Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Yet more thoughts on bad and/or weird cartoons

This is "Small Fry" by Max Fleisher:


Thanks to it being aired endlessly on "The Disney Channel" (I can't figure it out either; they must have acquired the Fleisher catalog at some point during the 80's), I have seen this little slice of WTF more times than "One Froggy Evening", "The Old Mill", "What's Opera Doc", "The Band Concert", "The Brave Little Tailor", and "Duck Amuck" combined.
I especially enjoy the mother's line near the end, "You got your feet all soakin' wet!" Try being five years old and trying to wrap your brain around that one. Psi-yi-yi...
While on the subject of bad cartoons we used to watch as kids because we didn't know any better. I recently rented "Mission: Magic!" I did so only because it was available on Netflix and because (this is absolutely true) every History Of Animation book that has ever mentioned it ends it's plot summary with, "Yes. This series actually existed."
"Mission: Magic!" is an early-70's Filmation series about a magical teacher a la Miss Frizzle in the better-known Magic Schoolbus series. She and her students go on adventures through a dimensional porthole in her blackboard, where they are assisted by an owl, an Egyptian cat statue who comes to life, and a pre-"General Hospital" pre-"Jesse's Girl" Rick Springfield. At the end of every adventure, during a "Yellow Submarine"-esque sequence, Rick sings a song about that particular episode's lesson.
Yes. This series actually existed.
Actually, thanks to the magic of the Internet, I can prove it actually existed. Here's the opening:


Now you're probably adding this thing to your Queue out of sheer curiosity right now, aren't you? Well, let me emphasize something easily missed in the above summary: "Mission: Magic!" is an early-70's Filmation series.
You can't remove it from your Queue fast enough, can you?
I grew up with tedious reruns of early 70's Filmation series and let me tell you, to this day watching such series can make me disillusioned with all animation everywhere. They are exactly what Chuck Jones meant when he complained of "Illustrated Radio". It almost looks like they drew each of the characters once and just copied and pasted that one drawing wherever needed. (In "Mission", they don't even bother to pretend they didn't do this. Pay close attention to the "R" on Rick's jumpsuit.) And for some reason, each and every one of these series has a laugh track.
I have a big, big problem with canned laughter.
So why in the world did this series warrant a DVD release? I guess because it's so very much a series of it's time. I didn't like it, but certainly the people who watched it on Saturday mornings will enjoy watching it again. Hey, I rented the entire first season on "My Little Pony" so who am I to judge?
Or it could be for some other reason, but who knows what that could be? LOL.

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