Monday, July 31, 2017

You Know The Voice: Arthur Q. Bryan (1940's)

In addition to his work as Elmer Fudd until his passing in 1959, Arthur Q. Bryan had forged a career in radio (Fibber McGee & Molly, The Great Gildersleeve, Richard Diamond, etc.) and even made a few shorts.

In "The Golfer's Lament", Arthur sings about the game while trying to get off a tee shot.

The song is actually a poem set to music. Can't get a handle on the exact year this came out, though.

Toon Legends: Rocky & His Friends, aka The Bullwinkle Show (1959)

Today, we start a week-long salute to the grand dame of voice actresses, June Foray, who passed away last week at 99. What better way to start than with the show that made her an icon.

Rocky & His Friends, otherwise known as The Bullwinkle Show, launched in November 1959 on ABC, then moved to NBC and into a Sunday night berth for its final three seasons (1961-4). Reruns ultimately alternated between the two networks until the early 80's before moving to cable.

What you might not know is that the show was originally intended with a different purpose, in that Rocky (Foray) & Bullwinkle (Bill Scott) were part of a group of forest animals running a television station. Nearly 40 years later, the Muppets tried a similar approach, except that between two networks, ABC & Disney Channel, Muppets Tonight was not as successful as The Muppet Show or Rocky, and even occupied the Sunday 7 pm (ET) berth when it aired on ABC. Go figure. As it is, I find it hard to believe they wanted this to be a variety show. With backup features such as Fractured Fairy Tales and Peabody's Improbable History, it wouldn't classify as a variety show.

Digression over. Co-creator Alex Anderson, who'd worked with Jay Ward on Crusader Rabbit, was unwilling to move from San Francisco to Los Angeles, so that's how Scott entered the picture. Writers Allan Burns & Chris Hayward might be even more known for their work writing live action shows, including Get Smart and, in Burns' case, The Duck Factory, a short-lived NBC sitcom we've screened here previously.

During the NBC years, a Bullwinkle puppet, voiced by Scott, served as MC, going so far as biting the hand that fed it, lampooning Disney's Wonderful World of Color, which aired in back of Bullwinkle on Sundays. One stunt led to a lot of complaints from parents after Bullwinkle suggested that children pull the tuning knobs of their television sets to ensure they'd watch the show the following week. Kinda like Soupy Sales' infamous New Year's Eve gag with money that also got him in trouble in New York.

My earliest memory of the series is the Saturday morning reruns on ABC in the early 70's. At the time, the show aired around noon, before it became a death slot for cartoons. Rocky was the smarter one, of course, with Bullwinkle being a little slow on the uptake. Thing was, for all the times they clashed with spies Boris Badenov (Paul Frees) and Natasha Fatale (Foray), they never had any fights. Maybe that's why they kept it around after anti-violence regulations were put in place at the end of the 60's, forcing adventure shows off the air for a time.

Anyway, you might not have seen this intro:

Now, here's the Bullwinkle into we all know:

Amazingly, Bill Scott chose not to be credited as an actor, just as a writer-producer. Talk about being modest and humble. Narrator William Conrad added the same duties on The Fugitive when that series premiered in Rocky's final season (1963).

Could Rocky & Bullwinkle make a comeback today? Well, the closest we've gotten was an appearance in a GEICO ad a couple of years back, but no one's rushing to get them back on TV, even after the modest success of Mr. Peabody & Sherman, first in theatres, then on Netflix. After all, Rocky & Bullwinkle, along with Dudley Do-Right, flopped at the box office in feature film form.

Rating: A.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Looney TV: The Case of the Missing Hare (1942)

Bugs Bunny swaps out his usual hole in the ground for a tree in Chuck Jones' 1942 farce, "The Case of the Missing Hare". That's really the least of the issues here. A traveling magician, Ala Bahma, plays a cruel trick on Bugs, and, of course, you know that means war!

I wonder if this wasn't a veiled shot at a certain southern state......

Rating: B-.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: The Preamble (America Rock, 1975)

In 1975, Schoolhouse Rock added a new component, America Rock, to mark the bicentennial, which was less than a year away.

Lynn Ahrens wrote and sings "The Preamble", a short piece about the first part of the Constitution. Something a certain President needs to be reminded of. Every day.

If you looked real close, you'd see Lynn's name, along with producers George Newall and Tom Yohe, on the ballot. Cute inside joke, no? Yes, "The Preamble" comes off as a folk song, but it still resonates today. If only someone could "rick-roll" the White House........

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Toonfomercial: Remember the Kix Cow? (1968)

General Mills has had mascots for a number of their cereals through the years. Cheerios has had the Kid and Sue on and off, and Buzz Bee has been touting Honey Nut Cheerios since their inception. Of course, we can't forget Lucky the leprechaun, the Trix Rabbit, and the titular fiends of the monster cereals (Boo Berry, Count Chocula, Franken Berry). But, did you know that Kix had a mascot once?

The Kix Cow was a short-lived gimmick who appeared in 2 ads circa 1968. Actor Len Maxwell (ex-Batfink, later of Celebrity Deathmatch) is the voice of the cow, who is kind of a bully....

I think we can see why the Cow quickly was cut.

June Foray (1917-2017)

For millions of television viewers, spanning 7 decades, this hurts.

June Foray, the grand dame of cartoon voices, passed away Wednesday, just a few weeks shy of her 100th birthday. To try to list all of her accomplishments would probably take a month or so.

Anyway, it'll be interesting to see if Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, or any other cabler will do a tribute in her honor. Over the next few days, we're going to do our own tribute, with a week long celebration starting on Monday, July 31. For now, we're going to start the ball rolling with one of June's rare "face acting" jobs, when she appeared as herself on the short-lived NBC series, The Duck Factory. Keep an eye open, too, not only for series co-star Don Messick, but also June's partner-in-mirth, Bill Scott, also making a rare appearance before the cameras, in the episode, "The Annies". June appears around the 15 1/2 minute mark.

Rest in peace, June.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Game Time: "Superman" meets the creator of Dick Tracy (To Tell The Truth, 1965)

In the fall of 1965, Chester Gould's legendary detective, Dick Tracy, became a grandfather when his adopted son, Junior, and his wife, Moon Maid, had their first child. To mark the occasion, Gould agreed to appear on the evening edition of To Tell The Truth on October 4. Host Bud Collyer, a year away from reprising the voice of Superman, moderates the panel's questioning of Gould and two "imposters".

Two years later, 20th Century Fox and producer William Dozier tried to bring Tracy back to television after a short-lived animated series. Their pilot flopped, signalling the end of Dozier's time at Fox after Batman was cancelled. Tracy would return as part of Archie's TV Funnies in 1971.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Toon Rock: Yakko's World (Animaniacs, 1993)

A while back, we served up a choice musical number from Animaniacs in which Wakko (Jess Harnell) recited the 50 states in song, to the beat of "Turkey in the Straw". Well, brother Yakko (Rob Paulsen) did it first, in just the 2nd episode of the series, with "Yakko's World", in which Yakko recites every country in the world.....

Now, who said this wasn't educational?

You Know The Voice: Norman Alden (1967)

Six years before he was cast to voice Aquaman on Super Friends, character actor Norman Alden made his Saturday morning (actually, afternoon) debut, appearing on American Bandstand in the winter of 1967 to promote Rango, alongside co-stars Tim Conway & Guy Marks. Scope!

ABC must've had high hopes for Rango, such that the show's theme song, performed by the inimitable Frankie Laine, had been used for a Rate-a-Record segment. Unfortunately, Rango was sent off to Boot Hill before the season was over.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Retro Toy Chest: Play 'n' Make (1970's)

Once upon a time, Kenner had a huge hit with their Easy Bake Oven. Hasbro, which later bought out Kenner, felt they needed to cut in on that action, and developed Play 'n' Make, a mini kitchen set that came out no later than 1977. The exact year it debuted remains uncertain, although it's possible 1977 was the only year it came out. Funny thing, though. Until today, I'd never seen ads for the product, and didn't know it existed.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

On DVD: Justice League Dark (2017)

Warner Bros. visits a dark corner of the DC Universe in the direct-to-video feature, "Justice League Dark". Based on the defunct series of the same name, Batman (Jason O'Mara) investigates when a number of civilians are involved in some unusual incidents, mostly because the aggressors see their victims as demons.

In order to fight this supernatural menace, the Dark Knight finds himself briefly possessed by Deadman (Nick Turturro, ex-NYPD Blue), who convinces Batman to recruit John Constantine (Matt Ryan), and, in turn, Zatanna (Camilla Luddington), who has had relationships with both Batman & Constantine in the past.

The villain is the sorcerer Destiny. No, not a revamp of a former DC horror host, but rather a reboot of a classic Justice League villain, Dr. Destiny. Destiny manipulates and eventually controls Constantine's friend, Ritchie Simpson (Jeremy Davies, ex-Constantine) in a quest to regain a specific artifact that would make him akin to a god.

The supporting cast includes Marvel-Netflix regular Rosario Dawson as Wonder Woman and Jerry O'Connell (ex-Sliders, Crossing Jordan, etc.) as Superman.

Here's a trailer:

As you can see, there are some genuinely funny bits mixed into the action. There are also some shocking surprises. The movie races along at a speedy 76 minutes, par for the course for a DCAU movie. Not really all that thrilled, however, with the use of Swamp Thing in this, as opposed to how he is used on Justice League Action, but, then, that's six of one and half a dozen of another, and, we'll leave it at that. Then again, I wasn't digging the Shiwan Khan look to Felix Faust, either, as that just doesn't look right on him.

They really need to concentrate on giving Zatanna a solo movie of her own. Just sayin'.

Rating: B+.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Toon Legends: Popeye in Childhood Daze (1960)

When Professor O. G. Whatashnozzle creates a machine that can send a chicken back into the egg, Brutus (Jackson Beck) decides to use it on Popeye (Jack Mercer) so he can have Olive (Mae Questel) all to himself. Here's "Childhood Daze", produced by Larry Harmon, and directed by Paul Fennell.

Edit, 8/9/23: Had to change the video. This one has most of the opening credits deleted.

Kind of odd seeing Popeye (and later, Brutus) with adult faces on infant bodies. I guess the Professor has to go back to the drawing board.

As previously noted, Harmon employed some future talents from Filmation, including Hal Sutherland, Erv Kaplan, and musical director Gordon Zahler, who later worked as a music supervisor not just for Filmation, but also for Ivan Tors.

Rating: C.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Toonfomercial: Remember the Oscar Mayer jingle? (1965)

Today, Oscar Mayer is part of the ever growing conglomerate that is now known as Kraft Heinz. Yeah, mergers are a thing again. I guess they did away with anti-monopoly laws, but never made it public. Digressing. Anyway, back in 1965, this next ad made its debut, and would resurface in the 90's when Nick at Nite's TV Land debuted and began running "retromercials".

Too bad this hasn't been updated for the here & now.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

It Should've Been on a Saturday: Malibu U (1967)

Here's a teen-centric ABC variety show that Dick Clark had nothing to do with.

Malibu U. was geared toward fans of Clark's American Bandstand and its related series, such as Where The Action Is, but lasted just 7 weeks in the summer of 1967. The problem? ABC placed it on Friday nights, rather than on Saturday mornings, where it could've been used to greater effect.

Actor-singer Rick Nelson (ex-The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet) served as host to an eclectic lineup of musical acts and assorted guest stars. Choreographer Bob Banas' dance troupe included a future sci-fi icon in Erin Gray (later of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century & Silver Spoons).

Now, I never saw the show, so there won't be a rating.

Wikipedia's entry claims, incorrectly, that Four Star had a hand in the series, when it's clear that they didn't. They tried a variety show a couple of years earlier, the syndicated Hollywood A Go-Go, which was a failure.

Right now, let's take a look at a sample clip:

Teenage Toons: To Thing Or Not To Thing (1979)

After our last Thing entry, regular correspondent Goldstar noted that there was a reason why the self-proclaimed idol of millions (Joe Baker) used a ring to switch from teenager Benjy Grimm (Wayne Morton) and back again.

"To Thing Or Not To Thing" offers some insight. By some unknown means, Ben was de-aged into a teenager, and stripped of his strength, which he could only access with the use of the two-part Thing Ring---which vanishes in the course of this particular fable.

After being advised by Professor Harkness (John Stephenson) to stay in the lab for 8 hours after an experiment meant to restore his adult self to full-time status, Benjy is goaded into going on a ski trip with snooty Ronald Radford (John Erwin). Chaos follows, of course.

Kelly had to hold back the tears, but that would be the first hint that there were signs of affection toward Benjy. The full origin in this continuity was never established, it would appear.

Rating: C.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Toonfomercial: A summer break message from ABC Afterschool Special (1973)

After ABC's Afterschool Special wrapped its first season, the network ran this ad, mostly during primetime, during the summer of 1973 to promote the fact that the anthology series would return that fall.

Of course, the underlying reason I'm doing this is to have something that uses the series' original, synthesizer driven theme song.....

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Isis in Fool's Dare (1975)

It's been a while since we scoped The Secrets of Isis.

Student Cindy Lee (Joanna Pang) takes a dare to enter a junkyard, and encounters a gang of car thieves who'd earlier stolen a car belonging to Andrea Thomas (Joanna Cameron), aka Isis. Typical Filmation live-action fare of the period.

Albert Reed (Principal Barnes) had previously appeared on Chase, then took up a career in law enforcement of his own, working as a security guard. Who'dathunk?

Rating: A-.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Game Time: Captain Kangaroo on What's My Line? (1972)

Goodson-Todman figured that kids were watching the syndicated What's My Line? with their parents if they weren't in school, or, in summer reruns, playing in the yard. To that end, Captain Kangaroo (Bob Keeshan) was brought on as a mystery guest in this 1974 episode helmed by Larry Blyden. This Buzzr clip edits out the intros.

Good stuff.

Rating: A.

Rein-Toon-Ation: The Thing Meets The Clunk (1979)

The Thing (Joe Baker) finds himself having to corral a runaway robot whose programming isn't quite as complete as his creator had intended. Professor Quimby (Paul Winchell) may be absent-minded, but good natured. His creation, though, is a work in progress. Here's "The Thing Meets The Clunk":

It was never really implied that Kelly (Noelle North) was Benjy Grimm's girlfriend in this series, although she and her scientist father (John Stephenson) were the only ones who were privy to Benjy's dual identity.

Rating: B--.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Getting Schooled (again): The New Mickey Mouse Club (1977)

By 1976, the original Mickey Mouse Club was back in syndication. I remember this well because while it aired on the same station that carried it when it aired on ABC (1955-9), it was also airing on cable, and the cable company blacked out the feed from WNEW in New York much of the time, subbing in a text-only news feed from Reuters, which was available at the time.

In January 1977, Disney decided to reopen the Mickey Mouse Club, with a brand-new, culturally diverse cast, a disco reworking of the classic theme song, and, instead of new serials, simply split up pre-existing movies into multi-part, week-long serials. They had already re-edited some movies into two-parters for NBC's Wonderful World of Disney on Sundays to create inventory.

Unfortunately, The New Mickey Mouse Club had just 26 weeks (130 daily episodes) of original material before Disney ended production, but reruns would continue for 2 more years. Why? It wasn't airing in as many markets as reruns of the original series. The format was essentially the same, with a different theme each day of the week, but this was a case where Disney had sabotaged itself. Viewers preferred the reruns and cherished the  memories of childhood favorites like Annette Funnicello, who by 1977 was now shilling for Skippy peanut butter.

The cast was largely forgotten except for two. Lisa Whelchel and Julie Piekarski would later resurface on The Facts of Life, only for Piekarski to leave early in the series' run.

Here's a sample clip:

The most successful incarnation of the Mickey Mouse Club was still to come, leaving its biggest impact on the world of pop music. We'll talk about that another day.

No rating.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Tooniversary: Voyage to the Inner World (Space Sentinels, 1977)

Space Sentinels turns 40 this year. To mark the occasion, let's take a look back with the episode, "Voyage to the Inner World".

I have no memory of seeing this one. No rating.

It Should've Been on a Saturday: The Mickey Mouse Club (1955)

In the 50's, ABC may perhaps have been the only network that programmed shows for children & teenagers on weekday afternoons. For the teeny-boppers, there was, of course, American Bandstand, which would later move to Saturday afternoons and continue into the 80's.

For the younger kiddo's, there was the equally legendary Mickey Mouse Club, which, like Bandstand did at the time, ran 5 days a week. Had ABC and/or Disney thought of it, maybe a 6th day, Saturday, would've been added. Had that happened, maybe the series could've gone past 4 seasons.

Host Jimmie Dodd basically was an adult supervisor for the Mouseketeers, whose roster included such future stars as Don Grady (later of My Three Sons), Annette Funicello, Sherry Alberoni (later better known for her voice work, i.e. Super Friends & Josie & the Pussycats), and Bobby Burgess (The Lawrence Welk Show). Each day had a specific day, such, as, for example, "Guest Star Day", from whence we get the following clip, which features actor-singer Cliff Edwards, aka Ukelele Ike, aka the original voice of Jiminy Cricket.

17 years after the series ended, Disney re-released it in syndication, so that parents could share their experiences with their kids. That led to the first reincarnation of the series, which we'll discuss another day. Likewise, the last and most successful incarnation will be addressed down the road.

Rating: A.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Toonfomercial: Remember the Nutter Butter Man? (1970s?)

Nabisco introduced Nutter Butter peanut butter sandwich cookies in 1969. That might actually have been when this next animated commercial first appeared.......

I think the Nutter Butter man is supposed to be Nabisco's answer to Willy Wonka, but don't hold me to that. Too bad he's not around anymore, although the cookies still are.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Literary Toons: Cyrano (1974)

From season 2 of the ABC Afterschool Special:

Cyrano is a loose adaptation of the life of Cyrano de Bergerac (Jose Ferrer). I'm sure you know the story from various live-action and animated adaptations, including Mr. Magoo's take on it nearly a full decade earlier. A then-unknown Joan Van Ark co-stars as Roxanne.

Unfortunately, all that is available now is this trailer, meant to promote a VHS release.

1988 was the year this was released on VHS. Hanna-Barbera produced this one, one of a half-dozen entries during this season, most of them in live-action form.

No rating. I have no memory of seeing this one.

Summertainment: Come On In! The Water's Pink (1968)

The Pink Panther heads off to the beach, where he makes a monkey out of a muscle-head. Here's "Come On In! The Water's Pink":

I think we've seen some of the same gags in some Road Runner cartoons (you know which ones I mean). Still, good fun for a summer afternoon.

Rating: A.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

From Primetime to Daytime: The Pizza Head Show (1993)

In the early 90's, Pizza Hut sought to attract younger customers, particularly tweens and teens. The gimmick they hit on turned out to be a radical revamp of an old Saturday Night Live skit.

The Pizza Head Show was a series of ads for Pizza Hut that ran from 1993-7, from Mr. Bill creator Walter Williams. Shoot, Pizza Head even sounds like Mr. Bill. Sixteen commercials, mostly for promotional giveaways, were produced over the course of four years. It so happens that an enterprising YouTube poster collected them all.

I think now you know where the creators of Uncle Grandpa got the idea for that sentient slice of pizza.......

Rating: B-.

From Comics to Toons: Spider-Man in The Vulture Has Landed (1981)

From Spider-Man's 1981 solo series:

The Vulture (Don Messick) begins kidnapping scientists. When Peter Parker inexplicably loses his clothes, he borrows an outfit from his friend, Harry Osborn, the son, of course, of Norman Osborn (Green Goblin). However, Vulture mistakes Peter for Harry and kidnaps Peter, which may turn out to be a big mistake.......

The original Vulture, Adrian Toomes, didn't appear in the 1967-70 series, so this would be his TV debut. Oh, there was a Vulture in 1967, but it was the 2nd one, Blackie Drago.

Rating: B.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Toonfomercial: Kellogg's tries reinventing Milton the Toaster (1996)

Nearly 30 years after creating Milton the Toaster as a mascot for Pop-Tarts, Kellogg's came up with a new model, whose eyes are inside the toaster, and whose mouth is one of the slots. Gilbert Gottfried (Aladdin) voices the new, nameless toaster.

El flopp-o, as this toaster's attitude was the pits.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Toon Legends: Doctor Pink (1978-9)

The Pink Panther takes a job at a hospital as a humble, but of course bumbling, janitor, yet he dreams of being "Doctor Pink". The copyright says 1978, but it didn't come out until a year later, and likely aired on ABC.

The Walter Mitty-esque daydreams have been a common ream for the Panther over the years. If you've seen one variant, you've seen them all.

Rating: B.

Rein-Toon-Ation: Pac-Man & the Ghostly Adventures (2013)

Pac-Man returned to action in 2013's Pac-Man & the Ghostly Adventures, currently airing as part of Sinclair Broadcasting's Kids Click package.

The series initially aired on DisneyXD here in the US, and concurrently in Japan, which got one extra season out of the series, in addition to some holiday themed episodes that didn't air here, although they could, since the series is also streaming on Netflix.

The biggest difference between this series and the game on which it's based is the premise that the ghosts are secretly pals with ol' Pac, including Pinky, a female ghost with a crush on Pac-Man. Instead of being on what seemed to be Earth in the 1982 ABC series, Pac-Man and pals are on their own world, far more surreal and bizarre thanks to CGI tech.

Let's just give you a tease with "All You Can Eat":

Ghostly Adventures was seemingly dropped by DisneyXD in 2015, but no formal announcement of cancellation was ever made. As noted, it's now on Kids Click, which is experiencing some growing pains in its first few days on the air.

Rating: B+.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

It Should've Been on a Saturday: Gettin' To Know Me (1979-80)

Back in the day, PBS affiliates filled the hours when the kiddo's were at school with an assortment of educational programs aimed at pre-schoolers. The lengths of these programs varied, but the vast majority of these shows have, unfortunately, been lost to the mists of time.

To be totally honest, I didn't even know about this next item, Gettin' To Know Me, which, while it was developed with African-American audiences in mind, is actually meant for everyone. That said, I cannot fairly rate this show, so we will forego the rating, and jump right into a sample episode:

Saturday, July 1, 2017

War of the Aardvarks (Odd Ant Out, 1970)

Here's a rare Ant & the Aardvark in which the ant isn't being chased. Well, technically.

You see, Charlie Ant (John Byner) doesn't show up until the very end, while the Blue Aardvark (Byner) duels with a green one over a can of---wait for it---chocolate covered ants. Some of the gags were boosted from the Road Runner playbook, for obvious reasons.

Here's "Odd Ant Out":

Don't know who Byner was impersonating as the Green Aardvark, in case anyone asks.

Rating: A.