March 30, 2019

MAURY LAWS DEAD AT 95



You can read the full story here.


A notable television and film composer, he created the music for The King Kong Show and four episodes of the ABC Saturday Superstar Movie, and served as the musical director for The Jackson 5ive, The Osmonds and Kid Power.




 



March 25, 2019

JOSEPH PILATO DEAD AT 70




You can read the full story here.


He provided the voice of Vexor in Big Bad BeetleBorgs and MetalGreymon in Digimon: Digital Monsters and Digimon Adventure 2.




March 23, 2019

MAX STEEL (2000)


MAX STEEL (2000)
(WB, February 26, 2000-January 15, 2002)

Columbia TriStar Television (season 1-3), Netter Digital Animation (season 1), Foundation Imaging (season 2), Mainframe Entertainment (season 3 & films), Adelaide Productions




MAIN CAST:
Christian Campbell & Matthew Kaminsky (2 episodes) – Max Steel/Josh McGrath
Chi McBride – Jefferson Smith
Scott McNeil (movies) – Jefferson Smith, Elementor, various
Jacob Vargas & Alessandro Juliani (movies) – Dr. Roberto Martinez
Shannon Kenny – Rachel Leeds (season 1-2), Female L’Etranger Goon
Debi Mae West (season 2-3) & Meghan Black (1st two movies) – Kat Ryan
Lisa Ann Beley – Kat Ryan (movies), N-TEK Computer voice (movies)
Lauren Tom – Laura Chen (season 1-2)
Thomas F. Wilson – Pete Costas (season 1-2)
Keith Szarabajka – Jean Mariot (season 1), Psycho, Luke DeMarco
Brian Drummond (movies) – Psycho, Psycho-Bots, various
Ed Asner – Charles “Chuck” Marshak (season 1)
Martin Jarvis – John Dread (season 1-2)


            In the late 90s, Mattel was looking to create a new action figure line inspired by the adventures of James Bond, but aimed towards young kids. Ultimately, the new figure line ended up being a retooled version of Mattel’s Big Jim action figure from the 1970s. Big Jim was inspired by the original G.I. Joe action figure, standing a full two inches shorter in comparison and featuring a karate chop action and a variety of outfits and vehicles for sports, space exploration, hunting and other situations. Big Jim was marketed in Latin America as Kid Acero (or “Kid Steel”) and in Europe as Mark Strong. In the 1980s, Big Jim was converted to James Bond, Agent 007 until the line ultimately ended.




            Mattel’s new line was called Max Steel, which centered around teenaged Josh McGrath whose body was infused with super Nano-Technology, or N-TEK, which gave him superhuman physical attributes and turned him into the super-agent Max Steel. He worked for a secret global security force and protected the world from a variety of threats. As with Big Jim, Max was released with a variety of outfits and vehicles inspired by extreme sports, such as mountain climbing, surfing or skiing, but also came with various military or combat-related attire. Amongst the line’s villains were Psycho, a fiend with a dangerous bionic arm and face that could be hidden by a flesh-like mask; the snake-man Bio-Constrictor; and Vitriol, who had light-up energy attack arms. The toys launched in 1999 with a 16-page introductory mini-comic published by Mattel that discussed Max’s abilities from the perspective of both the good guys and the villains.

Max in Turbo mode.

            To help promote the toys, Mattel partnered with Sony/TriStar television’s Adelaide Productions to produce an animated series featuring the characters. The series was developed by Greg Weisman and Jeff Kline, which centered on 19-year-old extreme sports star Josh McGrath (Christian Campbell, Matthew Kaminsky for two episodes). Josh was an orphan who was adopted by his father’s best friend and partner, Jefferson Smith (Chi McBride), who secretly worked for a counter-intelligence agency known as N-Tek. N-Tek created sports equipment as a public front. When Psycho (Keith Szarabaika) attacked the facility while Josh was visiting, Josh was injured and exposed to a swarm of microscopic nanomachines called Nano-Tech Max. The nanites began breaking down and killing Josh, until he was given a dose of transphasic energy, or T-Juice, which the nanites needed to function. The nanites bonded with Josh, making him able to turn invisible or alter his appearance, and allowed him to “Go Turbo” with the aid of a wrist device giving him super strength, speed and agility. With these new abilities, Josh joined N-Tek and adopted the code name Max Steel.

Jefferson addressing Max and Roberto.

            Along with Jefferson, Max’s team was composed of Dr. Roberto Martinez (Jacob Vargas), a teenaged genius who provided equipment and technical support from the base; Rachel Leeds (Shannon Kenny), Max’s partner who worked with him in the field while also training him to be an N-Tek agent; Jean Mariot (Szarabajka using a French accent), second-in-command under Jefferson who was the head of operations and showed faith in Max’s abilities even when Max didn’t; and Charles Marshak (Ed Asner), a division chief who was in charge of the flying fortress Behemoth that served as Max’s mobile base. Outside of N-Tek, Josh had his girlfriend, Laura Chen (Lauren Tom), and his best friend, Pete Costas (Thomas F. Wilson). Josh’s relationship with both of them became strained as Max’s exploits gradually began taking over more of his life, although Pete was eventually let in on the secret and joined in on several missions.

Max vs. Psycho.

            N-Tek’s primary enemy was DREAD, an evil organization led by the calculating and brilliant John Dread (Martin Jarvis). Along with Psycho and Vitriol (August Paro), DREAD employed the likes of L’Etranger (John de Lancie), a mercenary terrorist who was essentially an electrical weapon, and Dragonelle (Mia Korf), who could mimic the actions and appearance of anyone she encountered. Other foes included Woody Barkowski (Jeff Bennett), who believed N-Tek sold him a faulty bike that caused him to break his leg and leave the sports world and considered himself Max’s arch-nemesis (Max disagreed); his sister, Annabelle (Susan Eisenberg), who was mutated by a lab accident into the energy vampire Elextrix; Bio-Constrictor (RenĂ© Auberjonois), a scientist who was injected with electrified snake venom that turned him into a half-reptile mutant; Lance Breamer, the self-proclaimed “King of the sky” who became an air pirate; and several jilted inventors and people with connections to the sports world who turned to illegal activities for various selfish reasons.


            Max Steel debuted on the Kids’ WB! programming block on February 26, 2000, becoming the first fully computer animated program on the block and lasting three seasons. The series was written by Weisman with Lydia Marano, Jon Weisman, Michael Reaves, Kevin Hopps, Mike Ryan, Katherine Fugate, Cary Bates, Gary Sperling, Tom Pugsley, Greg Klein, Steven Melching, Tony Schillaci, David Slack, Dan Perry, Marsha F. Griffin and Andrew Robinson. The music was composed by Jim Latham and Nathan Furst, with Latham also composing the theme. Initially, the series was animated by Netter Digital Animation utilizing motion capture actors. After producing the first season, Netter went bankrupt and production moved over to Foundation Imaging for the second season. However, Foundation also went bankrupt and production was moved once again to Mainframe Entertainment, makers of the first fully computer animated program, ReBoot

Roberto, Jefferson, Max and Kat.

            Because of the similarities to the Big Jim line, it was worked into the show that Jim was actually Max’s father, and that Jefferson was based on the Big Jeff variant. After the first season, Charles Marshak and Jean Mariot no longer appeared. Mariot was revealed to have been an agent of DREAD and was seemingly killed in an explosion in the season finale. Weisman planned to bring Mariot back as a triple agent, but those plans were abandoned with his departure from the show. Rachel was promoted at the start of season 2 and replaced by Kat Ryan (Debi Mae West) as Max’s new partner. The cast was further streamlined in season 3 with Laura and Pete being written out and Vitriol replacing Dread as the main villain. The third season also saw N-Tek shut down at after events of the prior season and the characters becoming extreme sports stars. In keeping with the theme, several real-life sports stars had guest appearances on the show: pro skateboarder Tony Hawk, BMX rider Mat Hoffman, ice hockey player Luc Robitaille, basketball player-turned-actor Rick Fox, and Motocross/Supercross champion Jeremy McGrath. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, the word “terrorist” was filtered out of some episodes and figure packaging in the “Urban Siege” series were revamped to remove “Secret Mission” Cards that contained stories about terrorist attacks on American soil.

Max vs. the four Elementors.

            Despite the initial success of the toyline, sales in the North American market slumped while Latin America continued to thrive. Mattel decided to end the show and focus their efforts on those markets with a series of direct-to-video movies. Mattel and Mainframe began producing them in 2004 and they were available as bonus gifts with the purchase of other products, as well as a showcase of the products themselves. The first, Endangered Species, was the only one to maintain continuity with the show. While each additional film built on the first’s story, facts established about Max’s creation and N-Tek differed; such as the inclusion of an isotope called Elementium being embedded in Max to help his survival of the nanites. Elementium would become a driving force behind the films’ new primary foe, Elementor (Scott McNeil). Max’s alter ego was also phased out, leaving him as Max 24/7. To help keep Max in the public consciousness and to provide background to the new continuity, a series of 1-minute mini clips called Max Steel’s Turbo Missions ran from 2008-11. While Campbell continued on as Max, McBride was replaced by McNeil, Vargas by Alessandro Juliani, and West by first Meghan Black and then Leisa Ann Beley.



            The episodes “Strangers”, “Snowblind”, “Sphinxes” and “Old Friend, New Enemy” were released onto VHS tapes that were included with various action figures. The complete first season was released to DVD across two volumes and a collected edition by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. In 2001, Treyarch developed a Max Steel video game released by Mattel Interactive for the Sega Dreamcast. Max Steel: Covert Missions saw Max having to stop DREAD’s new bio-weapon from ravaging the world. The game utilized the series’ opening titles, however only Campbell returned to voice his character. A version for the Game Boy Advance was planned, but ultimately cancelled. While there was originally a disparity between the toys and the show due to both being developed at the same time, the toys gradually fell more in line to the style featured on the show. However, outside of variations of Max and the main male villains, no other character in the show was ever released; most notably none of the very prominent female characters, as it was a toyline marketed towards boys.


            The movies and toyline wrapped-up in 2012 to make way for a reboot of the franchise. Mattel partnered with Playground Productions, Nerd Corps Entertainment, and FreemantleMedia Kids & Entertainment to create a new Max Steel cartoon to usher in the new toyline. Airing on Cartoon Network and Disney XD, the series saw Maxwell “Max” McGrath (Andrew Francis), a Tachyon-Human Hybrid able to generate TURBO energy, join N-Tek and merge with a friendly technology-based alien named Steel (Sam Vincent) that helped him control his powers. A live-action film version of the reboot written by Christopher L. Yost and directed by Stewart Hendler was released by Open Road Films on October 14, 2016, and was a critical and commercial failure.




EPISODE GUIDE:
Season 1:
“Strangers” (2/26/00) – Team Steel is meant to protect a Peace Conference in Berlin, but L’Etranger manages to kidnap everyone at the conference including Rachel.

“Shadows” (3/11/00) – A missile nearly blows Team Steel out of the sky and they’re led to believe it’s part of an attack on the UN Secretary General.

“Sacrifices” (3/4/00) – Psycho and Dread holds Paris hostage with an EMP device that can shut Max down.

“Sportsmen” (3/25/00) – Feeling his powers are an unfair advantage, Josh quits the Del-Oro Extreme but mysterious circumstances forces him to compete as Max.

“Seraphim” (5/13/00) – Team Steel has to retrieve a stolen computer disk in Shanghai while Max is concerned about getting back in time to escort Laura to her brother’s wedding.

“Spear-Carriers” (9/23/00) – Team Steel uses their new mobile base as bait to find out who’s stealing experimental aircraft out of the sky.

“Snowblind” (5/20/00) – Dread impersonates Roberto to lure Max into a trap in a snowy ice cave.

“Sharks” (4/8/00) – Team Steel is sent to rescue plutonium for a freighter sunk by Woody Barkowski’s hurricane machine.

“Sabres” (4/1/00) – Psycho and Vitriol try to stop Max and Jake Nez from keeping N-TEK’s SABRE space station from falling out of orbit.

“Sphinxes” (4/22/00) – Team Steel investigates strange energy readings from the Great Pyramid.

“Swashbucklers” (9/16/00) – Josh and Laura’s spring break is interrupted by a mystery involving pirates.

“Scions” (9/30/00) – With his personal life falling apart, Josh decides to become Max full-time just in time to investigate a strange volcano eruption.

“Shattered” (10/14/00) – The UN building is threatened to be crushed by a strange fungus as Vitriol escapes from N-TEK and Mariot turns out to be a Dread spy.

Season 2:
“The Return” (10/28/00) – A string of accidents on campus lead Josh to believe someone knows his identity.

“Fun in the Sun” (11/4/00) – Josh brings Roberto to Honolulu to enjoy life just as a tidal wave strikes the city.

“Amazon” (11/11/00) – Max and Roberto meet and team-up with Kat to stop Psycho from creating poison gas from tree sap.

“When Lighting Strikes Twice” (11/18/00) – Annabelle Barkowski returns after a lab accident transformed her into the power-feeding Electrix.

“Fire and Ice” (12/2/00) – Max investigates Vitriol’s kidnapping of N-TEK scientists in Alaska, but things are complicated when he learns Pete stowed away to participate in the mission.

“Trapped” (12/9/00) – A high-tech R&D company in D.C. is taken over by a former employee who wants the powerful weapon he designed.

“Steel vs. Steel” (12/16/00) – Team Steel heads to an N-TEK training facility to test Roberto’s new Tek-Bots.

“Space Opera (AKA Shooting Stars)” (1/20/01) – Roberto is selected to fly on the launch of NASA’s next Space Cruiser.

“Old Friend, New Enemy” (2/10/01) – Former N-TEK scientist Jerry Klemow was researching biological weapons made from snake DNA when an accident turns him into Bio-Constrictor.

“Extreme” (2/17/01) – Max goes undercover to stop tech thieves at the annual Del Oro Extreme.

“Best Friend” (3/3/01) – Josh’s new friend has been brainwashed to kill Dr. Mark Montgomery.

“The Race” 93/10/01) – Max convinces Jefferson to let Team Steel test N-TEK’s newest vehicle in an extreme off-road race.

“Breakout” (6/23/01) – Max and Kat have to transport Dread to a new prison while the recently escaped Bio-Constrictor is recruited by Psycho to break Dread out.

Season 3:
“Deep Cover” (11/12/01) – Taking down Dread’s empire exposes N-TEK to the world.

“Survival Instinct” (11/19/01) – Team Steel meets deadly opposition on a snowboarding trip to the Alps.

“Cold Sweat” (12/5/01) – Team Steel attends a hockey game that’s interrupted by Vitriol attempting to kidnap the son of a wealthy media mogul.

“Fan Appreciation” (12/6/01) – Team Steel attends the opening of a new Extreme Sports Park created by a millionaire sports fanatic that happens to be a big fan of Kat.

“Rough Seats” (12/12/01) – Team Steel heads out on a sports fantasy cruise for a free vacation of promoting N-TEK products.

“Prey” (12/17/01) – Josh ends up stranded in the South African jungle where someone appears to be watching him.

“Special Delivery” (12/21/01) – Team Steel protects bike stunt legend Matt Hoffman after he was almost kidnapped.

“Turbulence” (1/5/02) – Psycho steals a prison transport plane to recruit the convicts inside to help him rob the Federal Reserve.

“Truth Be Told” (1/15/02) – Team Steel seemingly ends up in an inescapable Psycho death trap with sports star Jeremy McGrath, and await their doom with stories of past exploits.

Movie:
“Endangered Species” (2004) – Psycho and Bio-Constrictor team-up to turn the world into mutants that would be ruled over by them.

March 17, 2019

LARRY DiTILLIO DEAD AT 79




You can read the full story here.

He was a writer on shows that included Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling, Galaxy High School (for which he was also the story editor), Superman (1988), The California Raisin Show, The Real Ghostbusters, Swamp Thing, Peter Pan and the Pirates and Conan: The Adventurer.







 


RICHARD ERDMAN DEAD AT 93



You can read the full story here


He voiced a pirate, the mayor and a man in “The Secret World of Og” episode of ABC Weekend Specials; a travel agent in an episode of The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo; an angry neighbor in an episode of Pound Puppies (1986); Mayor Rufus B. Pinfeathers and King Arty in two episodes of DuckTales (1987); and Elliot in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series. He also provided additional voices for Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, Space Stars, Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour, The Dukes, Galtar and the Golden Lance, Wildfire, The Smurfs, Yogi’s Treasure Hunt, Popeye and Son, The Flintstone Kids, The New Yogi Bear Show, Snorks, and The Pirates of Dark Water.  





 










 








March 16, 2019

BARBIE CEREAL

BARBIE FAIRYTOPIA CEREAL / BARBIE AS THE ISLAND PRINCESS CEREAL / BARBIE MULTI-GRAIN CEREAL

Kellogg’s

            2005 saw the release of the fifth in a series of direct-to-video computer-animated Barbie films, Barbie: Fairytopia. Barbie, a wingless flower fairy named Elina (Kelly Sheridan) had to save Fairytopia from an evil fairy named Laverna (Kathleen Barr). It was the first Barbie movie to feature a completely original story written by Elise Allen and Diane Duane, and directed by Walter P. Martishius and William Lau.


            As with the other Barbie movies, Mattel released a wave of merchandise that tied into its setting and themes. They also licensed Barbie out to Kellogg’s to produce a limited-edition cereal based on the film. It was the first cereal for the doll since 1989’s Breakfast with Barbie Cereal. The cereal contained berry-flavored pieces in pink and purple heart shapes and marshmallows in the shape of a mirror, a jewel, a flower, a purse and a butterfly. The back of the box featured a maze game with characters from the film.



            However, that wasn’t the end of the cereal. In 2007, the eighth computer-animated film, Barbie as the Island Princess, was released to video. This was the second musical in the series, and the first produced under Mainframe Entertainment’s new name of Rainmaker Animation. Ro (Sheridan) was shipwrecked on an island as a young girl and was raised and cared for by the animals there. After she rescued handsome prince Antonio (Alessandro Juliani) when he ended up on her island, he brought her back to his kingdom so that she could try to discover who she was. They fell in love along the way, but the evil Queen Ariana (Andrea Martin) had her sights set on acquiring the throne from Antonio’s parents—by any means necessary. The movie was written by Cliff Ruby and Elana Lesser and directed by Greg Richardson and Jesyca C. Durchin.

The Fairytopia and Island Princess boxes.

Rather than create an entirely new cereal, Kellogg’s simply renamed theirs Barbie as the Island Princess Cereal and changed the box to feature her likeness from the film. Each box featured 5 out of 10 collectible cards depicting various characters and scenes.

Three of the four Multi-Grain boxes.

            The cereal sold well-enough that in 2008 Kellogg’s continued to produce it, but didn’t tie it into the latest Barbie movie. Instead, they renamed it Barbie Multi-Grain Cereal and the artwork featured 2D animated versions of either Barbie, Barbie with a tennis racquet, or Barbie with her best friend, Teresa. The backs of the boxes featured more collectible cut-out trading cards or Barbie-themed games, collectible cut-out keepsakes, or a cut-out picture frame.

Back of the Multi-Grain box.


BREAKFAST WITH BARBIE CEREAL


BREAKFAST WITH BARBIE CEREAL

Ralston


            Watching her daughter Barbara play with paper dolls and giving them adult roles, Ruth Handler suggested making an adult-bodied doll to her husband, Elliot, who co-founded the Mattel toy company with her. He and the company’s directors saw no merit in the idea until 1956 when Ruth brought back a Bild Lilli doll from Germany. The doll was based on a popular comic strip character that was initially sold to adults, but became popular with children who enjoyed dressing her in a variety of outfits. That was what Ruth had in mind for the doll she suggested. Ruth and engineer Jack Ryan redesigned the doll, named it Barbie after her daughter, and introduced it to the world at the American International Toy Fair on March 9, 1959.



            The doll became an instant success, thanks largely in part to the television advertising campaign never before utilized for that type of toy. A wide number of accessories were made for the doll, ranging from clothing to habitats. The line was gradually expanded to include a long-term boyfriend, Ken (named after Ruth’s son), ethnically diverse representation, younger sisters, and dolls based on famous people or fictional characters. The most notable part of the doll, and part of her lasting appeal, was the fact that Barbie was depicted in a multitude of occupations; many of which were progressive for their time. Since the doll’s debut, the Barbie brand has expanded to a multimedia franchise including video games, books and movies.


Super Star, Dance Club, Beach Blast, Cool Times and the promo box.

            In 1989, to celebrate Barbie’s 30th anniversary, Ralston licensed the rights to produce a cereal based on the doll. Breakfast with Barbie Cereal was a fruity cereal in the shapes of hearts, bows, stars, cars and the letter “B” in yellow and a variety of pink colors. The box came in hot pink like the Barbie packaging and featured one of five different dolls throughout its lifespan: Super Star BarbieBeach Blast BarbieDance Club BarbieCool Times Barbie and Happy Holidays BarbieA sixth box also existed as the promotional box sent out to supermarkets featured Super Star Barbie holding an award against a different background. The marketing for the cereal included playing on the nostalgia of mothers who had a Barbie growing up and encouraging them to share that experience with their own daughters. To battle growing health concerns over sugary cereals, it was also marketed as having less sugar than leading competitors.

Ad for the cereal with a coupon playing on nostalgia and health concerns.

            Although a doll didn’t come packaged in the cereal (like they would in later cereal promotions), Ralston was sure to incorporate some fun into their product. The back of the Super Star box could be converted into a small vanity table by cutting out a part of the back panel and taping a piece of tinfoil inside of it to act as a mirror. The Beach Blast box came with a beach scene on the back with a challenge to find objects hidden in it, as well as an offer for one of two Barbie books. The Dance Club box featured instructions for how to do “The Barbie dance” as well as a coupon for accessories for the doll. The Cool Times box came with nail stickers inside and a coupon for the Barbie Soda Shoppe playset or her ’57 Chevy convertible. The Happy Holidays box was the big one, being accompanied by a competition to win a real diamond worth $4000. The winner was selected by finding a “Diamond Dazzle Scope” inside (a distorted diamond-like clear plastic piece that could be held by a simple cardboard tube and looked through) that was marked with “WINNER”.


            The “Breakfast with Barbie” name was later reused by Mattel for an actual doll: Barbie enjoying breakfast in a small cardboard nook in her jammies. However, her cereal of choice was General MillsHoney Nut Cheerios. It was released during the time of the “Got Milk?” ad campaign.