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May 242017
 
It’s great with all the different versions of classic superheroes, like from Marvel and DC, they continue to be enjoyable over the years. However, there are other superheroes, which haven’t been around for a long time, but are still favorites of mine. Here is my top ten in that group.
#10) Mighty Man & Yukk from Mighty Man and Yukk: This old duo from the old Hanna Barbera series has battled many criminals in such unique ways. Even though Mighty Man is nifty as a tiny superhero, it’s really Yukk that I find more interesting. Yukk is not really a tough crime fighter per se, but he can do a lot of damage just by revealing his mysterious face. So always think twice before having Yukk remove his doghouse.
#9) Rima the Jungle Girl from Super Friends franchise: Although there are at least several members from this franchise that haven’t made it to the modern Justice League, I find Rima as the most underrated. This lovely jungle woman is like the Aquaman of the forest with her ability to summon wild animals to assist her when needed. Unfortunately, Rima disappeared from the Super Friends altogether with no explanation, not to mention that her origin story was never revealed.
Image result for spider-man and his amazing friends firestar
#8) Fire Star from Spiderman and His Amazing Friends: The Marvel franchises are expanding all the time with huge blockbusters of old characters like Dr. Strange and the Guardians of the Galaxy. However, this member of the X-Men is one that hasn’t been seen or heard from since the early 80s. Fire Star’s firepower has always been a valuable asset to team members Spiderman and Iceman as they go to battle against various super villains. So what could have become of her? Fire Star would’ve been awesome to see in a modern Marvel feature, since the X-Men movie franchise keeps growing.
#7) Bananaman from Bananaman: At first glance he may seem like a silly idea for a superhero, even more so than the Tick, but Bananaman is actually pretty cool. He has super strength, fights colorful villains, and has a talking crow for a sidekick. Bananaman has his funny moments also, which makes him so interesting. Many of the recent superhero movies have focused on a more darker edgier tone and I can’t seem to picture Bananaman that way. But that’s not to say that he couldn’t make a comeback with a more modern take.
#6) Captain Caveman from Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels: Now who could forget this classic character. He debuted in the late 70s as a mystery solver in his own show, Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels, and joined the Scooby Doobies team on Laff-A-Lympics. Then he became part of the Flintstones franchise throughout the 80s. After that, he was gone for years. Cavey’s latest attempt for a comeback was a guest appearance on Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated in 2011 along with other classic Hanna Barbera characters, Jabberjaw, Speed Buggy, and the Funky Phantom in the episode “Mystery Solvers Club Finals”. It’s actually a good sign that there’s always opportunity for classic Hanna Barbera franchises to get a reboot and this would be no exception.
#5) Stripperella from Stripperella: Unlike the other superheroes on this list, Stripperella was more focused on an adult level. However, the show contained kick butt action and colorful super villains, which are grounds for an awesome superhero franchise. The show was cancelled after only one season, which I found disappointing, especially since it didn’t have a steady timeslot. On the other hand, I could see why it ended, but I can still see potential for a reboot.
#4) The Flying Warriors from Flying Warriors NES title: I admit that this is a very obscure group, but just looking at the cover already makes it look awesome. These five legendary heroes, Rick Stalker, Mary Lynn, Hayato Go, Greg Cummings, and Jimmy Cutler Jr., are martial artists that can transform into superheroes while fighting the evil forces of the Dark Dimension with mystic spells. Even though Rick is the only playable character outside of uniform, the story is an excellent one. I can definitely see a movie coming from this, not only in the superhero genre, but video game based as well.
#3) T-bone and Razor from SWAT Kats: Although they’re not technically superheroes, the SWAT Kats are a crimefighting duo as they battle monsters and colorful villains like Dark Kat, Dr. Viper, the Past Master, and the Metallikats. Looking back now, I can see the edgy battle scenes are on the level of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003 version). So in a way, the show was ahead of its time. It’s been about 25 years since the series aired, so hopefully the SWAT Kats haven’t become outdated since there hasn’t been any attempt for a reboot.
#2) The Defenders of Dynatron City from The Defenders of Dynatron City: You want talk obscurities? No superhero group seems more obscure than this one. Consisting of Jet Headstrong, Buzzsaw Girl, Miss Megawatt, Radium Dog, Toolbox, and Monkey Kid, these heroes use their mutant powers to defend Dynatron City against the mad genius Dr. Mayhem. I’ll admit that sounds cliché, but I still saw potential for a good franchise. Unfortunately, it flopped. All that came of it was a TV pilot, a few comic book issues, and an NES game that were all released in the same year, 1992. Looking back now, I still think it could’ve worked, even if it doesn’t stand out in comparison to Marvel or DC.
#1) The Mighty Heroes from The Mighty Heroes: Even though Mighty Mouse was usually the most popular superhero of the Terry Toons, I always found this team the most enjoyable as bumbling crime fighters. They always leave me laughing, even though there was hardly any depth with the characters. If the Mighty Heroes were to have any kind of reboot someday, I think it would be cool to see the origin story of how Strong Man, Cuckoo Man, Tornado Man, Rope Man, and Diaper Man becoming the team they have become. Just as long as they keep the comedy level up.
Jan 182017
 

Sesame Street has yet another musical feature. Sesame Street: Sing, Hoot and Howl With The Sesame Street Animals focuses on songs about different animals with Big Bird as the host. Many animals come to a barn house called the Sing, Hoot, and Howl Club and request animal songs. Even though a wolf, who looks a lot like Jackman Wolf from Sesame Street Rock and Roll, plays piano the songs are all featured in segments.

These segments are from Sesame Street Old School, though most of them use live footage to coincide with the song, like Hardworking Dog and Stardust. These kinds of segments used to be hard for me to follow because they tend to run long. Looking back now, these segments are pretty good. One thing’s for sure. You will never find clips like this on Sesame Street today.

Still I prefer the songs that were performed by Sesame Street characters. Some of those include Proud to be a Cow by Gladys the cow, Cluck Around the Clock by Chrissy and the Alphabeats, and Baa Baa Bamba performed by Luis (Emilio Delgado) and some animals.

The subplot is mostly about the lion trying to request a song, but keeps getting interrupted by other animals giving their requests, especially Gladys the cow. Eventually, the lion gets his request but had to use his loud roar to scare everyone to make it happen.

One song that was really beautiful was We are All Earthlings, performed by a group of animals. Elmo also sings with the group with an unknown character that sounds much like Gobo Fraggle.

This was a good feature with another creative theme. I guess it goes to show that animals love music as much as people do.

Jan 042017
 

For a long time I have really enjoyed fantasy films from the 80s like Legend and Willow. Another one I can remember is The Last Unicorn, which has the same style of animation used in fantasy classics like The Hobbit and Return of the King.

In this story, a lone unicorn, simply known as the Unicorn, (voice of Mia Farrow) discovers that she is the last of her kind. So she goes on a quest in search of other unicorns that were chased off the edge of the earth by a demonic creature called the red bull.

She learns this from a Butterfly (voice of Robert Klein) that talks in riddle, songs, and poetry. Why couldn’t he just tell her straight? I mean, the way the Butterfly was carrying on was like he wasn’t paying attention when the Unicorn asked him about anything.

Throughout the Unicorn’s search, many of the people she meets mistake her for a white mare because her horn is invisible to them. It appears that only users of magic can see the unicorn for what she truly is and hear her speak, like Mommy Fortuna (voice of Angela Lansbury). She is a witch who runs a traveling Midnight Carnival, showcasing mythical beasts. Of course, the Unicorn is caged among them.

There, the Unicorn also meets the magician Schmendrick (voice of Alan Arkin). I can tell by his presence and persona that he is not an advanced sorcerer but is still learning.

After Schmendrick sets the Unicorn free, he joins her on her quest to search for other unicorns. All they have to go on is that the red bull comes from the seaside castle of King Haggard (voice of Christopher Lee), thought the connection between the king and the bull is unclear.

Along the way, they meet up with Captain Cully (voice of Keenan Wynn) and his band of outlaws. Although they seem to be a good group, the only one who joins Schmendrick and the Unicorn on their journey is the cook Molly Crue (voice of Tammy Grimes). She’s non-magical but does believe that unicorns are real and has for some time.

After getting to the castle, the red bull arrives and goes after the Unicorn. The only way to save her was for Schmendrick to turn her into a human girl, but that only causes complication. On the bright side, the Unicorn finally has a name, Lady Amalthea.

Image result for last unicorn amalthea

To make matters worse, King Haggard’s son Prince Lir (voice of Jeff Bridges) falls in love with Amalthea. If only he knew the truth about her.

I should also point out that there is also a talking cat that has an eye patch, a wooden leg, and an earring. It also talks like a pirate, which makes you wonder, but there’s no mention of where this cat came from or if King Haggard is its owner.

This was an interesting movie with exciting adventure and an excellent soundtrack that makes it a true 80s fantasy film. It was a great decade for that genre. Am I right?

Dec 212016
 

When it comes to old school clay animation, the kind that mainly comes to mind, next to Gumby, is the Claymation works of Will Vinton from such films as The Adventures of Mark Twain and Rip Van Winkle. Here’s a DVD that contains three holiday specials called Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas Plus Halloween & Easter Celebrations.

Since Christmas is coming soon, let’s start with A Claymation Christmas Celebration, naturally. I can remember when this first premiered back in 1987 all that was advertised about it was the California Raisins performing. However, that was very misleading because this special wasn’t just about that.

Talking dinosaurs, Rex and Herb, host a variety of segments based on different Christmas carols while other folks walk by and sing Here We Come a Wassailing, but keep getting it wrong because no one really knows what “Wassailing” means. I can’t blame them since that’s not a common word used in simple conversation.

Image result for claymation christmas

The first segment is about We Three Kings. At the time I found the song difficult to understand, but what made it more interesting was when the camels, who were wearing tennis shoes, sang the chorus with a more upbeat tempo. That sure kept my attention.

Next was an instrumental version of Carol of the Bells with Quasimodo as conductor, which is appropriate if you think about it. The main focus is the dopey bell in the corner among all the classy ones. He’s always messing up his parts. Other than that, the music is beautiful.

After that was several slower paced, but very creative, segments based on O’ Christmas Tree, Angels We Have Heard on High, and Joy to the World. By this point all I could think about is where the California Raisins are. It’s just like in Fantasia, when the main highlight you look forward to is Mickey Mouse in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, but you also have to sit through a bunch of other segments that feel long and boring, even if they are short and colorful.

The last segment is about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and finally we get to see the California Raisins sing. I guess they were saving the best for last. The waiting period was unnecessary but it was worth it because those singing raisins were awesome and still are.

The other two specials are about the misadventures of Wilshire Pig, who is always scheming to get rich. In The Claymation Comedy of Horrors (1991), Wilshire finds a diary that leads him to Dr. Frankenswine’s monster at a monster convention.

Then in A Claymation Easter (1992), Wilshire kidnaps the Easter Bunny so he can become the Easter Pig. These specials were good, but I never found Wilshire Pig likable as a protagonist.

Image result for little prince claymation

There were quite a few other Claymation features over the years, many of which were short films. The only other one I know of that’s at least on VHS is The Little Prince (1979). As creative and colorful as it is, the story line is pretty boring. I always prefer the 80s animated series to any other version of The Little Prince.

Though it has been a long time since I have seen these holiday specials, they are still classics. In fact, seeing these again inspired me to look up other Claymation features. Unfortunately, they can only be seen on YouTube. Do you think they’ll ever release them on DVD someday?

Nov 022016
 

Sesame Street has done it again with classic segments grouped together in a musical theme. This time Sesame Street – Sing Yourself Silly! is about, well, silly songs. After almost every song, a random Sesame Street character comes out and says; “Now that was silly”.

There’s no subplot in this feature, but there are quite a few classic segments that I remember well. For instance the opening song The Honker-Duckie-Dinger Jamboree features one of the first appearances of the Dinger. Like the Honkers, he doesn’t talk but sure stands out since there are no other Dingers around.

Another interesting segment I recall is James Taylor performing Jelly Man Kelly on his guitar with some kids. I never understood the lyrics, but I liked the relaxing setup.

One Banana was very creative. It’s about how bananas always grow in bunches and never alone. It also relates to how people grow with friends and family. As silly as this song is, it has some realism too.

Now who remembers Don Music? He’s that song writer that seems elegant, but when he gets stumped on a lyric, Don slams his head on the piano saying that he’ll never get past his writers block. At times he can be too emotional and give up too easily. It’s funny at first, but after a few times it’s hard to watch.

In this segment, Don works on Mary had a Little Lamb. With Kermit’s help, Don makes a new song called Mary had a Bicycle. While performing it, the members of Little Jerry and the Monotones suddenly join in. Where did those guys come from?

The last big highlight is Hoots the Owl and his band performing Put Down the Duckie as Ernie tries to play the saxophone. It’s a catchy song (Despite that it was already on Sesame Street: Put Down the Duckie) that features many celebrity cameos, including Pee-Wee Herman at his playhouse. It’s interesting that Ernie’s only problem was not to hold his rubber duckie while playing the sax. You’d think there would be harder things about playing the instrument to consider.

This was another great feature with classic Sesame Street segments. It’s the kind of material that makes you look forward to the next Sesame Street Old School DVD set, if there are any more coming.