October 24, 2021

JOANNA CAMERON DEAD AT 70

 



You can read the full story here.


She starred as Isis on The Secrets of Isis and on Shazam! (1975).

October 23, 2021

THE NIGHTMARE ROOM

 
THE NIGHTMARE ROOM
(The WB, August 31, 2001-March 16, 2002)
 
Parachute Entertainment, Tollin/Robbins Productions, Warner Bros. Television
 
 
MAIN CAST:
James Avery – R.L. Stine

 
            With his hit franchise Goosebumps winding down along with the expiration of his contract with Scholastic, author R.L. Stine was looking to the future. Parachute Publishing, a book packager co-founded by his wife Jane Stine, and HarperCollins secured a deal for him to produce two new book series: Goosebumps Gold and The Nightmare Room. Ultimately Gold, which would have been a limited run series of sequels to prior stories, was dead on arrival due to legal disputes between Scholastic and Parachute.

There's something creepy about Dylan's doll.


            The Nightmare Room was similar to the Goosebumps books in that it was an anthology series of kids being terrorized. The key difference was that the books were made for an older audience and featured darker content and unhappy endings as a result. Each book also had an introduction to the characters and story as if Stine were addressing the reader directly. Another unfortunate difference between the series was that this one only lasted for 15 entries. Despite HarperCollins’ aggressive marketing for the books, sales never quite reached that Goosebumps level. Stine posited in interviews that Nightmare Room ended up being overlooked because it was too similar to Goosebumps and came too soon after that series’ end.

A lie brings Sting crashing through the walls!


            Also looking to recapture Goosebumps’ success on television, a new series based on Nightmare Room was put into production by Parachute, Tollin/Robbins Productions and Warner Bros. Television. Like its predecessor, the series was a live-action anthology that took the majority of its stories straight out of the books, with the exception of four episodes that were based on an idea from a particular book rather than the whole thing. Along with subtle changes made to compensate for the shift in medium and to keep the book’s audience guessing, each adapted episode also featured at least one character whose gender was swapped. Appearing on the show were some notable and recognizable names, including Amanda Bynes (The Amanda Show), Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm Street franchise), Keiko Agena (Gilmore Girls), Sam Jones III & Allison Mack (Smallville), Frankie Muniz & Justin Berfield (Malcolm in the Middle), Tippi Hedren (The Birds), Danielle Fishel & Betsy Randle (Boy Meets World), Drake Bell (Drake & Josh), Angus Scrimm (Phantasm series), Brenda Song (Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior), Steve “Sting” Borden, Lindsay Felton (Caitlin’s Way), Shia LaBeaouf & A..J. Trauth (Even Stevens), David Naughton (An American Werewolf in London), Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory), David Carradine (King Fu), and twins Dylan and Cole Sprouse (The Suite Life of Zack and Cody).



            The Nightmare Room debuted on The WB on August 31, 2002. The first two episodes aired on Friday afternoon as part of the Toonami on Kids’ WB programming block, then aired on the Saturday morning Kids’ WB-proper starting on September 15th for the remainder of its run. It was the first and only live-action show to be aired on both Kids’ WB and Toonami. Stine’s introductions were carried over in the form of a narration during the opening and at the end of each episode, making the show very similar to The Twilight Zone in that respect. Although the narrator credited himself as Stine, it was actually James Avery of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fame. Stine did serve as an executive producer along with his wife. The series was written by Paul Bernbaum, Naomi Janzen, Scott Murphy, Richard Rossner, Lee Goldberg and Bill Rabkin, with Robin Bianchi and Becky Claassen serving as script supervisors. Costumes were designed by Robin Michel Bush, and the music was composed by Josh Kramon and Kristopher Carter.



            Without a book series to support it, The Nightmare Room came to an end with a single season of 13 episodes; but not before being nominated for an Emmy Award for sound editing in 2002. In 2013, Nightmare Room returned to television when it was rerun on the now-defunct horror channel Chiller. To date, only 8 episodes have been released between two DVDs in 2002 from Warner Archive: Camp Nowhere and Scareful What you Wish For. The series hasn’t been made available to stream from official sources, however episodes can be found online in various quality.
 
 
 
EPISODE GUIDE:
“Don’t Forget Me” (8/31/01) – Danielle and Peter’s family’s new house comes with ghosts in the basement seeking to lure in children, causing them to be forgotten by anyone.
 
“Scareful What You Wish For” (8/31/01) – A birthday magician’s spell ends up bringing Dylan’s favorite doll to life.
 
“The Howler” (9/29/01) – Three kids find a device that lets them communicate with ghosts, not knowing the ghosts want to possess their bodies.
 
“Tangled Web” (10/6/01) – When a teacher believes everything habitual liar Josh says, his lies start coming true.
 
“Fear Games” (10/13/01) – Five teenagers end up on a survival reality game show where they must deal with a psychotic witch haunting the island they’re on.
 
“School Spirit” (10/20/01) – A group of students in detention must help keep the memory of a teacher haunting the school alive.
 
“Full Moon Halloween” (10/27/01) – Five friends become suspicious that one of them is a werewolf when they hear one is loose in their town.
 
“Four Eyes” (12/1/01) – Jeremy’s new glasses apparently have given him the ability to see the aliens that have been secretly living among humans to plot their invasion.
 
“Locker 13” (12/8/01) – Luke’s worries about getting an unlucky locker are alleviated when he finds a good luck charm, at least until he learns he must pay for his good luck with his life.
 
“Dear Diary, I’m Dead” (2/2/02) – Alex discovers a diary that predicts the future…and his death.
 
“My Name is Evil” (2/23/02) – Getting made a fool of on his birthday begins good-natured Morgan’s slow descent towards evil.
 
“Camp Nowhere (Part 1)” (3/9/02) – Four campers find themselves at a summer camp that has been suspended in time by a Native America spirit.
 
“Camp Nowhere (Part 2)” (3/16/02) – The four campers try to figure out a way to deal with the spirit and free the camp and its inhabitants.

October 22, 2021

PETER SCOLARI DEAD AT 66

 



You can read the full story here.


Depending on your age, you probably knew him best as half of the Bosom Buddies, an opportunistic showbiz person on Newhart, or the TV patriarch of the Honey I Shrunk the Kids franchise. He also had a small voice acting portion to his career where he played a driver and Wilford Wolf in two episodes of Animaniacs (1993); John Hamner and The Shark/ Gunther Hardwicke in two episodes of Batman: The Animated Series; recurring character Preston Vogel in Gargoyles; Weird Guy and Mr. Perfect in two episodes of Pinky and the Brain; and Professor Higginson in What’s New, Scooby-Doo?







October 20, 2021

JACK ANGEL DEAD AT 90

 


You can read the full story here.


He played Flash, Hawkman, Samurai and several smaller characters in The All-New Super Friends Hour, Challenge of the Super Friends, Super Friends (1981), SuperFriends: The Legendary Super Powers Show and The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians; Donald Blake, Man Mountain Marko and Moe in Spider-Man (1981); Dr. Zachary Darret in Pole Position; Dr. Aeolis in Challenge of the GoBots; Miguel Alonso, Lord Carfax, Andrew, Miyan, Archbishop, Emmett Benton, Beldrix’ manager, Carfax guards and a conman in Jem; Professor Chin in Denver, the Last Dinosaur; Robert Mullins, Eucrates Cookson and Olook in Peter Pan and the Pirates; Rex-1 and LEX in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987); The Liquidator, Moloculo Macawber and a robber in Darkwing Duck; Cro-Magnum PI in Raw Toonage; Oniro and a computer in Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm; Nick Fury in Spider-Man: The Animated Series; and Old Man Year Before That and Old Man Year Before Year Before That in ChalkZone.

 

He also provided voices for Meatballs and Spaghetti, Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour, Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, The New Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, The Smurfs, Alvin & the Chipmunks (1983), The Dukes, Snorks, CBS Storybreak, Dino-Riders, Kid ‘n’ Play, Tiny Toon Adventures, The Wizard of Oz (1990), Back to the Future: The Animated Series, Where’s Waldo?, Space Cats, ProStars, Super Dave: Daredevil for Hire, Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa, All-New Dennis the Menace and Casper (1996).


October 16, 2021

GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE CEREAL


GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE CEREAL
 
General Mills
 
 
            Since the release of Ghostbusters II, fans had been eagerly awaiting the third installment of the franchise. For years news circulated about co-creator Dan Aykroyd’s script called Ghostbusters III: Hellbent, which would focus on a new group of younger Ghostbusters and take the team to a hellish version of New York. But while the studio was interested, his fellow castmates were not. 2009’s Ghostbusters: The Video Game would recycle many elements from that script, and became considered the equivalent of the third film as all of the principal cast returned to voice their respective characters (save Sigourney Weaver and a then-retired Rick Moranis). A true third film remained in various staged of development, even following the untimely death of co-creator Harold Ramis. Ultimately, a 2016 reboot was what made it to the screen, directed by Paul Feig and featuring an all-female starring cast. It received a lukewarm response from the fandom and general audiences.



            Then, news came of a new film connected to the original ones directed by Jason Reitman, the son of original director Ivan Reitman who would serve as a producer. Similarly to Hellbent, Ghostbusters: Afterlife would focus on a new group of kids that become embroiled in the world of supernatural after two of them moved into their grandfather’s old house in the Midwest and discovered a crop of old Ghostbusters gear. The film stars Mckenna Grace as Phoebe, Finn Wolfhard as her brother Trevor, Carrie Coon as their mother Callie, Paul Rudd as Phoebe’s Ghostbusters-knowledgeable teacher, Logan Kim as Phoebe’s classmate Podcast and Celeste O’Connor as Trevor’s classmate Lucky. The surviving original cast sans Moranis (who came out of retirement too late to be included) make appearances in cameo roles. Originally meant to released on July 10, 2020, it was delayed several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic before getting a final release date of November 19, 2021.

The family size edition.


            As part of the marketing promotion for the film, General Mills introduced a limited-edition cereal based on it that hit store shelves around April and May of 2021 in a regular and family size. This would be the first time a Ghostbusters-themed cereal has been seen in grocery stores since Ralston’s version ended production some decades prior (however, Funko did release two as part of their POP! Cereal Series in 2019). As the movie ties into the prior films, this cereal pays homage to the original with the inclusion of ghost-shaped marshmallows and red coloring for the fruity-flavored cereal pieces; however, the “no” logo was foregone in favor of generic rounded puffs. Additionally, there were blue marshmallows meant to represent the film’s new ghost, Muncher.

Trivia!


            The box for Ghostbusters: Afterlife Cereal featured elements representative of the new film decorating it. The primary no-ghost logo was the weathered and bolted logo used in the film’s marketing, and the Mini-Pufts that made their debut in a teaser are seen below the cereal bowl being blasted by a proton stream, as well as on the side and back of the box. In the original promo images for the box, the Mini-Pufts were absent, the stream was purple, and the Muncher marshmallows were colored green; a further homage to the original’s Slimer marshmallows. The back also featured Muncher, neon outlines of the equipment, Mr. Stay Puft and a terror dog, and trivia questions.

BUNSEN IS A BEAST

 

BUNSEN IS A BEAST
(Nickelodeon, Nicktoons, January 6, 2017-Februay 9, 2018)
 
Billionfold, Inc., Nickelodeon Animation Studio

 
 
MAIN CAST:
Jeremy Rowley – Bunsen Beast, Mr. Munroe, Jerk Von Handsome, Amazing Eric, various
Ben Giroux – Mikey Morrice Munroe, Bog Beast, various 
Kari Wahlgren – Amanda Killman, Beverly, Sophie Sanders, Mrs. Munroe, various


 
 
            Bunsen is a Beast was the fourth and final show created by Butch Hartman during his tenure at Nickelodeon. The series centered on a blue monster named Bunsen (Jeremy Rowley) who decided to attend the human Muckledunk Middle School in an effort to show that monsters and humans could peacefully co-exist. He was befriended by Mikey (Ben Giroux) who helped Bunsen try to navigate the human world while also being introduced to the Monster World. Plaguing them every step of the way was classmate Amanda Killman (Kari Wahlgren), who thoroughly believed that monsters were dangerous and did whatever she could to prove it from sabotaging their ambitions to slipping Bunsen some beets to force him to turn into a more monstrous form. Despite their constant clashes, Mikey and Bunsen do try to help Amanda out of jams she may end up in and Amanda had a secret crush on Mikey.

Bunsen keeping an eye on Mikey.


            Other characters included Beverly (Wahlgren), Amanda’s right-hand preschooler henchwoman that helped in her schemes; Sophie Sanders (Wahlgren using a Valley girl accent), Mikey’s crush; Wolfie (Kevin Michael Richardson), Bunsen’s best beast friend; Miss Flapp (Cheri Oteri), Bunsen’s teacher; Commander Cone (Jerry Trainor), a miserable ice cream vendor; Darcy (Cristina Milizia), a home-schooled socially awkward friend of Mikey and Bunsen’s that sometime tagged along with them; and Mikey and Bunsen’s parents (voiced by Rowley & Wahlgren and Jennifer Hale & Jeff Bennett, respectively).

Amanda glowers on as Bunsen and Mikey stand with their classmates.


            Bunsen is a Beast debuted on Nickelodeon with a preview on January 16, 2017 before officially beginning on February 20th. The genesis for the series stemmed from a picture of a boy and a beast Hartman drew in 2009, which he considered for later use in a children’s book of some kind. After four years on his desk at Nickelodeon, executive Russell Hicks took notice of it and said he should pitch it for a show. The series was developed with the overlying message that “no matter who you are, you can always find a place to fit in.” This was the first of Hartman’s series to be completely animated in Flash as Nickelodeon was parsing down on the more expensive hand-drawn animation, and the first to be produced in the new dominant widescreen format. Hartman also changed up his art style for the characters’ designs, trying to give it a bit of a different feel than his previous programs. Additional characters were designed by Faruk Cemalovic, Dany Demysh and Phillip Williams. The series was written by Hartman, Ray DeLaurentis, Will Schifrin, Becky Wangberg, Bob Colleary, Grant Levy, Dominik Rothbard, Ellen Byron, Lissa Kapstrom and Max Beaudry, with DeLaurentis serving as story editor. Hartman also wrote the lyrics to the theme composed by Guy Moon, who handled the rest of the series’ music. Animation duties were handled by Elliott Animation, Inc.



            The day after the February premiere, Nickelodeon uploaded a video to their YouTube channel featuring a crossover between Hartman’s shows: The Fairly Oddparents, Danny Phantom, T.U.F.F. Puppy and Bunsen. It was followed-up by a digital comic written and drawn by Hartman with Benji Williams, Marcus Velazquez and George Goodchild depicting Hartman having to be rescued from the shows’ respective villains. Another crossover would take place within Bunsen’s show as The Fairly Oddparents’ Cosmo (Daran Norris), Wanda (Susanne Blakeslee) and Timmy (Tara Strong) appeared in the episode “Beast of Friends” under the premise that Bunsen and Cosmo had met at a convention and been friends ever since.

Bunsen and his best buds.


            After nearly 2 decades at Nickelodeon, Hartman decided to leave the company and pursue new challenges. Bunsen ended up being the shortest of his shows; having been planned for and running for only a single season. Apparently, Nickelodeon had no intention of continuing his shows without him as they also stopped production on The Fairly Oddparents. The series’ first 16 episodes aired on Nickelodeon, but then moved over to Nicktoons for the remainder of its run.  It received a nomination for an Annie Award for “Outstanding Achievement in Voice Acting” in 2018.

Bunsen when he gets extra beastly.


           A point-and-click video game based on the show, Beast Day Ever, was released on the Nickelodeon website three days before its February premiere. Another game, Arm-A-Gettin’, followed and was a full-motion collect-a-thon. A third game, Are You a Beast or a Human?, was a simple pictorial survey to indicate what kind of being you were. Bunsen would also be made a playable character in Super Brawl World, one in a series of crossover fighting games featuring various Nickelodeon characters, with Mikey as a support character. The entire series was made available for purchase on YouTube and for streaming on Paramount+.
 
 
EPISODE GUIDE:
“Hide and Go Freak / Bunsen Screams for Ice Cream” (1/16/17) – Amanda disguises herself as a beast to expose Bunsen and learns not to cross his house. / Amanda uses an ice cream truck to lure Bunsen out of school and get him expelled.
 
“Bunsen is a Beast! / Body and the Beast” (2/20/17) – Amanda spikes Bunsen’s drink with beets, turning him into a people-eating monster. / Mikey and Darcy must help Bunsen find his body before it grows a new head and destroys the world.
 
“Bearly Acceptable Behavior / Beast Busters” (2/21/17) – Amanda tries to get herself attacked by the bear Bunsen brings to class. / Mikey and Bunsen must save Amanda from the sneeze beasts that escaped from Bunsen’s nose.
 
“Spelling Beast / Mikey is a Beast” (2/22/17) – Proving bees are experts at spelling bees gets Bunsen turned into a bee. / Bunsen becomes the mascot for Mikey’s hero, but Mikey soon finds himself left out.
 
“Fright at the Museum / Handsome Beast” (2/23/17) – Finding Bunsen’s uncle in a museum, they try to sneak him out for a decade-overdue date with Bunseun’s aunt. / A body spray turns Bunsen into a human hunk that Amanda falls for.
 
“Tooth or Consequences” (2/25/17) – Amanda vows to catch the tooth fairy to keep Bunsen from becoming rich with all the teeth he loses.
 
“Beast of Friends” (3/4/17) – Bunsen is set to introduce Mikey to Cosmo on their Friend-iversary, but Amanda follows them and teams up with Mr. Crocker.
 
“Thunder and Frightening / Eyes on the Pies” (3/11/17) – Amanda seeks to use Bunsen’s fear of thunder to chase him out of school. / The hiccups causes Bunsen to lose his memory.
 
“Happy Beastgiving / Beastern Standard Time” (3/18/17) – For a beast holiday, Mikey helps Bunsen deliver dream gifts to people around town. / Daylight savings time throws off Bunsen’s internal clock.
 
“Unhappy Campers / Hall of Justice” (3/25/17) – Bunsen uses a camping trip to help Mikey get over his fear of the woods. / Amanda attempts to sabotage Mikey and Bunsen when they’re named the new hall monitors.
 
“Astro-Nots” (4/14/17) – A tour of MASA ends up with Mikey and Bunsen being accidentally blasted off into space.
 
“Cookie Monster / Braces for Disaster” (6/3/17) – When Amanda eats Bunsen’s cookies she turns into a monster. / Amanda’s braces suddenly produce a mink every time she says “beast”.
 
“Hug It Out-ch! / Guinea Some Lovin’” (6/10/17) – Amanda is trapped in Bunsen’s hugging chair and won’t be freed until she’s happy. / Amanda seeks to spoil Bunsen’s new love affair with a guinea pig.
 
“Mikey-plication / The Case of the Cold Case” (6/17/17) – Bunsen clones Mikey so that they’ll have more time for their band. / Mikey and Bunsen set out to prove that Commander Cone didn’t steal Amanda’s phone case.
 
“Bunsen’s Beast Ball / Bromeo and Juliet” (6/24/17) – Amanda swaps out Bunsen’s beast ball to keep him and Mikey from having fun. / Bunsen tries to get the lead in the school play to kiss Sophie, and Amanda sets out to spoil his chances.
 
“Beast Halloween Ever” (10/14/17) – Mikey’s excited to introduce Bunsen to Halloween while Amanda plots to steal everyone’s candy.
 
“Bunsen Saves Christmas” (12/18/17) – When Amanda ends up on the naughty list, she stuffs Santa into a gift box and steals all the toys.
 
“Beastie Besties / By Hook or By Schnook” (12/19/17) – A beast ceremony turns Amanda into Bunsen and Mikey’s best friend. / Amanda sends Bunsen and Mikey on a fake treasure hunt with a bogus map.
 
“Boodle Loo / The Boy Who Cried Wolfie” (12/20/17) – Mikey and Bunsen search for Bunsen’s invisible dog after Amanda lures him away. / Bunsen’s beast fest friend comes for a visit and discovers he likes Mikey…for dinner.
 
“Adventures in Beastysitting / Wilda Beast” (12/21/17) – A package switch leads to Mikey and Bunsen having to deliver a beast baby. / Bunsen’s cousin visits and develops a crush on Mikey, which makes Amanda jealous.
 
“Bad Chair Day / Stupor Bowl” (12/22/17) – Miss Flap changes the seating assignments, splitting Bunsen and Mikey up. / Bunsen becomes hypnotized by swirling toilet water and Amanda uses this chance to convince him to return home.
 
“Remote Outta Control / Network Newbs” (12/26/17) – Bunsen eats Amanda’s universal remote, causing her to be attacked by her smart house. / Mikey and Bunsen compete with Amanda for a segment on the local news.
 
“Amanda Gets Schooled / Beast in Show” (12/27/17) – Mikey and Bunsen help Amanda avoid summer school. / Amanda tries to beat Bunsen in the local dog show with her robot dog.
  
“Snooze Alarm / Split Decision” (12/28/17) – Mikey tries to keep Bunsen up past his hibernation time before he goes to sleep for 50 years. / Bunsen and Mikey find they have trouble deciding what to use their gift card on, which gets more complicated when Bunsen splits and disagrees with himself.
 
“Hair Today Gone Tomorrow / Ice Cream” (12/29/17) – Mikey and Bunsen use Boodles’ fur to turn themselves invisible and sneak into a movie. / Mikey and Bunsen try to help Commander Cone find his dream job.
 
“Friend of Phony / Beauty or the Beast” (2/10/18) – A gameshow about their friendship threatens to end Mikey and Bunsen’s. / When Bunsen keeps interrupting their date, Sophie forces Mikey to choose between them.

October 15, 2021

DAVID DePATIE DEAD AT 91

 


You can read the full story here.


He co-founded studio DePatie-Freleng Enterprises with Friz Freleng after having been the last executive in charge of the original Warner Bros. Cartoons studio, of which he was the last surviving member. DePatie also helped the transition into the early years of Marvel Productions when they sold their studio to Cadence Industries. The breakout property of his career was when DFE provided the opening titles for The Pink Panther, leading to a series of cartoons based around the popular character spawned from it and jobs in producing similar title sequences for other productions.

 

Programs he had a hand in include The Pink Panther Show, Here Comes the Grump, Doctor Dolittle (1970), The Barkleys, The Houndcats, Bailey’s Comets, an episode of The ABC Saturday Superstar Movies, Return to the Planet of the Apes, Baggy Pants and the Nitwits, What’s New Mr. Magoo?, The Fantastic Four (1978), Spider-Woman, Spider-Man (1981), Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, Pandamonium, Meatballs and Spaghetti, The Incredible Hulk (1982) and Pink Panther and Sons with Hanna-Barbera.


October 09, 2021

MONSTER MASH CEREAL

MONSTER MASH CEREAL
 
General Mills
 
 
            No, it’s not a cereal dedicated to “Monster Mash” performer Bobby “Boris” Pickett. It’s a cereal celebrating 50 years of General Millsmonster cereal family.

The back of the box.


            As the name would imply, Monster Mash cereal was a mash-up; albeit not a complete one. Debuting in August of 2021, it featured the Franken-Berry and Boo Berry ghost cereal pieces together with the generic monster marshmallows once featured in Yummy Mummy cereal, and the bat, lightning bolt, blob and swirled ghost marshmallows from Count Chocula. Interestingly enough, the swirled ghost was introduced with the “Monster Mash” back in 1996. While Chocula’s taste was nowhere to be found, Fruit Brute ended up getting short changed and seriously underrepresented.

The fruit snacks.


            To go along with the cereal’s name, the monsters were featured as part of a band on the packaging and in the marketing campaign. A QR code took consumers to a special Monster Mash website which hosted two links: a behind-the-scenes mockumentary of the monsters reuniting their band to record a new version of “Monster Mash”, and the recording itself. Betty Crocker made their own contribution to the celebration with special Monster Mash fruit snacks





            Along with Monster Mash cereal, the regular three monster cereals also received their annual releases. Returning to the retro packaging, they were tied into Monster Mash by featuring 50th anniversary logos on their fronts and Chocula, Franken-Berry and Boo Berry playing their respective instruments on the back, a selection of three character-specific dance moves, and the QR code leading to the site.

PHANTOM INVESTIGATORS

 

PHANTOM INVESTIGATORS
(Kids' WB, May 25-June 29, 2002)
 
(W)holesome Products, Inc., Columbia TriStar Domestic Television


 
MAIN CAST:
Courtney Vineys – Daemona “Mona” Prune
Andrew Decker – Casey
Aleksander Kocev – Jericho
Amber Ross – Kira


 

            Phantom Investigators followed the exploits of four students of Lugosi Junior High (named for Bela Lugosi) in San Francisco as they took on jobs to deal with the various menacing supernatural entities around the Bay Area. The team themselves, however, were kind of supernatural themselves. Casey (Andrew Decker) was a quiet and shy bookworm who possessed the ability to morph into any form he wanted. Kira (Amber Ross) was a sassy fashionista with a desire to become a professional DJ, and also happened to possess telepathic powers (her original name was Nakisha, but was changed on request to be snappier). Jericho (Aleksander Kocey) loved shredding on his skateboard, which he could do without the aid of his telekinetic abilities. Their leader, Daemona Prune (Courtney Vineys) was the only one who didn’t possess any kind of extra ability; however, what she did have was an attic full of gadgets and artifacts from her late grandmother’s days as one of the original Phantom Investigators. While on the job, Daemona also donned a green coat (initially a lighter shade and adorned with a skull and crossbones) and mask to obscure her identity.


Casey, Kira, Daemona and Jericho with Jinxie and Wad in their base, aka Daemona's attic.

            Aiding the P.I.s were Professor Felix Navarro (Richard Cansino), who ran a repair shop and served as a mentor to the PIs, as well upgraded, designed and built all of their hunting/trapping equipment for them; Jinxie (Holman), a bad luck demon who reluctantly provided supernatural insight to the team; and Wad (Holman), a fun-loving Sprite comprised of chewing gum that lived with Daemona and sometimes helped the team out on cases (usually with disastrous results). The primary piece of equipment usually wielded by Daemona was a specter detector, which could identify one of the four types of entity they could be dealing with: Elementals, Demons, Spectres (ghosts and monsters) and Sprites (wraiths, shadows, fairies, pixies, superstitions, folklore and poltergeists). They all originated from another dimension known as the Nether Realm.


Jinxy with his chart of Nether Realm hierarchy.


            The series was created and directed by the married team of Stephen Holman and Josephine Huang of (W)holesome Products, Inc., who had made the industry take notice of them with the successful Life with Loopy series on Nickelodeon’s Kablam! Like that previous series, Phantom Investigators was a serious mixing of media as it was created by using stop-motion animation, puppetry and live-action blended together. Non-supernatural characters were typically done using stop-motion puppet bodies with cardboard heads and animated faces fabricated by Shelley Smith, Aurore Nightingayle, Lisa Davidson, Estelle Rand, Ellen Ridgway, Cynthia M. Star and Holly Tanner Strauss. Demons and Elementals were generally seen as fully-realized puppets operated by Ian Greeb, or as live-action humans with prosthetics and masks. Ghosts were always represented by translucent and glowing live-action humans in period or scenario-specific clothing provided by costume designer Victoria Drake. These encounters would be resolved by finding out the cause of the haunting or as a result of karmic intervention as a consequence for an entity’s activities. Often, a solution to a problem a character was having in their personal lives would be presented as well. 


Ghosts!


            Phantom Investigators debuted on Kids’ WB on May 25, 2002. It was produced with backing by Sony’s Columbia TriStar Domestic Television division and Hardee’s, who released toys based on it in their restaurants (before the show even aired due to a scheduling snafu). Originally, the series was going to be named for Daemona until the network asked for it to be changed, and Daemona would be her on-the-job name while her real name was “Prunella”. Daemona ended up being the most-developed of the characters, with her history and homelife seen and the others’ relegated to behind-the-scenes articles. The series was written by John Hoberg, Kat Likkel, Kevin Murphy, Dan Studney, Pete Goldfinger, Josh Stolberg, Jim Lincoln and Alison Taylor, with Murphy and Studney serving as story editors. They used elements of San Francisco’s rich history to help ground their stories with some semblance of reality, as well as educate their audience on various topics that arose during investigations such as the process behind mummification in “From Egypt with Love”.

Working on a scene.

At any given time, the production’s studio space at Cluster Avenue Stages in San Francisco was split into 30 mini staging areas where animators would simultaneously film different scenes on their respective sets. Because of the old school methodology employed, the cost per episode was an estimated 30 times more than an ordinary animated series. James Wood Wilson served as art director and set designer, which were built by Todd Lookinland, Qris Fry, Joe Cairo, James K. Paerron, Kimberly Walton and Drew Yerys and dressed by Solomon Burbridge and Nick Mariana. Models were built by Philip Brotherton, Marc Ribaud, Jeff Cross, Terrance Graven, Patrick McMillan, Bill Roth, Andrew Vogt, David Waddle and Sally Waters. JD Reilly composed the series’ music, along with Finetune Music’s Nic tenBroek, Josh Meyers and Brad Segal.



Heading into the sunset in the Ghoul Mobile.


            Despite all the love and hard work that went into making the series, Phantom Investigators only ran for 6 weeks before Kids’ WB yanked it from their schedule and replaced it with X-Men: Evolution. Holman would say on a podcast that its cancellation can in spite of it being the top-rated program in its timeslot because it failed to catch on with the demographic the network wanted. Kids’ WB was looking to attract and maintain a strong viewership with young boys. Phantom Inspectors was attracting more and more girls and losing the boys each successive week, disappointing the network (who, ironically, took on the series in an attempt to attract more female viewers). After the cancellation, Sony cut the funding to the show killing any chance of finding a new network to take it on. The remaining episodes eventually aired outside of the United States, first debuting on Teletoon in Canada. To date, the series has not had any kind of official home video or streaming release. Recordings of various qualities have been made available on free streaming sites and YouTube, and two episodes can be viewed on the (W)holesome website.


           
 
EPISODE GUIDE:
“Demon Driver” (6/22/02) – The team investigates an old car that was built with possessed parts and turns its driver into a reckless maniac.
 
“Skating the Plank” – The team discovers a local skateboarder’s self-carved board is haunted by a pirate whose ship it was part of.
 
“Omega Pizza Pi” (6/29/02) – Pizza delivery drivers are being terrorized by the ghosts of 1960s fraternity pledges under the control of a pizza-based demon.
 
“Birthday Presence (5/25/02) – The most popular kid in school suddenly finds himself being haunted as he plans his annual parents-are-away birthday bash.
 
“From Egypt with Love” – A mummy wants the Phantom Investigators to help him to cross over into the afterlife, and also wants Kira as his bride.
 
“Haunted Dreams” – As Kira considers quitting the team, a girl comes to them suffering from haunted dreams that seems to be connected to a local roller coaster.
 
“Stall of Doom” (6/8/02) – One of the toilets at Lugosi Junior High contains a gateway to the Nether Realm
 
“Were-Dog” (6/15/02) – Casey gets bitten by a werewolf while in dog form and ends up unable to change back for the duration of the curse.
 
“The Year of the Snake” (6/1/02) – A virtual pet seems to have an unhealthy hold over whoever plays with them.
 
“The 5th P.I.” – Discovering a new kid with shrinking powers at school leads the P.I.s to think they found a new member, but he ends up being a Nether Realm cop intent on arresting them.
 
“Ghosts on Film” – A ghost from an old black and white movie exits through a VCR and looks to conquer the world of color as the last character he played.
 
“Think Wad” – Wad has 24 hours to prove he’s worthy of restoration to his former status by dealing with a serious situation seriously, otherwise he’ll remain chewing gum forever.
 
“Secrets Exposed!” – A demon from Navarro’s past returns and leads to some revelations about him and his connection to the original Phantom Investigators.