Remember that one day when you could wake up without an alarm? When you would get your favorite bowl of cereal and sit between the hours of 8 and 12? This is a blog dedicated to the greatest time of our childhood: Saturday mornings. The television programs you watched, the memories attached to them, and maybe introducing you to something you didn't realize existed. Updated every weekend.
Professional wrestler Josip Nikolai Peruzovic, best known by his stage name Nikolai Volkoff, was one of the featured heel characters in Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling. Although he didn't play himself, he did make an appearance during the live segments of the show.
Taking the war on drugs to Saturday mornings, McDonald’s and Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities financed
the production of an animated special that united several cartoon characters
from various popular programs at the time. It was the biggest, most ambitious
entry in the national anti-drug campaign.
Michael and Smoke are confronted by the cartoon characters.
Written by Duane Poole and Tom Swale, with a musical
number by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue centered on teenaged Michael (Jason
Marsden) who had taken to using marijuana and stealing his father’s (Townsend
Coleman) beer. Michael’s younger sister, Corey (Lindsay Parker), grows worried
about Michael as he begins acting differently. When Michael steals Corey’s
piggy bank for money to buy more drugs, the various cartoon character items in
her room came to life to help her track it down and then to convince Michael to
abandon his drug habits. But they have their work cut out for them when Michael
is constantly influenced by the living smoke creature aptly-named Smoke (named
on the VHS but never in the actual special, voiced by George C. Scott making
his voice-acting debut).
Smoke and Pooh battle for Corey's soul.
included Papa Smurf (Don Messick), Brainy Smurf (Danny Goldman) and Hefty Smurf
(Frank Welker) from The Smurfs who
emerges from a comic book (Smurfette appeared in promotional artwork but not in
the special); ALF (Paul Fusco) from ALF: The Animated Serieswho emerges from a picture; Alvin,
Simon (both Ross Bagdasarian) and Theodore (Janice Karman) from Alvin and the Chipmunkswho came off of a record sleeve;
Garfield (Lorenzo Music) from Garfield and Friendsas a lamp; Winnie the Pooh (a stuffed
animal) and Tigger (both Jim Cummings) from The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh;
Babies Kermit (as an alarm clock, voiced by Welker), Piggy (Laurie O’Brien) and
Gonzo (Russi Taylor) from Muppet Babies; Michelangelo
(Coleman) from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles(who was left off of promotional
material); Huey, Dewey and Louie (all Taylor) from DuckTales(replacing the proposed use of Mickey
Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy); Slimer (also Welker) from The Real Ghostbusters; and Looney
Tunes Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck (both Jeff Bergman, marking the first time
either character wasn’t voiced by the recently-deceased Mel Blanc). Because of the
public service nature of the project, the characters’ various license-holders
granted royalty-free access to them.
You know you're high when the smoke starts to smile at you.
Vista Home Video handled the home releases of the special, which featured
an introduction by then-American President George
H. W. Bush and First Lady Barbara
Bush. These tapes were made available both at McDonald’s restaurants and
for free rentals at libraries. To promote the film, pamphlets were distributed
in McDonald’s restaurants and Barbara Bush recorded several television
commercials. However, advertisements for it were careful to underplay the anti-drug
angle and instead play-up the crossing over of so many favorite characters.
Retailer promo for the VHS release.
Over the next year, the special was translated and played in various
international markets. In most countries, that nation’s leader introduced the
special in place of the President: Prime Minister Bob
Hawke for Australia, Prime Minister Jim Bolger for New Zealand,
Prime Minister Brian
Mulroney for Canada, and President Carlos Salinas
de Gortari for Mexico.
Filling the void of
pirate media before Johnny Depp, Bill Kopp developed Mad Jack the Pirate. The series followed the adventures of Mad Jack
(Kopp), a cowardly, clumsy, inept, disgrace of a pirate who was convinced of
his own superiority in everything. He captained The Sea Chicken with his faithful anthropomorphic rat first mate,
Snuk (Billy West). Snuk was only marginally smarter than Jack, and never
hesitated to point out his captain’s shortcomings. The pair always set out in
search of buried treasure or to claim a reward but were often thwarted by
circumstances and their own ineptitude.
Jack, Snuk and The Sea Chicken.
Initially, Mad Jack
was to be named Red Hook until Kopp discovered that a beer company was already using the name and
wanted to avoid any issues. The inspiration for the show came from the British
comedy series Blackadder, which followed
a man bumbling through various periods in history. Kopp set the series on an
alternate flat Earth-like planet where he could be fast and loose with history
and create unpredictable events. That meant the inclusion of anachronistic
things like cars, cameras and movies. While Jack and Snuk were the principal
characters, a variety of other equally bizarre characters made appearances with
frequent vocal contributions by Jess
Harnell, Robert Pike Daniel,
Tom Kenny, Charlie Adler, Cam Clarke, Sandy Fox, Brad
Garrett, Kevin Meaney, Valery Pappas and April Winchell.
Mad Jack...the movie?
Mad Jack the Pirate debuted on FOX’s
Fox Kids programming block
on September 12, 1998. Most of the episodes contained two segments apiece. Fox
Kids was at this point owned by Saban
Entertainment, who had a hand in producing the show with Fox Arts Animation
Studios and Bill Kopp Productions. Kopp served as a producer and voice
director, as well as wrote the majority of the scripts. Other writing was done
by Steve Ochs (who also
contributed some voice work), Huub
Dikstaal (who also directed two segments) and Martin Olson. The show’s outlandish
characters were designed by David Mucci
Fassett (credited as simply Mucci) and was animated overseas by Fil-Cartoons,
Inc.Shuki Levy, Haim Saban (as Kussa Mahchi) and Deddy Tzur composed the music.
Talk about a captive interview.
Jack was paired with fellow Saban property, The Secret Files of the Spy Dogs, during its original run on the
network. However, while Spy Dogs went
on to have a shorter second season, Mad
Jack was ultimately cancelled due to poor ratings and was replaced the following
fall by The New Woody Woodpecker Show. Its
removal marked the last time it was seen in North American markets. The show
has seen home media releases in Eastern Europe by Prooptiki and Turkey by Kanal D Home Video
and has aired on Jetix
Play in Turkey, following Disney’s
2001 acquisition of Saban Entertainment, and Fox Kids in Poland.
“The Terrifying Sea Witch Incident” (9/12/98) – Jack escapes the
island of the Three Witches with fellow prisoner Snuk in order to avoid
marrying the lake monster.
“The Curse of the Blue Karbunkle” (9/19/98) – Jack and Snuk have to go
to the Isle of the Biclops to acquire a sword to defeat a dragon guarding a
“Of Zerzin, Fleebis, Queues and Cures / A Knight to Dismember”
(9/26/98) – Jack tries to stay ahead of Mr. Death and get a cure for his
ailment. / Jack takes a knight on a quest to rescue a princess but ends up
having to rescue the knight himself.
“The Strange Case of Angus Dagnabbit / Lights, Camera – Snuk!”
(10/3/98) – Jack manages to trick Angus out of his Golden Haggis, but Angus’
ghost returns to reclaim it. / After seeing a film, Jack heads to a movie
studio to educate them about real piracy.
“Happy Birthday to Who? / Shipwhacked” (10/24/98) – Snuk takes Jack to
an amusement park only he enjoys for Jack’s birthday. / Snuk causes them to be
shipwrecked and Jack has a hard time coping with it.
“The Horror of Draclia” (10/31/98) – Jack and Snuk attempt to steal
Count Draclia’s golden wand, but Draclia was expecting and gets the drop on
“The Treasure of the Headless, Left-Handed, Peatmoss Salesman / 999
Delights” (11/7/98) – Jack and Snuk end up arrested before their next quest and
placed in the DMMV. / Jack steals a magic wand to go on a quest to find the
“The Alarming Snow Troll Encounter / The Case of the Crabs” (11/14/98)
– Jack and Snuk end up captured by the Snow Trolls after trying to retrieve
their ice cream maker from them. / Jack and Snuk are captured by the
Crustacians while searching for a pink pearl on the seabed.
“Jack the Dragon Slayer / Captain Snuk” (12/12/98) – Jack sets out to
rescue a princess from a dragon for a reward, only to find out the pair have
fallen in love. / When an old enemy comes for Jack, he switches places with
“The Island of Pink and Fuzzy / Uncle Mortimer” (2/6/99) – Jack and
Snuk head to an island of cuteness for a treasure that ends up being cursed. /
To receive his inheritance from his uncle, Jack must take Scabby Doo to the
isle of Hanna Barberians while avoiding his uncle’s ghost.
“The Great Kapow! / The Snuk, the Mad and the Ugly” (2/13/99) – A
starving Jack and Snuk are fed by island natives, not knowing they’re being
fattened as sacrifices. / While in jail their cellmate tells Jack and Snuk
about a treasure in the desert.
“Attack of the Man-Eating, Green Gorillas / The Johnny of the Lamp”
(2/20/99) – Jack finds a treasure shortly before being kidnapped by an old
classmate. / Jack tries to reclaim his magic lamp from a sea monster only to be
eaten by it along with Snuk and Angus.
“Mad Jack and the Beanstalk / The Curse of the Mummy’s Toe” (2/27/99)
– Beans taken by Snuk in a con end up growing a giant beanstalk. / Jack
narrowly escapes a death trap only to be arrested for theft.
When one thinks of Mr.
Fred McFeely Rogers, it’s natural to assume that the first thing that comes to
mind is Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood;
the innovative children’s program that aired for over 33 years on PBS. But, there were actually two programs that
preceded and would set the foundations for what Neighborhood would become. And one of them was on Saturday morning.
Pies to the face helped drive Mr. Rogers into television.
Mr. Rogers had
intended to enter the seminary after school, but on a trip home he was
introduced to a new device: television. Mr. Rogers was both fascinated and
dismayed by the concept; feeling that it could be a valuable tool in educating
children but seeing that the current crop of children’s programming was more
interested in pure slapstick. From that point on, Mr. Rogers decided to go into
television and try to change it from within.
Josie, Fred and Daniel.
When Mr. Rogers moved to Pittsburgh in 1953, mayor David L. Lawrence had just established public television station WQED. Mr. Rogers joined the station a month after his future collaborator,
Josie Carey. Under the stewardship of station manager Dorothy Daniels, Mr.
Rogers and Carey were part of a handful of people prepping the station for its
launch the following year. Among the ideas they were allowed to pitch was a
children’s program where they would entertain and educate kids and program some
free short films. The program was greenlit with Carey hosting and Mr. Rogers
producing, playing the music, and acquiring the films. The night before the
station went to air, Daniels gave Mr. Rogers a tiger sock puppet that he and Carey
Striped (pronounced “Stripe-ed”) Tiger after her.
Fred behind the set.
Corner debuted on WQED on April 5, 1954. The program was a low-budgeted affair
at $150 per week, with that whole amount going towards Mr. Rogers’ and Carey’s
salaries, and only having a single yellow legal pad to work off of for the year.
Anything else they needed came from their pockets. The studio layout wasn’t very
well thought out, with an area for guests being on the other side of the
building while the organ for the music was across the studio itself. Often, Mr.
Rogers would have to run from his place behind the set to the organ and back again,
which necessitated his wearing the sneakers he would become known for later on.
Mr. Rogers often had on-screen roles as well, interacting or dancing with Carey
as various characters.
Daniel Tiger in his clock.
It wasn’t intended for puppets to appear on the program
at first. A clock was drawn onto the canvas backdrop of the set where a bird
was intended to pop out of and deliver a random fact along with the time. When the bird failed, Mr.
Rogers and Carey decided to use Daniel as a replacement for what would have been a one-time thing. However, he became a hit with the audience. Puppetry and improvisation
became a hallmark of the program, which was originally intended to be centered
around Carey singing and introducing whatever films Mr. Rogers could acquire. But
gradually, Daniel would appear more and have improvised conversations with
Carey. She never knew what the puppets were going to do, and Mr. Rogers never
knew what she was going to do. The entire program was unscripted beyond a
general idea of where they intended an episode to go.
Fred and Josie with Henrietta, X and Daniel.
Gradually, more puppets were added to the program.
The next came King
Friday XIII, whose name was a play on the superstition everyone had about the date. A
contest was held during his debut to figure out what kingdom he should be the
king of, and a little boy won a chance to appear on the program after writing
in that his name suggested he should be King of Calendar Land. Then came X the
Owl, sent to the program by a puppet company, whose home was
“grown” on the set by taping an acorn to the bottom of the backdrop and the art department
drawing his tree in various stages over the course of a week; Lady
Elaine Fairchilde, a unique, self-confident and eccentric woman; Henrietta
Pussycat, who would constantly say “meow” as she talked; and the French Grandpere.
Each one was infused with their own personality, which were by extension aspects
of Mr. Rogers’ own.
Josie and Fred entertain visitors with The Attic cast.
frequently have guests scheduled, such as a member of the symphony or the
caretaker of the local zoo, to talk about and the teach the audience about
their jobs. They also had appearances by celebrities, including Johnny Carson before he became a
household name, Shirley Jones, Van Cliburn and Peanutscreator Charles
M. Schulz. Because the program was aired live, it was subject to a few
mishaps during its run. Sometimes the guests would run short on their expected
time or one of the films would break, which is when the puppets would come in
to interact with Carey to fill in the remaining time. The rest of the time
Carey would read books to the audience or sing, teach foreign languages and various
other educational things. There were also recurring inanimate object characters
and a poetry-speaking puppet mouse in a segment called “The Attic” that were
voiced by Carey, Mr. Rogers, his wife, and other members of the crew. It was
the only part of the program that was fully scripted, mostly by Carey.
Information about the TTT.
Part of the promotion for the program included the
Tame Tiger Torganization; a mail-in club that children could join and earn
stripes for doing various prescribed good deeds. On July 12th, Carey
and Mr. Rogers decided to make that Daniel’s birthday and held a contest where
kids could come to the studio and attend a party for him. However, to be
eligible, they needed to earn their fourth stripe by memorizing the club song, “Je Suis un Tigre Apprivoisé”
(meaning: “I Am a Tame Tiger”). It was then that Carey and Mr. Rogers learned just
how popular their program was as a long line of children and their parents
were outside the studio the day of the party. Corner was one of the most-watched and best-loved programs at WQED
at the time, enjoyed by children and adults both.
Celebrating King Friday's birthday every Friday the 13th.
In 1955, NBC
Ann came to Pittsburgh to preview a program Dr. Benjamin Spock was
doing on WQED to see if it could be brought to the network. While there, she
caught Corner, fell in love with the
program, and presented it to the network. They contacted Carey and Mr. Rogers
about bringing the program to New York. The only hitch was they had to
be ready to air in four weeks to cover Paul Winchell’s vacation from The Paul Winchell program. NBC built
them a new set and larger versions of their puppets. They had to change some of
their routines as they couldn’t read books on the air without clearance, they
couldn’t have guests come on, and certain songs were forbidden because they felt
they sounded too much like other songs. They also had to hire additional crew
due to union rules; which included a dresser for Henrietta, two additional musicians,
and five stage hands. However, because of the nature of the program, none of
them had any actual work to do.
The Children's Corner set grows and becomes more elaborate.
on NBC Saturday mornings on August 20, 1955. It ran for four weeks, the duration
of Winchell’s vacation, and received a tremendous audience response. That
prompted NBC to find a permanent place for them and brought the program back that
December. Carey and Mr. Rogers determined they needed to remain at WQED because
their program was the one making the station the most money, and their leaving
for any period of time would be detrimental. They would commute from Pittsburgh
on Friday for a production meeting, do the program on Saturday and then return later
that day after filming so that Mr. Rogers could attend Sunday services at his
Josie and Fred open fan mail with Henry Massucci.
Despite the program’s continued success on the network,
an internal conflict arose between the Public Service Department, which they
were part of, and the Children’s Department. Both wanted to claim the program
and neither wanted to give it up, which prevented them from getting sponsors
for the program. NBC cancelled the program after 39 weeks on April 28, 1956.
Unfortunately, Carey and Mr. Rogers didn’t get to enjoy their brief network
success for long as the company who sent them X to use on the program decided
to sue them for a payday, claiming they stole their puppet. They ultimately
settled out of court.
The Neighborhood of Make Believe, home to Mr. Rogers' puppet friends.
for 8 years, coming to a conclusion in 1961. Carey at this time had numerous
commercial commitments which often led her to be late to the start of filming
for Corner. She hosted Josie’s Storyland and Funsville for KDKA before heading
to South Carolina to star in Wheee! Mr.
Rogers was approached by the Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation to develop a 15-minute children’s program that would feature
Mr. Rogers on screen. He moved to Toronto with his friend Ernie Coombs as his puppeteer
assistant. Coombs had previously worked on Corner
in the art department and often covered for Carey when she was late for
filming. Misterogers ran from 1963-66
and introduced many of the set pieces Mr. Rogers would use on his later program,
as well as featured several appearances by Carey. Wanting to raise his children
in the United States, Mr. Rogers bought the rights to Misterogers and returned to WQED to make Neighborhood, which ran from 1968-2001. Coombs stayed in Canada to serve as his replacement in the shows Butternut Squareand Mr. Dressup.
Although the quality of The Children’s Corner was undeniable, it still skewed a bit sillier
than Mr. Rogers was happy with. It wasn’t until he was able to produce and do Neighborhood that his pure vision for
television came to light. For over three decades, he spoke to children about
issues other children’s shows shied away from and did it without any of the
chaos and spectacle his contemporaries employed. Following his death in 2003,
his production company, Family Communications, Inc., renamed themselves Fred Rogers Productions and began
producing new family-oriented programs. Amongst them is the animated Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,
which features the puppet characters and their children in the Neighborhood of Make