January 31, 2015

WILD WEST C.O.W.-BOYS OF MOO MESA



WILD WEST C.O.W.-BOYS OF MOO MESA
(ABC, September 12, 1992-December 4, 1993)

Greengrass Productions, King World Productions, Gunther-Wahl Productions (season 1), Ruby-Spears Productions (season 2)



MAIN CAST:
Pat Fraley – Marshall Moo Montana
Jim Cummings – The Dakota Dude, Saddle Sore
Jeff Bennett – The Cowlorado Kid
Michael Greer – Mayor Oscar Bulloney
Joe Piscopo – Sheriff Terrorbull/The Masked Bull
Charity James - Lily Bovine
Kay Lenz - Cowlamity Kate Cudster
Troy Davidson - Cody “Calf-Pint” Calf
Danny Mann – Boot Hill Buzzard
Michael Horse – J.R.



           While a meteor may have killed the dinosaurs, the next one to hit Earth was a little more merciful.


The cast: Buffalo Bill, J.R., Cowlamity Kate, The Cowlorado Kid, The Dakota Dude, Calf-Pint, Marshal
Moo Montana, Miss Lily, Sheriff Terrorbull, Saddle Sore, Mayor Bulloney, Boot Hill Buzzard.

            With the powerhouse Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise in full swing, networks were hungry for their next big mutant hit resulting in a swell of similarly-themed shows. It just so happened that this particular iteration came from a member of the Ninja Turtles family. Comic book artist and writer Ryan Brown worked on Mirage Studios and Archie ComicsNinja Turtles comics and designed action figures for their toy line. Along the way, he conceived of Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa, the product of a strange meteor (dubbed a cow-met) crashing in the Old West of 19th century America, creating a massive and high-rising mesa and mutating the nearby animal lifeforms (with the unexplained exception of horses). They all became human-like and gained the ability to speak, and created their own society based on the American West (filling in whatever gaps they didn’t know along the way) called Moo Mesa. 


A minor representation of Cow Town used as a background for a sticker playset.

            The idea actually began as a line of action figures, which were released in 1991 by Hasbro. Brown sold the idea to ABC where it was developed into a series by Bob Carrau with Greengrass and King World Productions. Animation was handled by Gunther-Wahl Productions, who used the figures as the base for their character models while making some alterations here and there. The series centered primarily on Cow Town, making full use of its Western genre themes with liberal doses of steampunk thrown in. Adding to the Western flavor was a theme song performed by country artist Billy Dean, who also wrote it with Verlon Thompson. Although fairly faithful to the renderings of the Old West, cow elements found their way into things such as names or building designs (one building in Cow Town resembled a bull’s head, complete with horns). Other bizarre buildings included one shaped like a cowboy boot, one shaped like a high-heeled pump, a pharmacy shaped like an old-fashioned pill crusher, and the Sheriff’s office which resembled a covered wagon.


The lawcows confront a pair of bank robbers.

            Maintaining law and order on the Mesa were the C.O.W.-Boys: Marshal Moo Montana (Pat Fraley), deputy The Dakota Dude (Jim Cummings) and The Cowlorado Kid (Jeff Bennett). Moo was the unwavering leader of the lawcows, who had a strong sense of duty and lived by the Code of the West (incidentally what the C.O.W. in the title stood for), which he seemed to make up on the fly during a given situation. Moo's usual battle cry was "Let's rodeo!" Dakota was a bull of few words who was superhumanly strong, able to lift giant boulders and pull a sinking riverboat out of the water by himself (of course, his strength varied by episode). Cowlorado was the youngest and rashest of the bunch. A master with a lasso, he was desperate to earn his deputy star and often tried to prove himself to Moo, which often led him into deep trouble. Their primary transportation was their horses: Cyclone, Rebel and Jezebel, respectively. That’s right—humanoid bovines riding horses.


Cowlamity Kate wrangles a desperado outside of The Tumbleweed.

            Decent citizens of Cow Town included Miss Lily Bovine (Charity James), who owned and ran the local saloon, The Tumbleweed (whose building was shaped as a beer mug). She was Moo’s primary love interest, but often found herself taking a backseat to his first love: the law. Cowlamity Kate Cudster (Kay Lenz) was a tomboy rancher who owned and ran the Golden Cud Mine. She could give Cowlorado a run for his money with a lasso and had a relationship with Dakota. Cody Calf, nicknamed “Calf-Pint” by Moo, was a young boy who lived and worked at The Tumbleweed. He idolized Moo and often tried to help the lawcows, but usually wound up in trouble. Also featured were Indian buffalo J.R. (Michael Horse), a scientific inventor, and blacksmith Buffalo Bull who occasionally helped the lawcows.


Mayor Bulloney plots with Sheriff Terrorbull.

            But, what good are lawcows without desperados to fight? Living right in their home town was the crooked Mayor Oscar Bulloney (Michael Greer). Bulloney lived up to his name and did everything he could to lie, cheat and steal from his constituents. However, whenever an outside force threatened his operations he backed the lawcows 100% in their stopping the new villains. Working with Bulloney was the equally-crooked Sheriff Terrorbull (Joe Piscopo), who doubled as the masked desperado The Masked Bull. Terrorbull’s henchmen were Saddle Sore (Cummings), a comically inept scorpion, and Boot Hill Buzzard (Danny Mann), an even more inept buzzard (as the name implied).


Ad for the show.

            The series debuted on September 12, 1992. Episode titles (and sometimes plots) were often parodies of Western movies and books using the occasional cow pun. To decrease the threat of the violence on the show, the guns featured didn’t fire bullets or look real. Instead, they often fired ammunition indicative of the shooter’s theme or the gun design. For instance, Moo’s gun was a golden revolver that fired Marshal Stars, which he always used to disarm and incapacitate with trick shots. 



The show performed well-enough in the ratings to gain a second season. However, there was a falling out between Gunther-Wahl and ABC, which caused them to leave the project. Animation duties were handed over to Ruby-Spears Productions who managed to keep the look and feel of the show consistent, despite some minor changes in the animation style and character movements.


Moo Montana coloring book page.

            Several other changes happened within the show itself. The intro was revised to insert shots of the various villains and a few episode clips in between the remaining shots from the original opening. Terrorbull was removed as the primary threat in the season’s first episode; exiled to another town after losing a bet to Moo where he took up residency as its sheriff. Dakota also became more verbose; cracking jokes and having full conversations. Unfortunately, the show was unceremoniously cancelled when Disney acquired ABC in 1994, resulting in a purge of all non-Disney produced programming. Disney, however, did air reruns of the show in 1999 on their Toon Disney channel. To commemorate this, Kid Stuff manufactured new Moo-Mesa items such as 3 inch articulated figures, plastic cups, place mats, sticker activity set and a small poster with a frame.


Character select screen from the arcade game.

            While the cartoon was in development, Brown also entered into talks with Konami to produce an arcade game based on the concept. It was a run-and-gun style shoot-‘em-up built on the engine from their 1991 release Sunset Riders. The player had to rescue Miss Lily from the Masked Bull and his cronies through several levels, which a player could select to play in any order. The player could choose from the three main lawcows and Buffalo Bull, who was added to complete the four character line-up. The lawcows used their firearms and horns in charging attacks, as well as gained power-ups by shooting chickens flying overhead. The game was released in 1992 in two and four-player versions.


The first issue of Archie Comics' Moo Mesa series.

            After the first season ended, Archie released two Moo Mesa comic series of thee issues each, the first beginning that December and the second that following March. The very first issue featured a pull-out wanted poster. Along with Hasbro’s figures, a line of story books, coloring books and VHS tapes were produced by Random House. Collegeville/Imagineering LP released vinyl Halloween costumes based on Moo and Cowlorado. Farley Candy produced Moo Mesa-themed fruit snacks, and to fight the cavities those gave kids Tsumura International Inc. produced a line of personal hygiene products including bubble bath, a shaving kit, and toothbrushes. Character watches, Moo Mesa-themed clothing, backpacks and a Moo mask were also available. Betras Plastic released a dinnerware set including a dish, bowl and glass.


Familiar bovines appear on Ninja Turtles: Fast Forward.


            In 2006, Brown returned home and rejoined Mirage’s Turtles franchise. His second debut on the second volume of Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (he was principally involved with the first volume) brought a crossover with the C.O.W.-Boys in issue #21. The C.O.W.-Boys would again appear in #s 32, 52 and 58. #32 also featured an exclusive variant cover that was made available at an event at the Wayne Center for the Arts. In August of 2006, robotic versions of the C.O.W.-Boys made an appearance on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fast Forward episode “Home Invasion.” Renditions of Moo, Cowlorado, Dakota, Terrorbull and Boot Hill were featured, amongst several original characters. In 2008, artist Tristan Jones was slated to write a new comic mini-series with art by Fernando Leon Gonzalez, but the series never materialized.



EPISODE GUIDE:


Season 1:
“Bang’em High” (9/12/92) – Bulloney plans to have The Masked Bull get rid of Moo with explosives.

“A Snake in Cow’s Clothing” (9/19/92) – Moo and Dakota become suspicious of a new bull in town who drives the women crazy when Lily is robbed.

“Bulls of a Feather” (9/26/92) – Puma discovers that Terrorbull is The Masked Bull, leading Terrorbull to break his brother Horribull out of jail to protect his identity.

“School Days” (10/3/92) – Buzzard disguises himself as a schoolmarm to trick the kids into helping The Masked Bull’s latest crime.

“A Sheepful of Dollars” (10/10/92) – Cowlorado volunteers for Lily’s cattle drive, discovering he’s actually driving bad-tempered sheep.

“Thoroughly Moodern Lily” (10/17/92) – Bulloney gets Lily’s rival Sadie Wowcow to run her out of town in order to get to a secret buried under the Tumbleweed.

“Wetward, Whoa” (10/24/92) – Bulloney corners the water market when the town dries up, but Cody discovers the cause of the drought.

“Wedding Bull Blues” (10/31/92) – Kate plans to marry Dakota in order to inherit her father’s ranch before Bulloney gets his hands on it.

“Legend of Skull Duggery” (11/7/92) – Cody, Carly and Jake follow a treasure map they found in Kate’s attic.

“Stolen on the River” (11/14/92) – In order to prove himself Cowlorado goes undercover in order to catch Five Card Cud and retrieve a stolen ring.

“Dances with Bulls” (11/21/92) – Moo and Terrorbull end up in trouble when they both go after the Gila Gang.

“The Big Cow Wow” (11/28/92) – Cody and Tejua help the C.O.W.-Boys stop the Hole in the Ground Gang before they disrupt the Pueblo’s annual Cow-Wow.

“Another Fine Mesa” (12/5/92) – When everyone seems to forget Moo’s 10th anniversary as marshal, he considers taking a sheriff job in his hometown of Miller Glen.


Season 2:

“No Face To Hide” (9/11/93) – Terrorbull challenges Moo to see who can bring down a train thief first, and the loser has to leave Cow Town forever.

“The Down Under Gang” (9/18/93) – A gang offers the use of their underground hideout for a cut of stolen goods.

“Cow Pirates of Swampy Cove” (9/25/93) – The C.O.W.-Boys head to Newportleans in order to track down Longhorn Silver and his pirate band.

“The Cacklin Kid” (10/2/93) – Lily’s uncle ends up trapped on a treasure hunt and she sets out to save him before the Cacklin Kid and his gang find him, and the treasure, first.

“Skull Duggery Rides Again” (10/9/93) – Skull Duggery comes to Cow Town and uses a rapid-aging gas on the citizenry.

“Billy the Kidder” (10/16/93) – Moo has to get Billy to jail but his gang kidnaps Cowlorado in order to get Billy back and discover the location of their stolen gold.

“How the West was Shrunk” (10/23/93) – A scientist turns a piece of found meteorite into a shrink ray.

“Circus Daze” (10/30/93) – A crooked ringmaster plans to hypnotize the town in order to steal their valuables.

“No Way to Treat a Lady” (11/6/93) – The C.O.W.-Boys find themselves up against a bandit gang comprised of women.

“Night of the Cowgoyle” (11/13/93) – The C.O.W.-Boys have to stop a hideous flying beast from terrorizing stagecoaches.

“Boom Town or Bust” (11/20/93) – When gold is found in Cow Town, Bulloney and bandits try to cash in on the following rush.

“The Fastest Filly in the West” (11/27/93) – Outlaws steal a fast horse in order to rob the Pony Express.

“The Wild Wild Pest” (12/4/93) – An airship captain kidnaps a convention of scientists in order to force them to make him a weapon that will allow him to conquer the mesa.

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