Seeking to make use of Rick Moranis’ high profile from both the Ghostbusters movies and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, NBC and Hanna-Barbera teamed up to create an animated vehicle for him to star in.
|Riding the "Ghoul Bus" with Vinnie, Cleofatra, Clawford, Boneyard, Max, Duzer, Reggie, Gil, JP,|
Frankentyke, Coach Cadaver, Headmistress Crone and Mr. Tutner.
Developed by David Kirschner, Ernie Conteras and Glenn Leopold, Gravedale High featured human teacher Max Schneider (Moranis) unwittingly taking a job at Gravedale High--a school for monsters--in the city of Midtown. Max’s appearance was a caricature mix of Moranis and the dorky characters he tended to play in movies, complete with thick black glasses and a bowtie. Although he was the only human teacher in the school, he wasn’t the only human in the series; lot of the gags were centered around the effect the students had on the human citizens of Midtown.
Max’s class was (de)composed of the latest generation of Universal and mythological monsters: Vinnie Stoker (Roger Rose), named for Dracula author Bram Stoker, was a 1950s greaser vampire who was able to go out during the day; Frankentyke (Frank Welker), a combination of Frankenstein's Monster and Bart Simpson; Reggie Moonshroud (Barry Gordon), a geeky werewolf who shed when he was nervous and the best friend of Vinnie; J.P. Ghastly III (Welker, impersonating Peter Lorre), a wealthy gnome-like monster; Gil Waterman (Jackie Earle Haley), a surfer dude lagoon monster; Cleofatra (Ricki Lake, who had her own weight issues), an obese and nerdy mummy; Sid (Maurice LaMarche), who was based on the Invisible Man and was the class clown that frequently spouted pop culture references; Blanche (Shari Belafonte), named for the synonym for turning pale as well as a play on Blanche DuBois from A Streetcar Named Desire, was a southern belle zombie who loved to shop (mall zombie, get it?); and Duzer (Kimmy Robertson), a Valley girl parody of Medusa without the petrifying gaze.
Joining the main students was an entire school and faculty of various kinds of monsters familiar from classic movies and stories. Headmistress Crone (Georgia Brown) was a witch-like monster with a hand of iron to symbolize how she ran the school. In her company was her green cat, Clawford (Welker). Boneyard (Brock Peters), despite looking human, was never regarded as such. His appearance was reminiscent of the Tall Man from the Phantasm films and he performed various tasks around the school. Miss Dirge (Eileen Brennan) was a teacher who resembled the Bride of Frankenstein and had a crush on Max. Mr. Tutner (Tim Curry) was a mummified history teacher with bad breath, and Miss Webner (Sandra Gould) was a spider-like teacher with multiple arms. Coach Cadaver (Jonathan Winters) was a walking cadaver with a detachable brain who served as the main antagonist of the show; having an intense hatred of humans and how well-received Max was by the rest of the faculty.
Gravedale High debuted on NBC on September 8, 1990. The series featured all the tropes one would expect from a horror-themed cartoon; cemeteries, creepy sets, a large hearse-like gothic school bus, spider web accents and even coffins as lockers. It would often play off monster-themed puns and parodies of pop culture like many other similarly-themed programs from Hanna-Barbera’s varied library. Even the theme song by the Tyrell Music Group, written by John Parker, Randy Petersen, Kevin Quinn, Stephanie Tyrell and Steve Tyrell, had creepy undertones to it. The series was written by Kirschner, Contreras and Leopold, along with Bruce Reid Schaefer, Paul Dell, Tod Himmel, Bill Matheny, Chris Schoon, Christian Schoon, Robert Tarlow and Steven Weiss, and Jim Stenstrum, Rick Schneider, Brian Hogan, Marcus Nickerson, Mike Goguen and Julie Gimeno were the character designers. Animation duties were handled by Wang Film Production Company.
Unfortunately, the series failed to find an audience and was cancelled after a single season. Despite being short-lived, the show did inspire some minor merchandising. McDonald’s released a set of four toys based on Vinnie, Frankentyke, Cleofatra and Sid for their Happy Meals in 1990. Toys R Us also launched a special promotional tie-in where whenever someone would bring in a special code to a store they would receive a green Frisbee with Max’s image and the show’s title on it.
Originally posted in 2014. Updated in 2021.
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