Monday, March 30, 2020

Saturtainment: The Dangerous Desert (Micro Ventures, 1968)

We had this particular installment of Micro Ventures up previously, but it'd been deleted.

Professor Carter and his kids are looking for a microchip to figure out why a test rocket crashed. Here's "The Dangerous Desert":

Don Messick (Professor Carter) also voices Pollard. Bruce Watson (Mike) also is heard as the countdown to launch begins.

I've heard of fast work, but that gets the grand prize.

Rating: A.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Getting Schooled: The Land Before Time: The Series (2007)

I will acknowledge that I haven't seen any of the Land Before Time movies, and because of my work schedule, I didn't get to see the relatively short-lived TV series that followed.

The Land Before Time: The Series landed at Cartoon Network in 2007 as part of a mid-morning block aimed at pre-schoolers, continuing Littlefoot's adventures from the movies. The series lasted two seasons. Reruns currently are in the hands of Universal Kids.

In this sample episode, Littlefoot reconnects with a fellow longneck, but finds her new best friend is a bit of a braggart, more hyperbole than bravery.

No rating.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

From Comics to Toons (?): A Daredevil that never made it to television

It was the 1980's. Marvel Comics' Daredevil had become one of the hottest books in the market, thanks to writer-artist Frank Miller.

In 1982, ABC was considering a possible animated series which would've put the Man Without Fear back in a more light-hearted vein similar to his earliest comics stories, which began in 1964. Unfortunately, after Miller drew the cover to the April 1982 issue, released in January of that year, depicting Daredevil pointing a gun at someone, the network backed off the project, which otherwise would've given Marvel Productions their first sale to ABC way sooner than they eventually would.

Miller, who'd revamped Daredevil's origin story, and rebooted Matt Murdock's late father, Jack, a boxer, as an abusive parent, beginning a disturbing trend at Marvel that continues to this day, might not have been on board with the idea of a TV show that would've had Daredevil given a guide dog sidekick.

Years later, veteran TV & comics writer Mark Evanier, whose resume is so diverse, it includes Garfield & Friends and Welcome Back, Kotter, said he'd been brought on board to write the TV show.

Current Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort shared the following presentation pages, which turned up on Twitter....

The above artwork was by longtime Marvel art director John Romita, Sr., whose son, John, Jr., would eventually draw the Daredevil comic, and currently works for DC.

As for who would've voiced Matt/Daredevil? Well, when the hero guest starred on Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends, series regular Frank Welker (who voiced Bobby "Iceman" Drake) essayed the part, and likely would've reprised unless his heavy schedule (i.e. Smurfs, Scooby-Doo, etc.) would've prevented it.

Ah, what might've been. The Amazing Friends appearance did mark Daredevil's TV debut, though.

Literary Toons: The Berenstain Bears' Easter Surprise (1981)

Easter, as I write, is two weeks away. What better time, then, to start compiling some Easter cartoons with 1981's Berenstain Bears' Easter Surprise.

Creators Stan & Jan Berenstain wrote their stories in rhyme, just like Random House's other children's storyteller, Dr. Seuss. Here, winter crosses into spring as Easter is right around the corner,  but the titular surprise is not related to the weather.....

Buzz Potamkin's Perpetual Motion Pictures also produced the animated shorts for NBC's seasonal series, The Baseball World of Joe Garagiola during the 70's.

Rating: B.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Game Time: An episode of Answers Please (1981)

For my readers in the 518, I have this question.

Ever hear of Street Academy of Albany?

The school, later rechristened Harriet Gibbons High until the Albany School District closed the school in 2010, made history appearing on Answers Please in February & March of 1981. WRGB weatherman Tim Welch was the series host at the time.

Here is Street Academy's second game, this one against another now-defunct school, Keveny Academy of Cohoes.

Street Academy captain Chuck Miller, a fellow blogger, uploaded the above to YouTube. Chuck is a local historian who's also written some extensive pieces on the Albany Patroons, back in their glory days.

As for Answers Please, with the exception of John Wagner, principal at Guilderland High in the mid-80's, the moderators usually came from the news department (i.e. Tim Welch, Jim Brennan, and the late Ed Dague).

We'll forego a rating.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Game Time: Bowling Stars (1956)

Mounting a syndicated bowling show proved to be problematic back in the 50's & 60's.

A ways back, we took a look at Walter Schwimmer's Championship Bowling, which ran for six seasons. This time, we're looking at a predecessor which blazed the trail, which, until Schwimmer came along, had dried up.

Bowling Stars, as far as we know, lasted just one season. The show, with announcer "Whispering" Joe Wilson, traveled the country, as ABC's long running Pro Bowlers Tour would do years later.

This sampler was taped in Chicago, as local star Johnny King faces Billy Welu, who would later be a color analyst for ABC.

They bowled a game and change off camera because this was a half-hour show. No wonder it flopped.

Rating: A. I'm a retired league bowler, so I'm charitable.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Toonfomercial: Winnie The Pooh discovers Honey Nut Cheerios (1988)

Over the years, General Mills and its advertising agency have paired up Buzz Bee, the mascot for Honey Nut Cheerios, with a variety of guests, including Hulk Hogan and, in this 1988 spot, Winnie The Pooh (Jim Cummings) and Tigger (Paul Winchell).

Note the toy promotion at the end of the ad. There is another version of the ad online without the promotion.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Cybersix (1999)

Cybersix had its origins in a comic book published in Argentina in 1991. Eight years later, Animators in Canada & Japan brought the series to life in an animated adventure series that aired on Teletoon in Canada and Fox in the US. Unfortunately, conflicts between the studios resulted in the series being cancelled after one season.

TMS Entertainment, one of the studios involved, has a YouTube channel, from whence we get the series opener, "The Mysterious Shadow":

Rating: B.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Game Time: TV Tournament Time (1958)

If you're like me, and you grew up in upstate New York in the 60's, 70's, or 80's, odds are that if your family was into bowling, then Sundays usually meant TV Tournament Time, which launched in 1958, and became as much of an icon as the station that carried it, WRGB.

Weatherman Howard Tupper was the folksy, genial host and play-by-play commentator for most of the series' run. When Tupper passed away in the mid-80's, news reporter Dick Beach took over as host for the remainder of the run, though, if memory serves me correctly, Tupper's successor as weatherman (they didn't have meteorologists just yet at WRGB), Tim Welch, also filled in when he wasn't doing Answers Please.

After taping at Boulevard Bowl for a number of years, WRGB built its own two lane bowling center for later tapings. Ye scribe had the pleasure of attending one of those tapings to root on a friend who was bowling on the show.

Following is a compilation tape featuring Guy Vizzie, Jr., an Athens native who ran the table on an Easter Sunday episode in 1980, then was the tournament leader, if you will, nearly four years later. The video is a little choppy early in the 1980 episode, but it gets better, and the video, given to the YouTube poster who put the tape online, also has some commercials, including a house ad for Tom & Jerry & Friends, which aired weekday afternoons during the 1979-80 season.

This was must-watch at my house, and, I can imagine, at yours, too, if you lived in the 518.

Rating: A+.

Toon Legends: Heckle & Jeckle in Happy Go Lucky (1947)

Heckle & Jeckle find an apple tree, guarded by Dimwit, and the usual fun starts. Sid Raymond performs all the voices, including a modest W. C. Fields mimic for Jeckle, in "Happy Go Lucky":

Hadn't seen this one since the syndication days of the 70's.

Rating: B.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Car Wash (1976)

Rose Royce had just one Top 40 hit, and that was the theme to the 1976 movie, "Car Wash", which brought the group to Soul Train:

Saturday, March 21, 2020

From Primetime to Daytime: Annie's Desert Adventure (Annie Oakley, 1954)

Annie Oakley is currently airing on Decades as part of the network's new pre-dawn Lost TV block on Saturday mornings.

Today, Decades presented "Annie's Desert Adventure", in which Annie (Gail Davis) has to clear a newly released ex-con (Denver Pyle in an early role) framed for robbery.

The early air time is meant for the DVR crowd, as Annie Oakley airs at 4:30 am (ET).

Rating: B.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Zorro in Three's a Crowd (1981)

Zorro (Henry Darrow, ex-Harry O, High Chaparral) must not only deal with the greedy territorial governor general, but pirates as well, to retrieve tax money unjustly acquired from San Diego. "Three's a Crowd" was the series opener.

Don Diamond (ex-F-Troop), the voice of Sgt. Gonzalez, played Sgt. Garcia's aide in the Disney series.

Rating: A.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Rein-Toon-Ation: Jonny Quest in Riddle of The Ancient Mariner (2001)

Here's another Cartoon Network Web Premiere Toon, and this one brings together two 60's stars for the first time.

Jonny Quest, in an oversized diving outfit, tries to solve "The Riddle of The Ancient Mariner". Look who he finds:

Squiddly Diddly a menace? Jeff Bergman worked overtime duplicating the voices of Don Messick (Bandit, Dr. Quest), and, we presume, Paul Frees (Squiddly). The flash animation looked too much like animated colorforms here. Not good. Too short.

Rating: C-.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: You Make me Feel Like Dancing (1976)

From The Midnight Special:

Leo Sayer performs one of his iconic 70's hits, "You Make me Feel Like Dancing". Intro by host du jour Lou Rawls.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

On DVD: Batman: Return of The Caped Crusaders (2016)

Today, there are people who don't have the same kind of appreciation for the live-action Batman that ran from January 1966-March 1968 that they did when they were much younger.

However, as the series marked its 50th anniversary, Warner Bros. decided to mark the occasion with the DTV, "Batman: Return of The Caped Crusaders", not only marking another reunion of Adam West & Burt Ward as Batman & Robin, but with the added treat of ageless Julie Newmar as Catwoman.

You want cheese? You get cheese. Check out the trailer:

Jeff Bergman's role as announcer for Gotham Palace, a nod to West hosting Hollywood Palace during his run as Batman, is meant to be an impersonation of William Dozier. Wally Wingert was similarly doing his best Frank Gorshin mimic as Riddler. Bergman didn't narrate the movie, didn't have to. If you saw Ward during Crisis on Infinite Earths a couple of months back, you know his voice is still in fine fettle.

Of course, there would be a sequel, which would be the coda for West, who passed away after recording his lines for "Batman vs. Two-Face". With Batman & Catwoman now very much a couple in the comics, Dozier and his writers are somewhere in comics heaven, smiling. Michael Jelenic, who's been ripped in this space for the unfunny Teen Titans Go! & ThunderCats Roar, teamed with James Tucker (Justice League) on the script. They did get carried away with the sound effect balloons, though. Spork!?

Rating: B+.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Toon Legends: Mighty Mouse in Gypsy Life (1945)

One of the things that set Mighty Mouse apart from the rest of the Terrytoons line was a series of operatic shorts in the mid-40's. Most, but not all, featured Pearl Pureheart and Mighty's nemesis, Oil Can Harry.

That won't be the case here, in 1945's "Gypsy Life". Instead, Mighty Mouse helps a gypsy tribe survive an attack by vampire cats.

Posted by Stephen Worth.

I've seen this several times back in the day. I was never a fan of these mini-operettas.

Rating: B--.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

On The Air: Hearts of Heroes (2019)

Hearts of Heroes leads off Litton's Weekend Adventure, as seen on ABC affiliates, on Saturdays. Ginger Zee (Good Morning America) is the series host/narrator.

Hearts springs from a previous Litton series, Rescue Heroes, following the same track, chronicling stories that didn't make the evening news about disasters. The series launched 14 months ago as a midseason replacement (Weekend Adventure has aired on ABC stations since 2011), and is meant as family viewing time, enabling parents to explain to the kiddo's what exactly caused the disasters and such.

This week's show is a repeat that covers the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. Hearts of Heroes has its own YouTube channel:

As schools are contemplating temporary closure due to COVID-19, maybe Litton should consider releasing the first season on DVD, if they haven't already done so.

Rating: A.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Tooniversary: The Lone Ranger in The Memory Trap (1980)

Filmation's adaptation of The Lone Ranger turns 40 this year. In celebration, we serve up this 1st season tale....

The Ranger (William Conrad) gets amnesia while in pursuit of Frank & Jesse James. Here's "The Memory Trap":

Author Dennis Marks, returning to Filmation after a lengthy absence (he wrote a number of Batman episodes 12 years earlier) is also heard as one of the outlaws, maybe more. Only Conrad and Ivan Naranjo (Tonto) are credited, but there's no mistaking Marks or Frank Welker in the cast as well.

Rating: B.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Toons You Might've Missed: The Bone Ranger (1957)

Terrytoons, during the Gene Deitch era, introduced a fair number of new characters.

Sniffer, a wandering, homeless dog, was one of those new stars in the making. Unfortunately,while 1957's "The Bone Ranger" was considered for an Oscar (the title suggested something entirely different, like a parody of a certain Western hero of the day), it didn't make the final cut.

"The Bone Ranger", as the title card in the following video suggests, was used as a backup feature on Heckle & Jeckle's CBS show.

Deitch was blatantly trying to copy what UPA was doing under John Hubley, but no one was buying into Sniffer.

Rating: C.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Getting Schooled: Wishbone (1995)

Eat your heart out, James Thurber. Walter Mitty never had it this good.

Wishbone, which produced 50 1st run episodes across two seasons on PBS (1995-7), put a twist on the Mitty story in that the title dog was doing the daydreaming, allowing for the writers to adapt any number of tales from literature or movies.

Here's the intro:

I tell ya, that theme music will still have you toe-tapping while it plays in your head. Reruns currently air on the PBS Kids digital channel.

Rating: A.

You Know The Voice: Jack Sheldon (1969)

After Run, Buddy, Run was cancelled, Jack Sheldon found himself a part of Jack Webb's repertory company on Dragnet, and, in this 1969 offering, on the wrong side of the law and history.

Jack is a suspect this time around, as Webb and company chronicle the debut of the first ever drug sniffing dog in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Rein-Toon-Ation: Curbside (1999)

For those of us who've been yearning for Nickelodeon to actually, well, you know, DO SOMETHING with the Terrytoons characters, we offer a cautionary tale of how Nick actually tried once, and failed spectacularly.

Curbside was a hybrid talk show parody/anthology produced by some people with no prior knowledge of the Terrytoons roster. Cartoon historian Jerry Beck was originally attached to the project, but was long gone before the show actually was completed.

You had The Mighty Heroes, back in their heroic attire, 12 years after Ralph Bakshi had rebooted them as retired and running an accounting firm on Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures, as a house band for Heckle & Jeckle, who have gone from magpies to crows, the creative staff assuming the two breeds of birds are actually the same. In fact, the twin magpies' names were mixed up, according to one account. Instead of two distinct personalities and voices to match, Heckle (Toby Huss, King of The Hill) has lost his Brooklyn accent, and Jeckle (Bobcat Goldthwait) no longer is British. Instead, they're brothers.

Tom Terrific (Haley Joel Osmont) has lost his shapechanging powers and his canine sidekick, Mighty Manfred. Now just an ordinary boy, Tom has to rely on Mighty Mouse (Dee Bradley Baker) for help with a giant. Baker also voices Silly Sidney, who's still got issues in the jungle. Deputy Dawg (Billy West, Futurama) has recruited frenemy Muskie (Rob Paulsen) as a sidekick, but their pal Vincent Van Gopher is now an unrepentant scoundrel.

Judge for yourselves, folks.

They tried to emulate the Bakshi/John Kricfalusi animation style for Mighty Mouse, but the damage to the brand was so severe, as a whole, now you know why Nick is so hesitant to try again.

Rating: C-.

Monday, March 9, 2020

You Know The Voice: Bud Collyer (1956)

By 1956, Bud Collyer was hosting two CBS game shows, Beat The Clock and To Tell The Truth. Truth had not yet premiered by the time Collyer crossed over to I've Got a Secret in the fall of '56 to test some stunts for the Halloween episode of Clock, which would air a few days later..........

Edit, 6/27/22: The video has been deleted. We'll see if we can find a fresh copy.

I could've waited 'til Friday (The 13th), but I couldn't resist.....

Animated World of DC Comics: The Batman-Superman Hour (1968)

By now, you all know how this came about.

Once Batman ended its run on ABC, Filmation acquired the rights to---finally---do an animated version of the series, adding it to what they already had at CBS.

To make room, the Superman-Aquaman Hour of Adventure morphed into The Batman-Superman Hour, with Aquaman repeats moving to Sunday mornings, set adrift on its own.

Olan Soule (Dragnet, ex-Captain Midnight, The Andy Griffith Show) was cast as Batman/Bruce Wayne and Alfred. Radio DJ Casey Kasem (Shebang) voiced Robin and a bazillion henchmen. Jane Webb, in her 2nd season at Filmation, voiced all the female characters, including Batgirl and Catwoman. Ted Knight narrated and voiced all the main male villains except The Joker. Most sources insist he did, but closer examination reveals Larry Storch (ex-F-Troop, Tennessee Tuxedo) was the actual voice of the Clown Prince of Crime.

We've reviewed the individual series in the past. The format for the hour-long show went kind of like this:

For Batman: A two-part episode, followed by a shorter piece.

For Superman (3rd season), a two-part episode, followed by a Superboy short.

The opening video has been lost to the mists of time. However, you might remember this here title card:

                                                         The Batman-Superman Hour.jpg   

I barely remember seeing this in its original context. I caught up with the reruns in syndication, when each series was on its own, in the 70's, thanks to airing on WNEW (now WNYW) in New York and WSBK in Boston.

Each segment has been reviewed and rated. No need to do any additional rating.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Toons You Might've Missed: Good Deed Daly in Cloak & Stagger (1956)

Good Deed Daly, a pre-teen Boy Scout, was one of those new Terrytoons experiments during the Gene Deitch era of the studio in the mid-50's.

Unfortunately, Daly only appeared in three shorts between 1955-6, the last of which was "Cloak & Stagger", in which the resourceful juvenile takes on foreign spies.

This is the first time I've seen this cartoon, as it was not in syndication in the 70's.

Rating: B.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Toonfmercial: The origin of the angry puppy (2001)

If you've seen the 2002 "Scooby-Doo" live-action feature, you know that Scrappy-Doo was cast as the villain for no other reason than to play to the internet's hatred of Scooby's feisty, proactive nephew. Said hatred, as we've discussed, was misplaced, since a format change to Scooby & Scrappy-Doo in season 2 was blamed on Scrappy, but in reality, it wasn't his fault.

More than 20 years later, Cartoon Network decided to capitalize on the haters, and had Scrappy ranting, jealous of the Cartoon Cartoon line. Who else could make Dexter cry?

To reiterate the real reason why the format was changed in 1980: ABC ran a Scooby-Doo primetime special, sans Scrappy, which would be Scooby's only primetime opus for the network, The ratings must've left a good enough impression such that the format change went into effect nine months later. The haters have never seen Scooby Goes Hollywood, else they'd know the truth, and even though it's there, they'll ignore it. Their loss.

Friday, March 6, 2020

You Know The Voice: Wally Cox for Sport cola (1968)

Back in the day, Canada Dry, now part of the Snapple/Dr. Pepper group, expanded its line with products like Wink and Sport. Neither are around now, but I only became aware of Sport in the early 70's.

Sport actually debuted in 1968, with actor-comedian Wally Cox (Hollywood Squares, ex-Underdog, Mr. Peepers) as the pitchman. Cox left us 5 years later, but Sport may have left around the same time.

Here's a pair of ads:

From Out of The Recycling Bin: Merrie Melodies Starring Bugs Bunny & Friends (1990)

Bugs Bunny and pals had been syndication staples for several years when Warner Bros. decided to repackage the classic shorts as a daily syndicated series in 1990.

Merrie Melodies Starring Bugs Bunny & Friends was meant for 2 things.

1. It was a complement to ABC's Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show on Saturday mornings.

2. It was also meant to be competition for the Disney Afternoon anthology block.

After two seasons, Merrie Melodies was picked up by Fox, which already had Tiny Toon Adventures, and would add Batman: The Animated Series to its after-school block. If memory serves, Merrie Melodies aired in the morning in the home district, which is why I never saw it.

This intro spotlights a Road Runner-centric episode:

Daffy never quite got it back then.

No rating.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Saturday School: Bugs Bunny schools viewers on the Constitution (1986)

With Bugs Bunny back in the fold for a 3rd go-round at ABC, the network commissioned this piece that has Bugs and Daffy Duck on stage, as Daffy tries to horn in on the act, not realizing that it isn't an act, aside from Bugs trying to sing.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Dance With Me (1975)

Orleans may just be the only 70's band that would later have one of its members elected to Congress.

That would be guitarist-singer John Hall, who brought the band onto The Midnight Special in 1975 to do a stripped down version of their first top 40 hit, "Dance With Me":

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Toon Rock: Grease (1978)

Most of us have seen the 1978 adaptation of "Grease" on cable a few times in the last 40+ years. That said, you all have seen the animated intro to the movie. The title song, written by Barry Gibb (Bee Gees) and sung by Frankie Valli (his last solo hit), still gets airplay on oldies channels even today.

It all starts with Vince Fontaine (Edd Byrnes, ex-77 Sunset Strip) on the radio.....

Monday, March 2, 2020

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Kiss You All Over (1978)

Exile only had one big hit on the pop charts, which was 1978's "Kiss You All Over", which in turn landed the band on The Midnight Special:

Vocalist Jimmy Stokley was let go a year later, and not long after that, Exile transitioned onto the country charts, where they scored a few modest hits in the 80's.