Nerdvana: Magical Island Groove

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Long time, no see!

Hey there. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

-Before we begin, I just to keep you guys abreast of what’s been going on with us. As those who’ve been following us know, last year we planned to stop blogging and switch this site over to visual media (videos, online comics, etc.); those plans have not been abandoned (we’re writing up scripts, taking notes and saving up for the necessary equipment and tutorials even as I type this), but at the same time, we’re not content to just sit on our hands and do nothing while we prepare to make that jump. We’ve been fairly active on Tumblr (that’s twinsanitycomedy.tumblr.com for those who are interested), but we’ve been compiling ideas since then and we still have a creative itch that needs scratching. So, while we in the process of transitioning, Jason and I will continue to make the occasional blog post here until then. It’s not going to be at the pace it has been years ago; our current schedule and priorities won’t accommodate that, but ideally we’d like to put up at least 1 or 2 blog posts per month until we’re ready to start making videos full time. Now, on with the silliness.

Donkey Kong Islands

One setting/oeuvre that I’ve been digging these past several months is the tropical island setting, in particular Magical Islands. Those tropical paradises where it’s always sunny and funny and exotic creatures and magical phenomena abound. Today’s Nerdvana will be spotlighting some of my favorite magical island settings/shows/stuff.

First, I’ll be giving an honorable mention to Jaama, the setting of Animal Jam.

Jamaa 2

While I’m indeed enthralled by Jaama, I won’t be covering it at great length here since I’m currently doing a Pop Dream on Animal Jam (which I do plan to continue this year, I promise!), so anything I’d say about Jaama here would be redundant. I’ll save my thoughts and feelings on Jaama for the upcoming Pop Dream installments. Also, like many of these Nerdvanas, these won’t be in any particular order, so I won’t be numbering them.

Let’s do this, people! Smiles, smiles!

FANTASY ISLAND, Ricardo Montalban, Herve Villechaize, 1978-1984

“Welcome to Silverstar’s Rambling, Pointless Fantasy Island!”

Kick it, gang!

I love that song. Now, on to the meat: some of my favorite enchanted island settings.

DONKEY KONG COUNTRY

DonkeyKongCountryReturns

Like many folks who played games in the late 90’s through early ’00’s, I loved the Donkey Kong Country series. Putting DK in a sprawling jungle island setting and giving him a ton of new friends, enemies and areas to explore was a stroke of genius.

Dk_island

Plus it’s shaped like DK’s head. Now that’s branding.

Donkey Kong Island 2

One thing I love about Donkey Kong Island (NOT Congo Bongo, BTW!) is how it houses several different and radically diverse areas and climates within it: forest, dessert, grassland, brambles, ocean, beach, frozen wasteland, bayou and of course rain forest.

Plus, the DKC games gave us the Brothers Bear. I love the idea of multiple siblings with names that begin with the same latter and each of them has their own personal quirks and shticks.

Brothers Bear

Hmm, I wonder if Banjo is related to these guys. Distant cousin, perhaps?

-You know, that could be a separate Nerdvana unto itself. Hmmm…..

YABBA DABBA DINOSAURS

Yabba Dabba Dinosaurs

Dino-Mite!

Jason already covered this show on Brain Candy, so I’ll keep it brief; I’ll just say that Warner Bros. Studios are fools for giving up on this idea so quickly.

YDD! 2

Yeah, the art style takes some getting used to (Mark Marek wouldn’t have been my first choice for the designs, and I’m definitely not feeling the long pants on Bamm-Bamm) but how could anyone not love the idea of a savage land filled with wild, dangerous dinosaurs existing just adjacent to Bedrock? If you ask me, YDD! was just the shot in the arm the franchise needed.

YDD! 3

People are free to disagree with me, but I thought the running gags involving Dino running for the hills at any given opportunity and the Wikipedia spoofs with Pebbles were funny.

Captain-Caveman-Hanna-Barbera

Plus after 2 failed attempts, the studio finally found a way to work Captain Caveman into the Flintstones mythos that actually made sense. Make Cavey the Tarzan of The Crags. Making him a jungle wild man would finally explain why he looks and acts so differently from the civilized citizens of Bedrock; obviously if he spent his entire life in The Crags he wouldn’t be straight-laced and civilized. Come on, guys, it’s right there!

CRAIG OF THE CREEK

Craig of the Creek

Yeah, I know I’m late to the party with this one; I’ve only recently discovered this show, but it’s good, despite not getting the press or attention of CN’s other current shows. No, it’s not a multi-layered, hyper-emotional, grand sprawling epic like Infinity Train or Steven Universe, but every show doesn’t have to be that. You don’t always need a 5-course turkey dinner, sometimes just a nice burger and fries will suffice.

Like Yabba Dabba Dinosaurs, one thing I like about Craig of the Creek is how there’s this crazy wilderness area just beyond the safe, peaceful, quiet suburbs that the kids all live in, and no matter how wild and crazy things get at the Creek, they can always just go home at any time. I like how the Creek boasts several different tribes and factions of kids of all types and colors, co-existing more or less harmoniously, such as:

Horse Girls

…The Horse Girls, a tribe of girls obsessed with horses (a tad sterotypical, but stereotypes have to come from somewhere…)

Tabitha & Courtney

The Creek Witches, Tabitha and Courtney (in actuality a same-sex couple of Goth teenagers, and no, that’s not a joke; they really are a couple.)

Sparkle Cadet 2

A black Magical Girl from’outer space’ named Sparkle Cadet (where’s it carved in stone that all magical girls have to be white or Asian?)

You know, Craig, as the Creek’s resident map-maker, has already compiled a detailed list of these Creek Kids, so I won’t have to:

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to Craig’s best buds: Kelsey,

Kelsey

I admit she’s already a favorite character of mine; she’s basically what I’d be like if I were a short, white, Jewish girl.

And JP:

JP

He’s hilarious. That’s all I need to say!

I only have one real nitpick about this show: I think, despite the premise, the show’s a tad too grounded in reality. If it were my show, I’d spice things up a little:

Why not toss in some actual monsters?

Forest Monster

“Say, um, are you white meat or dark meat??”

And while we’re at it, why not toss in some talking animal mascots a la Terry Dactyl from The Funny Company?

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I guess you can tell I really like this idea. Was my nonstop yakking about the animal people from Dragon Ball and Animal Jam a giveaway?

Craig-of-the-creek-family

-Side bar: another element of this show that needs to mentioned is how the titular character and his family are African-American without them being ethnic stereotypes. Yes, Craig’s family is black, but the producers didn’t set the show in the ‘hood, the family isn’t broke, mean or cheap, the slang and music on the show aren’t super-funkay, and the neighborhood the family lives in is ethnically diverse without race ever being an issue or the topic of conversation.

Alexis

Craig’s older brother Bernard has a white girlfriend (Alexis), and everybody’s cool with that! Nice legs, BTW.

I applaud this. Truly good mixed casting is something we could stand to see more of on kids’ shows (shows in general, actually). It’s more honest, more interesting and a positive example for the kiddos. It’s one thing to get up on a soapbox and preach about folks getting along and respecting people different from you and not treating them differently because of their skin color or ancestry, but it’s another to show your lead characters simply living this way as if it were the most normal and natural thing in the world. Example can teach just as well as any platitude, perhaps even better.

This is the kind of cartoon I’d like to make myself one day: the ‘ultimate kid-centered domestic comedy’ starring a family consisting of 2 parents, some kids and some pets, featuring people of color and a range of ethnicities without race ever being a big deal. There’d be a gimmick of course, but the characters’ skin color wouldn’t be it.

SUMMER CAMP ISLAND

Summer Camp Island

Another CN show that doesn’t get talked about very much, this one is a cute but odd little show about 2 best friends, an anthropomorphic elephant-y thing named Oscar and a  hedgehog-y thing named Hedgehog…

Oscar & Hedgehog

Wow. Must’ve been up all night dreaming up that name.

…Who are sent to stay at, you guessed it, a summer camp on a magical island.

Summer Camp Island Location

Say, did you know that in-universe this island became a haven/sanctuary for monsters and magical creatures in 1972, after they became distrusting of ‘normals’? Well, now you do.

Said island boasts such unique things as giant monsters, a moon and clouds with faces…

summer_camp_island witches 2

…3 counselors who look like cutie-pie “popular girls” but are actually witches, magic powers, pointy hats, flying broomsticks and all.

Summer Camp Island Witches 1

Generation Hex

Alice

My personal favorite of the 3 is Alice, she’s the cute one who likes to make everything around her cute….

Betsy

Second favorite is Betsy, the nice one who sleeps with a sentient tree…

Werewolf_Betsy

…And she’s also a werewolf. ‘Kay…

Also on the island are ice cream mountains, confetti mines…

Confetti Mines

Mine your own business

…Monsters…

Monsters

Rumor has it that they came to do the Monster Mash.

…an alien kid something-or-other named Puddle, who flies around in a tiny UFO and hails from unnamed alien planet that resembles a Lisa Frank illustration and is love with his alien king (no, that wasn’t a typo)…

Puddle

…And a living, talking set of Pajamas, aptly named Pajamas.

Pajamas

Cocaines a Hell of a Drug

Summer Camp Island 2

The show’s cute, and I like the concept of a magical island with a summer camp on it (otherwise I wouldn’t have listed it here), but I think it might be a little TOO ‘out there’. I don’t dig that all the characters are animals; heck, they don’t even look like animals; they look like lolicons with animal noses. Did the cast need to be anthros on a show with monsters, witches, aliens and assorted stuff? Given that, do we even need a distinction between the ‘normal’ world and the ‘strange’ island? The entire show is strange; it’s full of animal things with human anatomies! Plus, I can’t over-emphasize this, one of the characters is a sentient pair of pajamas!

zonker

“Gah! Head rush! I’m comin’ down too fast! I need some relaxing smooth jazz music and some orange slices, stat!”

TESCO BREKKIE SQUAD

Brekkie Squad 2

If you live in the UK, you’ve likely seen these. Originally created for the Summer Olympics (hence the sports motif), these characters are cute jungle animals who live on a jungle island and adorn the cereal boxes at Tesco. They don’t always have to be complicated.

TEM TEM

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“My blood, er, um…my SWEAT bubbles for battle! Yeah, that’s the ticket!”

Ah, no. Not Tam Tam, but TEMTEM. The new steam game that mimics Pokemon, but in a good way.

Temtem 1

Temtem 3

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Pokemon_Trainer_SSBU

“Gotta catch ’em all…no, wait…”

TemTem is set on a set of floating tropical islands (which is why it’s on this list) called the Aiborne Archipelago.

Airborne_Archipelago

Consisting of Deniz, the Floating Sea, Omninesea, Myrisles, Tucma, the End of All Things, Kisiwa, the desert jewels, Cipanku, misty hills and hypertech metropolis and Arbury, land of rain and book, in case anyone was wondering.

Temtem 5

The TemTem themselves, in addition to being super-cute…

Temtem 10

TemTem

…Come in a variety of types: Fire, Nature, Water, Electric, Mental, Earth, Wind, Crystal, Digital, Melee, Toxic and Neutral.

TemTem Type_wheel

Temtemexamples

So it’s a Pokemon clone…with a tropical island motif. I dig it.

Temtem 9

Plus, I just plain like the name: TemTem. It’s got that cool, native-sounding jungle island ring to it. Not unlike Jaama.

And there you have it. Some of my favorite magical tropical island imagery.

Gilligan

“Nah, hard pass. I’ve had my fill of island life. I spent years stuck on a deserted island, and when we finally managed to get off of it, we ended up stranded on a deserted planet! yeah, life’s fair!”

The Retro Bin: SMES (Saturday Morning Entertainment System)

Kids love Saturday morning cartoons, and kids love video games, so wouldn’t it be great if someone made a Saturday morning cartoon based on a video game? Thankfully, someone did. Today the Retro Bin looks at SatAM video game-based cartoon shows. Shows such as The Super Mario Brothers Super Show! ..Or Captain N: The Game Master…. ..Neither of which I’ll be discussing here. These shows have already been covered quite tellingly by other online personalities, most notably Doug Walker (the Nostalgia Critic) and Chad Rocco (CR!), so there’s nothing I can say about these cartoons that hasn’t already been said. We also won’t be covering The Power Team or Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures since Twinsanity has already discussed those shows here and here. There was also a little thing called Club Mario….

(Yeah, this happened)

…But the less said about that, the better.

“What were they thinking?!?”

Now on to the shows we will be discussing. The very first American cartoon based on a video game was Pac-Man, which ran on ABC Saturday morning from 1982 to 1983.

OK, one thing I never got about this show: what was that guy Mezmaron’s deal? Who or what was he? Why was he the only humanoid in Pac-Land? Why did he want the Power Pellets anyway? And why did he need them take over (or whatever his motivation was)? The guy was a freaking GIANT compared to the Pac-Landers; he could’ve just stomped through the city Godzilla style to get what he wanted. Come to think of it, I could never truly get into this show because of how badly Hanna-Barbera messed up on the ghost characters… They made Clyde the boss, Inky the dufus and Blinky a coward. Have these people not played the game? Were they really that blind to Pac-Man lore? It was NEVER like that in the games. Anyone who’s played the games knows that BLINKY is the lead ghost, as he’s the fastest, Pinky tries to ambush Pac, Inky’s moves are random and Clyde is the slowest ghost, hence their names:

CHASER (Blinky), AMBUSHER (Pinky), FICKLE (Inky) and STUPID (Clyde).

There were never 5 ghosts and there was no purple ghost. Yes, Virginia, there was a Sue, but that was just the name of the orange ghost in Ms. Pac-Man. if HB wanted a female ghost, why didn’t they just make Pinky female like every other adaptation of Pac-Man did? And why were called the “Ghost Monsters” anyway? That’s redundant, like saying “Vampire Ghouls”.

Moving on, in response to Pac-Man on ABC, a year later CBS countered with Saturday Supercade, produced by Ruby-Spears, figuring if 1 video game cartoon was working for ABC, then surely a show with several video games would work for them. Surely. Saturday Supercade featured no less than 5 separate segments, so much so that 2 of them, Pitfall! and Q*Bert had to rotate in order to fit the 60-minute allotted time frame.

The first season roster went thusly: there was Donkey Kong, in which the titular gorilla had escaped from a zoo and was now roaming the countryside, relentlessly pursued by Mario and Pauline encountering highjinks along the way. (Clearly we the audience were supposed to be rooting for the gorilla, which is weird considering how in the original game Mario was the character you played as. This series seemed to be following the continuity of Donkey Kong Junior, which begins with Mario having captured DK. Given the video game icon Mario would go on to be, seeing him as the antagonist was kind of funny.) Running concurrently along that series was the aforementioned Donkey Kong Jr., in which Junior is also roaming the countryside looking for DK Sr., also encountering highjinks along the way.

So are the Days of Our Lives.

Then there was Frogger, which depicted the title character as an investigative reporter for the Swamp Gazette, and all of his assignments involved him crossing some street and getting hit by a car, leaving him squished flat with flies buzzing over his carcass.

“Ew.” “Seriously?” “So gross.”

Q*Bert featured the orange Noser as a teenager in a quasi-1950’s suburban setting, complete with malt shops, jukeboxes, his game enemies Coily, Ug, Wrong-Way and Viper as Aaron Von Zipper-esque greasers, a little brother named Q*Bit, a girlfriend named Q*Tee (get it?), a dimwit best buddy in a Fonzie jacket named Q*Ball and as an added bonus, one of the show’s background characters was a female Noser named Q*Val who despite the 50’s era setting, spoke stereotypical Valley Girl lingo (this was the 80’s after all)…and that was her entire character shtick! Q*Val proved so popular with fans that in the second season, she supplanted Q*Bit as the 4th main character, so were were treated to even more lines like:

“I am totally, like, cubing out to the max!”

“Wow. She sure mastered that one dimension.”

The final attraction was Pitfall!, based on the Activation game of the same name, which featured the game’s hero Pitfall Harry, his niece Rhonda, a cowardly panther mascot named Quickclaw and lots and lots of swinging on vines. Saturday Supercade‘s second season only had 4 segments, so no 2 needed to rotate.

For season 2, Pitfall!, Frogger and Donkey Kong Junior were each given the ol’ pink slip, so if there ever was a heartfelt reunion between DKs Senior and Junior, we never saw it. As for whatever became of Frogger and Pitfall Harry?

The new attractions were Kangaroo, again based on the game of the same name, starring the titular star (here named KO Katie), her joey, imaginatively named Joey, and their friends having mild adventures in a city zoo. The Monkey Biz Gang (Bingo, Bango, Bongo and Fred), enemies who kidnapped Joey in the game, were here given Bulk & Skull status: not actually evil, just selfish, scheming and stupid. The show deserves some credit for remembering Kangaroo; most of our contemporaries have forgotten that game ever existed. The other new segment was Space Ace, which basically followed the same plot as the game: a blond bohunk space ranger battles an evil blue skinned alien named Borf (excuse me!), whose main weapon of choice was the dreaded Infanto Ray, which turned its victims into babies. Ace gets hit by the ray prior to the first episode, but of course he’s too much of a manly man to be fully transformed, so instead of getting turned into an infant, he just occasionally switches back and forth between his normal form and that of a 19 pound weakling called ‘Dexter’, whom Ace’s partner, Officer Kimberly, tries to pass off as her little brother, so as not to alert their superior officer of Ace’s condition (though you’d have to be blind or terminally stupid to not guess that they were one and the same; Space Ace and Dexter were never seen together, they had the same hair color and outfits, sometimes dude would transform right in front of the guy and he never spotted it!). The most notable thing about the Space Ace cartoon was that Kimberly was voiced by Nancy Cartwright (aka the Woman who Would Be Bart Simpson) and how she went from looking like this…

PG-13!

To looking like this.

PTA-Safe.

USA Network has also tossed their hat in the video game cartoon ring. There was Street Fighter: TAS.

Hey, here’s an idea: let’s make a cartoon based on Street Fighter, but instead of making it like the game that everyone loves, let’s base it on that craptacular live-action movie, you know, the one where Belgian action star Jean-Claude Van Damme was hilariously miscast of all-American hero Guile, M. Bison was made into Magneto, Chun-Li became Lois Lane, Blanka was Charlie, Dhalsim was a scientist with hair, E. Honda was a hacker, Balrog tried typing on a computer while wearing boxing gloves, Ryu and Ken, the main characters of the game, were remade into the Two Stooges, Zangief worked for Shadaloo even though he never had any association with them in the game, Sakura appeared in a single episode and sounded like a 30-year-old and had a completely different back story, Akuma had a British accent, nothing in it resembled the game in any way and it sucked? Let’s go with that!

“Ew.” “Seriously?” “So dumb.”

USA also gave us Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm.

Hey, another idea: let’s take Mortal Kombat, a game known for its’ graphic violence, murder and gore, a game which all but forced the ESRB ratings system into existence, and turn it into a watered-down kids’ cartoon without a drop of blood and no one ever dies? I love it! Give me 13 more!

Well, the show at least featured Clancy Brown as a snarky, sarcastic Raiden, so there was that.

Finally, take that Donkey Kong Country cartoon that aired on Fox Family…please.

“Ew.” “Seriously?” “So cheap.”

OK, this was only around 1999-2000, CGI was in its’ Stone Age, so I can overlook the creaky graphics, what I can’t excuse is how there were so many fun, and entertaining elements to the games this show was based on, and it utilized absolutely NONE of them. Where were the inventive levels? Where was Rambi, Squitter, Engaurde, Gnawty Beaver et al? What’s all this business about a Crystal Cocunut? What is Congo Bongo? The name of the place is Donkey Kong Island. Why is there a factory in the jungle? Who is this Bluster character? If they wanted a rival Kong for an adversary, why didn’t they use Manky Kong? Why’d they change so much? Did they think if the show resembled the game that no one would take it seriously? We’re talking about a game series about a clan of gorillas protecting their banana horde from sinister reptiles. What were they expecting? The Last Emperor?

Not all video game cartoons were perfect, but there was a certain charm to some of them. They weren’t the worst things video game related to hit TV.

Not by a looooooong shot.