Thursday, July 31, 2014

Looney TV: The Honeymousers (1956)

Over at The Land of Whatever, we took a look at Jackie Gleason's seminal sitcom, The Honeymooners. Now, it's time to scope out Warner Bros.' send-up of the series.

Director Robert McKimson produced 3 shorts starring The Honeymousers between 1956-60. These might be the rarest of WB cartoons if in fact Mel Blanc had little or nothing to do with them. The familiar characters have been rebooted as mice, with the Kramdens becoming the Crumdens, and the Nortons, the Mortons. Daws Butler spoke for both Ralph Crumden and Ned Morton, while June Foray voiced Alice. In the final short, "Mice Follies", Foray was unavailable, likely due to a scheduling conflict (Rocky & His Friends was in production at the time), so Ginny Tyler was cast as Alice and Trixie, but not credited.

Unfortunately, none of the three are available in complete form on YouTube, and so all we can do is give you the climatic moments from "The Honeymousers":




I realize that there's only so much you can do with mice imitating such iconic characters, and McKimson realized that, too, which is why he stopped at three.

Rating: A.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Animated World of DC Comics: Super Friends vs. The Mind Maidens (1977)

Talk about women's lib gone way wrong!

In this Super Friends adventure, the team is betrayed by Wonder Woman (Shannon Farnon) and Jayna (Louise "Liberty" Williams), who have been subjugated by Medulla, leader of "The Mind Maidens", bent on---wait for it---taking control of the world by making all men disappear.

Unfortunately, the entire episode is not available. What I can tell you is that it takes some quick thinking from Superman to foil Medulla's plot. The sight of Jayna dematerializing her brother, Zan, is just too much for words. Fortunately, that scene is not included in this clip:




Between Medulla and Hawkman's enemy, the Gentleman Ghost, this was as close as the team got to facing super-powered enemies during this season, but of course, that would soon change.

Rating: B.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Klondike Kat (1963)

Klondike Kat, which started off as a backup feature for Tennessee Tuxedo, then was repackaged in syndication with Underdog, was a parody of Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. Klondike (Mort Marshall) was always tracking down Savoir Faire (Sandy Becker), a Quebecois mouse (hey, it was set in Canada, don'tcha know), who was stealing whatever wasn't nailed down. Problem was, it was a 1-trick pony that got ridden into the ground.

It seemed as though Total Television was content with just having Klondike arrest Savoir in every episode, rather than find other miscreants for him to track down. As I said, this was meant to be a parody, but the joke got old real quick.

Worse, each short, including intro, lasted barely 5 minutes. Today, cable networks waste as much as 5:00 on repetitive commercials while editing classic toons to death. A revival now would require Klondike needing to find other, more dangerous crooks, and using his wits.

Here's a sample, courtesy of Toon O Rama:



Rating: B-.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Are you ready for a Mike Tyson cartoon?

Part of what built [adult swim] over the first 13 years of its existence has been a penchant of mocking the works of Hanna-Barbera, usually with zero respect.

Enter Mike Tyson.

The former boxing champion is doing everything but box these days. He's been on Broadway, made movies ("The Hangover"), and even went into the WWE Hall of Fame. Now, he's treading ground previously trod by other celebrities such as Chuck Norris, Rick Moranis, Gary Coleman, and Mr. T. He's now a cartoon hero.

[adult swim] is banking on the man once known as the "baddest man on the planet" to get viewers tuning in to his self titled comedy adventure series, due to debut in the fall. The Mike Tyson Mysteries is, of course, a parody of 70's Hanna-Barbera, although a case can be made for Mr. T's NBC cartoon, produced by Ruby-Spears, which lasted 3 seasons (1983-6), being a target due to the use of a van. Tyson's support team is, to be honest, eclectic. Ani-Mike's face tattoo now has mystical powers, he's got an Asian-American daughter, and has a ghost and a talking pigeon for sidekicks. Said pigeon has the voice of Norm McDonald (ex-Saturday Night Live), and is meant to be the comedy relief. Because it's on [adult swim], there will be coarse language, which is bleeped in the following video, which was previewed at the San Diego Comic Convention last week:





And here I figured the pigeon was making this a satire of another 70's icon, Baretta. What is not yet known is the length of each episode. Will it be 15 minutes, which is the norm for [as]? Or is it 30 minutes? We'll know for sure in a few weeks when the series debuts.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Rein-Toon-Ation: The Garfield Show (2008)

He's baaaaaaaack!

Garfield, Jim Davis' comic strip feline, returned to series television in The Garfield Show, which launched in 2008. There is talk that the series is still in production, but it's been at a snail's pace. Currently, Cartoon Network has farmed the show out to sister network Boomerang, which has the series running weekday afternoons and Sunday mornings (check listings).

As opposed to earlier animated incarnations, the use of computer animation allows the producers to enable Garfield, Nermal, and other cats to actually talk. Getting Odie, the dumbest dog on the planet, to actually say anything other than a bark, hasn't been tried yet. Anyway, Frank Welker, predictably, takes over the role of Garfield, mimicking the late Lorenzo Music, the original voice of Garfield for so many years. After two feature films and a couple of DTV's, it seems that Garfield has reasserted his iconic status. And you wonder why that other orange cat, Heathcliff, hasn't gotten another TV gig since DIC booted him light years ago?

Anyway, here's a sample clip illustrating just how Garfield and Nermal can't get along.




And you thought cats couldn't be that vain? Shame on you.

Rating: B.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

From Primetime to Daytime: Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1994)

This also appears on my other blog, The Land of Whatever:
=========================================

The most successful graduate of Universal's ambitious Action Pack movie anthology series, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys transitioned into a 1 hour weekly series in January 1995. The series would last six seasons total, though the final season consisted of just six episodes.

Hercules (Kevin Sorbo), the son of a mortal woman and the Greek god Zeus, traveled with a number of companions, most notably Iaolus (Michael Hurst), who was initially killed off at the start of season 5, only to have an evil god take over his body before it was driven out by Hercules. Some episodes had Hercules meeting other heroes of myth, including Jason, in his travels. After a couple of appearances in season 1, Xena, Warrior Princess was spun off into her own equally successful series.

For some reason, some episodes in seasons 4 & 5 took the most extreme of tangents, as the producers took a light-hearted look at themselves, the idea being to either use past clips, or, in one instance, just to give Hercules a little, ah, vacation. Actor Bruce Campbell (Autolycus) directed at least one of these episodes, as well as a few others during the series. Campbell would also appear on Xena, and then landed his first headlining series in the short-lived Jack of All Trades.

In some cities, Hercules would air premiere episodes in primetime, then repeat them a week later in a much earlier time frame, usually between 1 & 3 pm (ET), giving fans additional chances to catch up. In all one episode could air as much as three times in the course of a week, since the series would replay on a Sunday morning after a Saturday evening premiere.

Here's the intro:



Two feature film versions of "Hercules" this year haven't exactly been blockbusters, and Kevin Sorbo reportedly was a bit miffed that he wasn't even asked to make an appearance in the current film, starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, which I believe finished behind "Lucy" this week.

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys gets a B.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

You Know The Voice: Mike Road on Bewitched (1967)

To millions of cartoon fans, Mike Road will be remembered as the voice behind Roger "Race" Bannon on Jonny Quest, Ug from Dino Boy, and Zandor, the leader of The Herculoids. Some of us remember seeing him as the pitchman for Fireman's Fund insurance during the 70's.

However, Road also did a few "face acting" jobs, such as the one we're showcasing today.

From season 3 of Bewitched is the conclusion of a 2-part story in which Aunt Clara (Marion Lorne) pulls Benjamin Franklin (guest star Fredd Wayne) into the 20th century. Mike plays district attorney Chuck Hawkins. How he could not have been cast in a similar role in any number of crime dramas back in the day is a mystery unto itself.

We'll start with a long missing opening tag that summarizes the first part of the story, as narrated by Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery):




And, now, we move on to the episode proper:







It does appear as though we're missing some of the episode. Just the same, tell me what you think.

From Comics to Toons: Black Panther (2010)

Here's a Marvel cartoon that may have slipped through the cracks, such that it was cancelled after its initial 6 episode order, and few actually noticed.

Filmmaker Reginald Hudlin ("House Party") had taken a turn writing comics for Marvel before becoming President of BET (Black Entertainment Television). His experience at Marvel enabled him to forge a deal with the comics giant to adapt the series he had been writing, Black Panther, to television in 2010. As I noted above, the show was quickly cancelled after six episodes, due likely to a glaring lack of promotion from the network outside of its airwaves. I'd read about the project, but never got the chance to watch the show, not knowing what night it'd be on or what time.

Hudlin relied on star power, casting Djimon Hounsou in the title role as T'Challa, the Black Panther that comics fans have known for nearly 50 years or so. Singer Jill Scott was chosen to voice the X-Men's Storm, who was also T'Challa's wife in the comics at the time. The cast also included Kerry Washington (currently on Scandal), Adrian Pasdar (as Captain America), and, inevitably, co-executive producer Stan Lee, who was given a meatier role as General Wallace. The series first aired in the UK in 2010 before being brought to the US in 2011, long after production had ceased.

What Hudlin sought to do was create the impression that the Panther had been passed down from one generation to another, and that the fictional African nation of Wakanda had been around since at least the 5th century, expanding on what Lee himself had created when the Panther debuted in the pages of Fantastic Four. The computer animation is similar to what had been used for MTV's ill-fated adaptation of Sam Kieth's Image series, The Maxx, 15 years earlier (previously reviewed). Given how MTV had fumbled with Spider-Man, and the fact that Lee's last series on a Viacom channel, Stripperella, had fared slightly better on Spike around the same time, all it tells me is that Viacom simply let Hudlin indulge himself with his pet project, but had no interest in promoting it in the press. Marvel, in fact, didn't do much in the promotion department, either, that I know of.

In the following clip, a flashback to World War II suggests the Panther first met Captain America back then, contradicting what had been established in the comics back in the 60's. Marvel similarly upgraded, if you want to call it that, and expanded Wolverine's history with the "First Avenger" in the books some years prior.




I think the series is on DVD, but I'm not sure. It does look like the character designs were modeled after the work of artist John Romita, Jr., who'd worked with Hudlin on his Black Panther book.

Rating: B+.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Bad TV: The Three Friends.....And Jerry (1998)

Fox Family (now ABC Family) made some pretty curious programming decisions in the late 90's. One of them was The Three Friends......And Jerry. Created in Europe and imported to the US, this aspired to be a clone of the long running Peanuts comic strip, except that Jerry has it worse than Charlie Brown. The Three Friends don't like him, but tolerate him as long as he's able to help them with their issues.

Also, some episodes reportedly had more mature themes than would normally be found in a kids' cartoon, topics you'd normally expect to find on one of those teen-coms that are being churned out like they were on assembly lines at Nickelodeon & Disney Channel.

Small wonder, then, that this series bombed out, cancelled after 1 season. As Fox had the rights here, Nick had them in England, which explains the old school Nick logo attached to this video, which features the episodes, "Olympic Games" & "Secret Box":




Giving some of the kids buck teeth didn't exactly help them win viewers now, did it? Hmmmmm, welllllll.....of course not!

Rating: D.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Toonfomercial: Remember when the Burger King was a cartoon character? (1960's-70's)

When I was growing up, my introduction to the Burger King restaurant chain was a series of animated spots featuring a character called Kurger Bing (voice of Allen Swift). In time, Kurger was discarded in favor of a live-action King as the chain began to copy rival McDonald's by giving the new King a set of supporting characters such as Sir Shake-a-Lot and Duke of Doubt.

Here's Kurger Bing:




I know they say you are what you eat, but this was pushing it.

Is Saturday Morning really dead?

Over the last 22 years, the networks have slowly killed off the traditional business model for Saturday morning television, such that when the new season starts in September, only 1 broadcast network---NBC---will actually be airing animated fare, and NBC was the one that abandoned cartoons all the way back in 1992.

For first-run animated fare, kids are turning more and more to cable television. Nickelodeon, however, can't be trusted, since a lot of the time they schedule marathons willy-nilly of certain shows that to them are still "hot" with viewers (i..e. Spongebob Squarepants). Disney Channel & DisneyXD don't use Saturday mornings for a lot of premieres, either, mostly using reruns of shows that get played to death during the week. One wonders why Disney refused to repurpose shows like Suite Life On Deck (to succeed Suite Life of Zack & Cody) or Brandy & Mr. Whiskers or any other series that conceivably could've fit the FCC's E/I mandates over the last decade. They simply didn't see the need.

Cartoon Network let DC Nation die a slow death due to then-programming head Stuart Snyder's decision to put more emphasis on lame comedy. Not all the comedy shows CN has are legitimately funny. One that was, The Tom & Jerry Show, is burning off the remaining episodes on weekdays this month, meaning it got a quick hook when ratings didn't exactly set the world on fire. The fact that this was running premieres on Wednesday afternoons instead of Saturday mornings, where the legendary duo were a proven commodity, proves that the programming remains an issue that new president Christina Miller needs to address, preferably yesterday.

The problem with CN is that a lot of their Saturday schedule replays on Sundays as well, with less fanfare, and there are replays during the week. Talk about burning out your product.

Over at the Hub, they get it. Sure, the schedule changes periodically, and there have been some clunkers (SheZow, anyone?), but the Aquabats SuperShow is a proven winner. The network, following the lead of others, rotates their shows in and out, rather than run each series through one or more rerun cycles like in the old days. The Transformers will return with a new series in 2015, but one wonders if there will be a 2nd season for Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch after all the hype that accompanied the series' launch last October. Given that Archie Comics is doing a more mature take on Sabrina come the fall, and the bad rep that Moonscoop, the producers of Secrets, has gained, well............!

Back to the broadcast networks. CW will join CBS, ABC, & Fox in programming a lineup that will be totally E/I, but all totally live-action in content. Fox's new block, Exploration Station, will be another exercise in E/I futility, much like CW's Litton-programmed block. Litton also programs for CBS & ABC, and probably would be happy if NBC stopped repurposing from cable cousin Sprout, which they bought outright from PBS a while back. However, NBC/Sprout is the last bastion of broadcast animation on Saturdays for what Ivan Shreve calls the cereal & footy pajamas set.

With most cartoon shows also accessible online, it's a matter of time before the cablers begin shifting gears as well. Disney Channel splits their AM schedule in half. The first half is a primer for sister network Disney Junior, for subscribers who don't get the latter channel. The second half is the same, tired teen-coms (i.e. Jessie, Dog With a Blog), the type that they wouldn't let ABC have so they could retire That's So Raven a few years back. Cartoon Network's sister channel, Boomerang, is supposedly undergoing a face-lift later this year that is meant to make it more girl-or-family-centric. We'll see if that works out, and it should.

So, is Saturday morning TV really dead? No, but it ain't on life support, either.

Animated World of DC Comics: The Beasts Are Coming (1978)

The Super Friends are up against it when a defective space satellite crash lands in Death Valley, causing all kinds of mutations, with the Wonder Twins and Wonder Woman infected in the course of the investigation.

YouTube only has a brief 4+ minute sample clip of "The Beasts Are Coming", but the complete episode, which uses the All-New Super Friends Hour open, can be found at www.watchcartoononline.com.




It's weird how the Twins' costumes are instantly mended after reverting to normal size. Casey Kasem (Robin/Justice League Computer), Michael Bell (Zan/Gleek), Danny Dark (Superman), & Olan Soule (Batman) are all heard in smaller supporting roles.

Rating: A-.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Toon Rock: You're Dead Right, Mate & We're The Good Bad Girls (2013)

While ye scribe didn't get to see a single second of season 2 of Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated, there are some bits that can get plugged in. You've already seen the 21st century reboot of Dynomutt & Blue Falcon, but now it's time to rock out.

Dave Waveling and the English Beat composed two songs for the episode, "Dance of the Undead", and guest star as Rude Boy and the Ska-tastics, an undead rock group brought back to life. This leads to a battle of the bands with the Hex Girls, making their 2nd appearance on the series. The Girls get help from Scooby (Frank Welker) & Shaggy (Matt Lillard) when it looks like all is lost. The Girls perform "We're the Good Bad Girls", while Rude Boy (English Beat) performs "You're Dead Right, Mate":




I really wish the complete episode, with extra special guest star Martha Quinn, would be available, but that's for another time........

Monday, July 21, 2014

From Comics to Toons: Archie & Reggie duel for Veronica, while Hot Dog enters a dog show (1968)

From The Archie Show:

In this particular show, you'll hear two distinctive versions of Jughead. Howard Morris is heard in the first story, "A Hard Day's Knight", but he missed the recording for "Beauty is Only Fur Deep", so venerable Don Messick, making his Filmation debut, subs. Messick would later be cast as Sabrina's boyfriend, Harvey, when the teenage witch joined the fun the following season.

In "A Hard Day's Knight", Veronica (Jane Webb) is on a chivalry kick, prompting Archie (Dallas McKennon) and Reggie (John Erwin) to duel for her honor in more ways than one. Then, Hot Dog (McKennon) is entered in a dog show to combat Reggie's entry.



I remember seeing "Knight" in syndication while in high school. Typical slapstick silliness.

Rating: B.

Game Time: Baby Races (1993)

Romper Room was never like this.

In 1993, producer Richard Sherman, a former assistant to Mark Goodson & Bill Todman, developed his first game show, Baby Races, which spent a year on the then-Family Channel (now ABC Family). It was, in essence, a reboot of a failed ABC game show from 1967, The Baby Game. Impressionist Fred Travelena (ex-Anything For Money, Shirt Tales) served as host, with venerable Gene Wood as the announcer. The hook, besides the adorable kids, was the bouncy theme music.

It stuns me that Nickelodeon didn't take a shot at this with an episode of Rugrats. Like, can you picture Tommy and Chuckie on this show?

Here's the open to a sample episode:



Awwww, isn't this fun? Rating: A.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Saturtainment: 101 Dalmatians (1997)

On the heels of a live-action remake of their 1961 film, Disney moved 101 Dalmatians to television. That was the good news. The bad news was the show didn't last very long.

The series aired as part of ABC's One Saturday Morning block, but for some reason, viewers turned away from these dogs, just as a vast majority rejected WB's Road Rovers a year earlier. The message, apparently, was that they just felt that any dog not named Scooby-Doo would not draw eyeballs to the small screen.

The premise had the pups and their owners, the Dearlys, now living on a farm, but, unfortunately, Cruella de Vil is never far away to cause more mayhem. You'd think she'd have learned her lesson. The voice cast includes the usual standbys (i.e. Tara Strong, Frank Welker, Jim Cummings), plus Charlotte Rae (ex-The Facts of Life) and Pam Dawber (ex-Mork & Mindy), who was doing her first voice acting since an animated sequence in the movie, "Stay Tuned", a few years earlier.

Following is a sample episode:



Rating: B.

Game Time: College Mad House (1989)

Before the end of the 80's, Fox had acquired the rights to the syndicated game show, Fun House, then spun off a variant for the college set.

College Mad House lasted 1 season (1989-90), and can be best described as a fusion of GE College Bowl and Nickelodeon's Double Dare. Greg Kinnear, not yet a household name, was tapped to host, with voice actor Beau Weaver (ex-Superman) as the announcer. I never saw this show, so there won't be a rating, but for now, scope out a Big 10 match between Minnesota & Wisconsin.




Saturday, July 19, 2014

Teenage Toons: Sabrina in Town Beautiful & Horse's Mouth (1969)

Remember when it was the hip thing to do to pitch in to help clean up your hometown? Well, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (Jane Webb), with help from The Archies, intends to do just that in Riverdale, so that the city can win the "Town Beautiful" competition. Our second feature should sound familiar to folks in New York City. Seems Riverdale's mayor has a problem with horse-drawn carriages, just as current NYC mayor Bill DiBlasio does today.



No rating. Didn't see this the first time around.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Lone Ranger vs. Bear Claw (1966)

Hi-yo, Silver! The Lone Ranger (Michael Rye) and Tonto (Shepard Menken) battle a vengeful outlaw named "Bear Claw" in this short from 1966. The villain is so named for the gloves he wears. A mutant, he ain't.

The British H-B, Halas & Bachelor, made their American debut working with Format Films and Jack Wrather on this series. Wrather also held the rights to Lassie, which at the time was a primetime staple on CBS.




As before, the credits freeze near the end of the video, so it's not complete. Meh.

Rating: B.

You know the voice: Louise Williams on Adam-12 (1975)

Ohhhhhhhhh, man!! In one of her pre-Super Friends roles, Louise "Liberty" Williams took her turn as a villain on Adam-12 during the series' final season. She plays a girl named Lisa who, along with two pals, abducts Pete Malloy (Martin Milner) in order to force the police to release a friend who's already in prison.

And you wondered why it was soooooo easy when Jayna was brainwashed by Medulla 2 years later for Louise to turn it up a notch to be a bad girl, if but for a short time.

Anyway, here's "Operation Action":

Edit, 6/28/17: Unfortunately, "Operation Action" has been deleted by YouTube. As soon as a fresh, clean copy is available, we'll bring it back.

How could someone that cute be cast in a role like that?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Toons After Dark: The Venture Brothers (2003)

When done right, a satire pays the proper respect to its subject matter. However, a vast majority of the satire on [adult swim] falls way short of the mark.

The Venture Brothers does not. Inspired by and a satire of Jonny Quest, the series chronicles the 2nd & 3rd generations of the Venture family, as Dr. Venture is actually the son of the original, and his fraternal twin sons are the real stars of the show. However, it has taken 11 years to get to six seasons, the 3 year gap between seasons 1 & 2 caused likely by [as]' uncertainty over renewing the series. There was a 2 year gap between seasons 2 & 3, and, well, you can see the pattern.

Christopher McCullough created the series under the pen name Jackson Publick, and voices a few characters, including one of the Venture twins. Patrick Warburton (Rules of Engagement) was heard as bodyguard Brock Samson, who looked more like he belonged in a wrestling ring than as a bodyguard, for the first three seasons. There really was no reason given for Samson being written out of the show. Then again, it's [as]. Rhyme & reason are foreign concepts.

Here's the open:




Fortunately, the early seasons are out on DVD, I do believe.

Rating: B-.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Sunfire (Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends, 1981)

Fans of Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends must've wrongfully assumed that Firestar (Kathy Garver) was a unique mutant, but long time comics fans knew better.

In fact, the hero upon whom Firestar was based, Japan's Sunfire, made his TV debut in a season 1 episode bearing his name. Shiro Yashida, cousin of Wolverine's long-time honey, Mariko, was recruited by his uncle to in turn recruit Firestar to help power a nuclear reactor, unaware that his uncle actually intends far more sinister plans. Jerry Dexter was brought in to voice Sunfire, and I believe it is Keye Luke as his uncle.



Sunfire and Firestar fell in love, which must've disappointed anyone thinking that either Iceman or Spider-Man might have a chance with their red-headed teammate. Unfortunately, Sunfire would not return for a sequel.

Rating: B.

Monday, July 14, 2014

You Know The Voice: John Stephenson (1972)

In addition to his years of voice acting, John Stephenson made a few appearances in front of the camera, including a few on Hogan's Heroes. I didn't realize he was still, ah, moonlighting in the 70's.

John guest-starred in an episode of the short-lived Temperatures Rising, starring Cleavon Little and James Whitmore. Whitmore was replaced in season 2 by Paul Lynde, whose self-titled sitcom, which also launched in '72, failed. Unfortunately, Lynde also sank the ship on this show.

Anyway, keep an eye on John Stephenson, who appears briefly early on.......






I thought I'd include the whole episode. ABC would've been well-served using this off the bench on a Saturday, since they moved Bewitched there for a while.

Just have to remember to put up an episode of Hogan sometime.......

Teenage Toons: The Thing in Picnic Panic (1979)

In the Fantastic Four comics, Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, was constantly pranked by the unseen Yancy Street Gang, a group of wiseacres from Ben's old neighborhood in New York City.

When Ben was given his solo series in 1979 as 1/2 of Fred & Barney Meet The Thing, he was, as we have discussed, de-aged into a teenager, and relocated to Centerville. Fortunately, Marvel didn't take the bait and try to do a comic book based on these cartoons, but did give Ben a solo book a couple of years later after Marvel Two-In-One ended its run.

What Hanna-Barbera sought to do with Ben was the same thing that had been done with the Wonder Twins two years earlier in their solo shorts on The All-New Super Friends Hour, except that Ben had a regular supporting cast, consisting of a 3-man Yancy Street Gang as adversaries, and Ben's friends, Betty & Kelly Harkness, the latter sister the only one privy to Ben's dual identity, and Betty's prospective boyfriend, snooty Ronald Radford (John Erwin, in his only H-B credit, recycling his Reggie Mantle voice from all those Archie cartoons). For what it's worth, actor-comedian-magician Art Metrano (ex-The Chicago Teddy Bears) voiced Spike, the leader of the Yancy Streeters.

In "Picnic Panic", Ronald tries hogging parking spaces, only to get spun into one spot. However, Ben has to rescue him when Spike cuts the brakes on Ronald's cycle. The oblivious Ronald then starts bragging after he ends up winning a race with the Thing's help. And ya wonder why this was beyond bad? While the Twins met different teenagers every week, and didn't have a consistent supporting cast, Ben could've been better off with Kelly as his sidekick/girlfriend, but the writers thought this made more sense. They couldn't have been more wrong.




Joe Baker (ex-The Rich Little Show, Robonic Stooges) based his Thing voice on Jimmy Durante, but a case could be made that William Bendix might've been in the mix, too, since he originated one of Ben's catchphrases, "Wotta revoltin' development this is!", on The Life of Riley. Newcomer Wayne Morton voiced "Benjy", but was never heard from again, likely because his voice was similar to that of Len Weinrib, whom I think might've voiced one of the other Yancy Streeters.

Rating: C-.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

On The Air: Clarence (2014)

After all the hype, Clarence leaves me wanting. Period.

Clarence launched in the spring with a heavy ad campaign from Cartoon Network, and was created by Skyler Page, a former storyboard artist for Adventure Time. His idea of today's kids just having stupid fun fits the network's current direction, but that's about it.

Cartoon Network's YouTube channel offers a peek:



Visually, Clarence has more in common with another recent CN creation, Steven Universe, but in terms of concept is inferior. What it really does is insult the target audience, which CN assumes won't know the difference. Real kids don't do things like Clarence and his pals, Jeff & Sumo. What CN wanted to show, understandably, was that there is more to life for kids than just video games, but Clarence comes off as being an annoyance.

While production hasn't started on a second season, the series will forge ahead without Page, who was let go by CN earlier this month after word got out that he allegedly had been engaging in some inappropriate conduct with female co-workers. That means the lead part would have to be recast, since Page, the youngest creator in CN history, was the voice of Clarence. Somehow, I have a feeling that with Page gone, Clarence won't be long for this world.

Rating: D.

On DVD: Marine Boy (1965)

Ask anyone about Japanese anime from the 60's, and they're bound to remember Gigantor or Speed Racer right off the bat, largely because both were revived in later years here in the US.

However, they weren't the only anime that came here back in those days. Japan also gave us The Amazing Three, Astro Boy, and our next subject, Marine Boy.

In essence, Marine Boy was Japan's juvenile answer to Marvel's Sub-Mariner or DC's Aquaman, both of whom would make their animated debuts shortly after Marine Boy bowed in Japan. Over the course of a four year period (1965-9), there would be three series, with as many titles, produced in Japan, but Seven Arts, at the time a partner with Warner Bros., went with the all-encompassing umbrella title of Marine Boy to keep things simple.

Marine Boy was a teenager, presumably between 13-15, whose abilities were enhanced by his father's inventions. He had a pet dolphin, Splasher, as a sidekick, and there was a prospective romantic interest in a young mermaid, Neptina. Corrinne Orr (Speed Racer) voiced both Marine Boy & Neptina, while her Speed Racer co-star, Jack Grimes, was Splasher and a few other characters. Grimes would later be the voice of Jimmy Olsen for Filmation's New Adventures of Superman.

Marine Boy was included on Warner Home Video's Saturday Morning Cartoons: The 1960's, Volume 1 due to the Seven Arts connection. Aside from that, it's nothing really special. The episode on the DVD, "Battle to Save the World", is not available on YouTube at present, but the intro to the show is.......




Neptina was reportedly a pre-teen, but for modesty's sake her long hair covered her developing cleavage just the same.

Rating: B.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Doin' The Banana Split (1968)

The Archie Show had a Dance of the Week segment, followed by a Song of the Week. The Banana Splits, at least once, decided to merge the two in one skit.

Fleegle (Paul Winchell) is looking to create a signature dance for the band, which, while never acknowledged on the air, would be in answer to the Archies, whom, if memory serves, aired opposite the Splits. Drooper (Allan Melvin) & Bingo (Daws Butler) help create that dance, which has its own theme song, "Doin' The Banana Split":




Now, that is wiggedy-wack beginner level fun.

Then, there was the time the Sour Grapes Bunch called a truce with the boys so they could all groove:



I wonder how many kids tried this at parties?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Buford & the Beauty (1978)

Ron Ray offers up a Buford Files tale of puppy love. Sort of.

Buford has fallen for a Hollywood dog, Dutchess, who's in town for a movie shoot. Of course, you know someone wants to spoil the party. If I recall correctly, they tried a similar plot with Scooby-Doo and his actress cousin, Scooby-Dee, a little while earlier. Maybe this is a recycled plot, subbing out family for a lovestruck Buford actually being a little more heroic.......

Here's "Buford & the Beauty":



Naturally, it's left to Woody & Cindy Mae to find the final clues. Never did like the gimmicked nose on Buford, though.

Rating: B-.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Rein-Toon-Ation: Should this be the next generation of Blue Falcon & Dynomutt? (2013)

Mitch Watson warmed up for Beware the Batman by using the Dark Knight as a template for revamping the Blue Falcon, who had been created as a left-handed homage to the Caped Crusader in 1976, for an episode of Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated.

In the episode, "Heart of Evil", Radley Crowne (note the spelling) is a security guard working for Quest Industries. Yes, Watson's pocket universe managed to fit in at least Dr. Benton Quest and his arch-nemesis, Dr. Zin, who now is the enemy of the Falcon, but we're getting ahead of ourselves. Zin sends a dragon robot, operated by his daughter, Jenny, to steal some Quest tech. A resulting explosion leaves Crowne's dog, Reggie, badly injured to the point where Quest installs the familiar cyborg parts to create Dynomutt, who is not quite the bumbling boob he was when Joe Ruby & Ken Spears created him in '76.

Newcomer Troy Baker is the new voice of the Falcon, who's been modeled after Frank Miller's interpretation of the Batman, circa the Dark Knight Returns miniseries from the 80's, and Baker appears to have used Kevin Conroy's iconic portrayal of Batman as a basis for his Falcon voice. The Falcon's "F" insignia on the chest has been spray-painted on this time.

Blue Falcon would subsequently return in a Scooby-Doo DTV, but it was a completely different continuity.

Edit, 10/5/16: Had to change the video to a different clip:



Given Cartoon Network's current attitude against action cartoons, a full-on Dynomutt isn't likely, even with his 40th anniversary two years away. However, that's plenty of time for the incoming administration at CN to change the formula, if you will. Couple that with the lack of respect shown to SD: MI and Beware over the last year and a half, and maybe WB & Watson might be forced to consider other options in order to effect a revival.

What say you? Should CN try a new Dynomutt series based on his SD: MI appearance? If so, should it be comedy-adventure, like the original? Or, provided the corporate attitude changes, should it be a straight action show? Let me know what you think.

Toonfomerical: Penny speaks against drugs (1993?)

Penny, the little claymation girl from Pee-Wee's Playhouse, was spun off into a few public service announcements after Playhouse ended its run. In this short, which the YouTube poster says was made in 1993, Penny warns about the use of drugs. Produced by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America:


Sunday, July 6, 2014

You Know the Voice: Austin Roberts (1975)

I wish I could justify this next item with a clip from either American Bandstand or Midnight Special, but there's none to be had as it pertains to our subject du jour, singer-songwriter Austin Roberts.

"Rocky" wasn't only a hit record for Roberts in 1975, but it hit #1 on the country chart for another singer, Dickey Lee of "Patches" fame. Roberts reached the top 10, but no further. Cartoon fans have only become aware in recent years, thanks to the research of fellow blogger Marc Nobleman, among others, that Roberts, using a faux British accent, recorded the theme for Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? for its 2nd season, plus all the "chase" songs.

Roberts was brought in, I would assume, along with writing partner Danny Janssen, by Don Kirshner, who had been hired by Hanna-Barbera as a music supervisor not only for Scooby, but also for Josie & the Pussycats (Janssen's La-La Productions was credited with producing the music for that series) and Harlem Globetrotters. Kirshner wrapped his 3 year stint at H-B by supervising the music for Amazing Chan & the Chan Clan, but Roberts was long gone by then.

Anyway, while you listen to "Rocky", study the picture of Roberts, and tell me if he doesn't look like Herman's Hermits frontman Peter Noone, whom he tried to impersonate whilst working on Scooby........


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Toonfomercial: Yogi Bear teaches Boo-Boo (and you) about smoking (1968)

Who'dathunk that Yogi Bear (Daws Butler) knew anything about smoking?

Well, bears do see what humans are doing, after all, and Yogi knew enough to explain things to his curious BFF, Boo-Boo (Don Messick) in this 1968 PSA:



Well, it only proves that Yogi really is smarter than the average bear........

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes(?): The Three Stooges in Blunder Boys (1955)

Dum-da-dum-dum-dummmmb! The Three Stooges parody Dragnet in "Blunder Boys". How they were able to get through college is an even bigger mystery.

Edit, 10/2/16: Had to replace the video, and the new copy is missing the intro:



In comedy, there is a variation on a joke known as "The triple". The Stooges employ this several times in the film, with Shemp delivering the punch line.

Rating: B.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Tooniversary: Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles (1999)

The movie, "Starship Troopers", was adapted from a novel by noted science fiction author Robert Heinlein in 1997. Two years later, Sony decided to revisit the characters, albeit with a few alterations, in an animated series that was troubled from the word go.

Much like MTV's Beavis & Butt-Head six years earlier, Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles ran into production issues early, such that in some areas, episodes were being repeated too often too quickly. 40 episodes were ordered, but only 36 were completed, with 4 flashback episodes added to complete the order. A bit of a cheat, but clearly the handwriting was on the wall.

1999 wasn't a good year for actor Rino Romano. He was also cast in another troubled series, Fox's Spider-Man Unlimited, but the problem there was Fox pulling the series abruptly because of a desperate need to counter-program Pokemon over on WB. Romano was at the head of an ensemble that included toon vet E. G. Daily and a couple of actors not associated with toons----R. Lee Ermey ("Full Metal Jacket") and Rider Strong (Boy Meets World). The series was cancelled after 1 season, ending with a cliffhanger, as other action toons before it did, which was never resolved.

Here's the intro:



Rating: C.

On DVD: Saturday Morning Cartoons: The 1960's, Volume 1 (2009)

Warner Home Video experimented with the Saturday Morning Cartoons line of compilation DVD's at the end of the last decade. The first volume of the 1960's portion of the series was an eclectic mix of comedy and adventure. All but one of the series sampled on the 2-disc set have previously been covered here, the lone exception being Japan's Marine Boy, which we will get to in due course.

The lineup:

*Quick Draw McGraw (2 episodes): The series actually launched in 1959, but the episodes in the set are from season 3. The second one has its episode order slightly skewed, with Augie Doggie leading off instead of Quick Draw. Go figure.

*Atom Ant (1965)
*Peter Potamus (1964): Includes the season 2 closing bumper with Ricochet Rabbit & Droop-a-Long, replacing Breezly & Sneezly.
*Secret Squirrel (1965)
*Marine Boy (imported to the US by Seven Arts around 1966-7 or so)
*The Porky Pig Show (1963): Comes complete with bumpers and closing credits, the latter having not been seen in syndication. When the series was syndicated in the 70's, the original title opening & closing cards for each short was used, and the credits card was deleted. As it turns out, Barbara Cameron, who composed the Road Runner theme three years later, was also responsible for Porky's theme song.
*Space Ghost & Dino Boy (1966)
*The Herculoids (1967)
*Frankenstein, Jr. & The Impossibles (1966)
*Magilla Gorilla (1964): A syndicated print is used, with the original sponsor (Ideal) ID deleted. In short, this is the version most of you have seen.
*The Jetsons (1962): Title card from the 1980's revival has been added to the episode, "Rosey the Robot".
*The Flintstones (1960): "The Happy Housewife" showcases Wilma, which makes Fred jealous.
*Top Cat (1961): The Millionaire is parodied in the episode, "The Tycoon", which, ironically, would be the name of a live-action sitcom that would air on ABC a couple of years later, after they jettisoned TC and friends.

I realize the lineup is not in order, but that is what we have, plus a couple  of mini-documentaries.

The Herculoids: First Family of Quasar: Zandor and co.'s home planet wasn't really identified as Quasar until 1981's Space Stars. In 1967, it was known simply as Amzot. Don't ask. This was mostly a discussion on the influence artist Alex Toth had on the staff at that time.




Monsters of Rock: The Adventures of Frankenstein, Jr. & The Impossibles acknowledges the shortfall to the superhero shorts of the period, that being that the heroes' origins were never explained, save for the adaptation of Marvel's Fantastic Four (1967).



Saturday Morning Wake-Up Call attempts to recreate the promos from the 60's, particularly those for CBS recorded by Gary Owens (Space Ghost), whose voice has clearly lost its heroic timbre by 2009. It was more evident when the Phantom of the Spaceways guest-starred in a once in a lifetime meeting with Batman on The Brave & The Bold a couple of years later. Unfortunately, Wake-Up Call is not available on YouTube, unlike the others, which were uploaded by Cartoon Lagoon.

Sadly, most of the shorts are unavailable as well for one reason or another. We'll keep an eye out for them as time goes on.

Rating: B+.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Impossibles vs. The Spinner (1966)

The Impossibles are caught in a web of trouble when they face off with the Spinner in this installment. This episode appears on Saturday Morning Cartoons: The 1960's: Volume 1, along with the trio's battle with the Bubbler (previously reviewed) and a Frankenstein, Jr. short.




Note that when narrator Paul Frees (also Fluid-Man & Big D) introduced the heroes, the "The" was added to Coil-Man (Hal Smith) and Multi-Man (Don Messick), but not Fluid-Man. It's rather unusual, actually, since normally there were no adjectives for any of the guys.

Now, don't ya just wish they finished any of their songs?

Rating: B+.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Bob Hastings (1925-2014)

Another part of Bat-toon history has left us.

Radio & television veteran Bob Hastings, one of the radio voices of Archie Andrews who later conquered television both as a face and voice actor, passed away at the age of 89 after a lengthy battle with prostate cancer.

Hastings made his toon debut as the voice of Superboy in 1966, and spent three seasons in that role after McHale's Navy had ended its run. He'd also gone the guest star route, even turning up in an episode of Batman that involved the Penguin (Burgess Meredith). In addition to the McHale feature films, he also was the heretofore unknown voice behind the raven of The Munsters, and appeared in "How To Frame a Figg" with Don Knotts.

Hastings returned to toons in 1973, landing the role of Henry Glopp, best pal and sidekick to Corey Anders (Mark Hamill) on Jeannie, and did some incidental supporting roles on Super Friends beginning in 1977. However, most toon fans will remember him as the definitive voice of police commissioner James Gordon on the various Batman cartoons over the last 20-plus years. The years he spent playing Captain--and, yes, later Commissioner--Bert Ramsey on General Hospital prepared him for that gig, to be sure.

Let's take a look at the Jeannie episode, "Survival Course":




Sadly, there isn't enough footage from Batman: The Animated Series to include here, but we can bring up a 1946 radio episode of Archie Andrews, "Jive Talk":



Rest in peace, Bob.

Toons After Dark: Gary & Mike (2001)

UPN experimented with primetime animation during its run, but had little success. Which also describes the majority of their programming that wasn't either from the WWE or was associated with Star Trek (Veronica Mars being a big exception).

Gary & Mike came from writer-producers Fax Bahr & Adam Small, whose resume included co-producing MadTV for Fox and doing some shows for MTV and its sister networks, such as MTV Unplugged. What they came up with would've been a hit on, say, Fox, but because UPN was in fewer homes, and because Friday night wasn't the hip night for TV it was in the past, the series lasted one season.

Claymation master Will Vinton co-produced the series, which enjoyed a rerun stint on Comedy Central before falling off the face of the earth. Vinton, Bahr, & Small took advantage of their network placement, and managed a crossover with MTV's Road Rules, with the added bonus of then-WWE star Chyna as a guest star in what I think is her only animated gig to date.

Here's a sample from the opener:




Harland Williams (Mike) might be better known today for his guest appearance in the Barenaked Ladies' video for "Falling For The First Time" than this. Kurtwood Smith (That 70's Show) kept Gary & Mike busy. but that's all that can be said.

Rating: C.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: An episode of Secret Squirrel (1965)

From Saturday Morning Cartoons: The 1960's, Volume 1 comes an episode of The Secret Squirrel Show with the following:

*Secret Squirrel in "Sub Swiper": Secret (Mel Blanc) & Morocco Mole (Paul Frees) go after a modern-day Capt. Ahab who's stealing submarines instead of hunting whales.

*Squiddly Diddly in "Way Out Squiddly": Squiddly (Frees) is captured by aliens who think he represents the average life-form on Earth. Oh, are they in for a surprise.

*Winsome Witch in "Prince of a Pup": Winnie (Jean VanderPyl) steps into a parody of "Snow White & the Seven Dwarves". Chaos ensues. Don Messick voices the magic mirror and Prince Charming, while Janet Waldo guest stars as Snow White.

Unfortunately, Warner Bros. put in a copyright claim with YouTube, so this video is, like, gone with the wind. As with all of the 60's episodes of Secret Squirrel.

Rating: B.