Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Toons You Might've Missed: Li'l Abner in Kickapoo Juice (1944)

Al Capp's backwoods hero, Li'l Abner, appeared in only 5 animated shorts, all produced by Columbia during Screen Gems' 1st go-round as a theatrical brand, and all in 1944. The first, "Kickapoo Juice", offers the origins of the oddball moonshine, which apparently was created by Hairless Joe and the Native American Lonesome Polecat.

Unfortunately, the black & white print is all that's available right now. Too bad no one's willing to take a chance today.

Rating: B-.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Spooktober: The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper (1996)

In the wake of the live action/CGI adaptation of Casper that starred Bill Pullman and Christina Ricci a year earlier, the Friendly Ghost returned to television after 16 years away in a mid-season replacement series that aired on Fox (and later, Fox Family).

As established in the movie, Casper's full name is Casper McFadden (voiced by Malachi Pearson), who died of pneumonia as a youth, and it seems he's smitten with young Kathleen "Kat" Harvey (Kath Soucie), whose father is a scientist. As we'll see in the first short, "Paranormal Press", Casper's school schedule isn't quite the same as Kat's, enabling him to join Kat at Friendship Junior High against her wishes, though she finds that he can be quite helpful.

I cannot recall if Spooky's girlfriend, Pearl, or, Poil, as Spooky always calls her, had appeared in the 1963 series. Here, though, she's presented as being a bit of an absent-minded airhead, contrary to her comic book portrayal as a domineering type. Spooky is established as being Casper's cousin, which I'm not sure might be the case in the books.

Kat has her share of struggles dealing with the mean girls in school, as we'll also see. The supporting cast also includes Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons, Aladdin) taking over for Bill Pullman as Dr. Harvey, and Ben Stein, one year before getting his Comedy Central game show, is heard as a teacher. Since this was a Universal-Harvey-Amblin co-production, some of the Amblin crew (i.e. Sherri Stoner) came over from Tiny Toon Adventures, Pinky & The Brain, & Animaniacs.

The lineup:

"Paranormal Press": Casper helps Kat start her journalism career at Friendship Jr. High, with predictable results.

"Another Spooky & Poil Moment": Spooky tries to impress his teacher, but Poil seems to be uncharacteristically fouling things up. Weak point of the show.

"Deadstock": Casper takes up the bagpipes, annoying Kat, but it leads to a concert....

I like the idea of Casper actually wearing clothes in this series as he tries to fit in. Fox farmed the show out to Fox Family (now Freeform as a Disney cabler) after ratings began to decline.

Rating: B (down from my original review).

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Mighty Man vs. Big Mouse & Magnetman (1979)

Mighty Man (Peter Cullen) was Ruby-Spears' answer to DC Comics' Atom, who was appearing occasionally over on Super Friends. Unfortunately, this mighty mite was not a scientist, but rather another Bruce Wayne knockoff, Brandon Brewster, whose best friend, his dog, Yukk (Frank Welker, using a variant on his Dynomutt voice) was the world's ugliest dog, such that he had a toy dog house cloaking his face.

Let's take a look at the duo's first two adventures from 1979. "Big Mouse, the Bad Mouse", and "Magnetman".

Pedestrian. Seems R-S were parodying themselves, since they created Dynomutt and Blue Falcon 3 years earlier.

Rating: C.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Spooktober: Drak Pack in Color Me Dredful (1980)

"Those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it."--George Santayana

Four years after Bill D'Angelo and his partners had tried out the concept of classic movie monsters being reposited as superheroes, Hanna-Barbera tried the same tack with Drak Pack, produced through their Australian studio.

In the opener, "Color Me Dredful", Dr. Dred (Hans Conreid) decides to strip the world of much of its color. That idea alone illustrates the lack of thought that went into this series.

Don Messick did his best Peter Lorre impersonation to effect the characterization of Toad, presented here as a lovable bumbler that you hoped would turn on Dred and change his ways. Didn't happen.

Well, at least this offered an example of why this show failed.

Rating: C--.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Spooktober: Horror Hotel (Krofft Superstar Hour, 1978)

Let's take a trip to one of the regular skits from the Krofft Superstar Hour, Horror Hotel.

Billie Hayes reprised as Wilhelmina W. Witchiepoo from H. R. Pufnstuf, but instead of continuing her feud with Pufnstuf, she now ran the hotel, aided by her hench-monsters from Pufnstuf, plus Pufnstuf's pal, Dr. Blinky. Len Weinrib & Walker Edmiston voiced the characters. The hotel had one regular tenant, Horatio HooDoo (from Lidsville), with Paul Gale doing his best to mimic Charles Nelson Reilly (Match Game), who was the original HooDoo. Seems Witchiepoo is trying to make a go of it running a legit business. Pufnstuf would surface in the series' other regular feature, Lost Island, which we'll look at another time (Hayes reprised her Lidsville role as Weenie the Genie, in Lost Island).

In this skit, HooDoo brings in organist  Egor Strange (Jay Robinson) to provide entertainment at the hotel. When that doesn't work, the Bay City Rollers take over....

You'll notice that as HooDoo, Gale has the same kind of eye makeup that Witchiepoo has, largely because it compensates for the fact that he doesn't wear glasses, as Reilly did.

Robinson was also part of Lost Island, but his Krofft Supershow character of Dr. Shrinker was renamed Dr. Deathray, and Hugo (Billy Barty) was renamed Otto. Did they really think that by changing networks, they'd fool viewers?

Rating: B-.

Toon Sports: Popeye in Let's You & Him Fight (1934)

Popeye and Bluto battle again, this time in a boxing ring at Yank'em Stadium (a parody of the original Yankee Stadium). The fight game will never be the same again after "Let's You & Him Fight".

Rating: B.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Looney TV: Daffy Duck For President (2004)

20 years ago, noted animator Chuck Jones wrote and illustrated Daffy Duck For President, a cautionary tale, if you will, of Daffy's short-sighted aspirations to eliminate best frenemy Bugs Bunny, mostly to put an end to duck hunting season.

Seven years later, and two after Jones' passing, WB adapted the book into the following short subject, with the late Joe Alaskey (ex-Out of This World) as both Bugs & Daffy.

Apparently, Daffy didn't completely understand the Constitution, just like a certain sitting President........!

Rating: A.