Friday, June 29, 2018

Toons You Might've Missed: The Huffless, Puffless Dragon (1964)

The American Cancer Society (what a shock) commissioned this next item, which was released in theatres, and likely also in schools, in 1964.

The Huffless, Puffless Dragon is exactly what it is, a nearly 10 minute infomercial about the dangers of smoking, using dragons to illustrate the point. Howard Morris (The Andy Griffith Show, Your Show of Shows) and Charlotte Rae are among the talents that have been identified by research sources, although Dragoon, the red dragon, sounds like Paul Frees (another shock). Judge for yourselves, kids.

Looks like the kind of preachy fare you'd find in smaller doses on weekday mornings & afternoons, but the animation is a little flat.

Rating: B--.

Literary Toons: Grinny (CBS Storybreak, 1985?)

Here's a CBS Storybreak entry that somehow has managed to avoid being included in online listings for the anthology series.

Nicholas Fisk's Grinny was adapted for television, but because the closing credits have been cut off, the exact year of production cannot be discerned. Darleen Carr (ex-Sugar Time) and Barry Gordon (ex-Fish, Archie Bunker's Place), who was the voice of the Quik Bunny for many years, and, as we all know, gained his greatest toon successes with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & SWAT Kats, are among the voices heard.

No rating.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

You Know The Voice: Dick Beals (1983)

If you've ever envisioned what the late voice actor Dick Beals looked like, there are at least two examples.

Dick guest starred on Peter Gunn several years back, but in 1983, he found himself in a more familiar milieu, making a rare on camera appearance in the ABC Weekend Special episode, "All The Money in The World", playing a leprechaun. The cast also includes Hal Williams (ex-Sanford & Son, later of 227) and Lee Patterson (One Life to Live).

Did you know that Dick parlayed his years of shilling for Alka Seltzer into owning his own ad agency? That was what he was doing in the 80's when the producers of "Money" called him about this gig.

No rating.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Toonfomercial: Remember Carly Cardinal? (1986)

The Arbor Day Foundation introduced viewers to their mascot, Carly Cardinal, in the 80's. Carly's still around, on the foundation's website, but this is the first time I've seen this ad:

Monday, June 25, 2018

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Galaxy Trio vs. The Duplitrons (1967)

It's been far too long since we checked in with the Galaxy Trio.

An alien war monger captures Meteor Man (Ted Cassidy) and builds an android duplicate, having previously done the same to the Chief (Don Messick). Spektor, not to be confused with the Gold Key comics hero, intends to have three Earth countries declare war on each other. Mike Road (The Herculoids) is also heard in "The Duplitrons":

For some reason, much of the background music from the Birdman lead feature was used here more than usual.

Rating: B.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Sunday Funnies: Mummy's Dummies (1948)

The Three Stooges are in Egypt as used chariot salesmen. When that gets them in trouble, they manage to uncover a plot to rob the king's tax money. Here's "Mummy's Dummies":

Rating: A.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Leon White, aka Vader (1955-2018)

He hasn't yet been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, but maybe he will be next year, posthumously.

In the course of his wrestling career, Leon White, otherwise known as Vader, or, Big Van Vader, won 3 WCW World titles, 3 IWGP titles in Japan, and 3 Catch Wrestling Association titles in Austria. Not bad for a former Los Angeles Rams offensive lineman whose NFL career was cut short due to injuries in the 80's. White transitioned into wrestling, first with the AWA, which gave him the nicknames "Baby Bull" and "Bull Power", then, to Japan, where his Big Van Vader persona emerged.

As Vader, White returned to the US in 1990, signing with World Championship Wrestling, then aligned with the National Wrestling Alliance. On their syndicated programming, Vader showcased his incredible agility for a man listed at over 400 pounds (announcer Tony Schiavone said it was "well over 300 pounds"). In this clip, a handicap squash, you couldn't tell that Vader was meant to be a heel, or rulebreaker......

The helmet and cowled mask gave way to a new mask not long after.

Vader came to the then-World Wrestling Federation later in the 90's, and that led to a recurring gig on ABC's Boy Meets World. In the context of the series, Vader was the father of one of the school bullies, played by Ethan Suplee.

Rest in peace.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Summertainment: Little Lulu (ABC Weekend Special, 1978-91)

With summer right around the corner, thoughts for kids turn from school to summer camp.

Marjorie Buell's Little Lulu is brought to life in this ABC Weekend Special entry, which was first shown in 1978, and last aired, as this video implies, in 1991. We know this based on the commercials, including an ad for the ABC Western, The Young Riders. Capt. O. G. Readmore is no longer a puppet, but strictly an animated character by this point. Neil Ross is heard as Readmore in the open, but a 1984 interstital appears to have Frank Welker, who voiced the puppet version of Readmore, in place of Ross.

Back to Little Lulu. This first offering is set amidst the equal rights movement of the 70's. Lulu and her friends get to join the boys at summer camp for the first time.

Personal note. I spent two seasons at a summer day camp in the hometown. Said camp has long since closed, but back in the day, my brother & I would hike up the hill to get to the camp, then walk home. The camp, like Camp Wackadoo, was co-ed, but at the time, I wasn't interested in finding a girlfriend. That would come later. Much later.

The cast includes Laurie Hendler, Tim Reid (WKRP In Cincinnati), Robbie Rist (ex-Big John-Little John, The Brady Bunch), Beverly Archer (later of Major Dad), and Billy Jacoby, the latter of whom appeared in a few more Weekend Special episodes. The program ends with a promo for the sequel, The Big Hex of Little Lulu, with narration by Dick Tufeld, who was the studio announcer for ABC's Saturday morning shows for a few years.

Here's Little Lulu:

As most fans know, Lulu was a brunette in the comics, but not here. Meh.

Rating: B-.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: No More Kings (1975)

With Independence Day 2 weeks away, let's take a trip back in time with Schoolhouse Rock. Lynn Ahrens wrote & sang "No More Kings":

Friday, June 15, 2018

Literary Toons: The Bollo Caper (1985)

From the ABC Weekend Special:

Humorist Art Buchwald's novel, The Bollo Caper, was adapted for television by independent animator Rick Reinert, who produced several episodes of Weekend Special, sharing the animation load with Ruby-Spears and DIC during the 80's. If you thought Buchwald was all about political satire, think again.

Bollo (Michael Bell, Smurfs, etc.) is brought to the US, ostensibly to be killed and his fur turned into a coat for a wealthy aristocrat. However, he knows that he is a rare breed, a golden leopard, and turns to Congress for help.

Unfortunately, this comes during an era when some genius at ABC decided that O. G. Readmore (Frank Welker) needed a co-host on a steady basis, and the best they could do, save for a guest appearance by Vincent Price (likely to plug 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo), was Jon Bauman (ex-Sha Na Na, Pop 'n' Rocker Game, Match Game/Hollywood Squares Hour), back in his familiar guise as Bowzer, long before the dimwitted greaser packed on the pounds. At the time, Bauman had moved on to become one of VH1's first VJ's. Poor O. G..

I'm going to see if I can find any episodes hosted by either Michael Young (Kids Are People, Too) or Willie Tyler & Lester down the road.

Rating: B.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Teenage Toons: Fat Albert in Little Girl Found (1981)

Fat Albert (Bill Cosby) and the gang lose their TV set when a young runaway (Erika Scheimer) steals the set and sells it to earn some easy cash. However, she needs the gang's help when she runs afoul of some older thugs. Here's "Little Girl Found":

Rating: B.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Show & Tell (1973)

From Soul Train:

Al Wilson cracked the top of the pop charts in early 1974 with "Show & Tell", released as a single in October 1973. What you might not know is that "Show" was a cover of a minor Johnny Mathis record that reached the top 40 in 1972, and would be Mathis' last hit for a few years. Wilson's version also cracked the top 10 on the soul chart.

I remember hearing this on the radio quite a bit in the fall of '73, and wishing I could learn the lyrics, in case I ever landed a steady girlfriend. Unfortunately, I never did learn the song......

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Saturtainment: Don't Hustle an Ant With Muscle (1970)

Here's an entertaining Ant & The Aardvark short, this one culled from an NBC broadcast in the 70's.

Charlie Ant (John Byner) is, as usual, on the run from the aardvark (Byner), and runs through an open window into an empty house, where he finds a bottle of vitamins, and that gives him an idea.

The moral is in the title: "Don't Hustle an Ant With Muscle":


Rating: A.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Toon Rock: Hip to be a Square (1989)

From Sesame Street:

It took three years, but the PBS series parodied Huey Lewis & The News' 1986 hit, "Hip to be Square". Paul Jacobs is the singer on "Hip to be a Square":

You Know The Voice: Frank Welker (1973)

For all of his accomplishments in animation, Frank Welker has never had a regular live-action gig. The closest he came was an unsold pilot for ABC in 1973.

Frank is part of the ensemble, headed by Richard Dreyfuss, in an adaptation of Joseph Heller's Catch-22, which Paramount was hoping would be a challenger to a well known CBS series, M*A*S*H, which, like Catch-22, had first been in theatres three years earlier, but was far more successful.

Frank first appears around the 3:50 mark as a pilot, and, danged if he doesn't sound like he's using his Fred Jones voice from Scooby-Doo.

More on Catch-22 over at The Land of Whatever.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Prince Planet (1965)

Japan's Prince Planet premiered in 1965 under the title, Prince Boy Papi, and lasted just 1 season. The series was first imported to the US a year later, as you'll see, with American International Pictures holding the US rights. In those days, there was plenty of advertising here for the Peace Corps, and so, as it was translated, Prince Planet was an agent of the Universal Peace Corps.

The video we're presenting is actually a 2-for-1 offering, as Prince Planet returned to the airwaves in Chicago in 1974, with puppeteer Steve Hart hosting the program. By this time, kids show hosts had largely disappeared across the country, save for larger markets such as Chicago and Los Angeles. I know this to be true here at home because the local stations didn't use hosts for cartoons on mornings or afternoons until WXXA brought in Ranger Danger in 1992 in an attempt to revive the genre.

Right now, here's the premiere of Prince Planet, as it was presented in black & white.

I am only going to guess here, but it appears Hart was one of a number of competitors trying to unseat Bozo's Circus as the #1 kids show in the Chicago market back then. He puts on a decent show, and I wonder if, with the use of "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" as a character on the show, if Hart educated his audience about the great fire in Chicago many years earlier.

Rating for Prince Planet: B.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Teenage Toons: Fat Albert in Gang Wars (1985)

It is the darkest episode of Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids in the course of its 13 year run.

In "Gang Wars", Albert (Bill Cosby) steps in to try to not only prevent a gang war, but to protect his new friend, Fernando, whose brother, Tito, is one of the gang leaders, conscripting his younger sibling into his gang. In an example of how the anti-violence rules had been either excised or relaxed in the 80's, this was the most violent episode of the series.

Unfortunately, there isn't a complete copy to be had, so this 3:00+ edited excerpt is all we have.

Edit, 3/11/20: The end credit card in this new video is not original.

Cosby never meant for Fat Albert to be physically tough, but, rather, a voice of reason. In a different context, I don't think the Green Street Gang would've been so cocky.....

Rating: A.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Daytime Heroes: Hector Heathcote in Drum Roll (1961)

Let's take a trip to colonial times with Hector Heathcote in 1961's "Drum Roll". Hector (John Myhers) is a drummer for the fictional 33 1/3rd company of the Colonial Army. You can figure out the rest.

Note: This is the original theatrical release, not edited for television use.

Rating: B.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Toonfomercial: Meet Chiquita Banana (1944)

In the 40's United Fruit, the parent company of Chiquita Bananas, decided to promote their product with an animated commercial shown only in movie theatres with the coming attractions. Singer Monica Lewis is the voice of Chiquita here.

Don't know who United Fruit commissioned to do the animation for this one, but this looks tasty.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Rare Treats: Bill Cosby vs. Fat Albert, aka The Weird Harold Special (1971-3)

If but for a twist of fate, Bill Cosby could've stayed at NBC with Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids. However, the network wasn't interested at the time in a show that had the goal of educating its audience at its core.

In 1971, as we've documented, Cosby began working on PBS' Electric Company, and had also shot the live-action-animated hybrid special, Aesop's Fables, to start his association with CBS. As noted when we reviewed Aesop, it was a collaboration between Filmation & Lorimar. Cosby had also completed a second special for Filmation, but it took two years before it saw the light of day.

In May 1973, eight months after Fat Albert launched on CBS, the gang moved over to NBC for one night, as NBC held the rights to The Weird Harold Special, or, as it was known on the screen, Bill Cosby vs. Fat Albert. They went with Weird Harold, thinking viewers might be fooled into thinking it was something different. As it was, it was never shown again on network television, due to the simple fact that with the series itself airing on CBS, it was bad form for the gang to suddenly appear on a rival network, even if it was for one night, coming as it did four years after the Ken Mundie-produced Hey, Hey, Hey, It's Fat Albert! had aired on NBC.

The plot is a simple one. The guys are racing homemade go-carts down the dangerous Dead Man's Hill. Cosby not only voices his younger self, Mushmouth, & Fat Albert, but also his father and a convict. I believe that is character actor Henry Silva as the judge.

It's said this episode ultimately surfaced when the series moved to syndication in 1984. Today, however, is the first time I've seen it.

Rating: A.