Saturday, April 29, 2017

You Know The Voice: Shepard Menken (1949)

Shepard Menken's resume covers mostly his work in cartoons & movies. However, he did log in some time doing other television as well.

You're about to meet the man behind Clyde Crashcup and a few other notable characters in the 60's, including the Lone Ranger's sidekick, Tonto. Menken guest stars in an episode of the forgotten early television crime drama, The Cases of Eddie Drake. You'll see Shep appear for the first time around the 10 minute mark or so.

Menken, who passed away in 1999, invested his money wisely, it seems. In 1963, he founded Malibu Films, which specialized in educational films for schools. Menken's subsequent work on Lone Ranger, as well as The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo, it would appear, helped keep the company going. He also was the announcer for Western Airlines ads back in the day.

Quisp & Quake have a mutual interest (1965)

Quaker was a sponsor of a number of primetime shows in the 60's, particularly ABC's Bewitched, which was in its 2nd season when Quaker introduced Quisp & Quake to their line of breakfast cereals. You've already seen the first all-animated commercial, but this time Quake (William Conrad) and Quisp (Daws Butler) are formally introduced by Bewitched star Elizabeth Montgomery. Bear in mind that reruns of Bewitched would join the ABC Saturday morning block a few years later.

Friday, April 28, 2017

From Comics to Toons: It Came From the Sewers (Archie's Weird Mysteries, 2000)

The Archie's Weird Mysteries episode, "It Came From The Sewers", takes its cues from the horror movie, "Alligator". In this case, the reptile actually is Jughead's pet, which got lost and went into the Riverdale sewer system, where it ran across some toxic chemicals, and, well......

At least no one was killed.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Tooniversary: Tonto vs. Queen Bee (1967)

From season 2 of The Lone Ranger cartoon:

Tonto goes it alone to end "The Reign of the Queen Bee". Some question as to the actress voicing Queen Bee. A comment thread on YouTube suggests June Foray. I'd otherwise suspect Agnes Moorhead (Bewitched), who had appeared in two episodes as Black Widow. If anyone knows for sure, feel free to contribute.

Forgive the video quality.

Rating: B.

Looney TV: Bugs & Daffy shill for Tang (1960)

Bugs Bunny is working the carnival, looking to give away some Tang. Naturally, Daffy Duck just has to have some any way he can get it.

The clip, as you can tell from the sponsor tag, is from the primetime Bugs Bunny Show. Dick Tufeld is the show announcer.

One of the rare times that Daffy actually got one over on Bugs.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Getting Schooled: Time Out (1979)

Time Out was a series of PSA's produced by NBC Sports (!) during the 1979-80 season. I at first thought these were used on Saturday mornings, and maybe they were, but these seem to have been more prevalent during, of course, sports programming.

With summer a couple of months away, Kim Richards, at the time appearing on Hello, Larry, helps explain what a lifeguard does.

The poster on YouTube got the date wrong, as the copyright, albeit somewhat fuzzy, shows this is from 1980.

I don't know how many of these were made, but they are hard to find.

Rating: A.

Rare Treats: Duffy's Dozen (1971)

Hanna-Barbera had attempted to get back into primetime well before the short-lived Hanna-Barbera Happy Hour made a cameo appearance on NBC in the late 70's. Unfortunately, their family-centric cartoon, Duffy's Dozen, never got past the pilot stage.

The clip opens with Bill Hanna & Joe Barbera, appearing in sketch form on the screen while the execs do the talking, making their pitch. 12 adopted children and a sheepdog create a very big family for the parents (Janet Waldo & John Stephenson). Duffy's Dozen didn't sell, but Hanna-Barbera, undaunted, went with a big family the next year, by adapting the adventures of a certain Hawaiian detective. Yep, subtract two kids, turn the sheepdog into a smaller breed, subtract the mother, and you have The Amazing Chan & the Chan Clan.

Casey Kasem not only voices one of the boys, Alan, but is also the park ranger and the end-of-pitch announcer.

I think you can see why this didn't work out.

Rating: B--.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Getting Schooled: The Kingdom of Could Be You (1973)

From the same folks who created The Most Important Person comes The Kingdom of Could be You, which, like Most Important Person, aired initially on Captain Kangaroo (1973-6) before moving into syndication.

However, this happens to be my first look at Kingdom, as, understandably, I was in school while Kangaroo was on, and didn't see it in syndication. Insofar as I know, it didn't air on WPIX, WSBK, or WNEW. 'PIX was the NYC home to Most Important Person.

Let's take a look at the opener:

Short, amusing, and in need of a return to the air.

Rating: A.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Winsome Witch in the Hansel & Gretel Case (1965)

It's way past time we caught up with Winsome Witch, so let's take a trip into her enchanted forest and meet a couple of kids who try to pass themselves off as a famous pair of literary siblings in "The Hansel & Gretel Case". I think this was one of Dick Beals' first jobs for Hanna-Barbera, although I could be wrong.

Rating: B.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Toonfomercial: Popeye shills for Chunky Soup (1999)

Wal, blow me down!

Popeye swaps his trusty spinach for a can of Campbell's Chunky Soup for this ad, produced in 1999, with Scott Innes as the voice of the comic strip icon.

Well, let's see. Popeye has shilled for oatmeal, soup, orange drink, video games, and other products, but have you ever seen him actually do a spinach commercial, after all these years? Hmmmm, wellllll....

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Literary Toons: Clifford, the Big Red Dog (2000)

Writer-artist Norman Bridwell's Clifford, the Big Red Dog, was brought to television by Scholastic Productions and independent producer Mike Young in 2000. The series lasted 2 seasons, spread out over 3 years (2000-03), followed by a prequel series, Clifford's Puppy Years.

Clifford (John Ritter) is the family pet of the Howards, and more specifically, is owned by Emily Elizabeth Howard. When not with the family, Clifford is on various misadventures with his canine friends. Ritter's passing in 2003 may have been what put an end to the series, although Scholastic & PBS could've arranged for the British cast to take over if needed. Yes, they had a separate cast for British broadcasts of the series. I just don't get it.

"Welcome to Birdwell Island" explains how the Howards moved from the city to the island.

Edit, 12/27/18: Had to replace the video. Now, we have the episode, "Little Clifford", as well.

It does look like a form of flash animation, doesn't it? Taking the original character designs that Bridwell created and transferring them onto a computer to animate them was meant to be the hook for the kids that were reading the original books.

Rating: A.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Celebrity Toons: The Enterprise encounters a Practical Joker (Star Trek, 1974)

Passing through an energy cloud has a strange effect on the USS Enterprise. The computer (voice by Majel Barrett) begins playing pranks on the crew, which has to also deal with the Romulans.

From season 2 of the animated Star Trek, here's "Practical Joker", or at least 5 minutes of it, courtesy of CBS, which owns the rights.

Star Trek: The Animated Series airs Sunday nights with 2 back-to-back episodes to kick off Heroes & Icons' block of all six Trek series (the 5 live action series run Sunday-Friday from 8 pm-1 am ET). Check your cable system to see if you have H & I.

Rating: A.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Tooniversary: A Family Circus Easter (1982)

Bil Keane's long-running comic strip, The Family Circus, was adapted for television one final time with an Easter special in 1982. The strip continues today, with Jeff Keane as writer-artist, carrying on the family tradition.

There will be no rating for this one, as I'd never seen it prior to today. Keep an ear open for jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie as the voice of the Easter Bunny.

Happy Easter, everyone. We'll see you on Monday.

Saturtainment: Remember Saturday Morning Fever? (1978)

ABC had Funshine Saturday (1973-8) and All-Star Saturday (1978-9). CBS had various umbrella titles for their Saturday blocks in the 60's & 70's, but not on a consistent basis. In 1978, NBC contracted with the folks behind Schoolhouse Rock and the short-lived Metric Marvels to produce a series of quick bits, used to segue into each of their programs for that season's Saturday Morning Fever block. Unfortunately, the disco theme went over like a pair of cement jeans. That's how bad things were at NBC back then.....

It didn't help that all the characters used the same generic disco moves. Not much thought was put into this at all. Nearly 40 years later, it still looks bad.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Looney TV: We, The Animals-Squeak! (1941)

Bob Clampett's 1941 Porky Pig entry, "We, The Animals-Squeak!" is a parody of a popular radio show of the period, We, The People. Porky (Mel Blanc) introduces us to Kansas City Kitty (Sara Berner), an Irish house cat, who spins a yarn about rescuing her son from gangster mice. Watch for the twist ending.

I must've seen this a dozen times back in the day on cable. Couldn't get enough.

Rating: A.

Tooniversary: Sonny the cuckoo bird turns 55!

Sonny, the cuckoo bird mascot of General Mills' Cocoa Puffs cereal, turns 55 this year. Following is Sonny's debut ad, even though at the time he didn't have a name. Actor-comedian Chuck McCann, known at the time as a kids' show host in New York, is the voice of Sonny here.

For the last few years, Larry Kenney (ex-Thundercats) has been the voice of Sonny, while McCann eventually returned to voice Gramps when the latter character resurfaced in 2010. And, yes, Sonny still goes cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, at 55.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

You Know The Voice: John Erwin (1974)

John Erwin spent most of his voice acting career at Filmation, but he also did some commercials, too. Rare, though, is the time when he appeared in front of the camera.

John stepped in front of the camera with a group of kids, including a then-unknown Gary Coleman, a few years before Diff'rent Strokes made Coleman an icon, for a Valentine's Day ad for Hallmark. Yeah, Valentine's Day was two months ago, but why wait 'til it comes around again to share this rarity?

This ad reportedly aired during a Hallmark Hall of Fame broadcast on NBC. Today, the Hallmark Hall of Fame lives on, airing on Hallmark Channel. I wonder if they could be persuaded to pull older commercials out of the vaults........

Toons After Dark: Easter Is.... (1970-4)

This was previously reviewed at The Land of Whatever some time back, so I thought I'd share it here:

While the copyright says 1970 in barely legible print at the end of the show, most sources claim it was actually released in 1974. Anyway, this is one of three specials produced by Lutheran Television and featuring a young boy, Benji, and his dog, Waldo. The voice cast includes Les Tremayne and, in a rare role at the time, Darla Hood (ex-Our Gang/The Little Rascals). I don't recall seeing too much of this as a youth, but here it is.

Rating: None. As I said, I barely remember seeing it, if at all.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

You Know The Voice: Allan Melvin (1969)

Allan Melvin was one of the busiest actors in Hollywood in the 60's. In addition to frequent guest appearances on The Andy Griffith Show & The Dick Van Dyke Show, Allan spent a few years at Hanna-Barbera, where his body of work included Magilla Gorilla, The Banana Splits, The Adventures of Gulliver, and guest star gigs on other shows, including Atom Ant.

In 1969, just before being signed for The Brady Bunch, Melvin was shilling for Liquid Plumr, which at the time was relatively new, and will reach its 50th anniversary in a couple of years.

Not sure how long he maintained this gig or how many commercials he made, but this was tailor-made for him as an everyman.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Lone Ranger in Day of The Dragon (1966)

The Lone Ranger (Michael Rye) is called on to protect a small town from a marauding pair of outlaws piloting a metal monster in "Day of The Dragon":

This particular trope would be used in other cartoons through the years, and just as effectively, too.

Rating: A-.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: The Ways I Love You (1970)

From Pterixa and Archie's Funhouse comes "The Ways I Love You", prefaced with a quick joke bit with Betty & Veronica flanking Archie (Dallas McKennon, Daniel Boone):

Veronica's jealous pout would actually be a portent of things to come.

Today, in Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's twisted alternate reality series, Afterlife With Archie, Archie had finally gotten down on bended knee and popped the question. Problem is, whenever the series returns (because it's interminably slow due to the author's Hollywood commitments), both Betty & Veronica have been killed off.

Meanwhile, over on Riverdale, they've teased Betty and......Jughead? OY!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Saturday Morning Ringside: Scooby-Doo takes up wrestling for the first time (A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, 1990)

From A Pup Named Scooby-Doo:

The Scooby-Doo Detective Agency takes on a case of an attempted hostile takeover of their hometown wrestling promotion. If the episode title, "Wrestle Maniacs", looks familiar, it was used more than a decade later on What's New Scooby-Doo, as we've previously discussed.

Some tropes in this series, such as Shaggy & Scooby's childhood heroes, Commander Cool & Mellow Mutt, didn't carry over to What's New, although, of course, they would become well acquainted with superheroes later on in life, as seen in The New Scooby-Doo Movies.

And, for you comics fans, I don't think anyone would ever have considered that this show's cast has two generations of animated Robins (Casey Kasem & Scott Menville). Like, who would've ever known?

No rating.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Toon Sports: Porky's Baseball Broadcast (1940)

Porky Pig (Mel Blanc) tries his hand at play-by-play in Friz Freleng's 1940 romp, "Porky's Baseball Broadcast". The gags come flying at a fast pace, and, compared to the iceberg pacing of today's baseball games most of the time, you'd be left dizzy....

Maybe Porky should've taken broadcasting lessons from Jimmy Stewart.......

Rating: A.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

From Primetime to Daytime: Swamp Thing (1990)

After 2 feature films in the early 80's, DC Comics' Swamp Thing made the transition to television in 1990 when producers Michael Uslan & Ben Melniker, hot off the success of Tim Burton's "Batman" a year earlier, put together a deal with MTE, a lesser known arm of MCA, and with DIC, which had experimented with live-action programs for children, to bring the character to life once more.

Only Dick Durock, who essayed the title role, returned from the two movies, with Swamp Thing more eloquent than he'd been presented in the comics up to that point. The series represented a blending of elements, if you will. Scottish writer Alan Moore had rebooted Swamp Thing a few years earlier as a plant elemental, but there were also concepts based on his original origin, as conceived by Len Wein and the late Berni Wrightson in the 70's. The series lasted three seasons on USA, and the series now airs Saturday afternoons on Heroes & Icons (check listings) with back-to-back episodes at 12 noon (ET).

There are no complete episodes available. As we did when we first reviewed the series over at The Land of Whatever, we'll give you the intro, this from season 2.

Between seasons 1 & 2, an animated miniseries, produced by DIC, aired first on Fox, then on NBC as part of Chip & Pepper's Cartoon Madness, with Len Carlson taking over for Durock as Swamp Thing.

Rating: B+.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Toonfomercial: The introduction of Life cereal (1963)

Quaker Oats added Life to their line of breakfast cereals in 1961. I have to guess that Jay Ward was commissioned to produce the animated introductory ad, narrated by----who else?----Paul Frees, first shown in 1963.

A few years later, Quaker went for a more cerebral approach with "The Great Life Debate", a series of ads that featured Paul Winchell "debating" Jerry Mahoney and 50's exercise instructor Debbie Drake with a young gymnast. The Winchell spot has previously been covered.

Of course, the most famous ad campaign introduced America to "Mikey" in the 70's.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Tooniversary: The Chiller Diller Movie Thriller (The Scooby-Doo Show, 1977)

When Scooby-Doo moved to ABC in 1976, Hanna-Barbera began expanding the family by adding two cousins. Scooby-Dum (Daws Butler) was inspired, in a fashion, by Edgar Bergen's Mortimer Snerd. And, then, there is Scooby-Dee.

As you might guess, Scooby-Dee (Janet Waldo) was a play on actress Sandra Dee, but only made one appearance, in 1977's "The Chiller Diller Movie Thriller", in which Dee is making a movie while being stalked by the phony ghost of the week.

You've heard the expression, "kissin' cousins", right? Seems Scooby-Doo-&-Dum tend to forget that Dee is kinfolk, too......

Rating: B.

Looney TV: Discover The World With Bugs Bunny (1991)

To be perfectly honest, I hadn't seen any of the following PSA's when they first aired. I'm guessing that after ABC re-acquired the rights to Bugs Bunny in the mid-80's, they sought to find a way to use Bugs to teach the young viewers.

1991's Discover The World With Bugs Bunny is a series of short interstital PSA's encouraging kids to hit the local libraries, either at school or the public library, to learn about history and geography, among other things.

Since this was one of the first new projects involving Bugs since the passing of Mel Blanc, Greg Burson took over as Bugs for this series.

Too bad Cartoon Network/Boomerang can't be bothered to exhume this.

Rating: A.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Celebrity Toons: The first episode of The Gary Coleman Show (1982)

Our famous first episode this month comes from the first episode of The Gary Coleman Show.

For those that didn't know the format, Andy LeBeau (Coleman), apprentice guardian angel, had two adventures in each half-hour episode. Andy's antics frustrated his supervisor, Angelica (Jennifer Darling, ex-The Six Million Dollar Man/The Bionic Woman). Hanna-Barbera and NBC, seeing how the shorts format had come back into style in recent years, opted for 2 10-11 minute "shorts" in each episode of both this series and its other freshman entry, Shirt Tales, which managed to be renewed for a second season. Viewers, it seemed, tired of Andy rather quickly, and were content with seeing Coleman weekly on Diff'rent Strokes.

Now, let's check out "Fouled Up Fossils" & "Going, Going, Gone":

It's too bad Andy only had one mortal outfit to wear on the show. It might've helped if his halo could change the colors of his clothes once in a while.

Rating: B.

Toons You Might've Missed: Potato Head Kids (1986)

Potato Head Kids was a component of the 1986 anthology series, My Little Pony 'n' Friends, along with the Glo Friends & Moondreamers. Perhaps Hasbro over-reached a tad, along with Sunbow & Marvel Productions, by expanding on the Mr. Potato Head franchise. In effect, they created their own modern day version of Hanna-Barbera's Flintstone Kids, which premiered the same year, and had some of the same actors working on both shows (i.e. Kenneth Mars).

Since I was working during the day, I never watched the show, and I'm only looking at this for the first time.

Edit, 2/26/21: Had to change the video. We have the episode, "Sam Spud, Private Eye":

Marvel/Sunbow also did a Mr. Potato Head series, but this was taking the idea a step too far.

Rating: C.