Thursday, October 19, 2006

Halloweekend '93 Part 7

Like Fred Durst, we’re rollin’ rollin’ rollin’, except instead of towards obscurity, we’re headed to Tiny Toon Adventures. This was a hell of a show back in the late 80s-early 90s, but it got overshadowed by Animaniacs, which was the new hotness by the mid-90s. Still, Tiny Toons had a good run, a big stable of characters which were basically remixes of classic Looney Tunes with a few curveballs thrown in, and enough pop culture references to make your head spin. It also hasn’t aged that well, since some of the characters just bleed “early 90s.” Like the valley-girl talking Loon, Shirley. But, they always did go all out for Halloween specials, so this was something to look forward to.

We start out with a bumper segment introducing us to “Elmyra, Mistress of the Dark,” which is basically Elmyra the creepy Elmer Fudd-like girl with a psychotic desire to cuddle animals into powder, in a poofy black wig. See, its funny since it’s a play on “Elvira,” but if you didn’t already figure it out, well, you disappoint me and you will most assuredly NOT be in MyCircle if I ever get it. Anyway, Elmyra plays host to this year’s special, The Horror of Slumber Party Mountain. Its your standard slapstick comedy with a “horror” twist much in the same vein as classic Looney Tunes or the old “Abbot & Costello Meet…” movies, which is fine by me. There’s a lot of that in this episode, which involves a taxidermy-revived Jackalope terrorizing the gang, which alone is worth the price of admission.

Best part of the show: after a bumper where Elmyra says she loves stuffed animals and starts shoving pillow stuffing into Furball, the resident unlucky cat, at the end of the show, when the Jackalope is revealed to have been Elmyra all along and the gang (Buster Bunny, Babs Bunny [no relation], Fifi, Shirley, Hamton & Plucky) make a break for it through the studio walls, Furball is seen rolling after them, a bloated stuffing-filled ball, which for some reason was the funniest thing all episode for me.

Long story short, Tiny Toons was great slapstick and didn’t insult your intelligent too much when you were a kid, so its aged pretty well. Except for those touches that are so early 90s they hurt.

Look, the main reason why I’m slipping in these is that I got Warhammer: 40000: Dark Crusade last week and I stormed through the campaign with the Tau Empire. Its crack-like in its addictiveness. Now I’m trying to readjust tactics for the Space Marine campaign, which is hard since I miss having more firepower than Monev the Gale (Yes that is a reference out of left field. No you don’t get anything from me for guessing where its from, but feel free to treat yourself to some Chips Ahoy in celebration).

Now, this is a complete non sequiteur : Sam & Max is back! Yay! So far, I haven‘t seen it available in a hard copy, just pay download only. Boo.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Halloweekend '93 Part 6

Oo! It is better. Its Eek! The Cat. Eek! was a great show at the time, even though it could wear a little thin. Basically, Eek! was the most altruistic being ever to walk the planet, who’s motto was “It never hurts to help.” Well, it often hurt quite a lot. In this episode, Eek! (the exclamation point’s there on purpose) is trying to help his family trick-or-treat. There’s two kids (both pretty high up on the “horrible kid” scale) in a chicken costume and they can’t see anything. Eek! gets involved and ends up being the head of the chicken and fails horribly at steering them anywhere good. Through that blind leadership, Eek! gets separated from the kids through an elaborate gratuitously complicated sequence of events involving a motorcycle, half of a horse costume and a jack-o-lantern that lands him in a cemetery that’s haunted by a ghost. A ghost who’s sobbing like Luke Skywalker talking about Toshi Station. Yeah, that simile didn’t work out like I wanted it to. Still, didn’t want to let it go to waste. Where was I?

Oh right. So Eek! and the little ghost set off in search of the rest of the missing spooks. Turns out, through an elaborate series of events involving a witch dressed like a skank, a reggae-speaking black cat, a spooky old house and a very large vacuum cleaner traps all of the ghosts roaming the city so they can be ground into cosmetic powder. I’m not making that up, nor am I going to try to defend that plot development. It’s a little more involved than that, but since this is already a week late, I’m trying to wrap this up as fast as possible. Best part of the episode, Eek! unhesitatingly volunteers to be a battering ram to break out of a glass, ghost-proof prison. Crisis averted and all the ghosts go back to the netherworld when Halloween night ends. Right, the episode was a lot more fun to watch than write about. Now we can move on to the next one.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Haloweekend '93 Part 5

Moving right along, we’ve got an episode of Droopy, Master Detective. I’ve never liked Droopy, with his monotone voice, I’ve never liked his sidekick/son Dripple, and I sure as hell couldn’t see why they called him a poodle since he doesn’t look like one. He looks more like former Presidential hopeful John Kerry to me. Anyway, the “Master Detective” part was more of an early 90s revamp to try and recycle the old jokes for a new generation. At least they stayed with the Halloween theme. The first segment was Droopy and his son having their car break down in front of an old creepy mansion, where inside, a mad scientist has created a woman. Droopy knocks on the door and the undead-woman with the Bride of Frankenstein hair opens and falls madly in love with him. That’s a staple of the Droopy routine, and I never ever saw why women were always falling head over heels for this dullard, but now I think I have an answer. Pheromones. It has to be pheromones. Of course, “hijinks” follow.

After the commercial break came a Tom & Jerry Kids segment. I always rooted for Tom, even though that’s like betting on the Washington Generals, but still, that cat was committed to his job. Shrinking the protagonists down in size (and age) didn’t really help with the “recycle the same old bit” strategy. Oh well, in this episode, we get Lil’ Tom chasing Lil’ Jerry into an old haunted castle haunted by the ghost of McLockjaw. Yeah, I forgot to mention they’re in Scotland for this bit, not like it matters to the plot. Anyway, Jerry finds the ghost dog, who tells him he’s cursed to haunt the castle until a friend can stay in the castle of his own free will until midnight. Sounds like a pretty low grade curse. I mean come on, not even till dawn? Anyway, the curse gets lifted despite Tom’s diligent attempts to catch that plague-carrying rodent almost succeed in getting the mouse out of the castle before midnight, but of course, our ghost dog wants out, so he intervenes and…oh look, let’s just forget about this. I don’t even feel like going over the 2nd Droopy segment since writing this is boring me to tears. I’ll sum it up in one sentence. It’s the same as the first segment, only with Droopy as a scientist himself, the spaz of a wolf creates a retarded monster-man and Droopy creates the undead woman himself. Other than that, same exact plot. I hope the next show’s better than this.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Halloweekend '93 Part 4 (Yes I Know Its Late)

Ah. Yes. After Dog City came one of the shows I hated the most on Saturday mornings, Bobby’s World. I’m not entirely sure exactly why I hated the show. It could’ve been Bobby’s screeching demon voice, it could’ve been Howie Mandel’s semi-mullet in the live action bumpers, it could’ve been Bobby’s enormous watermelon shaped head. Whatever it was, the Halloween special was actually the only episode I remember liking. The plot’s simple. Bobby wants to go trick-or-treating, he’s too young, instead, Uncle Ted (in an Elvis costume) is coming over to help pass out apple jerky at the door while Mom & Dad go out to a costume party. But Ted’s got other ideas. Using a bunch of household junk and way more cardboard boxes than any household would normally have room for, they construct the Tunnel of Terror. What follows is one of the best scams in cartoon history. Trick-or-treaters can work their way through the tunnel only if they fork over three pieces of candy and a buck. A buck! For “charity.” Bullshit! Now, Uncle Ted was my favorite character on the show because of this episode for two reasons. 1) Actually making this scheme a reality, and 2) Giving a “pretty mommy discount” to one lady who didn’t bring much money with her. Hey man, he means her kid can see the Tunnel of Terror for free, not anything that you’re thinking.

Anyway, the scheme totally pays off and Ted & Bobby end up making several hundred dollars and even more candy by the end of the night and pass out on the couch bloated with candy (and probably in Ted’s case, Beer. Its not actually stated, but the beer gut and Hawaiian shirt imply years spent scarfing wings and pitchers of lager). Mom & Dad come home all pissed off that the house is a mess, and the episode….just ends. It. Just. Ends. I don’t think there were every any repercussions of the Tunnel of Terror. They got away scot-free and never identified what “charity” they were going to donate the money to. Hate the show I did, but this episode earned the hallowed “slow clap” for taking Halloween to ridiculously lofty heights.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Haloweekend '93 Part 3

Ok, here we go, the real extravaganza started after Double Dragon. Dog City was up next. Don’t remember Dog City? It was a hybrid animated/Muppet show about a Muppet/dog cartoonist named Eliot Shag (ah the naivety of youth) who drew the animated adventures of Ace Hart, private eye. It was based on the, for lack of a better word, “short film” of the same name that aired on the Jim Henson Hour in the late 80s, which was all puppets and very sweet. I have that somewhere on tape too, but no idea where. This show was cool beans, man. It breached the fourth wall at every opportunity and threw endless sight gags and puns at the viewer. Nonstop puns. Anyway, the show was tremendously intelligent for Saturday Morning fare, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it lasted for three seasons.

This episode was “The Bloodhound,” and our hard boiled detective has to track down a mysterious caped menace biting the citizens of the city at night. Of course, him being a hard boiled detective, Ace doesn’t want to bother with the case at all, calling all a bunch of hooey. Eddie, his plucky newsboy sidekick is all for it, taking every chance to tell Ace it’s the undead stalking the streets. Long story short, Ace tracks down the Bloodhound and reveals him to be a disgruntled mailman who’s sick of being bitten by every dog in the city every day. Actually, it wasn’t that great of an episode as far as the show went, but still…it was Halloween themed, and I loved Dog City, dammit! That’s got to count for something.

Usually it’s the crazier/stupider shows that are much more fun to write about since they’re so much easier to criticize. You’ll see what I mean tomorrow.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Halloweekend '93 Part 2

After Transformers, its over to FOX for the “not actually a part of the FOX Kids lineup but its still a cartoon that we’ll tack on to ride the coattails of the more popular shows.” Usually (for my part at least) it was King Arthur And The Knights Of Justice in that slot, leading to a lifelong fondness for that horrible show. But not this day. This day it was an episode of Double Dragon. Oh yes, even a straightforward beat ‘em up like Double Dragon got the animated series treatment in the heady days of the early 90s, complete with cheesy Nintendo sound effects.

The premise of the show has little to do with the original game (with its very simple introduction of Billy Lee’s girlfriend gets punched in the face and kidnapped by gang members and Billy subsequently sets out to get his woman back by beating up everyone on the street he sees). Here, Billy & his Brother Jimmy are “Special Deputies” for Metro City’s police force, fighting the Shadow Master’s syndicate of cartoonishly equipped bad guys. The thing is, Billy & Jimmy, who dress in blue and red versions of the same outfit, have a deep secret. Not only are they martial arts masters with their own dojo, but they fight crime as the Double Dragons, mask wearing swordsmen who dress exactly like Billy & Jimmy except for their undershirts mystically disappearing to reveal their double dragon “birthmarks.” Now, birthmarks don’t usually cover someone’s entire pecs and are green with an intricate level of detail. Hmm, sounds more like the description of a “tattoo.”

Anyway, this particular episode starts off with Jimmy Lee riding through Metro City on his oh so awesome tricycle, looking for some crime to bust. Little does he know he’s being watched by some guy in a van through closed circuit cameras, who puts out a call over the police band that sends Jimmy into “special deputy” mode. Long story short, it’s a setup and Jimmy gets arrested by some schmuck named Captain Tays. Jimmy gets railroaded at his trail in a moment that I’m sure would make any law students fall to the floor in a fit of giggling, and gets sent to “Rattica Prison,” (yeah, real creative) a place where they send “mutants AND hard cases.” I guess mutants who ARE hard cases have to go to an even more secure prison, or something. Anyway, Billy gets thrown into a cell with a mutant named Fireball, who meditates a lot since he tends to shoot hot death from his eyes when he gets angry. Turns out Fireball’s not really a bad guy, just some poor mook who got in with the wrong crowd. Hell, the worst thing he’s done is almost/nearly/clearly missed killing an innocent bystander. What follows is some blah-blah-blah stuff about gangs are bad, Billy trying to break INTO prison to rescue his brother, and Jimmy finding out he’s goin’ down hard in the exercise area the next day. What’s more interesting is the fact that even though he’s been convicted and imprisoned, Jimmy Lee is wearing the same exact clothes as he always does. How come the rest of the inmates have to wear regulation prison gray and he gets to keep his shoulder & knee pads? Lazy-ass animators or one of the perks of being a “special deputy?” I’m going with the lazy thing.

Anyway, the episode ends with a goofy fight scene in the prison common between Jimmy & a mutant with a bulldog’s head (man, Metro City needs a “House of M” event badly), then Shadow Master almost wins the day just by talking in his Awesome Voice, then Fireball does his thing to help out, and then all the bad guys get theirs (except Shadow Master, who escapes through the power of his Awesome Voice. Seriously, that guy’s voice is the best thing about the series) and Fireball ends up signing up with the Double Dragons after being paroled for some arbitrary reason.

Ok, weird show. Goofy show. But it did teach a few valuable life lessons. Like, uh, for instance… The, uh, justice system is a lot more laissze faire than the legal community has led us to believe. Seriously, if you’re a corrupt police captain, you can tell prison wardens what to do. Totally. And, uh, something about gangs are bad.

Look I know its not a Halloween episode! I still had to sit through it to get to the actual stuff. Besides, the existence of a Double Dragon cartoon is scary enough. The next show really is a Halloween special, I promise.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Halloweekend ‘93 pt. 1

Wooo! Its October, baby!

Now here’s a diamond in the VHS rough. I dug out an old tape of Saturday Morning Cartoons (you know, back when that actually meant something). But not just any old tape of SMCs. This was one of the annual, pre-Halloween Saturdays, where you got a whole morning full of animated goodness shoving the Halloween spirit down your gullet. And I loved them for it. The only other holiday to get a regular special is/was Christmas.

Anyway, FOX Kids used to be one of the 800 lb. Gorillas of Saturday Morning programming for a couple years. It had a loaded line up of X-Men, Spider-Man, Eek! The Cat, Taz-Mania (and later The Tick and Carmen Sandiego) and others. It also had some shows that made me want to throw a shoe through the TV screen, but that’s beside the point (and they're probably on the tape) In 1993, the FOX Kids line up was running at full steam and life was good.

Well, the tape doesn’t start with FOX Kids. It starts on a different channel to catch most of an episode of Transformers. OK, Transformers: Generation 2, which was basically the same exact Transformers episodes, only with goofy CG transitions between scenes and a new credit sequence. Anyway, the episode du jur features a couple Autobots and Decepticons getting stuck in Medieval Times, where Starscream almost conquers Europe with Ramjet, Rumble & Ravage while Spike, Hoist & Warpath don’t really do much to help until a wizard kickstarts their metallic hearts with electricity. Warpath was almost a cool Autobot in my eyes. After all, he was a tank and had a weapons system that made some sense, but his penchant for onomatopoeia made him sound like a dork. And Hoist was just a tool with a gun for a right hand. Why? Doesn’t matter, he’s playing second banana to Warpath in this episode anyway. And despite Starscream actually being a serious threat in this episode, his whining and bitching reaches new heights when victory is snatched away from him. I’m serious, he gets beaten about five minutes before the end of the episode, and everything that comes out of his mouth from that point on is whining. Starscream’s a dick.

I'm not even going to start ranting about just how horribly flawed the episode is from a historical perspective, but that's like saying "dolphins can't snap their fingers." Yes, you could go into the "whys" of it, but its not worth the time. More to follow shortly.