Saturday, April 19, 2014

Looney TV: Daffy Duck's Easter Egg-Citement (1980)

Daffy Duck was starring in his own Saturday morning series on NBC in 1980, but I am not so sure the "Peacock Network" landed his Easter special, which was perhaps the last cartoon issued by DePatie-Freleng, in conjunction of course with Warner Bros., before being bought out by Marvel.

Daffy is joined by Foghorn Leghorn, Sylvester, and Speedy Gonzales, among others, in this primetime treat. In the fall, Speedy would earn co-star status when Daffy's NBC series was renewed for a 2nd season.......

Unfortunately, Daffy is in his selfish-greedy mode from the 50's & 60's. It'd be a long time before he'd be his old manic self. The framing sequences were borrowed from "Duck Amuck", as if you didn't know, but unlike that classic short, the artist's identity isn't revealed. Hmmmm. Maybe this was on NBC after all. Had it been on CBS, don't ya think Bugs would've been wielding the brush again?

Rating: C.

Rare Treats: The Emperor's New Clothes (The Enchanted World of Danny Kaye, 1972)

If Sammy Davis, Jr. hadn't recorded "The Candy Man" for the movie, "Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory", chances are Danny Kaye would have. Trust me. Other than Bill Cosby or maybe Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo), I can't think of anyone else that did more for kids than Kaye, who was an ambassador for UNICEF by the time this next item hit the air.

Nearly a year after Here Comes Peter Cottontail, Kaye made his 2nd--and last--special for Rankin-Bass and ABC. The Enchanted World of Danny Kaye was one of those rare entries from R-B that mixed live-action with animation. The studio had made some live-action movies, true, but they hadn't gone the hybrid route before full bore. Sure, there were live-action clips interspersed with some of their specials (i.e. The Easter Bunny is Coming to Town), but this was more than your average R-B primetime special.

The balance of the show is an adaptation, done in Animagic, of Hans Christian Andersen's The Emperor's New Clothes. If memory serves, however, R-B would do a fully animated version a year or so later for their syndicated Festival of Family Classics series. Kaye, who starred in a live-action biography of Andersen some years earlier, essays the role of Marmaduke, a con artist who creates some......very interesting wardrobe for the Emperor (Cyril Ritchard). Kaye appears in live-action form in bracketing segments to help move the story along, still in character.

Now, let's take a trip to The Enchanted World of Danny Kaye:

Kaye's performance of Marmaduke recalls another of his films, "The Court Jester", and, yes, he gets the girl in that one, too.

Rating: B.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Animated World of DC Comics: Superman turns 75 (2013)

After showcasing a brand spankin' new Batman shortie that debuted on Cartoon Network to mark the Dark Knight's 75th anniversary, in the best interests of equal time, we are serving up Superman's 75th anniversary short, which bowed at Comic Con International in San Diego last summer, and, to my knowledge, hasn't aired on television, but should've. Then again, it's CN we're dealing with here.

Bruce Timm teamed with "Man of Steel" director Zack Snyder to take a panoramic view of the Man of Steel's visual evolution through the ages, even dealing with some comics events, including a temporary death (1993-4), being split into two people (Superman Blue & Red), and, well......!

7 levels of awesome, no?

Rating: A.

Literary Toons: The First Easter Rabbit (1976)

Rankin-Bass served up a loose adaptation of The Velveteen Rabbit, but retro-fitted it to link up with the "universe" they'd created for their Christmas specials, when it should've been allowed to stand alone.

The First Easter Rabbit, then, comes across as just another treacly R-B holiday cartoon. Debuting on NBC in 1976, with subsequent repeats airing on CBS, it's virtually been lost to the mists of time. Something tells me it didn't do so well in the ratings, such that NBC gave it up, and then, CBS did, too.

Burl Ives narrates, with a supporting cast including vets Bob McFadden, Paul Frees, & Don Messick, plus Stan Freberg and Robert Morse. In fact, this would be the beginning of Morse's association with R-B, which would last up through 1979's Jack Frost.

If it were redone today, it'd be expanded to an hour to better interpret the plot.

Rating: C.

Toonfomercial: Smokey Bear---before his TV show (I think)(1960's?)

I am not sure of the animation house that made this next item, but it sure wasn't Rankin-Bass, which obtained a license in 1969 to bring Smokey Bear to television. The ad is shown in black & white, which to me suggests it may have been made well before 1969. Paul Frees narrates, and Jackson Weaver is the voice of Smokey.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Toons After Dark: CBS Cartoon Theatre (1956)

While Mighty Mouse Playhouse was a vital part of CBS' Saturday morning lineup for 12 seasons (1955-67; the final season saw a title change to Mighty Mouse & the Mighty Heroes), the network felt they had room at night for some of the other Terrytoons characters.

CBS Cartoon Theatre was the showcase for the likes of Dinky Duck, Gandy Goose, Little Roquefort, and, in the leadoff spot in this episode, Heckle & Jeckle, who would graduate to a Saturday berth themselves a few years later. Dick Van Dyke made his CBS debut hosting this series, just a few short years before his iconic, self-titled sitcom. Terrytoons produced the animation for the segments in which Heckle & Jeckle and others interacted with Dick, who also performs a rudimentary magic trick to set up the Dinky Duck short.

The title cards were edited off in order to fit four cartoons into a half-hour show. This proved rather unwieldy, of course, which is why you would only get 3 shorts in a half-hour in later years.

Of the four in this episode, I've only seen "Down South" with Heckle & Jeckle, a twisted take on the classic tale of  Little Red Riding Hood, but the talking magpies are at their best here. Too bad this is in black & white.......

The cartoons are available in individual DVD's, or at least Heckle & Jeckle are.

Rating: B.

Saturday School: Tennesse Tuxedo & His Tales (1963)

Tennessee Tuxedo (Don Adams) might be considered the prototype for Hanna-Barbera's 1971 series, Help! It's the Hair Bear Bunch! in that both shows are set in a city zoo, and the title protagonist(s) always leaves in an effort to better himself, but always ends up back in the zoo anyway.

Tennessee, a penguin, and his walrus sidekick, Chumley, get into one scrape after another, often involving a human antagonist, gangster Rocky Maninoff (Jackson Beck impersonating Humphrey Bogart), who figures into the series opener, "Mixed Up Mechanics". The closing tag comes from Jay Ward's Fractured Fairy Tales, due largely to the fact that in syndication, the Ward and Total Television shows were mixed together, which didn't make all that much sense at the time.

When Tennessee & Chumley visit Phineas J. Whoopee (Larry Storch), they're learning things right along with the viewers at home, which makes this show qualify for the E/I certification from the FCC if someone ever thinks of reviving the series.

PublicDomain25 uploaded "Mixed Up Mechanics":

To think Tennessee turned 50 last year, and few bothered to notice.

Rating: B.