October 11, 2014


(NBC, September 8-December 1, 1990)

Hanna-Barbera, NBC Productions

Rick Moranis – Maxwell Schneider
Roger Rose – Vinnie Stoker
Frank Welker – Frankentyke, J.P. Ghastly III, Clawford, Elephant Boy, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Barry Gordon – Reggie Moonshroud, Seymour
Jackie Earle Haley – Gill Waterman
Ricki Lake – Cleofatra
Maurice LaMarche – Sid, Chef Sal Monella, Big Frank
Shari Belafonte – Blanche
Kimmy Robertson – Duzer
Georgia Brown – Headmistress Crone
Brock Peters – Boneyard
Jonathan Winters – Coach Cadaver
Eileen Brennan – Miss Dirge
Tim Curry – Mr. Tutner
Sandra Gould – Miss Webner

            Seeking to make use of Rick Moranis’ high profile from both the Ghostbusters movies and Honey, I Shrunk the KidsNBC 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 KirschnerErnie 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.

Rick Moranis as Max Schneider.

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.

Gil rocks out on the spider web drums.

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.

Sid amongst the creepy school surroundings.

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.

McDonald's Happy Meal toys.

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.


“Lang Day’s Gurney Into Night” (9/8/90) – Max takes Sid to the hospital for a tonsillectomy, but Sid forces the doctors to chase him as he doesn’t want the procedure.

“Do the Rad Thing” (9/15/90) – Gill meets professional surfer Kahuna Bob while teaching Frankentyke how to surf.

“Cleo’s Pen Pal” (9/22/90) – Cleofatra sends fan mail to actor Billy Headstone.

“Monster Gumbo” (9/29/90) – Blanche’s secret family recipe for Monster Gumbo helps Max’s class win a charity competition, making it the target of gumbo chef Big Daddy.

“The Dress-Up Mess-Up” (10/6/90) – Duzer “borrows” the money for Max’s birthday present to buy a dress and win a pageant, but the dress gets ruined before she can return it for a refund.

“The Grave Intruder” (10/13/90) – Duzer turns the school paper into a tabloid and begins making up stories about the students and faculty.

“Fear of Flying” (10/20/90) – Nardo challenges Vinnie to an aerial version of chicken, but Vinnie is struck by lightning and the students must help him re-learn how to fly.

“He Ain’t Scary, He’s My Brother” (10/27/90) – Frankentyke’s brother Big Frankie visits the school, and Blanche, Cleofatra and Duzer all develop crushes on him.

“Frankenjockey” (11/3/90) – An escaped racehorse named Hoover runs into Frankentyke and develops a liking to him.

“Save Our School” (11/10/90) – Vinnie runs against Elephant Boy and Suey for class president while Belle Gardens plots to have the school demolished in order to erect a new hotel.

“Night of the Living Dad” (11/17/90) – Gill helps Frankentyke build a phony father to hide that his is human, but they accidentally destroy the brain for it and get an inferior replacement.

“Goodbye Gravesdale” (11/24/90) – Max’s class turns against him when they find a discarded acceptance letter to another school.

“Monster on Trial” (12/1/90) – Reggie gets into a minor accident during driver’s ed, and he and Max are thrown in jail on trumped up charges, leaving it up to the students to get them out.

Originally posted in 2014. Updated in 2021.

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