So recently, I learned that NBC’s new streaming service Peacock (seriously, that name. I get that the peacock has been NBC’s logo for decades, but they might as well just name their service “Penis”!) plans to launch a follow-up series based on the original Saved By the Bell, the famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) teencom that ran on the network from 1989 to 1993.
The early 90s is strong in this one…
Now, I was admittedly never a Saved By the Bell fan. I was aware of the show, and I’ve seen several episodes, and I know that SBTB was basically a live action cartoon and therefore I shouldn’t be looking for a realistic depiction of anything on this series, but I NEVER liked how the nerds on SBTB were portrayed.
On SBTB, nerds were practically a separate sub-species. They all fell firmly into the “Poindexter” archetype; thick glasses, collared shirts buttoned all the way to the top, pocket protectors and high water pants. And they existed for no other purpose than to be a source of ridicule for the other students and for us the audience. If you possessed a genius level of intelligence, then you were a dweeby loser who only existed for our amusement and degradation. Heaven forbid they’d ever have a kid with above average intelligence who was allowed to hang with the cool kids!
And I’m not counting Screech. He was the comic relief among the comic relief!
Now I’m not saying that Poindexters and Melvins don’t exist. I know that they do, but my complaint is how so-called normal society tends to put us all in a box, as if we’re all the same. As far as they’re concerned…
…It’s just Dilton Doiley and nothing else.
I state this as one of the geekiest geeks out there. I was never a cool kid. Incidentally, I generally prefer the terms “geek” or “brain” over “nerd”, but I’m going to use the term “nerd” for the rest of this monologue just to avoid excess verbiage.
Yes, many nerds are socially awkward dweebs. Some are, but a lot aren’t. I’m going to quote something that ESPN reporter Bomani Jones once said on the show that he co-hosts, High Noon:
“Parents: just because your kids are smart doesn’t mean that they have dress like dorks. Smart kids like to wear cool sneakers too!”
I actually have to give the film Revenge of the Nerds more credit. They at least acknowledge that there’s more than one type of nerd.
Gilbert: Yesterday I got into a fight with 1, 3, 5 and 7. The odds were against me!
Louis: You should call 2, 4, 6 and 8 to get even! Haaaaa-ha-ha-ha!
Yeah, the two main nerds were Poindexters, but that was necessary for the purpose of the story; they proved their worth as human being in the film’s climax. My point is that there are some nerds/geeks who like to dress cool; we don’t all have thick taped glasses, and wear hi-water pants with penny loafers and collared shirts and ties to school (unless that’s the school’s uniform where such things are mandated).
Everyone is a geek about something. Being geeky is simply possessing an extraordinary level of knowledge on a particular subject, hobby or interest. Excelling at STEM is obvious (and if you don’t know what STEM is, you’re not a nerd!), but there are also TV geeks, history geeks, sci-fi geeks, comic book geeks, toy/collectible geeks, etc. If someone knows everything that there is to know about Disney princess movies than that person is a geek, just geeky about something other than STEM. And who says that a person is only allowed to be geeky on a single subject or interest? Like Cooper said in the 2020 film Trolls: World Tour:
Did I just quote a line from Trolls: World Tour? Why, yes, I did.
Case in point, Mr. Andre Meadows, a well known YouTuber.
When Mr. Meadows first began making internet videos, he gave himself the title “Black Nerd”, as if a black nerd was a rarity, and that may have been the belief at that time, but anyone who’s been on the internet in the last two decades can assess that black nerds (myself included) have been around for a long time; we just didn’t have an outlet to express our geekiness. Black nerds have existed long before the emergence of Steve Urkel.
Do not get me started on Steve Urkel….
Let me start by mentioning that I’m not a huge fan of horror-related stuff: monsters, ghouls, goblins, creatures and creepies.
I don’t hate horror, it’s just personally not my jam. I’ve always been more into science fiction (aliens, robots, super powers and high-tech) than Gothic monster lore…
…And I’m generally not into dark stuff. I like positive things.
However, I do love to laugh. I like humor, especially zany, silly humor. As such, while I’m not a big horror fan, I’ve always enjoyed bad, campy, stupid, ridiculous horror/sci-fi. Stuff like Hillbillys in a Haunted House…
…And The Horror of Party Beach.
You know, the kinds of things that get goofed on by the likes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. This fondness for dopey, cheesy, late night sci-fi/monster shtick probably explains why 3 of my favorite bands (at the moment) are The Aquabats…
…The Ghastly Ones…
…And Los Straitjackets.
So wouldn’t it be great if someone made a family-friendly sketch comedy about kooky, cheesy late-night movie monsters, puppets and weirdos in campy costumes? Thankfully, someone did. This (finally) brings us to the subject of today’s Wild World of Shows, courtesy of or neighbor to the North, Canada…
The Hilarious House of Frightenstein.
Before we begin, I think I can sense what you’re thinking (assuming you’ve been following us for a while now)…”Wha? ‘Wild World of Shows’? Didn’t you change the name of this segment??”
-Yes, a couple of years ago this segment was indeed originally called the Wild World of Shows, but we changed it to The Cartoon Couch ’cause that name sounded similar to its’ older brother segment The Retro Bin and we like things that are related to have a unified branding. However, given that this show isn’t animated* (not in its’ final form, anyway, but we’ll get to that), it seemed incorrect to categorize this as a Cartoon Couch, so from here on in, whenever we cover a show that otherwise fits the requirements of a Cartoon Couch but isn’t a cartoon, we’ll be classifying it under Wild World of Shows. Got it? Good.
For the uninformed, The Hilarious House of Frightenstein is a Canadian children’s television series, which was produced by Hamilton, Ontario’s independent station CHCH-TV in 1971. It was syndicated both in Canada and internationally (though not in Maryland where I grew up; I’ve only recently discovered this show–late to the party as usual!) and occasionally still appears in some television markets. In Canada, the series has not aired on broadcast TV for several years, but is available on streaming service Crave.
The show is a quirky sketch comedy series that included some educational content amid its zany humour, the show’s cast included Billy Van, Fishka Rais, Guy Big, Mitch Markowitz, Vincent Price, and Julius Sumner Miller.
Van played most of the characters on the show. The guy wore a lot of hats, and thrice as many costumes.
- All 130 episodes were made in a nine-month span starting in 1971; the scenes with Price and Miller were all filmed within one summer.
- The show was originally going to be a cartoon. The production started with Riff Markowitz envisioning the concept and then inviting a room full of creative friends to a spaghetti and champagne ‘brainstorming’ dinner party in his double suite at the Windsor Arms Hotel in Toronto. Markowitz directed the brainstorming session while his assistant Roger John Greco made notes of everything said.
- CHCH had broadcast two other Markowitz shows: The Randy Dandy Show for children, starring Rafael Markowitz as Randy Dandy; and The Ed Allen Show, an exercise program. CHCH approved the production of Frightenstein to take advantage of the station’s new ability to reach into the Toronto market for advertising money.
- Randy Dandy’s soda pop venture was later taken up by the Count when he promoted Dracola from the castle to raise money for his Brucie project.
- Sid Biby led the station at this time. The Hilarious House of Frightenstein was one of the most ambitious shows attempted by Canadian producers during this era.
- Markowitz later began production of an animated cartoon version of the show with animator Al Guest that never got on the air. It wasn’t until Vincent Price, Billy Van and other Canadian comics of the day got on board that broadcasters began to take interest.
- Horror icon Vincent Price starred in introductions for the show’s various segments. Price, who was attracted to the project because he wanted to do something for kids, filmed all of his nearly 400 segments in four days for a fee of $13,000. Julius Sumner Miller, an American scientist and TV personality, appeared in every episode; although he put on a “mad scientist” persona, his segments featured straightforward science lessons and experiments.
- On Canadian television stations, the show generally aired as a children’s show in an after-school or weekend morning time slot. In the United States, however, many stations aired it in a late night slot aimed primarily at college students. In an interview with film critic Richard Crouse on CFRB in the 2010s, Markowitz’s brother Mitch Markowitz — also an associate producer and bit-part performer on the show — acknowledged that while he and his brother always recognized the show had kid appeal because of the zany monster characters and lowbrow humor, it was always intended to also appeal to a young adult audience of alternative comedy fans. In some American markets, the show drew higher ratings than The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson among that demographic.
Let’s hit that opening!
BTW, the show’s opening and closing credits were accompanied by a musical composition played entirely on a Moog synthesizer and written by Harry Breuer, Gary Carol, Jean Jacques Perrey and Pat Prilly. Its title is “March of the Martians”. The original recording can be found on an out-of-print Pickwick vinyl album called The Happy Moog.
As previously stated, the show was basically a sketch comedy. Although each episode was nominally structured around the basic narrative premise of Count Frightenstein’s efforts to revive Brucie J. Monster, a Frankenstein-like monster, only some sketches (including the first sketch of each episode) directly addressed the premise itself, while most sketches depicted unrelated goings-on around the castle. Only the two main characters appeared in the “plot” sketches, although they could also appear in other sketches as well, while the supplementary characters generally only appeared in their own standalone sketches and were not part of the core “plot” sketches.
Now, onto the screwy cast. (NOTE: All of the characters are played by Billy Van unless otherwise specified.)
Count Frightenstein himself, the main character, was the 13th son of Count Dracula. Exiled to Castle Frightenstein in Frankenstone for his failure to revive Brucie, the core premise of the show was that he would be allowed to return to Transylvania only when (and if) he succeeded in his quest. Count Frightenstein was also a “black sheep” vampire in other ways, including his strong preference for eating pizza rather than drinking human blood. He also fancies himself an inventor, although his inventions generally have one of three faults: they are either dangerous, useless, or already a common household object upon which his version is not an improvement.
Igor (Fishka Rais) was Frightenstein’s incompetent assistant. (So what else?)
- The Wolfman – A werewolf disk jockey at radio station EECH (get it?) who spun rock and roll records while doing a Wolfman Jack impression. The Wolfman’s theme song was Sly and the Family Stone’s “I Want to Take You Higher”. (One of my favorite Sly songs. No wonder this is one of my favorite segments on the show.) The segment featured then-current hit singles by The Rolling Stones, Sly and the Family Stone, Three Dog Night (the song for that particular show was “Mama Told Me Not to Come”–any show that manages to get a song about an out-of-control pot party on a kid-vid show gets props in my book) or other Top 40 radio stars of the time (which were referred to as ‘golden oldies’ in order to avoid dating the program), with the Wolfman and Igor dancing in silhouette against a psychedelic background.
For licensing reasons, the musical numbers are no longer shown on some reruns, although broadcasts on YTV in the early 2000s included the segments.
- The Grammar Slammer – The Grammar Slammer was a disembodied voice who challenged Igor to correct grammatical errors, accompanied by an eight-foot purple monster named Bammer who threatened to give Igor a royal-ass beatdown if he failed.
- Bwana Clyde Batty – A British explorer who teaches about wild animals on Zany Zoo. His name is a spoof of animal trainer Clyde Beatty. His catchphrase is “ooga booga!”
- The Professor (Julius Sumner Miller) – A professor who provided science lessons on such things as thermal expansion and the cartesian diver.
- Dr. Pet Vet – A veterinarian who teaches about domestic animals (whereas Zany Zoo was about wild fauna). He always offers the day’s animal to Igor as a pet, but the Sloth in the basement invariably refuses to allow Igor to keep the animal.
- Grizelda, the Ghastly Gourmet – A witch voiced as a parody of Julia Child, who provides a version of a television cooking show as she cooks suitably ghastly recipes in her cauldron. In every one of her segments, she bangs her head on the pot above her cauldron, and invariably declares the recipe a failure after it causes a small explosion.
- The Librarian – An elderly curmudgeon who unsuccessfully tries to scare the viewers by reading children’s stories, such as “Humpty Dumpty” and “Henny Penny”, which he thinks are horror stories. He also sometimes reads fables with unpleasant endings. He eventually admits to not being any more frightened than the viewers, but considers reading important nonetheless.
- The Maharishi – A Hindu guru who shares bits of mystically inscrutable wisdom (e.g. “It is written, that he who kicks the blind beggar, in the marketplace, during an eclipse, can only curse the camel, for its lack of discipline.”) A large bag of flowers (dyed carnations) would then fall on top of his head afterward.
- The Oracle – A mystic who reads out horoscopes in a Peter Lorre voice, invariably knocking over and breaking his crystal ball in the process. He also would often get his hand temporarily stuck inside his replacement crystal ball. He then answers questions supposedly sent in from viewers.
- The Mini-Count (Guy Big) is a three-foot tall clone of the Count, who appears in brief sketches where he tells a joke. Incidentally, Big was originally slated to play the main role as the Count, as the original character concept was based in part on the sight gag of a diminutive Count contrasted against Igor’s imposing height and weight. However, Big was not experienced enough as an actor to properly maintain Count Frightenstein’s desired accent, so the role was recast to star Van while a new smaller role was written for Big.
- Harvey Wallbanger – The postmaster of Castle Frightenstein’s “dead letter office”, he would appear in sketches with the Count or Grizelda in which they answer letters.
- Gronk – A purple sea serpent who interacts with the Count or the Wolfman. Gronk would announce his presence with a loud call of “Gronk!” Gronk’s segments usually had the Count reading a book; the Count would then start explaining what the book was about, with Gronk interrupting him, usually mid-sentence, with a completely incorrect conclusion to what the Count had been reading. This would happen several times, leading to greater and greater frustration on the part of the Count. Segments with the Wolfman were generally one-line or two-line jokes.
- Bammer – A large purple monster who assisted the Grammar Slammer in correcting Igor’s poor grammar.
Super Hippy (Mitch Markowitz) — A hippie in a superhero costume who appears leading in and out of commercials, sitting or flying in varying locations as he delivers some variation on “Don’t change the channel; we’ll be right back after these commercials.” I’m not sure what a hippie superhero has to do with monsters in a castle, but Rule of Funny, I guess.
- The Singing Soldier — A light-operetta styled palace guard who gets a cream pie thrown in his face whenever he starts to sing “Indian Love Call” from Rose-Marie.
- The Mosquito (Mitch Markowitz) – A mosquito who tells a bad joke about insects before biting a human foot.
- The Gorilla (Van or Paul Schultz) – A gorilla who would walk out of the jungle and invariably try to scare whomever he was looking at. In every segment, however, he would be thwarted by a ping-pong ball that would hit him square in the head, causing him to keel over. He often tried to avoid the ping-pong balls, in one instance by holding up a parasol.
Like an earlier honoree of The Cartoon Couch, The Funny Company, my biggest regret concerning this hidden gem was that I wasn’t exposed to it sooner. If The Hub had lasted beyond just four years, I could’ve easily seen The Hilarious House of Frightenstein airing on that channel. It would have fit in on The Hub’s afternoon lineup, or even at night, if they had followed our advice and went with an alternative comedy format instead of just running old sitcoms and movies.
So hats off to The Hilarious House of Frightenstein. This show hits just the right level of absurd and imaginative for me. It reminds me of afternoon blocks like Wake, Rattle & Roll or local late-night cheesy monster movie fests like Ghost Host, Creature Feature, Svengoolie (or various other titles, depending on where you live/d)…or TNT’s 100% Weird…
…Just without the movie parts.
The show’s like Cartoon Planet with monsters, and frankly, I…
Not too long ago HBO/AT&T/Time-Warner announced the impending arrival of the media’s umpeeth streaming service, HBO Max, set to launch in May 2020.
In a press release, they listed what we can expect to see on the service: some movies, some shows, some classic movies, Friends, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Sesame Street, etc., etc. My reaction:
…Then they announced that they’d be showing the new Looney Tunes Cartoons shorts and a new animated series built around the Hanna-Barbera library (and not specifically Scooby-Doo or Tom & Jerry) entitled Jellystone!. My reaction:
As you may have surmised by now, on today’s Peeks we’ll be giving you our first impressions of these new shows, what we think of what (admittedly little) we know and have seen so far and what we expect (or hope) to see when these shows eventually make their debut.
LOONEY TUNES CARTOONS
For those who don’t know, Looney Tunes Cartoons is an American animated web television series developed by Peter Browngardt, creator of Cartoon Network’s Secret Mountain Fort Awesome and Uncle Grandpa…
…and produced by Warner Bros. Animation, based on the characters from Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. The project made its worldwide premiere at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival on June 10, 2019. This show is the successor to New Looney Tunes, which I actually liked despite some haters nipticking about it.
This project was first announced on June 11, 2018, when Warner Bros. Animation announced that a new series, which would “consist of 1,000 minutes spread across 1–6 minute shorts”…
…would be released in 2019 and that it would feature “the brand’s marquee characters voiced by their current voice actors in simple gag-driven and visually vibrant stories”.
The style of the series is to be reminiscent to those of Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Robert McKimson, Bob Clampett and others. President of Warner Bros. Animation, Sam Register (creator of Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi), along with Pete Browngardt serve as executive producers for the series. The shorts will bring all of the Looney Tunes together under one roof, including more obscure members like Pete Puma, Beaky Buzzard, Hubie and Bertie, Petunia Pig and Cicero Pig.
Cicero Pig? Now, that’s obscure. AFAIK, He’s never appeared outside of the comics. No mention of Lola, but I hope she shows up as well, along with Witch Hazel. A man can dream.
On June 12, 2019, a short titled “Dynamite Dance” served as a trailer for the series starring Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. Roll the clip!
Now I’m not normally one to gush, but what I’ve seen of these cartoons so far is simply…
I am in freaking LOVE with the designs and aesthetics of these shorts. Everything just…pops! The colors are bright. The shadows, the light, the buoyancy. The characters are just bursting with life; they look like they could jump off the screen and starting running amok in your living room at any given moment.
Plus the artists captured the 40’s look and feel perfectly. If these cartoons didn’t look so shiny and new, I’d swear that they were actual classic shorts that got lost in the vault somewhere. If Wabbit/New Looney Tunes had looked like these shorts (though I know the amount of money required to produce animation of this quality for a weekly TV series would’ve bankrupted a Saudi Arabian king) the show would’ve had far fewer detractors.
And fans rejoice! The mayhem is back! Bombs! Anvils! Props! Squash-and-stretch physics! Solving problems with dynamite! WB listened to fans complaining about the absence of good old-fashioned cartoon chaos from The Looney Tunes Show and brought it back in spades. We wanted the slapstick back, and now we’ve got it. And the skies are ripe with love.
Plus it looks like we’ll be getting some classic WB team-ups, like Bugs and Elmer (a combo that was curiously lacking on The Looney Tunes Show and Wabbit/New Looney Tunes)…
…And Porky & Daffy. Cool, I’m definitely on board. But you know what we’re really happy to see? The triumphant return of this guy:
Remember this toon? The “crazy darn fool duck”? The black-feathered nut case who’s so crazy, he just doesn’t give a darn? Well, he has returned! The re-appearance of manic Daffy Duck on New Looney Tunes was not, repeat, NOT a fluke. This series already sold me the second I saw this:
YES!! My guy is back! We’ve elaborated on this here before, so I’ll keep it brief, but I can’t begin to say how happy I am to see that WB isn’t finished with OG insane Daffy Duck. I’ve had to endure the jealous, selfish, greedy jerk version of this character for soooo long that I was beginning to lose hope of ever seeing screwloose Daffy again, but he’s still here, and I hope he stays around for a loooong while, perhaps permanently.
No offense to Chuck Jones, but I’ve always preferred nut-job Daffy to his take. Just keeping it 100.
Now I’m OK with the classic pairings, but one thing (among others, I thought) that New Looney Tunes got very right was that they weren’t afraid to mix things up, pair off characters who didn’t usually interact much, if at all, like Foghorn and Taz or Elmer and Porky or Tweety and Sylvester with Speedy Gonzales, Gabby Goat, Pet Puma, Marc Antony and Claude Cat (seriously, somebody at Warner Bros. remembered the character of Claude Cat!). I hope the producers of these shorts don’t shy away from mixing up the character combinations; that keeps things fresh and interesting. Also don’t be afraid to put new spins on established characters like how NLT gave the bland character of Sniffles a shot in the arm by giving him a vigilante alter ego in the form of Dark Bat:
And I may be alone with this, but I also hope we haven’t seen the last of some of the new characters created for Wabbit/NLT, such as Squeaks the Squirrel…
I also wouldn’t mind seeing other NLT characters like Leslie P. Lilylegs, King Thes and Rhoda Roundhouse.
Just not Bigfoot. Sorry, but I found him to be irritatingly moronic and annoying. I personally don’t need to see him come back, and I take back the ‘sorry’ part.
-So yeah, I’m definitely digging what I’ve seen of Looney Tunes Cartoons. If they can keep up the quality of what I’ve seen of these cartoons so far as well as implement the stuff I mentioned above…
…I’m gonna be a happy camper. Now, onto the other HBO Max cartoon that got us curious.
Jellystone! is an upcoming animated series for streaming service HBO Max, which is set to launch in May 2020. The series is produced by Warner Bros. Animation. C.H. Greenblatt, known for the series Chowder and Harvey Beaks, and Sam Register will both serve as executive producers.
The series will star many Hanna-Barbera characters, similar to shows like Yogi’s Gang and Laff-a-Lympics, living life in the town of Jellystone. While many living in the town work and play and get along together, there is always gonna be trouble happening for one another.
-OK, that could be cool. Sounds like it could be fun. The idea of a plethora of Hanna-Barbera stars taking up residence in a single area reminds me of Marvels’ Super Hero Squad Show, but with H-B characters. I’m down with the concept, and C. H. Greenblatt can be funny when he has a good concept, so sure. Let’s have a look at this cartoon.
I know I give some folks a hard time for pre-judging a show just by a few images, but these initial designs are AWFUL. To their credit, you can still easily tell who the characters are supposed to be, but these designs look hideously amateurish to be used on a show put out by a major studio for a multi-million dollar streaming service. They look like a 6-year-old child drew these characters with their crayons, and I’ve seen more talented 6-year-old children. I really hope that these are just first drafts and the designs get more refined, polished and improved upon by the time the show make its’ debut.
Not only are these designs super-crude looking, but the characters look so…stupid. As in low-IQ individuals. Seriously, why do they look so derpy? Most of them have these dopey expressions plastered on their faces, making them look like they’d have trouble walking around a tree. Top Cat looks freaking stoned, like he got trapped in a warehouse full of marijuana and had to smoke his way to freedom.
Look at this image of Yogi:
Yogi Bear has never had a Charles Atlas physique, but he’s never been this round and fat. He looks less like a bear and more like an anthropomorphic meatball with a head, arms and legs.
And how about this screen cap of Magilla Gorilla?
OK, points for including him. ’cause he’s always been kind of an obscure H-B character, but again, that face: derp-derp. Same deal with Mildew Wolf here:
OK, this one doesn’t look too bad, but then we come to pics like this one:
Gah! There it is again! That whole ‘derp-derp’ thing I mentioned earlier. Look, I’m really trying not to pre-judge this show too harshly, since I do like the idea behind it and I haven’t seen the characters put through the processes of animation nor have I seen any backgrounds, but some of these renderings are ugly with a capital UGH. In addition to many of them looking so moronic that they should be wearing T-shirts reading ‘I’D RATHER BE DROOLING’, there’s no heft to these characters; they all look so flat; there’s no feeling of weight to any of them. No shadows or light. Nothing. How could the same studio that produced something so awesome looking as Looney Tunes Cartoons be okay with putting out something like these cheeseball designs? The ‘classic’ H-B designs looked like Matisse paintings compared to these doodles.
And those long eyelashes on Jabberjaw? Why, just why?? Is Jabberjaw a female shark in this or what?
Speaking of females, there’s one thing we really hope gets addressed on Jellystone!: Namely, the glaring lack of female characters. I really hope Cindy Bear isn’t the only female inhabitant of Jellystone. Even if the producers have to make up a bunch of OCs, that’s preferable to Smurfette Syndrome. Jason had an idea: if you want another female character, since Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy are on this show, why not show us Augie’s mom as a character? That’s something they’ve never done before. I say why not? Disney recently did the unthinkable by making Huey, Dewey and Louie’s mom Della Duck into a character…
And the fans ate it up. So why not? Go for it, I say.
-Character designs aside, I am remaining cautiously optimistic for Jellystone!. If the show’s funny then that’ll make up for the less-than-stellar artwork and designs. On a final note: I noticed that one of the characters in the title card was Captain Caveman; does this mean that we could be seeing other H-B characters besides the 60’s ‘funny animal’ characters, like the Impossibles, the Chan Clan, Hong Kong Phooey, Space Ghost, the Galaxy Trio, the Teen Angels et al? That could be a hoot to see. Apart from this and the upcoming feature Scoob!…
…It seems that Warner Brothers Animation is really trying to create a Hanna Barbera Shared Universe. (And as a point of interest, Captain Caveman is supposed to appear in Scoob! as well, voiced by Tracy Morgan, of all people. OK, I want to go see this movie for that alone.) C.H. Greenblatt claims he’ll be “digging deep” for obscure characters for Jellystone!; he also says that he’ll be canonizing Yo, Yogi! in some form for this show. I’m fine with that…
Just make it absolutely nothing like its’ predecessor, and we’re good!
So last year, I posted my initial reaction and my impressions of Warner Brothers’ latest animated Flintstones series Yabba Dabba Dinosaurs.
It was originally going to be a segment of Peeks, but I switched it to Brain Candy when I learned that WB decided to cancel the series after one season instead of the two seasons that were originally planned.
I did this because I figured that WB was just going to bury this show in a landfill somewhere with all of the unsold Atari E.T. game cartridges and act like it never existed. However, as of this writing, Yabba Dabba Dinosaurs is currently airing on Boomerang in the United Kingdom and in Africa, and it’s supposed to come to Boomerang’s streaming service some time thereafter. So because of this and also because I’ve since seen some additional material since viewing the initial pilot for the show, I can now do a proper Cartoon Country for it.
So off we go again!
I’ve already explained the premise of YDD last February in my post Yabba Dabba Done, but in case you don’t feel like referring to that, here it is one mo’ time:
Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm are back in this quarter-hour animated comedy series, Yabba-Dabba Dinosaurs! Warner Bros. Animation takes you beyond Bedrock to The Crags, a vast land that is as dangerous and wild as the dinosaurs that inhabit it.
Pebbles Flintstone and Bamm-Bamm Rubble are two best friends, growing up in the prehistoric time when dinosaurs and giant beasts still walked the earth. But as exciting as that sounds, they live in peaceful, quiet old Bedrock, a modern domestic civilization similar to our own (but with stone cars that run on leg-power). That’s why whenever they get the chance, Pebbles, Bamm-Bamm and Dino head to the open wilderness, helping new friends, fighting new enemies, and learning about life through their endless crazy adventures. Back in Bedrock, Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty still enjoy all the familiar quirks and trappings of life as a modern Stone Age family not knowing all the trouble (and fun!) their kids are getting themselves into.
Yabba-Dabba Dinosaurs! is produced by Warner Bros. Animation. Mark Marek (producer, MAD, Be Cool Scooby-Doo!) and Marly Halpern-Graser (executive producer, Right Now Kapow) serve as producer with Sam Register as executive producer.
Now, here are my thoughts:
This is an original idea and a fresh take on the Flintstones franchise. I think that there being a Jurassic Park like savage area inhabited by wild dinosaurs located adjacent to Bedrock is a cool idea, and it’s something that’s never been attempted before in the franchise. It’s also a nice change of pace to have a Flintstones show that takes the primary focus away from Fred and Barney for a change (Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty are still very much a part of the show, of course, but here they’re more supporting characters). Yeah, I know that we’ve previously had The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm show in the 1970s…
…but let’s be real: that show just Archie with the Flintstones branding (teen Pebbles was pretty hot, though).
There was also that short lived Cartoon Network show in 1996 starring P&BB titled Cave Kids, but that only lasted for eight episodes and it came and went so quickly that I never saw it.
Another good thing about Yabba Dabba Dinosaurs is that it’s a rarely seen take on P&BB as pre-teens! Except for a couple of prime-time specials, we never saw that before. Here, P&BB aren’t babies nor teenagers, but rather they’re a happy medium between the two. They appear to be between 8 and 11 age-wise.
Plus, kudos to this show’s producers for remembering that Bamm-Bamm is super strong!
Even as kids, my twin Damon and I would watch The Pebbles & Bamm-Bamm Show and wonder “What happened to Bamm-Bamm’s super strength?” Sure, as a teenager he was shown as being kind of a jock, but come on! As a toddler, Bamm-Bamm could lift an entire couch with one hand! As a teenager, he should’ve been able to lift the entire Bronto Bunch, motorcycles and all, and juggle them over his head! This show at least remembers that little detail. As a bonus, just so that Pebbles has something to contribute to the show, here she’s depicted as having above average intelligence, as opposed to before, where she merely inherited her father’s love of hatching hair-brained schemes.
And you’re free to disagree with me on this, but I saw the pilot and I thought that it was pretty funny. I genuinely laughed at the Wikipedia joke, as I did with the running gag of Dino taking off for the hills in terror and Pebbles asking “Why did we bring you?” Yeah, I thought that was funny! Fight me!
I read that Capatain Caveman will be making an appearance on the show at some point. Damon has theorized a way to include Cavey on this series where his inclusion would actually make sense! He’s the one who laid this all out, so I’ll just re-print his words. Take it away!:
Going back to the Captain Caveman thing for a sec, ever since 1983, Hanna-Barbera has been trying to integrate Captain Caveman into the Flintstones universe. First they tried making him a straight-up Superman parody and that didn’t work since he was still covered in hair and couldn’t speak a sentence without saying “Unga-munga” first, so you’d have to be blind, deaf or just have a Degree in Dumb not to see that Chester the Copy Boy and Captain Caveman were one and the same. They next tried making Cavey a fictional character on a TV show on Flintstone Kids, and that didn’t work either because the show-within-the-show that Cavey starred in was also set in Bedrock, so he still stuck out like a sore thumb. Only after the WB takeover someone finally got the idea that if you put an actual savage land in this prehistoric setting (which itself should be a no-brainer), you could put the hairy wild man in there and he’d actually fit in! Just make him the Crags’ Tarzan. You wouldn’t have to explain why Cavey is the way he is; he spent his entire life in the Crags, so naturally he wouldn’t be civilized like the citizens of Bedrock.
There’s an ancient saying which I think applies here. What is it? Oh yeah…DUH.
Also, this intro is pretty cool:
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD
Of course with any update/revival/fresh take of a long established franchise (and you can’t get much longer established than The Flintstones!), you’ll hear the inevitable comments like these:
…but out of all the negative comments and criticisms about Yabba Dabba Dinosaurs, most of them have been about the art and the character designs, and I have to say…yeah, I can see where they’re coming from. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t hate these designs, but the whole thing looks kind of…rough, for lack of a better word. This looks more like an early draft than the finished product. I mean, why is Pebbles so skinny? How is she even able to support herself with those little stick legs? And those brown jeans on Bamm-Bamm. No, just no.
Apparently, Warner Brothers commissioned several artists and animators to come with their own designs for the characters, and they ended up going with Mark Marek’s designs. For those who don’t know, Mark Marek drew the Henry & June host segments for Nickelodeon’s Kablam!.
Kind of makes you wonder what the character art of the people who didn’t get the job looked like.
Personally, I would probably have gone with Chris Battle’s designs:
The kids’ heads are kind of big and their feet are oddly flat, but they’re still recognizable as Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm, and at least Bamm-Bamm isn’t wearing brown jeans!
Granted, I would have preferred a more traditional look for the characters and the show, again, viz:
…but I’m willing to overlook that if the show is consistently good and the episodes are well written, overall. And I do like the ponytail on Pebbles.
Another not so good thing is that Boomerang UK isn’t promoting this very well. Case in point, this promo:
That wasn’t terrible, but I felt that Boom UK could’ve placed more emphasis on The Crags and it’s inhabitants. Also, personally I would have drawn the Crags dinosaurs in a different art style. Make them more stylized and dangerous looking as a way to differentiate them from the tame, domestic dinos that willingly (or some cases, not so willingly) serve the humans in the more civilized Bedrock. A more cinematic look and feel, with detailed backgrounds, light and shadow effects, etc., would have been nice also, but you take what you can get.
I don’t know how well Yabba Dabba Dinosaurs is going to be received by the general public, but personally I think that it’s a pretty cool idea, and since this is the first new Flintstones series in years that’s not some crossover DTV with WWE wrestlers, I’m willing to give it a shot. At least WB remembers that The Flintstones exists and is trying to do something new with them. Yeah, there’s also that upcoming adult animated reboot of The Flintstones produced by Elizabeth Banks that supposedly in development, but I can’t get excited about that. I wanted to talk about YDD! because that’s an interesting idea and a different take on the franchise (Heck, the idea could work even if it didn’t take place in the Flintstones universe!), but this reboot just sounds like more of the usual strum and drang and I don’t think that Family Guy style jokes is the shot in the arm that this franchise needs. So sorry, folks, but I don’t plan on watching nor writing about that one.
Myself, I remain cautiously optimistic about Yabba Dabba Dinosaurs!. It’s a decent concept that could work in the right hands. And who knows? If the show goes over well, WB might to decide to renew it for a second season after all. Unfortunately for us here in the good ol’ US of A, we’ll have to settle for clips floating around online for now, but wherever you can see it, check it out!
“Yeah, kids! Come on over and visit The Crags! I LOVE finger food!”
We recently came across this little nugget on the Anime Superhero Forum:
“Its really strange how the Tiny Toons characters did not appear as recurring characters in other Looney Tunes cartoon series like Taz-Mania, Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries, Duck Dodgers (2003), Looney Tunes Show (2011), New Looney Tunes/wabbit or the HBO Max Looney Tunes Cartoons (2020). Does Warner Bros think the Tiny Toons are not good enough to add to any cartoon series that has the Looney Tunes?.” (Yeah, I’m including the poor punctuation.)
-Really, dude? This is strange to you? You really don’t know why you don’t see Tiny Toons characters turning up in non-TT projects like Taz-Mania, Duck Dodgers and Wabbit/New Looney Tunes? Seriously?
Well, the concrete reason is because the Tiny Toons characters are co-owned by Amblin Entertainment, and Amblin would have to be associated or involved with any such project in order for Warner Bros. to use them, but there’s another, very obvious fly in this particular ointment, a fly the size of a brontosaurus. Here’s the cold, hard truth about Tiny Toon Adventures in relation to the rest of the WB lore:
The Looney Tunes don’t need the Tiny Toons. At all. The Tiny Toons need the Looney Tunes, but not vice-versa.
What would the Tiny Toons do in a Looney Tunes project? Seriously, I’m asking: what exactly would they do? What purpose would they serve, beyond popping up on screen every so often to remind us that they exist? The problem with trying to integrate the Tiny Toons characters into the Looney Tunes universe is simply that the Tiny Toons are just super-deformed teen versions of the Looney Tunes characters; take away the ‘kid factor’ and they’re just clones of the Looney Tunes and they’d just be redundant appearing alongside of them. Why would you need Buster Bunny when you have Bugs Bunny? Why do you need Plucky Duck when you have Daffy Duck? What need is there for Dizzy Devil when Taz is around? And so on.
As previously stated, Warner Bros. would have to secure permission and/or collaboration from Amblin to use the Tiny Toons for anything, but frankly such a move wouldn’t be worth the effort; Warner doesn’t need the Tiny Toons for anything since they already have the Looney Tunes, whom they own lock, stock and barrel. If you own the rights to Rice Krispies, then you have no reason to buy a cheap knockoff cereal from Aldi.
This is also the reason why the WB shows that came after Tiny Toons have fared better and are remembered more fondly. Tiny Toons‘ greatest success was that of a trailblazer: the series kick-started Warner Bros. Animation’s Silver Age, leading to the likes of Animaniacs, Pinky & the Brain, Freakazoid! et al, but those shows, most notably Animaniacs, are celebrated more and have more staying power because the casts of those shows were original characters with no blatant ties or associations with any pre-existing franchise. Yeah it was cool whenever A! or F! would reference or call back to or feature a brief cameo by a Looney Tunes star, but they didn’t rely on those characters in order for their shows to work or their characters to flourish; the casts of A! and F! could stand on their own. By contrast, the notoriety and legacy of Looney Tunes is baked into Tiny Toon Adventures’ DNA; the Tiny Toons could not and would not exist without Looney Tunes, and at the end of the day, they’re basically just knockoffs that we don’t need when the genuine articles are around. If Tiny Toons had never happened, the Looney Tunes would still continue to exist as they always have.
You know how you never see Scrappy-Doo turning up in these latest Scooby-Doo projects?
The calmer, more rational Scrappy who actually helped move the plots along and devised his ‘Scrappy Traps’ was basically a composite stand-in for Fred and Velma…
…But now that Mysteries, Inc. is back together as a Five Man Band, they don’t need Scrappy anymore.
Or how about Roger Rabbit?
After Who Framed Roger Rabbit? came out in 1987, in the wake of the huge “toon boom” that followed the movie, Disney tired making a big push to incorporate Roger into the Disney shorts gang alongside Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Pluto et al, but despite Disney’s best efforts (including having Betty White flat-out state in a Disney anniversary special that Roger was the Disney gang’s “new buddy”) this didn’t happen. Know why? Well, for one thing, again, Roger is co-owned by Amblin, so the Mouse House couldn’t really use him without their involvement or association. For another, let’s look at this character for a moment; what’s he known for? He’s well-meaning, but kind of a bumbler; he’s a little accident prone and has a habit of causing chaos and confusion wherever he goes. Hmm, that sounds kind of familiar. Who else in the Mickey Gang is like that? Maybe…
Yeah, aside from ownership rights, the reason Roger Rabbit was never fully integrated into the Disney shorts canon was because Roger was basically Goofy, and Mickey’s Gang already had a Goofy. Sticking Roger in there with them would’ve just been redundant.
It’s the same principle with the Tiny Toons: now that Warner is doing stuff with the Looney Tunes again, they don’t need to use the Tiny Toons for stuff, as they were just teenage stand-ins for the Looney Tunes. Tiny Toon Adventures was a nice kiddification/love letter to the Looney Tunes franchise, but those characters just aren’t needed now, as they didn’t bring anything new to the table that Bugs, Daffy, Porky, Elmer, Sam and the others don’t already contribute. And that’s the reason.
-Side bar: in this same thread, we came across this post:
“If it weren’t for Tiny Toons we’d never have Lola. Remember Babs didn’t really have an LT counterpart so when Space Jam was made they gave her one years after the fact. Even though they never met.”
Sorry, but that’s simply incorrect. Lola Bunny’s creation had nothing to do with Babs. Lola’s first appearance was Space Jam, which opened in 1996; Tiny Toons ran from 1990 to 1995, and was already over by the time Space Jam came around.
Lola was based on Honey Bunny, a character from the Looney Tunes comic books; a female Bugs counterpart who served as his love interest or rival, depending on what the situation called for.
The story goes that Honey Bunny was going to make her big screen debut in Space Jam, but the movie’s execs weren’t pleased with her appearance; they thought she looked like Bugs in drag, so the artists redesigned the character, making her curvier and more feminine looking, until they eventually decided that this was a completely different character, thus Lola was born. She was not created to be a mentor for Babs. That issue was addressed in the TTA episode “Fields of Honey” where Honey was given a revisionist history to make her seem more important and interesting than she actually was, instead of just being Minnie Mouse to Bosko’s Mickey. So the above statement isn’t remotely accurate.
But thanks for playing, and enjoy your complimentary set of steak knives!