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!”