Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Teenage Toons: Fat Albert in Fish Out of Water (1972)

Hey, hey, hey! Summer is still a few months away, but let's go back to the 1st season of Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids as Bill Cosby relates the tale of the gang's first trip to summer camp.

"Fish Out of Water" originally aired in 1972. This print comes from a syndicated reissue circa 1984. The most obvious diff being that Cosby filmed a new intro as the theme plays. Also, the closing theme is instrumental only, instead of replaying the vocals from the open.

Yes, the show was retitled, The Adventures of Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids for syndication. The final season ran concurrently with the 1st season of The Cosby Show. No matter what you think about Cosby now, back in the day he was hailed as a beloved entertainer and educator.

Rating: A.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Cisco Kid (1973)

From The Midnight Special:

War, one of the prominent funk bands of the 70's, pays homage to O Henry's classic hero with 1973's "Cisco Kid". Scope!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Animated World of DC Comics: The Super Friends take a Journey Through Inner Space (1978)

Inspired by the original novel version of Fantastic Voyage, the Super Friends take a "Journey Through Inner Space" when Aquaman (Bill Calloway, ex-Love, American Style) is mutated into a prehistoric shark-like creature.

The implication here is that the King of the Seven Seas evolved from such fish. Bollocks to that, it's just a lame plot contrivance. Most of the cast also play additional characters.

Yes, this was weak due to the plot contrivance, but it also set the stage for the literary-inspired World's Greatest Super Friends the next season.

Rating: C.

You Know The Voice: Dave Willock (1962)

Dave Willock might not be a household name, but to toon fans, he's best known as the race announcer/narrator of the original Wacky Races, and, four years later, Gus Holiday on The Roman Holidays.

But, before that, Willock did commercials like this next item for the now-defunct Chun King brand of manufactured Chinese food. Director Stan Freberg appears at the beginning with Jesse White. Willock turns up around the 40 second mark.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Literary Toons: Moby Dick (1975)

From Famous Classic Tales:

Australia's Air Programs International presented the lone new episode of Famous Classic Tales for the 1974-5 season on New Year's Day 1975 with a slightly loose adaptation of Herman Melville's classic, Moby Dick. I think CBS scheduled this in between their coverage of the Tournament of Roses Parade (which they at the time shared with NBC) and the Cotton Bowl, then a New Year's Day tradition for the network.

Melville's tale mixed the Bible with other literary classics, such as the works of William Shakespeare. Follow along, and you'll see what I mean.

I think the ancillary characters at the start of the show were meant to set the stage, rather than go with Ishmael's narration from the start. For good or bad is up to you.

Rating: B.

It Should've Been on a Saturday: Young Robin Hood (1991)

In 1991, Hanna-Barbera joined forces with Canada's Cinar to create Young Robin Hood as a new component of the Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera Sunday block. The series was a mid-season replacement, launching on New Year's Day, and was the latest in H-B's continuing line of series rebooting established characters as younger versions (i.e. The Flintstone Kids). That trend would end later in 1991 with Yo, Yogi! being sold to NBC.

The story here is that Robin is left to fend for himself while his father, the Earl of Huntington, is off on a crusade with King Richard the Lionhearted. Otherwise, it's the familiar tale of Robin and his Merry Men evading the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham and Prince John, presented here as a spoiled child, at every turn. Marion, Robin's girlfriend, serves as a spy for her honey, thwarting the attempts of Gilbert of Gisbourne (instead of Guy in the traditional stories) to win her hand.

After the series ended, Cinar & H-B would not be doing business again.

In the series opener, Robin and friends deal with "The Wild Boar of Sherwood".

Standard H-B adventure fare of the period, but with an all-Canadian voice cast.

Rating: B.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Tooniversary: Beetle Bailey in V For Visitors (1963)

It's Visitor's Day at Camp Swampy, so Beetle Bailey (Howard Morris) brings his then-girlfriend, Bunny, to the camp. Bunny, in turn, brings her father, who served in WWI. No wonder General Halftrack (Morris) is nervous in "V For Visitors".

Yes, that's Allan Melvin as Bunny's dad, as well as Sgt. Snorkel AND Otto.

In memory of series creator Mort Walker, who has passed away at 94.

Rating: B.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Literary Toons: The Adventures of Sinbad (1979)

CBS' Famous Classic Tales produced just 29 episodes over the course of 10 seasons (1970-80), the last of which rolled out in time for Thanksgiving of 1979.

Air Programs International produced the final episode, an adaptation of The Adventures of Sinbad.

As it turned out, Hanna-Barbera, through their newly acquired Australian studio, only made a handful of cartoons for the series.

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

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Toon Legends: Goofy in How To Be a Detective (1952)

Goofy turns the detective business upside down in 1952's "How To Be a Detective", which isn't so much a teaching tool, but a parody of the genre.

Ok, level with me. You didn't see that swerve coming, did you now?

Rating: A.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Getting Schooled: Birthday House (1963)

Paul Tripp is best known for 2 things. First, he was the host of Mr. I. Magination, which ran for 3 years on CBS (1949-52) as one of the earliest children's television programs. Then, one of his books, The Christmas That Almost Wasn't, was adapted into a 1966 Italian-produced feature film that was often re-issued to theatres in the 70's. He also composed "Tubby the Tuba", which became one of his signature works.

In between, Tripp hosted a few regional kids' shows, the last of which was 1963's Birthday House, which ran for four seasons (1963-7) on WNBC in New York, and was syndicated briefly at the end of the run. I never even saw it in syndication, so there isn't going to be a rating.

Anyway, I could guess that Birthday House was meant to be WNBC's answer to, say for example, Romper Room. The one constant to Tripp's productions, from Mr. I. Magination to Birthday House, would be his wife, Ruth (billed as Ruth Enders), and while we may not see her in this sample clip provided by Gilmore Box, I'm going to guess that we'll hear her. That is, that might be her as the wandering sneeze.....

Daytime Heroes: Laurel & Hardy in Suspect in Custody (1966)

Laurel & Hardy (Jim MacGeorge & Larry Harmon) are cops assigned to tail an alien robot in "Suspect in Custody". Said robot looks like a Univac reject from The Jetsons, don't you think?

Predictable chaos, and an even more predictable ending.

Rating: B.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Saturtainment: Three Stooges in Squareheads of the Round Table (1947-8)

The Three Stooges are in the medevial era in "Squareheads of the Round Table", released in March 1948. Moe, Larry, & Shemp have to help a lovestruck blacksmith win his true love, who has been promised to the evil Black Prince.

I believe that was a form of a mandolin that Moe is playing opposite Larry's violin and Shemp's squeezebox (an early accordion).

Rating: B.

Toonfomercial: Casper teaches about safety (1960)

Casper teaches about safety in this ad, which doesn't use traditional animation per se, but rather using still pictures. Taken from Matty's Funday Funnies.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Daytime Heroes: Captain Video & His Video Rangers (1949)

It is Ed Norton's favorite show, as revealed in the series premiere of The Honeymooners. By that point, Captain Video & His Video Rangers had to have been in syndication after six seasons on DuMont. In the early days of television, a small budget wasn't the deterrent to success that it would be now. A small bag of used shoestrings would be equal to DuMont's production budget for Captain Video.

Richard Coogan was the first Captain, but the one everyone remembers, Al Hodge, came from radio's Green Hornet in 1951 to take over for the final four years. The one constant was the Video Ranger (Don Hastings), ever faithful, and always available.

Of course, Captain Video was well before my time, and out of syndication by the end of the 60's, if not sooner. Hence, no rating. We'll leave you with an intro from the Hodge era, when it was sponsored by Post cereals.

Don Hastings would later latch onto another long-running series, joining the cast of As The World Turns. Captain Video was the extent of his involvement in children's programming, unlike brother Bob, who returned to toons in the 90's (Batman) after a lengthy stint on General Hospital.

Toonfomercial: Mr. Magoo shills for NutraSweet (1994)

Five years after Jim Backus had passed on, Mr. Magoo was brought back to life, licensed to the folks who make NutraSweet to promote their product. Have no clue who's doing the voice here.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Toons You Might've Missed: Goopy Geer (1932)

Goopy Geer didn't have a long career at Warner Bros. as part of the Merrie Melodies roster. In his initial, self-titled outing from April 1932, Goopy is starring in a nightclub act.

After Hugh Harman & Rudolf Ising left for MGM, WB didn't make much use of Goopy. I think we can see why.

Rating: C.

Tooniversary: The Lone Ranger in Spectre of Death (1968)

"Spectre of Death" was one of the last Lone Ranger cartoons produced for CBS during the series' 1966-8 run. The Masked Man (Michael Rye) and Tonto (Shep Menken) pursue Sutro Helm (Menken in a dual role), thought dead when an attempted jailbreak resulted in the explosion of the jailhouse.

Rating: B.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Play That Funky Music (1976)

Wild Cherry may have only had one big hit, but they've gotten quite a bit of mileage out of 1976's "Play That Funky Music". Helen Reddy introduces the band in this clip from The Midnight Special:

So, they're from Steubenville, Ohio. Its most famous citizen happens to be iconic entertainer Dean Martin, who obviously never taught these guys anything about staying power on the charts.....

Getting Schooled: Lamb Chop's Play Along (1992)

Emmy & Peabody Award winner Shari Lewis returned to television in 1992 with PBS' Lamb Chop's Play Along. The ventriloquist, who launched her career 40 years earlier on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, entertained children with this weekday series for 5 seasons (1992-7).

In a way, Shari & PBS were meant for each other. Shari's family-friendly act, with puppets Lamb Chop, Hush Puppy, Charlie Horse, et al, had been a staple of variety shows for many years, and so it seemed so right that she would be right at home on the same network that is also home to Sesame Street.

So why just 5 seasons? I'm not sure, but Shari would return with one more series, Charlie Horse's Music Pizza, before her passing. Daughter Mallory has inherited Lamb Chop and the rest of the gang, and, who knows, maybe they'll be back someday.

Leave us not forget that Shari was also the voice of Princess Nida of the Arabian Knights (Banana Splits, 1968-70), among her many acting credits.

Here's a sample episode.

Aw, wasn't she a doll?

No rating. It was on when I was at work during the day, so I never saw the show.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Toon Rock: Mambo #5, Bob The Builder style (2001-2)

In 1999, Lou Bega scored a 1-hit wonder with a remake of Perez Prado's "Mambo #5". Bega's still trading off that song today.

A couple of years later, the producers of the British children's show, Bob The Builder, which has been seen here in the US on PBS & Nickelodeon, decided to retool the lyrics (pun intended), substituting the names of the women in the lyrics for various tools.

So let's scope out a construction worker's boppin' anthem.....

Yes, I found this hysterical. We'll have a full review on Bob The Builder and some other modern British toons another day. Anyway, this "Mambo" hit #1 in England, and also found the top 10 in Ireland & Australia.

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The Lone Ranger in Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Scientist (1967)

The "Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Scientist" in question in this Lone Ranger solo adventure is Tiny Tom (Dick Beals, Frankenstein, Jr.), trying again to eliminate the Masked Man (Michael Rye).

I think that might've been the last appearance of Tiny Tom, so we don't know if he ever kept his promise to go straight.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Tooniversary: A complete episode of The Archie Show (1968)

On September 14, 1968, after a live-action pilot had failed to sell a few years earlier, Archie and his friends finally made their television debut on CBS, beginning an 8 year run (the final season, reruns of US Of Archie) were moved to Sundays, and blacked out in my home market).

This episode of The Archie Show appears to be a rerun compilation. First up, Archie, Reggie, & Jughead go surfing for first prize while Betty & Veronica find that the local lifeguard ain't exactly living up to his job description.

Then, Dilton Doiley converts his mother's washing machine into a computer, with the predictable results.

Ignore the poster's label. Online sources report that "The Computer" premiered in November, and "Surf Board" may have been part of a September episode.

Rating: B.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Toon Sports: The Great Cold Rush Race (Wacky Races, 1968)

Like, the Wacky Races heads to the Great White North, eh? As the Northeast is caught in a cold spell, it figures we can revisit this particular trek to Canada in "The Great Cold Rush Race".

The original Wacky Races turns 50 in September, but you know Cartoon Network/Boomerang won't acknowledge it.

Rating: A-.

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Little Bit O'Soul (1968)

The Music Explosion were a 1-hit wonder in the winter of 1967-8 with "Little Bit O'Soul", which landed them on American Bandstand in February 1968. This video has the show intro, with voiceover by Charlie O'Donnell, a short intro by Dick Clark, and then, "Little Bit O'Soul" and the requisite interview.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Toon Rock: Harlem Shuffle (1986)

The Rolling Stones' cover of Bob & Earl's "Harlem Shuffle" peaked at #5 on the Hot 100 in 1986. Part of the reason for that was the video, which garnered heavy, and I do mean heavy, airplay on MTV. Directed by Ralph Bakshi and John Kricfalusi, the animation used here was also the same brand of artistic abstraction used the following year on Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures, then perfected by Kricfalusi with Ren & Stimpy 4 years after that.

Unbelievably, Bakshi directed the live-action portion, which I think was a first, as Kricfalusi handled the animation direction.

Saturday Morning Ringside: Three Stooges in Fling in the Ring (1955)

The Three Stooges get back into the fight game in 1955's "Fling in the Ring", a remake of Shemp's 1st vehicle with the team, "Fright Night", eight years earlier.

The boys are trainers for Chopper Kane (Dick Wessel), but they also work for a mobster named Big Mike, who wants Kane to throw the fight. Chaos, of course, follows.

It's been said that "Fright Night" was Shemp's favorite. This might've been his 2nd favorite because of it.

Stunt double Joe Palma, used in this film for the actor playing Big Mike in certain scenes, would later double for Shemp when they remade some more of the earlier shorts after Shemp's passing.

Rating: B.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Game Time: When college football really was event TV

Today, watching college football on several different channels can leave one viewer dizzy and on the verge of falling asleep too soon. That's the end result of the expansion of cable, to the point where there are links between broadcast & cable networks via corporate ownership (i.e. ESPN/ABC as a unit of Disney), flooding the airwaves and fans' senses almost to the point of desensitization.

It wasn't always thus. In the pre-cable era, and even in cable's infancy, ABC, in particular, subscribed to the concept of having a Game of the Week, kind of like Major League Baseball. That's what made watching college football so special back in the day. After the unification of ESPN & ABC under the Disney umbrella some 20-odd years ago, the idea has been to heavily push the top 25 ranked teams, and over-promote each year's Heisman candidates from the start of the season.

Take a trip back in time with me to 1973 and a classic rivalry between Los Angeles rivals USC & UCLA.

Uploader Stephen Barnett's video wasn't perfect. After all, it's nearly 45 years old.

Posted in memory of play-by-play announcer Keith Jackson, who passed away today at 89.

Toons You Might've Missed: Howdy Doody & His Magic Hat (1953)

At the peak of his popularity, Howdy Doody was set up to star in an animated cartoon for UPA. However, the finished product displeased creator Buffalo Bob Smith to the point where Smith ordered the original negatives destroyed.

"Howdy Doody & His Magic Hat" marked the American debut of writer-director Gene Deitch, better known here for his treatments of Popeye & Tom & Jerry in collaboration with William Snyder. Deitch also worked on some Krazy Kat shorts while working for King Features.

It's easy to see why Smith hated this, as you're about to find out for yourselves. Uploaded by Toontracker.

It does look like an art school project come to life, doesn't it? It was considered lost until discovered at the Library of Congress in 2009.

Rating: D.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Toons You Might've Missed: Krazy Kat in Seeing Stars (1932)

George Herriman always intended Krazy Kat to be gender neutral, neither male nor female.

However, most of us are acquainted with the feminine characterization of Krazy in the 60's, thanks to King Features' syndicated cartoons. Thus, it will strike you as odd to see Krazy as a male cat in an earlier itineration.

Dating back to the silent film era, Krazy had been a fixture in theatrical shorts, though the rights were passed from one studio to another until settling at Columbia in the late 20's. In 1932's "Seeing Stars", Krazy is a nightclub entertainer, playing the piano to a house that includes a number of Hollywood stars of the era, including Laurel & Hardy and the Marx Brothers.

It ain't the same without Ignatz or Officer Pupp, let me tell you. I kind of prefer Krazy as a love-struck female, even if she has to repeat English class......

Rating: B-.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Three Stooges in Who Done It? (1949)

Once again, the Three Stooges are detectives, this time trying to rescue their missing client, in "Who Done It?". Director Edward Bernds had originally intended this for Curly, but the latter's stroke put a kibosh on those plans, and another, lesser known team at Columbia had first crack. Supporting players Emil Sitka, Dudley Dickerson, and Christine McIntyre appeared in the earlier version. Seven years later, this would be remade as "For Crimin' Out Loud", Shemp's final go-round.

I've seen this at least a dozen times over the years. Entertaining, even though you can see the end coming a mile away.

Rating: B.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Saturday Morning's Greatest Hits: Just What I Needed (1978)

Our first Midnight Special entry of the year takes us back to 1978. Country singer Larry Gatlin is the host du jour, and introduces the first hit record for The Cars, "Just What I Needed", with Benjamin Orr on lead vocals.

How this series was never syndicated after its NBC run, I'll never know.

Animated World of DC Comics: Wonder Twins in Dangerous Prank (1977)

The Wonder Twins hit the slopes to help a young woman trapped after a "Dangerous Prank" goes awry. Michael Bell & Louise "Liberty" Williams double as two of the teenagers.

About the ping-pong game. Depending on what rules you use, since Zan was leading, 5-0, vs. Gleek, in some places that's a shutout. I should know. I went through that myself in school, often on the wrong end. Apparently, the artists couldn't be bothered to have Gleek use a stool, since you're not supposed to be standing on the table to play, even with that elastic tail......

Rating: B.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

You Know The Voice: Jim MacGeorge (1980)

Jim MacGeorge's cartoon credits are many, though some of you might not realize it. Jim began working for Hanna-Barbera after they forged a deal with Larry Harmon to bring Laurel & Hardy to animated life in 1966 (MacGeorge voiced Hardy in the cartoons, but otherwise impersonated Laurel in front of the cameras), then reprised when Laurel & Hardy met Scooby-Doo a few years later. His other credits include Mighty Orbots, Bionic Six, Clue Club, and Kwicky Koala.

In 1980, MacGeorge & Chuck McCann (ex-Far Out Space Nuts) began doing a series of commercials for Anco windshield wiper blades.....

Well, there's another nice mess they got into.....

Toon Legends: Mighty Mouse meets the Mighty Heroes at last (1987)

From season 1 of Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures:

The Mighty Heroes had retired from crime fighting and opened an accounting agency. However, business has been next to non-existent. When Mighty Mouse comes in looking for assistance in solving a numbers related case, he recruits the aged heroes to help him foil Big Murray, whose scheme was a little bigger than he bargained for in "Heroes & Zeroes".

Then, in "Stress For Success", a restless Mighty Mouse seeks therapy.

Ralph Bakshi not only brought back his creations, the Mighty Heroes, but also a few other Terrytoons favorites, such as Deputy Dawg and Heckle & Jeckle, for guest appearances during the series. In addition to John Kricfalusi, the staff also included comics writer Doug Moench and future WB writer-producer Tom Minton. I think you can clearly see how Kricfalusi was able to develop Ren & Stimpy, based on his work here.

Rating: B.

Monday, January 8, 2018

From Comics to Toons: Krazy Kat in Quickest Brick in the West (1963)

The spotlight isn't so much on Krazy Kat, but, rather, on a daydreaming Ignatz Mouse (Paul Frees), who envisions himself as the "Quickest Brick in the West".

Frees also voices Offissa Pup, don'tcha know.

Rating: B.

On The Air: Wacky Races (2017)

Just in time for its 50th anniversary this fall, Wacky Races has finally been revived. That's the good news. The bad news is, you have to subscribe to Boomerang's streaming service here, or have access overseas in order to see it.

Not everyone is back, though, in the wake of DC's short-lived Wacky Raceland series that rebooted Professor Pat Pending as an African-American, and Sgt. Blast of the Army Surplus Special as a woman, as the writer didn't realize there already was a female Sgt. Blast (from Private Olive Oyl on 1981's Popeye & Olive Show). The Ant Hill Mob aren't regulars this time, but they do make an appearance in the new series.

The familiar racers include Peter Perfect (Diedrich Bader, ex-Batman: The Brave & The Bold), & The Gruesome Twosome, who've been given individual names. Tiny is the Monster, and Bela (spelled with 2 l's on this series) is, of course, a vampire and a homage to Bela Lugosi. Dick Dastardly & Muttley are still a team, but also act independently of each other. Peter Woodward replaces Jim Cummings as Dastardly, and it's Tom Kenny, not Frank Welker, replicating the late Don Messick's famous laugh for Muttley.

Additionally, Penelope Pitstop now has a fraternal twin sister, Pandora, both voiced by Nicole Parker (ex-MadTV). Your race commentator comes off as a parody of Al Roker from The Today Show, and voiced by Christopher Judge (ex-Stargate SG-1). Yes, we can see Brick Churchman on this show.

The new Wacky Races is part competition, part soap opera, as we delve into the private lives of the racers, albeit in a completely different continuity than Wacky Raceland. It also fits the 15 minute format that Boomerang and Cartoon Network favor these days.

Unfortunately, full episodes are not available on YouTube. Instead, we have an edited sample.

Oh, doesn't Penelope look SO hot?

Hoyt Curtin's original theme has been co-opted as the opening theme for the new show, and often plays in the background during competition. I am begging Chumptoon Network to put this on the schedule and stop jamming Teen Titans Go! down the viewers' throats.

Rating: A.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Teenage Toons: The Thing and the Captain's Ghost (1979)

The Thing plays ghost buster when the Yancy St. Gang pretends to haunt an old riverboat. Talk about your transparent plots. Here's "The Thing and the Captain's Ghost".

It's this kind of slapstick silliness that prompted Hanna-Barbera, at the request of ABC, to reformat Scooby & Scrappy Doo the next year, once they realized a phony ghost story could be told in half the time.

One of the better entries in the series.

Rating: B.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Getting Schooled: Newton's Apple (1983)

PBS, it seems, has always had a fascination with science. After all, Nova is one of their longest running primetime shows. For 15 years (1983-98), Newton's Apple was the daytime equivalent.

Often shown as an after-school entry, Newton's Apple helped fulfill one of the remaining scholastic curriculums that hadn't been addressed on PBS. Sesame Street has been an entry-level program for preschoolers learning numbers and the alphabet. The Electric Company, in its original incarnation, was elementary school level English class with theatrics.

I never saw the show, so there won't be a rating. One wishes, though, that PBS would bring it back on the air, with reruns airing on their PBS Kids channel. Here's the intro:

Toons You Might've Missed: Mother Goose Goes Hollywood (1938)

Disney's Silly Symphony series was winding down, as 1938's "Mother Goose Goes Hollywood" was one of the last in the series, and the last one to use the Silly Symphony title card.

As the title implies, the Disney crew transformed various Hollywood stars of the day, such as Katherine Hepburn, Laurel & Hardy, W. C. Fields, and Eddie Cantor into various nursery rhyme characters. Donald Duck (Clarence Nash) makes his final appearance in the Silly Symphony series in a brief cameo early on. It's very odd to see Charlie McCarthy used here without Edgar Bergen, though.

Fields had, in fact, played Humpty Dumpty in "Alice In Wonderland" prior to this cartoon, hence his usage here. Most of the stars were satirically depicted by other studios as well through the years, including WB and MGM.

Rating: A.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Toon Legends: Betty Boop in Snow White (1933)

Max & Dave Fleischer, looking for something for Betty Boop to do, decided on a loose adaptation of the classic tale of Snow White. No dwarves to be had here in this musical farce.

Betty's basically an analogue for Snow White, such that the Queen, jealous that Betty has quickly usurped her in terms of being the fairest in the land, decides to do something about it.

Features Cab Calloway as the singing voice of Koko the Clown. The animators also rotoscoped some footage of Calloway dancing to match it to Koko. Today, they would've used motion capture......

Yeah, I know, it's extremely cold out there today in the Northeast. Seems Bimbo, Koko, & Betty didn't dress appropriately.

A Wikipedia account claims the Queen was modeled after Olive Oyl. That's hardly the case, though Mae Questel voices both Betty and the Queen.

No rating.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Toon Rock: The Presidents Song (1995)

One of the highlights of Animaniacs were the musical numbers that turned up periodically.

In 1995, Yakko, Wakko, & Dot (Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, & Tress McNeille) teamed up to do "The Presidents' Song", set to the beat of Rossini's legendary "William Tell Overture", otherwise known as the theme to The Lone Ranger.....

Now's a good time to clue you in on the news of the day, that Animaniacs will return in 2020, this time streaming online on Hulu, which has acquired the original series. Make your plans now.

It Should've Been on a Saturday: Kukla, Fran, & Ollie (1947)

Last year marked the 70th anniversary of a franchise that started as a regional entry in Chicago, then went national within a year.

Kukla, Fran, & Ollie split time between NBC & ABC from 1947-57, airing on weeknights at the dinner hour at first, then shifting to Sundays, and a 15 minute format, much to the consternation of its growing audience. Fran Allison was the human foil for puppeteer Burr Tillstrom's creations, Oliver J. "Ollie" Dragon and Kukla. While the little kids were entertained by the puppets, their big brothers were likely crushing on Fran.

As we've previously noted, the trio took their act to CBS to host the network's Children's Film Festival. What memories I have of that series (previously reviewed) come mostly from the skits they did. However, it didn't last long, as CBS began tinkering with the format of the Festival before putting it to bed for good in the 80's.

Later years also saw Tillstrom branch out with Kukla & Ollie without Fran. For example, Ollie went solo to duel with the talking Parkay tub (voice of Michael Bell) in a late 70's ad. Ollie & Kukla were on the panel for a week on Match Game, matching wits with Gene Rayburn and contestants.

Some of the earliest shows are now available on DVD. I wonder if this skit is included.....

No rating.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Teenage Toons: Who's To Blame For The Real Empty Frame? (Clue Club, 1976)

Time to revisit the Clue Club.

Our 4 sleuths are hunting for a thief who's making some valuable paintings & antiques disappear. See if you can solve "Who's To Blame For The Real Empty Frame?":

Part of the reason this series ultimately failed wasn't because it was a transparent attempt at replacing Scooby-Doo, who'd moved to ABC, but, rather, Woofer (Paul Winchell), whose ego wouldn't allow him to accept the fact that he was wrong all the time. Woofer & Wimper (Jim MacGeorge), in the eyes of network suits, merited being stars themselves, but because production ended, the episodes were, as previously noted, re-edited the following season for Skatebirds to emphasize the comedy relief mutts.

Rating: A-.

Saturtainment: The World's Strongest Man (1977)

It began as a 10-week competition, presented as part of the CBS Sports Spectacular. However, the World's Strongest Man tournament has spun off into an international, annual event, no longer confined to the US.

Originally, the field was a mix of weightlifters, football players, and pro wrestlers, such as Superstar Billy Graham, Ivan Putski, Ken Patera, Tom Magee, and, in the 1979 event shown below, Jerry "Crusher" Blackwell. While Patera was billed as a wrestler competing in the 1977 inaugural event, I cannot be certain if host Brent Musburger brought up Patera's accomplishments as a weightlifter, earning a gold medal in the 1971 Pan American Games, and being on the 1972 US Olympic Team. I didn't watch every week. Anyway, Patera placed 3rd, the best showing among the wrestlers. Magee, better known as a bodybuilder than a wrestler coming from Canada, matched Patera's finish a few years later.

The 1977 field also included actor-bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk), but if memory serves me correctly, the competition took place prior to the launch of Hulk as part of CBS' primetime lineup (it was a mid-season replacement).

Franco Columbu, prominently featured, along with Arnold Schwarzenegger, in the movie, "Stay Hungry", was injured early in the 1977 tournament, and was forced out. A similar fate befell Blackwell, as you may see in this video compilation. The graphics are from a rebroadcast on ESPN2. Either Musburger's original commentary was edited off, or he didn't return for the 1979 tournament.

While Bill Kazmaier finished 3rd, he'd go on to win the next three in a row. He'd also give wrestling a try, an ill-advised career decision that saw him land in WCW in the 90's.

Today, the tournaments still take place, and, after airing on ESPN2 for a few years, the American TV rights now are back with CBS, which runs the tournament on CBS Sports Network. To think the event reached its 40th anniversary last year.

Rating: B-.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: The first episode of the Adventures of Gulliver (1968)

Our Famous First for January 2018 is the series premiere of The Adventures of Gulliver.

Set seemingly in more modern times, our story begins with Thomas Gulliver (John Stephenson), son Gary (Jerry Dexter), and their dog, Tagg, on a sailing trip in search of an island that has buried treasure. Captain Leech (Stephenson) wants the treasure for himself, and is pursuing the elder Gulliver to get a map.

As it happens, in the midst of a thunder & lightning storm that runs their ship aground, Thomas sends Gary & Tagg off to safety, entrusting the map to Tagg. Leech comes after the map, but is himself knocked overboard. Of course, you know that Gary & Tagg end up on Lilliput, where the understandable fear of giant visitors upsets King Pomp (Stephenson yet again), but his daughter, Flirtacia (Ginny Tyler, ex-Space Ghost), predictably, has the hots for Gary.

Gary wins them over, and the adventure begins with "Dangerous Journey".

The series turns 50 this year. After a couple of live-action retellings of Jonathan Swift's original tale in the last decade, the last a feature film with Jack Black, would WB or anyone else want to chance bringing this back?

Rating: A.

From Comics to Toons: Happy New Year, Charlie Brown (1986)

On this day 32 years ago, CBS premiered Happy New Year, Charlie Brown, the 30th Peanuts primetime special. With the Christmas break coming to an end for school children here in the frigid Northeast today--classes resume tomorrow--this is actually appropriate.

Charlie Brown (Chad Allen, later of Our House) learns, to his dismay, that he & his class have to read Leo Tolstoy's epic novel, War & Peace, during the Christmas break. If it was a book from the Bible, it might not have been so bad. Jeremy Miller (Growing Pains) is heard as Linus.

In a way, we can all relate to Charlie. If he hadn't procrastinated and waited until the last minute to finish the book, then write the report, well.....!

Rating: B.