Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Fuzzy Memories, Captain Kangaroo, and Walter Fozbek - "CBS Storybreak!"
Hang on to your hats, gang. This is going to be a weird one. Gonna take both of this week's posts to cover it.
So... today we've got another post that's going to be largely based off incredibly fuzzy childhood memory. I have done such posts before, and I really hope this is another case where kind folks write in with more information and helpful links, like so.
Today's subject is something I believe everyone my age watched and yet nobody seems to discuss: "CBS Storybreak". About the only places online with any extensive information about it are The Retroist and IMDB, which provides an episode list.
"Storybreak", often confused with the similar and far longer-lived "ABC Weekend Special", was one of several anthology series for children from the early 1980's. Each thirty-minute episode was based upon a book or folktale and the show went out of it's way to showcase children's literature that was either obscure or downright strange. The animators often played pretty fast and loose with the source materials, making some of the stories even weirder than they were. For most of it's run, the show was hosted by Bob Keeshan, and it ran alongside other more famous Saturday Morning cartoons of the era.
If you don't remember this series at all, your memory might at least be jogged by one of the most distinctive aspects of the show: The bitchin' opening credits sequence:
Hell and yes. Did you see that radical dragon-robot and the shiny pegasus? Bonus: VERY old-school sauropod.
The best-remembered episodes from what little I could scrounge up from discussion boards are, perhaps not coincidentally, the ones you are most likely to find while searching YouTube: "How To Eat Fried Worms", "Yeh-Shen", the truly mad "Arnold of the Ducks", "Dragon's Blood", and "Ratha's Creature" (the last one is the most likely to survive by the time you read this; it's been uploaded by the book's author). A few other episodes that stuck with me through all these years are "Robbut: A Tale of Tails", "Zucchini" (which is about a boy and his pet ferret; kids love non-indicative titles), "The Pig Plantagenet" (mad props to casually sticking such an obscure vocabulary word in a Saturday morning cartoon), "Hugh Pine", "Hank the Cowdog", the truly mad "Max and Me and the Time Machine" (traveling through time may transform you into a horse with glasses, naturally), "Witch Cat", "Grinny" (this one's often cited online as a source of nicely refined nightmare fuel), "The Monster's Ring", a very poorly disguised pilot for a "Raggedy Anne and Andy" cartoon...
...And season one, episode seven: "The Double Disappearance of Walter Fozbek".
Now, remember this was 1985. A budding paleoartist had very few opportunities to get an animated dinosaur fix. ("Fantasia" was "never ever ever" going to be released on home video, and about the only other options were the occasional Ray Harryhausen phantasmagoria on the afternoon movie or seemingly endless reruns of "The Flintstones".) When I saw the teaser for "Walter" at the end of whatever episode preceded it, nothing -but nothing- mattered during the following week aside from me watching this show. Kids are horrible little things, aren't they? My tiny seven-year-old brain only registered three words: "HOLY SH*T, DINOSAURS!!!"
Now, I'm sure "Walter Fozbek" blew my mind back in the day because from what I remember of my very oldest drawings, they looked a lot like how I remember the characters in the show (and I really hope somebody out there comes up with screenshots or something so that I can confirm this). Can I remember anything at all concrete about it? I do remember the whole thing was basically a funny animal cartoon (think "Ducktales") with 80's dinosaurs. There was some kind of weird plot twist involving this one human character, probably the usual Furry Confusion. Mostly, I remember being incredibly frustrated that I could not find the book upon which this episodes was based. This was long before inter-library loan or Amazon.
Well, thank goodness for Amazon, eh?
Twenty-five years later, I finally have my very own copy of The Double Disappearance of Walter Fozbek, written and illustrated by Steve Senn in 1980. Published by Avon/Camelot books. So if you'll excuse me for a little bit, I am finally going to read it. See ya Thursday!
~*~ Intermission Time! ~*~
(And do enjoy this because, my goodness, the ad that starts around the 2 minute, ten second mark...)
~*~ On to Part Two! ~*~
Sketch of the Day!