DISNEY’S RAW TOONAGE
|CBS Raw Toonage promo featuring Bonkers D. Bobcat.|
In 1991, Walt Disney Television Animation was in the process of developing a new 65-episode program for its The Disney Afternoon 2-hour programming block called He’s Bonkers D. Bobcat, later renamed simply Bonkers. The show was inspired by the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit as it was focused on Bonkers, an animated bobcat who was fired from Wackytoon Studios and was forced into a new profession as a police officer alongside a human partner. However, the series was beleaguered by numerous production troubles, resulting in its being delayed.
|The Marsupilami comic strip.|
Faced with an opening in its programming schedule, someone at Disney suggested they should make the cartoon shorts that Bonkers had supposedly starred in as a lead-up to the series. At roughly the same time, then Disney President Michael Eisner had purchased the rights to the popular Belgian comic strip Marsupilami. With those rights just sitting around, it was decided to expand the idea and create a new show encompassing three segments with different stars.
|Bonkers and his dream of marrying Fawn Deer.|
He’s Bonkers featured the misadventures of Bonkers (Jim Cummings) as he tried to win the affections of Fawn Deer (Nancy Cartwright), usually to disastrous results. Like classic Disney shorts, Bonkers was often depicted in a variety of occupations and time periods with each segment having no connection to the other. Bonkers’ best friend and frequent partner was Jitters A. Dog (Jeff Bennet), a nervous dog who often falls victim to Bonkers’ hijinks. Totally Tasteless Video was an offbeat parody of popular culture, lampooning things such as commercials, movies and entire television networks. Each segment was done in a completely different style. Marsupilami centered on the titular character (Steve Mackall), which was a spotted monkey-like creature with an extremely long tail. Unlike the comic strips from where he originated, he could talk, was easy-going, and hung around with a gorilla named Maurice (Cummings). Together, they dealt with everyday life in the jungle and the constant nuisance of Norman (also Cummings), who appeared in a variety of roles and served as the segment’s main antagonist.
|TTV's All-Potato Network promo.|
Raw Toonage premiered on CBS Saturday mornings on September 12, 1992 with an intro that showcased the primary characters of the series, and for some odd reason, Webby from DuckTales. Typically, each episode featured a Bonkers, Video and Marsupilami segment in that order, although occasionally they would feature four segments and double up on one of them. All but three episodes featured a guest host in a cold open from other Disney properties, such as Scrooge McDuck (Alan Young) from DuckTales, Launchpad McQuack (Terry McGovern) and Goaslyn Mallard (Christine Cavanugh) from Darkwing Duck, Don Karnage (Cummings) from TaleSpin, and the original Disney host Ludwig Von Drake (Corey Burton) from The Wonderful World of Color. Goofy even made an appearance in a segment throwing back to his 1940s shorts. Bonkers, Jitters, Marsupilami and Maurice also had turns hosting segments. Much like other comedy variety shows, these segments were typically unrelated skits and sometimes featured additional characters. Larry Latham produced and directed the Bonkers, Video and host segments while Ed Wexler worked on Marsupilami. Tom Minton served as the story editor for the Video segments. The program was written by Minton, Laraine Arkow, John Behnke, Terrie Collins, Jeremy Cushner, Shari Goodhartz, Libby Hinson, Kevin Hopps, Rob Humphrey, Mina Johnson, Alan Katz, Jim Peterson, Kevin Rafferty, Mark Rhodes, Ralph Sanchez, Robert Schechter and Gary Sperling. Music for the series was composed by Stephen James Taylor, Mark Watters, Eric Schmidt, Jerry Grant, Walter Murphy and Craig Stuart Garfinkle.
|Marsupilami and Maurice.|
The quick production schedule caused the series to be finished way before Bonkers, allowing it to be aired first and retroactively adding validity to the characters’ fictional background. When Bonkers finally did make it to air as part of The Disney Afternoon, several segments of He’s Bonkers plus one theatrical short that originally preceded the film 3 Ninjas were repackaged together into four episodes to fill out the Bonkers episode package and bring it up to 65. Marsupilami was spun off into its own series the following year, also on CBS (more on that and the character in its entry). The show was rerun on The Disney Channel and Toon Disney, and even received a Daytime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program and Outstanding Music Direction and Composition in 1993.