Wednesday, May 31, 2017

You Know The Voice: Fernando Escandon (1979)

Before he was hired to be the voice of El Dorado on Super Friends in the early 80's, Fernando Escandon was the spokesman for Frito Lay's Tostitos tortilla chips.

Now, you have a face to match the voice.

In case you wonder, the chef in this ad became pretty famous, too. Rene Enriquez landed a supporting role on NBC's Hill Street Blues, roughly around the same time Escandon turned to cartoons. Oh, by the way, that's Michael Bell as the announcer at the end of the ad. There's no mistaking that voice. Subsequent Tostitos ads would have veteran actor William Schallert doing the voice-over.

Escandon would remain the spokesman for Tostitos for a number of years, and a few years in, did a series of spots that inserted him into some classic TV shows, including The Lone Ranger, The Addams Family, Mr. Ed, and the original Dragnet. We'll have those up soon.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Manic Monday & If She Knew What She Wants (1986)

American Bandstand was nearing the end of its ABC run in May 1986 when the Bangles appeared on the show to promote their 2nd CD, "Different Light". "Manic Monday", the Prince-penned 1st single, had been up & down the charts by the time the band appeared on the show on Mother's Day weekend. "If She Knew What She Wants", a cover of a Jules Shear track recorded a year earlier, was the current single at the time.

Now, scope out this video. The obligatory Dick Clark interview is sandwiched in between songs.

Bassist Michael Steele has since left the group, leaving just sexy lead singer Susanna Hoffs and the Peterson sisters. I've said for years that if Archie Comics could have licensed Josie & the Pussycats for a late 80's revival, the Bangles would've easily fit in to provide the singing voices.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Toons You Might've Missed: Sh-h-h-h-h-h-h! (1955)

Legendary cartoon icon Fred "Tex" Avery finished his career at Universal, working for Walter Lantz. His final effort recycled a plot idea from one of his Droopy shorts at MGM, but this time, in "Sh-h-h-h-h-h!", Avery's protagonist, Mr. Twiddle, quits the jazz band he's playing with when his nerves get fried from excessive noise.

It didn't quite have the zip of Avery's earlier works, but it would be 25 years before Avery would return, this time at Hanna-Barbera, as he was partially responsible for the Dino & Cavemouse segment of the Flintstone Comedy Hour (2nd series) and created Kwicky Koala as his final coda.

Rating: B-.

On The Air: P. J. Masks (2015)

In 2002, Disney introduced Teamo Supremo as their initial answer to Cartoon Network's popular Powerpuff Girls. Teamo, however, didn't last, despite the fact that it had a more diverse cast (2 boys, 1 girl) of protagonists. The kids of Teamo Supremo were at least a couple of grades up from the Powerpuffs.

13 years later, Disney acquired P. J. Masks, a CGI series developed in France and England. Like Teamo Supremo, the team consists of two boys & one girl, but the gimmick here is that their pajamas magically convert into their costumes when danger threatens. It's been established that Catboy, Gekko, & Owlette are all 6 years of age, which would mean they're in the first grade. Of course, CN rebooted the Powerpuffs last year, and brought them forward to about the 2nd or 3rd grade, but to an indifferent audience. Y'think maybe that was because of P. J. Masks?

Unlike the Powerpuffs or Teamo Supremo, the kids of P. J. Masks don't answer to adult authority figures, and the vehicles they use are there strictly as product placement to induce parents to buy the toys for their kiddo's. As if a real 6 year old could drive a car or use a hang glider in real life......

Now, you'll have to wait until next year for new episodes, as Disney is cycling the first 52 shorts (26 half-hours in all) ad infinitum until a new batch is ready. Let's take a look at a sample episode:

The first season "finale" aired in February, which tells us there is a great deal of lead time between when the episodes are completed in Europe and brought to Disney Junior/Disney Channel here in the US, as it took roughly 18 months to complete the first season.

Rating: A.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Rare Treats: The pilot for George of the Jungle (1967)

George of the Jungle marks his 50th anniversary this year. A heretofore unseen pilot episode has recently been uncovered, which offers a couple of subtle differences.

First, Hans Conreid is the narrator, instead of Paul Frees. Second, George's mate, Ursula (June Foray), is named Jane, just like Tarzan's wife, in the pilot. Third, George (Bill Scott) is even more of an imbecile than we'd subsequently see. Not only that, but Ape (Frees) is a little more gullible.

Finally, the villains of the piece may not have been seen during the series proper, specifically, a greedy hunter (Frees, impersonating Humphrey Bogart) and his sidekick (Foray). The plot surrounds the fact that Shep, George's pet elephant, trumpets in E-Flat, as opposed to other elephants doing so in F-Sharp, as Conreid explains in the narrative. And, yeah, the iconic theme song is nowhere to be found. Sheldon Allman & Stan Worth would later write the famous theme.

The pilots for the back-up features, Super Chicken & Tom Slick, will be up soon.

Rating: B-.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Alphabetic Toons: A lesson on impoliteness (Sesame Street, 1969?)

Here's a simple teaching tool from the early years of Sesame Street. A man (Gary Owens, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, Perils of Penelope Pitstop, etc.) holds up an image of the letter "i", only to be heckled by an unseen party.....

This wouldn't play the same way nearly 50 years later, unfortunately.

Rating: B-.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Tooniversary: Deputy Dawg's Nephew (1962)

Deputy Dawg's lookalike nephew shows up, and chaos ensues when Ty Coon & Muskie think that the Deputy has shrunk because of drinking too much of their homemade blackberry juice concoction.

Here's "Deputy Dawg's Nephew":

All it is, really is a variation on an old gag used elsewhere. Not quite as effective in a shorter time frame.

Rating: B.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits (?): If My Friends Could See Me Now (1978)

In the spring of 1978, Linda Clifford had released a disco version of "If My Friends Could See Me Now", originally recorded 12 years earlier for the Broadway production of "Sweet Charity" by Gwen Verdon, with Shirley MacLaine doing so in the film version a few years later.

While it's likely that Clifford would turn up on, say, Soul Train, to perform & promote the record, which peaked just below the Top 40 on the pop chart, actress Melissa Gilbert (Little House on the Prairie) performed a cover version on American Bandstand. The sad part is that this wasn't released as a single for the then-teen star (Melissa was 14 at the time).

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Ivanhoe (1958)

I know what you're thinking.

You don't remember ever seeing Ivanhoe. I know I didn't. However, it was a British-American co-production, produced in England for what would become ITC, and distributed here in the US by Screen Gems, and was meant to air here as well as in the UK.

Ivanhoe, the first TV series to adapt Sir Walter Scott's classic tale (there've been two others since), lasted just 1 season of 39 episodes. Star Roger Moore returned to Hollywood to make movies before returning to the UK in 1962 to begin work on The Saint, and, of course, we know the rest of his story, don't we?

ATV, the forerunner to ITC, was doing a series of shows aimed at younger viewers that doubled as teaching tools regarding legendary heroes such as Robin Hood in the 50's, before moving on to science fiction (Gerry Anderson's super-marionation line) and, for adults, spies and variety shows in the 60's and early 70's.

In memory of Moore, who passed away at 89, here's the episode, "Counterfeit":

No rating.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Looney TV: Sylvester in Tree For Two (1952)

Sylvester actually plays a supporting role in our next entry. He's a fall guy--or fall cat, in this case---for newcomers Spike & Chester (Mel Blanc & Stan Freberg) in "Tree For Two".

Lost amidst the chaos is an escaped panther hiding out in the same area where Sylvester is. Egged on by Chester, Spike goes after Sylvester, but gets taken down by the panther. It's kind of like Syl's encounters with Hippety Hopper, only worse.

This short aired earlier this morning on Boomerang. Spike & Chester would only appear in one more short, only with Spike obtaining a British accent and being rechristened Alfie. WB was trying to create new stars at this point, such as Hippety, Spike & Chester, and Dodsworth, whom we'll see in a future entry.

Rating: B.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Toonfomercial: Woody Woodpecker shills for Rice Krispies (1967)

When Woody Woodpecker made his network debut in 1957, Kellogg's was his sponsor for ABC. However, the series was cancelled after 1 year, and Walter Lantz & Universal opted for a syndication deal that lasted for several years before Woody returned to Saturday morning television.

In 1967, Kellogg's called on Woody again, this time to do a brand new spot for Rice Krispies, which Woody (Grace Stafford Lantz) had sung the praises of 10 years earlier. This time, Woody teaches a valuable lesson to nephew Knothead (June Foray) in out-conning Buzz Buzzard (Dallas McKennon, Daniel Boone).

Five years later, as Lantz's studio was closing down, Kellogg's asked for Woody again, this time for Sugar Pops (now Corn Pops). We'll serve that one up another time.

Friday, May 19, 2017

You Know The Voice: George S. Irving (1978)

Our next "You Know the Voice" subject is probably not quite as well known as many of his peers, but has chalked up quite the resume regardless.

George S. Irving made his fame on Broadway before being hired by Total Television in the 60's. His TTV credits include Go Go Gophers and, of course, narrating Underdog. After TTV folded, Irving landed the role of his career as the Heat Miser in Rankin-Bass' The Year Without a Santa Claus. He'd return for the sequel in 2008.

Irving passed away last year at 94, but what you might not know is that he also did some commercials that put him in front of the camera. His film & TV resume is rather small otherwise, particularly a guest shot on All in the Family and a supporting role in the short-lived The Dumplings.

In 1978, Irving was cast as a salesman who tried to get customers to try cheaper razor blades over Gillette's Trac II brand.

Irving also shilled for White Owl cigars, and maybe other sponsors, too. I'll have to take a closer look. At least some of you now have a face to match his voice.

Daytime Heroes: Diver Dan (1960)

Diver Dan was not your normal weekday afternoon entry.

A mix of puppets and 2 actors composed this series, produced for syndication and distributed by England's ITC Entertainment. Diver Dan (Frank Freda) roamed the sea in search of adventure. If it was being teased that Minerva, the mermaid, was meant to be Dan's love interest, she certainly seemed as though she wanted to play hard to get.

Allen Swift narrated and voiced virtually all of the puppets. Producer Louis Kellman might be better known for his work with NFL Films, rather than this short-lived series. I must confess that I had not seen this before today. I guess now you know why they didn't try this type of show again.

The first four episodes are blocked together in the following clip:

Swift was the most experienced performer on the show, but there wasn't much he could do to save this from being consigned to oblivion, as this was off the air by the time I was ready to watch television as a toddler.

Rating: C--.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Toons You Might've Missed: Black, Kloke, & Dagga (1967)

Now, here's an unsold pilot that didn't come from any of the known animation studios in the 60's.

Black, Kloke, & Dagga was a spy spoof that sprang from the mind of actor-comic Morey Amsterdam (ex-The Dick Van Dyke Show), who had done some voice work for UPA earlier in the 60's (i.e. "Gay Purr-ee" w/Judy Garland and Robert Goulet). The animators for this pilot weren't credited (JKL Productions was Amsterdam's production company; the name has been co-opted by another party in more recent times for reality television), but certainly had a familiar look, as if it was from either Rankin-Bass or Jay Ward.

Amsterdam voices Dagga, the smaller of the two spies. His partner, Kloke, tall and simple minded, is played by Stan Irwin (The Abbott & Costello Cartoon Show). Zsa Zsa Gabor voices the villain, Madame Black.

Many thanks to Mike Kazaleh for unearthing this lost toon. Kazaleh posted this to YouTube about a year or so ago.

Amsterdam would later try again as a producer, this time involved with Four Star's short-lived revival of Can You Top This?, just three years later. He's clearly mocking the fading Man From U.N.C.L.E. with Kloke, given the setting. He'd have been better served getting help from Jay Ward with this one. The spirit is there, but the script is weak.

Rating: B--.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Toons You Might've Missed: Cauliflower Cabby (1964-6?)

Cauliflower Cabby was another Total Television pilot that wasn't made into a series. As with Gene Hattree, Cabby was inserted into the Underdog syndicated package, which is how he finally made it to air.

Arnold Stang narrated and was the voice of Cabby and his alter-ego, "The Champion". Cabby tricked out his hack to effect the change from mild mannered to heroic. I think part of the reason it didn't sell was because unlike the rest of TTV's output, Cauliflower Cabby had an all-human cast, yet was formatted similarly to Underdog. Judge for yourselves, peeps.

Too similar to Underdog, and lacking charisma.

Rating: C.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Gene Hattree (1964-6?)

Total Television was looking for another hit series. Somewhere in between Underdog and The Beagles, TTV had tried at least three pilots, two of which would later be integrated into the Underdog syndication package in the 70's. Suffice to say, after Beagles was cancelled by CBS after 1 season, that was the end of TTV.

Gene Hattree was a parody of all those singing cowboy westerns, wrapped in a six minute package. Hattree himself (Sandy Becker) was a send-up of Gene Autry, except that he couldn't really sing that well. Becker used a voice similar to that of Sgt. Okey Homa (Go Go Gophers), and didn't really appreciate his deputy, Rabbit Foot (Herb Nelson), trying to help, since Rabbit's efforts ended up in failure, in true slapstick fashion.

In "The Trap", Hattree goes after Tortilla Fats (Jackson Beck) and his henchmen.

Like, you could see the ending coming a mile away, once Rabbit set up the 2nd trap.

Rating: C.

From Primetime to Daytime: Mr. Peabody & Sherman in Royal Mounted Police (1960?)

We haven't done an installment of Peabody's Improbable History in a long time, so it's off to the WABAC machine with Peabody (Bill Scott) and Sherman (Walter Tetley) to Canada, circa 1869 to prevent the dissolution of the "Royal Mounted Police".

If Paul Frees' voice as Constable Willey sounds familiar, it was because it was the same voice used for Inspector Fenwick in Dudley Do-Right and, later on, the Chief in Secret Squirrel.

Rating: B+.

Toonfomercial: Remember Little Miss Sunbeam? (1954)

Sunbeam bread has been around seemingly forever. In the home district, it was, for a number of years, associated with Freihofer's, but that was before Quality Bakers of America ended their association with Freihofer's, which is now part of Bimbo Bakeries, and is under the same umbrella with Entemann's, Wonder Bread, and Hostess pastries.

However, until today, I'd never seen any ads featuring Little Miss Sunbeam, whose image remains on Sunbeam wrappers. This spot looks like the animation was done by Famous Studios (Paramount):

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Personal Favorites: The Ant & The Aardvark (1968-9)

One of the back-up features to The Pink Panther Show during its NBC run (1969-78) was The Ant & The Aardvark, which, when you think about it, was a variant on MGM's Tom & Jerry franchise.

Impressionist John Byner based the voices of the title characters on mimics of Dean Martin (Ant) and Jackie Mason (Aardvark). For years, I had assumed the Aardvark's voice was modeled after Joey Bishop instead of Mason, but what did I know? Musical director Doug Goodwin assembled a swinging jazz combo that included the likes of Shelly Manne (Daktari, Jambo), among others, that created a terrific mood.

The first installment carries a 1968 copyright.

With the laugh track added, one must guess that this was culled from an NBC broadcast. Still, it is howlingly funny.

Rating: A+.

Daytime Heroes: Space Angel in Incident of the Loud Planet (1962)

I initially posted this Space Angel serial over at The Land of Whatever when I reviewed the DVD release a few years back. Just had to replace said video after the original copy had been deleted.

Anyway, Scott McCloud and his crew investigate "The Incident of the Loud Planet":

As bad as it sounds.

Rating: D.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Getting Schooled: It's Dental Flossophy, Charlie Brown (1975)

Here's a Peanuts cartoon that I don't think has ever aired on television.

Instead, It's Dental Flossophy, Charlie Brown was shown in schools as a teaching tool for elementary school students, produced in 1975. Here, Lucy schools Charlie---as well as an eavesdropping Snoopy & Woodstock---on dental hygeine.

Unfortunately, Snoopy couldn't leave well enough alone and stole Lucy's floss to create a nest for Woodstock. He always seemed to do Lucy wrong no matter what.

Rating: A.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Daytime Heroes: Popeye in The Mark of Zero (1960)

Popeye imagines himself as a parody of Johnston McCulley's legendary swashbuckler, Zorro, in 1960's "The Mark of Zero". In this short, we're introduced to Olive's lookalike cousin, Deezil (also voiced by Mae Questel), to whom Popeye spins the tale of Zero.

Yes, the poster tacked on samples of other shorts to fill the time. The story, of course, followed a familiar formula, but give them credit for trying something different for a change.

Rating: B+.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Animated World of DC Comics: Secret Origins of the Super Friends (Challenge of the Super Friends, 1978)

Lex Luthor (Stan Jones) plots to erase Superman, Wonder Woman, & Green Lantern from existence by going back in time and rewriting their, ah, origins, if ya will. Problem is, as you'll see in "Secret Origins of the Super Friends", even though Superman (Danny Dark) is erased pro tempore, Bizarro, the imperfect duplicate of the Man of Steel, isn't. That mistake kinda kills the vibe, don't ya think?

Comics historians know that Bizarro World wasn't created until well after Bizarro himself had been established as a recurring nemesis of Superman, since it was Luthor who'd created Bizarro in the first place. Logically, once Superman is erased from the timeline, Bizarro should've been gone as well, only to return when the timeline was restored.

That particular flaw hurts the story big time.

Rating: C.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Toon Sports: The Sheik-to-Sheik 500 (1990)

The Fender Bender 500 series moves to the Middle East for "The Sheik-to-Sheik 500" (a play on cheek-to-cheek, don'tcha know). Huckleberry Hound quotes Aesop, though he credits his mother, and Dick Dastardly tries out a flying carpet, with disastrous results. Shadoe Stevens is your race announcer.

Poor Dick. So close, yet so far. Some of the gags, I think, were in fact recycled from Wacky Races.

Rating: A-.

You Know The Voice: John Stephenson, soap star (1966)

Toward the end of Hanna-Barbera's affiiliation with Screen Gems (now Sony Pictures Television), John Stephenson (The Flintstones, etc.) was cast in the NBC soap opera, Morning Star, which ran from 1965-6. The series lasted less than a full year, and was one of three soaps produced by Screen Gems during that period. The only one remaining is, of course, Days of Our Lives. Morning Star, Days of Our Lives, & Paradise Bay were all from the same creative team, Ted & Betty Corday.

It's a pity, really, that Stephenson didn't land another soap gig after this. He could've fit right in anywhere else, but, as we've seen, he did some more primetime gigs after Morning Star signed off, and Screen Gems brought him back to guest on Temperatures Rising a few years later.

Here's a sample, from May 1966. I believe long time QM announcer Hank Simms has those chores here.

More on Morning Star at The Land of Whatever.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Looney TV: Porky's Garden (1937)

Porky Pig, with a county fair looming on the horizon, decides to try a little horticulture, with chaotic results, in Tex Avery's "Porky's Garden":

It would be a while before Porky adopted the streamlined look we all know and love, and did the outro himself. Must've gone to the same diet specialist as Elmer Fudd.

Rating: B.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Scooby & Scrappy Doo meet Sherlock Holmes (The Night Ghoul of Wonderworld, 1979)

In a send-up of ABC's Fantasy Island, Velma (Pat Stevens) gets to fulfill her fantasy of working with the legendary Sherlock Holmes when the Mystery Inc. team heads to London to battle "The Night Ghoul of Wonderworld". Super Friends narrator Bill Woodson is heard as a fellow traveler, and Michael Rye as a London bobby (police officer).
Edit, 2/8/21: The video has been deleted. In its place is a short snippet:

Scooby & Scrappy-Doo thought this would be easier, convinced that the first Ghoul they encountered was a robot, but it's never that easy. Before the season was over, another actress, Marla Frumkin, replaced Pat Stevens as Velma.

Rating: B.

Friday, May 5, 2017

On The Air: Guardians of the Galaxy (2015)

Marvel & DisneyXD needed to keep fans interested in the Guardians of the Galaxy in between movies ("Vol. 2" opened last night), and so the Guardians were added to DXD's Marvel Universe block, replacing Hulk & the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.. Suffice it to say, it may be an improvement over the show it replaced, but that ain't saying much.

If Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, has a familiar lilt to his voice, that's because it belongs to Will Friedle (ex-Batman Beyond, Kim Possible, Thundercats, Boy Meets World), who's trying to bridge the gap between Terry McGinnis (Batman Beyond) & Ron Stoppable (Kim Possible) in trying to create the right tone for Quill. Here, Peter's less of a jerk than he was in the first film, but then, he's still not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. Hmmm, who does that sound like??

The series began its second season in March, just in time to promote "Vol. 2", which will be reviewed over at The Land of Whatever this weekend. In this clip, we find the Guardians battling the Man-Thing. Go figure.

As with the movie, Rocket is the only one who can translate Groot, who remains an adult in this series as opposed to "Vol. 2". Rocket, oh, by the way, just finished a stint appearing in the Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strip, another means of calling attention to the pending film.

Rating: B--.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Animated World of DC Comics: Batman & Superman in Warpland (1983)

Here's a Super Friends rarity. An episode featuring Batman, minus Robin.

In the comics, Batman & Superman were known as the World's Finest Heroes, having headlined the original World's Finest book for many years. In 1983's "Warpland", the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel are pulled into another dimension, one where their counterparts are all animals.

Edit, 6/20/22: We've added a title card:

I'd like to think Hanna-Barbera & DC were testing the waters for possibly adapting another DC property, Captain Carrot, for television, by trying out characters like Super Frog. Needless to say, Captain Carrot never made it to television at that time.

The image of Superman as an eagle references the Metropolis Marvel's never ending battle for "truth, justice, & the American way", don't you think?

Rating: A-.

You Know The Voice: Allen Jenkins (1966)

After Top Cat ended its network run in 1962, Allen Jenkins (Officer Dibble) went back to work as a character actor. He turns up in an episode of Honey West as a security guard for a client of Honey (Anne Francis), who's on the trail of a modern day Robin Hood (Edd Byrnes, ex-77 Sunset Strip). Allen's scenes bookend the episode, and plays the guard the same way he played Dibble, easily befuddled by Honey and her aide, Sam (John Ericson).

From Comics to Toons: The Archies pull a Disappearing Act (1968)

From The Archie Show:

Reggie (John Erwin), envious because he's the least versatile of the gang, plots to eliminate the rest of the gang from the school talent show in "Disappearing Act".

Bonus: In addition to "Disappearing Act", the gang is on an island to find extra entertainment for a school dance in "Added Distraction":

Reggie would pull more lame stunts, and fail, during the course of the series.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

On The Air: Ben 10 (2005)

The reason the original Ben 10 is labeled as "On The Air" is because the chumps at Cartoon Network decided to reboot the series last year, a clear case of fixing something that wasn't broken.

Ben 10 had been a profitable franchise for CN, such that the network decided they needed to make live-action movies spun from the series. You have to remember that this was around the time that now-deposed executive "Stupid" Stuart Snyder was in charge, and thought live-action would function as well on CN as it has on rivals Nickelodeon & Disney Channel. What a maroon!

Digression over.

The basics: 10 year old Ben Tennyson finds what he thinks is a fancy watch. What it really is, though, is the Omnitrix, which allows him to access the powers and abilities of 10 alien beings, hence the show's title, Ben 10. The Man of Action studio, which includes writers Joe Kelly & Steven T. Seagle, developed the series, but I am not entirely sure if they've been lured back to CN for the current series, which launched in October.

Ben 10 spawned three sequel series, all of which will be covered in due course. We would also see that Ben's cousin, Gwen, would discover that she herself is not only a sorceress in training, but half-alien as well.

Following is the intro:

The back & forth sniping between the cousins you can dismiss as being natural, the closest thing to sibling rivalry this show has. However, the bickering would give way to the formation of natural teamwork and bonding between Ben & Gwen, almost as if they should've been brother & sister instead of cousins. I haven't seen the new version yet, but that will also be addressed in due time.

Rating for the original Ben 10: A-.