November 10, 2018

TAZ-MANIA


Warning: Intro contains a strobe effect.
TAZ-MANIA
(FOX, September 7, 1991-May 22, 1995)

Warner Bros. Animation




MAIN CAST:


For the history of Looney Tunes, check out the post here.


            When Warner Bros. Animation decided to create a new television division, they began with Tiny Toon Adventures which focused on new, younger characters inspired by the classic Looney Tunes. Their next project decided to focus on one of the Looney Tunes themselves, and one that had only been seen twice in the last two decades.

Taz with his pet turtle, Dog.


            Created by Art Vitello and developed by Jean MacCurdy and Tom Ruegger, Taz-Mania starred the Tasmanian Devil (or “Taz”, voiced by Jim Cummings). This was the first starring vehicle for the character, who had only been given five theatrical shorts of his own and infrequent guest-appearances in other productions. Taz-Mania was set in the fictional land of Tazmania (based on the real Tasmania) where Taz was portrayed as a young adult living with his family in a 1950’s-esque sitcom setting.

Taz with Jake, Jean, Hugh and Molly.

While Taz maintained a more toned-down version of his typically savage nature, his family was a lot more refined and evolved. His father, Hugh (Maurice LaMarche), was a parody of Bing Crosby with the way he spoke and his affinity for orange juice (of which Crosby was a pitchman) and golf. He often sped along his long-winded and cliched speeches by saying “blah blah blah, yackity schmakity”. His mother, Jean (Miriam Flynn), was a happy homemaker and housewife who loved talking on the phone and often had a long list of chores for herself. Taz’s 16-year-old sister, Molly (Kellie Martin), constantly worried about her image, fought with Taz, and was a major fan of the boy band New Chips Off the Block (a parody of New Kids on the Block). Jake (Debi Derryberry) was Taz’s playful and imaginative little brother who often looked up to him. Taz also had a pet turtle who acted like a dog and was aptly named Dog (Paulsen).

Bushwhacker Bob and his Mum with the Platypus Brothers overhead.

Taz worked as a bellhop at the Hotel Tazmania. His boss, Bushwhacker Bob (Cummings), was loud, grumpy, rude, selfish and incompetent with a very high opinion of himself. His Mum (Rosalyn Landor) was the complete opposite of her son and really ran the hotel behind the scenes. Constance Koala (also Landor) was an enormous yet graceful koala bear who worked as a maid at the hotel, and because of her size her penchant for singing and dancing often caused accidental destruction. Mr. Thickley (Dan Castellaneta) was an energetic, funny, upbeat and multitalented wallaby who performed various tasks at the hotel and claimed to be an expert at just about anything he did (although his incompetence often led to disaster).

Francis X. Bushlad preparing to squash Taz.

            The outback was also full of its own share of colorful characters. Digeri Dingo (Rob Paulsen) pretended to be Taz’s friend in order to use him for his own ends, although they did share a mutual love of bottlecap collecting; Wendal T. Wolf (Cummings) was a neurotic thylacine desperate for any type of friendship and drove Taz crazy in attempts to gain his; Francis X. Bushlad (named for silent movie star Francis X. Bushman, voiced by Paulsen) was an aboriginal boy who had to hunt Taz for his rite of passage into manhood; Bull Gator (John Astin) and Axl Gator (Paulsen) were alligators who also sought to capture Taz to place him in a zoo (and net the hefty reward that came with it); Buddy Boar (Cummings) was a yuppie who claimed to be Taz’s best friend, although tended to take advantage of him (not at Dingo’s levels, though); the Platypus brothers, Daniel (LaMarche) and Timothy (Paulsen), do-it-yourselfers who often cause Taz problems with their projects and had an obsession with the cartoon The McKimsons (a parody of The Simpsons and named after Taz’s creator, Robert McKimson); Kee-Wee birds, which resembled their name, were silent and speedy birds Taz often chased to try and eat; the Bushrats were rats in tribal costumes who spoke in a mix of real and gibberish languages with often mismatched subtitles; and Willie Wombat (LaMarche) was a polite pacifist who was originally supposed to assume the Bugs Bunny role of Taz’s foil but often fought against the show’s producers on being typecast as such. Occasionally, the family would be visited by Hugh’s brother Drew (LaMarche). Drew was a parody of Bob Hope and his episodes were often a parody of the Road To… series of movies in which he and Crosby starred. Cameos were also made by Bugs (Greg Burson), Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam (both LaMarche), Sam Sheepdog (Cummings), Foghorn Leghorn (Burson), Marvin the Martian (Paulsen) and Road Runner.

Taz, Axl and Bull shrunken down.

            Taz-Mania debuted on FOX as part of the Fox Kids programming block on September 7, 1991. In what would become Warner Bros. Animation trademark, many episodes employed running gags, pop culture references and fourth wall breaks. One such recurring gag was that Taz could actually speak eloquently when he wanted to. Another was frequent involvement by the network in the production of the show: Willie’s constantly trying to get his role changed; Taz quitting to work in food service after suffering too much abuse; and Buddy, who was a very unpopular character, being written out as having been promoted into a producer position and eventually directing an episode himself (with disastrous results). There were also several episodes where characters acknowledged they were on a show and showed “lost” segments of previously-aired stories.

Digeri scheming to get Taz's food.

The series ran for a total of 65 episodes that were produced between 1991 and 1993, however some wouldn’t air until 1994 and 1995 where it was also shown on the weekday version of the block. The majority of the episodes were broken up into two (occasionally three) segments, with a few single-story episodes spread throughout the run. Writers included Vitello, Ruegger, Keith Baxter, Henry Gilroy, Alan Katz, Gordon Kent, Bill Kopp, Sindy McKay, Chris Otsuki, Mark Saraceni, Mark Zaslove, Gelnn Leopold, Charles M. Howell IV, Rich Fogel, David Schwartz, Paul Dini, Jack Mendelsohn, John Semper and Evelyn A-R Gabai, amongst others, with many of the episodes having up to four writers. The series’ theme was composed by Richard Stone and performed by Jess Harnell and Cummings, with additional music done by Mark Watters, Don Davis, Steve Bernstein, John Given, Carl Johnson, Harvey Cohen and Jerry Grant. It was animated by Akom Film Production Co. Ltd. and StarToonsThe series gained a second intro which replaced the flashing elements from the first with the Looney Tunes target background due to complaints of viewers with epilepsy.

Cover to one of the Game Boy games.

            Several video games based on the show were made between 1992-94. Although they all shared the same title (some were given in-game subtitles), they were radically different between the systems. Recreational Brainware developed the Sega Genesis version, which was a platformer that followed Taz as he journeyed to a fabled land where giant birds laid eggs that could make a massive omelet (which was also the plot of several episodes). A sequel was planned but never developed. A similar game following the same story was developed by NuFX for the Game Gear and Technical Wave for the Master System, however they featured very different level designs and gameplay mechanics. Visual Concepts developed the Super Nintendo version, which had the player control Taz as he ran on a continuous road after Kee-Wee birds while avoiding obstacles. Digeri Dingo would occasionally appear and offer a helpful item for Taz to ingest. The Game Boy version by David A. Palmer Productions combined the platforming of the Sega versions with the continuous running levels of the SNES version as Taz journeyed through Tazmania collecting diamonds and battling bosses. Both Nintendo versions were released by Sunsoft. A sequel, Taz-Mania 2, was developed for the Game Boy by Beam Software and released by THQ. This was another platforming game where Taz had to rescue his family from Bull and Axl while also collecting items along the way.  Golden Books also published a coloring book.

The coloring book.

            Following its run on FOX, reruns of the show were seen for the next year on TBS following the Time-Warner/Turner merger as part of their Disaster Area programming Block, and then later on Cartoon Network. Warner Home Video released three VHS tapes in 1993. The first four episodes were released to DVD in Europe in 2010 and later in 2011 as Taz and Friends, part of Kids’ WB “Big Faces” series. In 2013, they released the complete first season to DVD in two 13-episode collections



EPISODE GUIDE:
Season 1:
“The Dog the Turtle Story” (9/7/91) – Taz rescues a dog-like turtle and adopts him as a pet.

“Like Father, Like Son / Frights of Passage” (9/14/91) – Hugh takes out Taz for some bonding. / Francis X. Bushlad hunts Taz to prove his manhood to his people.

“War & Pieces / Airbourne Airhead” (9/21/91) – Taz’s parents visit his grandparents, leaving the kids home alone. / The Platypus Brothers help Taz traverse a peak in order to obtain some giant eggs for an omelet.

“It’s No Picnic / Kee-Wee ala King” (9/28/91) – Bull Gator and Axl seek to spoil the Devils’ picnic. / Taz and Buddy Boar go out on a disastrous Kee-Wee hunting trip.

“A Devil of a Job” (10/5/91) – Taz gets a job at a hotel to earn money for a motorcycle.

“Battling Bushrats / Devil in the Deep Blue Sea” (10/12/91) – Taz has to protect his mother’s dinner from the Bushrats and ants. / Digeri Dingo manipulates Taz into helping him retrieve a sunken treasure.

“Woeful Wolf” (10/19/91) – Wendal T. Wolf wants to be Taz’s friend, but Taz just wants to get away from the annoying pest.

“Devil with the Violet Dress On / Kidnapped Koala” (10/26/91) – Jean insists on spending time with Taz. / Bull and Axl attempt to capture Constance Koala.

“Mishap in the Mist / Toothache Taz” (11/2/91) – An anthropologist studies the Devil family. / Taz seeks help from the Platypus brothers for his toothace.

“Here, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty / Enter the Devil” (11/9/91) – Molly’s new pet cat is Taz’s worst nightmare. / Mr. Thickly trains Taz in the ways of kung-fu.

“Bewitched Bob” (11/16/91) – A hotel guest has Bushwhacker Bob thoroughly enthralled.

“Instant Replay / Taz and the Pterodactyl” (11/23/91) – Bull and Axl film their attempts at capturing Taz to learn from their mistakes. / Taz meets a Pterodactyl and is taken on a flight across the country.

“Pup Goes the Wendal / I’m Okay, You’re Taz” (11/30/91) – Wendal tries to replace Dog as Taz’s pet. / Buddy tries to improve Taz’s personality.

“Comic Madness / Blunders Never Cease” (12/7/91) – Taz’s family feels he spends too much time with his comic books. / Francis takes tribal potions to help him capture Taz.

Season 2:
“Amazing Shrinking Taz & Co/” (9/5/92) – The Platypus brothers’ invention shrinks Taz, Bull and Axl.

“Oh, Brother / Taz-Babies” (9/12/92) – A giant gorilla is encouraged by his little brother to attack Jake. / The network vice president has ideas for ways to improve Taz-Mania.

“Jake’s Big Date / Taz Live” (9/19/92) – Jake goes on a play-date with a girl. / Taz and his friends stall for time when the hotel’s comedy act runs late.

“A Midsummer Night’s Scream / Astro Taz” (9/26/92) – Taz and Bob are forced to stay in a creepy motel after they get lost. / Taz believes a space shuttle is an arcade game.

“Tazmanian Lullaby / Deer Taz / A Taz-Manian Movement” (10/3/92) – Francis uses Taz’s love of accordion music to capture him. / Taz can’t bring himself to eat an adorable baby deer. / Molly cheats Taz out of concert tickets.

“The Outer Taz-Manian Zone / Here, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty, Part 2” (10/10/92) – Taz and Molly end up switching bodies. / Molly’s cat returns to terrorize Taz.

“Taz-Mania’s Funniest Home Videos / Bottle Cap Blues” (10/17/92) – Taz tries to film his family in order to win a vacation. / Taz and Dingo chase a Kee-Wee Bird to get the rare bottle cap it has.

“Hypnotazed / Mum’s n’ Taz’s” (10/24/92) – Bull hypnotizes himself into believing he’s a Tasmanian Devil. / Taz and Mum end up trapped in a mine.

“Boys Just Wanna Have Fun / Unhappy Together” (10/31/92) – Hugh, Taz and Jake have a guys’ night. / Taz ends up driving a wedge between the Platypus brothers.

“Food For Thought / Gone to Pieces” (11/7/92) – Taz braves a piranha-filled lake to get an egg. / Taz tries to hide that he broke Jean’s favorite vase.

“Kee-Wee Cornered / But is it Taz?” (11/14/92) – Tired of Taz eating her birds, Molly’s next one is a Kee-Wee Bird. / Taz quits the show over all the abuse he gets and gets a job at a fast food restaurant.

“Mall Wrecked / A Dingo’s Guide to Magic” (11/21/92) – Their car breaks down, leaving Taz, Jean and Molly stranded in a mall parking lot. / Dingo uses magic tricks to get a gold nugget from Taz.

“The Man from M.A.R.S. / Friends for Strife” (11/28/92) – A scary radio program leads Taz to attack a vacationing Marvin the Martian. / Dingo recounts all his adventures with Taz.

Season 3:
“Wacky Wombat / Molly’s Folly” (9/4/93) – Willie Wombat is Taz’s foil in a parody of Taz’s original cartoons. / Taz ends up taking ballet with Molly.

“A Flea for Me / A Young Taz’s Fancy” (9/11/93) – Taz gets a flea. / Francis disguises himself as a She-Devil to lure Taz into a trap.

“Never Cry Taz / Bully for Bull” (9/18/93) – The Platypus brothers find the entrance to another world in their attic. / Axl tries to cheer Bull up about his constant failures.

“Of Bushrats and Hugh” (9/25/93) – Taz and Hugh have to protect their orange tree from the Bushrats.

“Merit Badgered” (10/2/93) – Taz joins Jake on a camping trip.

“Devil Indemnity” (10/16/93) – Taz is home in a full-body cast and Jean fills in for him at the hotel, finding it a struggle to deal with Bob’s abuse.

“Willie Wombat’s Deja Boo-Boo / To Catch a Taz” (10/23/93) – Willie tries to get jobs in other cartoons but keeps being typecast as Taz’s foil. / Police officer Wendal is determined to bust Taz for eating a birthday cake.

“The Thing that Ate the Outback / Because it’s There” (10/30/93) – Taz creates a blob monster with his chemistry set. / Taz and Dingo decide to climb a mountain.

“Antenna Dilemma / Autograph Pound” (11/6/93) – Taz goes to watch TV with the Platypus brothers, but a storm knocks out the cable. / A wrestler staying at the hotel has Constance all a flutter and Taz in terror.

“Taz and the Emu Egg / Willy Wombat’s Last Stand / K-Taz Commercial” (11/13/93) – Taz gives chase to a very fast emu egg. / Willie goes to the network for a better role. / Taz advertises his new music CD.

“Doubting Dingo / Sub Commander Taz” (11/20/93) – Dingo believes Taz wants to get rid of him. / Taz grows impatient waiting for his mail-order submarine.

“Feed a Cold / Sidekick for a Day” (11/27/93) – The Playtpus brothers try to find a cure for Taz’s violent cold. / Bull hires Taz as his new sidekick.

“No Time for Christmas” (12/25/93) – Taz travels across the Outback to bring Christmas gifts to his friends.

Season 4:
“Road to Tazmania” (9/13/94) – Drew, Hugh and Taz go out for some orange juice that seems to have attracted the attention of some spies.

“Taz-Manian Theatre / The Bushrats Must Be Crazy” (9/14/94) – Taz and Wendal are trapped on a desert island. / The Bushrats set out to liberate their idol of worship: Jake’s rubber duck.

“Return of the Road to Taz-Mania Strikes Back” (9/15/94) – Hugh and Drew golf against some old rivals, and Taz notices that their caddy is yet another spy.

“Taz Like Dingo” (9/16/94) – Dingo uses a magic lamp to wish that Taz would like him no matter what.

“The Pied Piper of Taz-Mania / The Treasure of the Burnt Sienna” (9/19/94) – The Bushrats infest the hotel. / Bob drags Taz on a treasure hunt.

“Not a Shadow of a Doubt / Nursemaid Taz” (9/20/94) – Taz’s shadow comes to life. / Dingo fakes an injury in order to get sympathy and food from Taz’s family.

“Home Despair / Take All of Me” (9/21/94) – Taz recruits the Platypus brothers to repair his house, but they only make it worse. / Wendal wants Bull and Axl to capture him so that he can enjoy living in a zoo.

“Bird-Brained Beast / Ready, Willing, Unable” (9/22/94) – Taz and the Platypus brothers go after a Kee-Wee. / Mr. Thickly gives advice to Bull and Axl, not knowing they plan to use it to capture Taz.

“We’ll Always Have Taz-Mania / Moments You’ve Missed” (9/23/94) – With the TV broken, Hugh and Jean share the story of how they met. / Bull and Axl exhibit segments missing from previous episodes.

“Sidekicked / Gone with the Windbag” (11/7/94) – Bull heads off to a hula-hooping contest, leaving Axl alone to capture Taz. / Bob is determined to get a good review from a visiting critic.

“Driving Mr. Taz / Mean Bear / Taz Museum” (11/8/94) – Taz takes a driving lesson. / The Bushrats ask Taz to battle a bear. / An ad for the Boulder Museum.

“Ticket Taker Taz / Taz2” (11/14/94) – Molly wants the concert tickets Taz won. / The Platypus brothers use their cloning machine on Taz.

“Mutton for Nothing / Dr. Wendal and Mr. Taz” (11/15/94) – Taz fills in for Ralph Wolf in the sheep meadow. / Accidental exposure to gamma radiation causes Wendal to transform into a monster whenever Taz upsets him.

“Taz-Mania Confidential / The Platypi Psonic Psensation Psimulator” (11/21/94) – A film crew is determined to expose and humiliate the Devil family. / The Platypus brothers probe Taz’s mind for “unused” episode segments.

“The Not-So-Gladiators / One Ring Taz” (11/22/94) – Taz and Jean compete on Grub Gladiators. / Mr. Thickly helps Taz develop an act to join the circus.

“Retakes Not Included / Pledge Dredge” (2/6/95) – Buddy doesn’t understand the concept of retakes to fix the episode’s animation errors. / Mr. Thickly hosts a telethon to bring funds into the show.

“Bushlad’s Lament / Taz-Mania Comedy Institute” (2/13/95) – An elderly Francis continues his pursuit of an elderly Taz. / A documentary about 16-ton weights.

“Heartbreak Taz / Just Be ‘Cuz” (2/14/95) – Constance becomes infatuated with Taz. / Francis takes his little cousin along on a hunt for Taz.

“The Taz Story Primer / Ask Taz” (2/20/95) – Molly is invited to plot the week’s episode by the network. / Bob exploits the wisdom people seem to find in Taz’s words.

“It’s a Taz’s Life / Gee Bull!” (2/27/95) – Taz is chosen to have a retrospective done on his life. / Bull uses extreme methods in order to educate Axl.

“Taz in Keeweeland / Stuck for Bucks / A Philosophical Taz Moment” (5/1/95) – Taz ends up in a world of Kee-Wee birds. / Taz needs money, but his piggy bank won’t cooperate. / Taz contemplates nature and his constant need for food.

“The Origin of the Beginnings of the Incredible Taz-Man / Francis Takes a Stand” (5/2/95) – Mr. Thickly advises Taz on how to become a superhero. / Taz and Francis set up competing lemonade stands.

“Yet Another Road to Taz-Mania” (5/8/95) – Hugh and Drew take Taz bowling, and the spies are after their new bowling ball.

“Bad Luck Bottlecap / A Story with a Moral” (5/15/95) – Dingo tries to give Taz a cursed bottlecap. / A klutzy Scotsman nurses Taz back to health.

“One Saturday in Taz-Mania / Platypi on Film” (5/22/95) – Jake constantly interrupts Taz’s lazy day. / The Platypus brothers critique their favorite movies.

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