Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tooniversary: The Spooky Fog of Juneberry (The New Scooby-Doo Movies, 1972)

Four weeks after "Guess Who's Knott Coming to Dinner", Don Knotts returns to The New Scooby-Doo Movies. This time, Don is closer to his most famous alter ego of Deputy Barney Fife (The Andy Griffith Show) as he helps Scooby and the gang solve the mystery of "The Spooky Fog of Juneberry".



It's just too bad Hanna-Barbera couldn't convince Andy Griffith himself to do the show, and he wasn't the only A-list star that passed up the opportunity. Today, The Andy Griffith Show does air on weekends depending on where you live, as well as weekday syndication and cable. Knotts, of course, had cut his teeth in toons with "The Incredible Mr. Limpet" a few years prior to his two meetings with Scooby.

Rating: B.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Getting Schooled: Time Out (1979)

Time Out was a series of PSA's produced by NBC Sports (!) during the 1979-80 season. I at first thought these were used on Saturday mornings, and maybe they were, but these seem to have been more prevalent during, of course, sports programming.

With summer a couple of months away, Kim Richards, at the time appearing on Hello, Larry, helps explain what a lifeguard does.



The poster on YouTube got the date wrong, as the copyright, albeit somewhat fuzzy, shows this is from 1980.

I don't know how many of these were made, but they are hard to find.

Rating: A.

Rare Treats: Duffy's Dozen (1971)

Hanna-Barbera had attempted to get back into primetime well before the short-lived Hanna-Barbera Happy Hour made a cameo appearance on NBC in the late 70's. Unfortunately, their family-centric cartoon, Duffy's Dozen, never got past the pilot stage.

The clip opens with Bill Hanna & Joe Barbera, appearing in sketch form on the screen while the execs do the talking, making their pitch. 12 adopted children and a sheepdog create a very big family for the parents (Janet Waldo & John Stephenson). Duffy's Dozen didn't sell, but Hanna-Barbera, undaunted, went with a big family the next year, by adapting the adventures of a certain Hawaiian detective. Yep, subtract two kids, turn the sheepdog into a smaller breed, subtract the mother, and you have The Amazing Chan & the Chan Clan.

Casey Kasem not only voices one of the boys, Alan, but is also the park ranger and the end-of-pitch announcer.



I think you can see why this didn't work out.

Rating: B--.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Animated World of DC Comics: The Wonder Twins & Wonder Woman in Cycle Gang (1981)

A young boy & his grandfather run afoul of a "Cycle Gang" in this Super Friends short from 1981. Seems the Highway Angels didn't like the station wagon "kicking dust in their faces" as it passed by. Then again, the grandfather didn't see the bikers. The Wonder Twins & Wonder Woman have to step in to resolve the issue.

As it seemed to happen in almost every Wonder Twins short, Michael Bell (Zan/Gleek) adds an extra role or two, in this case, there's no mistaking him trying to do a younger boy's voice as Bobby. Not sure about any others.



Hanna-Barbera, DC, & ABC must've caught some flak for the Twins' 1977 shorts, which, as one correspondent here noted a ways back, amounted to glorified PSA's, hence adding one of the veteran heroes for the later episodes, usually Wonder Woman or Batman & Robin. Too bad the Highway Angels weren't brought back.

Rating: A-.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Getting Schooled: The Kingdom of Could Be You (1973)

From the same folks who created The Most Important Person comes The Kingdom of Could be You, which, like Most Important Person, aired initially on Captain Kangaroo (1973-6) before moving into syndication.

However, this happens to be my first look at Kingdom, as, understandably, I was in school while Kangaroo was on, and didn't see it in syndication. Insofar as I know, it didn't air on WPIX, WSBK, or WNEW. 'PIX was the NYC home to Most Important Person.

Let's take a look at the opener:



Short, amusing, and in need of a return to the air.

Rating: A.

Saturtainment: Rockumentary, Saved by The Bell style (1991)

Saved by The Bell spoofs pop culture as well as MTV's Rockumentary series (profiled in The Land of Whatever earlier this week) in this season 3 episode. Radio & cartoon legend and former NBC studio announcer Casey Kasem makes his 2nd appearance as himself, this time serving as narrator/guest host, and as the show goes along, takes on a Rod Serling vibe........



The opening theme was slowed down to add time and avoid the copyright police. Meh, whatever.

There is a stand-alone clip of "Friends Forever" on YouTube, so we'll showcase that another time. Conspicious by her absence was Elizabeth Berkley (Jessie), which is curious in and of itself.

Worth noting: In season 4, NBC finally aired some earlier episodes that had been held back for reasons known only to the network, which made things a little bit strange in screwing up what continuity the series had. The episodes set at the Malibu Shores resort with Ernie Sabella (Perfect Strangers) and Leah Remini (later of The King of Queens) were part of season 3 as well. By that point, NBC was double-running Bell for a full hour every Saturday, which continued through the New Class era (1993-2000).

Rating: A. One of the better episodes of the series.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Winsome Witch in the Hansel & Gretel Case (1965)

It's way past time we caught up with Winsome Witch, so let's take a trip into her enchanted forest and meet a couple of kids who try to pass themselves off as a famous pair of literary siblings in "The Hansel & Gretel Case". I think this was one of Dick Beals' first jobs for Hanna-Barbera, although I could be wrong.



Rating: B.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Toonfomercial: Popeye shills for Chunky Soup (1999)

Wal, blow me down!

Popeye swaps his trusty spinach for a can of Campbell's Chunky Soup for this ad, produced in 1999, with Scott Innes as the voice of the comic strip icon.



Well, let's see. Popeye has shilled for oatmeal, soup, orange drink, video games, and other products, but have you ever seen him actually do a spinach commercial, after all these years? Hmmmm, wellllll....

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Literary Toons: Clifford, the Big Red Dog (2000)

Writer-artist Norman Bridwell's Clifford, the Big Red Dog, was brought to television by Scholastic Productions and independent producer Mike Young in 2000. The series lasted 2 seasons, spread out over 3 years (2000-03), followed by a prequel series, Clifford's Puppy Years.

Clifford (John Ritter) is the family pet of the Howards, and more specifically, is owned by Emily Elizabeth Howard. When not with the family, Clifford is on various misadventures with his canine friends. Ritter's passing in 2003 may have been what put an end to the series, although Scholastic & PBS could've arranged for the British cast to take over if needed. Yes, they had a separate cast for British broadcasts of the series. I just don't get it.

"Welcome to Birdwell Island" explains how the Howards moved from the city to the island.



It does look like a form of flash animation, doesn't it? Taking the original character designs that Bridwell created and transferring them onto a computer to animate them was meant to be the hook for the kids that were reading the original books.

Rating: A.

You Know The Voice: Louise Williams (1982)

Let's try this one again.

Seems every time I post this particular episode of Three's Company, it ultimately gets pulled due to copyright infringement issues. Hopefully, this won't happen again for a while.

Anyway, in "Critic's Choice", Jack (John Ritter) has to impress a food critic (Jay Garner, ex-Buck Rogers in the 25th Century), but at the same time, this primo gig puts Jack in a compromising position as it relates to a date with a stewardess (Louise Williams).......



It does sound like Louise used a little of her Jayna voice with this role, doesn't it?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tooniversary: The Herculoids vs. Destroyer Ants (1967)

Aside from Atom Ant, who preceded the Herculoids by 2 years, ants were largely regarded as menaces. In the case of the Herculoids, they had to battle an army of three-eyed "Destroyer Ants".



The only other exception that presented ants in a positive light came a year later in a Micro Ventures short. Today, this episode would be a little bit longer with additional expository dialogue to try to explain the motivations of the ants.

Rating: B.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Celebrity Toons: The Enterprise encounters a Practical Joker (Star Trek, 1974)

Passing through an energy cloud has a strange effect on the USS Enterprise. The computer (voice by Majel Barrett) begins playing pranks on the crew, which has to also deal with the Romulans.

From season 2 of the animated Star Trek, here's "Practical Joker", or at least 5 minutes of it, courtesy of CBS,which owns the rights.



Star Trek: The Animated Series airs Sunday nights with 2 back-to-back episodes to kick off Heroes & Icons' block of all six Trek series (the 5 live action series run Sunday-Friday from 8 pm-1 am ET). Check your cable system to see if you have H & I.

Rating: A.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Tooniversary: A Family Circus Easter (1982)

Bil Keane's long-running comic strip, The Family Circus, was adapted for television one final time with an Easter special in 1982. The strip continues today, with Jeff Keane as writer-artist, carrying on the family tradition.

There will be no rating for this one, as I'd never seen it prior to today. Keep an ear open for jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie as the voice of the Easter Bunny.



Happy Easter, everyone. We'll see you on Monday.

Saturtainment: Remember Saturday Morning Fever? (1978)

ABC had Funshine Saturday (1973-8) and All-Star Saturday (1978-9). CBS had various umbrella titles for their Saturday blocks in the 60's & 70's, but not on a consistent basis. In 1978, NBC contracted with the folks behind Schoolhouse Rock and the short-lived Metric Marvels to produce a series of quick bits, used to segue into each of their programs for that season's Saturday Morning Fever block. Unfortunately, the disco theme went over like a pair of cement jeans. That's how bad things were at NBC back then.....



It didn't help that all the characters used the same generic disco moves. Not much thought was put into this at all. Nearly 40 years later, it still looks bad.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Looney TV: We, The Animals-Squeak! (1941)

Bob Clampett's 1941 Porky Pig entry, "We, The Animals-Squeak!" is a parody of a popular radio show of the period, We, The People. Porky (Mel Blanc) introduces us to Kansas City Kitty (Sara Berner), an Irish house cat, who spins a yarn about rescuing her son from gangster mice. Watch for the twist ending.



I must've seen this a dozen times back in the day on cable. Couldn't get enough.

Rating: A.

Tooniversary: Sonny the cuckoo bird turns 55!

Sonny, the cuckoo bird mascot of General Mills' Cocoa Puffs cereal, turns 55 this year. Following is Sonny's debut ad, even though at the time he didn't have a name. Actor-comedian Chuck McCann, known at the time as a kids' show host in New York, is the voice of Sonny here.



For the last few years, Larry Kenney (ex-Thundercats) has been the voice of Sonny, while McCann eventually returned to voice Gramps when the latter character resurfaced in 2010. And, yes, Sonny still goes cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, at 55.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Daytime Heroes: Popeye & the Polite Dragon (1960)

Popeye (Jack Mercer) spins a yarn for Swee'pea (Mae Questel) about a most unusual creature from back in his great, great grandfather's time in "Popeye & the Polite Dragon":



Sounds to me like a knock-off of The Reluctant Dragon, don't you think?

Rating: B.

You Know The Voice: John Erwin (1974)

John Erwin spent most of his voice acting career at Filmation, but he also did some commercials, too. Rare, though, is the time when he appeared in front of the camera.

John stepped in front of the camera with a group of kids, including a then-unknown Gary Coleman, a few years before Diff'rent Strokes made Coleman an icon, for a Valentine's Day ad for Hallmark. Yeah, Valentine's Day was two years ago, but why wait 'til it comes around again to share this rarity?



This ad reportedly aired during a Hallmark Hall of Fame broadcast on NBC. Today, the Hallmark Hall of Fame lives on, airing on Hallmark Channel. I wonder if they could be persuaded to pull older commercials out of the vaults........

Toons After Dark: Easter Is.... (1970-4)

This was previously reviewed at The Land of Whatever some time back, so I thought I'd share it here:

While the copyright says 1970 in barely legible print at the end of the show, most sources claim it was actually released in 1974. Anyway, this is one of three specials produced by Lutheran Television and featuring a young boy, Benji, and his dog, Waldo. The voice cast includes Les Tremayne and, in a rare role at the time, Darla Hood (ex-Our Gang/The Little Rascals). I don't recall seeing too much of this as a youth, but here it is.



Rating: None. As I said, I barely remember seeing it, if at all.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Herculoids in Return of the Ancients (1981)

From Space Stars:

The last descendants of a lost civilization arrive on Quasar, bent on avenging the destruction of their race, but The Herculoids have other ideas. Here's "Return of the Ancients":



Typical of the period, including incidental music from Super Friends, which was also used on Godzilla and, of all places, Fonz & the Happy Days Gang. I kid you not about that last one.

Rating: A-.


You Know The Voice: Allan Melvin (1969)

Allan Melvin was one of the busiest actors in Hollywood in the 60's. In addition to frequent guest appearances on The Andy Griffith Show & The Dick Van Dyke Show, Allan spent a few years at Hanna-Barbera, where his body of work included Magilla Gorilla, The Banana Splits, The Adventures of Gulliver, and guest star gigs on other shows, including Atom Ant.

In 1969, just before being signed for The Brady Bunch, Melvin was shilling for Liquid Plumr, which at the time was relatively new, and will reach its 50th anniversary in a couple of years.



Not sure how long he maintained this gig or how many commercials he made, but this was tailor-made for him as an everyman.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Lone Ranger in Day of the Dragon (1966)

The Lone Ranger (Michael Rye) is called on to protect a small town from a marauding pair of outlaws piloting a metal monster in "Day of the Dragon":



This particular trope would be used in other cartoons through the years, and just as effectively, too.

Rating: A-.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: The Ways I Love You (1970)

From Pterixa and Archie's Funhouse comes "The Ways I Love You", prefaced with a quick joke bit with Betty & Veronica flanking Archie (Dallas McKennon, Daniel Boone):



Veronica's jealous pout would actually be a portent of things to come.

Today, in Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's twisted alternate reality series, Afterlife With Archie, Archie had finally gotten down on bended knee and popped the question. Problem is, whenever the series returns (because it's interminably slow due to the author's Hollywood commitments), both Betty & Veronica have been killed off.

Meanwhile, over on Riverdale, they've teased Betty and......Jughead? OY!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

From Comics To Toons: How did the Spider-Friends come together? (Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends, 1983)

Back in the 70's & 80's, if an animated series was renewed for a second season, the order would drop from 13 to 8 episodes, as was the case with, for example, Thundarr The Barbarian. Not so with Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends. Only three new episodes were produced for the 2nd season, covering each hero's origin.

For the 3rd & final season, there would be 8 episodes, for a final total of 24. Included was "The Origin of the Spider-Friends", in which narrator Stan Lee explained how Spidey, Firestar, & Iceman came together as a team, and how Angelica Jones (Kathy Garver) & Bobby Drake (Frank Welker) joined Peter Parker at Empire State University.



If J. Jonah Jameson's voice sounds familiar, it belongs to Super Friends narrator Bill Woodson, who was quite the busy fellow back then.

In fact, in addition to Welker & Woodson, at least three other Super Friends cast members also were guests on Amazing Friends, as Michael Bell, Bill Calloway, & Stan Jones were all heard during the course of the series.

No rating. I have no memory of seeing this episode.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Saturday Morning Ringside: Scooby-Doo takes up wrestling for the first time (A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, 1990)

From A Pup Named Scooby-Doo:

The Scooby-Doo Detective Agency takes on a case of an attempted hostile takeover of their hometown wrestling promotion. If the episode title, "Wrestle Maniacs", looks familiar, it was used more than a decade later on What's New Scooby-Doo, as we've previously discussed.



Some tropes in this series, such as Shaggy & Scooby's childhood heroes, Commander Cool & Mellow Mutt, didn't carry over to What's New, although, of course, they would become well acquainted with superheroes later on in life, as seen in The New Scooby-Doo Movies.

And, for you comics fans, I don't think anyone would ever have considered that this show's cast has two generations of animated Robins (Casey Kasem & Scott Menville). Like, who would've ever known?

No rating.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Toon Sports: Porky's Baseball Broadcast (1940)

Porky Pig (Mel Blanc) tries his hand at play-by-play in Friz Freleng's 1940 romp, "Porky's Baseball Broadcast". The gags come flying at a fast pace, and, compared to the iceberg pacing of today's baseball games most of the time, you'd be left dizzy....



Maybe Porky should've taken broadcasting lessons from Jimmy Stewart.......

Rating: A.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Animated World of DC Comics: Superboy has a Devil of a Time (1966)

Superboy (Bob Hastings) cons a pair of small-time crooks into thinking his Halloween party disguise is the real thing in "A Devil of a Time":



This wouldn't work in today's climate.

Rating: B.

From Primetime to Daytime: Swamp Thing (1990)

After 2 feature films in the early 80's, DC Comics' Swamp Thing made the transition to television in 1990 when producers Michael Uslan & Ben Melniker, hot off the success of Tim Burton's "Batman" a year earlier, put together a deal with MTE, a lesser known arm of MCA, and with DIC, which had experimented with live-action programs for children, to bring the character to life once more.

Only Dick Durock, who essayed the title role, returned from the two movies, with Swamp Thing more eloquent than he'd been presented in the comics up to that point. The series represented a blending of elements, if you will. Scottish writer Alan Moore had rebooted Swamp Thing a few years earlier as a plant elemental, but there were also concepts based on his original origin, as conceived by Len Wein and the late Berni Wrightson in the 70's. The series lasted three seasons on USA, and the series now airs Saturday afternoons on Heroes & Icons (check listings) with back-to-back episodes at 12 noon (ET).

There are no complete episodes available. As we did when we first reviewed the series over at The Land of Whatever, we'll give you the intro, this from season 2.



Between seasons 1 & 2, an animated miniseries, produced by DIC, aired first on Fox, then on NBC as part of Chip & Pepper's Cartoon Madness, with Len Carlson taking over for Durock as Swamp Thing.

Rating: B+.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Captain Mayhem (Wishkid, 1991)

Macaulay Culkin's short lived animated series, Wishkid, may have lasted just 1 season, but it appealed to the kids in all of us. Particularly those with Walter Mitty-esque fantasies.

Take the episode, "Captain Mayhem", for example.



James Thurber would've been proud. Unfortunately, viewers were tuning this show out, leading to NBC ditching animation for a while.

No rating.

Toonfomercial: The introduction of Life cereal (1961)

Quaker Oats added Life to their line of breakfast cereals in 1961. I have to guess that Jay Ward was commissioned to produce the animated introductory ad, narrated by----who else?----Paul Frees.



A few years later, Quaker went for a more cerebral approach with "The Great Life Debate", a series of ads that featured Paul Winchell "debating" Jerry Mahoney and 50's exercise instructor Debbie Drake with a young gymnast. The Winchell spot has previously been covered.

Of course, the most famous ad campaign introduced America to "Mikey" in the 70's.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Tooniversary: The Chiller Diller Movie Thriller (The Scooby-Doo Show, 1977)

When Scooby-Doo moved to ABC in 1976, Hanna-Barbera began expanding the family by adding two cousins. Scooby-Dum (Daws Butler) was inspired, in a fashion, by Edgar Bergen's Mortimer Snerd. And, then, there is Scooby-Dee.

As you might guess, Scooby-Dee (Janet Waldo) was a play on actress Sandra Dee, but only made one appearance, in 1977's "The Chiller Diller Movie Thriller", in which Dee is making a movie while being stalked by the phony ghost of the week.



You've heard the expression, "kissin' cousins", right? Seems Scooby-Doo-&-Dum tend to forget that Dee is kinfolk, too......

Rating: B.

Looney TV: Discover The World With Bugs Bunny (1991)

To be perfectly honest, I hadn't seen any of the following PSA's when they first aired. I'm guessing that after ABC re-acquired the rights to Bugs Bunny in the mid-80's, they sought to find a way to use Bugs to teach the young viewers.

1991's Discover The World With Bugs Bunny is a series of short interstital PSA's encouraging kids to hit the local libraries, either at school or the public library, to learn about history and geography, among other things.

Since this was one of the first new projects involving Bugs since the passing of Mel Blanc, Greg Burson took over as Bugs for this series.



Too bad Cartoon Network/Boomerang can't be bothered to exhume this.

Rating: A.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Celebrity Toons: The first episode of The Gary Coleman Show (1982)

Our famous first episode this month comes from the first episode of The Gary Coleman Show.

For those that didn't know the format, Andy LeBeau (Coleman), apprentice guardian angel, had two adventures in each half-hour episode. Andy's antics frustrated his supervisor, Angelica (Jennifer Darling, ex-The Six Million Dollar Man/The Bionic Woman). Hanna-Barbera and NBC, seeing how the shorts format had come back into style in recent years, opted for 2 10-11 minute "shorts" in each episode of both this series and its other freshman entry, Shirt Tales, which managed to be renewed for a second season. Viewers, it seemed, tired of Andy rather quickly, and were content with seeing Coleman weekly on Diff'rent Strokes.

Now, let's check out "Fouled Up Fossils":



It's too bad Andy only had one mortal outfit to wear on the show. It might've helped if his halo could change the colors of his clothes once in a while.

Rating: B.

Toons You Might've Missed: Potato Head Kids (1986)

Potato Head Kids was a component of the 1986 anthology series, My Little Pony 'n' Friends, along with the Glo Friends & Moondreamers. Perhaps Hasbro over-reached a tad, along with Sunbow & Marvel Productions, by expanding on the Mr. Potato Head franchise. In effect, they created their own modern day version of Hanna-Barbera's Flintstone Kids, which premiered the same year, and had some of the same actors working on both shows (i.e. Kenneth Mars).

Since I was working during the day, I never watched the show, and I'm only looking at this for the first time. Check out the episode, "Potatolympics":



Marvel/Sunbow also did a Mr. Potato Head series, but this was taking the idea a step too far.

Rating: C.