Saturday, December 31, 2016

Toon Rock: Axel F (2005)

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

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

Like, totally wack, man.

Friday, December 30, 2016

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

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

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

Here's "Wreck of a Record":

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

Rating: B-.

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

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

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

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

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Maniac (1983)

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

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Tooniversary: Snow Excuse (1966)

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

Here's "Snow Excuse":

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

Rating: B--.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: B-.

Monday, December 26, 2016

You Know The Voice: Alan Reed (1954)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edit, 3/8/18: All that's available is a silent print. Let's try this one. If you can read lips, you can probably pick up the dialogue that way.

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

Rating: C.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

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

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

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

Rating: A-.

Merry Christmas. See you Monday.

Friday, December 23, 2016

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

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

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

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

Rating: C.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Countdown to Christmas: Ziggy's Gift (1982)

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

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

No rating.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Looney TV: Rabbit Hood (1949)

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

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

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

Rating: A-.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Toon Rock: My Hero Zero (1973)

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

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

Game Time: Finders Keepers (1987)

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: B.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Countdown to Christmas: A Garfield Christmas (1991)

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

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

Here's "A Garfield Christmas":

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

Rating: A.

Rein-Toon-Ation: Little Shop (1991)

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

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

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

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

Rating: D.

Friday, December 16, 2016

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

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

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

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

On The Air: Justice League Action (2016)

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

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

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

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

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

Here's a sample clip:

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

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

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

Rating: A-.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Countdown to Christmas: Malice in the Palace (1949)

This also appears over at The Land of Whatever:

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

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

Rating: A-.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: A.

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

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

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

Saturday, December 10, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: B-.

Friday, December 9, 2016

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

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

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

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

Rating: A-.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Toonfomercial: A Raid primer (1960)

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

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

Sunday, December 4, 2016

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

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

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

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

Rating: A-.

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Looney TV: A Hare Grows in Manhattan (1947)

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

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

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

Rating: A.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Countdown to Christmas: Santa's Surprise (1947)

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

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

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

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

Rating: B+.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

From season 1 of The Beverly Hillbillies:

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

Here's "Home For Christmas":

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

Rating for the episode: B.