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May 182016
 

We all enjoy a good audio book once in a while. Back when I was a kid the only kinds I preferred were the ones where you could follow along in a storybook while listening to a cassette tape or sometimes a vinyl record.

The main ones I still have are based on 80s pop culture I grew up on. That’s what made these books on tape so interesting and it’s very helpful that there’s always some sort of chime that lets you know when to turn the page. Usually audio books don’t have a book to follow let alone a signal to turn the page.

Let’s start with the series sets where each book was sold separately. The Smurfs had four different stories based on certain episodes; A Winter Smurf, The Smurf Champion, There’s a Smurf in my Soup, and The Smurf-Eating Bird. What really kept these interesting was the nice tune that played at the beginning and end of each story as well as the three-second tone that signals to turn the page. No other books on tape do that.

Ducktales had several stories as well based on particular episodes with the original voice actors and musical score. My favorite is Scrooge’s Treasure Hunt, which is basically from part 2 of the series pilot Treasure of the Golden Suns.

There was also a set of five stories on The Gremlins. I don’t remember these too well, mainly because I’m not as much into The Gremlins as I used to be. Moving on.

Next is a series of books based on He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Unlike any other books on tape based on popular shows that stay loyal to their series, this group is nothing like the actual He-Man animated series. The stories and action are edgier. Some of which are featured in comic book style format. At first I struggled to get into these because they were so different, but now that I’m more into the fantasy genre these storybooks are awesome.

It wasn’t just TV shows that became books on tape. Movies have too, like The Muppets Take Manhattan and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Of course due to time, the story lines were trimmed down quite a bit, but still remain faithful to their source material.

There are other books on tape about 80s classics I’d like to blog about. So check my blog for part 2 for more.

Dec 092015
 

The trio of singing chipmunks has been around for a long time. After a long absence, they have made a huge comeback with a live action movie and its many sequels. I think there’s another one coming soon.

But let’s look back on the versions that I remember growing up on, starting with The Alvin Show (1961-1962). This was a variety series that featured the songs and misadventures of Alvin the self-centered schemer, Simon the science whiz, and Theodore the sweet food enthusiast.

Then of course we have David Seville the songwriter, who is the Chipmunks’ adoptive father and manager. Dave cares for them, but tends to lose his temper, especially when Alvin acts up.

You can really tell that the animation is a similar style to what you would see on The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends or The 3 Stooges animated series. More importantly I’d like to point out that if you listen closely, the pacing of the Chipmunks’ speaking voices sound a bit delayed compared to the other characters. I believe that it has to do with the Chipmunks’ voices being sped up to sound higher pitched, so the voice actor(s) had to talk slowly to make it sound normal when the dialogue was sped up.

Another common segment on The Alvin Show is about Clyde Crashcup the scientist/inventor. Clyde demonstrates his inventions, which are really items that were already invented, but provides his own personal touches. However, many of these inventions backfire and tend to blow up in his face, literally if not metaphorically.

Clyde’s lab assistant Leonardo is silent but levelheaded. He only communicates by whispering in Clyde’s ear. I never understood why Leonardo never spoke.

Long after that series came Alvin and the Chipmunks (1983-1990), where many of the Chipmunks’ misadventures were about Alvin’s scheming which always gets him and his brothers into trouble. It seems that Alvin will do anything to stay famous, or get out of schoolwork.

These are some collective figurines from this version of Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Chipettes

Shortly into this series the Chipettes were introduced into the franchise. They are basically female counterparts of the Chipmunks. First is Brittany who is much like Alvin in the ways of self-centeredness. Second is Janet who is like Simon only clumsier. Then there’s Eleanor who is like Theodore when it comes to food and her sweet nature.

The Chipmunks never seem to grow old. All that really changes is their music style. In the later seasons, Alvin’s schemes become even more intense, which made the series unwatchable in my opinion. However, there was an exception with Chipmunks go to the Movies, which featured the Chipmunks and Chipettes in a series of features based on popular movies.

Those were the Chipmunks shows of the past that still remain classic. Though I should point out that Clyde Crashcup was hardly ever featured again after The Alvin Show. I wonder if he’ll ever make a comeback someday.

Oct 142015
 

Over the years, classic monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Wolfman have been featured as horrifying creatures and as party animals. But who would think of them as superheroes? Well, it has happened in the animated series, Drak Pack: Complete Series (1980-1982).

The Drak Pack is a trio of teenage descendents of the classic monsters, Drak Jr., Frankie, and Howler. To atone for their ancestors’ wrongdoings, they devote their lives to fighting crime. The Drak Pack’s identities are kept a secret, but what’s the point of that? They go by the same names in both human and monster form, their enemies already know who they are, and they always drive the same vehicle, the Drakster, even while in human form.

Drak Jr. is the team leader. He can shape-shift into a variety of forms as well as a bat or mist and can walk up walls. Amazingly, Drak is unaffected by sunlight. Frankie has enormous strength, even more so when he gets mad. Sometimes he needs to be provoked when that level of strength is needed. Howler’s main power is his super breath. That’s definitely a useful skill to have in battle.

Dr. Dred

The Drak Pack’s arch nemesis is Dr. Dred, a criminal genius that uses cliched evil plots to become rich and powerful. Sometimes Dr. Dred summons Drak to a secret meeting to explain his evil plot and it always ends with Drak getting caught in a trap. Of course, Drak manages to escape every time.

Evil Henchmen

Dr. Dred’s henchmen include the overly loyal Toad, the sneaky humanoid Fly, the massive mumbling mummyman that has unlimited bandages, and Vampira a female vampire with the same shape-shifting abilities as Drak. Together the evil group is called ORGE, which stands for the Organization for Generally Rotten Enterprises. That’s an interesting acronym.

OGRE has an island headquarters called Dredquarters and an airship called the Dredgible. Both often end up destroyed when an evil plot backfires, but somehow is fully restored by the next episode.

When the Drak Pack needs counsel, they turn to Drak’s great uncle Count Dracula himself, who is nicknamed Big D. He is helpful sometimes, but often complains and tends to unknowingly slam the lid of his coffin on his hand. I’m just glad that Dracula is on the side of good.

I really enjoyed this series. I’m surprised that I didn’t know about it before since many of my favorite cartoons from the 80s were from Hanna Barbera. I would’ve enjoyed it just the same back then. Though I should point out that if you’re expecting this show to be a horror theme series, you might be disappointed. Scooby-Doo used more horror elements than this.

Sep 022015
 

I’m sure many of you have seen the Hagar the Horrible comic strip in the Sunday morning newspaper each week, but did you know that there was a TV special based on it? I can remember back in 1989 when Hagar the Horrible premiered on primetime, but it only aired once. Luckily, it was part of a DVD set called Cartoon Mega Pack – Advantage Collection.

As the story goes, Hagar makes his living by traveling to different places and plundering them, the same as any Viking. While he heads back to his home, Hagar imagines his wife Helga greeting him at the door with open arms, his son Hamlet as a top student at the Viking Academy, and his daughter Honey engaged to a great Viking. Unfortunately, when Hagar does get home nothing is what he expects, especially with the children.

First off, Honey is engaged, but not to a Viking. It’s to a young man named Lute, who is a minstrel and a gentleman. Personally, I think Honey has good taste.

As for Hamlet, he flunked out of the Viking Academy and has an interest in reading and writing.

Of course not everyone can pass the Viking Academy. Hagar’s friend Lucky Eddie flunked out too, but does meet Viking standards despite being an unintelligent klutz.

Since true Vikings are supposed to be illiterate barbarians with bad manners, Hagar won’t stand for it. So he tries to set his kids straight, but even that takes an unexpected turn.

This was a great TV special for its level of hilarity and toned down in comparison to other features about Vikings. Although Hagar the Horrible is still a popular comic strip today, it’s too bad that it never returned to television or had a movie. That would’ve been swell.

Jul 152015
 

There are many different villains in pop culture. Some live on to become as iconic as the heroes who fight them while others, not so much. So I put together a list of old villains from movies and TV shows that seem underrated, but still stand out as favorites of mine.

#10) Mouser from The Super Mario Bros. Super Show: Originally featured as a bomb-throwing boss from the Super Mario Bros. 2 NES game, this talking mouse often serves as King Bowser Koopa’s right hand man. Mouser is a stooge but a worthy adversary. However, he hasn’t been featured in the Super Mario Bros. franchise for a long time, among other old characters that seemed to have disappeared off the radar. I wonder why that is.

#9) The Witches from the Volcano of Gloom from My Little Pony (1986 version): They are known as Hydia and her two daughters Reeka and Draggle and come from a long line of evildoers. This trio, along with their giant spider monster Ahgg, is intent on turning the world dark, dank, and dreary and the little ponies are the only ones standing in their way. The witches were the main villains on My Little Pony the Movie (1986) and the ten-part episode The End of Flutter Valley. After that, the witches never returned. It would’ve been nice if they did but this series was not known for its consistency when it comes to villains.

#8) Hurricane Harry from Cool McCool: It does seem that the villains on this show are very similar to the ones in the Batman franchise. That’s mainly because the series was co-created by Bob Kane, the original creator of Batman. However, Hurricane Harry stands out the most. His lungs are so powerful that a single deep breath can easily affect the world’s weather. The most impressive example is when Harry shows his ability to inhale the power of the sun and spit fire like a dragon. It’s unknown how Harry acquired this power to begin with, but it is enough to overlook his lisp.

#7) Jean- Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (Gary Oldman) from The Fifth Element: Gary Oldman has had quite a few villainous roles before. Unfortunately, this was not labeled among his best. Zorg is an industrialist who believes that preserving life comes from destruction and chaos. He may come off as a lame villain at times, but don’t underestimate him. Zorg is ruthless and never likes to be disappointed by anyone. When that happens he won’t hesitate to blow you up.

#6) Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from Batman & Robin: I know this sounds strange since Mr. Freeze is a popular Batman villain. However, this particular version is often frowned upon due to the fact that this movie was constantly mentioned as a box office flop, based on many reviews. Sure his dialogue mostly consists of ice puns but Mr. Freeze is highly skilled. He can move around smoothly in that extremely heavy suit and his freeze gun is amazing. It can encase people and objects within ice in only a matter of seconds. The special effects really blew my mind, especially when compared to the effects used in this movie’s predecessor Batman Forever. Seriously, how can you not find this interesting?

#5) Velasca (Melinda Clarke) from Xena: Warrior Princess: This amazon warrior from season 2 was the adopted daughter of Queen Melosa and intended to be queen of the Amazons. When Gabrielle was selected as heir, Velasca became incredibly jealous. Soon after, she ate ambrosia and became a goddess completely intent on killing Gabrielle. Velasca was eventually plunged into a lava pit along with Callisto, leaving the possibility that they would both return. Although Callisto did return in the third season, Velasca didn’t. There were plenty of opportunities to bring Velasca back throughout the series run but it never happened. Any ideas why?

#4) Beastur from My Pet Monster: He’s the evil master of Monster Land and always pops into the real world in his many attempts to bring Monster back with him. The confrontations are always big chases, but I always liked how Beastur keeps getting sent back to Monster Land when he’s defeated. He does have his hilarious moments too and that’s what makes Beastur so memorable.

#3) Tweeg from The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin: It’s no surprise that this troll grunge makes this list. Although Tweeg’s biggest evil trait is his greed, many of his evil plots are focused on trying to meet the standards of MAVO (The Monsters and Villains Organization) as well as his troll mother Eleanor. Tweeg is sneaky and cunning, but even with a group of bounders serving him Tweeg always seems to fall short. He can’t even hit anything with a cannonball. Sometimes you just can’t help but feel sorry for the guy.

#2) Prince Gasket and Archerina from Power Rangers Zeo: The oldest son of King Mondo had fallen in love with the daughter of King Aragon (not featured in the series). Since their families were at war with one another, the two of them eloped. That scenario is much like in Romeo & Juliet, except that Gasket and Archerina mostly lived in hiding from their fathers. These two are both skilled fighters intent on conquering the Earth and ruling the Machine Empire. Once King Mondo caught up with them, Gasket and Archerina retreated and were never seen or heard from again. It leaves you wondering what could’ve become of this duo since they only appeared in 10 episodes out of 50.

#1) Prime Evil from Ghostbusters (1986 version): Who better to take the top spot than the Ghostbusters’ biggest archenemy. This creepy character is intent on taking over the human world and has many different ghosts and ghouls serving him. Of course, Prime Evil has his comedic moments also. He takes insults as compliments, struggles to say “Ghostbusters”, and has a hot temper when putting up with his henchmen. Unfortunately, with the other version of Ghostbusters completely overshadowing this series, Prime Evil went down with it but he’s one villain I’ll never forget.

Special Note: It wasn’t easy putting this list together since there were so many underrated villains to choose from. I was also going to include Scorpina from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as an honorable mention, but after learning the reason behind her disappearance from voice actress Wendee Lee at Anime Festival Orlando 2011, I’m going to let that one pass.