July 29, 2018
You can read the full story here.
Professional wrestler Josip Nikolai Peruzovic, best known by his stage name Nikolai Volkoff, was one of the featured heel characters in Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling. Although he didn't play himself, he did make an appearance during the live segments of the show.
July 28, 2018
CARTOON ALL-STARS TO THE RESCUE
(Syndicated, April 21, 1990)
Southern Star Productions, Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Wang Film Productions Co., Ltd.
Ross Bagdasarian – Alvin, Simon
Townsend Coleman – Michaelangelo, father
Joey Dedio – Dealer
Paul Fusco – ALF
Danny Goldman – Brainy Smurf
Janice Karman – Theodore
Jason Marsden – Michael
Don Messick – Papa Smurf
Laurie O’Brien – Baby Piggy, mother
Lindsay Parker – Corey
George C. Scott – Smoke
Russi Taylor – Huey, Dewey, Louie, Baby Gonzo
Frank Welker – Slimer, Hefty Smurf, Baby Kermit
|We all wished we had this poster in our rooms.|
Taking the war on drugs to Saturday mornings, McDonald’s and Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities financed the production of an animated special that united several cartoon characters from various popular programs at the time. It was the biggest, most ambitious entry in the national anti-drug campaign.
|Michael and Smoke are confronted by the cartoon characters.|
Written by Duane Poole and Tom Swale, with a musical number by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue centered on teenaged Michael (Jason Marsden) who had taken to using marijuana and stealing his father’s (Townsend Coleman) beer. Michael’s younger sister, Corey (Lindsay Parker) grows worried about Michael as he begins acting differently. When Michael steals Corey’s piggy bank for money to buy more drugs, the various cartoon character items in her room came to life to help her track it down and then to convince Michael to abandon his drug habits. But they have their work cut out for them when Michael is constantly influenced by the living smoke creature aptly-named Smoke (named on the VHS but never in the actual special, voiced by George C. Scott making his voice-acting debut).
|Smoke and Pooh battle for Corey's soul.|
Featured characters included Papa Smurf (Don Messick), Brainy Smurf (Danny Goldman) and Hefty Smurf (Frank Welker) from The Smurfs who emerge from a comic book (Smurfette appeared in promotional artwork but didn’t appear); ALF (Paul Fusco) from ALF: The Animated Series who emerges from a picture; Alvin, Simon (both Ross Bagdasarian) and Theodore (Janice Karman) from Alvin and the Chipmunks who came off of a record sleeve; Garfield (Lorenzo Music) from Garfield and Friends as a lamp; Winnie the Pooh (a stuffed animal) and Tigger (both Jim Cummings) from The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh; Baby Kermit (Welker) as an alarm clock, Piggy (Laurie O’Brien) and Gonzo (Russi Taylor) from Muppet Babies; Michelangelo (Coleman) from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (who was left off of promotional material); Huey, Dewey and Louie (all Taylor) from DuckTales (replacing the proposed use of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy); Slimer (also Welker) from The Real Ghostbusters; and Looney Tunes Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck (both Jeff Bergman, marking the first time either character wasn’t voiced by the recently-deceased Mel Blanc). Because of the public service nature of the project, the characters’ various license-holders granted royalty-free access to them.
|You know you're high when the smoke starts to smile at you.|
Directed by Milton Gray, Marsh Lamore, Bob Shellhorn, Mike Svayko and Karen Peterson, and animated by Wang Film Productions Co., Ltd. in an impossibly tight six-week deadline (a standard episode typically took twice as long), Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue was simulcast across all the major networks, most independent stations, and several cable channels, as well as in nine different countries on April 21st, 1990; becoming the first scripted show to do so. It only aired once, although The Disney Channel did rerun it a few more times. A rumor persisted that the reason for that was Jim Davis was never asked for permission to use Garfield in the special, resulting in it never airing again in America. Mark Evanier, head writer of Garfield and Friends, debunked the rumor saying that not only was permission given to use Garfield, but an agreement was in place with all the rights holders that the special would have a limited airing. The special was produced by Southern Star Productions for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences
|The VHS box.|
Buena Vista Home Video handled the home releases of the special, which featured an introduction by then-American President George H. W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush. These tapes were made available both at McDonald’s restaurants and for free rentals at libraries. To promote the film, pamphlets were distributed in McDonald’s restaurants and Barbara Bush recorded several television commercials. However, advertisements for it were careful to underplay the anti-drug angle and instead play-up the crossing over of so many favorite characters.
|Retailer promo for the VHS release.|
Over the next year, the special was translated and played in various international markets. In most countries, that nation’s leader introduced the special in place of the President: Prime Minister Bob Hawke for Australia, Prime Minister Jim Bolger for New Zealand, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for Canada, and President Carlos Salinas de Gortari for Mexico.
July 23, 2018
You can read the full story here.
Windell was an artist who worked on various television and movie productions. He worked on layouts for Spider-Woman and did storyboards for The Tarzan/Lone Ranger/Zorro Adventure Hour and The Smurfs.
July 21, 2018
MAD JACK THE PIRATE
(FOX, September 12, 1998-February 27, 1999)
Bill Kopp Productions, Fox Arts Animation Studios, Saban Entertainment
Bill Kopp – Mad Jack
Billy West – Snuk, various
Filling the void of pirate media before Johnny Depp, Bill Kopp developed Mad Jack the Pirate. The series followed the adventures of Mad Jack (Kopp), a cowardly, clumsy, inept, disgrace of a pirate who was convinced of his own superiority in everything. He captained The Sea Chicken with his faithful anthropomorphic rat first mate, Snuk (Billy West). Snuk was only marginally smarter than Jack, and never hesitated to point out his captain’s shortcomings. The pair always set out in search of buried treasure or to claim a reward but were often thwarted by circumstances and their own ineptitude.
|Jack, Snuk and The Sea Chicken.|
Initially, Mad Jack was to be named Red Hook until Kopp discovered that a beer company was already using the name and wanted to avoid any issues. The inspiration for the show came from the British comedy series Blackadder, which followed a man bumbling through various periods in history. Kopp set the series on an alternate flat Earth-like planet where he could be fast and loose with history and create unpredictable events. That meant the inclusion of anachronistic things like cars, cameras and movies. While Jack and Snuk were the principal characters, a variety of other equally bizarre characters made appearances with frequent vocal contributions by Jess Harnell, Robert Pike Daniel, Tom Kenny, Charlie Adler, Cam Clarke, Sandy Fox, Brad Garrett, Kevin Meaney, Valery Pappas and April Winchell.
|Mad Jack...the movie?|
Mad Jack the Pirate debuted on FOX’s Fox Kids programming block on September 12, 1998. Most of the episodes contained two segments apiece. Fox Kids was at this point owned by Saban Entertainment, who had a hand in producing the show with Fox Arts Animation Studios and Bill Kopp Productions. Kopp served as a producer and voice director, as well as wrote the majority of the scripts. Other writing was done by Steve Ochs (who also contributed some voice work), Huub Dikstaal (who also directed two segments) and Martin Olson. The show’s outlandish characters were designed by David Mucci Fassett (credited as simply Mucci) and was animated overseas by Fil-Cartoons, Inc. Shuki Levy, Haim Saban (as Kussa Mahchi) and Deddy Tzur composed the music.
|Talk about a captive interview.|
Mad Jack was paired with fellow Saban property, The Secret Files of the Spy Dogs, during its original run on the network. However, while Spy Dogs went on to have a shorter second season, Mad Jack was ultimately cancelled due to poor ratings and was replaced the following fall by The New Woody Woodpecker Show. Its removal marked the last time it was seen in North American markets. The show has seen home media releases in Eastern Europe by Prooptiki and Turkey by Kanal D Home Video and has aired on Jetix Play in Turkey, following Disney’s 2001 acquisition of Saban Entertainment, and Fox Kids in Poland.
“The Terrifying Sea Witch Incident” (9/12/98) – Jack escapes the island of the Three Witches with fellow prisoner Snuk in order to avoid marrying the lake monster.
“The Curse of the Blue Karbunkle” (9/19/98) – Jack and Snuk have to go to the Isle of the Biclops to acquire a sword to defeat a dragon guarding a gem.
“Of Zerzin, Fleebis, Queues and Cures / A Knight to Dismember” (9/26/98) – Jack tries to stay ahead of Mr. Death and get a cure for his ailment. / Jack takes a knight on a quest to rescue a princess but ends up having to rescue the knight himself.
“The Strange Case of Angus Dagnabbit / Lights, Camera – Snuk!” (10/3/98) – Jack manages to trick Angus out of his Golden Haggis, but Angus’ ghost returns to reclaim it. / After seeing a film, Jack heads to a movie studio to educate them about real piracy.
“Happy Birthday to Who? / Shipwhacked” (10/24/98) – Snuk takes Jack to an amusement park only he enjoys for Jack’s birthday. / Snuk causes them to be shipwrecked and Jack has a hard time coping with it.
“The Horror of Draclia” (10/31/98) – Jack and Snuk attempt to steal Count Draclia’s golden wand, but Draclia was expecting and gets the drop on them.
“The Treasure of the Headless, Left-Handed, Peatmoss Salesman / 999 Delights” (11/7/98) – Jack and Snuk end up arrested before their next quest and placed in the DMMV. / Jack steals a magic wand to go on a quest to find the Enchantress Victoria.
“The Alarming Snow Troll Encounter / The Case of the Crabs” (11/14/98) – Jack and Snuk end up captured by the Snow Trolls after trying to retrieve their ice cream maker from them. / Jack and Snuk are captured by the Crustacians while searching for a pink pearl on the seabed.
“Jack the Dragon Slayer / Captain Snuk” (12/12/98) – Jack sets out to rescue a princess from a dragon for a reward, only to find out the pair have fallen in love. / When an old enemy comes for Jack, he switches places with Snuk.
“The Island of Pink and Fuzzy / Uncle Mortimer” (2/6/99) – Jack and Snuk head to an island of cuteness for a treasure that ends up being cursed. / To receive his inheritance from his uncle, Jack must take Scabby Doo to the isle of Hanna Barberians while avoiding his uncle’s ghost.
“The Great Kapow! / The Snuk, the Mad and the Ugly” (2/13/99) – A starving Jack and Snuk are fed by island natives, not knowing they’re being fattened as sacrifices. / While in jail their cellmate tells Jack and Snuk about a treasure in the desert.
“Attack of the Man-Eating, Green Gorillas / The Johnny of the Lamp” (2/20/99) – Jack finds a treasure shortly before being kidnapped by an old classmate. / Jack tries to reclaim his magic lamp from a sea monster only to be eaten by it along with Snuk and Angus.
“Mad Jack and the Beanstalk / The Curse of the Mummy’s Toe” (2/27/99) – Beans taken by Snuk in a con end up growing a giant beanstalk. / Jack narrowly escapes a death trap only to be arrested for theft.
July 14, 2018
THE CHILDREN’S CORNER
(WQED, April 5, 1954-1961
NBC August 20, 1955-April 28, 1956)
Josie Carey – Host, various
Fred Rogers – Puppeteer, musician, various
When one thinks of Mr. Fred McFeely Rogers, it’s natural to assume that the first thing that comes to mind is Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood; the innovative children’s program that aired for over 33 years on PBS. But, there were actually two programs that preceded and would set the foundations for what Neighborhood would become. And one of them was on Saturday morning.
|Pies to the face helped drive Mr. Rogers into television.|
Mr. Rogers had intended to enter the seminary after school, but on a trip home he was introduced to a new device: television. Mr. Rogers was both fascinated and dismayed by the concept; feeling that it could be a valuable tool in educating children but seeing that the current crop of children’s programming was more interested in pure slapstick. From that point on, Mr. Rogers decided to go into television and try to change it from within.
|Josie, Fred and Daniel.|
When Mr. Rogers moved to Pittsburgh in 1953, mayor David L. Lawrence established public television station WQED in 1953. Mr. Rogers joined the station a month after he future collaborator, Josie Carey. Under the stewardship of station manager Dorothy Daniels, Mr. Rogers and Carey were part of a handful of people prepping the station for its launch the following year. Among the ideas they were allowed to pitch was a children’s program where they would entertain and educate kids and program some free short films. The program was greenlit with Carey hosting and Mr. Rogers producing, playing the music, and acquiring the films. The night before the station went to air, Daniels gave Mr. Rogers a tiger sock puppet that he and Carey named Daniel Striped (pronounced “Stripe-ed”) Tiger after her.
|Fred behind the set.|
The Children’s Corner debuted on WQED on April 5, 1954. The program was a low-budgeted affair at $150 per week, with that whole amount going towards Mr. Rogers’ and Carey’s salaries, and only having a single yellow legal pad to work off of for the year. Anything else they needed came from their pockets. The studio layout wasn’t very well thought out, with an area for guests being on the other side of the building while the organ for the music was across the studio itself. Often, Mr. Rogers would have to run from his place behind the set to the organ and back again, which necessitated his wearing the sneakers he would become known for later on. Mr. Rogers often had on-screen roles as well, interacting or dancing with Carey as various characters.
|Daniel Tiger in his clock.|
It wasn’t intended for puppets to appear on the program at first. A clock was drawn onto the canvas backdrop of the set where a bird was intended to pop out of and deliver a random fact along with the time. Mr. Rogers and Carey decided to use Daniel for a one-time thing. He appeared on the first episode and became a hit with the audiences. Puppetry and improvisation became a hallmark of the program, which was originally intended to be centered around Carey singing and introducing whatever films Mr. Rogers could acquire. But gradually, Daniel would appear more and have improvised conversations with Carey. She never knew what the puppets were going to do, and Mr. Rogers never knew what she was going to do. The entire program was unscripted beyond a general idea of where they intended an episode to go.
|Fred and Josie with Henrietta, X and Daniel.|
Gradually, more puppets were added to the program. The next came King Friday XIII, a play on the superstition everyone had about the date. A contest was held during his debut to figure out what kingdom he should be the king of, and a little boy won a chance to appear on the program after writing in that his name suggested he should be King of Calendar Land. Then came X the Owl, who was sent to the program to use by a puppet company, whose home was “grown” on the set by taping an acorn to the bottom and the art department drawing his tree in various stages over the course of a week; Lady Elaine Fairchilde, a unique, self-confident and eccentric woman; Henrietta Pussycat, who would constantly say “meow” as she talked, and the French Grandpere. Each one was infused with their own personality, which were by extension aspects of Mr. Rogers’ own.
|Josie and Fred entertain visitors with The Attic cast.|
Corner would frequently have guests scheduled, such as a member of the symphony or the caretaker of the local zoo, to talk about and the teach the audience about their jobs. They also had appearances by celebrities, including Johnny Carson before he became a household name, Shirley Jones, Van Cliburn and Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz. Because the program was aired live, it was subject to a few mishaps during its run. Sometimes the guests would run short on their expected time or one of the films would break, which is when the puppets would come in to interact with Carey and fill in the remaining time. The rest of the time Carey would read books to the audience or sing, teach foreign languages and various other educational things. There were also recurring inanimate object characters and a poetry-speaking puppet mouse in a segment called “The Attic” that were voiced by Carey, Mr. Rogers, his wife, and other members of the crew. It was the only part of the program that was fully scripted, mostly by Carey.
|Information about the TTT.|
Part of the promotion for the program included the Tame Tiger Torganization; a mail-in club that children could join and earn stripes for doing various prescribed good deeds. On July 12th, Carey and Mr. Rogers decided to make that Daniel’s birthday and held a contest where kids could come to the studio and attend a party for him. However, to be eligible, they needed to earn their fourth stripe by memorizing the club song, “Je Suis un Tigre Apprivoisé” (meaning: “I Am a Tame Tiger”). It was then that Carey and Mr. Rogers learned just how popular their program was, as a long line of children and their parents were outside the studio the day of the party. Corner was one of the most-watched and best-loved programs at WQED at the time, enjoyed by children and adults both.
|Celebrating King Friday's birthday every Friday the 13th.|
In 1955, NBC executive Doris Ann came to Pittsburgh to preview a program Dr. Benjamin Spock was doing on WQED to see if it could be brought to the network. While there, she caught Corner, fell in love with the program, and presented it to the network. They contacted Carey and Mr. Rogers about bringing the program to New York to air on the network (which is where Mr. Rogers worked before coming to Pittsburgh). The only hitch was they had to be ready to air in four weeks to cover Paul Winchell’s vacation from The Paul Winchell program. NBC built them a new set and larger versions of their puppets. They had to change some of their routines as they couldn’t read books on the air without clearance, they couldn’t have guests come on, and certain songs were forbidden because they felt they sounded too much like other songs. They also had to hire additional crew due to union rules; which included a dresser for Henrietta, two additional musicians, and five stage hands. However, because of the nature of the program, none of them had any actual work to do.
|The Children's Corner set grows and becomes more elaborate.|
Corner debuted on NBC Saturday mornings on August 20, 1955. It ran for four weeks, the duration of Winchell’s vacation, and received a tremendous audience response. That prompted NBC to find a permanent place for them and brought the program back that December. Carey and Mr. Rogers determined they needed to remain at WQED because their program was the one making the station the most money, and their leaving for any period of time would be detrimental. They would commute from Pittsburgh on Friday for a production meeting, do the program on Saturday and then return later that day after filming so that Mr. Rogers could attend Sunday services at his church.
|Josie and Fred open fan mail with Henry Massucci.|
Despite the program’s continued success on the network, an internal conflict arose between the Public Service Department, which they were part of, and the Children’s Department. Both wanted to claim the program and neither wanted to give it up, which prevented them from getting sponsors for the program. NBC cancelled the program after 39 weeks on April 28, 1956. Unfortunately, Carey and Mr. Rogers didn’t get to enjoy their brief network success for long as the company who sent them X to use on the program decided to sue them for a payday, claiming they stole their puppet. They ultimately settled out of court.
|The Neighborhood of Make Believe, home to Mr. Rogers' puppet friends.|
Corner ran for 8 years, coming to a conclusion in 1961. Carey at this time had numerous commercial commitments which often led her to be late to the start of filming the Corner. She hosted Josie’s Storyland and Funsville for KDKA before heading to South Carolina to star in Wheee! Mr. Rogers was approached by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to develop a 15-minute children’s program that would feature Mr. Rogers on screen. He moved to Toronto with his friend Ernie Coombs as his puppeteer assistant. Coombs had previously worked on Corner in the art department and often covered for Carey when she was late for filming. Misterogers ran from 1963-66 and introduced many of the set pieces Mr. Rogers would use on his later program, as well as featured several appearances by Carey. Wanting to raise his children in the United States, Mr. Rogers bought the rights to Misterogers and returned to WQED to make Neighborhood, which ran from 1968-2001. Coombs stayed in Canada to star in the replacement show, Butternut Square, and later Mr. Dressup.
|Josie with her puppet friends on an album cover.|
In 1954, Reed and Witting Company published Our Small World, which was written by Carey and Mr. Rogers and illustrated by Norb Nathanson containing autobiographical compositions “written” by the puppets. A number of sheet music from the songs featured on the program were published between 1955-60 by Tee Kaye Music Corporation, Small World Enterprises and Vernon Music Corporation, including “Goodnight God”, “Around the Children’s Corner”, and “Tomorrow on the Children’s Corner.” Small World, along with Hanover-Signature Record Corporation and Coral Records, also published records featuring music from the program: Around the Children’s Corner, I Know It’s Time for Christmas/Chicken Little and Tomorrow on the Children’s Corner. In 1955 the program won a coveted Sylvania Award for best local children’s show.
|Daniel Tiger lives on.|
Although the quality of The Children’s Corner was undeniable, it still skewed a bit sillier than Mr. Rogers was happy with. It wasn’t until he was able to produce and do Neighborhood that his pure vision for television came to light. For over three decades, he spoke to children about issues other children’s shows shied away from and did it without any of the chaos and spectacle his contemporaries employed. Following his death in 2003, his production company, Family Communications, Inc., renamed themselves Fred Rogers Productions and began producing new family-oriented program. Amongst them is the animated Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, which features the puppet characters and their children in the Neighborhood of Make Believe.