September 30, 2017

LITTLEST PET SHOP (2012)

LITTLEST PET SHOP (2012)
(The Hub/Hub Network/Discovery Family, November 10, 2012-June 4, 2016)


Hasbro Studios, DXH Media/Vancouver

MAIN CAST:
Kylee Epp – Zoe Trent (singing)
Laura Hastings – Penny Ling (singing)


Littlest Pet Shop was the product of two toylines coming together.


Littlest Pet Shop (LPS) was introduced in 1992 by Kenner as a line of tiny collectible caricatures of animals. The pets came with accessories, like carriers and pet supplies, and individual gimmicks, such as motion or color changing with different temperatures. Shortly before the original line ended in 1996, Sunbow Entertainment, Créativité & Développement and AB Productions adapted the toys into a syndicated animated series. It ran from October 16-December 8, 1995 over 40 episodes.



Hasbro, who had taken over Kenner in 1991, folded the company into its main operations in 2000. In 2005, they decided to revive the LPS line with new designs that made the animals look more cartoony, but kept a realistic color style. The pets also came with symbols in their eyes that meant different things. They also gained a new caretaker: Blythe.

The various Blythe dolls available in 1972.

The Blythe doll was created in 1972 by designer Allison Katzman for Marvin Glass and Associates based on Betty Boop and the “Big Eyes” paintings of Margaret Keane. Kenner purchased and produced the doll in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan. The big head and large eyes were deemed too scary for children, and the doll was pulled from shelves within the year. 

Gina Garan and some of her Blythe dolls.

In 1997, video producer and doll collector Gina Garan was made aware of a doll that resembled her and was given her first Blythe doll as a friend. Becoming obsessed with the doll, she began to take hundreds of photos of her in various places. In 2000, after acquiring permission from Hasbro, she published her photos in the book This is Blythe and reintroduced the doll to the world. She also introduced it to her Japan-based agent Junko Wong, who decided to use it in an ad campaign they were working on for department store chain Parco. When demand for the doll rose in Japan, Hasbro granted the license to CWC Group and their Transformers partner, Takara, to produce new versions of it. As it was successful in Japan, Hasbro granted Ashton-Drake Galleries the license in 2004 to bring the doll back to the US.



In 2010, Hasbro brought Blythe back in house by combining her with the LPS line and renaming it Blythe Loves Littlest Pet Shop. Another animated series was commissioned in 2010 to incorporate this change called Littlest Pet Shop Presents. It was comprised of seven Flash animated shorts by Cosmic Toast Studios that Hasbro released exclusively online. In the show, Blythe would be involved with something fashion or pet-related while the variety of animals in her care, resembling the current toys, would have conversations she couldn’t understand and adventures in imagination. Although “pet shop” was in the name, the show took place anywhere but.

A new look and a new logo. Promo image for Littlest Pet Shop.

Margaret Loesch, then-CEO of The Hub, the television network jointly owned by Hasbro and Discovery Communications, commissioned the development of a new LPS series. Julie McNally-Cahill and Tim Cahill were put in charge of developing the show, which used the Cosmic Toast short as a springboard. Blythe was renamed Blythe Baxter, and instead of just having an interest in fashion she was made to be a fashion designer. She was also given the ability to communicate with animals, much like Dr. Dolittle. Blythe retained the scooter she had in the web series as her primary mode of transportation.

Blythe with the pets: (from top) Sunil, Minka, Pepper, Vinnie, Zoe, Penny Ling and Russell.

The setting of the show was a pastiche of New York called Downtown City, where Blythe (Ashleigh Ball) moved with her father, Roger (Michael Kopsa), after he was promoted in his work as an airline pilot. They ended up living in the building above a pet shop, Littlest Pet Shop, where an old dumbwaiter connected Blythe’s room to the daycare in the store. She befriended the shop’s regular campers: Russell Ferguson (Samuel Vincent), a hedgehog who took it upon himself to try and keep things orderly and organized; Minka Mark (Kira Tozer), a hyperactive spider monkey who loved to paint; Pepper Clark (Tabitha St. Germain), a skunk with ambitions of being a comedian; Sunil Nevla (Peter New), a mongoose with a passion for magic; Vinnie Terrio (Kyle Rideout), a gecko that loved to dance and Sunil’s best friend; Penny Ling (Jocelyne Loewen), a sensitive panda interested in rhythmic gymnastics; and Zoe Trent (Nicole Oliver), a diva show dog that could sing.

Mrs. Twombly always generates strange looks in those that know her.

The owner of LPS was Anna Twombly (Kathleen Barr), a kind and off-beat woman with a passion for doorknobs and who invented the martial art/sewing style of Kung-Fu Quilting. Blythe’s arrive was fortuitous as LPS found itself in dire straits to the competition of Largest Ever Pet Shop, owned by ruthless businessman Fisher Biskit (Vincent). Blythe helped to save the store by marketing her pet fashions, known as Blythe Style (taken from the title of one of Garan’s books), in the store. Blythe also stayed on as a part-time employee in the store.

LPS welcomes literally animals of all kinds. Even those that shouldn't really be pets...or in the city...

Initially, Hasbro was reluctant to have the series set an actual pet store; feeling that audiences would find it disconcerting that the animal characters would change over frequently as they were sold. The Cahills reassured them that modern pet stores didn’t just sell pets, but also catered to them with grooming and day care services (in fact, Twombly’s phone greeting was “We don’t sell pets, we cater to them.”). That allowed for a wide variety of animals to cross paths with the main crew, including Buttercream Sundae (Cathy Weseluck), a hyperactive rabbit from the Sweet Delights candy store next door; Sugar Sprinkles (Kelly Metzger), a cat with sprinkles all over her that plays the ukulele; Goldy (Brian Drummond), an adventurous goldfish forced to live a dull life in a bowl; Madame Pom (Barr impersonating Eva Gabor), a snobby Pomeranian show dog that is Zoe’s frenemy; Mr. Otto Von Fuzzlebutt (New), an energetic raccoon that is prone to intense, deep power naps, and countless others.

Blythe with Youngmee, Sue and Jasper.

Blythe and the main animals were determined by Hasbro for inclusion in the show, but the Cahills wanted to also expand the human roster, including Twombly and the various pet parents. They gave Blythe a life away from the pet shop, showing her in school, fashion camp and other places. Blythe’s best friend was Youngmee Song (Shannon Chan-Kent), an intelligent (though spacey) girl whose Aunt Christie (Tozer) owned the Sweet Delights shop. Blythe’s other friends were Sue Patterson (Tozer), an athlete who was often envious about Blythe’s sense of fashion and creativity, and Jasper Jones (Barr), a humoristic and outgoing boy that was the first to greet Blythe at school. Then there was Josh Sharp (Vincent), Blythe’s crush that often leaves her tongue-tied in his presence. Blythe’s main enemies were the Biskit twins, Whittany and Brittany (both Chan-Kent). The daughters of Fisher Biskit, they were spoiled rotten and weren’t afraid to show it; constantly scheming on how to spoil Blythe’s efforts in anything she did and make themselves look good (which wasn’t helped by the fact that they weren’t all that intelligent). The characters were designed by Kora Kosicka and Amy He.

The Biskits and their chinchillas.

Littlest Pet Shop debuted on The Hub on November 10, 2012 with two episodes. Daniel Ingram and Steffan Andrews were the series composers, and Ingram also composed the series’ theme with Dan Kuby; which was similar to the web series’ with different lyrics performed by Ball. In keeping with the fashion theme, Blythe was depicted in at least two different outfits and hairstyles per episode; a rarity in cartoons, and a complication that added some time to the episode rendering. Each episode took about a year to complete, with four episodes being worked on simultaneously in Flash. The Cahills, who had a penchant for quirky comedy, were allowed by Hasbro to incorporate a lot of slapstick into the episodes. Much like The Hub’s earlier, successful My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, they sought to take what was largely considered a girls’ property and make it accessible to boys and adults as well. The show was also notable for sharing several cast members from Friendship is Magic and the 1990s LPS series.

Blythe with her crush, Josh.

The show ran for four seasons, along with two mini-seasons of animated shorts that aired online prior to the third and fourth season debuts. The shorts were written by the Cahills, and the main seasons were written by the Cahills along with Roger Eschbacher, Mitch Larson, Evan Gore, Heather Lombard, Corey Powell, Cindy Morrow, Merriwether Williams, Adam Beechen, Tom Minton, Guy Toubes, F.M. DeMarco, David Shayne, Nick Confalone, and Eric Rogers. Dallas Parker served as the supervising director through season three, where he was succeeded by Joel Dickie after stepping down. Steven Garcia served as a director for the last two seasons, while Mike Myhre came on for the final. It was nominated for a Daytime Arts Emmy Award for the song “If You’re a Guy” in 2013. Oliver and New were both nominated for ACTRA and the Union of British Columbia Performers awards for their characters’ portrayals, which Oliver won. Ingram and Andrews were both nominated for Leo Awards for their work on “Lights, Camera, Mongoose!”

Eliza Biskit returns!

The third season went on a four-month hiatus while the network was in the process of changing its ownership and name to Discovery Family. The Biskits’ antagonistic roles gradually began to be reduced, and Blythe and the pets spent more time having separate adventures. The fourth season had two ongoing subplots: Blythe was learning about her mother through a journal found in the possession of her mother’s childhood pet, an old tortoise named Speedy Shellberg (Vincent), and Twombly seeking to expand her business across the whole neighborhood as Littlest Pet Street. Throughout the course of the show, Blythe kept her abilities largely a secret due to her fear of how she would be treated once word got out. She was eventually forced to reveal her abilities to Youngmee, which helped Youngmee to understand a lot of the strange happenings the pair had been through, and to her father in the series finale, who had suspected as much as her mother also had that ability. The fourth season also saw the introduction of the Biskits’ mother, Eliza (Chan-Kent), who was the opposite of the others: cheerful, bubbly and constantly breaking into song. Her absence was explained by her having a bad headache and staying in another wing of their mansion.

A page from the LPS comics.

While the show was in production, the LPS toys were modified to closer resemble the featured characters beginning in 2013. Gameloft developed a mobile game based on the show, which saw players having to collect 150 pets and take care of them. In 2014, IDW Publishing published a five-issue mini-series written by Georgia Ball and Matt Anderson with art by Nicanor Pena and Antonio Campo. Hasbro wanted the comic to entertain readers and not really push a moral message. They also gave the creators free reign to incorporate things that may not necessarily have been established on the show. A one-shot, Spring Cleaning! was released in 2015 and the various parts of the books were collected into digest-sized hardcovers.

LPS DVD cover.

The entire series has yet to be released to home media. Between 2013 and 2015, Shout! Factory released 45 episodes from the first three seasons across 9 DVD collections in North America. Primal Screen released 11 episodes across 2 DVD collections in the United Kingdom and the Middle East. Beyond Home Entertainment released 30 episodes across 6 DVDs in Australia. The complete series has been made available on streaming services, such as Amazon Video.


EPISODE GUIDE:
Season 1:
“Blythe’s Big Adventure Part 1” (11/10/12) – Blythe and her father move to Downtown City where she discovers she can communicate with animals.

“Blythe’s Big Adventure Part 2” (11/10/12) – The pets in the shop below Blythe convince her to help save the shop from going out of business.

“Bad Hair Day” (11/17/12) – As Blythe gives Zoe a bad haircut, Minka is pressured into becoming a famous artist.

“Gailbreak!” (11/24/12) – Zoe and her friends go to bust her sister Gail out of Largest Ever Pet Shop.

“Penny For Your Laughs” (12/1/12) – Pepper takes to insult comedy while the Biskits become Blythe’s friends after she defends them from a bully.

“Mean Isn’t Your Color” (12/8/12) – Blythe has a hard time with her father having a date while Penny Ling struggles with the desire to tell Blythe she doesn’t like her new outfit.

“Russell Up Some Fun” (12/15/12) – Being pestered to loosen up has Russell create the alter ego “Fun Russell” while Sue begins dressing and acting like Blythe.

“Blythe’s Crush” (12/22/12) – Sunil uses his “psychic abilities” to try and locate Josh Sharp so that Blythe can return the keys he dropped.

“Dumb Dumbwaiter” (12/29/12) – Penny Ling leads the rescue when Blythe, Zoe, Pepper and Minka end up stuck in the dumbwaiter.

“Eve of Destruction” (1/5/13) – Mrs. Twombly searches for her favorite cleaning supply while Blythe referees Zoe and her rival, Madame Pom.

“Books and Covers” (1/12/13) – Blythe puts the Biskits on her Mathlete team in order to compete while the pets think a new visitor is a spy from Largest Ever Pet Shop.

“So You Skink You Can Dance” (1/19/13) – When Blythe and Vinnie go to Hollywood, camera-shy Blythe is mistaken for a dancer on the program Shake-A-Leg.

“Lights, Camera, Mongoose!” (1/26/13) – Sunil and famous mongoose Shahrukh trade lives.

“Topped with Buttercream” (2/9/13) – The pets end up stuck in Sweet Delights with Buttercream and enjoy too many treats.

“Trading Places” (2/2/13) – Zoe asks Penny Ling to tell a new dog camper that she likes him while Russell goes to Blythe’s school and gets lost.

“Sweet (Truck) Ride” (2/16/13) – When the pets accidentally send the Sweet Truck careening down the street, Blythe gets the blame.

“Helicopter Dad” (2/23/13) – Roger surprises Blythe at school so theyc an hang out and Minka makes a new friend.

“What’s in the Batter?” (3/2/13) – While helping Youngmee, Blythe loses her necklace in cupcake batter.

“What Did You Say?” (3/9/13) – Blythe loses her ability to understand the pets just as Vinnie accidentally ends up in the city dump.

“Bakers and Fakers” (3/16/13) – The pets learn the Biskits plan to cheat to win the baking competition.

“Terriers and Tiaras” (3/23/13) – Blythe undergoes a bad transformation when she agrees to be on a reality pet pageant show.

“Lotsa Luck” (3/30/13) – Blythe discovers Mrs. Twombly invented a unique martial art while Pepper tries to make her hero, Old Bananas, laugh.

“Door-Jammed” (4/6/13) – Sunil and Vinnie suspect their friends became werewolves while Mrs. Twombly seeks to reclaim a valuable doorknob from Fisher Biskit.

“Frenemies” (4/13/13) – Zoe and Pepper become competitive in planning a party for Penny Ling, and Vinnie learns he can dance better without his tail.

“Blythe’s Pet Project” (4/20/13) – Items go missing around the day camp, including Mrs. Twombly’s glasses.

“Summertime Blues” (4/27/13) – Blythe gets anxiety over leaving after she’s accepted into a junior program at a fashion school.

Season 2:
“Missing Blythe” (11/2/13) – The pets plan to visit Blythe at her summer camp.

“The Nest Hats Craze!” (11/2/13) – A baby chick ends up in Blythe’s nest hat.

“Eight Arms to Hold You” (11/9/13) – Russell’s slumber party is about to be crashed by several uninvited guests.

“Heart of Parkness” (11/16/13) – Sunil rescues the racoons in City Park and has to decide between being their king or returning to the pet shop.

“Pawlm Reading” (11/23/13) – A phony psychic tricks Mrs. Twombly into a specific brand of pet food while the pets try to conform themselves to her readings.

“The Treasure of Henrietta Twombly” (11/30/13) – A reality TV show reveals a treasure is buried under the shop.

“What, Meme Worry?” (12/7/13) – Zoe becomes jealous when Sunil’s picture goes viral.

“The Big, Feathered Parade” (12/14/13) – Blythe’s designs for the Big Feathered Parade end up stolen and used by another designer named Ramon.

“A Day at the Museum” (12/21/13) – The pets get lost in a museum and Blythe must find them before security does.

“Alligators and Handbags” (12/28/13) – The pets deal with a bully while Blythe battles with self-confidence after a fashion icon gives her designs a harsh critique.

“Blythe’s Big Idea” (1/4/14) – Blythe trades in her scooter for a sales kiosk and Roger’s airline begins a Pet Jet service.

“Commercial Success” (1/11/14) – When business gets slow Mrs. Twombly agrees to let Blythe shoot a commercial.

“So Interesting” (1/18/14) – The pets share interesting stories with each other, which Penny Ling uses an opportunity to craft a wonderful fantasy.

“To Paris with Zoe” (1/25/14) – Blythe takes Zoe to Paris for a dog show where Blythe falls for the city and Zoe falls for a miming street dog named Phillippe.

“Super Sunil” (2/1/14) – Penny Ling convinces Sunil he has powers to give him confidence, while Blythe helps out with the Sweet Delights truck.

“Sweet Pepper” (2/8/14) – Blythe babysits Buttercream while trying to finish a new book, and Pepper isn’t sure how to profess her feelings for a new camper.

“Shanghai Hi-Jinks” (2/15/14) – Blythe and the pets travel to Shanghai where Mrs. Twombly receives and honor for inventing Kung Fu Quilting and Penny Ling meets her family.

“Grounded” (2/22/14) – When Roger is laid off, he takes a job as the Biskits’ personal assistant and chauffeur.

“Inside Job” (3/1/14) – Blythe runs for class president against the Biskits while the pets try to locate the source of an annoying noise.

“Plane it on Rio!” (3/8/14) – Ramon reappears and tries to spoil Blythe’s chances of competing in the Carnival parade.

“Littlest Bigfoot” (3/15/14) – Roger takes Blythe and the pets camping to find Bigfoot where Penny Ling finds a friend and Blythe finds the Biskits destroying the woods.

“Sunil’s Sick Day” (3/22/14) – Russell tries to help patch up Vinnie and Sunil’s friendship.

“The Hedgehog in the Plastic Bubble” (3/29/14) – Russell and Blythe find themselves alone.

“Standup Stinker” (4/5/14) – Blythe advises Pepper on her stand-up while the pets try to convince Minka she’s the first monkey on Mars.

“The Expo Factor, Part 1” (4/12/14) – The stress over the International Pet Fashion Expo increases when Blythe is asked to do a photoshoot for the top fashion magazine.

“The Expo Factor, Part 2” (4/12/14) – The Biskits sabotage Blythe, making all her fears about things going wrong seemingly come true.

Shorts Season 1:
“Tail-Rave-lum” (5/30/14) – L-Zard and his crew visit Vinnie for some dancing.

“The Ladies of LPS” (6/13/14) – Blythe and the girl pets share some quality time.

“Littlest Pet Peeves” (6/27/14) – Russell, Zoe and Sunil can’t seem to stop annoying each other.

“Eau de Pepper” (7/11/14) – Pepper and Penny Ling try to capture her happiest scent.

“Where’d the Escargot?” (8/1/14) – Vinnie and Penny Ling try to keep snails from becoming food.

“Life of Cake” (8/8/14) – Sunil fights Steve for a piece of cake.

“The Fire Hydrant Song” (8/22/14) – Zoe sings to make herself feel fabulous.

“Naptime’s a Ball” (9/19/14) – Russell wants a nap, but ends up on an adventure instead.

“Just Not Into It” (10/3/14) – Russell, Vinnie and Sunil try on clothes.

“Monkey Chase” (10/17/14) – Minka’s imagination runs wild as she paints.

Season 3:
“Sleeper” (5/31/14) – Russell challenges Vinnie and Sunil to entertain the new boarder, which they seemingly fail when he falls into a deep sleep.

“War of the Weirds” (6/7/14) – Blythe investigates a UFO the pets saw while Twombly tries to figure out how to get more business.

“Some Assistance Required” (6/14/14) – Blythe becomes Mona Autum’s assistant while Zoe and Russell deal with a pet model trying to sabotage Russell’s photoshoot.

“Secret Cupet” (6/21/14) – Russell becomes the latest target of a mysterious pet cupid.

“Hamster Hoods” (6/28/14) – Pepper and Vinnie investigate the appearance of Largest Ever Pet Shop merchandise in the dumbwaiter.

“Tongue Tied” (7/5/14) – City pets flock from all over for help when they learn of Blythe’s abilities, but she can’t seem to communicate with one ferret.

“What’s So Scary About the Jungle? Everything!” (7/12/14) – Penny Ling is disappointed when the host of her favorite nature show has developed a phobia of pandas.

“Two Pets for Two Pests” (7/19/14) – Blythe tries to pair the Biskits up with twin chinchillas while Vinnie proves he can paint to Minka.

“Feud for Thought” (7/26/14) – Whittany becomes jealous after Brittany scores higher than her on a test, and arguing koalas cause chaos at the shop.

“Fish Out of Water” (8/2/14) – Blythe, Zoe and Minka try to rescue Josh from working for the Biskits while the others work with an alligator to save a goldfish in the sewer.

“If the Shoe Fits” (8/9/14) – The pets follow Blythe and Youngmee to the Biskits’ party disguised as a tall man.

“The Very Littlest Pet Shop” (8/16/14) – A jungle curse shrinks the pet shop and pets, and a little girl believes they are toys.

“The Secret Recipe” (8/23/14) – Blythe has to reveal her secret to Youngmee to save their friendship.

“Winter Wonder Wha…?” (12/13/14) – Blythe and Zoe go to the Biskits’ winter chateau and the others work on cheering up a penguin.

“Snow Stormin’” (12/20/14) – A massive snowstorm traps Blythe and the pets in the shop.

“Back Window” (12/27/14) – An injured Russell swears he sees Josh stealing Blythe’s designs from the garbage.

“Room Enough” (1/3/15) – A visiting kitten wants to know why Blythe can understand them as Blythe considers redecorating her room.

“Why Can’t We Be Friends?” (1/10/15) – Blythe makes a new friend at the thrift shop and Vinnie has to hide his new spider friend from Sunil.

“Pet Sounds” (1/17/15) – Minka’s cousin believes his scientist owner invented a helmet that lets him talk to pets.

“The Sister Story” (1/24/15) – Blythe’s competitive aunt comes for a visit and she and Roger compete non-stop, while Vinnie and Sunil compete to see who can predict the future best.

“A Night at the Pawza” (1/31/15) – Blythe and Twombly help a friend’s hotel become a success to keep it out of Fisher’s hands.

“Proud as a…Peacock?” (2/7/15) – The pets try to help a shy peacock gain confidence.

“Sue Syndrome” (2/21/15) – Sue is nervous about receiving an award in front of the whole school while Pepper is jealous over a sweet-smelling visiting skunk.

“In the Loop” (2/28/15) – Russell seems to be living the same day over and over when a groundhog visits.

“It’s the Pet Fest! Part 1” (3/7/15) – Blythe scrambles to make her Pet Fest happen.

“It’s the Pet Fest! Part 2” (3/7/15) – When the venue falls through, Blythe must find a new one for the Pet Fest.

Shorts Season 2:
“The Biggity-Big Dog Show” (10/4/15) – Zoe gets a rash on the day of a big dog show.

“Sour Puss” (10/4/15) – Blythe and the girl pets sing about having girl time.

“So Like Bored” (10/4/15) – The Biskits think of ways to entertain themselves.

“OmmmMG” (10/4/15) – Sunil tries to get Vinnie and Minka to sit still.

“What’s Next?” (11/5/15) – Blythe ponders what to do next in her life.

Season 4:
“The Tortoise and the Heir” (11/7/15) – Blythe meets a tortoise who ends up being her mother’s former pet, and keeper of her journal.

“Pitch Purrfect” (11/7/15) – Zoe forms her own singing group after being rejected from an all-cat one, and Twombly sells her doorknobs so that she can buy the street.

“Ivan the Terrific” (11/14/15) – The pets deal with a lost circus bear while Blythe helps Youngmee find her perfect pet.

“Senior Day” (11/21/15) – Russell’s father comes to stay with him when his owner’s senior center says he can no longer stay.

“Littlest Pet Shop of Horrors” (11/28/15) – It’s Halloween, and the pets and Blythe tell spooky stories.

“Game of Groans” (12/5/15) – Blythe, Russell, Vinnie and Sunil head to the Renaissance Fair.

“The Tiniest Animal Store” (12/12/15) – The shop becomes the basis for a new sitcom, but Blythe worries it could reveal her secret.

“Spendthrifty” (12/19/15) – Blythe becomes a sales clerk but is unable to resist the bargains, while the pets distrust Blythe’s new doll Roger brought her from Japan.

“Un-vetted” (12/26/15) – Blythe and Russell go camping while Zoe develops a crush on her vet’s new dog.

“Pump Up the Panda” (1/2/16) – Blythe and the pets go to the beach where Penny Ling gets a lobster personal trainer and Vinnie and Sunil have a sandcastle building contest.

“Snipmates” (1/9/16) – Sugar Sprinkles is uncharacteristically grouchy while Blythe competes against her former camp roommate in a fashion show.

“Guilt Tripping” (1/16/16) – Blythe accidentally gets the Biskits suspended from school while Pepper waits for Vinnie’s punishment after breaking his lucky rock.

“Petnapped!” (1/23/16) – A departed millionaire’s dog must determine her new owner, while the pets try to reenact an episode of Russell’s favorite show.

“Steamed” (3/26/16) – Blythe helps Twombly set up her new coffee shop and Sugar Sprinkle’s song causes Pepper to unleash a coffee smell that attracts customers.

“Two Peas in a Podcast” (3/26/16) – The Biskits try to create their own vlog to compete with Blythe’s and the pets are devastated to learn Penny Ling is moving away.

“Go Figure!” (4/2/16) – Minka wants to learn Zen from a grasshopper more interest in Russell, and Vinnie accidentally gets sold as a toy when lost at a sci-fi convention.

“A Doggie Biskit” (4/9/16) – Eliza’s dog Poppy Pawsley doesn’t want to participate in a dog show.

“It’s a Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy World” (4/16/16) – Josh tries to help Blythe find her mother’s journal while a quokka encourages Sunil to find happiness in the city.

“Race Team: Buttercream” (4/23/16) – The starting bell in underground bunny races turns Buttercream into a competitive brute, betting on whom costs Sunil and Vinnie Blythe’s phone.

“On the Same Page” (4/30/16) – An entry in the journal has Blythe worried she’ll lose her ability while the boys and girls have a falling out in the daycare over the girls’ amount of stuff.

“Paint a Picture, it Lasts Longer” (5/7/16) – Blythe takes the credit for a painting Minka’s embarrassed to have done.

“Bake it ‘til You Make It” (5/14/16) – Sunil pretends to be a doctor for his visiting parents and Blythe has her famous cousin help around Sweet Delights.

“LPS: The Moosical” (5/21/16) – A visiting moose nervously sings, which bothers everyone except the part-Canadian Blythe.

“Seeing Red” (5/28/16) – Penny Ling becomes curious about a visiting panda while Blythe writes a story about her parents as teenagers.

“Littlest Pet Street Part 1” (6/4/16) – Picking up a viral video star for the street’s grand opening leads the Pet Jet to crash on an abandoned island.

“Littlest Pet Street Part 2” (6/4/16) – Blythe, Roger and the pets try to figure a way off the island while Twombly desperately tries to get everything ready for the grand opening.

SMF ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION (PART 10)


Welcome to the golden portion of our 3rd anniversary celebration!

As we celebrate, we figured we'd also take the opportunity to celebrate the various other programs enjoying anniversaries this year (at least at an interval of 5). Some we've covered, some we'll get to covering sooner or later, but all of them represent Saturday morning. For this installment, we recognize those shows turning 55. That's right, the grandparent of Saturday morning television. If our tribute looks a little sparse, that's because in the earliest days of Saturday television networks tended to fill their line-ups with reruns of weekday shows. It wouldn't be until the latter part of the 1960s original programming would become king.

Take a walk down memory lane with us, and feel free to share your memories in the comments, or over on our Facebook group or Facebook page, or on Twitter @SatMForever. We'd love to hear from you!

Now, without further ado, join us in celebrating...


NOTE: Not all intros available at this time.

Exploring

Make a Face


Marx's Magic Midway

The Reading Room

SMF ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION (PART 9)



Welcome to the golden portion of our 3rd anniversary celebration!

As we celebrate, we figured we'd also take the opportunity to celebrate the various other programs enjoying anniversaries this year (at least at an interval of 5). Some we've covered, some we'll get to covering sooner or later, but all of them represent Saturday morning.

For this installment, we recognize those shows turning the big 50 in what was the Golden Age of Saturday morning television.

Take a walk down memory lane with us, and feel free to share your memories in the comments, or over on our Facebook group or Facebook page, or on Twitter @SatMForever. We'd love to hear from you!

Now, without further ado, join us in celebrating...


NOTE: Not all intros available at this time.













September 23, 2017

TRANSFORMERS CEREAL

TRANSFORMERS CEREAL

Ralston


           
In 1984, Hasbro imported the toyline that would become Transformers into North America hoping to duplicate the success of their recently-revived G.I. Joe line. Transformers followed the consistent battle between the Autobots and Decepticons; humanoid shape-shifting robot aliens that took on the forms of various vehicles, objects and animals. Duplicating that formula, the concept behind the toys was fleshed out and published in comic form by Marvel Comics, and Marvel Productions and Sunbow Productions produced an animated series.

View of the cut-out head and one of the arms.

Also returning was Ralston with the license to produce a cereal based on the toys, much as they had with G.I. Joes Action Stars cereal. The cereal would have been chocolate flavored, with the box touting that it would “transform ordinary milk into chocolate flavored milk.” Additionally, the panels of the box would feature robotic limbs and a head that could be cut out and folded in such a way to turn the box into a generic Transformer. The box, which resembled the toy packaging, featured Autobot leader Optimus Prime on the front with a spoon at the ready, and a mail-away offer a Jazz figure.

Legs, arm and Jazz offer.


At least, that was the plan. The cereal was set for release in 1986, but because the Transformers franchise was steadily losing steam in the American market, Ralston decided to cut their losses and cancelled the cereal’s release. The cereal never made it past the test box phase, and those boxes have turned up on eBay from time to time fetching high prices. 

BEAST MACHINES: TRANSFORMERS

BEAST MACHINES: TRANSFORMERS
(FOX, September 18, 1999-November 18, 2000)


Mainframe Entertainment, Hasbro


MAIN CAST:
Kathleen BarrBotanica (season 2)
Paul DobsonTankor (9 episodes), Diagnostic Drone, Obsidian (season 2)
Patricia DrakeStrika (season 2)

For the history of Transformers, check out the post here.


Although popular in the 1980s, Transformers was struggling as the 90s approached. The line was rebranded Generation 2 with new toys, a new cartoon and new comics, but its popularity continued to wane. Hasbro handed off production of the line to their newly-acquired Kenner division to try their hand at revitalizing the toys.

The next generation of Transformers: the original Beast Wars line.

The first thing Kenner did was ditch the whole vehicle and machine angle of the transformations as well as various group subdivisions that had been introduced. Instead, they had the Transformers change into realistic-looking animals with a size-class system. Unlike the previous toys, these were highly articulated and all components could be concealed within a transformation instead of leaving loose parts around. Dubbed Beast Wars, the original storyline had the newly-christened Maximals and Predacons fighting on modern day Earth like the prior series, but that soon changed.



When the first line of toys proved a success, Hasbro commissioned Mainframe Entertainment to bring the line to life in a new animated series. Beast Wars: Transformers was developed by Larry DiTillio and Bob Forward as the first completely CGI Transformers series. The Generation 2 cartoon and commercials did make use of some CGI, but as it recycled episodes from the original Transformers cartoon it was mostly traditional animation.



The series followed as the Maximals and Predacons crash-landed on a primitive planet rife with pure raw Energon—the substance that powers the Transformers. However, it was too much of a good thing and could cause the Transformers to short-circuit after prolonged regular exposure. To combat it, both sides scanned the planet’s surface for lifeforms and adopt them as their alternate forms to shield them from the Energon. As the series progressed, it was revealed that the Maximals and Predacons were from 300 years in the future of the Transformer mythos and had somehow teleported back in time to prehistoric Earth where the Autobots and Decepticons still slept after crashing, awaiting reactivation in the modern day.

The Maximals.

Because of the expense of creating a new character model, the roster was decidedly smaller than other Transformers media; allowing for a greater focus on character development. The Maximals were led by Optimus Primal (Garry Chalk), who had taken the form of a silverback gorilla. Under his command initially were the intelligent Rhinox (Richard Newman), a rhinoceros; recon expert Rattrap (Scott McNeil), an African rat; and youthful and inexperienced Cheetor (Ian James Corlett), a cheetah.


The Predacons.

The Predacons were led by Megatron (not to be confused with the Decepticon version of Megatron, voiced by David Kaye), a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Begrudgingly under him were Scorponok (Don Brown), a scorpion; Terrorsaur (Doug Parker), a Pteranodon; Tarantulas (Alec Willows), a tarantula; Waspinator (McNeil), a wasp; and Dinobot (McNeil), a velociraptor. To allow for additional characters to be introduced as they were created for the toy line, a subplot was added that showed the Maximal ship ejecting unformatted protoforms into orbit. A competition arose between the factions to retrieve a protoform when it fell to Earth to program it to their side.



Running in syndication from 1996-99 over 52 episodes, the show was initially dismissed by long-term Transformers fans over the abandonment of the vehicle modes, but the mature writing, darker themes, strong characters and increasing callbacks to previous incarnations gradually won them over. The show also fully defined the protoforms and introduced the concept of the spark, which was essentially the soul of the Transformers. The show and toys found additional success when it was exported to Japan, leading to the creation of two Japan-only spin-off shows: Beast Wars Second and Beast Wars Neo, which were accompanied by toys produced by Takara (the producers of the original toys the Transformers line was spawned from, now known as Takara Tomy).



Beast Wars was a tremendous success for Hasbro; consistently at the top of sales charts for the duration of its life. However, Hasbro wanted to keep the line from going stale as the original line had done and opted to revamp the franchise once again. They decided to integrate vehicular Transformers with the organic ones to produce the line Beast Machines. As such, a new cartoon was put into development to help promote the shift.



Mainframe was retained as the production company for the show, but very few of the personnel involved in making it a success was. Beast Hunters, as the series was originally to be titled, went into development for FOX’s Fox Kids programming block; making it the first Transformers series to be made for a network rather than syndication. Because of their good relationship with FOX in the production of Godzilla: The Series, Bob Skir and Marty Isenberg were brought on as the showrunners and head writers, which caused them to pass up their “dream project” of working on an Avengers cartoon (that cartoon became the widely-panned Avengers: United They Stand).

Megatron in charge.

The series’ premise came from an outline by Marv Wolfman, despite fellow comicbook veteran Steve Gerber turning in a “wildly original take on Transformers” (as described by then-Mainframe head Dan Didio). The show would center on the Maximals returning to Cybertron to find it under the control of Megatron. Hasbro wanted to add a spiritual dimension to the show to try something new with the franchise, and Skir came up with the idea that there should be a quest to find a balance between nature and technology, rather than the cliched dominance of one over the other.  That led to the overreaching story arc of restoring vegetation to Cybertron’s surface, which had previously been an idea in the original Marvel Comics treatment. It would become the first Transformers series to take place entirely on Cybertron and to not include any human characters. It also further expanded on the concept of the sparks, their transformative abilities, and the overall lifecycle of Transformers. The series ended up marking the definitive end of the Generation One continuity (another thing fans weren’t happy about).



Both Didio and Hasbro discouraged Skir and Isenberg from watching old episodes to achieve a fresh take, and Didio felt Beast Wars was too continuity-heavy. Skir and Isenberg also passed that edict down to their writing staff, of whom only Wolfman and other fellow comic scribe Len Wein had previously worked on Beast Wars. Wolfman, in particular, was brought on because Skir felt he was owed some work since they ended up using his initial outline. However, this edict was soon ignored as Hasbro began requesting elements of prior continuity for inclusion in the show, and some of the writers looked at what came before to drop references. Along with Skir and Isenberg, the writers included Michael Reaves, Steven Melching, Rodney Gibbs, Brynne Chandler Reaves, Meg McLaughlin, Brooks Wachtel and Nick Dubois.

The new Maximals: Optimus, Cheetor, Rattrap and Blackarachnia.

Returning from Beast Wars was Optimus Primal, Rattrap, Cheetor and Predacon-turned-Maximal Blackarachnia (Venus Terzo); all of whom suffered from memory loss and were reverted to their debut beast modes (they had gotten some technological upgrades as Wars progressed). The Predacons were replaced by Vehicons: a legion of heavily-armed military Transformers led by Megatron. At the head of Megatron’s army was Jetstorm (Brian Drummond), the immensely cocky head of the Aero Drones; Tankor (Paul Dobson), the slow-witted and immensely powerful leader of the Tank Drones; and Thrust (Jim Byrnes), the dark and brooding leader of the Cycle Drones and loyal to Megatron above all others. It was eventually discovered that Jetstorm, Tankor and Thrust all contained the sparks of Silverbolt (McNeil), Rhinox and Waspinator, respectively, removed by Megatron and placed in Vehicon bodies.

Botanica joins the team.

Other characters included Nightscream (Alessandro Juliani), a vampire bat traumatized by the Vehicon occupation; Savage/Noble (Kaye), a purely organic Transformer created when Megatron tried to rid himself entirely of his bestial side; The Oracle (Carol Savenkoff), an ancient computer that allowed Optimus to communicate with the AllSpark (the source of life for all Transformers); and Botanica (Kathleen Barr), who could transform into a mobile plant. Megatron’s forces would soon be bolstered by Obsidian (Dobson), who fought for whoever was in control of Cybertron, and his consort Strika (Patricia Drake), one of the greatest generals in Cybertron’s history. None of the good guys used guns, another first for Transformers. Skir preferred to write heroes who didn’t rely on them.

Vehicon generals Tankor, Jetstorm and Thrust.

Beast Machines: Transformers debuted on September 18, 1999 on FOX, with music composed by Robert Buckley and a theme song, called “Phat Planet”, by Leftfield. Much like Beast Wars, Beast Machines was largely hated by their target audience—so much so, that Skir and Isenberg received death threats from Transformers fans. Unlike Wars, it would be years before some of that hatred would lift. Fans were generally put off by the much darker and humorless direction Machines took, and the inconsistent personalities of the characters between the shows. For instance, Optimus became an anti-technology guru and a fanatic at times; Rattrap was made a virtual coward; Silverbolt was no longer goofy and noble but grim and vengeance-driven; and Megatron was much grimmer with no sign of his previous agendas. Others felt the message behind the show, technology vs. nature, was ham-fisted and overly forced. Also, because of the serial nature of the show, it made it hard for new viewers to jump on at any point to become hooked.

Tankor/Rhinox stands with the Maximals.

And it wasn’t only the fans that didn’t like the show; it was largely reported that most of the returning actors weren’t too happy with it either. McNeil, who enjoyed the series, had mentioned that Chalk was known to throw angry fits between recording sessions because of the directions the show took. Simon Furman, the writer of Marvel’s UK and US Transformers comics notable for his epic and dark storytelling, felt that the show was too dark and serious for a kid’s show. Despite all the negative attention, one thing that was usually agreed on is that Mainframe stepped up their game with continuing improvements to the look and movement of the show in comparison to Beast Wars.



The series ran for two seasons of 13 episodes; the second subtitled “Battle for the Spark.” Hasbro loved the series and wanted it to continue for a third season, but Skir and Isenberg had always approached it as an “epic novel” and felt the story was sufficiently told in 26 episodes. That, mixed with the more extreme fan reactions, led to them declining Hasbro’s offer. Hasbro had planned for the new season to tie into the next evolution of the Beast line called “Transtech.” This series would have further combined the beast/vehicle aspects by having the characters’ vehicle forms feature aesthetics related to their beast forms. Without the show, amongst other economic factors, Hasbro decided to scrap the line. Instead, they chose to work closely with Takara for the first time in creating a new line that returned to the basic robots and vehicles concept that would eventually become Transformers: Armada. In the interim, Hasbro imported the anime Transformers: Car Robots (known as Robots in Disguise in North America) and its related toyline.



The series was translated and broadcast in several countries around the world, but it was the Japanese version that’s of special note. It wouldn’t be until 2004 that Beast Machines would be localized for broadcast in Japan as Super Lifeform Transformers: Beast Wars Returns. The translation was headed up by Yoshikazu Iwanami, who had also handled the Beast Wars dubbing, and took the series in a dramatically different way than the North American version. The overall dub was done in a humorous and satirical manner, completely changing the personalities of the characters (Nightscream became a flaming homosexual stereotype), adding chants to the Vehicon drones every time they were on screen, and ignoring key plot points for the sake of goofy adlibbing (such as failing to conceal the real identities of Thrust and Jetstorm by having the same actors and personality traits for Waspinator and Silverbolt used). Characters would have comedic conversations over the main titles and credits. The Japanese version of the show kept the same music, but added the song “Megatron Ondo” by Yukio Hibariya and Taku Unami, with Megatron actor Shigeru Chiba reprising his role for speaking portions. The song was included on the Japanese album Transformers Song Universe released by Columbia Music Entertainment.

The North American DVD release.

The series has been released to home media in various countries by various companies. In the United States, Rhino Entertainment released the complete series in 2006. It was later re-released by Shout! Factory in 2014. Sony Home Entertainment released two season sets in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Spain between 2007 and 2009. The UK release also saw the first season broken up into two volumes, as did Australian and New Zealand with both seasons. Geneon Universal Entertainment released the show in Japan across seven volumes, as well as a box set.

Art for IDW's The Ascending.


Beast Machines made the leap to comics with 3H ProductionsTransformers Universe, scripted by Furman with stories by Glen Hallit and Dan Khanna. The book was made in part with the Official Transformers Collector’s Club and available at each annual BotCon. Unfortunately, 3H lost the Transformers license after the third issue was published, leaving the story unfinished. Fun Publications would publish the four completed pages from #4 in one of their magazines in August of 2007, and then an illustrated text story that November that completed the story once and for all. The complete script for #4 was leaked into a Transformers message board around the same time. Transformers: Beast Wars: The Ascending from IDW Publishing in 2007, also by Furman, provided some lead-in to Megatron’s eventual conquest of Cybertron.


EPISODE GUIDE:
Season 1:
“The Reformatting” (9/18/99) – The Maximals find themselves somehow back on Cybertron unable to transform out of Beast Mode.

“Master of the House” (9/25/99) – The Maximals get their transformation abilities back as they learn that Megatron has taken over the planet and intends to wipe out organic life.

“Fires of the Past” (10/2/99) – Searching for their memories puts Blackarachnia and Rattrap against Jetstorm, Thrust and Tankor.

“Mercenary Pursuits” (10/9/99) – Rattrap discovers a virus that will help him transform—the only problem is, once he starts he can’t stop.

“Forbidden Fruit” (10/16/99) – The Maximals discover a strange new Maximal and a fruit tree, both impossible on Cybertron.

“The Weak Component” (10/23/99) – Lacking weapons when he finally transforms, Rattrap makes a deal with Megatron.

“Revelations, Part I: Discovery” (10/30/99) – The Maximals discover the shells of the missing Transformers while Blackarachnia is convinced Thrust’s spark was Silverbolt’s.

“Revelations, Part II: Descent” (11/6/99) – Cheetor tries to restore Rhinox’s spark in Tankor while Blackarachnia loses hers to Jetstorm.

“Revelations, Part III: Apoclaypse” (11/13/99) – Nightscream tries to retrieve Blackarachnia’s spark and Optimus makes contact with Rhonox’s.

“Survivor” (11/27/99) – Megatron has Nightscream kidnapped to learn his secrets.

“Techno-Organic War Part I: The Key” (12/4/99) – Tankor discovers a weapon that can turn organics into cybernetic metal and uses it on Nightscream.

“Techno-Organic War Part II: The Catalyst” (12/11/99) – Rattrap discovers a program that can speed up the growth of plants on Cybertron.

“Techno-Organic War Part III: End of the Line” (12/18/99) – Megatron sets a doomsday weapon that will wipe out all organic life on Megatron.

Season 2:
“Fallout” (8/5/00) – Destroying Cybertron leads Optimus to learn their whole purpose was to bring organic life back from Earth to balance the planet.

“Savage Noble” (8/19/00) – The Maximals are being stalked as they try to recruit the Vehicons.

“Prometheus Unbound” (8/26/00) – A supposed ally sabotages the Maximals’ attempt at infiltrating Megatron’s base.

“In Darkest Knight” (9/2/00) – Blackarachnia revives Silverbolt.

“A Wolf in the Fold” (9/9/00) – The Maximals are infected by a virus that turn them into enemies.

“Home Soil” (9/16/00) – A new robot crashes on Cybertron and Optimus turns her into the Maximal Botanica.

“Sparkwar Part I: The Strike” (9/23/00) – Megatron unleashes a new set of generals on the Maximals.

“Sparkwar Part II: The Search” (9/30/00) – The Maximals search for missing sparks in order to defeat Megatron.

“Sparkwar Part III: The Siege” (10/7/00) – The Maximals find the sparks and race to prevent Megatron’s ultimate Ascension.

“Spark of Darkness” (10/28/00) – Megatron is defeated, but a new threat lurks on Cybertron.

“Endgame Part I: The Downward Spiral” (11/4/00) – The Maximals gather to protect the sparks from a tyrant.

“Endgame Part II: When Legends Fall” (11/11/00) – The Maximals prepare to make their final stand.

“Endgame Part III: Seeds of the Future” (11/18/00) – Optimus and Megatron engage in their final battle.