Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Retro Toy Chest: An early Transformers toy commercials (1984)

Remember when the Transformers first hit the US? Remember how it was the hottest thing going?

Hasbro contracted with Marvel Productions for not only the daily animated series, but also some advertising. I had an ad with actor Alex Karras up, but that was deleted.

Here's a block of commercials:

Monday, July 30, 2018

You Know The Voice: Gilbert Gottfried (1989?)

Ever since leaving Saturday Night Live, Gilbert Gottfried has found a new career as a voice actor. You know the credits he's gained in recent years. Cyberchase, Aladdin, the original voice of the AFLAC duck. Mr. Mxyzptlk (Superman: The Animated Series & Justice League Action). He also spent a couple of years playing a figurehead executive at MTV. Shoot, if he can dial it down a few points, that basic character voice he's used for nearly 40 years could pass for Dallas McKennon's interpretation of Archie (1968-78).

In the late 80's, probably after MTV let him walk, Gilbert was a toned down version of his normal hyper self in promoting Banquet's Microwave Hot Bites, their version of chicken nuggets. This spot was originally designed to bookend commercial breaks.

Unfortunately, Banquet (now part of ConAgra) doesn't make those Hot Bites anymore......

Rein-Toon-Ation: Rise of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2018)

Rise of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the latest incarnation of Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird's legendary comics heroes for Nickelodeon. The series has already launched in Canada, but got a soft open in the US with a sneak-peek on July 20. The series will begin a regular run on Nick September 17, meaning the plan apparently is to run it daily. The first five episodes are available online.

The animation style is closer to the average cartoon on either Nick or Cartoon Network, meaning it looks a little too busy in places. Among other changes, April O'Neil, the team's most recognizable human ally, has been flipped into a young African-American woman, just because the producers felt it necessary. No sign of Shredder, long the leader of the Foot Clan. Instead, the Foot answer to a new villain, one Baron Draxum (John Cena, Total Bellas). 70's rock icon John Lydon (Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols) will also be heard in the series.

Edit, 7/21/23: The video was deleted. In its place is the intro:

I don't see a lot of these changes as being necessary, especially the artwork. An African-American April is fine, but the design looks somewhat familiar. Can't place where I've seen it before, though.

I've always believed that if it isn't broken, you don't fix it. Nick went ahead and did it anyway, rather than continue the last series, which we'll eventually look at.

The target demo will love it, but older fans? I'm not so sure.

Rating: C.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Saturday Morning Ringside: Remembering Nikolai Volkoff (1947-2018)

On television, he was presented as a villain from the Soviet Union for much of his career. In truth, Josip Nikolai Peruzovic, aka Nikolai Volkoff, was from Croatia, back when it was part of Yugoslavia, who began his wrestling career under the tutelage of the late Stu Hart in Calgary.

Peruzovic wrestled under the name Bepo Mongol initially, and the Mongols competed the then-World Wide Wrestling Federation, winning the tag titles under the direction of "Captain" Lou Albano, and Eddie Einhorn's IWF, as late as the early 70's. In 1974, he returned to the 3WF as Nikolai Volkoff, and the rest, as they say, is history. As Volkoff, he won the WWF tag titles with the Iron Sheik at the first Wrestlemania in 1985, and began singing a version of the Russian national anthem before matches to get extra heat. Truth was, he had a deep, powerful singing voice, which explains why Vince McMahon recruited him to record a cover of Jay & The Americans' "Cara Mia" for "The Wrestling Album", released at the end of '85. Volkoff would turn babyface around 1990, breaking up his partnership with Boris Zukhov as the Bolsheviks, and showed he could also nail the "Star Spangled Banner".

Outside the ring, Peruzovic settled in the Baltimore area, working with the Baltimore County Police Athletic League, among other endeavors.

From December 1984 and WWF All-Star Wrestling, three months before his final tag title victory, Volkoff goes it alone in a squash, with Fred Blassie as his manager. Jack Reynolds and Canadian icon Angelo "King Kong" Mosca are at the mics.

We also lost Brickhouse Brown, mostly known for competing in Memphis and with World Class Championship Wrestling, and Brian Christopher Lawler, son of Hall of Famer Jerry "The King" Lawler today. We'll be checking the Memphis archives for something on them before the week is out. Rest in peace.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

A live action Sugar Bear? (1970's)

Post Cereals and their ad agency experimented with their most popular cereal mascot, Sugar Bear, by going to a live action format for at least one ad, going to the guy-in-a-costume gimmick, even though Gerry Matthews was still the voice of Sugar Bear. Here, Shaggy Dan tries to steal the cereal.....

Looked like the work of the folks behind New Zoo Revue, but I doubt that.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Houndcats vs. Madame X (1972)

The Houndcats race right into a trap set by "Madame X", but, as Robert Burns wrote, the best laid plans of mice & men often go astray......

Rating: B-.

Saturtainment: Cattanooga Cats in The Big Boo-Boo (1969)

The Cattanooga Cats are entertaining a visiting ruler and his daughter, but their servant mistakenly believes abducting Kitty Jo will make the Princess' wish of learning Kitty's dance moves come true. Here's "The Big Boo-Boo":

Rating: B.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Retro Toy Chest: Remember Wiz-z-zer? (1968)

In 1968, Mattel introduced the Wiz-z-zer, a spinning top that you activated with a strap. Kind of like what Kenner would do not long after with their SST cars.

Future game show icon Wink Martindale is the announcer for this 1970 spot.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Toon Rock: The series premiere of Archie's Funhouse (1970)

After going to a hour-long format the previous season (Archie Comedy Hour), Filmation & CBS scaled the franchise back to a half-hour with Archie's Funhouse, which was their answer to NBC's popular evening sketch comedy series, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, which was entering its 4th season. Chock full of quick gags and short sketches, along with new Archies music, the series marked the end of Ron Dante's association with the franchise, as Tom McKenzie (Doodletown Pipers) became the new singing voice for Archie four years later (US of Archie).

In the opener, there are three Archies songs, billed as "Giant Jukebox hits", including "Love Vibrations" and "I'm Just a Puppet on a String", all in the second half of the show.

The music was put aside the next season for Archie's TV Funnies, and then, Filmation took a break from original material, as 1973's Everything's Archie recycled reruns from the original Archie Show under a new title, thinking viewers wouldn't know the difference, a tactic that wouldn't work today.

Rating: B.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Toonfomercial: "Mean" Mr. Clean? (1965)

Procter & Gamble tried something daring with their ad campaign for Mr. Clean in 1965. They emphasized that "Mr. Clean hates dirt", so they billed him as "Mean Mr. Clean". You don't see the usual smiling mascot here. Instead, he has a scowl 'til the end, when he ends with a wink and a smirk.

Gerald Mohr is the announcer.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Retro Toy Chest: Remember the Snowman Sno-Cone machine? (1970's)

Growing up, it was common for kids to experiment and try to make their own ice cream shakes or sno-cones.

I know, because I tried. Took some fudge bars, mixed some milk, stirred. The only mistake was not using the blender, only because Mom wouldn't have approved, so improvisation was the only way.

Mom never considered getting Hasbro's Snowman Sno-Cone Machine, either. Maybe it's for the best, because it probably would've been broken within a month of its first use at my house. Just sayin'.

You might remember this commercial:

Hasbro would later produce a variant with Snoopy and his doghouse.

No rating.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Remember when there was pudding in a can? (1968)

50 years ago, Hunt-Wesson Foods (now part of ConAgra Foods) introduced Snack Pack pudding. Five flavors, including chocolate, vanilla, tapioca, and butterscotch, and the gimmick was that they were in pull-top cans. Del Monte, as memory serves, would counter with their Pudding Cups and Fruit Cups in the 70's. I should know. I had both Del Monte Pudding Cups and Snack Pack in the cans before the latter converted to plastic, disposable cups a few years later.

What I didn't know, having not seen this next item until now, was that Hunt-Wesson went the extra mile and used a talking horse (YouTube commentators immediately assumed it was Mr. Ed) to sell the product.

Two commercials are in this clip.

Those same commentators took note that the horse's voice may have been Bill Scott using a variant on his Bullwinkle voice, but I doubt it.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Toonformercial: Betty Boop shills and sings for Formula 409 (1960's)

I think this may have come and gone before I was even born.

Betty Boop made her small screen debut in an ad campaign for Formula 409, a brand of kitchen cleaners still marketed today (Clorox currently owns the rights to the product.). From what we can gather it is not Mae Questel as Betty in this Fleischer-inspired piece.

Like, who knew?

Daytime Heroes: He-Man in The Littlest Giant (1984)

Heroes come in all sizes. Squinch (John Erwin in a bonus role) finds this out in this He-Man adventure from season 2 of the original series. Squinch and the Widgets had been introduced in an earlier story, and, in "The Littlest Giant", Squinch sets out to prove his worthiness as a hero when his own naivete gets He-Man & Battlecat trapped in Snake Mountain.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Literary Toons: Dragon's Blood (1985)

From CBS Storybreak:

Jane Yolen's 1982 fantasy novel, Dragon's Blood, the first of the Pit Dragon Chronicles, was adapted for television by Hanna-Barbera's Australian division. Scope.

The closing credits, and Bob Keeshan's end-of-show message, were edited off. There have been three sequels in the series, the last published in 2009, 22 years after the third book.

Rating: B.

Toonformercial: Snap, Crackle, & Pop sing for their breakfast (1960's)

Rice Krispies' long-running mascots, Snap, Crackle, & Pop, introduced a new jingle for the Kellogg's cereal sometime around 1966 or so. Don't have the exact year of this ad. Don't know who's doing the singing, either.

Man, dig that swingin' sound! I'm not sure if Hanna-Barbera had anything to do with this ad, since Daws Butler & Don Messick, joined by Paul Winchell, were the original voices of the three elves.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Space Sentinels in The Prime Sentinel (1977)

Y'know, I get the feeling that some of the Space Sentinels scripts could've gotten more mileage had they been written for a certain sci-fi franchise four years earlier.

Take for example "The Prime Sentinel". We find that there are other Sentinel teams across the galaxy, and one such Sentinel asks our Earth team for help when the titular Sentinel is being besieged by alien attackers. Sentinel 1 (George DiCenzo) came off flatter than usual. DiCenzo also voices Hercules, and I think either he or Lou Scheimer (Moe, Prime Sentinel) voiced the visiting Sentinel...

This series was the only cartoon credit known for actress Dee Timberlake (Astria). Hmmmmm.

Not one of the better entries in the series.

Rating: C.

Retro Toy Chest: Remember Zzzoom It? (1971)

Mattel was experimenting with all kinds of game toys in the early 70's, but this next item is something I don't remember ever seeing as a child.

Zzzoom It was released in 1971, but I'm not so sure about a long life span. I'd say maybe a year at the very minimum. What Mattel was looking to do was develop something for the boys to complement their popular Barbie line for girls.

Dick Tufeld is the narrator.

No rating.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Game Time: The Monkees shill for Nerf (& Kool-Aid) (1970)

CBS had acquired rerun rights to The Monkees after NBC cancelled the series in 1968. Two years later, the band was down to a trio, as Peter Tork had left. Guitarist and songwriter Michael Nesmith would soon follow, but not before finishing the band's contractual obligations with General Foods, at the time the makers of Kool-Aid, Post Cereals, and assorted other things. General Foods had made a deal with Parker Brothers (now part of Hasbro) for a premium mail-in offer linking Kool-Aid with Parker Brothers' newly introduced Nerf Balls.

The commercial was shot in April 1970, and marked the end of the band as we knew it at the time. Tork would ultimately return for an anniversary tour 16 years later, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Even though CBS dropped the series, that wasn't the end of The Monkees on Saturday mornings, as the series would later move to ABC for a run a year or two later before moving into syndication later in the decade.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Looney TV: Another Froggy Evening (1995)

Chuck Jones co-wrote and directed "Another Froggy Evening", a follow-up to the legendary "One Froggy Evening", which introduced Michigan J. Frog.

This time, it seems that Michigan is immortal, as he passes through various points in history.

Pretty much the same as the original, save for the "generational" aspect.

Rating: B.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Toonfomercial: Remember Ken-L Ration Burger & Bones? (1983)

This Ken-L Ration product, Burger & Bones, didn't last very long. Singer Leon Redbone, who'd also shill for All laundry detergent during his career, voices the guitar-playing dog.

Many thanks to Hal Horn at The Horn Section for valuable assistance.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Lone Ranger in The Runaway (1981)

The Lone Ranger (William Conrad) and Tonto (Ivan Naranjo) escort a prototype refrigerated train headed for Denver, but two outlaws, one of whom was already captured by the Ranger, decide they want the train for themselves. "The Runaway" was the 1st season finale, broadcast in January 1981. While not credited, Frank Welker, Alan Oppenheimer, and Lou Scheimer are also heard.

You might say Filmation was ahead of the PC movement by having Tonto speak perfect English in this series. I think Jay Silverheels, the definitive Tonto in many fans' minds, would've approved.

Rating: A.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Saturtainment: Jeeter Mason & The Magic Headset (1985-90)

From ABC Weekend Special:

Here's an interesting fable that, until I'd seen this on YouTube, I didn't even know about. Nancy Walker, still shilling Bounty paper towels at this point, lends her voice to a magic rock (!) while the majority of the ensemble cast is made up of relative unknowns in "Jeeter Mason & The Magic Headset". This was first shown in 1985, which explains why Jill Whelan (The Love Boat) joins host O. G. Readmore. This video, though, comes from a 1990 repeat.

Ernie Anderson is the announcer.

No rating.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Saturtainment: Get It Together (1970)

Dick Clark owned Saturday afternoons on ABC from the mid-60's, when American Bandstand shifted from weekdays to Saturdays, to the late 80's, when ABC finally bade good-bye to Bandstand, though it would soldier on in syndication and cable for another couple of years.

First, Clark tried out Happening as an opening act for Bandstand. That lasted a couple of seasons, changing the year at the end of the title for each calendar year, a practice Match Game adopted when CBS revived that franchise in 1973. 

And, then, there was Get it Together, which was a mid-season replacement series, presumably for Happening, when it launched in January 1970. Sam Riddle (ex-Hollywood A-Go-Go) and singer Mama Cass Elliott served as co-hosts for the half hour series.

Unfortunately, Together lasted just the one season, and ABC would begin running reruns of cartoons in the 12 noon (ET) slot ahead of Bandstand until launching ABC Weekend Special in 1977, and that series ran for nearly 20 years.

All that's available now is an episode from February 14 (Valentine's Day). The video quality isn't that great, but what can ya do?

No rating. I was usually taking a nap when this was on back then.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Toonfomercial: Remember Quiky the Nestle Quik dog? (1964)

Nestle's Quik is now known worldwide as Nesquik. Nestle changed the product name here in the US in 1999, more than 30 years after the label had been adopted overseas.

The Nesquik Bunny (Barry Gordon) has been the mascot for several decades, but he wasn't the only one. In the 50's, Nestle hired ventriloquist Jimmy Nelson to shill the product. In the 60's, in addition to Adam West as Captain Q, there was another animated mascot, Quiky.

Quiky, voiced by the incomparable Mel Blanc, was a dog who helped combat a condition known as "the slows", as demonstrated in this spot.

Rare Treats: A CBS Cartooniverse promo (1967)

Now, this is what you call going for the downs.

CBS put together this imaginative ad to promote their action-heavy 1967-8 Saturday morning block, which included reruns of the 1964 ABC series, Jonny Quest. Apparently, network suits didn't think too highly of Jack Wrather & Format Films' adaptation of The Lone Ranger (which Wrather owned the rights to at the time), which was in its second season, and, once again, was near the bottom of the lineup.

Gary Owens (Space Ghost) is the narrator, but does anyone have a clue about the surf-rockers doing the jingle?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Heart of Glass (1978)

From American Bandstand:

Blondie performs "Heart of Glass". Just seeing Debbie Harry tease using a toy bow & arrow is worth the price of admission alone. From the fall of 1978.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Animated World of DC Comics: Beware The Creeper (The New Batman Adventures, 1998)

From The New Batman Adventures:

Investigative reporter Jack Ryder (Jeff Bennett, Johnny Bravo), presented in the DCAU as an analogue for real-life muckraker-turned-talk show host Geraldo Rivera, finds himself a victim of the Joker (Mark Hamill), who dumps Ryder in the same chemical vat that had birthed the Clown Prince of Crime.

Rich Fogel & Steve Gerber bring Steve Ditko's craziest hero to life in "Beware The Creeper", the title a homage to the character's first comics series 30 years earlier.

Edit, 12/31/22: Dailymotion deleted the original video. In its place is an excerpt supplied to YouTube.

In memory of Ditko, who passed away last week at 90.

Rating: B.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Astro & The Space Mutts vs. Galactic Vac (1981)

From Space Stars:

Astro & The Space Mutts get sucked into another goofy adventure when they take on the robotic Galactic Vac (Frank Welker).

This was the kitchen break of the show, it was so bad.

Rating: C.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Summertainment: NFL players melt and shill for Diet Coke (1991)

This is just too wack for words, so I wrote about this over in The Land of Whatever. I wonder if anyone asks Boomer Esiason about this now, 27 years later, on his radio show....

Monday, July 2, 2018

From Primetime to Daytime: Kenan & Kel (1996)

It's hard to believe that Kenan Thompson, currently on Saturday Night Live, has been a television fixture for more than 25 years, starting with Nickelodeon's All That. Thompson and frequent collaborator Kel Mitchell were popular enough to warrant a spin-off series, which launched in 1996.

Kenan & Kel sprang from the mind of Kim Bass, co-creator of Sister, Sister, and featured a theme song performed by rapper Coolio. No, you wouldn't get any of the goofy "Good Burger" skits from All That, as that led to a movie all by itself. Instead, Kenan worked at a supermarket, whose boss (Dan Frischman, ex-Head of The Class) was leery of Kenan's get-rich-quick schemes, which included converting the market into a nightclub.

To that end, it made sense that Kenan & Kel often opened the show doing an Abbott & Costello-style routine, with Kenan as Bud Abbott opposite Kel's Lou Costello. Kenan's character was a amalgam of Abbott, Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason), and Sgt. Bilko (Phil Silvers), none of whom ever really succeeded with their schemes, either.

The boys were also in high school, as we'll see......

Post-series, while Thompson moved on to SNL, Mitchell has landed movie and TV roles, but nothing significant, save maybe for a part in Ben Stiller's superhero spoof, "Mystery Men". While Thompson landed the lead in the feature film adaptation of Bill Cosby's Fat Albert, where was Mitchell? I guess he didn't want the one part that would've been offered to him. Dumb Donald.

Kenan & Kel merits a B.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Toons You Might've Missed: Gandy Goose in The Ghost Town (1944)

Gandy Goose was one of Terrytoons' lesser known stars, his career lasting nearly two decades before fading into obscurity.

In 1944, Gandy and his sidekick, Sourpuss, visited "The Ghost Town" in a rollicking musical sendup of the Western genre.

Cool spot saw Gandy dancing with a feline ghost. Of course, once Sourpuss decided to cut in, you had to see the punch line coming.

Rating: A-.

Retro Toy Chest: Mystery Date (1965)

Milton Bradley's Mystery Date board game was introduced in 1965, and has been revamped and reissued three different times since then, including within the last 20 years.

The game's premise is simple, and aimed strictly at young women. Here's an early commercial: