Friday, June 23, 2017

On The Air: Cyberchase (2002)

Cyberchase is one of PBS' longest-running animated series, with the first 10 seasons spread out over a 13 year period (2002-15). Season 11 is set to air later this year.

The plot: Three Earth kids are transported into another dimension to help Motherboard thwart the machinations of Hacker (Christopher Lloyd, ex-Taxi, "Back To The Future"). Gilbert Gottfried (ex-Aladdin, Saturday Night Live) co-stars as Digit and his kid brother, Widget, a pair of cyborg birds that are Motherboard's aides.

To tell you the truth, I had this up before, but it got taken down when YouTube dumped it due to copyright issues. Hopefully, this won't be the case this time. I thought the series had actually ended a while ago, but nowadays, the production time on some cartoons takes longer than it did back in the day.

Let's look at a more recent sample:



The series was originally produced by Canada's Nelvana Studios, which has since turned over the show to an American studio. Don't ask why.

Rating: B.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Animated World of DC Comics: Superman in War of the Bee Battalion (1967)

An age old trope plays into this next offering, from season 2 of The New Adventures of Superman.

Supes (Bud Collyer, To Tell The Truth) has to deal with a pair of common, garden variety crooks who force a scientist to use his experimental formula to enlarge a hive of common bees to keep the Man of Steel distracted while the thieves loot Metropolis. Oh, if it only were that simple......



As you can see, the serum wears off after a while. Today, this same story would be extended, since this ends so quickly.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Toonformercial: The Pink Panther shills for Owens-Corning (1979)

It's been nearly 40 years since The Pink Panther was licensed to Owens-Corning Fiberglas to promote their insulation products.

In this spot, Inspector Clouseau joins the Panther. John Bartholomew Tucker is the voice-over announcer.



I have no clue who voiced Clouseau in these spots.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tooniversary: Spider-Man in Diet of Destruction (1967)

Spider-Man tangles with a metal eating monster that seemingly can't be stopped. The odd thing is that this monster doesn't have a human controlling it. No rhyme or reason to this "Diet of Destruction":



Rating: B.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Toons After Dark: Alice in Wonderland (Or, What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? (1966)

A few years after Disney had released their own adaptation, Hanna-Barbera took a stab at Lewis Carroll's classic tale, but opted for an all-star musical.

Alice in Wonderland (Or, What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?) aired on ABC, and has rarely been rerun in 51 years since. The story moves forward to present-day, as you'd expect. Alice (Janet Waldo) enters Wonderland through a very unusual portal---her TV, thanks to her dog, Fluff (Don Messick, of course).

The late comedian Bill Dana wrote the adaptation, which turned the Mad Hatter into a woman (gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, who passed away weeks before the show aired), and turned the Cheshire Cat into a hep cat with the voice of---who else?---Sammy Davis, Jr. (Billed as simply Sammy Davis). Fred Flintstone & Barney Rubble (Alan Reed & Mel Blanc) are reincarnated as a two-headed caterpillar. You get the idea, I think. For what it's worth, Henry Corden took over as Fred when he had to sing.

When it was decided to release this on record, a number of cast changes were made, partially due to contractual conflicts. For example, Davis was signed to Reprise, along with Rat Pack pals Dean Martin & Frank Sinatra, so Scatman Crothers took over as the Cheshire Cat on the album. Veteran H-B scribe Charles Shows adapted Dana's adaptation. I can only imagine.

I never got to see this in its entirety, if at all, so there's no rating. In memory of Dana, who passed away over the weekend, we present this as a public service.


Getting Schooled: The Magical Mystery Trip Through Little Red's Head (1974)

Timer, now voiced by Len Weinrib, returns to the ABC Afterschool Special in "The Magical Mystery Trip Through Little Red's Head", first shown in May 1974.

This time, the episode is all animated (another DePatie-Freleng production, don'tcha know), as Timer leads two kids through the title character's cranium.

Unfortunately, the complete episode is not available on YouTube. We'll settle for this sample clip.



As we know, Timer would get his own series of interstitals that aired on Saturdays for the next couple of decades, but his two Afterschool Specials haven't seen the light of day since their last broadcasts. You might say, that Time For Timer was the first Saturday morning series DFE would sell to ABC, but they'd only be able to sell three more after that (The Oddball Couple, The New Pink Panther Show, & Spider-Woman, all between 1975-9).

No rating.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

From Comics to Toons: Popeye's Junior Headache (1960)

Since Popeye is a sort of father figure to Swee'pea, as well as Olive's niece, Deezil, we'll close our Father's Day salute with "Popeye's Junior Headache", which apparently introduced Deezil. Seems Popeye's been burning the midnight oil, and......!



And you thought Popeye had trouble with his own nephews......

Rating: B.

Getting Schooled: Schoolboy Father (ABC Afterschool Special, 1980)

It's Father's Day. To mark the occasion, we're bringing out an ABC Afterschool Special from 1980 that addresses the issue of teenage pregnancy and subsequent parenting.

In "Schoolboy Father", Rob Lowe stars as a teen father who decides to raise his newborn over the objections of his girlfriend (Dana Plato, Diff'rent Strokes), who wants to give up the child for adoption. Nancy McKeon (The Facts of Life) co-stars.

Producer Martin Tahse made a ton of these teen dramas for the Afterschool Special as well as the Saturday Weekend Special, but hasn't been heard from since ABC discontinued both anthologies.



No rating.

Toonformercial: Tinker Bell for Peter Pan peanut butter (1950's)

Don't know exactly when this next ad bowed, likely during some Disney programming on ABC, but back in those days, Tinker Bell didn't talk all that much. That leaves it for the future voice of Winnie the Pooh, Sterling Holloway, to narrate this spot for Peter Pan peanut butter.



Awww, Tink is soooooooooo cute. One wonders why she was silent in the first place (not so now). Maybe they were afraid of the inevitable coupling of Tinker & Peter (which Steven Spielberg envisioned in 1991's "Hook").

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Looney TV: I Am Slamacus (Loonatics Unleashed, 2006)

From season 2 of Loonatics Unleashed:

Slam Tasmanian is recruited by a humanoid analogue for Pepe LePew, who happens to be running an underground fight club. Danger Duck decides to be Slam's manager, with predictable results. It all starts when the Loonatics try to retrieve some prehistoric creatures from a retro zoo, who've escaped. Pierre Le Pew (Maurice LaMarche) has eyes for Lexi Bunny, who doesn't return the affection (what a shock).

Here's "I Am Slamacus":



While funk legend Bootsy Collins sang the theme song for season 2. He didn't write it. Musical director Thomas Chase Jones did, so blame him if you think it was lousy. It's actually the 2nd worst theme song revision in toon history. The all-time champ came more than a decade earlier, with Fred Schneider's horrid rap theme to The New Adventures of Captain Planet.

Rating: A.

Retro Toy Chest: Electronic Detective (1979)

After spending most of the 70's as a pitchman for Aurora's Skittle line of games, 60's icon Don Adams (Get Smart, Tennessee Tuxedo) landed an endorsement deal with Ideal to shill for Electronic Detective, which sought to siphon off some of the market for Milton Bradley's Simon or other electronic games of the period. The deal was such that Adams' picture was on the game box.

As you can see in this ad, Adams was actually still trading off Smart, as he only thinks he's solved the case. Joey Forman, who'd appeared on Smart as a Charlie Chan parody, Harry Hoo, and did a lot of TV in the 60's & 70's, co-stars.



Had I known about this game when it came out in 1979, I would've badgered the parents to put it under the Christmas tree. After flopping a few years earlier in The Partners, Adams would return to cartoons and gumshoes as Inspector Gadget four years after this was released.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Atom Ant in Super Blooper (1965)

Atom Ant is just as much a fan of other heroes as you or I would be. This much is gleaned in our next episode.

In "Super Blooper", Atom helps an actor (Allan Melvin) who plays Atom's hero, Super Guy, when the actor comes to town on a promo tour, and has to impress some kids. Atom's only too happy to help.....



I think by this point in the series, Don Messick had taken over as the voice of Atom, replacing Howard Morris. Don't know why.

Anyway, they don't do these kind of promotions anymore, since too much information is out in the public purview.

Rating: B.

Daytime Heroes: Sgt. Thursday of Sesame Street (1973)

One of the coolest things about Sesame Street that will attract viewers of all ages is their clever parody sketches.

Take for example this 1973 offering. Can't say for sure if this is from season 4 or 5. Anyway, Dragnet gets the parody treatement, as we're introduced to Sgt. Thursday (Jerry Nelson), who's searching for the letter W, but, as we'll see, it's not as easy as you'd think......



We get the joke.

Rating: A.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Animated World of DC Comics: Superman gets a soap bottle (1963)

Well, it's not really just the Man of Steel,  but also Tennessee Tuxedo (Don Adams) in this spot for the Soaky soap bottles, made by Colgate-Palmolive. Dick Beals is the voice of the Soaky Kid. By the way, that's not Bud Collyer (To Tell The Truth) as Superman. I think this might've been Everett Sloane instead.

Bad TV: 3 Dog Band (2009-10)

In 2009, Cartoon Network sought to recapture lightning in a bottle, if you will, by opening the Cartoonstitute as a new forum for creators to introduce new works. Two current CN series, Regular Show & Uncle Grandpa, came out of the Cartoonstitute, and there are various reasons why the others never made it.

3 Dog Band was one of those runts of the litter, so to speak. Created by Paul Rudish, who'd directed episodes of Dexter's Laboratory and the original Powerpuff Girls, this band literally is comprised of three dogs, all of different breeds and musical interests, as well as nationalities.



I know all about the struggles some bands go through to make it big. I've been friends with a small number of local musicians, and I've seen some professional highs & lows. What these pooches go through exaggerates those struggles a wee bit too much. Not only that, but when you have a character named Slime who loses his shape at inopportune moments, that's another joke that goes a little off the page.

Let me just sum up my feelings on this one. Meh.

Rating: C.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Toon Legends: Mr. Magoo in Thin Skinned Divers (1960)

Mr. Magoo (Jim Backus) thinks he's going to a college reunion when he gets in truth an advertisement for a sale. Chaos ensues, of course, in "Thin Skinned Divers":



Seems Magoo is making a comeback, with news of a new set of shorts being released this year. However, the classic look is gone, and Magoo will be given an unwitting arch nemesis he doesn't realize he's offended. Can you say, epic fail?

Rating: B.

Getting Schooled: A different kind of Write Bros. (1973)

Also on The Land of Whatever:

I've never had a camera crew in a classroom, but this would've been a riot, if not also looking like it was filmed on the set of, say, Room 222. Johnny Brown, then on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, and later on Good Times, shills for Paper Mate's Write Bros. pens, which bowed in 1973.



Sad to say, but Room 222 had ended production by '73, if memory serves.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Animated World of DC Comics: Super Friends vs. the Pied Piper of Space (1978)

A set of UFO's arrive on Earth, and thousands of children----and the Wonder Twins----end up hypnotized by some strange music. The Super Friends must follow the trail to a distant planet to confront "The Pied Piper of Space":



So let's get this straight. A child prodigy from an alien world decides that since his parents exiled him, he needs to take Earth children away from their families? Hokey, convoluted, but also a twist ending that viewers really didn't see coming until the very end.

Rating: B+.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Toon Sports: Boulevardier From The Bronx (1936)

Isadore "Friz" Freleng skewered one of the most popular pitchers of the 30's, Dizzy Dean, turning him into a literally cocky barnstormer in 1936's "Boulevardier From The Bronx".



I remember seeing this back in the day, but only now do I get a better appreciation of the visual gags. 

Rating: B.

From Primetime to Daytime: The Adventures of Pete & Pete (1993)

Nickelodeon's The Adventures of Pete & Pete actually began as a series of short interstitals in 1989. After a handful of specials, it was allowed to graduate to a full fledged series in 1993, and ran for 3 seasons (1993-6).

The titular characters happen to be brothers with the same name. Their mom has a metal plate in her head that can pick up & broadcast radio programs, among other things. In all, it is a surreal world that the Petes and their family live in.

Co-star Michelle Trachtenberg would later resurface on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and, if memory serves, it was Nickelodeon's movie division that gave Michelle her first feature film, "Harriet The Spy".

The rock group Polaris, a spin-off of Miracle Legion, perform the theme song.

Not really my cup of tea, so I didn't watch much, hence no rating.

Here's the intro:

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Toons After Dark: Mission Hill (1999)

One of the things WB tried to do was develop some animated series of their own to counterprogram Fox's The Simpsons & King of the Hill. However, despite bringing in two former producers from the former, the network ended up laying an egg.

Mission Hill lasted just 1 season (1999-2000), and not even a rerun cycle on [adult swim] could revive viewer interest, in contrast to [as] reviving interest in Fox's Futurama & Family Guy, the latter of which is still on the air today.

Perhaps the biggest reason why Mission failed was because it was airing on the same night as the Fox toons. Scheduling it on another night might've at least extended its lifespan, but we'll never know for sure.

I never saw the show, so there won't be a rating. Instead, this sample is a public service.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Animated World of DC Comics: Beware the Gray Ghost (1992)

In the early 70's, Batman met pulp legend The Shadow, which served as a back-door pilot for the latter's 1st DC series. 20 years later, the producers of Batman: The Animated Series created a character that was a cross between the two legends.

TV's original Dark Knight, Adam West, guest stars as actor Simon Trent, who, in this continuity brought young Bruce Wayne's childhood hero to life in "Beware The Gray Ghost". Kevin Conroy (Batman) doubles as Thomas Wayne in the flashback segments.



Dedicated to the memory of Adam West, who has passed away at 88. We'll have something over at The Land of Whatever.

Rating: A.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Herculoids in The Thunderbolt (1981)

From Space Stars:

The Herculoids find a friend turned foe when Saiju, a lizard like being not unlike Zok, except that Saiju cannot fly, devours some lightning rocks uncovered during an earthquake on Quasar. Here's "The Thunderbolt":



Unfortunately, Saiju wasn't seen again, as they could've added him to the Herculoids in a pinch.

The abrupt rewinds in the story were simply tape defects, it would appear.

Rating: B.

Friday, June 9, 2017

From Comics to Toons: Casper vs. the Greedy Giants (1963)

"The Greedy Giants" was the first episode of The New Casper Cartoon Show in 1963. Legendary Shamus Culhane handled the animation for this one, directed by Seymour Knietel. In it, Casper (Norma MacMillan) helps a weeping willow grow by locating a special potion. To gain the potion, Casper has to solve a riddle. If the ogre's voice sounds familiar, it belongs to Bradley Bolke, who used a similar voice for Chumley on Tennessee Tuxedo.



This set the tone for the series, as Casper was more heroic than in his theatrical shorts, which were mixed in with 26 made-for-TV shorts. That alone would explain how the series lasted as long as it did. The "Giants" in the title were the older trees, and they were really little more than doubting Thomases who didn't believe Casper would solve the ogre's riddle. This also was a rare case of Casper remolding his body to disguise himself.

Rating: A.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

From Comics to Toons: Spider-Man & Sub-Mariner team up (1981)

Spider-Man gets a visit from Sub-Mariner in this episode from his 1981 solo series.

Namor (Vic Perrin) is concerned when his cousin, Namorita (B. J. Ward) falls ill after encountering some pollution dumped by the Kingpin. Naturally, Namor turns his wrath toward the surface, but not before leaving Namorita in the care of Dr. Donald Blake (Jack Angel), the alter-ego at the time of Thor.

Meanwhile, Kingpin is hosting a summit meeting involving old rivals Hammerhead (William Boyett, ex-Adam-12, but virtually unrecognizable in applying a Brooklyn accent) and Silvermane (Paul Winchell, who also voices one of Kingpin's henchmen). Bill Woodson is heard not only as J. Jonah Jameson, but also Dr. Everett, Kingpin's personal scientist du jour.

Here's "Wrath of the Sub-Mariner":



Marvel missed a golden opportunity to give Namor his own series after this, as this could've been a back-door pilot, especially considering 'Nita was flirting with Dr. Blake. Since this series lasted just 1 season (as opposed to Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends, which bowed the same year, getting 3), maybe Marvel decided against it. Their loss.

Rating: A-.

Summertainment: Doug becomes a Hamburger Boy, and deals with Shock Therapy (1993)

From season 3 of Doug's run on Nickelodeon:

Doug visits Mr. Bone in the hospital, and the assistant principal ends up revisiting his own childhood when he gets Doug's skateboard in "Doug's Shock Therapy". Then, Doug gets a summer job in "Doug is Hamburger Boy".

The intros are sped up, but otherwise, the audio is at proper speed & pitch.



No rating.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Toonfomercial: Remember Mr. T cereal? (1984)

In the mid-80's, life was good for Mr. T. The former Chicago bouncer had not one, but two hit series on the air, as The A-Team was joined by a Saturday morning cartoon that had T as a gymnastics coach and amateur detective. The animated Mr. T was in its 2nd season when the star and Ruby-Spears agreed to a licensing deal with Quaker for breakfast cereal.



I think the artwork on the cereal box also came from Ruby-Spears, but don't hold me to it.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Hong Kong Phooey vs. the Voltage Villain & The Giggler (1974)

On his Bloggy Thing earlier today, Tony Isabella discussed a little known 1974 film, "Black Belt Jones", which starred Jim Kelly and........Scatman Crothers. Seems ol' Scatman was cast as a sensei of a sort, and maybe this is what led to his landing the lead as Hong Kong Phooey.

Anyway, HKP has his hands full with the "Voltage Villain" (Don Messick) and "The Giggler" (Frank Welker, who'd recycle the Giggler voice for one version of the Toyman 4 years later on Challenge of the Super Friends).



The subplot tying the two shorts together has Sgt. Flint (Joe E. Ross) attempting to create some models out of toothpicks, but of course it's bound to fail.

Rating: B.

Sunday Funnies: Donald Trump gets pwned by the Manning brothers (2009)

Seven years before being elected President, Donald Trump was pimping himself out for just about anything, including a ridiculous cookie commercial.

Nabisco's Oreo cookie brand was running a series of spots that had Super Bowl winning quarterbacks Peyton & Eli Manning in something called the Oreo Double Stuf Racing League. They'd beaten Venus & Serena Williams (who'd likely spank the brothers on the tennis court), and now turned their attention to Trump, who spared his sons the embarrassment by calling on comedian Darrell Hammond (Saturday Night Live) to play his, ah, clone.

Watch the future President get pwned, as the kids say.....


Monday, June 5, 2017

Looney TV: Cheese Chasers (1950-1)

Hubie & Bertie aren't as well known as the rest of Chuck Jones' creations for Warner Bros., but over the course of 8 years (1943-51), they had their fair share of amusing adventures.

The finale, "Cheese Chasers", sees Hubie (Mel Blanc) and Bertie (Stan Freberg) looking to end it all after overindulging on cheese one night, touching off a chain reaction.......



Of course, Hubie & Bertie would eventually return, but it'd be a long time before they did.

Rating: B.

Alphabetic Toons: This lesson isn't that E-asy (1969)

From the first season of Sesame Street:

A man (Casey Kasem) can't hang on to the letter 'e', and with good reason....



Between these shorts, plus working for Hanna-Barbera and Ken Snyder's Pantomime Pictures (Skyhawks & Hot Wheels), I think you can see how Casey gained the financial leverage to launch American Top 40 a year later.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Toonfomercial: Remember Willy the Hillbilly? (1966)

Mountain Dew has been part of the Pepsi family since 1964. In 1966, Pepsi decided it was time for the product's mascot, Willy the Hillbilly, to appear in television ads for the soft drink. Country-bluegrass singer Grandpa Jones, three years before Hee Haw made him an icon, is the voice of Willy.



The ad campaign lasted just three years, but Willy returned a few years back-----in a video game.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Alphabetic Toons: Joe & the Junebug (Sesame Street, 1969)

Two boys see the letter 'j' and think it's a fish hook. Heh, there's a story with that, but no fries.

Gary Owens (Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, The Perils of Penelope Pitstop) is the "voice of God" that sets up the story of "Joe & the Junebug".



Simple and effective.

Rating: A.

Animated World of DC Comics: The Shamon U (1973)

The Super Friends try to convince a well-meaning scientist, Dr. Shamon (Norman Alden in a dual role) that his experiments are having an adverse effect in the immediate vicinity of his lab on Mystery Mountain, if not also the rest of Earth.

The real absurdity is Marvin (Frank Welker), wearing his home-made "costume" everywhere he goes. Like, other street clothes would be nice for a picnic, dude.



Since Wonder Woman (Shannon Farnon) plays a vital role in the resolution of this case, with "Wonder Woman" opening this weekend, I thought we'd offer this episode up.

Rating: B.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Spiderversary: Spider-Man vs. Mysterio (1967)

Spider-Man takes on one of his more challenging foes in Mysterio, the master of illusion and, in this episode, disguise, in an adaptation of Mysterio's debut appearance.

"The Menace of Mysterio" adapts an issue of the original Amazing Spider-Man book from 1964, right down to framing the web-head for the robbery of a museum.



Canadian actor Paul Soles took his cues from Bud Collyer's portrayal of Superman, adopting a more heroic timbre when Peter Parker changed to Spider-Man. Later actors haven't followed suit.

Rating: B.

Toonfomercial: Remember Donutz cereal? (1980)

General Mills began the 80's by introducing a brand new cereal that trumpeted its arrival with a retro-doo-wop beat.

Donutz cereal didn't last long, a couple of years tops, but in a way, the company rebooted the product when they expanded the Cheerios line further a few years later. In my mind, Chocolate Cheerios is really Chocolate Donutz repackaged , as the "donuts" looked more like cocoa coated Cheerios in the first place.

Now, scope out this sample ad:



And the chocolate variation:



Yes, I tried it. How do you think I know they were "cousins", if ya will, of Cheerios back then?

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Famous Firsts: The premiere of George of the Jungle (1967)

Here we are again, first of the month, and our "Famous First" this month is George of the Jungle. Last week, we served up the pilot for George. The pilots for the two supporting features, Tom Slick and Super Chicken, are still to come.

"The Malady Lingers On" (a play on "The Melody Lingers On"): George (Bill Scott) learns that his pet elephant, Shep, is sick, but the doctor isn't exactly the sharpest tool in the drawer.

"Monster Rally": Tom Slick (Scott) enters Prince Monte Carloff's rally. This wouldn't be the last time we'd see monsters at a road race.....

"One of Our States is Missing": An old college classmate of Henry Cabot Henhouse (Scott, recycling his Mr. Peabody voice) steals the entire state of Rhode Island. He's figuring, it's the smallest state, who'd miss it? Super Chicken tries to recover the entire state.



It's said that Paul Frees' voice for Ape is modeled after actor Ronald Colman. A similar voice had been used for Inspector Fenwick (Dudley Do-Right), among others. Scott recycled his Dudley voice for Tom Slick.

Rating: B.