Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Colossal Mess of Roman Proportions

Forty years later, I finally have the answer. The fact that this is a topic that has remained on the fringes of my consciousness for so long speaks volumes about my neurosis. But thanks to the World Wide Web (as it's called), someone finally addressed this issue.

In 1969, I purchased this one-shot Gold Key comic:

I noticed in the publisher information that it was created by "Total Television" which were the cartoon producers behind "Underdog", "Tennessee Tuxedo", and "Go Go Gophers". They were animated by Gamma Studios, a cartoon factory in Mexico that was contracted to make cartoons for General Mills cereal ads. And this place also animated the Jay Ward cartoons: "Bullwinkle and Rocky" and "George of the Jungle". Many people are confused by this, thinking that these were all made by the same creative teams. They just looked alike.

Anyway, I never saw an animated version of this. Or even heard or read of one.

So two years later, on Saturday morning on NBC, we have "The Roman Holidays", a Hanna-Barbera sitcom with similar characters (and even a lion). I bought the first issue of that comic book.

But thanks to Scott Shaw's blog, based on information from Mark Arnold's book, we have an answer. I am grateful, that I am not the only uber-geek over forty who obsessed over this.

So buy Mark's book. Support my fellow cartoon geeks.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Powder Puff Comedies

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Chevy Chase in his finest comic performance:

The "drug of choice" in the early 80's, at least for comic fodder, was the white stuff. It was almost an obsession with filmmakers leading up to the penultimate "Scarface". But in today's politically correct world, wacky comedies can only rely on masturbation and murder. Does that mean today's comedy writer's get inspired by....well, self-gratification and homicide? Oh-well. Here are three examples I remember vividly from that era.

"National Lampoon's Heavy Metal" with a voice cast from SCTV including Eugene Levy, Harold Ramis and John Candy:

"Jekyll and Hyde...Together Again" starring Mark Blankfield, written and directed by Jerry Belsen, who wrote for Dick Van Dyke and Odd Couple:

"Modern Problems" with Chevy Chase and Nell Carter:

And here I thought The Great White Way referred to Broadway.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Most of you know about the conspiracy/controversey regarding the Addams Family/Munsters scheduling. Both premiered in fall of 1964 and ran two seasons on different networks (ABC and CBS respectively). The Addams, however, had a long history. The macabre family was started as a single panel comic strip in the New Yorker by Charles Addams many years before. The Munsters, a throwback to the Hammer Monster films, was a relatively new creation.

After six years of being rerun, Hanna-Barbera animated the Addams Family (based on their original comic look) for an episode of Scooby Doo Movies in 1972 which led to their own cartoon series the following year on NBC. And there was a barely remembered reunion special with most of the original cast on NBC in 1976. After that, more animated versions appeared and two financially successful feature films were produced. As for The Munsters, the original run was followed by a feature film, "Munsters Go Home". The only animated version was called "The Mini-Munsters" produced by Fred Calvert for a one time special run on the ABC Saturday Superstar Movie in 1972.

But there has been massive confusion regarding the proliferation of monster "families" during the sixties in cartoonland. For instance, Hanna-Barbera had "The Gruesomes" (almost a cross between the Addams and Munsters) featured in a Snooper and Blabber cartoon.
They would later be prehistorisized and become regulars in episodes of "The Flintstones".

Also, Hanna-Barbera created "Mr. and Mrs. J. Evil Scientist". This more sophisticated gruesome family appeared in a "Snagglepuss" episode. Although they never had their own cartoon series, they were featured in their own four issue Gold Key Comic in the sixties.

Strangely, around this same time (1964...also then the Munsters and Addams started TV sitcoms) Gold Key created their own monster family "The Little Monsters" which ran succesfully through the seventies. This was never animated.

Similar looks and styles abounded on Saturday morning: Hal Seeger's "Milton the Monster", "Frankenstien Jr."(Hanna-Barbera), the Gruesome Twosome on "Wacky Races" (also Hanna-Barbera), and, of course, Sabrina's friends "The Groovy Goolies" (Filmation).

And also, in 1967, Rankin-Bass created a feature film using their puppet-style animation (see "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" for "The Mad Monster Party". They animated a sequel to this, also for the Saturday Superstar Movie' the same year as "The Mini-Munsters".

Confused yet?