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Director: Raymie Muzquiz
Stars: Duckman
Airing Date: March 12, 1994
Rating: ★★★★½

T.V. or Not to Be © Clasky CsupoAlready in its second episode the Duckman series mocks the medium on which it appears itself: The episode starts with Duckman zapping through countless channels, one even more stupid than the other.

When he finally finds a show he likes, he gets overruled by the rest of the family, who all want to watch ‘Mother Mirabelle’s Home Miracle Network’.

This show clearly lampoons pseudo-religious shows on television, but not too easily. Strikingly, Duckman almost dies and has a near-death experience, which makes him a believer.

The scenes in heaven form the highlight of the episode, but it’s also great to watch Duckman being disguised as Vincent van Gogh or on a hopeless mission to convert the public as a hare krishna at one airport.

The episode also lampoons the art world, with the villain clearly being a caricature of Andy Warhol, assisted by a gift wrapping Christo.

Watch an excerpt from ‘T.V. or Not to Be’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘T.V. or Not to Be’ is available on the DVD-box ‘Duckman – The Complete Series’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: April 7, 1961
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★★

Fred Flinstone Before and After © Hanna-Barbera‘Fred Flintstone: Before and After’ starts with a television studio in search of a ‘before man’ for their commercial for ‘Fat Off Reducing Method’.

B.J., the president of the company picks Fred from the street. An outrageously proud Fred invites all his friends to watch him on television, only to realize afterwards he was the ‘fat guy’, not the muscular after guy…

In a very unlikely follow up scene the studio offers Fred $1000 if he can reduce his weight with 25 pounds. It remains completely mysterious what the studio would gain with this bet. In any case, Fred sets out to eat less, only to discover that it’s much, much harder than he thought. So, he seeks help from ‘Food Anonymous’….

‘Fred Flintstone: Before and After’ suffers from a rather weak and implausible story, and rather repetitive scenes of Fred not dieting at all. For a while it seems that the $1000 reward doesn’t play any role, at all. Nevertheless, Fred’s wild looks when begging for a burger are priceless and belong to the best pieces of character animation on the whole show.  However, the episode’s highlight is in the beginning, when Fred thinks he’s on camera, and goes berzerk.

‘Fred Flintstone: Before and After’ rounds up the first season of The Flintstones. Five seasons would follow, lasting until 1966. In the first season the series had shown to be an original mix of sitcom, slapstick comedy, sight gags and cartoon humor. Moreover, the series proved that cartoons could be prime time material, although that lesson would only get a real follow up when The Simpsons started airing in 1989.

Watch an excerpt from ‘Fred Flintstone: Before and After’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is the 26th and final episode of Flintstones Season One
To the previous Flintstones episode: Rooms for Rent

‘Fred Flintstone: Before and After’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: December 2, 1960
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★½

Hollyrock, Here I Come © Hanna-BarberaThe wives win a trip to Hollyrock with their slogan ‘Mother McGuire’s Meatballs don’t bounce’. Within two days Fred and Barney miss their wives so much they decide to follow them.

Before soon, both Wilma and Fred are asked to star in a new television series called ‘The Frogmouth’. But within a day Fred is overdoing it, and the producer makes him nervous to get rid of him.

‘Hollyrock, Here I Come’ plays on the American myth that anybody can become a star. The best gag of this only moderately funny episode comes from the guy on TV announcing the winning slogan. The timing of this gag is surprisingly sharp for the series, which is generally does not display any fast gags. Another highlight is the great wild-eyed take on Fred when Wilma tells him she won a trip to Hollyrock, and he thinks he can go.

As always the concept of a stone age television is rather puzzling, a mystery that is pushed further by the animated commercial.

Watch ‘Hollyrock, Here I Come’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 10
To the previous Flintstones episode: The Engagement Ring
To the next Flintstones episode: The Golf Champion

‘Hollyrock, Here I Come’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: November 11, 1960
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating:

The Baby Sitters © Hanna-Barbera

This episode starts with Barney getting tickets to a big fight in town.

Meanwhile, their wives promise one Edna Boulder to make Fred and Barney babysit her little son Egbert, so they can go to the bridge tournament together. So, Fred and Barney stay home to watch the fight on television. Unfortunately, their area is blackened out (the replacement is a recital by Alice Blue Jean and her Magic Banjo), thus Fred decides to watch it at Joe Rockhead’s place, who lives outside the blackened era.

Yet, Joe is not home, and in the least convincing of the story twists, Fred busts in Joe’s door to watch the fight anyway. In another unlikely event little Egbert puts his clothes on Joe’s pooch (a little brontosaur), which promptly jumps out of the window, making Fred and Barney think it’s the baby.

The story of this episode rambles, to say the least, and contains an Irish policeman trope. Worse, the designs of the characters are pretty weird. Fred’s design in particular is very inconsistent and off model. On the upside, there’s a nice primitive elevator, and a bird functioning as a car horn. This bird is the first animal talking to the camera, a Flintstones trope that would occur throughout the series.

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 7
To the previous Flintstones episode: The Monster from the Tarpits
To the next Flintstones episode: At the Races

‘The Baby Sitters’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Directors: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera
Airing Date: October 21, 1960
Stars: The Flintstones
Rating: ★★½

No Help Wanted © Hanna-BarberaThis episode starts with a conversation between Fred and Wilma providing the back story: due to a stupid action by Fred, Barney got fired. So, Fred helps his neighbor out by making him the caddie of his rich and influential golf partner, Mr. Boulder.

Barney’s authentic instructions makes the big shot win for once, so Barney gets a job as a  debt collector, with his first victim happening to be Fred…

This episode is just one another example of Fred’s tendencies to deceive his wife, refusing to tell Wilma he has gambled the money away, necessary to pay the television bill. The story progresses at an even, rather slow speed, and is only moderately funny. The best scenes are the golf scene and the chase between Fred and Barney, with the latter looking like a television set with legs.

This episode is the first to feature Dino (although he has been in the titles since the beginning). Nevertheless, Dino’s appearance is restricted to the first scene, and no mentioning of him occurs during the rest of the episode.

Watch an excerpt from ‘No Help Wanted’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Flintstones Season One Episode 4
To the previous Flintstones episode: The Swimming Pool
To the next Flintstones episode: The Split Personality

‘No Help Wanted’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Flintstones: The Complete First Season’

Director: Alex Lovy
Release Date: April 20, 1960
Stars: Woody Woodpecker
Rating: ★★★
Review:

Ballyhooey © Walter Lantz‘Ballyhooey’ was the last Walter Lantz cartoon directed by Alex Lovy. In 1959 Lovy left Lantz to become an associate producer for the now clearly successful Hanna-Barbera studio.

It’s perhaps ironic that the cartoon actually spoofs television. In this cartoon Woody Woodpecker trying to watch his favorite quiz show, but he has to sit through a multitude of commercials (“but first a word of our sponsor”). When the quiz arrives Woody thinks he has the right answer and rushes to the studio.

At this point the cartoon becomes less static (the first part was just a string of commercials), but also less funny. Woody’s antics at the studio feel out of place and old-fashioned when compared to the more biting satire of the first half. In this respect ‘Ballyhooey’ isn’t really a successful cartoon, but Woody Woodpecker’s annoyance during the first part, and the absurdity of the multiple commercials make the short a fun watch.

Watch ‘Ballyhooey’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Woody Woodpecker cartoon No. 98
To the previous Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Pistol-Packin’ Woodpecker
To the next Woody Woodpecker cartoon: Heap Big Hepcat

‘Ballyhooey’ is available on the DVD-set ‘The Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection Volume 2″ as part of the ‘Woody Woodpecker Show’

Director: Dave Fleischer
Release Date: February 5, 1932
Stars: Bimbo, Betty Boop
Rating: ★
Review:

The Robot © Max FleischerEven though ‘The Robot’ was released half a year after ‘The Herring Murder Case’ (1931) it features Bimbo in his design before his make-over in that film.

In this film Bimbo is courting a female character, who only wants to marry him, when he can lick ‘One Round Mike’ in a boxing match. Bimbo accepts, but when it’s his turn he builds a robot out of his car to win the game.

Betty Boop has a small cameo in this cartoon when she rushes outside to revive Bimbo’s car-robot (or is she Bimbo’s girlfriend but in a different design? The Fleischers were inconsistent enough to be unclear on this). Apart from this short scene, there’s little to enjoy in ‘The Robot’. The most interesting part maybe Bimbo’s way of courting his sweetheart, which he does by ‘television’, a sort of Skype avant la lettre.

Strangely enough, the idea of a boxing robot was reused in ‘Mickey’s Mechanical Man‘ from 1933, with equally weak results. There was something going on in 1932 with boxing robots anyway, for also Popeye socks a robot in the ring in the Popeye Sunday comic strip of April, 24 and May 1, 1932. In any case, to most people in the Great Depression robots were the ultimate terror, as unemployment already was a major problem. Luckily, no robot would be used in any factory until the 1960s. And boxing robots still haven’t seen the light of day, yet.

Spread from the April 1934 issue of Modern Mechanix and Inventions

Spread from the April 1934 issue of Modern Mechanix and Inventions

More on the robot craze of the early 1930s can be found here and here.

Watch ‘The Robot’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Talkartoon No. 32
To the previous Talkartoon: Boop-Oop-a-Doop
To the next Talkartoon: Minnie the Moocher

‘The Robot’ is available on the French DVD Box Set ‘Betty Boop Coffret Collector’

Director: Charles Nichols
Release Date: September 21, 1951
Stars: Pluto, Milton
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Cold Turkey © Walt Disney‘Cold Turkey’ was the very last Pluto cartoon, although Pluto would return in Mickey Mouse’s last three cartoons (1952/1953).

The short couples Pluto to Milton, the zany cat who had been introduced in ‘Puss-Cafe‘ the previous year, only to star in three cartoons.

‘Cold Turkey’ opens with some live action footage on a television set featuring a wrestling match. Pluto and Milton sleep right through it, only to awake at an add for hot turkey. The pair first tries to get the turkey out of the television set, then try to find it in the kitchen. When they discover one in the fridge, the companionship turns into rivalry.

‘Cold Turkey’ is less funny than either ‘Puss-Cafe’ or ‘Plutopia‘, the other two cartoons featuring Milton, but it’s still an enjoyable short. The best part may be the pedal bin scene. It’s sad to see the Pluto series ending when its makers had finally made it into a funny one, with its last eleven cartoons being among the best of the entire series.

Watch ‘Cold Turkey’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Pluto’s 43rd and last cartoon
To the previous Pluto cartoon: Plutopia

Director: Tex Avery
Release Date: December 26, 1953
Stars: Droopy, The Wolf
Rating: ★★★★★
Review:

Three Little Pups © MGM‘The Three Little Pups’ starts as a pastiche of the Disney classic ‘Three Little Pigs‘ (1933) with dogs instead of pigs, and the wolf being a dogcatcher.

However it changes into a typical Avery-cartoon as soon as the wolf has failed to blow the smart little pup’s dog house down. He then goes completely berserk on trying to break the house down only to freeze and say into the camera in a remarkably laid-back Southern voice, provided by Daws Butler: “Well, that’s a well-built dog house, man”.

This is clearly a completely different wolf than we had seen before in Tex Avery’s cartoons. Instead of having wild takes, his reactions to his humiliations are absurdly stolid. All through the picture, he remains completely calm, and several times we can hear him whistling the civil war tune ‘Kingdom Coming’, accompanied by the barest minimum of percussion. This would become his signature song in his reappearances in the Tex Avery one-shot ‘Billy Boy’ (1954), and in two of Michael Lah’s Droopy cartoons: ‘Sheep Wrecked‘ (1958) and ‘Blackboard Jumble’ (1957), which reuses some animation from ‘The Three Little Pups’.

Incidentally, the wolf is not the first animated character to whistle this tune. Twenty years earlier, Pooch the Pup already whistled it in the Walter Lantz cartoon ‘King Klunk‘ (1933). Avery worked at Lantz at the time – is it possible he remembered the tune from this cartoon?

The phlegmatic Southern Wolf is by all means a hilarious character to watch, and he plays surprisingly well against the equally deadpan Droopy. Add lots of gags, Tex Avery’s superb timing and spot on music by Scott Bradley, and we have a fine cartoon of excellent comedy. ‘Meow, man!’

Note the anti-television gags in this short. Tex Avery would make more of those in ‘Drag-along Droopy’ (1954). During the 1950s television made things difficult indeed for theatrical cartoons. Less and less visits were paid to the cinemas, and so studios were forced to cut down their costs. This process ultimately led to the demise of the theatrical cartoon, and to the decline of American studio animation in general, which reached an all-time low in the 1970s, only to be revived again at the end of the 1980s.

Watch ‘The Three Little Pups’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘The Three Little Pups’ is available on the DVD-set ‘Tex Avery’s Droopy – The Complete Theatrical Collection’ and on the French DVD-box ‘Tex Avery’

Director: Bruno Bozzetto
Release Date: 1983
Rating: ★★
Review:

Sigmund © Bruno Bozzetto‘Sigmund’ is a very short cartoon, commissioned for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

The cartoon consists of one scene in a blue room in which a bespectacled little boy imagines himself as the sport stars he watches on television. The little boy’s imagination is shown by metamorphosis: we watch him change into the sport stars, growing with every metamorphosis.

‘Sigmund’ is a sweet short, but neither memorable, funny or one of Bozzetto’s best.

Watch ‘Sigmund’ yourself and tell me what you think:

Director: Osvaldo Cavandoli
Release Date:
 1974
Stars:
 La Linea
Rating:
 ★★★★
Review:

La Linea episode 1 © Osvaldo CavandoliLa Linea is an Italian television series, which takes graphic design, introduced by UPA to the animated screen, to the max.

The first of all La Linea shorts defines the complete series: it consists of numerous unrelated gags around the jabbering little man Linea, who lives in a 2-dimensional world, consisting of only one white line, of which he is part.

This cheerful, but temperamental guy has some characteristics that return in every single episode: First, he talks an Italian-sounding sort of gibberish, provided by voice actor Carlo Bonomi. Second, he always walks to the left of the screen. Third, he always encounters at least one interruption of the line during his walk. Fourth, he frequently argues with his off-screen creator, of whom we only see his hand drawing things for the little guy. And Fifth, our hero has also has an intoxicating laugh, which is heard at least once.

All designs are extremely stylized, yet perfectly recognizable, and beautifully animated. The backgrounds are monochromic, changing from green to red to blue etc. All these elements make this series such a classic, even though most of the episodes are completely plotless, and only last about 2 minutes.

In this particular episode La Linea encounters a turtle, a television set, a tap and a woman. He plays golf and takes a rollercoaster ride. It doesn’t make any sense, but it’s fun. Franco Godi’s music in this particular cartoon is more present than in the following ones, using a tune with voices instead of the instrumental background music of later cartoons.

Watch ‘La Linea episode 1’ yourself and tell me what you think:

‘La Linea episode 1’ is available on the DVD ‘La Linea 1’

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