Before I kick off today’s blog entry, I thought I should post a couple of important tidbits that you should probably know.
First things first, if you live in Canada and 49 of the 50 states of the USA (excluding Arizona), it is time for the Daylight Savings Time weekend. This time around we are springing ahead. If you happen to be still up at two o’clock in the morning on Sunday, March 11, 2012, then you need to turn your clock ahead one hour. In short, there will be no two o’clock in the morning on the date of March 11, 2012. Consider it lost in the clothes dryer of time and space. If you are in bed at 2am though, don’t sweat it...just set your clock one hour ahead before you turn in.
So, just as another reminder, don’t forget to set your clocks AHEAD one hour the weekend of March 10 and 11.
Secondly, I am writing this blog entry under the influence of cold medicine and a prescription for a sinus infection, so if I start sounding a bit lucid or trail off into tangents during this piece, all I can say is that it’s the drugs talking. I normally try to let colds and illnesses peter out on their own, but this is one case where I readily admit to being a wimp, and I took the easy way out.
(When you consider that I work at a job where I am repeatedly in and out of the cold, it’s understandable.)
So, now that we have those two little things out of the way, we can jump right into the bulk of the blog entry for today, which is a cartoon show based on a series of popular classic cartoons...only different.
A few weeks ago, I was talking about how cartoons of the late 1980s/early 1990s used a technique known as the ‘juniorization effect’, where the subject was on “The New Archies”. Well, today’s cartoon feature also happens to have elements of juniorization in it, but with a twist.
While it is very much true that the main stars of the cartoon are younger versions of the classic cartoon characters of the 1930s and 1940s, they all had their own distinct personalities, looks, and names. Meanwhile, the very cartoons that these main characters were based off of also appeared in the series as teachers and mentors to these younger spinoff counterparts.
Today’s blog entry is all about the Steven Spielberg/Warner Brothers collaboration, “Tiny Toon Adventures”, a cartoon that was created by Tom Ruegger.
“Tiny Toon Adventures” debuted on September 14, 1990. The pilot episode aired on CBS, and was syndicated on various cable channels over the next five years. Ninety-eight episodes were produced, plus a direct-to-video movie, and two television specials. The cartoon also spawned various merchandising opportunities including toys, books, school supplies, and video games.
At first glance, “Tiny Toon Adventures” looked like it was a reimagining of the classic Warner Brothers cartoons starring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, and Porky Pig. And, in many cases, it was exactly that. A lot of the characters of “Tiny Toon Adventures” were junior versions of the classic cartoons. They were given different looks, and were given different names, but they were essentially near carbon copies of the original versions.
Below, you can see a picture of most of the cast of the show.
And, here were the names of some of these characters, as well as the original Bugs Bunny characters that they stemmed from.
BUSTER BUNNY – Bugs Bunny
BABS BUNNY – possibly Honey Bunny
PLUCKY DUCK – Daffy Duck
HAMTON J. PIG – Porky Pig
FURRBALL – Sylvester
SWEETIE PIE – Tweety
ELMYRA DUFF – Elmer Fudd
MONTANA MAX – Yosemite Sam
SHIRLEY McLOON – None, but she is based off of Shirley Maclaine.
GOGO DODO – Wackyland Dodo Bird
DIZZY DEVIL – The Tasmanian Devil
CALAMITY COYOTE – Wile E. Coyote
FIFI LA FUME – Pepe Le Pew
FOWLMOUTH – Foghorn Leghorn
LITTLE BEEPER – The Roadrunner
MARCIA THE MARTIAN – Marvin the Martian
TRIVIA: There was originally supposed to be a character based off of Speedy Gonzalez known as Lightning Rodriguez, but it was scrapped. You can see him make a couple of non-speaking appearances though.
Now, many of these characters acted a lot like the characters that they were based off of. Furrball, like Sylvester, very rarely had any good luck happen to him, and ended up getting hurt almost every episode. Dizzy Devil was just as spin-crazy and hard to understand as his adult counterpart. And, Plucky Duck was almost an exact replica of Daffy Duck, only he was bright green in colour, as opposed to Daffy’s black feathers.
Notable differences involved the female characters mostly. In Looney Tunes cartoons, Elmer Fudd’s motto was “kill da wabbit”, but Elmyra’s motto was “love the rabbit, hug the rabbit, squeeze the living daylights out of the rabbit”. And, Fifi La Fume was in a gender swapped role, where she often chased after the male cats (Furrball being the object of Fifi’s affection most often).
And, just like Bugs Bunny, Buster was the star of the show. Unlike Bugs, Buster shared the spotlight with Babs.
So, I know what you’re thinking. “Tiny Toon Adventures” was a watered down version of previously established characters that lacked the warmth and hilarity of the original series.
Only, it didn’t.
You see, one perk of “Tiny Toon Adventures” was the idea that the show took place in the fictional community of Acme Acres. One of the main buildings in the community was Acme Looniversity, which was a school for young cartoon characters to learn how to become funny, and become cartoon legends.
And who better to teach the students of Acme Looniversity than a faculty of cartoon legends?
Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Wile E. Coyote, Elmer Fudd, Sylvester...all of these classic cartoon characters were professors and teachers at the school. We ended up getting a nice mix between the old characters and the new characters. Certainly, most of the episodes of “Tiny Toon Adventures” focused on the students of Acme Looniversity, but it was nice to see the link to the past. It was really an ingenious idea when you look at it...the past teaching the present to become the future. I thought it was cool, anyway.
Another plus to “Tiny Toon Adventures” was the wide array of talent and experience that the voice cast had. Reportedly, voice director Andrea Romano auditioned over twelve hundred actors in the casting process of the show! When the cast was finally assembled in early 1990, the amount of experience amongst the cast was nothing short of outstanding.
Most of the cast already had previous experience in voice work. Charlie Adler, who played Buster, voiced the role of Eric Raymond on “Jem and the Holograms”, amongst other roles. Joe Alaskey was cast as Plucky Duck, who worked on the series alongside his role on “Out of This World”. Tress MacNeille, who has done voice work on hundreds of cartoon series was cast as Babs Bunny. If Hamton’s voice sounded familiar, it’s probably because the actor who played him (the late Don Messick) was the voice of a little character known as Scooby-Doo for nearly three decades before his death in 1997). Other voice actors in the series included Cree Summer, Maurice LaMarche, Rob Paulsen, Kath Soucie, Frank Welker, and Danny Cooksey (who some might remember as the little boy playing Sam on “Diff’rent Strokes”).
The show was also quite expensive to produce. Made with a higher production value than most other animated programs at the time, it used more than double the animation cels used in comparison to other shows, giving it a cleaner and polished look where the characters moved more fluidly. The show also boasted a full orchestra when it came to musical pieces, undoubtedly influenced by the background music of the classic Looney Tunes cartoons.
And, one final point...a lot of the episodes of “Tiny Toon Adventures” were fun to watch! Many of them were spoofs of pop culture references from movies, television programs, even music videos. There were even some episodes that were quite contemporary and daring for the 1990s, and also taught children morals and life lessons in ways the original Looney Tunes cartoons did not.
One of the first episodes of “Tiny Toon Adventures” I can recall vividly is the one that they did about Life in the 1990s. Although the show is hopelessly outdated by two decades, the cartoons made could very well fit in with life in 2012. The final part of that episode had to deal with the idea of smokers in non-smoking sections (a topic that is still getting a lot of attention twenty years later), and in the plot, Babs (having won a free treat at a trendy, expensive dessert spot) tries hard to enjoy her sundae but can’t because of a couple of rude smokers blowing their smoke in her face. The episode was quite funny, but it also provided a social commentary as well, which was subtle, but important. But, why should I tell you about it when you can watch it yourselves? The episode is titled “Butt Out”, and clicking HERE will take you to the video.
Another topic that the show dealt with was the topic of alcohol consumption, which was very, very daring for a children’s cartoon. It was so daring that the show only aired once in the United States before being banned in 1991. But, I managed to find the episode online, and I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as censors thought. It actually provided a great message. The episode was called “One Beer”, and if you like, watch it HERE.
But, I think my all time favourite episode is THIS ONE. It’s an episode titled “Sawdust and Toonsil”, which originally aired on November 5, 1990. In the episode, we get a chance to have an episode centered on Gogo Dodo (who admittedly was one of my all time favourite characters on “Tiny Toon Adventures”) and his friends from Wackyland. In the show, Gogo and his friends are kidnapped by a greedy circus owner who wants to exploit them. The problem is that if the toons from Wackyland stay away too long, they’ll begin to fade away from existence. So, Buster, Babs, and Plucky come up with a rescue mission to save Gogo and his friends before it is too late. The ending is especially good. Worth a look, as far as I’m concerned.