What The Funny #10: Toby Danger
I see London…
I see France…
I see the latest What The Funny Freakazoid! breakdown!
This one is momentous for not only being the first blog post of December (though it was originally scheduled for November…dang these holidays cause delays!), but it’s also the landmark 10th installment of What The Funny!
Today’s WTF looks at “Doomsday Bet”, the sole installment of Toby Danger.
“Toby Danger” aired on Freakazoid!‘s second episode. It was written by Tom Minton and storyboarded by Brian B. Chin and Butch Lukic. Eric Radomski directed, but went uncredited.
Premise: (such as it is) At the Danger Semiconductor Testing Lab in Nevada, the World’s Largest Semiconductor is stolen by archvillain Dr. Sin, who uses it to wreak havoc across nearby Las Vegas. Dr. Vernon Danger arrives to stop it, along with his son Toby Danger, adopted daughter Sandra Danger, and his bodyguard/co-adventurer, the gregarious “Dash” O’Pepper.
Our Mascot: Emmitt Nervend
Find Emmitt Nervend: Once in This Episode
Tag: “We’re very proud of that.”
In case you hadn’t figured it out by now, this short was a full-on parody of Hanna-Barbera’s 1960’s era cartoon Jonny Quest, complete with the jazzy scored soundtrack, off-screens cries of “AIIEEE!” whenever a plane crashes and intentionally static-looking animation. The combination of detailed drawings and limited movements (with questionable physics) is slavishly imitated. In the original, this was the result of a limited budget; here, it is a labor of love to recreate that style.
Our intrepid crew consists of:
- Toby Danger himself is a wide-eyed, enthusiastic, naive kid, just along for the ride. His crowning moment is when he tries to sneak into the casino dressed as Mr. Peanut in order to meet a Keno girl.
- Dr. Vernon Danger is Toby’s dad. He’s a cheerfully sociopathic lunatic, embittered by the fact that he can never realize the full potential of his skills due to Earth’s limited resources. He seems unfazed by the destruction his experiments cause; no one else seems particularly bothered, either. He and his family travel via a floating island which he invented (complete with detachable sidewalk slabs), a byproduct of the experiment which destroyed an entire village. He owns a semiconductor lab, amongst other ventures.
- Sandra Danger is the Dangers’ adopted daughter, replacing the racially insensitive character of Hadji. He took her in after one of his experiments destroyed her town and her family; in fact, the floating sidewalk slabs the family travel on were a by-product of that disastrous experiment. She seems to be OK with her situation (“I may have lost a town, but I gained a family!”), though she lets out a horrified scream when Dr. Danger suggests she may become a scientist like him.
- Dash O’ Pepper is the Dangers’ bodyguard and the kids’ protector. He’s the muscle of the team, hardly the brains. Viz, when Dr. Danger reveals the villain behind the theft of the super-conductor:
Dash’s tactic of choice is to hurl barrels at things, shouting epithets such as, “Heads up, you heathen monkeys!”
- Dr.Sin is the Danger’s arch-nemesis, a supervillain with a vaguely-defined motivation.
- Jules the Cat: Yup, his name is Jules, and he’s a cat.
“Toby Danger” seems to be one of the most remembered shorts from Freakazoid!, though some younger viewers may not have been aware of what was being spoofed, or even that this was a spoof. But did you know that “Toby Danger” wasn’t originally intended for Freakazoid! at all?
T’is true. The short was the only Freakazoid! episode written by Tom Minton. Minton was a story editor and writer on Animaniacs and Tiny Toon Adventures, and this short was in fact originally written for Animaniacs, however it seemed too out-of-place on that show. The producers considered various options to get the short on the show, including at one point opening with Wakko sitting in front of a TV and saying to the audience…
…But ultimately it was decided that the short was just too far removed from the world of Animaniacs. The short sat on the shelf for a while, not resurfacing until Freakazoid! became a comedy. Freakazoid! producer Mitch Schauer…
…shared Minton’s passion for creating a Jonny Quest parody, and the short was made by the Freakazoid! team. Minton claims that the short was only made because a Freakazoid! episode was running short. A caricature of Minton appears in the “laser” shot in the Toby Danger Intro; he’s the small angry-looking man on the left. (Sorry folks, I couldn’t find a ton of images for this entry; you’ll just have to use your imaginations.)
Most of the voice cast in this short were also the voices of the Jonny Quest characters for Hanna-Barbera. Don Messick, the original voice of Dr. Benton Quest, plays his Freakazoid! counterpart Dr. Vernon Danger. Messick is best known to Warner Bros. Animation fans as the original voice of Scooby-Doo and as Hamton J. Pig on Tiny Toon Adventures. Sadly, “Toby Danger” was the last thing Messick did before tragically dying from a stroke. Granville van Dusen, the voice of “Dash” O’Pepper, was at the time the official voice of “Race” Bannon at Hanna-Barbera. (Dash’s “Heads up, you heathen monkeys!” was actually spoken by Race Bannon in an episode of Jonny Quest.) Likewise, Scott Menville, who voices Toby, had previously voiced Jonny Quest in the 1986-87 reboot series.
Sandra Danger was voiced by Mary Scheer.
Other highlights include a caricature of Barney Fife, the comical deputy played by the late comedian Don Knotts, in Vegas…
…And a Ray Charles-esque singer, who, unable to see the destruction going on around him, continues to croon even after all the lights have gone out! A tad wicked, but still funny.
If you remember Jonny Quest, you’ll find this short daffy but entertaining. If you don’t, you’ll likely be scratching your head wondering what the heck is going on.
My rating: 3 out of 5.
ADDENDUM: John P. McCann wrote an unmade pilot script for an ongoing Toby Danger TV series in 1997. The script, “Danger on Ice,” involved Dr. Danger battling crabs who had mutated to giant size (due to cruise ship fuel and jettisoned low-salt meals in the water) in Alaska. The script has many jokes about Danger lecturing Toby about the importance of preserving the balance of nature, while simultaneously mirthfully destroying the environment with his gadgets and plans.
Makes you wonder what would have happened if a Toby Danger series had been greenlit, and it hadn’t had it’s glory stolen by another series which lampooned Jonny Quest.
Next up: we wrap up our Freakazoid! miniseries with, appropriately enough, “Freakazoid is History!” See ya there.