August 22, 2015

SHIRT TALES

SHIRT TALES
(NBC, September 8, 1982-January 30, 1984)


Hanna-Barbera Productions

MAIN CAST:
Ronnie Schell – Rick Raccoon
Steve Schatzberg – Tyg Tiger, Rick Racooon (1 episode)
Patricia Parris – Pammy Panda
Bob Ogle – Digger Mole
Fred Travalena – Bogey Orangutan
Herb Vigran – Mr. Dinkel
Bill Woodson – Commissioner (season 1)
Nancy Cartwright – Kip Kangaroo (season 2)

Shirt Tales greeting cards.

            Designer Janet Elizabeth Manco came up with the idea for a series of greeting cards for Hallmark. The cards would feature cute little animals all wearing shirts that would display some kind of message. Debuting in 1980, the cards quickly became one of Hallmark’s best sellers. Looking to expand their brand, Hallmark partnered with Hanna-Barbera Productions to create Shirt Tales.

The Shirt Tales: Rick, Tyg, Digger, Pammy and Bogey.

            The Shit Tales were a team of secret heroes that resided in Oak Tree Park, named for the tree that also served as their base of operations, under the stewardship of park superintendent, Mr. Dinkel (Herb Vigran). Although the world knew about the existence of the Shirt Tales, very few outside of select animals knew their true identities.  The team was comprised of Rick Raccoon (Ronnie Schell), the de-facto leader and music aficionado; Tyg Tiger (Steve Schatzberg using a Brooklyn accent), a physical fitness nut who tended to zoom off with a “DOING!,” often leaving his stripes behind; Pammy Panda (Patricia Parris), the original sole female member of the group and an accomplished athlete; Digger Mole (credited as "Mole" in the opening and voiced by Bob Ogle, who also served as a writer and story editor), whose tunnels often ended up a bit off course and tended to be a bit of a cowardly screw-up at times; and Bogey Orangutan (Fred Travalena, doing an impression of Humphrey Bogart to match the name), the banana-loving laid-back member of the team who constantly called everyone “sweetheart.” While the main team and focus of the show, there were many other Shirt Tale “cousins” located around the world who sometimes assisted them on cases, showcasing the other characters that often appeared on the cards.

The Shirt Tales broadcasting their names on their shirts.

            What made the Shirt Tales unique were the shirts that they wore. Each one had the ability to display various phrases or symbols on them (sometimes misspelled). They would be exclamations or reaffirmations of what the character was saying, and at times the team could coordinate what their shirts said for a singular message. Like the cards, the characters’ shirts would sometimes feature little “ST” tags hanging down from their bottoms; however inconsistent animation meant they weren’t seen often.

The Shirt Tales in the STSST.

            When not doing chores around the park for Dinkel (who often acted like he was a military commander), the team would respond to an emergency typically from a summons by the Commissioner (whom one would assume is the police commissioner but also appeared as the park commissioner, voiced by Bill Woodson) through their large computer (alternating between a screen and a holographic display in various episodes). The team would then take to their all-purpose vehicle, the Shirt Tales Super Sonic Transport (or STSST), and exit the park through any one of their various tunnel exits (sometimes hidden in everyday items) under Dinkel’s nose (Dinkel not only didn’t know about their double lives, but also forbade them from ever leaving the park). Among the team’s other common equipment were wrist communicators (which would be invisible until their use) that allowed them to talk to each other or the Commissioner, sometimes with their own holographic display.

Kip joins the Shirt Tales for Shirt Tale Time.

            The series debuted on NBC on September 18, 1982 with thirteen episodes divided into two segments each. When the series proved a success, it was renewed for a second season with several changes made. The team gained a new member, a young and energetic female kangaroo named Kip (Nancy Cartwright), while the Commissioner was dropped from the show. The adventures the team went on were not so much crises they were alerted to and more things they stumbled upon. Rick’s role in the show was drastically reduced, sometimes to the point where he didn’t appear in a couple of episodes. Tyg assumed the leadership role more often as a result. Their shirts also gained a new feature: they all turned red when someone would exclaim “it’s Shirt Tale time!” and the team went into action (the actual purpose of which was never fully explained).



            Kip was integrated into a new opening title sequence with the characters singing lyrics over Hoyt Curtain’s theme music, and she was added to the character images in the new closing credits sequence. However, the show still employed the original episode title cards without Kip. The season and series ended after 10 additional episodes as the initial popularity began to wane. CBS acquired the rights to the show and aired reruns from both seasons during their Saturday morning line-up, replacing The Biskitts until March 23, 1985 when The Biskitts returned. The Hallmark line ended shortly after that.

The DVD cover.

            Along with the animated series, Hallmark invested in a whole line of merchandise featuring the Shirt Tales characters to complement their greeting cards and the show itself.  Amongst them were lunchboxes, drinking glasses, stamps as both figurines and standard, View-Master reels, bedsheets, a Milton Bradley board game and card game, a Timex watch, Ertl die-cast cars sold individually and as a set, a record player by Vanity Fair, an Avalon paint-by-numbers set and paintable figures, Golden Books coloring books and story books, Galoob wind-up toys, figurines and a playset by LJN and plush dolls. K-tel International released two musical book-and-record sets under their Castle Rock imprint featuring sound-alikes in the roles. In 2014, Warner Archive released the complete series on DVD as part of their Hanna-Barbera Classics Collection.

EPISODE GUIDE:
Season 1:
“The Case of the Golden Armor / Crumbling’s Circus Caper” (11/28/82) – In the middle of a gold crime wave, the Shirt Tales are called upon to find a stolen suit of armor. / Pammy is kidnapped and forced to perform in a circus.

“The Game Masters / Shirt Napped” (12/4/82) – A trip to the arcade leads the team to being zapped into one of the machines by the Game Master. / The team is abducted to an alien planet in order to perform slave labor for the citizens there.

“The Big Foot Incident / Elephant on the Loose” (12/11/82) – A hypnotist captures Bigfoot and uses him to rob gold reserves. / The team has to help a lost elephant evade capture and get to the park where he belongs.

“Horsin’ Around / Mission Mutt” (12/18/82) – The team tries to help retiring carriage horse Clarence achieve his dream of being a race horse. / The team has to rescue a runaway dog from the dog catcher.

“Vacation for Dinkel / Wingman” (12/25/82) – The team follows Dinkel on vacation to make sure he gets plenty of rest and relaxation. / A crook uses a whistle to control crows and have them steal valuable jewels for him.

“The Humboldt Ghost / Figby, the Spoiled Brat Cat” (1/1/83) – The team is called in to investigate the haunting of Humboldt Mansion. / The team is roped by Dinkel into watching the park commissioner’s pesky kitten.

“Digger Runs Away / The Commissioner is Missing” (1/8/83) – Believing he’s nothing but a screw-up, Digger leaves the park. / Master Mind kidnaps the commissioner to lure the Shirt Tales into a trap as revenge for his incarceration.

“Raiders of the Lost Shark / The Terrible Termites” (1/15/83) – A shark-shaped submarine pilfers oil from tankers in the bay. / A swarm of ravenous termites make their way to the park and the team has to protect their tree.

“Moving Time / Back to Nature” (1/22/83) – When their friend Nancy wants to live in the park because her family is movie, the team tries to help her deal with the change. / When his friend bails on their camping trip, Dinkel takes the team along.

“Save the Park / Pam-Dora’s Box” (1/29/83) – The team tries to convince a rich miser not to level the park and replace it with a skyscraper. / Pammy goes to visit the panda donated to the city zoo only to learn he’s a sinister robotic thief.

“Hapless Hound / The Very Buried Treasure” (2/6/83) – The team tries to help a lost dog find a new home. / Two crooks try to find a buried treasure in the park.

“Nearsighted Bear / The Magical Musical Caper” (2/13/83) – A circus bear refuses to wear his glasses, getting into all sorts of trouble. / The team has to retrieve the box office receipts of Rick’s favorite band, the Patriots.

“Dinkel’s Ark / The Duke of Dinkel” (2/20/83) – The team builds an ark to deal with a flash flood in the city. / For Good Deed Day, the team decides to treat Dinkel as a king, which leads to him losing his memory and really believing he is a king.

Season 2:
“Bogey Goes Ape / The Rain, the Park and the Robot” (11/14/83) – Bogey follows around his favorite orangutan movie star as she’s targeted by two crooks. / Pammy invents a screwy robot to help them clean the park who tries to save Kip when she ventures out in a storm.

“Digger’s Three Wishes / Digger’s Double” (11/21/83) – Digger ends up with a genie who turns out to be a crook. / When Digger goes to visit his aunt, a cheese-stealing rat hides out in the tree and takes his place.

“Kip’s Dragon / Double Exposure” (11/28/83) – Kip befriends a dragon and helps him learn to act like one. / Pammy’s new camera gets switched with one that can steal the objects it photographs.

“Taj Mahal Tyg / Brass Bogey” (12/5/83) – The team volunteers to find the prince’s lost tiger, or else Tyg will end up its permanent replacement. / The team accidentally lands on the retirement home of Mysto the Magician and get an unpleasant welcome.

“The Outer Space Connection / The Forbidden Island” (12/12/83) – Dinkel, Kip and Bogey visit a space launch and end up trapped inside the ship. / A parrot brings the team to Mora Mora to rescue his partner from a fire god.

“Saturday Night Shirt Tales / Dinkel’s Buddy” (12/19/83) – A crooked DJ is planning to crash the disco party Dinkel is attending. / The team follows Dinekl as he goes out to search for his missing friend.

“Pleasure Valley / The Ghost Out West” (1/9/84) – A crooked carnival owner forces the STSST to land in order to enslave the team. / The team goes to a ghost town for a vacation where a crooked prospector tries to scare them off and away from his unfound claim.

“T.J.’s Visit / The Big Set-Up” (1/16/84) – Tyg’s nephew comes for a visit, and where he goes disaster follows. / The team has to help Dinkel get ready for his date when he exaggerates on his application to the dating service.

“Kip’s Toy Caper / Dinkel’s Gift” (1/23/84) – Kip and Bogey investigate a robotic bear helping a crook rob toy stores. / The team tries to hide a surprise birthday party from Dinkel while Pammy and Bogey end up accidentally switching his gift briefcase with that of a spy’s.

“Mayhem on the Orient Express / The Cuckoo Count Caper” (1/30/84) – A crook collects trains—real ones. / The team’s ski vacation is interrupted when a crazy clockmaker seeks to put them inside his newest cuckoo clocks.

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