Monday, May 31, 2021

Toonfomercial: Homer Simpson shills for MasterCard (2004)

 As part of MasterCard's long running "Priceless" series of commercials, the producers of The Simpsons contributed this spot, which follows Homer (Dan Castellaneta) on a typical day. Actor Billy Crudup is the narrator.

Well, you didn't think Homer would listen to what amounted to his conscience, did you?

Saturday, May 29, 2021

From Comics to Toons: Spider-Man Captured by J. Jonah Jameson (1967)

 From season 1 of Spider-Man:

The webhead (Paul Soles) is up against it when J. Jonah Jameson (Paul Kligman) accepts an offer from an eccentric scientist to have a robot capture Spider-Man.

This was adapted from the books, as the Spider-Slayer, unnamed in this story, had been introduced two years earlier.

Dedicated to the memory of Paul Soles, who passed away earlier this week. No rating.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Social inclusitivity catches up to the Rugrats

 We talked before about the casting changes in the new Rugrats, which began dropping episodes on Paramount+ on Thursday. The biggest change, however, is with one of the parents.

In the original series, Elizabeth "Betty" Deville was married with her twin toddlers, Phil & Lil. 30 years later, Howard (voiced by Phil Proctor) has been ret-conned out----some say he was killed off----and Betty, now voiced by Natalie Morales (ex-Parks & Recreation) is an openly gay single mom.

Morales, who is gay herself, has given interviews on the subject. It is, of course, another example of an established franchise rebooting a character for cultural or social inclusitivity. We've seen this happen several times in different media in recent years, so this is nothing new.

Online commentators have hinted that maybe the show's creators had meant for Betty to be gay all along, but the standards & practices of the time didn't allow it in an animated series, and thus she was presented as married. Some of those commentators are under the notion, perhaps misguided, that Howard Deville was killed off. We don't know that for sure. I'm leaning toward a creative decision to ret-con Howard off the show.

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

You Know The Voice: John Fiedler (1964)

 Due to the pandemic, the IRS extended the deadline for tax returns to last Monday, May 17. In 1964, though, it was still April 15, per tradition, and it's a key to the plot in this season 1 episode of The Bill Dana Show.

Steady, versatile John Fiedler, known to millions of kiddo's as the voice of Winnie The Pooh's pal, Piglet, for so many years, guest stars here as an IRS agent who has to deal with the innocent generosity of Jose Jiminez (Dana). Look also for Jerry Hausner, who voiced Mr. Magoo's cousin, Waldo, in a number of shorts.

Our good friend and fellow blogger Hal Horn now has a YouTube channel, which is where we found this item.

Gary Crosby (Eddie), Bing's son, left the series after 1 season, but most nostalgia mavens will remember him as Officer Ed Wells on Adam-12 (1968-75) and a zillion Crosby family specials.

Now, if only Hal can pull up some F-Troop episodes, since he's the biggest Forrest Tucker fan on the planet........

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Coming Attractions (or should that be, distractions?): A Legends of Tomorrow spin-off holiday special is coming.

 DC's Legends of Tomorrow has built its fan base upon its retro-campy charm, and now that has produced the series' 1st spin-off.

Image courtesy Berlanti Productions/CW/WB

Beebo, meant to be a parody, if you will, of Sesame Street's Elmo, became a cult favorite character in the series a few years back. As part of their roll-out of their 2021-2 slate today, the CW announced that Beebo will star in his own Christmas special. And, thankfully, it will be animated.

Ben Diskin (ex-Codename: Kids Next Door, among other credits) voices the title character. Legends alumnus Victor Garber will narrate, since Beebo was, in the context of the series, a child's toy that belonged to Martin Stein (Garber) as a child. Voice cast also includes Chris Kattan (Bunnicula, ex-Saturday Night Live) and Yvette Nicole Brown. The plan, of course, is for Beebo to air around December.

You've been warned.

Meanwhile, Scooby-Doo returns to the CW for a stand-alone special, as the Mystery Inc. team returns to the WB studios, only to solve a mystery at the studio. Current regulars Frank Welker, Kate Micucci, Matthew Lillard, and Grey Griffin, we must assume, will comprise the core cast. Scooby & the gang were last seen on CW in an episode of Supernatural a couple of years back. Expect this to be repurposed on HBO Max, if not also Chumptoon Network.

And, in a case of bizarre irony, CW Chairman/CEO/Head Moron Mark Pedowicz is sending Powerpuff back to the shop for a more realistic pilot, claiming the pilot that was already done was "too campy".


As a result, Powerpuff is not on the fall schedule, but could still turn up sometime in 2022 or 2023.

Finally, CW's adult-centric reboot of Nickelodeon's Legends of The Hidden Temple has made the fall lineup, and will air on Sundays, as the schedule shuffling sends Legends & Batwoman to Wednesdays this fall. Yeah, it's not for kids this time, except maybe the grown-up 90's kids that appeared on or watched the original. It'll get killed by Sunday Night Football. Just watch.

Looney TV: Looney Tunes for McDonald's (1993)

 In 1993, McDonald's obtained a license to include Looney Tunes toys in their Happy Meals. In this spot, Bugs Bunny (Greg Burson), Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, & Taz each have their own cars, because that's part of the toy promotion. Taz, of course, was starring in Fox's Taz-Mania at the time. Watervliet native Joe Alaskey voices Daffy:

Monday, May 24, 2021

Toonfomercial: Remember the Nabisco Juniors Spoonmen? (1958)

 Nabisco has long since gotten out of the cereal business, but back in 1958, they introduced some mascots for their bite-size version of Shredded Wheat cereal.

The Spoonmen were only around for 2 years (1958-60). In this spot, they're plugging plastic replicas of themselves that can fit on your spoons. Don Morrow is the narrator.

Apparently, kids weren't into these guys.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Rein-Toon-Ation: Rugrats (2021)

 One of Nickelodeon's original Nicktoons is back. Again.

Rugrats, marking 30 years of the original series this year, returns as a CGI series, officially dropping on Thursday on Paramount+.

Most of the original cast, particularly the voices of the children, are back, with Nancy Cartwright (The Simpsons) as Chuckie Finster, succeeding the late Christine Cavanaugh. Cartwright had initially taken over the part after Cavanaugh retired during the original series' run. Kath Soucie, who voices twins Phil & Lil, has given way to Natalie Morales as the twins' mom, Betty.

Other casting changes involve the adults, with Michael McKean (ex-Breaking Bad, Laverne & Shirley, et al) taking over as Lou.

Paramount+ has this sampler, "Tommy's Ball", on YouTube. Seems mean ol' Angelica (Cheryl Chase) doesn't like Tommy's new ball....

With a proposed revival of Ren & Stimpy not going forward at Comedy Central, and Doug last seen at Disney, Rugrats is the only one of the original Nicktoon trio on Paramount+, as of right now, anyway. Odds are if CC isn't interested in Ren & Stimpy, it might show up as an after dark entry on Paramount+.

Rating: A.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Coming Attractions: Krypto gets his own movie!

Next year, Krypto, The Superdog, returns to animation, this time in a DTV that will likely see a concurrent release on HBO Max.

Now, I know what you're thinking. That's been news for a while. What gives it a fresh headline is the casting of the lead. But, before I go any further, let me refresh everyone's memories of Krypto's short-lived series from approximately 15 years ago.

I think the idea here is that while Krypto has been played by a real dog on Titans, moving to HBO Max for season 3 later this year, with repurposing rights going to the network that rejected it in the first place, TNT (more on that another time), WB Animation needed a big name star. The result likely is going to make the Dog of Steel the most electrifying hero this side of Black Lightning, if you smell what Krypto's going to be cooking.

Yep, the People's Movie Star, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, already on board for "Black Adam", will star and produce the movie through his Seven Bucks production company. Johnson's previous toon experience includes Disney's "Moana" a few years ago. Now, I know what you're thinking. Old rivals John Cena & Dave Bautista are making comics related movies (Cena will be in "The Suicide Squad" later this year), so Johnson wants a piece of that action. "The League of Super-Pets" almost certainly will also include Streaky, who was Krypto's sidekick in his earlier series.

Personally, I'd have preferred a Supergirl movie first before Krypto, but, hey. If it works......!

Stay tooned.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Lone Ranger vs. The Black Knight of Death (1967)

 From season 2 of the animated Lone Ranger:

The Masked Man (Michael Rye) & Tonto face a familiar task, rescuing a village from a greedy tyrant (Marvin Miller). Here's "The Black Knight of Death":

What hurt the series throughout its run was being buried in the lunch hour death slot. However, back in those days, a network's Saturday morning slate started later than it would in later years, either at 9 or 10 am (ET).

Rating: B+.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Coming Attractions: Batman & Superman to get new animated series on HBO Max

 There've been rumors of a revival of the seminal 1992 Batman: The Animated Series for quite a while now. This morning brings word that there will be a new Bat-toon coming to HBO Max & Cartoon Network, presumably in 2022.

Batman: Caped Crusader is a joint effort between animator-producer Bruce Timm, who, along with Paul Dini, shepherded the launch of the current era of Bat-toons in 1992, producer JJ Abrams, who's working on other projects for HBO Max, and Matt Reeves, director of the forthcoming "The Batman" feature film with Robert Pattinson as the Dark Knight. 

As Batman: The Animated Series drew inspiration from Max & Dave Fleischer's Superman shorts of the 40's, the above card suggests a Golden Age inspiration as well, considering the style of cowl. No casting has been announced as yet.

Meanwhile, Superman isn't being left out of the mix.

On the heels of early success of CW's Superman & Lois, which returned from hiatus last night, HBO Max & Cartoon Network have given a 2 season commitment to My Adventures With Superman.

Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Animation/DC

As you can see, they'll go with an African-American Jimmy Olsen in this series, taking their cues from Supergirl, in which Mehcad Brooks was cast as Olsen. Lois Lane (Alice Lee, Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist) and Clark Kent (Jack Quaid, The Boys) are cast here as 20-somethings, with Jimmy as Lois' protege. Seems to be an anime influence to this series, and that worked pretty well for the Teen Titans in their first CN series. Lois & Clark work together, fall in love, share adventures. The only thing missing is whether or not they'll skip to Lois learning Clark & Superman are the same guy right away, or follow tradition. The title suggests, at least to ye scribe, that this will be told from Jimmy's or Lois' point of view, or alternately, both. If you didn't know already, Jack Quaid is the son of Dennis Quaid & Meg Ryan. Dare we hope the parents land guest roles?

Again, target for launch seems to be 2022.

All we can say now is, stay tooned.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Daytime Heroes: Challenge of The Go-Bots (1984)

 Giant, shape-changing robots were supposed to be hot in 1984.

ABC acquired Mighty Orbots, co-produced by Fred Silverman's Intermedia Productions and a Japanese studio, but that series lasted 1 season because of litigation filed by the folks at Tonka Toys, which had commissioned a series from Hanna-Barbera to air in syndication.

Challenge of The Go-Bots started as a 5-part weekday miniseries, arriving around the same time as Orbots and Marvel-Sunbow's adaptation of Hasbro's imported Transformers. As we all know, the Transformers outlasted the others, Hasbro acquired Tonka and the Go-Bots, and the Orbots were consigned to oblivion, practically.

Challenge would return as a daily series the next season, leading to a feature film the following summer, opposite "Transformers: The Movie". However, "Battle of The Rock Lords" would be the coda to the series.

The voice cast had some of the same talent as on Transformers, including Peter Cullen and Frank Welker. Kelly Ward ("Grease") not only made his animation debut as a voice actor, but was also a writer-producer as well.

I think you know the open. The final portion looks like it was lifted from 1978's Challenge of The Super Friends:

As was the case with other syndicated series that aired both locally and in New York or Boston at the same time, there would be a time lapse of about a minute or so between feeds. 

Rating: A-.

Saturtainment: The Little Rascals reborn, shilling for Jell-O (1984)

 By 1984, Hanna-Barbera's adaptation of The Little Rascals, aka Our Gang, was either in eternal rerun or cancelled at ABC. General Foods, then the makers of Jell-O products, obtained a license to revive the characters anew, this time in live action form, for a series of spots for their new Jell-O Gelatin Pops.

Yes, eventually, the kids gave way to Bill Cosby, as he would end up doing spots for the product and the similarly themed Jell-O Pudding Pops. The only actor identified in these ads through various sources is Seth Green, currently on Family Guy and Robot Chicken

Here, the kids open a stand to sell boxes of the Gelatin Pops.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Lone Ranger faces a Spectre of Death (1968)

 It's been a while since we looked in on the 1966 Lone Ranger series. This episode is from the next-to-last program from season 2.

It's an old trope that's been used time and again since. An outlaw believed dead pretends to be his own ghost to gain revenge on those that put him in prison. Here's "Spectre of Death":

Sounds like Michael Rye (The Ranger) doubled as the villain, Sutro Helm.

Rating: B.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Rare Treats: How did the Mighty Orbots get on the air? Meet the Broots (1984)

 Fred Silverman and MGM imported what would become Mighty Orbots from Japan in 1984. However, there was a prototype that was pitched to network executives before the final product hit the air.

At the time, the nascent project went under the working title of Broots, which, of course, is an anagram for Orbots. Pretty clever, don't ya think?

The characters are the same, but not the final designs. The narrator, as was the case in the series, is Gary Owens (ex-Space Ghost, Perils of Penelope Pitstop, et al):

Seems Tonka (later bought out by Hasbro) had a problem with the designs of the merged robot being too close to their Go-Bots, which have since been incorporated into Hasbro's Transformers line. As I wrote in reviewing the series some years back, there are also elements borrowed from Voltron, Defender of The Universe, which preceded Orbots to the air by a year.

Or as Jimmy Durante was supposed to have famously said, everybody wants to get into the act.

Rating: A.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Toonfomercial: The Flintstones learn about cancer (1966)

 After The Flintstones ended its primetime run in 1966, Hanna-Barbera was commissioned to produce a PSA for the American Cancer Society. Unfortunately, Jean VanderPyl was unavailable, so Gerry Johnson (Betty) stands in for her, while Betty doesn't have any lines of her own. Mel Blanc voices not only Barney, but the doctor.

Edit, 2/7/23: Had to change to a shorter video, so the doctor has been edited out.

If you recall the Busch Beer ad that was produced roughly around the same time, Johnson subbed for VanderPyl as Wilma then, too. Very rare in and of itself.

Retro Toy Chest: Remember the Wacky Wheel? (1971)

 In 1971, Hasbro introduced the Wacky Wheel, which they hoped would be a big hit with kids. Unfortunately, it wasn't, and was gone in almost no time at all.

Sounds like Arnold Stang (ex-Top Cat) doing the voice-over narration.

I'd been to a few department stores before moving downtown, but never saw any of the Wheels. Seems Hasbro was throwing a lot of things out there to see what stuck.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

You Know The Voices: Alvy Moore & Dave Willock (1965)

 From season 2 of Burke's Law:

This one's definitely not safe for kids, and, parents, you need to be in the room with them.

Alvy Moore plays a photographer who tries hitting on a school teacher, who, in turn, ultimately begins flirting with Capt. Amos Burke (Gene Barry). Said teacher finds a children's book author (Madge Blake) dead via strangulation. Dave Willock is a helicopter pilot who helps Burke find his missing Rolls after it and Henry (Leon Lontoc) are hijacked by a suspect.

Here's "Who Killed Mother Goose?":

Alvy adopted what would be his basic look for his role as Hank Kimball on Green Acres a few months later.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Coming Attractions: Legends of The Hidden Temple to be the CW

 One of Nickelodeon's most beloved game shows of the 90's is set to make a comeback, this time on broadcast television, and in primetime.

The CW has acquired the rights to a remake of Legends of The Hidden Temple, which will be, apparently, outdoors this time.

Image courtesy of Nickelodeon.

The original series was taped at Nickelodeon's Orlando studios, and was a daily game show. This time, as is the trend with revived game shows, it'll be a hour-long primetime series. Casting has begun, meaning they'll soon announce a host. Since CW is jointly owned by WarnerMedia & ViacomCBS, it seemed inevitable they'd take a chance.

Even though the market is saturated with game show reboots these days---Fox begins season 2 of their Australian-produced Name That Tune later this week---the CW hasn't dived into the waters until now.

All I can say for now is, stay tuned.

Monday, May 10, 2021

You Know The Voice: Keye Luke shills for Chun King! (1983)

 Chun King was a line of Chinese food that was originally introduced by the brains behind Jeno's pizza rolls in the 60's. By the 80's, the brand was changing hands, from RJ Reynolds (later RJ Nabisco) to a Chinese company, then to Hunt-Wesson (now ConAgra Brands).

However, as the copyright indicia at the start of this ad shows, somewhere along the way, Del Monte got their hands on Chun King.

Actor Keye Luke (ex-The Amazing Chan & The Chan Clan, Anna & The King, Kung Fu) was hired to shill for the Chun King egg rolls in 1983, which I think is his first commercial endorsement. A few years later, he would do a PSA as part of the promotion for the first "Gremlins" movie.

Toon Rock: Teach Your Children (1968-2018)

 British singer-songwriter Graham Nash wrote Crosby, Stills, & Nash's "Teach Your Children" in 1968. Fifty years later, Nash worked with independent animator Jeff Scher to develop the following retrospective video for the song, which also appears on a career retrospective collection of Nash's work, covering not only CSN, but the Hollies as well.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Saturtainment: The Mouse & The Motorcycle (1986)

 From the ABC Weekend Special:

The late Beverly Cleary wrote a trilogy of books introducing Ralph S. Mouse, who debuted in 1965's The Mouse & The Motorcycle. Ralph made his television debut in a 1986 adaptation of this novel for the Weekend Special.

Captain O. G. Readmore, now voiced by Neil Ross (who also voiced Readmore in his animated adventures), is joined by guest co-host Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver, ex-General Hospital) for this two-parter.

For what it's worth, Frank Welker, who had voiced the puppet Readmore in previous seasons, gave up the gig as his cartoon voiceover workload began to increase, including freshman series The Real Ghostbusters.

Ralph would return two years later in an adaptation of Cleary's 1970 sequel, Runaway Ralph, another two-parter. Ray Walston (ex-My Favorite Martian) would return for the sequel.

No rating. Just a public service.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: (Who's) That Lady (1973)

 The Isley Brothers originally released "Who's That Lady" in 1964, with future icon Jimi Hendrix on guitar. Nine years later, the Isleys re-recorded it as "That Lady", and it landed them on Soul Train early in national season 3, in September 1973.

Hard to tell which version's been used in advertising in recent years.

From Comics to Toons: Popeye Meets The Man Who Hated Laughter (1972)

 From the ABC Saturday Superstar Movie:

King Features' 1st television project since the short-lived live-action Blondie (1968) marked the official Saturday morning debut of Popeye, bringing along many of his King Features stablemates for "Popeye Meets The Man Who Hated Laughter". Heroes like Mandrake the Magician and The Phantom would return 14 years later (Defenders of The Earth), and Blondie & Dagwood would appear in a couple of primetime specials for CBS in the 80s. As for others like Tiger and Henry, they'd not be seen on television again.

Mind the slight hiccup toward the end. You'll see what I mean.

Should've been a two-parter.

Rating: B-.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Cinco de Mayo: Chili Corn Corny (1965)

 It's been a while since we celebrated Cinco de Mayo, and so, we present Speedy Gonzales in "Chili Corn Corny".

Speedy tries to help a starving crow (Gonzales Gonzales), but has to deal with Daffy Duck.

I think now we know why the mid-60's era of WB cartoons has been frowned upon.

Rating: B--.

You Know The Voice: Granville Van Dusen (1978)

 To cartoon devotees, Granville Van Dusen was the 2nd actor to essay the role of Roger "Race" Bannon on Jonny Quest, taking over the role from Mike Road for the mid-80's revival of the series as part of The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera.

What you might not be aware of is Van Dusen's extensive live-action resume. A couple of guest appearances on Barnaby Jones put him on producer Quinn Martin's radar, and Van Dusen was thus signed to co-star in a pilot for a proposed American version of The New Avengers.

Escapade paired Van Dusen with an up and coming star in Morgan Fairchild, later of Flamingo Road. As we documented over at The Land of Whatever, Escapade did not go to series, leaving Martin with Barnaby Jones for 2 more seasons at CBS.

Van Dusen's resume also includes The Young & The Restless, Soap, The West Wing, Space: Above & Beyond, and another unsold pilot, The World Beyond, also in 1978.

Here's Escapade:

Monday, May 3, 2021

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Ultraman (1966)

 Japan's entree into the superhero sweepstakes wasn't limited to anime.

In 1966, Tsuburaya Productions introduced the Ultra Series, the collective name for a family of adventure series, which began with Ultra Q, and would continue with Ultraman.

United Artists acquired the rights to both series, but Ultra Q has never aired here due to it being produced in black & white, and by then, Americans were getting used to seeing everything in full color. Today, Shout! Factory has the American rights to DVD releases of each available Ultraman series, including 1996's Ultraman Tiga, which landed here in 2002 on Fox.

With Marvel Comics having acquired a license last year to adapt the franchise, now would be a good time to scope the series opener. The English subtitles certainly help.

What Marvel has basically done is bring the original story forward into modern times, as we've discussed over at The Land of Whatever. Only 39 episodes were produced for this series, but they would retool the franchise with different series titles over the next 50+ years. And I know there's a few of you who can't get enough of men in monster suits. The sets were cheesy, of course, which is part of the charm.

Rating: B.

Retro Toy Chest: Remember Limbo Legs? (1969)

 Milton Bradley's Twister had long been established as a game for the whole family by the time a similar, but slightly different game, Limbo Legs, was introduced in 1969.

Limbo Legs was an elimination game, like doing the limbo itself, but this was a wee bit different.

Unfortunately, it didn't last, as it was long gone from shelves by the time ye scribe made his first visit to the toy department......

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Ride Like The Wind (1980)

 As the 80's began, Christopher Cross was one of the hottest artists on the planet, as disco was doing a sudden fade-out, and soft rock reclaimed AM radio.

"Ride Like The Wind", when it was recorded a year earlier, featured then-Doobie Brothers frontman-keyboard player Michael McDonald on backing vocals (McDonald would also lend his assistance to Kenny Loggins on "This Is It" later in 1980). Unfortunately, McDonald was a no-show, due likely to a scheduling conflict, when Cross and his band popped up on The Midnight Special in early '80.

Toonfomercial: Happy Ho-Ho & Twinkie The Kid rescue a stagecoach (date unknown)

 Some sources are claiming that Allen Swift (ex-Underdog, Tennessee Tuxedo) did most of the heroic voices for Hostess' mascots, such as Twinkie The Kid (other sources credit Mort Marshall). Others have identified Howard Morris as the voice of Happy Ho-Ho, a Robin Hood-style archer.

In this undated entry, they're rescuing a stagecoach out of control:

Funny how Hostess didn't have any female mascots, isn't it?

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Rare Treats: Mommy Gimme a Drinka Water (1996)

 In 1958, entertainer Danny Kaye recorded a children's album, "Mommy Gimme a Drinka Water" (yep, that's how it's spelled), which, admittedly, had flown under the radar until I started doing research on another album of the same name.

Nearly 40 years later, actress Didi Conn (ex-Shining Time Station, Benson, Fonz & The Happy Days Gang) recorded almost the entire album, with the tracks in a different order. Kaye recorded 20 songs, all written by Milton Schafer. Didi put 12 of them on a video compilation, in which she reaches for her inner child, as Kaye did on his album, but I don't think Kaye was able to visually interpret any of the tracks. We'll have to see about that another day.

Because each song is so short, the video flies by in a shade over 20 minutes. Have fun.

As I listened, I could picture Lily Tomlin, as Edith Ann, doing this sort of thing, but I don't think she did. We'll locate the original Danny Kaye album that was the inspiration, and check into that someday.

Rating: A.