Friday, March 31, 2017

Retro Toy Chest: Superstar Barbie (1976)

Barbie is in the spotlight again in this edition of Retro Toy Chest.

The year is 1976. Mattel decides to upgrade their iconic fashion figure with Superstar Barbie. This version would only last through the end of the decade, but there were accessories galore.

Actress Judy Strangis (Electra Woman & DynaGirl, ex-Room 222, Wheelie & the Chopper Bunch) did the promos at least for the first year.

Now, who's cuter? Barbie or Judy?

A year later, one accessory in the line was Superstar Barbie Fashion Face, which enabled young women to try outfitting Barbie from the neck up. Tammy Lauren (Who's Watching the Kids?) appears in the ad. Michael Bell (Super Friends) is the announcer.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Looney TV: Remember Tweety's Global Patrol? (1992)

Tweety teaches recycling in this 1992 PSA, presented under the heading, Tweety's Global Patrol. Did they really need another excuse to make Sylvester a fall guy?

This spot had to be in heavy rotation for at least two years. The YouTube poster recalls seeing this in 1994, but the copyright date, barely visible, tells us its actual point of origin.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Green River (1969)

Here's a black & white clip from American Bandstand, going back to when VH1 had rerun rights. Dick Clark introduces, then interviews, Creedence Clearwater Revival. In between is a performance of their #1 hit, "Green River":

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Retro Toy Chest: Living Barbie (1970)

Barbie has been one of Mattel's biggest franchises, her look & style evolving over the course of time.

In 1970, Mattel experimented with a "living" Barbie doll whose movements are meant to approximate that of real young women. Actress Maureen McCormick (The Brady Bunch) stars in this ad.

Maureen had been doing Barbie ads for Mattel before signing on for Brady Bunch. Gee, y'think maybe this is where they found her?

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Toonfomercial: Remember Johnny Smoke? (1960's)

The American Heart Association didn't intend to scare kids away from smoking with this next spot, but the message was as clear as it could be.

The AHA and the Ad Council chose a Western theme because there were so many Westerns on television at the time. That said, it would've made sense to have a star of any TV Western, be it Lorne Greene (Bonanza) or James Arness (Gunsmoke) or even Richard Boone (Have Gun..Will Travel). Instead, a then-unknown Broadway star, soon to become a Hollywood icon, was chosen to narrate this ad.

James Earl Jones tells the tale of Johnny Smoke:

Personal note: my late father began smoking in his teens, but never tried to convince me to follow his lead. He knew I'd seen all of those anti-smoking ads. Also, I'd seen a few older kids lighting up while I was in grade school. Not my scene.

Saturtainment: An episode of the Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show (1974)

There is at least one episode of The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show available on YouTube, and here it is. However, it isn't a first-run episode. A network promo narrated by Danny Dark (Super Friends) plugs the 1975-6 season, with the addition of Far Out Space Nuts, Ghost Busters, & Isis. The Hudsons were moved to Sundays for the '75-76 season, which would end the series' run.

Keep an eye open for announcer-series regular Peter Cullen. If you've ever wondered what the future voice of Optimus Prime and other classic 80's characters actually looked like back in the day, well.....! Also, if you wonder why NBC & ESPN have used the "coaches' clicker" so much, it's actually a gimmick that began with Andy Williams' primetime show back in the day, which, like the Hudsons' shows (primetime and daytime) were produced by Chris Bearde.

To think that this series came about because the network wanted to keep the Hudsons around after their summer 1974 series had run its course, having ended 10 days before Razzle Dazzle premiered.

Rating: B.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Toonfomercial: The Flintstones for Shriners Hospitals (1980's)

The Shriners Hospitals not only contracted with Warner Bros. for a series of PSA's featuring Looney Tunes characters, but also Hanna-Barbera for The Flintstones.

First up: Fred (Henry Corden) appears on television to make an appeal for the Shriners:

Today, you'd get in trouble for using the word "crippled". "Disabled" would be more appropriate.

Next, Fred schools Dino on one particular Shriners patient:

Not exactly sure when these were initially broadcast.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Looney TV: Tweety teaches safety (1982)

We've previously presented PSA's sponsored by Shriners' Hospitals featuring Bugs Bunny & Daffy Duck. Tweety works the same room in this short spot.

Ignore the date the poster put up on his video. The copyright date of 1982 is correct.

You Know The Voice(s): Cliff Norton & Louise Williams (1977)

Aside from 1970's Where's Huddles?, Cliff Norton is better known as a character actor in films & television. In 1977, Norton was part of an ensemble cast for an unsold pilot showcasing Andy Kaufman. Unfortunately, as documented over at The Land of Whatever, Stick Around was passed over by all three networks at the time (NBC, ABC, CBS).

Kaufman plays an android aide to Vance (Fred McCarren). Norton is a neighbor who had been cryogenically frozen until "two weeks ago", as the story goes. Norton could easily be mistaken for fellow character actor Harold Gould due to his similar facials.

Around the 20-21 minute mark, scope the platinum haired hottie looking to buy Andy away from Vance and his wife, Elaine, when Vance decides he's had enough of Andy's bumbling. Louise "Liberty" Williams would join the cast of  Busting Loose after this pilot. Of course, good fortune would come her way later in the year, thanks to a certain Saturday morning franchise.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Johnny B Goode (1973)

The legendary Chuck Berry revived one of his signature hits, "Johnny B. Goode", in a 1973 appearance on Soul Train. Like, dig it!

In memory of Berry, who passed away at 90.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Daytime Heroes: Sinbad, Jr. & His Magic Belt (1965)

A ways back, we served up a Sinbad, Jr. short that was produced by Sam Singer and Trans-Lux. Well, as we documented, American International wasn't happy with the product, so they turned the animation over to Hanna-Barbera. With that came a casting change, as Dallas McKennon (Daniel Boone), who had previously worked for Singer on Courageous Cat five years earlier, was cut loose in favor of Tim Matheson (Jonny Quest) and Mel Blanc (The Flintstones, Secret Squirrel, etc.).

In "Mad, Mad Movies", Sinbad is roped into making a movie for a desperate director (Blanc, using his Cosmo Spacely voice from The Jetsons), looking for a new star. This was a ream that would be used with other characters at other studios over and over again through the years. Matheson would stick with his mature voice for later roles (Space Ghost, Samson & Goliath) the next two seasons.

Typical of the period.

Rating: B.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Goldie Gold in Night of the Crystal Skull (1981)

Time to check in with the "world's richest girl", Goldie Gold (Judy Strangis, ex-Electra Woman & DynaGirl) and Action Jack, in the series premiere, "Night of the Crystal Skull". No, this wasn't the inspiration for an Indiana Jones movie more than 20 years later, although the series came a couple of months after "Raiders of the Lost Ark"......

You can tell the influence of comics icon Jack Kirby in some of the character designs. Kirby had gone to work for Ruby-Spears a year earlier on Thundarr the Barbarian, and worked with writer Steve Gerber, who also created Goldie & Thundarr, on Destroyer Duck for Eclipse Comics. Kirby would remain with Ruby-Spears for much of the 80's, as he also had a hand in shows like Rambo and Centurians.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tooniversary: The Lone Ranger vs. The Rainmaker (1967)

From season 2 of The Lone Ranger's 1st CBS animated series (1966-9):

The Ranger (Michael Rye) and Tonto (Shep Menken) battle a blackmailer who thinks he can control the weather with machines. Paul Winchell guest stars as "The Rainmaker":

Predictable, but worth the trip.

Rating: A-.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Toons You Might've Missed: Gaston le Crayon (1957)

Terrytoons had hired Gene Deitch away from UPA to produce a new generation of characters for the studio in the 50's. While Deitch and William Snyder were hailed or reviled, depending on who you talk to, for their work on MGM's Tom & Jerry or King Features' Popeye & Krazy Kat in the 60's, Deitch couldn't make anything stick at Terrytoons.

Take, for example, Gaston le Crayon, a French painter who appeared in 5 shorts between 1957-59. Today, he'd be considered a walking stereotype because of his accent, his chosen profession (How many cinematic art instructors have you seen that weren't French?), or even his short stature. Allen Swift (The Howdy Doody Show), who'd later work with Deitch on the Tom & Jerry shorts, provides all the voices in what was the final cartoon in the series, "Gaston's Mama Lisa", in which Gaston latches on to a stolen copy of a certain da Vinci painting......

No rating. This is the first time I've seen any of these shorts.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Rare Treats: A game show by Filmation? (The Origins Game, 1982)

You know that Filmation contributed to SFM's Holiday Network in the 70's. In turn, that syndicated series recycled a lot of movies that had aired a few years earlier in the MGM-produced Off to See The Wizard for ABC. But did you know that Filmation tried to get into the game show business?

It's true. Filmation & SFM collaborated on an unsold pilot, The Origins Game, which was recorded in February 1982. Co-created by co-executive producer Norm Prescott and Arnold Shapiro (better known for the later CBS series, Rescue 911), The Origins Game ended up as another line in the resume of game show icon Bob Eubanks (The Newlywed Game).

Unfortunately, there is no information available on the show, other than the following excerpt. Jim Korkis was a contestant on the show, and the video was posted by animation expert Jerry Beck, whose Cartoon Research webpage is the video's point of origin.

Korkis wrote a blog piece of his own on his experience playing and winning The Origins Game. He's also appeared on other games, such as Family Feud.

Let's remember, friends, that Filmation became the 2nd studio to flirt with getting into the game show business. Hanna-Barbera, you'll recall, had contracted with Heatter-Quigley for the original Wacky Races, which was supposed to be half-cartoon, half-game show, but the game part never came off. Saban would break the ice with I'm Telling a few years later.

Rating: A.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Looney TV: Baby Buggy Bunny (1954)

When is an innocent little baby not so innocent? When he's really a 35 year old man, vertically challenged, and a bank robber to boot. Meet Baby Face Finster, Bugs Bunny's latest opponent, in "Baby Buggy Bunny", Chuck Jones' delightfully silly farce from December 1954.

Sure, it took a while for Bugs to figure out what was up, but when he did.....!

Rating: A-.

Retro Toy Chest: GI Joe & the Secret of the Mummy's Tomb (1973)

Before GI Joe became a code name for a covert government strike force in the 80's, Hasbro marketed the original Joe with the Adventure Team in a series of play sets and an advertising campaign to match.

1973's Secret of the Mummy's Tomb was also released as a book & record set, produced by Peter Pan Records. Former Filmation writer Ken Sobol (Fantastic Voyage) wrote the script, while the artwork made it look like the artist may have been one of the anonymous artists from Dell or Gold Key.

Right now, scope out the commercial, and see if this doesn't bring back some memories.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Toon Sports: Tom & Jerry's Wacky World of Sports (1975)

Tom & Jerry compete against each other in a decathalon in this 1975 short, "The Wacky World of Sports". If I'm not mistaken, given how Tom is doing his best Dick Dastardly impersonation in trying to play some dirty tricks on Jerry, I think this was a remake of a Droopy short for MGM more than 20 years earlier.

Rating: B.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Toonfomercial: Pinocchio shills for AMC (1955)

Before it was absorbed by Chrysler some 20-odd years ago, American Motors Corporation (AMC) made a bid to make the Big 3 automakers (Ford, Chrysler, General Motors) into a Big 4. The best way to do that, you see, was to engage in some inventive advertising. That is to say, they made licensing deals with Disney to use some of their characters in commercials, and this included characters that Disney held licenses on themselves, such as the characters from "Song of the South" and, in this next ad, Pinocchio.

Because more than a decade had passed since the initial release of "Pinocchio" in theatres, Dickie Jones, who had voiced the title character, wasn't available. Actor-singer Cliff Edwards not only reprised as Jiminy Cricket, but voiced Geppetto as well. Pinocchio's voice in this case is by the reigning grand dame of voice actors, June Foray.

Down the line, we'll see ads with Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse, plus "Song of the South".

Monday, March 6, 2017

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Tonto vs. the Avenger (1968)

This, it would appear, was the last solo adventure for Tonto (Shep Menken) from the 1966-8 Lone Ranger series. This time, Tonto battles "The Avenger" (Marvin Miller), the son of a Sioux chief seeking revenge for perceived wrongs.

When the Ranger & Tonto returned to CBS in 1980 for another 2 year hitch, Tonto didn't get any solo adventures. If the series were to be revived today, maybe he does, and gets treated with more respect than had been shown in a certain abomination of a movie nearly 4 years ago.

Rating: A.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Rare Treats: A Where's Huddles pilot (1970)

Mark Christiansen has blessed us with this rarest of rare treats.

As we know, Where's Huddles? was a summer replacement series that Hanna-Barbera produced for CBS in 1970. Here, we have a pilot using storyboard sketches by Jerry Eisenberg, Willie Ito, & Iwao Takamoto. There are some cast changes in contrast to the final product that bowed in July 1970. For example, while the male leads remain the same, with Cliff Norton as Ed Huddles and Mel Blanc as his next door neighbor/teammate, Bubba McCoy, their wives, Marge & Penny, are played by other actresses, most notably Nancy Kulp (The Beverly Hillbillies) as Penny McCoy. When Huddles went to series, Kulp, entering the final season of Hillbillies, was replaced by Marie Wilson, with Jean VanderPyl (ex-The Flintstones) taking over as Marge Huddles. Paul Lynde (Hollywood Squares, Bewitched) is, of course, Claude Pertwee.

Trouble ensues when Claude leaves for a few days, expecting his neighbors to honor his request to keep his new car spotless. Unfortunately, Bubba decides to do his impression of a dog fetching a stick.......

With the change in actresses for Penny came a change in character design, as Penny became a blonde, reflecting the switch from Kulp to Wilson. This way, it was easier to tell the women apart. Allan Melvin (Banana Splits, Brady Bunch) is heard as well.

Rating: B-.

Daytime Heroes: The CBS Children's Mystery Theatre (1980)

In a continuing effort to emulate ABC's award-winning Afterschool Special, CBS tried out a series of periodic mysteries for kids, aimed mostly at teenagers.

Unfortunately, the CBS Children's Mystery Theatre, to my knowledge, didn't play in my home market. The local affiliate opted for syndicated programming instead. Only 5 episodes were produced over the course of three seasons (1980-3), which illustrates the struggles between divisions of the network's programming department.

This is strictly for your perusal, so there won't be a rating. Right now, let's take a look at 1982's "The Zertigo Diamond Caper", starring Adam Rich (Eight is Enough), David Groh (ex-Rhoda), Jane Elliot (General Hospital), and Jeffrey Tambor (ex-The Ropers):

Jeffrey Brennan comes off as a junior version of Marvel's Daredevil, don't you think?

Friday, March 3, 2017

Getting Schooled: Ding Dong School (1952)

What started as a regional program for pre-schoolers in Chicago turned into a national phenomenon in due course. Ding Dong School was one of the first hit shows created for children.

Miss Frances (Frances Horwich) was the teacher and the television audience were her students. The series began, as noted, as a local program based out of Chicago before being picked up by NBC. However, the first run lasted about 4 years or so before returning for a syndicated run in 1959, which lasted relatively around the same length of time.

Let's take a look at a sample episode from 1955, courtesy of Internet Archive:

I guess now we know where Elvis Presley got the idea for peanut butter & banana sandwiches becoming his favorite delicacy, according to legend, at the end of his career.

Could Ding Dong School exist today? Not under its old title, certainly.

Rating: B.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Toon Sports: The Tumbleweed 500 (Fender Bender 500, 1990)

The Fender Bender 500 hits the heart of Texas in "The Tumbleweed 500". Since we're 4 days removed from the Daytona 500, how about taking a time trip back to this reincarnation of Wacky Races. I think there were some issues between Hanna-Barbera and Merrill Heatter over Wacky Races even up to this point, although Dick Dastardly & Muttley had long since returned to the fold, and were in a familiar position in this series. After the opening to Wake, Rattle, & Roll, we'll turn it over to Shadoe Stevens for the call.

No rating.

Getting Schooled: The Day After Tomorrow (1975)

It was a rare case of a Gerry Anderson production premiering in the US before it bowed in the UK.

The Day After Tomorrow made its debut as an episode of NBC's after-school anthology series, Special Treat, in December 1975, then aired in the UK on BBC 11 months later. Nick Tate (Space: 1999) and Brian Blessed star, with Ed Bishop (ex-UFO) narrating:

Edit, 7/5/18: Had to change the video. Following is an excerpt.

Insofar as I know, this has not been rerun in the US in recent memory.

Rating: None. Didn't see it the first time.