Following the successful run of Batman: The Animated Series, Steven Spielberg contacted show
(with whom he was previously associated through Tiny Toon Adventures)
to request his help in developing a new superhero show that would be made
Entertainment and Warner
Bros. Animation. Timm and Paul Dini
crafted the pitch for an edgy superhero with a manic personality that would
star in a serious adventure show with comedic undertones. Timm named him
“Freakazoid” after it just jumped into his head. Spielberg loved the pitch, but
wanted the concept to lean more towards comedy.
|Bruce Timm's concept art.
Timm, feeling unable to deliver the
kind of show Spielberg wanted, bowed out of the project. Spielberg called in Tom Ruegger,
who had developed Tiny Toons and Animaniacs with Spielberg, to
redevelop the series from scratch. Ruegger utilized some of Timm’s initial
designs and concepts, but the overall project had become a pure comedy series
with the same style of humor as Tiny Toons
and Animaniacs. This actually led
to some criticism from comic book creator Mike
Allred who felt the character was a direct lift of his Madman; from his
appearance right down to personality. Timm had admitted that Madman served as an inspiration for his
initial idea, and Allred was incensed over the lack of credit or compensation
when the show finally came out. As Madman
was an amalgamation of multiple influences himself, Allred didn’t pursue
any action outside of sending Spielberg a letter about his displeasure.
|Original Freakazoid concept art.
Ruegger compiled a collection of
short story segments for the series, but Spielberg, while liking Ruegger’s
offerings, wanted longer ones as well. Ruegger recruited writers John McCann
and Paul Rugg to develop those longer stories and help figure out what exactly Freakazoid! was going to be.
was about 16-year-old geek Dexter Douglas (David Kaufman) who had just
gotten a new Pinnacle
for his computer. Unknown to him, the chip had a flaw that when someone entered
in the code string “@[=g3,8d]\&fbb=-q]/hk%fg” (which was entered by his
cat, Mr. Chubbukins [Frank Welker], walking on the keyboard) and hit “delete”
(which Dexter did), the user would be absorbed into cyberspace where they would
become infused with all the knowledge of the internet, given super powers, and
be very silly with questionable sanity—or, a Freakazoid (Rugg, who won the role
after Spielberg liked his demonstration of the voice they were looking for).
Freakazoid possessed a variety of powers, including super strength, endurance,
speed, agility, hearing (he once traveled across the globe to yell at a Tibetan
monk for raking too loud), and could travel instantaneously by turning into a
lightning bolt. However, Freakazoid’s primary method of travel was sticking his
arms outward while running and making swooshing sounds, pretending to fly.
Freakazoid could switch to and from his alter ego by saying “freak out” or
“freak in.” Freakazoid’s perception of himself varied between episodes, as both
he and Dexter would be regarded as the same person sometimes, and other times
regarded as completely different individuals (Freakazoid would spend
Dexter-time in an area of his brain called the Freakazone where he would
reflect, have profound thoughts, and watch reruns of The
|Dexter with Duncan and Mr. Chubbikins.
In Dexter’s life, he lived with his
family in Washington, DC. Debbie (Tress MacNeille) was Dexter’s clueless mother
who served as a parody of a stereotypical domestic type and often delivered
lines on morose subjects in a cheery tone. Dexter’s father, Douglas (McCann),
was an automobile dealer who believed a goblin lived in his gas tank and was a
generally inept father figure. His older brother, Duncan (Googy Gress), was a
bully towards Dexter and portrayed as a stereotypical jock. Dexter attended Harry Connick, Jr.
|Freakazoid with Cosgrove and Professor Jones.
Over in Freakazoid’s life, he had
his mentor, Roddy
Ferguson, after the producers failed to get Mike Myers),
an ill-tempered Scotsman who worked for the company that produced the Pinnacle Chip
and trained Freakazoid in the use of his powers. Freakazoid’s best friend was
Sgt. Mike Cosgrove (Edward Asner), a stone-faced monotoned police officer who
often interrupted Freakazoid’s adventures to invite him to hang out somewhere
and could put a stop to almost any situation by pointing and sternly saying
“Cut that out.” Cosgrove was originally intended to be a one-time character by
McCann, but Rugg liked him and brought him back as a regular. Freakazoid’s
girlfriend was the perky blonde Stephanie (Tracy Rowe). Steff was a classmate
of Dexter’s and viewed him as a creep, unaware that she was technically dating
him. Steff sometimes participated in Freakazoid’s adventures and displayed a
technical prowess. Occasionally, when Freakazoid was portrayed as a Batman
parody complete with gadgets, vehicles and a Freakalair, Freakazoid had a mute
butler named Ingmar
(a combination of Zorro’s
mute manservant Bernardo
and Batman’s butler Alfred
Pennyworth). When Ingmar quit to become a rodeo clown, he was
replaced by Professor
Jones (created specifically for Jonathan Harris,
who essentially reprised his role of Dr. Smith from Lost
in Space). A running gag would feature someone
asking Jones if he was “on a TV show with a robot.” Professor
Gilbert) was a scientist often attacked by monsters at his
lab who helped Freakazoid out on occasion.
|Longhorn, Invisibo, cyborg Gutierrez, Waylon Jeepers, Candle Jack, The Lobe, Cobra Queen and Cave Guy.
A superhero isn’t much without a
selection of supervillains, and Freakazoid had his share of enemies as wacky as
he was. His most frequent sparring partner was The Lobe (David Warner), a super
genius whose entire head was a giant brain. Other foes included Royce Mumphry,
aka Cave Guy (Jeff Bennett, impersonating Jim Backus),
a blue caveman with upper-class diction, education and taste who spoke in a
tone; Audrey Manatee, aka Cobra Queen (MacNeille), a former shoplifter who was
transformed by an experimental cosmetic left in the sun too long that gave her
command over reptiles, as well as their general appearance; Jubal “Bull” Nixon,
a former cat litter company employee who turned to crime with his sidekick, Turk
and had plastic surgery to turn himself into a Texas Longhorn Steer (Timm’s
pitch had him be a strongman in a bull costume) in order to evade law
enforcement (which didn’t work as he was still featured on America’s
Most Wanted every
Kincaid), a parody of The Predator,
who sought to kidnap all the nerds in the world to absorb their knowledge and
become a super-nerd; Ahmon Kor-Unch, aka Invisibo
Price), a smart-mouthed pharaoh who only appeared visible
with the Anubis staff he carried; Arms Akimbo
G. Robinson), a former model-turned-extortionist
whose years of posing left his hands permanently stuck to his hips; Candle Jack
(Bennett, impersonating Jack
Palance), a supernatural Boogeyman that abducted anyone who
said his name and enjoyed watching F
Jeepers (a play on country singer Waylon Jennings,
voiced by Bennett), a creepy little man whose Medusa Watch could turn people
(and pigeons) to stone and book, How to
Summon Monsters the E-Z Way, allowed him to summon the demon Vorn
the Unspeakable (Richard Moll);
a plain-looking and monotoned shape-shifter; Janos Ivnovels
the ruthless dictator of the fictional country of Vuka Nova; Dr. Mystico
a mad scientist who turned orangutans into human-like creatures and vice versa;
Kid Carrion (Bennet), a zombie cowboy who resembled Tex Hex
from the show Bravestarr (and was part of
Timm’s original pitch); and Mary Beth (a play on cosmetics giant Mary Kay, voiced by
MacNeille), a cosmetics executive who transformed into a monster when angered
and sought to absorb Freakazoid’s hero essence to remain immortal.
|Gutierrez in his Freakazoid form.
Freakazoid’s arch-nemesis was Armando
Montalban), the eye-patched man who ran the company responsible
for the Pinnacle Chip. Gutierrez sought to exploit the flaw of the chip for his
own gain and ignored MacStew’s warnings about it. Eventually, Gutierrez was
able to access the flaw and became a dark version of Freakazoid (however,
maintaining his sanity) until Freakazoid knocked him into a cyber-pit. He
returned as a cyborg to vex Freakazoid again. Gutierrez took umbrage to being
called a weenie and usually demanded people laugh (and, in one instance,
scream) with him. Gutierrez resembled Montalban, and his mannerisms were based
on Montalban’s character of Kahn
Noonien Singh from Star
Trek II: Wrath of Kahn.
main henchman was Jocko (Rugg), an inarticulate caricature of first season
|Freakazoid, Steff, Douglas Douglas, Sgt. Cosgrove, Emmit Neverend and The Lawn Gnomes.
Other characters included Mo-Ron
(later Bo-Ron after the network feared the first name might be offensive,
voiced by Stan
Freberg), an obese and dimwitted alien from the planet Barone
(named after the production’s favorite pizza restaurant, Barone’s); Fanboy
an obese and zit-faced socially awkward fanboy that wanted to be Freakazoid’s
sidekick; Hero Boy (McCann, using a voice he had originally conceived for
another character), a parody of Astro Boy
and star of Freakazoid’s favorite TV show who inspired Freakazoid with his
catchphrase “I must succeed!” (even though Hero Boy had no powers and was often
shrugged off by whatever foe he was facing); Paul Harvey (a caricature of the
radio-host whom Rugg had once been a programmer for, allowing him ample
opportunity to hone his impression of him), an obnoxious man who interrupted
the story to give background information on the villain or ruin the ending, and
often signed off with “And now you know the rest of the backstory. Good day!”; Emmitt Neverend,
a short, hunchbacked man with a grimace designed by Mitch Schauer
who appeared in a Where’s Waldo? fashion throughout
an episode (the credits would reveal how many times he appeared); and Weena Mercator
as The Hopping Woman, a fictional person acknowledged whenever credits were
used in an episode but never actually appeared. Joe Leahy served as the series’
narrator and commentator, often becoming an active participant in the plot and
occasionally appearing on screen as a caricature of himself.
|Fanboy, Mo-Ron, The Huntsman and Lord Bravery.
For a little variety, Freakazoid! had several other features that had their own theme songs, title cards and rarely crossed over into the main show. Lord Bravery starred Nigel Skunkithorpe, aka Lord Bravery (Bennett, impersonating John Cleese), a snooty, cynical and particularly British knight dressed like a Roman soldier. He yielded no respect from the public (or his relatives) and was generally the laughing stock of superheroes. The Huntsman starred Marty Feeb, aka The Huntsman (Bennett, impersonating Charlton Heston), a hunter who saved a chunky elf from being eaten by a crow and was rewarded a magic sack of corn that gave him super strength, speed and glistening teeth. Despite his willingness to do good, he often failed to find any crime to fight. Toby Danger was a loving parody of Johnny Quest that was originally written by Tom Minton for Animaniacs. The short starred actors who previously appeared on Quest in similar roles, including Don Messick as Dr. Vernon Danger, Granville van Dusen as bodyguard “Dash” O’Pepper, and Scott Menville as Toby. The Lawn Gnomes was a parody of Disney’s Gargoyles animated series. The gnomes were cursed by a wizard they played a prank on to turn to stone during the day until they mended their evil ways and fought alongside mankind. Fatman and Boy Blubber was a parody of the 1966 Batman television series starring the morbidly obese Fatman (Marc Drotman) and Boy Blubber (Rugg).
|Freakazoid and Norm Abram.
Rugg, who was also the writing
supervisor on the show, served as one of the primary writers alongside McCann.
Other contributors included Ruegger, Paul Dini,
Spingarn. The humor from the show relied heavily on slapstick,
parody and pop culture references. The series was metafiction, so the
characters often broke the fourth wall. For instance, one episode’s story was
interrupted so that Freakazoid, Wakko Warner
Brain (LaMarche) could argue which of their shows was
Spielberg’s (Welker) favorite (Tiny Toons
wasn’t featured, either due to their being on another network or Spielberg
citing that they existed in a universe separate from Animaniacs). Other cameo appearances included characters from various
Warner productions and celebrities, some of whom played themselves, such as Mark Hamill,
Abram (who got a whole episode centered around him). Stock
footage played a role in some of the gags, including peaceful scenes of flowers
for “Relax-O-Vision”, numerous people screaming for “Scream-O-Vision”,
traditionally-dressed Bavarians dancing and slapping each other, a man being shot by a
cannonball, and a man wrestling a bear. A running gag on the
show was Freakazoid reminiscing fondly over the many sidekicks he had that had
fallen in battle.
|Freakazoid with Wakko and Brain.
originally slated to premiere in 1994, debuted as one of the launch titles
for the new WB
Network’s Kids’ WB
Saturday morning programming block on September 9, 1995. The series’ theme was
composed by Richard
Stone with lyrics by Ruegger. Stone, along with Julie and Steven
Goodwin and Tim
Kelly scored the entirety of the series. The title sequence
was animated by Animal-ya (now Ekura
Animal), who also worked on two episodes. The rest of the
show was animated by Dong
Yang Animation, Koko
Enterprises Company, Seoul
Junio and Tama
|Freakazoid explains his ratings.
series had encountered several difficulties: it failed to attract its target
audience, netting older viewers than the children The WB wanted, and it was
frequently shifted around the network’s schedule so that it became difficult
for viewers to find. The show managed to earn a second season, but WB cancelled
it in February of 1997 before the final two episodes aired. Cartoon Network
picked up the series that April and aired it in its entirety, and continued to
rerun it until 2003. Had the show not been cancelled, the character of Freakazette,
a female version of Freakazoid who made a cameo appearance in the first
episode, would have been introduced as possibly the alter-ego of Steff. In the
years since its original airing, Freakazoid!
had earned a cult following. In 2020, Rugg, Warner, Asner and Leahy all
reprised their roles for a special
crossover episode of Teen Titans Go!
Despite its comparatively short run
to the other Warner Bros. Animation efforts at that point, Freakazoid! still managed to land Daytime Emmys
for its theme song, “Outstanding Original Song” for “Invisibo” from the episode
“Freak-a-Panel”, and “Outstanding Special Class Animated Program.” Although
Freakazoid never received his own comic series, he did make an appearance in Animaniacs
by DC Comics,
which was written by Jennifer
Moore and Sean
Carolan, who also penned the potential Freakazette script. Moore
and Carolan pitched a miniseries to DC for Freakazoid, but the idea was
abandoned when the series was cancelled. Between 2008 and 2009, Warner
Home Video released the complete series on two
season sets. The series was made available to
purchase for streaming on Amazon
Play and Vudu.
For a time, it was available to stream on Tubi
and HBO Max (now Max).
“Five Day Forecast / The Dance of Doom / Freakazoid and Friends / Handman” (9/9/95) – Freakazoid moonlights as a weatherman. / Freakazoid must rescue hostages at a school dance from Cave Guy. / Yakko, Wakko and Dot introduce Freakazoid and his cast in a modified version of their own theme song. / Freakazoid introduces his new sidekick: Handman (Freakazoid’s hand with a face drawn on it).
“Candle Jack / Toby Danger in Doomsday Bet / The Lobe” (9/16/95) – A camping trip leads to an encounter with Candle Jack, who kidnaps anyone that says his name. / The Danger family must stop a mad scientist from taking over the world. / The Lobe tries to figure out what makes Freakazoid tick with a lobotomy.
“Mo-Ron / The Sewer Rescue / The Big Question / The Legends Who Lunch” (9/23/95) – A UFO lands in Washington, DC and proves there is no intelligent life in space. / Lord Bravery is called to action in the sewer after being thrown out of his house. / Another alien arrives looking for the answer to a question of universal importance. / Retired superheroes reminisce.
“And Fanboy is His Name / Lawn Gnomes Chapter IV: Fun in the Sun / Frenching with Freakazoid” (9/30/95) – Fanboy desires to become Freakazoid’s new sidekick...no matter what. / A wizard curses the gnomes to be statues during the day until they learn to start helping others out of kindness. / Freakazoid teaches French.
“Foamy the Freakadog / Office Visit / An Ode to Leonard Nimoy / Emergency Broadcast System / Conversational Norwegian” (10/7/95) – Freakazoid reminisces about his sidekick, Foamy. / Lord Bravery discovers a bakery owns the copyright to his name. / Fanboy recites his experience obtaining an autograph from Leonard Nimoy—in rhyme. / Freakazoid conducts a test of the EBS. / Freakazoid instructs how to identify the narwhal in Norwegian.
“The Chip (Part 1)” (11/4/95) – A freak accident with a new Pinnacle Chip causes Dexter Douglas to be sucked into his computer and emerge as Freakazoid.
“The Chip (Part 2) / Freakazoid is History” (11/11/95) – Freakazoid battles Gutierrez. / Freakazoid gets sent back to Pearl Harbor during WWII.
“Hot Rods from Heck! / A Time for Evil / Freakmobile Toy Line” (11/18/95) – Freakazoid uses his Freakmobile to derail Longhorn’s plan to steal a missile with robotic hot rods. / The Huntsman wants action—and there’s none to be found. / Freakazoid enjoys a windfall from the promotion of his Freakmobile.
“Terror on the Midway / Fatman and Boy Blubber / Limbo Lock-Up / Terror Palace” (11/25/95) – The Lobe’s sinister plot conforms to Kids’ WB’s violence-reducing standards. / The flabtastic duo fight for a boy’s right to eat his lunch…until they learn what it is. / Freakazoid is arrested by the idiot police. / Huntsman responds to a false alarm.
“In Arms Way / The Cloud” (12/16/95) – Freakazoid’s Christmas shopping is put on hold to stop Arms Akimbo. / Freakazoid investigates a cloud that turns people into clowns.
“Next Time, Phone Ahead / Nerdator” (2/3/96) – Freakazoid helps a lost alien “phone home”. / An alien kidnaps nerds to steal their tech savvy.
“House of Freakazoid / Sewer or Later” (2/10/96) – A werewolf comes to Freakazoid for help in keeping from transforming. / Cobra Queen thwarts Freakazoid’s pursuit by going through the sewers.
“The Wrath of Gutierrez” (2/17/96) – Gutierrez escapes into the internet and emerges as a being similar to Freakazoid, but maintaining his sanity (if you can truly call evil sane, that is).
“Dexter’s Date” (9/7/96) – Freakazoid is forced to ask the Lobe for help in stopping random transformations so that he can enjoy his date with Steph as Dexter.
“The Freakazoid” (9/14/96) – Freakazoid must grant all requests made on his birthday, with the Lobe’s being that he doesn’t interfere with his crime spree.
“Mission: Freakazoid” (9/28/96) – Freakazoid and his friends must rescue his family from the brutal police state of Vuka Nova.
“Virtual Freak” (11/2/96) – The Lobe traps Freakazoid and Cosgrove in a game while their avatars wreak havoc in the real world.
“Hero Boy” (11/9/96) – Gutierrez captures Freakazoid and unleashes an evil clone to ruin his reputation.
“A Matter of Love” (11/16/96) – Cosgrove’s new girlfriend not only takes his time away from Freakazoid, but she also wants to take Freakazoid’s essence to maintain her youth.
“Statuesque” (11/29/96) – Waylon Jeepers summons Vorn the Unmentionable as well as imbues his watch with petrification abilities to get his revenge on Freakazoid.
“Island of Dr. Mystico” (2/7/97) – A plane with Freakazoid’s arch-villains crashes on an island where they become prey for Dr. Mystico.
“Two Against Freak” (2/14/97) – Cave Guy and Cobra Queen join forces while Freakazoid attempts to learn the art of telekinesis.
“Freak-A-Panel / Tomb of Invisibo” (5/31/97) – Freakazoid pursues Cave Guy through a comic convention. / An ancient Egyptian invisible villain has been freed to cause havoc on the world.
“Normadeus” (6/1/97) – The Lobe kidnaps Norm Abram and forces him to build a horn designed to shatter Freakazoid to bits.