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Jan 282012

Classic cartoons from the old days always had memorable theme songs, some of which could be found on soundtrack albums if there were any. In the mid 90s, there was a very rare mixture on an album called Saturday Morning Cartoons’ Greatest Hits, which features the different theme songs in a more extended and updated manner and performed by “modern” bands and artists.

Some of those classic songs include the themes from Scooby-Doo Where Are You, Josie and the Pussycats, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, PopeyeHong Kong Phooey, and Spiderman (60s version). A different artist or band like Matthew Sweet, Liz Phair, The Ramones, The Butthole Surfers, Juliana Hatfield, and others perform them.

Not all of the tracks are theme songs though. There are also songs from different shows that were hits back in the day like Sugar Sugar from The Archie Show, Epp Opp Ork Ah-Ah from The Jetsons, Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy from Ren and Stimpy, and Open Up Your Heart and Let the Sunshine in from The Flintstones. All of which were only featured once in certain episodes. Does anyone still remember any of these songs?

There are even theme songs from shows I had never even heard of before like The Bugaloos, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, Groovie Ghoulies, Gigantor, and H.R. Pufnstuf. Luckily, the inside cover has information on each show, which made them more familiar to me and made me curious to see what these shows are like, if I can find them either on DVD, Netflix, or the Boomerang Channel.

Along with the info, there’s also a bit of commentary from the bands and artists about their take on these songs as well as their favorite cartoons growing up. It must be a real pleasure to participate in an album like this.

In addition to the album, there was also a straight-to-video feature about Saturday Morning Cartoons Greatest Hits. On a beautiful sunny day, Drew Barrymore and her friends have fun watching music videos from all of the different songs and provide their own cute and funny commentary. (It doesn’t include the theme from Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids for some reason.)

To add to the fun, the group also gets a package that contains things like breakfast cereal, candy necklaces, and silly string in spray cans. That’s just the kind of stuff that represents innocent times. You won’t find a special like this on MTV and I have no doubt that only hardcore Drew Barrymore fans would remember it.

This album is unique with its modern twist on old favorites. Once I do find any of the old shows, after listening to this CD, I now observe the theme songs to see how they are different in comparison.

Oct 222011

Fat Albert and the gang, along with Rudy’s new friend Devery, spend Halloween trying to scare elderly people in Fat Albert’s Halloween Special.

The biggest target is Mrs. Bakewell, an old widow who lives in a spooky house by the graveyard.

There’s also great creativity with the costumes Fat Albert and the others make out of stuff from the junkyard after getting kicked out of the costume shop. One of the people the group visits while trick-or-treating is Mudfoot Brown, who ends up taking their candy while telling them about how different trick-or-treating was like in the old days. According to Mudfoot, there were no signal lights to light up the street and none of the candy was prepackaged.

Throughout the evening, Devery’s little sister Melba pops in and out while trying to get Devery home because he was grounded earlier. You’ve got to admire Melba’s determination because nothing scares her. Devery even dares Melba to go to Mrs. Bakewell’s house. She and Russell both go inside, but don’t come back out. What could’ve happened?

This was another great special from the Fat Albert franchise because it provides a valuable lesson in respecting your elders.

Apr 202011

“Hey, hey, hey.” Easter is coming up and one of my favorite Easter TV specials is Fat Albert’s Easter Special. Fat Albert and the gang decides to get into the true spirit of Easter by fixing up Mudfoot Brown’s place. It’s real thoughtful of them since Mudfoot has always been a good friend.

In the later seasons of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, segments about the intergalactic superhero, The Brown Hornet replaced the Junkyard Band songs. The morals in those segments always matched the ones Fat Albert and the gang experience.

In this Brown Hornet adventure, the wicked wizard Casnac steals the Easter eggs on the planet Armello. Without them, there can be no rebirth of spring. While trying to stop the Brown Hornet from interfering, Casnac’s magic backfires. The eggs are safe, but Casnac is not. So the Brown Hornet rescues him first. Casnac sees the error of his ways and turns good.

Later, a similar situation happens at Mudfoot’s place. Rudy decides to pull a practical joke, but it backfires when he accidentally hurts Mudfoot. Mudfoot gets medical help, but he has lost the will to live. Fat Albert and the gang decide to continue fixing Mudfoot’s place in the spirit of Easter and take care of his bills by doing odd jobs.

Rudy takes it harder than anyone and decides to work at a dangerous job with scrap iron, only because it pays well. Rudy is so frustrated with himself that he doesn’t even care if he gets hurt.

Fat Albert’s only solution is to visit Mudfoot at the hospital, but it won’t be easy because of his age. Minors are not allowed to visit patients without an adult. Of course, that won’t stop Fat Albert from doing what’s right, even if it means disguising himself as a doctor while sneaking in.

Fat Albert makes it to Mudfoot and explains the situation to him. It gives Mudfoot the will to live again and recover. Then it becomes real touching when Mudfoot forgives Rudy and they all celebrate Easter together.

This may be one of the very few TV specials that don’t feature the Easter Bunny, but it’s still a classic.

Mar 032010

As long as I can remember, I’ve always been a Bill Cosby fan. I can still remember some of his “Jell-O Pudding Pops” commercials and Picture Pages segments from the Nickelodeon channel, where Bill Cosby uses that musical marker called Mortimer Ichabod. Remember little Mortimer? 

Fat Albert’s Greatest Hits The Ultimate Collection (4-discs) (1972-1984) definitely stands out as a classic. I first discovered Fat Albert back in second grade. There was a small poster on the wall of the characters and several class rules on it. A short time later, I found out that it was actually an animated series. The class watched a couple of episodes and I enjoyed it. Partly because there was no homework assignment involved. Two of my favorite characters were Rudy and Dumb Donald. At first it was because of their unique hats. Then when I saw the show, I liked their comedic personalities. Dumb Donald more than Rudy.

I used to not understand what this show was about and it was difficult to keep track of on cable. Just like The Muppet Show. When the DVD sets came out, I was thrilled. And I had a better understanding on what the show was all about, real life situations and pro-social concepts.

Fat Albert is also based on Bill Cosby’s high school days. Like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, if the show had aired while I was in high school, I would’ve thought that this was a teen show, even though it’s not. Even now I don’t think it is, but I still love it. What I admire most about the show was how creative Fat Albert and the guys are when turning any junkyard trash into all sorts of things from Halloween costumes to musical instruments. It may not be the most sanitary, but you’ve got to work with what you can afford.

I also saw Bill Cosby perform his stand-up comedy act the UCF (University of Central Florida) arena in 2007. It was mostly new material with items like, his 42-year-old daughter giving him a pair of croc shoes for Christmas, which he is wearing in this photo. He would understand for Father’s Day, but for Christmas? Bill Cosby also talked about how men now have a theme song and he whistles the jingle for those male enhancement commercials. Then he ends with his classic dentist bit, which is featured on Bill Cosby, Himself. I’ll tell ya. Bill Cosby is still as creatively funny as ever.

Dec 212009

Christmas is a very special time of year. It’s about togetherness and doing good for others. As children, we mostly saw Christmas as a time for Santa Claus, who gives gifts to all of the good children of the world. That’s nice too, but when I was a kid I saw Christmas for something else also. Being off school. Of course there’s always still a chance of having homework assignments over the break because it’s technically not the end of the semester yet. Don’t you just hate that?

Anyway, here is my top 25 list of Christmas specials that help me get more into the holiday spirit.

#25) Shrek the Halls: This takes place shortly after where Shrek the Third left off. Shrek (voice of Mike Myers) and his family are at the swamp house near Christmas time. As Donkey (voice of Eddie Murphy) and friends arrive with Christmas cheer, Shrek feels out of place because he never celebrated Christmas before. Embarrassed to tell anyone, Shrek goes into town and gets a book titled “Christmas for Village Idiots”. He follows it exactly, but things go out of control when the others don’t celebrate by the book. Shrek soon confesses to the others about how he doesn’t know about Christmas, but everything works out. This special has a great message about Christmas traditions. It doesn’t matter how you celebrate. Christmas is about togetherness and good will while having a good time. That’s what’s truly important.

#24) Little Drummer Boy: Based on the Christmas carol, a young boy named Aaron travels the countryside in Jerusalem with his toy drum. His only friends are BaaBaa the lamb, Samson the donkey, and Joshua the camel. Long ago, Aaron’s parents were killed by bandits and that caused him to hate all humans. He thinks they’re all bandits. Talk about stereotyping a species. That all soon changes when Aaron arrives in Bethlehem, meets the newborn king, and plays his drum for him. In Little Drummer Boy: Book 2 the story continues thereafter as Aaron goes with one of the three kings to fulfill a prophecy, which involves the newborn king and silver bells. Due to unfair taxes, the Roman Emperor takes the bells and it’s up to Aaron to help get them back. Aaron loses his drum to those greedy tax collectors, which leaves him heartbroken. Then realizes that his accomplishment was worth it.

#23) Sonic Christmas Blast: It’s Christmas time in the world of Mobious and Santa is retiring. Taking his place is Robotnik Claus. Sounds kind of suspicious, don’t you think? Especially since Robotnik Claus wants everyone to give him presents. Meanwhile, Sonic and Tails go Christmas shopping, but all of the stores are empty. It also turns out that Robotnik has captured Santa. It’s a race against time as Sonic and Tails try to defeat Robotnik and save Christmas. No problem for Sonic the Hedgehog as he goes through all sorts of adventurous perils.

#22) The Leprechaun’s Christmas Gold: Here’s an interesting special I had discovered recently. On an island inhabited by leprechauns, a cabin boy named Dinty goes ashore and digs up a Christmas tree. Only to find out that a wicked banshee named Mag the Hag was kept underneath it. Now the banshee is on the loose bringing bad luck with her tears. Banshees can take any form in order to persuade the leprechauns to give them their gold. There is one flaw in that tactic. Banshees can’t hide their tears. That’s right. Their eyes are always leaking. Personally, I prefer the version of banshees from that episode of Charmed better. It’s much more edgy. The story line didn’t seem like much, but there’s something about Irish music that just makes you feel good inside.

#21) Fat Albert’s Christmas Special: This is unlike any other special I’ve seen before. As Fat Albert and the gang prepare for a Christmas pageant, Tyrone, a junkyard owner, threatens them to move out of their clubhouse. They also find a homeless family and try to help them out. The father was laid off and his wife is about to have a baby. Fat Albert explains the situation to Tyrone, but he refuses to listen. He’s like a Scrooge. “No class.” Mudfoot talks some sense into Tyrone. Soon, good deeds conquer all. Doesn’t that make you feel good inside?

#20) ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas: Based the classic Christmas story, a human family known as the Trundles and a mouse family are worried that Santa will never return to their home town Junctionville again after everyone’s letters to Santa return to their senders. As it turns out, Albert, an intelligent mouse, wrote a letter to Santa mentioning what a phony he is. His father sets him straight when Joshua Trundle (voice of Joel Grey) , a clock maker, makes a huge clock to make Santa happy again. Fascinated by the clock, Albert accidentally wrecks it. It then becomes a race against time to fix it up again before midnight. It’s a good story about miracles and believing in what you can’t see or touch. Like Santa Claus and his baby reindeer. Baby reindeer?


#19) Charlie Brown Christmas: The Peanuts characters I remember very well. I found most of their specials depressing, but this one is funny and heartwarming. Lucy gets Charlie Brown to direct the Christmas play, but no one takes him seriously. They all just dance repetitively to Peanuts music. Who really dances with their shoulders up or sleepwalks in place? Soon Charlie Brown decides to get a Christmas tree. Of all the trees to choose from, he had to pick the smallest wooden tree. No one else likes it at first, but thanks to Linus, it becomes a great tree. Yet it still makes me wonder how the play turns out.


#18) How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966 version): This was one of the greatest Christmas specials of all time. Considering that it’s on cable every year along with Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Also a classic. It starts with the Grinch hating Christmas and the Whos. I’ll tell ya. That Grinch has some nasty teeth when we see them up close. And that big sinister smile. Don’t get me started. As the Grinch describes what he hates about the Whos, it seems like musical instruments are the most popular types of presents. Most of them look complicated to play, but those Whos make it all look so easy. Even the little guy playing the drum on a highchair. The Grinch disguises himself as Santa Claus and his dog Max as a reindeer. That harness does look a little tight, don’t you think? The Grinch arrives in Whoville and steals everything in order to keep Christmas from coming. Things like presents, decorations, and the feast. Even ice cubes, camera film, and flower pedals. Talk about not taking any chances. Sheesh. And here’s something a little ironic. The moral of this story is that commercialism isn’t what Christmas is all about. Yet the Grinch is a highly merchandised character during the holidays. Ain’t that something?

#17) Pee-Wee’s Christmas: This one is a favorite because it sure give me a funny perspective on fruitcake. Pee-Wee (Paul Reubens) has a long list for Santa Claus. Yet he keeps getting fruitcakes from his friends for Christmas. Yecch! At least he finds a great use for them. They make great bricks to build a new room for the playhouse. There were also cameos from various celebrities. One of my most favorites was when Charo sings “Feliz Navidad” while Pee-Wee tries to break a piñata. Another favorite was when Dinah Shore sings “12 Days of Christmas” over the picture phone, which goes to 500. No wonder Pee-Wee had to sneak out.


#16) Smurfs Christmas Special: Let’s face it. The Smurfs have always been a terrific group. In this story a villainous stranger seizes two children who are lost in the forest. He gets Gargamel to find them in exchange for a powerful spell to destroy the Smurfs. Luckily the Smurfs find the children, who think Papa Smurf is Santa Claus. He does kind of look like Santa if you think about it. There’s also a memorable song, “Goodness makes the Badness Go Away”. It comes in real handy when the stranger captures the children and Gargamel. It’s hilarious when Gargamel tries to sing it too. “Goodness… Yecch!”

 Frosty the Snowman#15) Frosty the Snowman: Who could forget the original special that helped make Frosty the popular icon that he is. It starts on Christmas Eve where a group of children watch Professor Hinkle, a crummy magician, perform his magic at their school. Seriously, what kind of school has class time on Christmas Eve? The children build a snowman, which comes to life after Hinkle’s rabbit Hocus brings his hat and puts it on him. Frosty becomes a playful snowman, but the fun gets cut short when the temperature goes up. Since the only place Frosty would never melt is the North Pole, it becomes a quest to get him there. Train tickets are too expensive and Hinkle wants his hat back. He’ll stop at nothing to get it. Thanks to Santa Claus Frosty’s problems are solved. No, not with presents. Frosty becomes part of the Christmas community at the North Pole. Frosty has other adventures too. In Frosty’s Winter Wonderland, Frosty gets married to a snow woman named Crystal and becomes friends with Jack Frost. And Frosty Returns, which is more of a winter special, is very relatable. The kids love the snow, but the adults hate it. Nobody likes to spend their snow days shoveling driveways or driving in slush. I know I don’t. It’s also funny. The teacher, Miss Carbuncle, gripes while plowing her sidewalk. “Before you know it this darn snow turns into slush. And when there’s slush, there’s ice. And when there’s ice, there’s broken hips. And when there’s broken hips, there’s substitute teachers. …It’s no winter wonderland when you’re skidding into a telephone pole.” That cracks me up.


#14) Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964): Now this is a Christmas special I remember from when I was a kid. Rudolph is a reindeer who was born different. Even his father Donner is ashamed. Rudolph was declared a misfit because of his nose. Luckily Rudolph finds a friend, Hermie, an elf that wants to be a dentist instead of a toy maker. They both run away and find adventure at the Island of Misfit Toys. I still remember the main ones like Charlie in the box, Spotted Elephant, Cowboy riding an ostrich, and so on. When the ornaments from this special started to come out each year, I’d recognize them easily. Even King Moonrazor. What was that pretty doll’s name? Another character that’s memorable to me is Ucon Cornelios. He’s a prospector with a sense of humor. He likes to throw his pickaxe in the air. Then picks it up, sniffs it, and licks it. That’s not sanitary, but I always found it amusing. Yet I couldn’t understand why he does that at all.


Then of course there’s the abominable snow monster. He’s one scary dude, but Ucon and the misfits were able to stand up to that brute. It’s a great story about accepting misfits for who they are. And let’s not forget that Burl Ives sings in this special. His music is on the P.A. systems at the different stores during Christmas every year. It gets a little annoying after awhile. And like Frosty, Rudolph has other adventures as well because he’s like the Hercules of reindeer. In Rudolph’s Shiny New Year, he searches for the Baby New Year who ran away because of his big ears that make everyone laugh at him. His latest adventure was Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys. Although everyone loves Rudolph for his nose now, he still doesn’t feel accepted as anything more than a novelty act. At least Hermie the elf dentist continues to see him as his true pal. Rudolph even considers a nose job, but he realizes that he should keep it for that’s what makes him special.


#13) Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer: Dr. Elmo bases this special on the hit song that was on The Dr. Demento Show. A young boy named Jake loved his Grandma, who runs a general store. The very pretty cousin Mel only cares about money and she wants Grandma to sell the store. Grandma refuses. Later that night, Grandma gets run over by Santa’s reindeer and she disappears. Jake is the only one who believes what really happened. Mel soon tricks Grandpa into selling the store and giving her power of attorney. Jake feels that only he can find Grandma and stop the sale from happening. After finding her, Mel and her attorney I.M. Slime make sure that Grandma stays missing. This special is about as funny as the song and a nice story too.

Neat, huh? The list got so big, I’m gonna have to end this one here for now. Not to worry. Check my blog real soon for Part 2, where I talk about the top 12.