndication and on Fox, an earlier pilot suggests a completely different take on the team.

X-Men: Pryde of the X-Men is a loose adaptation of events in Uncanny X-Men that took place beginning a decade earlier, as created by Chris Claremont & John Byrne. Young Katharine "Kitty" Pryde (Kath Soucie, The Real Ghostbusters) arrives at the X-Men's mansion headquarters in New York, scared of what she has discovered via a letter she received from Professor Charles Xavier (John Stephenson).

The long & short of it is predictable fare. Kitty sneaks aboard the team's jet, the Blackbird, and lends a hand in defeating Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutant "terrorists" (otherwise, the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants from the comics), who number Emma Frost, the White Queen, among their membership. In the books, Frost was a member of another evil group, the Hellfire Club, but later spent time with the X-Men, as did Magneto. The Brotherhood of this story is an amalgam of Magneto's original team, which includes the Toad, and a later group fronted by the shape-shifting Mystique.

Opening as it does with a cheesy theme song composed in the style of Marvel Productions' action entries of the day (i.e. G. I. Joe), Pryde of the X-Men received mixed reviews when it first aired in syndication on Marvel Action Universe. Of course, when the team was finally granted its own series three years later, Kitty wasn't a regular part of the team, and her role as the juvenile mutant-in-training was taken by Jubilee.

Here's Pryde of the X-Men, the last Marvel Productions entry narrated by Stan Lee.

Rating: C.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Rare Treats: Buffy: The Animated Pilot (2006-8)

Buffy The Vampire Slayer had ended production. However, series creator Joss Whedon felt there were still some stories to be told.

In 2006, Whedon, working with TV & comics writer Jeph Loeb (now at Marvel Studios, unfortunately), pitched an animated pilot to Fox, which had discontinued its daytime children's programming slate 4 years earlier. Fox turned it down, and, ultimately, so did everyone else.

The following video was first leaked online in 2008. Most of the regulars returned, save for star Sarah Michelle Gellar, who, presumably, had decided to move on. Allyson Hannigan would later move on herself, to How I Met Your Mother.

Subsequently, any continuation of the previous series would be done in comic book form at Dark Horse, where it continues today. This had some promise. It's just too bad no one was willing to give it a shot.

Rating: B-.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Tarzan enters the Land of Giants (1976)

Tarzan (Robert Ridgely) encounters a race of giants, then must convince one tribe that Buto, the white rhino, isn't a god, and needs help rescuing the tribe when a monsoon storm hits the jungle.

Here's "Tarzan and the Land of Giants":

Rating: A-.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Celebrity Toons: Abbott & Costello Meet Gadzooka (1968)

More than a decade before obtaining a license to adapt Godzilla, Hanna-Barbera, with a little help from Abbott & Costello, parodied the Japanese film legend with "Gadzooka":

Rating: B.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Toons After Dark: Clerks (2000)

Six years after the film "Clerks" became a cult hit for writer-director-co-star Kevin Smith, the filmmaker decided to return to his Viewaskewniverse for an animated primetime series. ABC bought the show, which was co-produced by two branches of the Disney family tree at the time, Miramax and Touchstone, although Disney's animation department did have a hand in it, too.

Unfortunately, Clerks was a total dud at ABC, which aired two episodes out of order, then cancelled the show due largely to low ratings, but more likely, someone at ABC got cold feet about airing the show. Comedy Central picked it up, but only ran 4 episodes, including the series opener, which ABC had ignored.

Smith reprises, if you will, as Silent Bob, as part of an ensemble that also included Jason Mewes and Alec Baldwin. The series was released on DVD a year after its aborted TV run with all six episodes intact.

No rating.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

From Comics to Toons: The Fantastic Four vs. The Phantom of Film City (1978)

One year ago, critics were panning 20th Century Fox's reboot of the Fantastic Four, and rightfully so, as it was the worst movie adaptation of a Marvel comic since "Howard the Duck" 30 years ago.

Nearly four decades earlier, Stan Lee and Roy (credited as Ray) Thomas sent the FF to the movies, only to find someone is waiting for them. Here's "The Phantom of Film City":

Not sure if Don Messick played a dual role as both director JJ Collosso and Belmont, aka the Phantom of Film City. The one big difference between this series and the other Fantastic Four cartoons is the use of announcer Dick Tufeld as narrator, something that wasn't used in 1967 or in subsequent revivals.

Rating: B-.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Game Time: Quick on the Draw (1962)

We all know that Paul Winchell had hosted the American version of Runaround back in 1972. What we didn't know was that Winchell had tried his luck with hosting kids' games 10 years earlier.

Ziv contracted with independent producer Jerry Hammer to develop Quick on the Draw, which had plenty of promise, but Ziv-United Artists couldn't find a network willing to take a chance.

Winchell is accompanied by Jerry Mahoney, which would also be the case on Runaround. As you'll see, Jerry is set up on a window ledge while Paul sits beside the contestants.

It's too bad Hammer wasn't able to shop Quick on the Draw to anyone else, because this was actually pretty good.

Rating: A.

Looney TV: Superior Duck (1996)

Y'know, pilgrims, I'm not even sure this next Looney Tunes entry has actually aired on television, 'cause I haven't seen it on either Cartoon Network or Boomerang or anywhere else until today.

20 years ago, Chuck Jones served up "Superior Duck", giving Daffy Duck another opportunity to parody Superman. As it happens, the Man of Steel makes a cameo appearance in the film. Anyway, this is set in a futuristic, yet unnamed city. Thurl Ravenscroft narrates, but the big surprise is that Daffy's voice is performed by iconic impressionist Frank Gorshin. Porky Pig shows up as the Eager Young Space Cadet, Duck Dodgers' sidekick, which makes one wonder if Superior Duck wasn't really Duck Dodgers after all, two sides of the same coin.

I've seen better.

Rating: B-.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Sunday Funnies: Steampipe Alley (1988)

In the mid-to-late 80's, WWOR in New York had a small hand in children's programming. Romper Room anchored their weekday morning kids' block. In fact, at times, it was the kids' block. On Sundays, the station served up a in-house produced comedy hour that was the local answer to CBS' Pee-Wee's Playhouse, to an extent.

Steampipe Alley ran for five seasons (1988-93), hosted by comedian Mario Cantone. Think Pee-Wee Herman crossed with Jerry Lewis, with a dash of Charles Nelson Reilly, and I'm sure you'd get the idea. Cantone created a series of characters that were parodies of celebrities. For example, there was Joe Rivers, the fictional brother of Joan Rivers. And, then, there was a parody of "Goodfellas". Meet the "Nerdfellas":

There were also games for children in the studio audience to play, including a send-up of The Dating Game. Long time studio announcer Ted Mallie was the show's announcer, billed as a parody of New York legend Don Pardo (Saturday Night Live).

Steampipe Alley was just the beginning of Cantone's career in front of the camera. He'd parlay it into a few movie roles, and a recurring gig on Sex & the City. Seeing him on Match Game last night spurred some memories.

No rating. Didn't watch the show, but was familiar with the promos airing on a regular basis.