Animation Trails
November 18, 2020 posted by Charles Gardner

Reign of the Supertoons (Part 7)

We’ve encountered several Steven Spielberg productions in past installments of this series, where Steve was able to turn his talents at producing blockbuster features toward the small screen for mini-epics in the superhero vein. His efforts are far from through, and we will have “close encounters” below with some late episodes of Tiny Toons, as well as several from his next animated showcase, Animaniacs. Also in today’s mix, a panther of odd color, a duck of odd strength, a cat of odd appetite and another of odd bad luck. Odds are, you’ll find something below to your taste.

The Just-us League of Supertoons (Warner, Steven Spielberg, Tiny Toon Adventures, 9/15/92) returns Plucky Duck and Hamton Pig to their super alter-egos of Batduck and Decoy. Taking off on DC’s “Justice League”, Batduck receives a call on the hot line from Buster Bunny, alias SuperBun, informing Batduck that the Just-us League has an opening for a new member, and would he like to stop by tonight for an interview. Trying not to appear too anxious, Batduck replies he can probably pencil them in. En route, Plucky dreams of the merchandising opportunities that will come with being a League member, while Hamton dreams of fighting crime alongside the greatest heroes of all time. Plucky, having no interest in the work side of the coin, reacts to Hamton’s dream, “That’s right. Burst my bubble, you little killjoy.” They arrive at League headquarters, leaving their vehicle in the hands of parking valet Montana Max – who in reality is again Wex Wuthor, with another nefarious plan. Inside, Plucky is introduced to the other members besides Buster – Babs Bunny as amazon Wonder Babs, Beeper as Little Dasher (a parallel to the Flash), Sweetie Bird as Pink Canary, Calamity Coyote as Teen Arrow, Shirley as Hawk Loon, and Fifi La Fume as Scentanna. Buster asks what superpowers Batduck brings into the mix, and Plucky boasts of his fearsome image, marvelous gadgets – and he’s also a heck of a clog dancer.

The League members lose interest quickly, having been under the impression that he possessed some genuine super power (a bit of a writing slip-up, as the inclusion already in the group of Teen Arrow would mean at least one other member relied upon gadgetry rather than super abilities). Plucky and Hamton are given a thumbs down, and placed on the reject list. Despite resorting to a little groveling, Plucky, along with Hamton, trudge dejectedly back to the parking lot. At this inopportune moment, crashing through the ceiling with a jet pack comes Wex Wuthor. The League is equally unimpressed, knowing that he has no superpowers either. Maybe not now – “But I will once I steal yours”, Wex boasts. He presses a button on his suit, and the League is caught in a stun ray. With another button, he announces that he has invented a “super power transfer thingy”, with which he will absorb the combined powers of the League to become the world’s most powerful criminal. Who should come wandering back into the hall but Plucky, stating that he forgot to get a validation on his parking ticket. Wuthor turns the stun ray on Plucky, and declares he will absorb Batduck’s powers first. Plucky receives a jolt from the second button – but as the process is completed, Wuthor falls out of the sky, and wobbles around shakily, as Buster advises him that all he absorbed were the powers of an egotistical green duck. Plucky adds, “Although no one could absorb my ego all at once”, giving Max a swift kick and landing him in a heap on the floor. The League hails Plucky as a hero, and Plucky narrates that as a result, Batduck and Decoy became “key” men in the Just-us League – in other words, the new parking valets.

The Return of Batduck (12/19/92) was actually a pilot episode from the Tiny Tons spinoff, “The Plucky Duck Show” – which died quickly, as no other new episodes appear to have been produced, and the show was merely a schedule-filler compiling old Plucky cartoons from the run of the regular series. A bit too much placed into this half hour for a thorough description, but we’ll try for a flavor. Plucky has landed his own television series (much to the nearly-bored surprise of Buster and Babs), and is attempting to put on a showgirl filled musical extravaganza (though he tumbles down a tall staircase, knocks over giant statues of himself, and collides with his lead showgirl – who is actually Hamton Pig in disguise). Buster and Babs goad him in the wings with a copy of Variety, indicating that Tim Burton is casting a new Batman movie, but getting Plucky’s goat by reminding him he has his show to do instead. Plucky’s ego of course soars through the roof, realizing to himself that he’s feature material, and type-cast for the part in view of his old Batduck roles. He abandons the show and attempts to get on the Warner lot. Hamton is recruited to pose as his agent to make him look legit (though Hamton can’t get agent’s lingo right, quibbling about the improper grammar of the phrase, “Let’s do lunch.”) Little did us kids know when watching this episode that we were being introduced to a character from a series yet to come – Ralph, the security guard from “Animaniacs”, makes what is probably his debut appearance, nine months before the series premiere. As usual, he is no-nonsense about keeping the riff raff like Plucky off the lot, and wraps Plucky up in a string, then uses him as a yo-yo for various tricks, climaxing in “around the world”, as he tosses Plucky into orbit. Plucky does manage a re-entry which finally catches him up with Hamton, and together they plot how to reach Burton’s office (a dark castle shrouded in thunder and lightning on the opposite side of the lot). Plucky produces a map of the studio sewer system with which they can take an underground route to the castle. Hamton is curious where he got such a map, and Plucky points to Art Carney as Ed Norton, selling such maps in the same manner as maps to stars’ homes, with his trademark “Va Va Va Voom”. Hamton asks if there are rats in the sewer. Plucky scoffs that there are no rats, no alligators, no nothin’. At that moment, they are passed by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Plucky continues as if he were still in mid-sentence: “…to speak of!” He then breaks the fourth wall, asking the audience, “How many saw that coming?”, and a show of hands raised in front of the camera lens gives the indication, just about everybody.

After a string of various celebrity encounters, Plucky finally makes it to Burton’s office. Burton is turning down another applicant, who’s got the “dark” part all right, and a snazzy costume, but just isn’t quite the type – Dracula. The sight of Plucky is enough to make his staff exit screaming, and Burton almost jump out a window, but Plucky appeals to him as a comrade, reminding Tim of his animation background. “We’re cut from the same cel.” To prove it, he zip-pans Burton to a “This is Your Life” studio, and reintroduces him to his horrific high school doodles, who take life and swarm around him. That’s all that Burton can take, and he relents to give Plucky a screen test.

Plucky retrieves his and Hamton’s costumes from the old “Duck Cave” set. Hamton activates an inflate-a-duck apparatus to pump muscles into Plucky’s suit – but explodes him instead. Nevertheless, Plucky makes the screen test appointment next morning, repeatedly blowing heroic exits by swinging into walls, dangling helplessly by a plunger grappling hook from the nose of a gargoyle, and using six devices from his utility belt to suspend himself from six buildings at the same time – only to pull all of the buildings down atop himself. Yet Burton gives him the role he was auditioning for – though it’s not quite the one he expected. As Plucky pushes his way through back sets, he encounters someone too big to push – a caricature of Michael Keaton – as the real Batman. Tim welcomes him to the set, and introduces Plucky as his new stunt double! Plucky takes a licking and barely comes out ticking, and bemoans his fate. “Vanity, thy name is Plucky”, he groans, discarding his cowl, and sadly remembering that he could have been on his own show right now. Buster Bunny informs him that actually, he’s still on his own show. “What? How much time is left?”, asks a panicked Plucky. “About ten seconds”, replies Buster. Plucky climbs the tall staircase again, and attempts to resume his musical production number – but a prop mockup of the bat signal falls from the rafters and flattens him, for the iris out.

No clip from BATDUCK… but here’s a rare Fox Kids promo he appears in:

Pink Pink and Away (1/13/93) marks the premiere of the 1993 revival of “The Pink Panther”, and the first of a 4-episode arc returning the Panther to the role of Super Pink. Unfortunately, the writing and timing are no match for the DePatie-Freleng original, and the episode comes off surprisingly lifeless and lacking in energy or originality. Pink (in talking Matt Frewer mode) takes a few routine pratfalls battling a completely redesigned Dogfather and his mob, first in an ATM robbery, then a diamond heist from a museum. He also saves a wise-guy kid/video game whiz who almost joins the Dogfather for a life or crime, until a double-cross leaves him in the museum jewelry case as substitute weight for the stolen diamond. Pink ultimately foils the robbery by using a spear from a cave man exhibit to bring down a dinosaur skeleton on the crooks. Junior goes straight, and swears to be like Super Pink – donning a duplicate outfit – but then soars off into the sky like a real superhereo. “He’s always doing that”, says his Mom, and soars into the sky after him! Pink tries to make the same exit – and flops on the ground, scratching his head in puzzlement.

Super Pink’s Egg-Cellent Adventure (10/17/93) deals with theft of a giant egg, developed to solve the world’s food shortages by a little Germanic professor from the “Super Schmarty Society”. Pink (the building janitor) witnesses the egg‘s theft by a Sumo wrestler and his ninjas, and sees “a job for Super Pink”. They trail the crooks to a chow mein shop, where Pink flies up to a roof skylight (even though the door was open all the time), using the jet power from a giant shaken cola can strapped to his back. Finding a grocery list including ingredients in humongous quantities, he and the professor tail the villains to the only place large enough to fill the order – a “Super” market. The professor attempts to help in the chase by inventing a pair of jet skates he attaches to a shopping cart. The invention goes haywire, leaving management to call for cleanup on nearly every other numbered aisle. The chase leads into a railroad train, and a fight which is seen in blackouts as the train goes through various tunnels – with the last light-up showing our heroes tied back to back. The Sumo announces he’ll show them what he has in store for the egg, and takes them to the roof of a tall skyscraper, where the ninjas place the egg teetering on the ledge of the roof landing. Below in the street, a giant bubbling bowl of liquid and equally giant place setting awaits. Pink realizes that the ingredients list adds up to – egg drop soup! The Sumo states that it is written that he who makes the biggest bowl of egg drop soup shall rulse the world. Panther yawns that he’s read that fortune cookie too. Seeing the crooks’ giant package of soy sauce, Panther whispers to the professor to give it a kick – spilling the slippery stuff on them, and allowing Pink to slip out of his bonds. The crooks are ultimately subdued, but the egg falls off the ledge, with the professor foolishly diving for it and also helplessly falling. Pink produces the professor’s jet skates and puts them on, then grabs two of the ninjas’ swords. He takes off from the roof, using the sword blades as wings, and dives under the professor and the egg, catching them on his back for the rescue. The egg is returned to the auditorium of the society – but doesn’t stay intact for further presentation, as it hatches, producing in the fashion of “Horton” a professor-bird, who runs after the professor, calling him “Daddy” with Germanic accent. “I just love happy endings”, says Panther.

The End of Superpink? (10/14/93) begins in unusual artistic form, in a fight scene
between Pink and villainous The Wriggler, set against backgrounds where every splash of color is seen in a wide spaced print-style dot matrix. This is because the entire incident is happening only in the pages of the “Super Pink” comic book that Pink has just finished drawing. He tries to drum up customers for the publication at a comic-book convention, but faces the challenges of the reigning super-celebrity, the towering, cleft-chinned Captain Chaos. Vying for press attention from a magazine photographer, Captain Chaos manufactures situations of peril for a junior fan’s kitty kat to stage a daring rescue – but has to deal with the interferences of Pink trying to be legitimately heroic. When Chaos throws the cat into a runaway blimp, he fires a grappling hook to scale into one of the conveyance’s gondola windows – but gets stuck in the porthole. Pink rescues both of them in complicated chain-reaction fashion, including use of a teeterboard and souvenir yo-yo to launch himself skyward to save the day – while the cat takes liberal swipes with his claws at Captain Chaos’s defenseless chin. Pink winds up the center of the magazine story, while Chaos’s only picture is of his butt sticking out of the gondola. Chaos reappears as a chef serving celebration cookies to Pink’s new fanbase, who mob him for the cookie tray. Pink shrugs his shoulders to the reporter: “He needed the work.”

Power of Pink (10/29/94) goes altogether too far out. It differs from the others by actually giving Pink temporary super powers, unexplainedly drawn from another food-grow machine of the professor which without explanation instills super energy into a pickle. It also features another caped hero (Amazing Man), who actually is a giant rat in disguise, using a Superman style “Magnetic Telescope” to pull the moon closer to use its gravity to rearrange buildings into giant laboratory mazes for the humans to run. (So why is he posing as a superhero in the first instance?) None of it makes sense, and the situations lack in either cleverness or genuine laughs. Not a recommend.

Eex Men (Nelvana, Eek the Cat, 10/9/93) – A completely misnamed episode, as it has nothing to do with the Marvel franchise its title infers, but is a straight Superman-style parody. The opening credits to this show often began showing Eek in a supersuit, rescuing his 300-pound girlfriend from a burning building – but barely able to lift her through the skies, and with his cape on fire from the flames. Yes, the credits were merely a dream. But this time, he gets to do it for real in the episode. Gary Owens (or a very convincing sound-alike) provides narration to give this episode special super-effect. Superpersonman is the reigning hero of the area. Receiving signals in his Bunker of Goodness of the impending approach of super villain and friend of no-one Garbage Man (a burly alien who wears a trash bag over his head), Superpersonman does what any intelligent visitor from another planet would do – telephones his girlfriend Ultra Babe for a quick getaway vacation. But before leaving with his packed suitcases, he realizes he can’t leave the city unguarded, and determines to deputize someone by passing on his cape to them, thus making them feel obligated to take the terrible beating that was intended for himself. Enter Eek, conveniently on a mountain-climbing excursion past the Bunker. Superpersonman, in slow mental spurts, improvises the lamest excuse for his departure – helping his mother get over her case of the plague – and Eek, living by his motto “It never hurts to help”, acquires the cape, and immediately falls off the mountain cliff. He lands in front of a fast food stand (“Ed’s Gopher Guts”), and the “E” falls off its sign onto Eek’s chest, providing the proper alphabetical insignia. The first sign of crime spotted by Eek is two country-bumpkin types fleeing a bank with sacks of money. (No, for once they’re not tellers or bank presidents.) Eek gives them what they deserve – advice. “Hey, you robber guys.

Didn’t anyone ever tell you it’s wrong to take something that isn’t yours?” “Well, no, actually, no one ever did”, respond the robbers. Eek takes them back to the bank, and they politely apologize for the mistake, and promise they’ll never do it again. Meanwhile, Garbage Man’s ship parks in a municipal parking lot next to a football stadium. He enters the stadium and turns on a water hose to flood the stadium during a big game. He visits the governor’s mansion, and sets all the clocks an hour backwards, causing the governor to miss an inspection of an “untested and possibly faulty” nuclear power plant, which is started up without him, erupting in a mushroom cloud. Meanwhile, Eek runs into his neighbor Sharkey the shark-dog, who as usual puts the bite on Eek. But with Eek’s new powers, Sharkey’s teeth shatter like glass. He runs to Elmo Elk the dentist, and receives a steel set of dentures – which bend in all directions upon his second chomp on Eek’s paw. Sharkey returns the bent dentures, pulling them down around Elmo’s waist like a hula skirt.

Eek begins to notice the effects of Garbage Man’s reign of terror, and reverses the crimes – by blowing the radioactive cloud from the nuclear plant back into a small laboratory bottle – allegedly before those runaway isotopes could have any nasty effects. The lab assistants wave a happy goodbye – although their hands have mutated into ferns. Eek next drains the football stadium dry by sucking up the water in his cheeks – then uses the water to put out the fire of a newly-erupting volcano. Garbage Man observes that Superpersonman may have grown stronger – and furrier – than the last time they did battle, and thus attempts to round-up a variety of weird and improbable minions for an invincible army. They do little to assist, as Garbage Man’s ship, with his minions inside it, is towed from the parking lot for exceeding the maximum parking limit. Eek finally meets Garbage Man, and in his usual peaceful way, asks him in the name of niceness to quit his shenanigans before someone gets hurt. Although no one’s laid a paw on him, Garbage Man cowers as if his very life had been threatened, and pretends to surrender – at least until he can reach the refuge of a getaway helicopter, from which he jeers that he will return and have vengeance. His exit is spoiled, as the copter crashes into a building. He tries it again on a bicycle – and runs into a tree. Once more he departs – on a city bus, but sticks his head out the window for one last taunt, and gets knocked cold as his head collides with a telephone pole. Superpersonman and Ultra Babe return from vacation. Eek, having no idea who Ultra Babe is, assumes she is the mother with the plague he’s been told about, and spills the beans to Ultra Babe on everything Superpersonman did. Babe, shocked that Superpersonman would burden a poor kitty with his job, tells him she’s through with him, and smacks him a super-blow, leaving him in a dazed heap. She invites Eek to Paris for a French dinner – complete with real French Fries – and the two fly off together, as she tosses Superpersonman’s rolled-up cape to the winds. The narrator indicates that it is unknown what became of the cape – but not for long, as a caped Sharkey flies into the shot, holding an American flag, to fight for truth, justice – and whatever sharkdogs fight for.

The Cranial Crusader (Warner/Steven Spielberg, Animaniacs (Pinky and the Brain), 3/10/94) – This one’s a bit of a plot stretch – What makes the usually ingenious Brain think that proving himself the world’s greatest crimefighter is his ticket to getting the public to let him take over the world? Nevertheless, that’s the premise. This time, instead of Acme Labs, Pinky and Brain are kept as experimental mice in the crimefighting lab of an ersatz bat-cave, owned by that champion of justice, the Caped Opossum. Such hero leaves “calling cards” with a silhouette and his initials at each scene of his victories against the forces of evil. Though he regularly makes the 11:00 News, the news report reminds him that one arch-villain remains unthwarted – Johnny Badnote (a mad musician, with some attributes of the Joker, but equally likely to have been inspired by the appearance of Liberace as a villain on the original Batman show – said to have brought in the highest ratings in the show’s run). Brain decides to capture this uncapturable foe, leave his own calling card to steal the spotlight from the Opossum, and become the nation’s favorite hero. Pinky, addicted to the Opossum’s comic books, claims to know everything there is to know about being a superhero – and is inducted into service as the Pink Wonder, while Brain takes on the super-identity of the Cranial Crusader. They hijack the Opossummobile and head to a shady warehouse district where Badnote’s hideout is suspected to be. From a vantage point on a high cliff, Pinky suggests using the vehicle’s prehensile tail-grappling hook device to lower the car into the valley below. They hook the tail onto a tree, and begin to lower themselves down on an attached cable. Unfortunately, Pinky has failed to notice that the cable crosses a railroad track – and an oncoming train severs it in two. Brain commands Pinky to fire reverse thruster rockets to break their fall – instead, Pinky ignites forward thrusters, accelerating the car into a crash dive – and a battered wreck. Still, Pinky manages to activate the car’s super-sniffing device (a sort of elephant’s trunk under the hood), which sucks them to the side of one of the warehouses and through the wall. It s the lair of Badnote, who shakes his head at the would-be do-gooders. “Miniature crime fighters. I’ve got to get out more often.”

Badnote places the pair into a death trap – the swing of a metronome progressively pulls the pin from an egg-shaped music box which is really a grenade, designed to play a farewell tune, then explode. The explosion will be the downbeat for Badnote to play a pipe organ solo – with the pipes being missiles which will launch upon his hitting the keys, to blow up the capitols of the world. Pinky and Brain are squeezed together inside the diameter of the grenade’s firing pin. Brain is upset enough about this hopeless situation – but what peeves Pinky is that Badnote has left Pinky’s comic book below the base for the grenade, where it will be the first thing damaged by the explosion. Pinky extricates himself from the firing pin, pulling the comic book out, but toppling the grenade in the process (as well as prematurely pulling its pin). The grenade takes several bounces off various musical instruments in Badnote’s collection, then rolls directly under Badnote’s feet as he listens for his downbeat. He gets to hear it all right – in way too high fidelity. Brain pulls Pinky to safety before the explosion occurs, taking care to leave his “C.C.” calling card with his silhouette behind. As the explosion finishes off Badnote’s plans, the impact topples an ink bottle within the lair – which leaves extra blotches of ink on Brain’s calling card, transforming the silhouette into the shape of the Opossum, and the second “C” of the initials into an “O”. When the nightly news report hits, everyone thinks the Opossum was responsible for Badnote’s downfall! Brain abandons all thoughts of superherodom forever, and sets his thoughts toward planning for tomorrow night. Pinky, drawing a comic intended to document the Crusader’s exploits, pens into Brain’s dialogue balloon, “Try to take over the world”.

Also from Animaniacs, Super Buttons (5/2/94) is a feature for Buttons and Mindy – a recurring segment spoofing “Lassie”-style heroic dog shows, with wonder dog Buttons laboring endlessly to keep brainless toddler Mindy out of harm’s way – and inevitably aiming all the harm at his own sorry carcass, while never getting the credit for his many rescues. (Basically, this was Spielberg’s tweak of the situations he was used to getting Baby Herman into in the Roger Rabbit cartoons – which itself was a derivative from Popeye’s many rescues of Swee’pea (consider the similarities between Roger Rabbit’s “Rollercoaster Rabbit” and Popeye’s “Thrill of Fair”.) Unfortunately, the Buttons episodes became regularly formulaic. Parents would always leave Buttons in charge of Mindy. Mindy would always be playing some mindless game in the yard, attached to a waist harness to keep her from wandering. Mama would bid her so long, and Mindy would always call her “lady” instead of Mom, ending with standard catch-phrase, “Okay, I love ya. Bye Bye.” Something would attract Mindy’s attention, causing her to get free of the harness and wander away. Buttons would follow, and be exposed to a string of perils. Mindy would find someone to ask an endless series of “Why” questions to, then leave them with her catch-phrase above, finally wandering back to the yard herself. Buttons would be found wearily returning, and get the blame for letting his guard down in watching Mindy. But Mindy would give him a hug, which was supposed to make everything all right. With so many elements identical from episode to episode, the Buttons cartoons, despite occasional clever peril gags, quickly became one of the most repetitious, and sometimes tedious, elements of the show (with the other possible runner-up of Chicken Boo, to be discussed in a later article).

This attempt at a new twist doesn’t do much to push the “buttons” in a new direction. The intro is new, allowing for some parody of the Superman exposition. Everyone in the family (Buttons, Mindy, and the parents) are cast as caped superheroes, predicting the Incredibles. Buttons is first seen on a dog race track, as the narrator states, “Faster than a speeding Greyhound.” Buttons indeed passes every dog on the track – but runs head-on into a Greyhound bus traveling the other way. “More powerful than a doberman pinscher.” Button does intimidates a doberman into a dark alley – but once standing in the shadows himself, Buttons finds himself surrounded by dobermans – which is another matter altogether. The “It’s a bird, it’s a plane” bit happens again, with one addition after the crowd realizes it’s Super Buttons – “And he’s not housebroken!”, which causes the crowd to run for cover. The usual plot formula ensues, as Mom and Pop announce to Mindy that they’re taking a little time off from fighting for truth, justice, and the American way. When Mindy again calls Mom, “super-lady”, Mom questions whether Mindy has gotten into some Kryptonite. Mindy escapes her harness by expanding her chest and bursting the straps, then flies into the sky after a small bird. Buttons follows her into a storm cloud – and offers assistance by holding an umbrella over her head. A lightning bolt is attracted to the umbrella like a lightning rod, leaving blackened Buttons to fall into a trash dumpster. The rest of the gags don’t particularly fire off well, including a crossing-busy-city intersection peril where Mindy merely tosses an oncoming bus out of the way, a bank robbery unwittingly foiled by Mindy, while Buttons finds room after room of lit TNT sticks, and a City-Hall encounter with a mutant spider-person (a villain, not a hero – no treading on Marvel territory here). The standard ending, and we’re done.

Arbuckle the Invincible (Film Roman, Garfield and Friends, 11/10’94) shares some plot basis with Ducktales’ “Superdoo!” discussed in a previous article. An alien spaceship provides the bauble responsible for providing Jon with super-powers. Two (or perhaps I should say one, as they are joined at the torso) aliens are dispatched to Earth on a mission (though one questions the assignment – “Did they ever get intelligent life there?”), to retrieve a sample of shredded and processed bovine tissue, strewn with aged lactile substance – in other words, a cheeseburger. Encountering a meteor shower, they engage an invisible force field deflector on the nose of their spacecraft. However, one of them turns it off just a bit too soon, as a last meteorite collides with the ship, knocking the glowing deflector orb off the ship’s nose and causing it to fall to Earth. Below, Jon is attempting to hook up a rooftop aerial to get clear reception for a big game. Garfield is sure he’ll see the game clearly – they have great reception in the hospital! He and Odie relax on chaise lounges as ringside seats to watch Jon fall. From above, the orb enters Earth’s atmosphere, and lands with a plunk in the rear pocket of Jon’s trousers. Jon is knocked off balance, and takes the predicted dive off the roof – but merely bobs along a foot or two above the ground as if floating on a cushion of air. A surprised Garfield and Odie “follow the bounding Arbuckle” to see why he isn’t a mangled wreck. Jon is as surprised as they, and announces that he suddenly feels – indestructible.

Garfield insists he must have a broken something-or-other, but Jon decides to take this new power to a place where it can be best put to use – a talent agency (lifting from the Three Stooges’ “Souperman”). Unlike the Stooges, Jon successfully demonstrates his abilities to the agent, by having him break a baseball bat over Jin’s head, then drop a ten ton safe upon him, which is merely deflected to crash through the floor. Jon is signed up to perform a stunt of being run over by the railroad’s 4:15 commuter special (which always runs on time at 5:30). As the event is to be televised, Jon decides to spruce himself up – by changing his suit (a bit of the Jetsons here, too). As Jon leaves the house, with the orb still in the pocket of his other trousers, Garfueld and Odie witness the aliens slithering from their ship down the chimney. They intercept the aliens inside, who explain they are seeking their lost deflector, finding it in Jon’s bedroom. Garfield realizes the orb was the source of Jon’s power – then he and Odie perform simultaneous delayed shock takes as they remember what’s about to happen to Jon. At the railroad tracks, Jon signs autographs before the big stunt – and is surprised when the point of a fan’s pen turns out to be sharp enough to prick his finger. A bit slow on the uptake, Jon begins to suspect there may be a flaw in his powers. But it’s too late to back out, as several stagehands are already tying Jon to the tracks, and his manager claims to have already cashed an advance check. Jon struggles helplessly in his bonds, while Garfield and Odie encounter a locked gate and realize there’s no way to reach Jon in time for a rescue.

Always practical, Garfield decides not to make the trip a total loss, and escorts Odie to a hamburger stand for a bite to eat. Who do they encounter inside but the aliens, sampling the “bovine tissue”. “Small planet, is it not?” say the aliens. Garfield points out Jon on the restaurant’s TV, and asks if there is any way to save him. The aliens pull out a small remote, and suggest a simple molecular dissolve. At the tracks, as the train zooms toward its target, the ropes binding Jon are suddenly disintegrated, and though the train runs over him, Jon is never touched, and emerges unharmed. In a complete plothole, just to keep Jon from becoming a financial success, the writers unexplainedly have the agent trudge through the shot, informing Jon without explaation, “You’re not getting paid”. (So what happened to the agent’s advance check?) Meanwhile, Garfield and Odie happily chow down at the hamburger stand with the alien, Garfield wishing he had an indestructible stomach, anticipating the effect a few more of these burgers will have upon him. (This episode would lead off the very last show of the Saturday morning series starring Lorenzo Music, and the show’s opening credits commemorate the event with Garfield’s last off-the-cuff comment from the corner of the screen – “After seven seasons we’ve pretty much said everything you can say in this spot.”).

Super Strong Warner Siblings (Warmer/Steven Spielberg, Animaniacs, 9/9/95) – The Warner Brothers (and sister) provide a riotous and wicked sendup of then-current juvenile hero squads in “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” and “Voltron”, with a few additional elements common to other Japanese manga-style live and animated shows of the day. The show opens peaceably enough, with the Warners coming out from behind the show’s logo after the stock opening credits, and complimenting the behind-the-scenes work of their cameraman with almost winning then an Emmy – topped with rewarding him with a bag full of money, just because they’re in a good-natured mood. Far away on an alien planet, they are obseved by an evil sorceress in outlandish costume (including a crown made of a buzzard’s nest), who shouts every dialogue line with rage and non-stop syllables, even when there’s nothing particular to be angry about. (A parallel to series villainess Rita Repulsa from the Power Rangers.) She teleports a squad of ninjas to finish the Warners. Back at the lot, it’s just a typical day, as the Warners entertain a group of children with a song about serendipity. A little girl applauds them, and Yakko presents her with another sack of money. A boy next to her mildly points out, “Hey, I liked your song, too.” Yakko hands him a consolation prize of a fat-free yogurt. The ninjas materialize, and the Warners go into action. Hurtling into a series of choreographed jumps, set to a typical-sounding superhero theme song, and punctuated by repeated unison shouts of “Right”, the Warners assume defensive kung-fu positions, The ninjas fly through the air with feet outstretched in power-kick mode.

The Warners respond by each pulling out giant tennis racquets, and each score a “smash” upon their respective opponents into a sound-stage wall, where a crew pasting a billboard of the show’s logo plasters the poster completely over the villains, covering them without a trace. The sorceress spouts more curses on her planet, and casts a spell to magnify a common garden insect into a massive monster. The creature begins devouring and tearing up studio buildings, and destroying others by merely stumbling into them. Meanwhile, the Warners are still busy helping mankind, addressing a meeting at the Center for Advanced Mathematics with equations that will change the world. A distress signal comes in on their Warnet-shield shaped wrist-receivers. They go into their choreography again, receive instructions from a bodyless floating hologram of Otto Von Scratchensniff in the studio psychiatric ward, and lampoon another staple of the day with characters assuming “power of” one species or another, except with odd choices. “Power of the blowfish”, shouts Yakko. “Power of the anteater“, shouts Yakko. “Power of the platypus”, chimes in Dot. They leap into the studio water tower, transforming it into a giant robot. The studio logo from the roof of a sound stage becomes a shield, while they morph a shield-shaped executive board room table into a fighting sword. Their robot battles fiercely with the giant insect, stomping through and destroying sound stage after sound stage, and setting on fire what little is left. They finally pick up the insect in an old wrestling show “helicopter spin” hold above their head, and hurl him into the side of a building, where his powers wear off and he becomes small enough for the giant robot to squash with one foot. Studio mogul Plotz appears, shouting, ”Look what you’ve done to my lot. Do you know how much it’s going to cost to rebuild it?” Rather than reach for a sack of money, Yacko hands Plotz a fat-free yogurt, and Plotz faints dead away. The Warners close with a final warning to kids to just say no to fighting giant bugs, and wave goodbye for the iris out.

Superhero Huey (Universal, The Baby Huey Show, 10/21/95, Steve Loter, dir.) – Our scene opens as usual, with out “hero”, Baby Huey, watching his “hero” Buff Duck on TV. The opportunity almost arises for a direct steal from “Willoughby’s Magic Hat”, with a damsel in distress tied directly between two trains approaching in opposite directions on the same track. But Buff Duck does it the easy way, and merely lifts the damsel from the tracks in vertical flight while the trains collide. Papa Duck watches with a bit of disdain as Huey declares Buff is his “one true hero.” Papa asks, “Don’t you have any other heroes, Huey?” “Duh, Mama!”, replies Huey. Growing more expectant of a compliment himself, Papa asks, “Any others?” His ego receives a crushing downfall when Huey replies, “Casper!” “Any living, breathing heroes who happen to be related to you and are sitting right in front of you???” says Papa, his temper rising to a boiling point. “Duh, nope”, relies his dense son. An ad for a Buff Duck super costume inspires Huey to assemble his own super-outfit out of a pollowcase and red flannels, dubbing himself Super Huey. (Cleverly, his “H” insignia on his chest is a shape duplicate of the familiar Harveytoons “H” logo.) Mama reminds Papa that Huey can’t wander off alone to fight crime, so suggests a begrudging Papa spend some quality time with his son. Huey decides Papa can be his “kickside” – Mallard Boy. He converts Pop into costume by ripping his trousers off, leaving him in polka-dotted shorts, then tying a cape on him and slamming a cooking pot on his head for a helmet. Huey searches the backyard. “Hey, crime! Come out, come out, wherever you are.” He spots a kitten stuck in a tree. To keep Huey out of danger in the tree, Papa volunteers for the task. He corners the kitten on a tree limb, when Huey intervenes by bending the end of the limb down, and lifting the cat off to safety. Of course, Papa is still on the limb as Huey allows it to spring back into shape. Papa is catapulted into orbit around the globe about 3 revolurions, and comes down in the middle of an arena with banner reading “Reporter’s Convention”, where he lands face first buried waste deep in the ground, while everyone snaps his picture, making headlines reading “Duck Butt From Mars.”

Huey’s next deed of good-doing is to help an old lady across the street. However, as Huey isn’t old enough to cross streets himself, Papa again has to volunteer. He gets halfway into the intersection, and finds traffic so fierce, he climbs aboard the old lady’s shoulders to cower in fear. Huey provides his own super-strength solution, by lifting one end of the asphault strip of crosswalk clear off of the ground, then flipping it like a carpet, allowing Papa and the old lady to ride on the crest of a concrete wave to the opposite corner. The lady lands safe – while Papa again winds up face-deep in the sidewalk upside down – with more reporters taking pictures.

Papa’s had enough, and is about to break the news to Huey that superheroes aren’t real, when Heuy spots a helpless snail slowly crossing the tracks in front of a speeding train. This is a job too dangerous even for Mallard Boy, let alone Huey, and Papa tells him to forget it, as there’s no hope for that snail. As he speaks, a railroad crossing gate abruptly lowers, smashing Papa into the ground again (at least head-up this time). Unable to stop his son, he watches helplessly as Huey steps onto the tracks, and strikes a heroic pose with one hand outstretched to stop the train. The scene is nicely played for drama, rapidly intercutting between the speeding train, brave Huey, and sweating Papa. Of course, being the super-strong lummox he was born to be, Huey succeeds in holding the train motionless, picking up the snail from the tracks with his other hand, Papa extricates himself from the ground, runs to the scene, and orders Huey to get away from that train. “Okay, Papa. Hold my snail”, replies obedient Huey. As he is handed the snail, Papa sees the shadow of the train about to be let loose looming over him, and knows where this is going. CRUSH! Papa is flattened, but his hand holds the snail up out of danger. Huey makes the headlines, and receives a hero’s parade, together with Papa in partial traction. Holding the snail in one hand, Papa asks his son, “So, Huey, who’s Buff now?” Before he can receive his belated compliment, he forgets what he is holding in his hand, closing his palm, and crushes the snail into a gooey mess, splatterings from which coat the camera lens to black out the scene. However, we continue to hear Huey’s voice, finally saying, “You are, Papa!”

More ducks next week, plus some more exotic species, including a meerkat, beavers, a catgog, and even a giant chicken, just in time for Thanksgiving!


  • A blogger brought the following episode up last week – so here’s an extra review:

    “Superhero Chuckie” (Klasky Csupo, Rugrats, 11/5/92) – Toons about toddlers were generally not my speed, and I confess to very limited knowledge – or patience – for junior fare such as “Baby Looney Tunes”, “Muppet Babies”, etc. As a consequence – together with a general leaning away from product of Klasky Csupo with the exception of early Simpsons episodes due to a bit of a dislike for their graphic styling (which I often found ugly), I am far from an expert on “Rugrats”, possibly the studio’s greatest success. However, a blog last week called my attention to this episode I overlooked, which I admit generates a certain gentle charm in its simplistic story line. Chuckie, Angelica, and the family attend a :”peanut gallery” style live superhero TV show. An overweight Captain demonstrates his flying power for Angelica by being awkwardly hauled into the air on a rope and pulley, crashing into the prop backdrops. After the show, the group drives home. Chuckie has received a door prize – a ball in the shape of the globe. He discusses his hero with Angelica, only to have his spirits dashed when Angelica tells him that superheroes aren’t real. “You don’t see them walking around on the street, do you?”, she says. Chuckie responds that he thought that was because they were hiding behind their secret identities. At home, he breaks the news to the toddlers, and begins to cry (despite the other toddlers’ assurances that heroes have to be real – or they couldn’t show them on television). To add insult to injury, Angelica swipes his ball, and defies him with “What are you gonna do about it?” Chuckie wishes that a hero was here to teach her a lesson – and goes so far as to wish he was a superhero himself. The other toddlers get the notion that maybe Chuckie could be a superhero in the making – with powers he’s never discovered. Chuckie thinks this is ridiculous, but the kids decide to give him a test. First, Chuckie points out that all superheroes need to have masks and capes. The kids provide a towel for a cape, and an old woolen hat with holes poked through for his eyes to serve as a mask. They give him a first test – to see if he can use his x-ray vision to look through a wall. Chuckie stares – and sees nothing but the wall itself. The kids tell him to try harder – as they peer around the other side of the wall to check on what Chuckie might be seeing. Chuckie insists he sees nothing, but the kids keep prodding him for more effort, until he starts naming things at random as a total guess, repeatedly wrong. Finally, he randomly describes his Mom in a typical everyday situation talking with someone – which just happens to be a foregone conclusion from Mom’s everyday routine. “Oooooh!”, shout the others in unison, believing Chuckie’s vision really worked.

    Next, they suggest a strength test. They are unaware that a neighbor has earlier placed in the room a sample of his latest product for Pop to see – inflatable furniture. The kids ask Chuckie to lift a large chair in the living room. Chuckie knows they’re crazy, as he could never lift something so big – then, to his surprise, finds himself able to lift the piece with one hand. As he puts it back down, and begins to wonder if the other kids are right about his hidden powers, his “cape” catches the air plug of the chair and pops it open, causing the chair to deflate. The other kids believe Chuckie is “melting it” with his heat vision – and Chuckie believes too. The final test – one that Chuckie dreads the thought of – is flying. In the room stands an aerobic stepmaster, which Mom had been having trouble with the gearshift on before the kids came in. Chuckie stands on one of the foot platforms, and fully expects to fall on his face when he jumps off – but the machine kicks in gear again, and lunches Chuckie across the room. Now Chuckie knows the kids were right, and he really is super. Angelica reenters the room, ball in hand, and it’s time for a showdown. Chuckie lines up to charge her, but fails to notice that the towel falls off from around his neck. The other kids exchange looks, realizing that without his magic cape, he’s doomed. Chuckie charges, and manages to knock Angelica backwards over a toy fire engine, causing her to fall in a heap on the floor and have other objects from a closet lightly fall on her, as she loses her grip on the ball, which is recovered by Chuckie. Angelica cries in tears, while Chuckie is hailed the victor by his peers. One of them reveals to Chuckie that the cape had fallen off before the battle – and that Chuckie had won the fight without even using his superpowers. Chuckie is amazed with his own ability, and decides that Chuckie power is even greater than super power. Tossing away the towel, he states, “I won’t need this anymore.” He leaves the room, ball in hand, amidst the continued plaudits of his fans – but returns for a second before the iris out to retrieve the towel, telling the audience. “Just in case.”

  • That was a pretty hard slog, watching four of those ’90s Pink Panther cartoons in a row, but in all fairness I don’t think anybody could have done a better job of voicing that character than Matt Frewer. I liked his sitcoms “Shaky Ground” and “Doctor, Doctor”, and I honestly thought he could have been as big as Robin Williams if he had had the right breaks.

    The tune that plays at the beginning of “Super Pink’s Egg-Cellent Adventure”, just before Professor von Schmarty addresses the learned conclave, is “Gaudeamus Igitur”, a university drinking song from the Middle Ages. Brahms quoted it at the end of his “Academic Festival Overture”, as did Sigmund Romberg in his operetta “The Student Prince”, and it’s also heard in “The Wizard of Oz” as the Wizard confers a diploma upon the Scarecrow.

    In “Power of Pink”, the professor utters the epithet “Oh, Gugelhupfs!” (erroneously transcribed as “squirrel hoops” in the subtitles). A Gugelhupf is a kind of German cake, basically a Bundt cake, made in the shape of a ring using two kinds of batter. It’s more fun to say than it is to eat.

    I thought the villainous mutant spider woman in “Super Buttons” was rather sexy. But hey, I’m a leg man. Don’t get me started on Wicked City!

  • The “Buttons & Mindy” and “Chicken Boo” segments in “Animaniacs” were repetitive, but not as bad as “Katie Kaboom.” (For me it’s a tossup between Katie and Hip Hippos as to the worst characters in that series.) Mindy was voiced by Nancy Cartwright, which is why she sounds a bit like Bart Simpson.

  • Random memory: Is “Return of Batduck” the one where a crazed Sean Young appears in a Catwoman costume, demanding the part?

  • Not sure who Sean Young is – but I believe there’s a sequence in it that meets your description.

  • As to “Pink, Pink and Away”, it’s appropriate that the new Panther series was launched with a diamond heist – after all, that’s how the character was introduced to us in Blake Edwards’ famous film in the first place.

  • The actress Sean Young was the original choice for Catwoman in Batman Returns.

  • Not quite, Andrew. Annette Bening was the original choice for Catwoman in that film, but when she became pregnant she was replaced by Michelle Pfeiffer. Sean Young was initially cast as Vicki Vale for the first Batman movie, but she broke her arm in an accident and was replaced by Kim Basinger. Young aggressively lobbied Tim Burton and Michael Keaton for the Catwoman role, and she even appeared on a talk show (Joan Rivers, I think) in a homemade Catwoman costume hoping to sway opinion her way. That’s the incident referenced in “Return of Batduck”. But as far as I know she was never seriously considered for the part.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *