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 20th 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

Thanksgiving Toons: Holiday For Drumsticks (1949)

This 1949 Daffy Duck short isn't set at Thanksgiving, or so it would seem, but there's a turkey involved, and a twist ending that should've taught Daffy a lesson about his selfishness, but it didn't.

Here's "Holiday For Drumsticks":

Land O'Goshen, I'd swear that one hillbilly was brought back for a famous meeting with Bugs Bunny........!

Have no memory of seeing this one. No rating.

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.