A Suspended Animation Special
While the rest of the world is streaming, I like to have a physical DVD of something. I am constantly amazed at what things are on DVD/BluRay and just as constantly amazed at what things are not.
For today’s column I would like to spotlight two series that I absolutely loved, both owned by Disney, that have never been released on DVD and certainly deserve to be. As animation fans, we often moan about all the silent and Golden Age cartoon series that are apparently lost but I don’t hear anyone worrying about recent cartoon series that suffer the same fate.
Eek! The Cat was a Canadian animated series, created by Savage Steve Holland and Bill Kopp (who voiced Eek), that ran from September 12th, 1992, to August 8th, 1997 on Fox’s Saturday morning Kid Block. It was retitled Eek! Stravaganza for the third season in 1994. It was co-produced by Fox and Savage Studios with animation by Nelvana.
Eek was a purple housecat who was always optimistic with the mantra “It never hurts to help” (meant to parody the “family friendly” animated shows of the 1980s) which the series showed to be incredibly untrue. He was constantly being terrorized by Sharky the Sharkdog who was irritated by this Pollyana-ish cat. The show often spoofed films and television shows.
In 1998, Holland told an interviewer: “I was always interested in animation because making live action films was so expensive. In animation you just need some pencils and paper basically…and some beer for yourself.
“I had three cats that died in a row. One jumped out of a hotel room window chasing a seagull that was on the window ledge. It was horrible. Then about two weeks later I got another one, and a hawk took it.
“It was flying away, and you could almost hear it say, “I can see my house from here.” And the third one was Eek, and he drank this antifreeze from my car. And he was just lying there in this cute little cat position hard as a rock.
“I invested about $30,000 of my own money to make a full color, five minute section of the pilot script I wrote about this little kitten. The president of the start up Fox Kids Network Margaret Loesch found the Eek tape in a stack of REJECTED stuff.
“She tracked me down at home (where I was biting my pillow and weeping for wasting that freaking $30K) and asked if she could make thirteen episodes It was another Christmas miracle!”
A host of celebrities like William Shatner, Tim Curry, Heather Locklear, Mr. T, Buck Henry, Gary Owens, Gillian Anderson, David Duchovney and many, many others supplied voices for a particular episode.
Holland told Animato! that “I think these guest stars are what help differentiate Eek from the other zany, kooky (eg. loud and annoying) cartoon voices. Mr. Shatner (who played Santa as well as Captain Berzerk) has us on the floor when he comes in to record because he REALLY wants to make his character exceptional. He literally gets red in the face trying to give us the best character voice he can muster. It’s incredible to watch.”
The show added in the middle of the second season The Thunder Lizards who were a trio of dinosaurs who were continually unsuccessful in their attempts to destroy the cavemen Bill and Scooter. Also created by Holland and Kopp, originally it was going to be a spin off from Eek.
The animated series had its own short-lived 1994 mini-series comic book by Hamilton Comics as well as a Nintendo game and kids’ meal toys from Hardees.
While Bill Kopp continued to voice Eek and maintained a strong friendship with Holland, he left the series for his own project that was done at Disney. Kopp said, “Eek is much more cerebral, much more social commentary, where Shnookums and Meat is much more dealing with a domestic situation and turning it inside out, going for the physical comedy.”
The Shnookums and Meat Funny Cartoon Show was a half-hour American animated television series produced by Walt Disney Television Animation that aired once a week for thirteen weeks in 1995.
The main characters were a cat named Shnookums and a dog named Meat who did not get along together. Shnookums and Meat originated as a segment on Disney’s 1993 series Marsupilami where five episodes were produced and then later incorporated into the regular series.
I never cared for the characters or their stories. However, the reason I want the show released of DVD is that I LOVED the two other supporting segments: Pith Possum, Super Dynamic Possum of Tomorrow and Tex Tinstar, The Best in the West.
Pith Possum was meant as a parody of Batman where lowly tabloid copyboy Peter Possum would change into the superhero and was aided by his sidekick Obediah the Wonder Raccoon to fight crime in Possum City. Enemies included the mad lumberjack Dr. Paul Bunion. Pith Possum was an ordinary lab opossum until he gained ultra opossum-like abilities from an experiment gone wrong.
Tex Tinstar was a parody of Wild West movie serials where the cowboy hero and his friends including Floyd the Insane Rattlesnake are in pursuit of a gang of outlaws called the Wrong Riders. The end of each episode ended in a cliffhanger.
The Disney Afternoon characters were conspicuous by their absence from merchandising and the Disney theme parks.
Kopp told Animato that “I don’t want to sound like I’m down on Disney because they gave me a great opportunity, and they really held up to their word. They told me, ‘We’re going to let you do whatever you want to do. Here’s a box of money. Now go make the show.’ And I did, and they really did stay out of the way. There was never anything said about them picking up another season or anything.
“The only complaint from Disney was that on the Tex Tinstar stuff, I had a character called Monica Betty Lou Sue Veronica, and she was to be kidnapped from the town of Bonehead in the first episode, and to be sort of the McGuffin throughout the whole story. And Disney hated that. They said, ‘You can’t treat women like that.’ Even though I had her kicking the Wrong Riders’ asses the whole time!
“They said ‘No, you can’t show a woman in jeopardy. She’s got to be able to deal with it.’ You know, the whole thing is about cliches, and they’re throwing away one of the most prominent cliches in a Western to the wind. So she turned into a safe and I wrote her out because there was no way to deal with it. When people ask me why there is no ‘gal” in the story, I reply that she’s turned into a safe as some girls will.”
If the series had gone into a second season, Kopp would have had the safe finally open and out would step Monica Betty Lou Sue Veronica who had been hiding inside the previous thirteen episodes. To deal with the Disney criticism about female characters, Kopp introduced Pith Possum’s grandmother, Pearl Possum.
“I’ve always loved that kind of thing,” said Kopp, “making an elderly character either somebody who’s oblivious and needs to be rescued, or, and to my mind this is the funnier thing, is what I did with Pearl, which is making the character superior. Everybody goes, ‘Oh my God!’ and they’re getting their butts kicked by this old lady. I felt heroic when I came up with Pearl Possum, because not only did I put women on a pedestal, but elderly women at that!”
“Eek! the Cat” reminded me of Tim Burton’s “Family Dog”: an ugly, ugly cartoon filled with repulsive, unlikable characters and an unsympathetic protagonist who bears the brunt of every conceivable misfortune. Still, Eek had his moments. There was one bit where he was reading viewer mail, and someone had written in to ask: “What’s that white blob in a can of beans?” Eek’s answer: “That white blob is the Queen Bean! And the others are the Worker Beans who serve her!” I still crack up when I remember that.
That “Queen Bean” bit was actually an “Ask Dr. Stupid” segment from Ren and Stimpy.
Shnookums and Meat is incredibly underrated and I stand by that. Yes, it’s obviously hugely inspired by Ren & Stimpy but considering R&S was one of the greatest comedy cartoons in the early ’90s, why is that a bad thing?
“Still, Eek had his moments. There was one bit where he was reading viewer mail, and someone had written in to ask: “What’s that white blob in a can of beans?” Eek’s answer: “That white blob is the Queen Bean! And the others are the Worker Beans who serve her!” I still crack up when I remember that.”
Uh… that wasn’t from Eek!, that was from Ren & Stimpy. It was in one of the Ask Dr. Stupid segments.
The design of Tex Tinstar is blatantly cribbed from Morris’ Lucky Luke, I think this was even acknowledged by Mike Fontanelli who worked on the series.
Re: Paul Groh:
Didn’t they steal that gag from Ren & Stimpy? If I remember correctly about the gag about the Queen Bean, I remember it it a segment of “Ask Dr. Stupid.” Then again, animators are always stealing each others gags, like Milton Berle was always accused of stealing gags from other comedians since his vaudvillian days.
There’s a lot of Fox Kids shows that never got any complete DVD releases after the block ended. There were lucky ones (Ripping Friends, Sam and Max), and unlucky (Louie Anderson’s passing reminded me that Life with Louie isn’t on DVD; it only had a DVD volume release overseas and it’s on no streaming services at all; YouTube has them all).
Oops! Must have been wasted when I saw that. Now I’m wondering whether Eek ever had any moments at all.
Assuming Groh or anyone else didn’t buy the rights back like Howie Mandel did with Bobby’s World (another Fox Kids show), Disney actually owns Eek from their Fox Family buyout back in 2001. (Did anything good ever come out of that deal?) Maybe if Disney stops only caring about the Marvel cartoons they got, Eek and the other Fox Kids shows can finally be released, eh?
Speaking of Disney not using things, I can’t agree more that Disney never did much with the Disney Afternoon characters; in fact they seem to treat most of their TV shows as the unwanted stepchild of their library, the only times I can think of them using the shows in the parks are the Toontown sections, that Doug Live show at Disney MGM and the Kim Possible/Phineas and Ferb thing at Epcot. Now that they’re actually releasing these shows on Disney+ (or at least most of them), it’d be nice if they did more with them..
I recall this amusing feature regarding Eek’s battles with Standards & Practices from an early Nineties issue of “Entertainment Weekly”:
Why yes, Eek deserves a DVD. Uncensored.
It would have been more satisfying to see an entire article on Bill Kopp himself, covering his early work (I wonder if he ever produced, or was at least involved in some aspect with, any short subjects for the NFB), his relationship with Savage Steve Holland and how it propelled his career in animation, up to his work (including the subjects of this article) during and after the end of their relationship. (I’m convinced that the “Sabrina The Teenage Witch” animated series, the second one that complimented the late 90’s live-action series, was the driving wedge. Kopp played supporting roles in some episodes of that series. And I suspect a lot of “creative differences” between all parties involved with the series ultimately led to some heated conversations and accusations of mismanagement and breach of contract. Heck, an article on that subject alone would be an engaging read!)
And on the subject of The Shnookums and Meat Funny Cartoon Show, I also suspect that some episodes of the third season of the Timon And Pumbaa series were recycled from unused stories that would have become future episodes for the former series, particularly episodes where the setup for the story would lead to a rivalry between Timon and Pumbaa, thus the tipoff.
As far as whether or not both series will ever see the light of day on physical media will be up to the powers that be at Disney. It’s always possible that Disney could ultimately decide to sell the release rights to one or both series to a third party distributor, in which case, any mention of their Disney connections would, by legal provision, be stripped away. (This scenario would seem most likely for an EEK! The Cat release, as that series had no previous connection to Disney prior to the buyout of the channel formerly known as The Family Channel and Fox Family consequently.)
Top Cat James, thanks for that article! That was a laugh riot, lol!
Btw, Jim, it is understandable why the show’s supporting features would be more appealing than the headliners, thanks in major part to the outstanding breadth of equal parts charisma, bombast, and humor that voice actor Jeff Glenn Bennett infuses into the main characters of both features. (Coincidentally, he was doing double duty at WB at that time, providing voices for supporting roles on Animaniacs! and Freakazoid!)
Regarding the non-appearance of these particular Disney series on DVD, it seems to me that over the past decade, Disney has been content is issuing three or four-episode DVDs (If that) of even stuff like QUACK ATTACK, LITTLE MERMAID, ALADDIN, HERCULES, MIGHTY DUCKS, JUNGLE CUBS, 101 DALMATIANS, BUZZ LIGHTYEAR, LEGEND OF TARZAN, HOUSE OF MOUSE, LILO & STICH, EMPEROR’S NEW SCHOOL, MICKEY MOUSE CLUBHOUSE, LION GUARD, SOFIA THE FIRST, DOC McSTUFFINS, ELENA OF AVALOR, KIM POSSIBLE, RAPUNZEL’S TANGLED ADVENTURE and BIG HERO 6, and leaving the likes THE NEW ADVENTURES OF WINNIE THE POOH to be doled out in about a half dozen “Growing Up With…” compilations instead of anything complete or comprehensive, or finishing DUCK TALES, CHIP ‘N’ DALE’S RESCUE RANGERS, GOOF TROOP, DARKWING DUCK, GUMMI BEARS and GARGOYLES with final volumes. There never was a WUZZLES collection of any kind I’m aware of.
All of these would seem to have far more commercial prospects than the shows you mention, and they’re not even doing THAT much. (And since their Fox acquisition, TV series sets in general have seemed to have gone the way of the dodo. It makes little sense to me that you can get a Disney+ subscription for $8 a month to cover the rental of 100 series, but it’s deemed uncommercial to issue DVDs/Blu-rays for one show that might cost as much as $35-40 each.)
I’m crossing my fingers that the dry spell for new reissues of old Warner Archives cartoon series will break soon, and we’ll get the early H-B series that have been held up over music rights which surely must have expired 60 years after they were made (for stuff copyrighted prior to 1964, the expiration would have been 56 years after first copyright, unless I’m misreading the rules.)
So, seemingly, the stumbling blocks that kept them from releasing RUFF AND REDDY, HUCKLEBERRY HOUND seasons 2-4, and QUICK DRAW McGRAW (along with the still-MIA TOUCHE TURTLE cartoons) have been vaulted by now. (Though H-B closed over 25 years ago, there are still over 60 H-B shows (Iincluding four YOGI BEAR, two FLINTSTONES and at least a couple SCOOBY-DOO series) that haven’t been issued on dvd.
Warner Archive won’t be out of product inventory for a couple of decades, about the time the original viewers have all passed on. I’m still awaiting FANTASTIC FOUR, BANANA SPLITS, GULLIVER and CATTANOOGA CATS (with IT’S THE WOLF!) to close out the ’60s. We never got the SINBAD JR., LAUREL & HARDY or ABBOTT & COSTELLO cartoons in my area but I wouldn’t mind owning them either.
And I’m still awaiting word of the release of the complete ALVIN SHOW with Clyde Crashcup, .CRUSADER RABBIT, HOPPITY HOOPER, CALVIN & THE COLONEL, KING LEONARDO & HIS SHORT SUBJECTS, the final volume of BEANY & CECIL, LINUS THE LION-HEARTED, THE BEATLES, THE LONE RANGER, MARVEL SUPER HEROES, JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, FANTASTIC VOYAGE, SUPER PRESIDENT, HOT WHEELS and SKY HAWKS to have the rest of my ;60s wantlist. I don’t know if most of them not coming from huge corporate entities make this more or less likely.
Hopefully, the predicted death of the DVD won’t come first.