That’s Warner Brothers!/Unpopular Opinions: This Must Be Bizarro World

“The following am very important and worth everyone’s time.”

Htrea, aka Bizarro World, is an imperfect, messed-up funhouse mirror duplicate of Earth where everything is the opposite of our world: cats chase dogs, jokes make people cry, boy bands play instruments and Bizarro Joker is the only sane person on the planet.

These days I swear I must be living on Bizarro World, because there was a time if someone told me that Bugs Bunny Builders, an upcoming preschool show for Cartoon Network’s Cartoonito block, would be the show that interests me and that I’m curious to see an episode or two of…

And Tiny Toons Looniversity, a new adaptation of the wonderful 90’s series Tiny Toon Adventures, would be the show that I couldn’t give two squats about…

I’d have told them they were crazy.

But here we are.

I don’t get it either. I’ve tried, folks; I’ve legitimately tried to generate some interest in Tiny Toons Looniversity, but it just ain’t happening. I have zero interest in this show. I’m not even slightly curious about it.

The show I am interested in seeing is Bugs Bunny Builders, the Cartoonito show with squashed versions of Bugs, Lola, Daffy, Porky and Tweety as construction workers taking on all the jobs that Bob the Builder rejected.

“Can we build it? Eh, maybe.”

I know TTL is the show I should be psyched for; I was a big fan of Tiny Toons back in the day, but I’m just not. I think I know why, though: One reason is Reboot Fatigue: I’m legit getting tired of all of these studios strip-mining the nostalgia of Millennials. Another reason is one that I brought up in an earlier Talkin’ Nerdy: I simply don’t think we need another Tiny Toons show right now.

Don’t get wrong; as previously stated, I was a fan of the original Tiny Toons. It definitely filled a need: TT premiered in 1990; back then there was almost no Looney Tunes media aside from The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show on ABC and assorted VHS compilations (anybody remember VHS?), but those were all just collections of the old theatrical shorts, Warner Bros. wasn’t making any new stuff with the Looney Tunes (Space Jam wouldn’t happen for another six years, and this was even before shows like Bugs & Daffy or The ACME Hour — Cartoon Network wouldn’t launch until 1992), so Tiny Toons was as close as we could get to a new Looney Tunes show at the time. It also didn’t hurt that TT was one of the very few syndicated animated series which was all-comedy in an era when most cartoons were action-based or action-comedy hybrids. So I’m not knocking what Tiny Toons contributed to the cultural lexicon.

BUUUT that was then. Today we’re experiencing a kind of Looney Tunes Renaissance: we’ve since gotten no less than 3 new Looney Tunes shows…

Count ’em. Three.

We had a movie this past summer (Space Jam: A New Legacy) and we’ve got 2 new Looney Tunes shows waiting in the wings: the aforementioned Bugs Bunny Builders

…And Tweety Mysteries. Not to mention that Wile E. Coyote VS ACME movie which is supposedly still happening and will be out…sometime.

So with WB doing all this new stuff with the Looney Tunes, what do we need a new Tiny Toons show for? If you own a designer original, what do you need with a knockoff?

Again, I enjoyed Tiny Toons back in the day, but there’s nothing WB can do with Buster, Babs, Plucky, Hamton and Dizzy that they can’t already do with Bugs, Lola, Daffy, Porky and Taz, and when you strip Tiny Toons down to its’ bare bones, Tiny Toons was just a kiddification. I didn’t think we needed a new Animaniacs either (and still don’t), but at least in the case of A!, the characters, while created in the spirit of Looney Tunes, are still original characters with their own shticks. TT, by contrast, did some great shorts, but the characters will always just be junior versions of the Looney Tunes and consequently will always be in their collective shadow.

“You are wrong! The Tiny Toons are original characters! They’re teenagers, unlike the Looney Tunes! There’s all kinds of stuff they can do with them! You’re just a hater!”

Really, what can the producers do on a new Tiny Toons show? A show devoted to part-time jobs? They did that in the first series. Dating and the prom? They did that too. Cramming for exams? They did that. The big football game? Done that. Field trips? Seen that. The only thing they can’t do in this new series is constantly remind us again and again that it’s the 90’s.

Sure, the producers are doing the world a favor by dropping the odious Elmyra from the show, but that’s still not enough to make me interested in it.

By contrast, Bugs Bunny Builders offers things I haven’t seen before.

For one, the cast.

Rather than centering the show on all of the Tunes as a whole, BBB looks like it’ll just be focusing on a crew of 5: Bugs, Porky, Lola, Daffy and Tweety (Tweety being there without Sylvester is kind of weird, though). I’m sure other Looney Tunes characters will make appearances, but I like the minimalist approach the producers are taking with this show.

Second, it looks like we’ll be getting a version of Lola Bunny that’s actually funny. Dare I say, LOONY!

I’m definitely looking forward to that after the comparatively bland version we got in Space Jam: A New Legacy. It’s quite a leap from a “too cool for school” Lola who sounded like Zendaya to a bubbly, silly one who sounds like one of the Chipettes, but I’m not complaining.

But what really sold me on BBB is this:

If this image is any indication, then it looks like Daffy on this show will be his earlier “crazy, darn-fool” version, which again we didn’t get in New Legacy.

Plucky Duck from Tiny Toons was straight-up 1950’s Daffy, which is fine, but I prefer the nuttier 1940’s version overall.

It looks like we may finally be getting the long-awaited Bugs and Crazy Daffy team-up for the first time…on a preschool show! I tell you, we’re in Bizarro World!

To (finally) sum up, I guess I relate to what producer/writer Paul Rugg said when asked why he wouldn’t be participating in the Animaniacs reboot:

“Here’s the thing: I did that. 20 years ago.”

That basically sums up my feelings about these reboots. Tiny Toons was great. Animaniacs was great. But both shows were products of the 90’s that I don’t need to see more of. It’s like Eek! The Cat.

I watched Eek! when it was on, I got a kick out of it, but I don’t need to see Eek! suddenly pop back into existence and find out what he’s been up to these past 20 years. I saw the originals, I’m good.

I haven’t seen 5 of the top tier Looney Tunes try to build stuff with kooky stylized vehicles and equipment, so I’m more inclined to check that out.
“That been very bad post! This will be very unpopular and earn you many, many dislikes!”

-Yeah, I know.

That’s Warner Brothers! Just a Little Loony

So, this year, Warner Bros Media announced that Cartoon Network will begin airing the international preschool programming block Cartoonito to the CN US starting this September.

“Uh………yay?”

The reason why I’m bringing this up here is because there are no less than three (3) shows coming to the block that are based on Warner Brothers owned properties. One of which is Batwheels, a series set in the DC universe that focuses on the exploits of the Batmobile.

Well, OK, then. So that’s a thing that’s happening. I don’t have much to say about Batwheels since I’m pretty much Batman-ed out at this stage. Come on, WB. I get that the Bat is one of your studio’s biggest cash cows, but can’t we get a DC animated series that’s not about Batman or part of his supporting cast? Why not make a show starring Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Shazam or anyone else besides Batman (or Harley Quinn)? Anyway, I’m not the target for this show, therefore my opinion on it doesn’t carry the weight of sunlight.

But what’s more interesting to me is two other shows based on WB properties that are coming. One of which is a new Looney Tunes animated series titled Bugs Bunny Builders.
What it’s about (source: TheTVDB.com) – Bugs Bunny Builders brings the wackiness, humor and slapstick we’ve grown to love to a new preschool audience. At ACME Construction Company Bugs Bunny and Lola Bunny manage a crew of builders that, quite frankly, should not be anywhere near a construction site. However, by working together as a team, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety and others use their tools and wild vehicles to pull off some of the looniest construction jobs ever.

My Initial Thoughts:

I know that we’ve been down this road before with Baby Looney Tunes, but this series seems to be a tad more ambitious than that series was. BBB isn’t just a clone of Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies.

This series at least has an original premise (well not so original. Bob the Builder anyone?), and this series claims to incorporate some of the Looney Tunes’ signature zany humor. Now, I don’t know how well that’s going to translate on a show aimed at preschoolers, but it’s certainly an ambitious endeavor.

Also, based on the few images that I’ve been able to find, it looks as though Builders will focus mostly (if not solely) on the characters of Bugs, Daffy, Porky, Lola and Tweety. I’m guessing that if any of the other LT characters appear at all, they’ll appear as either guest stars, supporting players or make the odd cameo now and then.

Side Bar: I read a comment about this show on YouTube in which someone responded with:

“No…Pepe LePew! (sob)”

OK, seriously. I like Pepe LePew as much as anyone else, but can you all please stop crying about Pepe LePew whenever the subject of something Looney Tunes related comes up? I agree that it sucks that Pepe’s one scene in Space Jam: A New Legacy was cut, but it was just one scene, which wouldn’t have made a huge impact on the film even if it didn’t get cut. And yeah, I agree that WB doesn’t need to remove the character going forward., but the fact of the matter that Pepe’s chief shtick (jumping on anything with a pulse) didn’t age well. That’s really all there is too it.

Pepe was problematic, but not unfixable. WB could at least try to give the character a new shtick for the modern era. New Looney Tunes (an underrated show, in my opinion) was on the right track when they turned Pepe into a parody of James Bond. In those shorts, Pepe’s advances were strictly toward his female partner (a female fox named Claudette Dupri), but she would routinely rebuff his advances and tell him to keep his dirty mind focused on the mission at hand. As for Bugs Bunny Builders, Pepe was never an A-list character. He was B or C-list at best, so it wasn’t a given that he’d be in this show anyway, at least not as a central character.

End Side Bar.

Is it just me, or do the Looney Tunes appear to be drawn to look a little younger than usual? I guess that makes sense, seeing how this show is aimed at preschoolers.

And if this picture is any indication, it looks as though we’ll be getting the 1940s crazy version of Daffy Duck here. That puts a smile on my face. And on that note…Producers, please make Lola funny on this show. Having Lola revert to her earlier boring, dull as dishwater self in Space Jam: A New Legacy was such a letdown! Please tell me that we haven’t seen the last of kooky, distsy, zany Lola.

I don’t plan on watching this regularly, since I’m not 4 years old, but I must admit that I am curious to see just how WB plans to execute this idea. When it’s ready to air, there will undoubtedly be clips for it on YouTube and sites similar to that, so I’ll likely check those out in order to satisfy my curiosity.

Moving on…

The last show based on an established WB property that was announced was a show being called Tom & Jerry Junior.

And if you thought Warner Brothers was being tight lipped about Bugs Bunny Builders, the studio is being super secretive about this show! The notes on Tom and Jerry Junior must be locked up in a vault and that vault must be buried 6 feet underground! So far, we’ve got no synopsis, no trailer, no premiere date and the only image for the show that I could find was the above title card that doesn’t even have any characters on it. Literally, all we know about this show is that it’s going to air on Cartoonito, it has something to do with music and Tom & Jerry are in it. That’s it!

I’m legit curious about this show’s title. Why is it called Tom and Jerry “Junior” (singular) and not “Juniors”, with an ‘s’? Is the word “Junior” in the title because it’s a preschool show? Or is it another kiddification like Tom & Jerry Kids was?

We just don’t know.

Usually, when a studio is this secretive about one of it’s projects, it means that said project is either very good or very bad. But this is Warner Bros. we’re talking about, so I’m pretty sure that it’s not a case that WB has a major bomb-a-saurus on it’s hands. Most likely, the studio hasn’t ironed out all of the details yet.

A few weeks ago, Cartoon Network made a trailer for Cartoonito and none of the aforementioned shows were anywhere to seen in it. It’s clear that all of these shows must still be in development, so we’ll just have to wait a little longer to learn more about Bugs Bunny Builders and to find out what the hell Tom & Jerry Junior is. This is why I didn’t do this as a full blown Peeks segment. This was just a little taste.

Kind of like mini cakes, only not as delicious.

Nerdvana: The Miguzi Gang

Today, Nerdvana looks back at Miguzi.

miguzilogo

For the uninformed, Miguzi was an afternoon comedy/action cartoon block that aired on Cartoon Network from April 19th, 2004 to June 1st, 2007, replacing Toonami after the latter got booted off weekday afternoons and relocated to Saturday nights due to parental outrage.

Oh Wont Somebody Please Think of the Children

Sves

Speaking of which, does anybody remember the Saturday Video Entertainment System (SVES) that CN did briefly in 2003? It was supposedly a ‘middle ground’ for action cartoons that didn’t quite fit on either Toonami or Adult Swim, but did you know that it also served as a testing ground to see how well a Saturday night Toonami would fare? Now you do.

Miguzi_Wheel_of_Gooz_Promo

So yeah, Miguzi was basically a lighter-toned, more family-friendly Toonami, basically Toonami‘s more innocent younger sister. Folks who grew up watching Miguzi are undoubtedly familiar with the block’s roster of shows; everyone has shows they liked better than others and some which were their personal favorites. However, today’s Nerdvana is not about the shows that aired on Miguzi; the focus of this Nerdvana is the set of wraparounds for the block. (Note: I had originally considered doing this as a Cartoon Couch, but since this is about the bumpers and not the shows, I decided to do it as a Nerdvana instead.)

ANYHWHO….

Erin

The animated hostess of the block was Erin, a young 13-year-old CGI girl with black hair, green eyes and a yellow jumpsuit (voiced by Jessica DiCicco; Miguzi was my first exposure to Ms. DiCicco as a voice actress; I think she also voiced the title character on a Disney show called The Buzz on Maggie around the same time, but I never saw that show and based on what folks on the net have told me about it, it doesn’t sound like I missed anything great) who, at the start of the block, was transported underwater and into a sunken alien spaceship by an enormous mutant red fish with multiple eyeballs. (More on this later.)

Miguzi Gang 2

There, she chills out and watches the shows along with a group of mutant sea creatures and robots, none of whom speak but all of whom have rudimentary personalities. Between the shows Erin and company would indulge in cute, goofy slapstick bits o’ business.

I enjoyed the shows on Miguzi enough, but I have to admit that these wraparounds were among the major selling points for me. Don’t get me wrong; no one’s denying the awesomeness of Tom…

toonamitom2

‘Sup?

…SARA and the Absolution…

SARA_v2.0

“On Toonami.”

…but the Miguzi bumps struck a chord with me, because they were closer to my tastes in entertainment and humor. Cool is definitely cool, but cute, funny and silly have their place too.

Trivia Time: I liked the Miguzi bumpers so much that when we were trying to come up with a name for this site, one of my suggestions was ‘Sunken Spaceship’ in honor of these bumps.

Granted, this premise posed numerous mind-bogglers, such as:

conspiracy_nut

How exactly did this kid come to know about this submerged alien spacecraft in the first place? How did she gain these aliens’ trust? And what was the aliens’ deal, anyway? What were they doing on Earth, why did they come here and how long have they been down there? Were the aliens stuck down there at the bottom of the ocean, or could they leave whenever they wanted? Was the ship damaged? Or was it just the propulsion mechanism that was busted, since other devices inside the ship seemed to work just fine? Were all the aliens from the same planet, or were they from different planets? Several of them were tricloptic (as in 3-eyed); did they mutate while underwater, or were they born that way? And what was the giant mutant fish’s deal? Didn’t Erin’s parents worry about her spending her afternoons at the bottom of the sea with a bunch of aliens? Did anybody else know about the sunken spaceship? Inquiring minds want to know!

-OK, enough over-thinking things. It’s probably best to just chalk everything up to ‘cartoon logic’ and not focus on the logistics too much. The point was to have fun watching the Miguzi gang do wacky stuff. Erin herself seemed to fall into the ‘spunky tomboy’ archetype, enjoying sports and the like, with a playful, mischievous side, while the extraterrestrial bunch she hung out with were colorful to say the least. Because I have too much time in my hands, I’ve categorized the Miguzi Gang into 2 columns: Organics and Robotics. The spaceship’s inhabitants consisted of:

ORGANICS

Big Stalks

Big Stalks: (or just Stalks for short) The big, lumpy green alien with 2 spoke-like antennae sprouting from his head. As his name implies, Big Stalks was the largest one of the group, and also the strongest. He wasn’t the brightest or most graceful creature in the galaxy, but he seemed to have kind of a swagger to him. He also tends to eat whatever’s not nailed down, such as Erin’s game controller, or in one case, her math homework.

Flip

Flip: The short purple alien with the flipper hands and feet (hence his name) who’s third eye stood at the end of his single antenna. He seemed friendly enough, if a tad slow on the uptake.

Miguzi Gang 1

Curly: a blue octopus-y thing with 2 long tentacles for arms and a third sprouting from his head who rode around in a small tank-like containment suit of some kind, with a bubble-shaped see-though helmet. (It’s unclear if he needed this to survive or if he could safely exist without it, as we never saw him not wearing it. In one ‘We’ll Be Right Back’ illustration we see Curly eating a sandwich with the helmet removed; that’s as close as he ever came to removing the suit.) Curly seemed to be a tad smarter than the other ship members, if a bit on the stiff side (though this could be attributed to his being stuck in a tank thingy), as such Curly was a frequent butt of the gang’s slapstick, such as one bit where Erin draws a mustache and glasses on Curly’s helmet with a marker.

Miguzi04

Tre: a small green, tentacled stump-like being with multiple stringy protrusions with an eyeball at the end of each. Tre seemed more like a pet than the more sapient creatures aboard the ship, as evidenced by one bump in which Erin is seen bathing Tre in a sink like a household dog or cat.

Miguzification_03a

Yoke: A later addition to the cast, Yoke was the result of a “Make a MonsterPiece” contest was held on cartoonnetwork.com from November 22, 2004 to January 15, 2005, in which viewers could enter for a chance to have their drawing appear on Miguzi. Hundreds of entries were submitted and a panel of judges selected the winning drawing that was then turned into an animated character. Yoke was the winning submission, drawn by Kyler Spears.

Yoke

Yoke himself was a small, green, slimy looking alien who was contained inside a egg-like flying mini-spacecraft type mechanism, where he sat in a pool of some unidentified green ooze.

TMNT

“Been there, done that!”

No on-air explanation was given about Yoke’s sudden arrival onto the ship, it just happened. One day he wasn’t there, the next day he was. It was like magic. In-universe, Yoke was revealed by Erin to be Curly’s younger brother (though how she figured this out was anybody’s guess, since the 2 looked nothing alike), and indeed, Yoke seemed more like a kid than the others. Yoke also possessed telekinetic powers (activated by a light on the antenna on his head), so a lot of the jokes involving him showed him levitating things around while the others stood agape. (Erin once asked Curly if he could do telekinesis, and he seemed miffed by the question.) My brother Jason said that he wasn’t too crazy about Yoke as he came off like a canon Marty Stu, as he had a super power and no one else did, and I see where he’s coming from, but I also counter with this:

Yoke 2

The dude had no limbs. If Yoke had arms or legs, they were buried under all that ooze and he couldn’t use them. Unlike Curly, no part of Yoke’s body was outside of his mini-ship device, so he couldn’t reach for, touch or grab anything; his t.k. powers were actually kind of a necessity for him.

ROBOTICS

Monitor

Monitor: a self-aware TV monitor who had the most important job of all: he showed the cartoons the gang sat down to watch. He would also sometimes communicate via words that appeared on his screen. He was usually stationery, but in a couple of bumps he was shown to have robotic arms and legs.

Miguzi05

Remo: a self-aware TV remote with a single antenna on his head as well as arms and legs. Since he could move around on his own, he would sometimes get lost, in one instance he was spotted floating around outside the ship.

Bass: a self-aware speaker, also with limbs and a pair of antennae. His most famous appearance was in bit in which Bass is playing corny elevator music (or alternatively corny country music) and Big Stalks comes along and kicks him on the butt, changing the music to something more funky.

Miguzi01

Tweet: A tiny robot (he’s pictured there at the top left), with a spherical black orb head. As his name implies, Tweet communicated by tweeting sounds. As the smallest thing on the ship, a lot of the gags involving Tweet dealt with the problems he encountered due to his diminutive size, such as the time he nearly got eaten by Big Stalks since he was sitting by a bowl of popcorn on the couch.

One thing I liked about the Miguzi Gang was how there was no caste system on the ship. Everyone, organic or robotic, had equal status among the group and no one was treated any different because of their color, or whether or not they have powers or how many eyes they had.

Hippie

“That’s beautiful, man!”

Of course it wasn’t all gravy; I did (and still do) have some minor gripes. It always bugged me how Erin was the only character capable of speaking English; it was like Larry and a whole crew of Darryls. And it really annoyed me how all of the spaceship’s various members were guys. Not one girl! Then CN has a contest for fans to draw a new character and the winner is yet another dude? What the actual what??

-But minor nitpicks aside, I still enjoyed the antics of Erin and the Miguzi Gang. They were probably the coolest gang of spaceship dwellers.

red-dwarf

-OK, the second coolest.

Nerdvana: Magical Island Groove

cute-cartoon-eyes-illustration-isolated-on-white

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 twin-images.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?

terry-dactyl-the-funny-company-4.65

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

tamtam-samuraishodown4-remake-artwork2018

“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

temtemhandson-blogroll-1579029459614

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 Couch: Cartoon Planet

On today’s edition of The Couch, we look back at the forgotten series from the old days of Cartoon Network.  A little gem known as Cartoon Planet.

cartoonplanetlogo

If anyone had told me fifteen years ago that I’d be remembering this show fondly, I’d have told them that they were crazy. The thing is, much like The Banana Splits (which Damon already wrote about in an earlier post), I have a greater appreciation for this show now than I did when it was in production. When Cartoon Planet was on the air, I dismissed the show because it was goofy and ridiculous, but now I enjoy it…because it’s goofy and ridiculous.

Cartoon Planet began as an hour-long block of cartoons hosted by Space Ghost, Zorak, and Brak. They would introduce full cartoons from the Turner Entertainment library, such as old theatrical shorts and Hanna-Barbera cartoons, including the original 1960s Space Ghost episodes. The host segments were often original songs and ad-libbed skits. New material ceased being made in 1997, and most of the songs and skits were re-packaged into 22 half-hour episodes without classic cartoon clips.

There’s no need to go into detail about the cartoons themselves, since they were the same shorts that from the Turner library that were airing on Cartoon Network the other 23 hours of the day. The cartoons weren’t bad, but since there were no original cartoons shorts made for the show, we don’t need to discuss them here. The real attraction was the host segments.  Here’s a taste of the intro:

If you’re like me, you were probably wondering “Why Brak and not Moltar?” It’s likely because Andy Merril (the voice of Brak) was one of the show’s producers, so it’s no surprise that he’d want to voice his character from Space Ghost: Coast To Coast on the show. Also, Moltar already had a gig as the original host of CN’s Toonami program block. However, this fact was joked about on an episode of Space Ghost: Coast To Coast; Moltar is flipping through channels in the studio’s control room. He comes across Cartoon Planet and says:

Moltar

“What’s this garbage? And why am I not in it?”

Each episode included segments such as “Brak’s School Daze,” “Zorak’s Horror Scopes,” “Poets’ Corner,” “Brak’s Monday Ratings Report,” “The Top 5 Cartoon Countdown” (discontinued in 1997 after the show’s Saturday-morning slot was shortened to a half-hour), “Vacation Spots Around the Universe” (pieced together from clips of Ultra 7 episodes), “Messages from Outer Space” (also from Ultra 7, featuring the Hot Dog Men), “Mailbag Day”, readings from “The Cartoon Planet Storybook,” messages from Count Floyd (Joe Flaherty’s local public-access television cable TV horror movie host from SCTV; the segments were originally shown on Hanna-Barbera’s The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley), “Learning to Talk Italian,” Nuggets of Joy from Zorak,” “Zorak’s Helpful Hints,” and “Cooking with Brak.”

The show also had short live-action segments featuring producer Andy Merrill wearing an ill-fitting Space Ghost costume doing various things like visiting a petting zoo, getting a haircut (although he kept his mask on), playing tennis, or visiting a gift shop. Intros of the show during the early years featured Merrill in the costume dancing (rather badly) to the mambo-style theme music, or sitting in a chair reading a newspaper, falling asleep to lullaby music.

You know that you’ve got good stuff when more people are tuning in more for the host segments and wraparounds than they are for cartoons that they’re hosting. You can tell that George Lowe, Clay Martin Croker and Andy Merrill were having a good time on the set. I can imagine them cracking each other up in the table reads. It’s nice having a job that you enjoy.

At the time, head writer/producer Pete Smith described Cartoon Planet “as a cross between The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, The Electric Company, and recess at the Richard M. Nixon School for Wayward Boys. …Cartoon Planet skillfully steers clear of any semblance of sophisticated humor. Forced by network muckity-mucks to air his dirty spandex in front of millions of impressionable young minds, Space Ghost dragged a reluctant Zorak and a confused Brak into the treacherous waters of sketch comedy.”

Unfortunately, due to licensing issues involving the clips used on the show, Cartoon Planet has yet get a DVD release.

Incidentally, Cartoon Planet was one of several names that we considered for this very website. We didn’t go with that because Cartoon Network legally owns the name.

In 2012, Cartoon Network attempted to revive Cartoon Planet (originally to commemorate CN’s 29th anniversary and was called “Best of CN”).

Cartoonplanet_2012_logo

However, this new version wasn’t as good as the original. For one thing, George Lowe was semi-retired from voice over work by this time and didn’t participate, leaving Brak and Zorak to host the show by themselves. It was like having a reunion tour with only 3 Beatles; you need all of the parts or it’s a different thing entirely. While it was good to see Brak and Zorak again, I missed Space Ghost. Without the show’s anchor, something was missing.

For another, soon afterwards Cartoon Network said “Screw tradition” and turned the show from a celebration of the network’s past into a dumping ground for the network’s then current shows such as Johnny Test, The Amazing World of Gumball, MAD and worst of all, The Annoying Orange.

emoticons_disgust-512

“In a word, Yuck!”

I already discussed this boneheaded decision made by CN’s execs in a post from a couple of years earlier titled Cartoon Planet In Crisis, so there’s no need to repeat myself here. This version quietly went away shortly afterward. No one misses it much.

Tragically, Clay Martin Croker (the voice of Zorak) unexpectedly passed away in 2015, so a revival of Cartoon Planet seems unlikely. Even if George Lowe were to come out of retirement to do it, they’d still be a man short. Sure, the producers could conceivably hire someone else to voice Zorak, but that should only happen if said replacement were someone who has a natural rapport with the other cast members and writers.

At least some of the skits and wraparounds are available for viewing on sites like YouTube and Dailymotion. I say we should just watch those and remember what we once had.

Mug of beer

Pourin’ one out for Cartoon Planet and for Clay Martin Croker. We miss ya, man!

So let’s end this on a high note. I give you one of the greatest things to come from Cartoon Network. Period. Kick it!