Wild Cards

Hey kids (of all ages), it’s Saturday Morning Cartoon time again!

Before we got sidetracked with all the holiday festivities, I’d been using the Saturday slot to look back at the many animated incarnations of DC Comics’ JUSTICE LEAGUE characters on TV, starting with the Filmation ‘toons of the 1960s, progressing to Hanna-Barbera’s SUPER FRIENDS of the ’70s and ’80s. That show went through multiple formats and titles, as we’ve covered here on the channel.

This final version was the SUPER POWERS TEAM: GALACTIC GUARDIANS. It actually boasted some better writing and animation than we’d become accustomed-to from the series. I usually feature the first episode of each season, but this time I skipped-ahead to get us to the one and only appearance of the Joker in any of the Super Friends programs. It also introduces the Royal Flush Gang in their first animated appearance from October 1985. More from the OldHorseman.

Monkees’ Christmas Show

Hey kids (of all ages), it’s Saturday Morning Cartoon time again! Christmas-style, even!

Okay… The MONKEES aren’t technically a cartoon, but they’re about as close as live action can be, and they were rerun in the network Saturday Morning block way back when. And since we just lost Michael Nesmith, I thought we’d slip them in as a Christmas entry.

Y’see children, back in the ’60s, the most successful band of all time, the BEATLES, exploded onto popular culture, dominating the music charts, filling stadiums at concerts, and making some weird movies… So naturally, TV producers got the idea of creating a knock-off group to be featured in a sitcom. Hired four actors to play the band members on screen, planned to have them ape performances over music recorded by professional musicians. But the boys actually gelled as a group, had substantially more talent than expected, and released a bunch of hit songs in the real world. Many of which are still popular today.

The sitcom… If you can call it that… Was a glorious mess. Full of 4th Wall breaking utter nonsense and plain goofing-off. This particular episode features none other than Butch Patrick (Eddie from the MUNSTERS) as a joyless rich kid the band has to get into the holiday spirit.

Instead of their usual pop-rock video segments, the episode finishes with an impressive, uncut performance of a very old, archaic Spanish carol “Ríu Chíu”. Then the whole production crew comes onscreen in lieu of the usual closing credit screens.

Now somebody check on CIRCUS BOY… He’s the only Monkee we’ve got left!!! From 1967. More from the OldHorseman.

Adventures Of Santa Claus

Hey kids (of all ages), it’s Saturday Morning Cartoon time again! Christmas-style, even!

Last week, we covered Rankin/Bass’ origin story for the Big Guy with Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town from 1970. Later Rankin/Bass specials seemed to stay in continuity with that version. But this time, they went with something quite different.

L. Frank Baum, best known known for creating the Wonderful Wizard Of Oz and related stories, included Santa in his extended fantasy world-building. He put the rising Claus in a faerie forest that was more Narnia or Middle Earth than we were used to seeing for our jolly sleigh jockey.

Though the two Animagic Santa origin specials were made 15 years apart, the first one was repeated every year and was heart-canon for kids. This contradictory backstory went over like a lead balloon. Even though it does have more satisfying (albeit mostly implied) badassery on the part of Santa’s pagan allies.

This 1985 telefilm was the final Animagic stop-action production.  The full title is The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. Rankin/Bass would hang on a while longer with flat animation, including the Thundercats and Silverhawks of all things. More from the OldHorseman.


Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town

Hey kids (of all ages), it’s Saturday Morning Cartoon time again!
Christmas-style, even!

I’m a little torn by this one… On the one hand, a pimptastically-dressed, strapping young man struts into town and starts bribing children to sit on his lap and kiss him? Seems like he’d fit right in with Brandon and the other pedos. Except that his interaction with minors is always in public, and he sparks-up a romance with the very first full-grown, age-appropriate woman he meets. (Rankin/Bass and their curvy redheads… See MAD MONSTER PARTY from a few weeks ago.)

On the other hand, Kris Kringle’s story is all about non-compliance with arbitrary authority. That’s a lesson a lot of Americans need to revisit these days. Better to be declared an outlaw and a rebel than to let pathetic Little Tin Gods run your life!

This one tends to get butchered quite a bit on TV. Not for the cringe of children exchanging kisses with strange adults for toys… Mostly so they can squeeze-in a few more commercials, avoid traumatizing wee snowflakes with the burning toy pile, and minimize the rebel message.

Note the quick Rudolph cameo. Unlike Santa, the elves, and the eight original reindeer, who were all public domain, Rudy was the property of Robert L. May, who created the character for Montgomery Ward in 1939, so they had to brush him off as “another story”, though the producers had licensed him before, and would do so again.

SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN’ TO TOWN came in 1970, when Rankin/Bass Animagic was at it’s peak… They’d do a rather different origin story for Santa 15 years later as the form’s swan song. More from the OldHorseman.

Thanksgiving Spirit

The BEVERLY HILLBILLIES did several holiday episodes over its long run, as well as cross-over episodes with fellow Paul Henning series PETTICOAT JUNCTION and GREEN ACRES. This is the one episode that included the main characters from all three shows. (Although some have no lines.)

Elly May, who inspired me to learn to cook for myself lest I have to pass up a babe like her to avoid starvation, is even hotter than usual. Dolled-up for the holiday in a nice form-fitting number.

Bit of meta-weirdness here. In earlier episodes of GREEN ACRES, the BEVERLY HILLBILLIES existed as a TV show from the characters’ POV. They all seemed to forget about that when the Clampett clan showed-up in Hooterville. This episode is from 1968. More from the OldHorseman.


The Bride of Darkseid

Hey kids (of all ages), it’s Saturday Morning Cartoon time again!

After getting Filmation Studios off the ground with TV cartoons in the ’60s, the DC superheroes (mostly) transitioned to Hanna-Barbera for the Super Friends dynasty of the ’70s and ’80s. We’ve covered SUPER FRIENDS, The ALL-NEW SUPER FRIENDS HOUR, CHALLENGE OF THE SUPER FRIENDS, The WORLD’S GREATEST SUPERFRIENDS, and started the ’80s with SUPERFRIENDS.

By this point, HB had enough episodes from the assorted series to package a show for syndication. ABC wasn’t crazy about filling a Saturday Morning slot with a franchise that was on every day in key markets, so they dropped the Super Friends from the ’83-’84 lineup. They were back on the network the following year. FCC rules regarding use of children’s programming as long-form toy commercials, which had been enacted back in the late sixties, were being relaxed (as demonstrated by HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE as well as G.I. JOE, etc.) and DC /Kenner had a new line of action figures to sell. So I presume ABC got the cartoon on the cheap.

SUPER FRIENDS: THE LEGENDARY SUPER POWERS SHOW added Firestorm to the line-up, and pitted the Justice League against the New God Darkseid, his minions and accomplices. (Not only was the rock-faced Big Boss badly nerfed here, but rendered mighty thirsty for Wonder Woman. Not that I blame him, but seems rather out of character.)

Adam West, star of the live-action BATMAN series from the ’60s as well as Filmation’s NEW ADVENTURES OF BATMAN animated series from the ’70s,  takes over voicing the Caped Crusader in this program. Olan Soule, who had done the character starting for Filmation in the ’60s and carried-on through all the Hanna-Barbera versions to this point, became the voice of Firestorm’s brainier half. From 1984. More from the OldHorseman.


Wonder Twins

Hey kids (of all ages), it’s Saturday Morning Cartoon time again!

When Hanna-Barbera took over the animation license for DC Justice League comic book superheroes, they stirred-in a big dollop of SCOOBY-DOO to appease the killjoy parent groups. But the Meddling Kids and semi-anthropomorphic mutt didn’t last long. The SUPER FRIENDS series was revamped, and they were replaced with actual superhero teens… Sort-of.

The Wonder Twins were aliens, wore costumes, had a blue space-monkey, and had what should have been awesome powers. Jayna could transform into any animal. Zan could shape-shift into any condition of water in any shape. Neither seemed limited by Conservation of Mass, and could take forms from ounces to tons as needed.

Problem was that they sucked at using their powers effectively. This was parodied in these Adult Swim interstitial segments… But they didn’t have to work too hard. The Twins really were almost this idiotic on the actual Super Friends shows. More from the OldHorseman.

Mr. Magoo’s Dr. Frankenstein

Hey kids (of all ages), it’s Saturday Morning Cartoon time again! Hallowe’en style, even!

The comically nearsighted yet impossibly lucky Mr. Magoo started off at the end of the ’40s in UPA / Columbia theatrical cartoon shorts. He made an early transition to television with the MISTER MAGOO show at the start of the ’60s… In 1962 he starred in the first major animated TV Christmas special, serving as pathfinder for The Grinch, Charlie Brown, Rudolph, Frosty and the rest!

MISTER MAGOO’S CHRISTMAS CAROL depicted Magoo as a surprisingly competent stage actor starring in a production based on the Dickens’ classic tale. The actual play was presented straight, with Magoo’s trademark half-blind misadventures being mostly limited to the backstage segments. This convention was carried-over onto Magoo’s mid ’60s series, the FAMOUS ADVENTURES OF MR. MAGOO. There, he portrayed various characters from literature, fairy tales and popular fiction in straight adaptations.

For this season, I’ve selected his version of FRANKENSTEIN. A rather unique interpretation of the story, which combines elements from the original novel with the later movies. From 1965. More from the OldHorseman.


Witches And Squash Demons

Hey kids (of all ages), it’s Saturday Morning Cartoon time again! Hallowe’en style, even!

We’ll start off the month with energetic, broom-flyin’, cackling sorceresses in shorts from WB and MGM. Then, as a bonus, we get a look at the horrific results of Linus’ relentless devotion to the Great Pumpkin.

The commentary audio on the Count Bloodcount cartoon was a goof on my part. But I left it in because I can’t be the only nerd who likes to listen to those tracks now and then. More from the OldHorseman.

Big Mouse/Magnet Man

Hey kids (of all ages), it’s Saturday Morning Cartoon time again!

Giving the SUPER FRIENDS a break, it seems we’ve already covered the shows that ran against the WORLD’S GREATEST- incarnation of the series. Let’s look at what followed it then…

PLASTIC MAN was a superhero introduced by Quality Comic in 1941, later assimilated into DC Comics. He actually made a brief appearance in the first HB Super Friends incarnation (the Wendy, Marvin, Wonderdog version) as a sort of reserve JLA member. Half a dozen years later, he became the central figure in a two-hour cartoon block produced not by HB, but their proteges at Ruby-Spears.

Among the most obscure (and lame) components of this mega-block was MIGHTY MAN AND YUKK. I half-suspect they wanted to make a new MIGHTY MOUSE series, only to find out CBS already was. So they made their diminutive protagonist human.

We get a bit of a BLUE FALCON / DYNOMUTT vibe going, as Mighty Man is “assisted” by a bumbling, semi-anthropomorphic dog called Yukk. Rather than an assortment of malfunctioning bionics, Yukk’s superpower is being so catastrophically ugly that his face can drive people to insanity and shatter inanimate objects. Thus he is obliged to wear a miniature dog house like a cowl most of the time.

This one was mercifully forgotten when Plas’ show got trimmed-down the following year and Ruby-Spears moved-on to better fare including THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN. From Sept. 1979. More from the OldHorseman.