Friday, September 30, 2016

Game Time: Endurance (2002)

It was Survivor for teenagers, but it wasn't on CBS. Instead, Endurance aired on Discovery Kids (now Discovery Family) and NBC, rising from the ashes for a failed Fox Family series, Moolah Beach, which, as memory serves, also aired on Fox.

Both series were created by actor-game show host-producer J. D. Roth (ex-Fun House), who enjoyed his greatest success with Endurance, which lasted 4 years on NBC (2002-6), slighly longer on the Discovery networks.

Here's a sample clip:



As you can see, as with Survivor, subtitles were added with each succeeding season. Unfortunately, while Survivor continues with two "seasons" per year, Endurance ran out of steam, especially after NBC decided to get back into an all-cartoon lineup, which it is abandoning again this year.

Rating: B.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Looney TV: Sylvester & Tweety for Miracle Whip (1999)

Just when it looks like Sylvester has finally gotten the best of Tweety, it seems a certain condiment is getting in the way.......



Like, even Sylvester knows what works best on a sandwich.......

You Know The Voice: Jack Sheldon (1964)

Two years before Run, Buddy, Run, Jack Sheldon, noted jazz musician and actor, tried his hand at stand-up comedy. Sheldon was among the ensemble appearing on the unsold pilot, The Nut House, which came from the twisted imagination of Jay Ward (Rocky & His Friends).

We'll talk more about The Nut House over at The Land of Whatever another time, but right now, let's check out the comedy stylings of Jack Sheldon as he spins the tale of "The Falcon".

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Looney TV: Bugs Bunny shills for Dr. Pepper (1979)

Dr. Pepper pitchman David Naughton is limited to a cameo in this spot. T. K. Carter and Bugs Bunny join the fun.



Mind the video quality, as this print is on the faded side.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Getting Schooled: Remember the Teachers' Guide to Television? (1979)

Back in 1979, NBC ran this PSA, presumably during primetime. Peter Thomas narrates.



Now, don't ya think they could still do something like this today?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Space Ace (1984)

In season 2 of Saturday Supercade, Ruby-Spears dismissed three of the regular features, and brought in adaptations of Kangaroo and our next entry, Space Ace.

Not to be confused with the human leader of Astro & The Space Mutts three years earlier, this Ace (Jim Piper) suffers from the same kind of malady as was seen in the live-action Big John, Little John in the 70's. At the most inconvienent times, due to being exposed to an Infanto-ray, Ace morphs into a young boy named Dexter (Sparky Marcus), which frustrates Officer Kimberly (Nancy Cartwright, in one of her earliest toon roles).

The concept of the Space Ace video game came from veteran animator Don Bluth, whose other video game, Dragon's Lair, was also adapted for television by Ruby-Spears, albeit for ABC, but also lasted one season.

Right now, let's take a look at "Dangerous Decoy":



In recent years, Space Ace had been used as filler between shows on Cartoon Network & Boomerang, but currently sits in CN's vaults. Maybe it's just as well. There was a reason Big John, Little John failed, too.

Rating: C.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Toon Legends: Popeye and the Spinach Stalk (1960)

Jack & The Beanstalk was never meant to be like this.

Popeye and company skewer the children's classic, as only producer-director Jack Kinney could conceive, with "Popeye & the Spinach Stalk". Jackson Beck not only voices Brutus, cast here as the giant, but serves as narrator.



We'll spotlight Eugene the Jeep in another short down the road. Not one of the better entries from this era.

Rating: B-.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Blinded By The Light (1975)

Manfred Mann's biggest hit of the 70's was "Blinded By The Light". The Top 40 version left out some lyrics for the sake of time compression. The longer version was reserved for FM stations. In fact, while the performance on The Midnight Special clocked in at over 7 minutes, it's still missing a verse involving a "preacher from the East".

A long, rambling story song? Manfred Mann? Well, yeah. It just happens that "Light" was written by some fella named Springsteen who was forging his own legend around the same time.........

Game Time: Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm (1996)

20 years ago, USA Network commissioned a pair of animated series based on a pair of video games. However, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm didn't last very long.

Mortal Kombat, produced in part by Phil Roman's Film Roman studio with USA, offered an alternative to the live-action feature film and the 3rd Mortal Kombat game. You'd think the popularity of the game would translate on the air, but like other gametic toons, it didn't, and was cancelled after 1 season.

Never saw the show, so there won't be a rating. Meantime, here's the series opener:

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Toon Rock: Someday Out of the Blue (2000)

Elton John not only had a huge hand in composing the score to DreamWorks' 2000 feature film, "The Road to El Dorado", he also served as narrator. Here, though, is Elton doing what he does best.

"Someday Out of the Blue" combines live-action with animation as Elton melts into and out of an animated alter-ego in the course of the video. "Someday" garnered a ton of airplay on the radio around the time the movie was released in March 2000. Unfortunately, despite praise from critics like Joel Siegel and the late Roger Ebert, "El Dorado" was a dud.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Defenders of Dynatron City (1992)

Based on a LucasArts video game, Defenders of Dynatron City had the potential to be another hit for Fox, but it was not to be.

All that aired was a 1-shot pilot, produced by DIC, with the voices of Tim Curry, Whoopi Goldberg, & David Coburn, among others. Narrated by Gary Owens.



Writer Steve Purcell would land his own creation, Sam & Max: Freelance Police, at Fox a few years later, but it fell victim to network indifference as well, as it was yanked in and out of the lineup.

No rating.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Summertainment: The Pogo Special Birthday Special (1969)

It should've been good enough to merit annual replays. Unfortunately, not enough viewers, or so it would seem, tuned in to the television debut of Walt Kelly's Pogo in 1969.

Kelly enlisted the aid of animation legend Chuck Jones in getting The Pogo Special Birthday Special on the air. As memory serves, this aired on NBC, which would be the first Jones entry to air on the "Peacock Network", since at that time, he was virtually exclusive to CBS, having produced How The Grinch Stole Christmas for MGM & CBS three years earlier. MGM, by the way, was also responsible for this particular show.

As has been denoted elsewhere in the intervening years, Kelly wasn't happy with the final product, which he happened to have written, directed by Jones and Ben Washam. Jones & Kelly also lent their voices to some of the characters, joined by June Foray and Les Tremayne.

Speaking of birthdays, it's June Foray's birthday today. 99 years young.

Better get your thesaurus and dictionary ready for all the language mangling that Kelly was famous for, because it's time to visit with Pogo, Churchy, Porkypine, Mlle. Hepzibah, and the whole gang.

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Reportedly, Jones & Kelly had a falling out over the finished product, else perhaps we could've seen Hepzibah being courted by WB's Pepe LePew down the line......! Ehh, wishful thinking.

Rating: B.

Rare Treats: Freedom 2000 (1974)

Here's another rarity that most of you probably have never seen.

In 1974, the United States Chamber of Commerce commissioned Hanna-Barbera to produce the following short subject, Freedom 2000, as a visual treatise on the effects of pollution. Co-written and directed by Gerard Baldwin, who would later serve as a producer at H-B (Super Friends, Smurfs), Freedom 2000 features the voices of Janet Waldo, Ross Martin (ex-The Wild, Wild West, Sealab 2020), and 50's sci-fi star Richard Carlson.



I don't recall seeing this one shown in school, nor on television, but one must imagine that it was created for both.

Rating: A.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Teenage Toons: Tabitha & Adam & The Clown Family (1972)

From the ABC Saturday Superstar Movie:

Bewitched had ended after 8 seasons, and reruns were airing 5-6 days a week on ABC. Though no longer united under the Columbia tree, Screen Gems & Hanna-Barbera collaborated on an animated spin-off pilot, Tabitha & Adam & the Clown Family, which premiered in December 1972.

The Clown Family, you see, are relatives of the now-teenage Tabitha & Adam Stephens. I'll try to explain the growth spurt shortly. Anyway, I believe this was meant to be a pilot for a series, but it just didn't pan out. As we all know, Tabitha & Adam would experience another growth spurt a few years later............



Gene Andrusco was also working on another 1972 frosh, The Amazing Chan & The Chan Clan, over at CBS, and it certainly sounds like Austin Roberts, using the faux-British accent he created in recording songs for Scooby-Doo two years earlier, was the uncredited vocalist, a couple of years before he'd finally hit the charts with "Rocky".

Anyway, let me try to explain the growth spurt of Tabitha and Adam. My theory is built around Marvel Comics' concept of time for some, if not all, of their characters. Bear in mind that Tabitha & Adam were not yet 10 years old when Bewitched ended a few months prior to Clown Family. Let's assume that from the point where Tabitha debuted, the series covered about one day in her life per episode, and the same would apply to Adam a couple of years later. To try to explain how they would add another 10+ years four years later in the initial Tabitha pilot is a little more difficult. The familiar voices heard in this show include Paul Winchell, John Stephenson, and Len Weinrib.

No rating.

Toons You Might've Missed: Energy: A National Issue (1977)

Y'know, I thought this next entry had been screened for schools, and maybe it was, but Energy: A National Issue is a syndicated special that made the rounds between April & November 1977, though it carries a 1976 copyright date.

It's also a non-canonical Flintstones special, though it only features Fred (Alan Reed) & Wilma (Jean VanderPyl). This, then, would be Reed's swan song as Fred. His successor, Henry Corden, steps in when Fred sings, and there you can tell a distinct difference in the vocals. Movie legend Charlton Heston narrates.



No, it doesn't look like Fred & Wilma are in Bedrock at all, but rather are our, ah, tour guides, as it were.

Rating: A.

Literary Toons: The Living City (Journey to the Center of the Earth, 1967)

Before we get to our next entry, a bit of news.

El Rey Network, Robert Rodriguez's pride & joy, has acquired reruns of Return to the Planet of the Apes and Journey to the Center of the Earth, to be put together in blocks of 4 episodes each on Saturdays, along with I Am The Greatest: The Adventures of Muhammad Ali, which, oh by the way, has the day off today for a Stephen King movie marathon.

Journey airs from 6-8 am (ET) on Saturdays, but there is one drawback. Due to extra commercial time allotted, per current practices, the closing credits are sped up and compressed to promote special events on the network. It happens, folks.

Today's block of Journey leads off with "The Living City", in which Professor Oliver Lindenbrook (Ted Knight) and his party must overcome a bizarre, yet sentient, insect which controls the titular village. Knight, of course, narrates the intro as Lindenbrook, and also voices Count Sagnussen and is the show's announcer.



Dig the cool theme music, man. Former Warner Bros. animator Norm McCabe is one of two directors on the show.

Rating: B.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Literary Toons: Scruffy (1980)

Based on a children's book by Jack Stoneley, Scruffy was adapted into a 3-part episode of the ABC Weekend Special in 1980, and produced by Ruby-Spears.

Nancy McKeon (The Facts of Life), in one of her first cartoon roles, essays the title character, an orphaned pup who loses her mother, Dutchess (June Foray), when the latter is shot by a farmer mistaking the two dogs for sheep-killing coyotes.

Edit, 5/5/21: We now have a hour long version:

 

Other voice talent includes Michael Bell, Janet Waldo, Michael Rye, Walker Edmiston, and Frank Welker. I think it's available on DVD somewhere, but I'm not certain.

No rating.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Suspicion (1964)

From American Bandstand comes Terry Stafford's hit, "Suspicion", from 1964. Some people have compared Stafford's version to that of Elvis Presley. I've never heard Elvis' version, though.

Animated World of DC Comics: The Brady Kids meet Superman (1972)

The title says it all, folks. This one's been a while in coming. From season 1 of The Brady Kids, here's "Cindy's Super Friend". Superman makes his final Filmation appearance.



No rating.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

It Should've Been on a Saturday: Junior Partner Pyramid (1979)

In 1979, ABC and producer Bob Stewart experimented with a juvenile version of The $20,000 Pyramid, subbing out celebrities in favor of contestants having their children play with them.

Junior Partner Pyramid had its origins with a special theme week under the Junior Pyramid label in July of 1979. Had I known about this, I probably would've been watching. Two months later, another set of episodes were taped, but they had no idea that ABC's Saturday morning lineup had been delayed two weeks, with premieres on September 22 instead of September 8 as originally scheduled. This new set of episodes began taping on September 19, and were broadcast in October & November. ABC also tried out a primetime All-Star Junior Pyramid special, and we'll see if we can locate that one.

For now, though, let's take a look at a sample episode from October of 1979.



Marla Wygart-Becker, a contestant on the show, posted the above video. It should be worth noting that Procter & Gamble was a primary sponsor, but would subsequently sell off two of the products advertised in commercials. Coast soap is now made by another company, and Folgers coffee was spun off into its own company. And for those of you that wonder about the Pillsbury Dough Boy ad, the Dough Boy's voice belongs to Paul Frees, who essayed the part until his passing.

Rating: A.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Toonfomercial: Ruff & Reddy shill for Post (1957)

Not only did Hanna-Barbera have an advertising deal with Kellogg's, but with rival General Foods, then the parent of Post Cereals, as well.

Post, you see, sponsored Ruff & Reddy, H-B's 1st series for NBC. The cat & dog team (Don Messick & Daws Butler) have to chase away an alien who wants some Alpha-Bits cereal so his world can be in position to take over other worlds down the road, although it isn't implied as much.

Edit, 4/16/18: Had to change the video. Now, we have a block of commercials not just for Alpha-Bits, but for other Post cereals, too.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Getting Schooled: Popeye in The Spinach Scholar (1960)

Maybe this is where Adam Sandler got the idea for "Billy Madison".

Popeye goes back to school in order to improve his standing with Olive in "The Spinach Scholar".



Not one of the better entries.

Rating: C.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Daytime Heroes: The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog (1993)

Running concurrently with his Saturday morning ABC series, Sonic the Hedgehog whizzed across TV screens on weekdays as well, albeit in syndication. Both series were produced by DIC, but the daily show was distributed through Bohbot, which handled a number of series back in those days.

On Saturdays, Dr. Robotnik (Long John Baldry) has already taken over the planet Mobius. Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, then, can be considered a sort-of prequel, as Robotnik has yet to succeed, and is routinely thwarted by Sonic (Jaleel White, Family Matters) and his best buddy/sidekick, Tails.

There were also short Sonic Sez messages at the end of each of the 65 daily episodes, which also set it apart from the Saturday show. After the syndication run ended, this series aired on cable on USA, then Toon Disney (now DisneyXD), before landing on This TV and Netflix.

Let's take a look at the opener:



Not quite as much fun as the Saturday show. Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for the hero having a proactive sweetheart, such as Princess Sally, despite what the haters say.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Animated World of DC Comics: This Little Piggy (Justice League Unlimited, 2004)

We've shown you excerpts from our next subject in the past. Now, finally, we've got the whole enchilada of what has to be one of the most popular episodes of Justice League Unlimited.

In "This Little Piggy", Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Wonder Woman (Susan Eisenberg) run afoul of Circe (guest star Rachel York), who turns Diana into a pig, prompting the Dark Knight to call on a former flame, Zatanna (Jennifer Hale), for help in restoring Wonder Woman to normal.

As you already know, Conroy made his singing debut in this episode, with a cover of Cole Porter's "Am I Blue". York performs "Lulu's Back in Town".

Edit, 9/20/19: The video has been deleted.

Scintillating. Sublime. Divine. 'Nuff said.

Rating: A.

Getting Schooled: Rainbow (1972)

All this week over at The Land of Whatever, we're celebrating the 40th anniversary of a transcontinental programming initiative, Thames on 9, in which England's Thames Television, which operated the ITV network there until the network was shuttered at the end of 1992, exchanged a fair number of programs with WOR in New York.

This, then, is Saturday Morning Archives' contribution.

Rainbow was meant to be the British answer to the PBS series, Sesame Street, which, by the time Rainbow launched in September 1972, was already a cultural phenomenon. However, while Sesame continues today on PBS & HBO, Rainbow met its end when ITV did in 1992 after 20 years and change, 23 "series" in all, totaling over 1000 episodes. If I'm not mistaken, American audiences were introduced to Rainbow by way of Nickelodeon, which also acquired some other Thames properties for airing in the US, particularly Danger Mouse, its spin-off, Count Duckula, and the original Tomorrow People. Have to believe that Rainbow was part of the deal that brought Danger Mouse & Tomorrow People to Nick.

WOR aired one episode on September 8, 1976. Unfortunately, that episode isn't available. Here, then, is the intro:



No rating.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Rein-Toon-Ation: Pink Panther & Pals (2010)

MGM reacquired The Pink Panther several years ago, but how did they respond to the two live-action feature film remakes with Steve Martin as Inspector Cleuseau? Not very well.

Pink Panther & Pals bowed on Cartoon Network in 2010, reintroducing the Panther and Ant & the Aardvark to a new generation. Unfortunately, the classic style of animating the characters didn't come with them, especially in Ant & the Aardvark.

While the Panther remains silent, his nemesis, the Little Man, has been redubbed "Big Nose", because of his most outstanding facial feature. Still, their shorts are the usual 7 minutes of chaos, as if some older plots had been recycled over and over again for a new audience. It's just too bad the background animation is minimal and lacking in texture.

Just as unfortunate is the fact that the producers needed two actors for Ant & the Aardvark, giving the Ant a new, streetwise attitude, courtesy of Kel Mitchell (ex-All That!, Kenan & Kel). John Byner did it better back in the day. It's almost as if Mitchell is trying to mimic Chris Rock in voicing Ant.

Scope out this sample Pink Panther episode, and you'll see what I mean.



I don't like the idea of Ant & the Aardvark in the jungle. That isn't the right environment for them. A forest is one thing, but an African jungle? Fuhgeddaboutit!

Rating: C.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

From Comics to Toons: Popeye in Little Olive Riding Hood (1960)

Popeye reads Swee'pea another story, this one a parody of Little Red Riding Hood, but instead of a wolf, "Little Olive Riding Hood" has to deal with the Sea Hag.



Producer-Director Jack Kinney opted for these kinds of plots, demonstrating that by 1960, they were running out of ideas, regardless of the fact that 5 different animation houses worked on the shorts.

Rating: B.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Looney TV: Racketeer Rabbit (1946)

Bugs Bunny is at his zany best getting the better of a pair of mobsters who bear resemblance to Edward G. Robinson & Peter Lorre in "Racketeer Rabbit". Scope the inside reference to director Isadore "Friz" Freleng in the first couple of minutes.



Of course, there would be another case where there was a Lorre analogue in one of these shorts, and we'll see that come Spooktober.

Rating: A-.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Daytime Heroes: Letterman in All Washed Up (1970's)

Time for another installment of The Adventures of Letterman. This time, Letterman (Gene Wilder) has to help a senior citizen trapped by the Spell Binder (Zero Mostel).



Dedicated to the memory of Gene Wilder, who passed away on Monday at 83.

Rating: B.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Toonfomercial(s): Look who's shilling for Dr. Pepper! (1979)

In the late 70's, Dr. Pepper was big. Big as in, on the level of rivals Coca-Cola and Pepsi, thanks to a marketing campaign that made a star out of actor-singer David Naughton, who parlayed the ad campaign into the short-lived ABC series Makin' It and the horror movie, "An American Werewolf in London".

Dr. Pepper also contracted with Hanna-Barbera to have a couple of familiar cartoon icons appear with Naughton. First up, Popeye (Jack Mercer):



And, then, Fred Flintstone (Henry Corden), with a side order of Jimmie Walker (Good Times):



While Dr. Pepper is still around, none of their ad campaigns in recent years have matched the pop culture power of "Be a Pepper".