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Mar 192013

Normally you’d think that Nicktoons are for kids, but if there’s one series that would prove otherwise it’s The Ren and Stimpy Show (1991-1996), which is about the misadventures of Ren Hoek a Chihuahua with anger issues and Stimpy a cat that’s always joyful.

The humor is often on a gross level. Whether it’s about Stimpy’s disgusting habits, like drinking sweat from his goggles and coughing up hairballs, or seeing close ups of Ren’s unbrushed teeth that could break a window. I have to turn away and cover my eyes. Seriously, it can get that disgusting.

However, not all of the episodes are like that. In fact, there are a few that aren’t gross at all, which make them my most favorites. Ones like; Robin Hoek when Stimpy reads the story of Robin Hood even though he can’t read, and Stimpy’s Invention when Stimpy gives Ren a happy helmet and they sing The Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy Song.

The Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy Song is a classic that always leaves me laughing. The lyrics may be simple, but the commentary with it is what really makes the difference. “I’ll teach you to be happy. I’ll teach you grandmother to suck eggs.” Isn’t that priceless?

There are also reoccurring segments on this series, which include Ask Dr. Stupid. That features Stimpy as a “genius”, who answers questions unintelligently. For instance, a boy asks Dr. Stupid why he has to go to school and Dr. Stupid answers, “Your parents are aliens, and while you’re at school they shed their human skins and breathe dryer lint.” Who would believe an answer like that?

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Let’s not forget the commercial spoofs, but there were only two that were most common. The first is Log, which is a round piece of wood that somehow passes off as a child’s toy. I must admit that the jingle is catchy as a spoof of Slinky.

The other common commercial spoof is about Powdered Toast, which is powder that becomes toast when sprinkled onto a plate. When a sprinkle container is empty, an unusual superhero called Powdered Toast Man arrives to save the day. All he has to do is shed some powder off his shoulder, like it was dandruff, right onto the plate. Wouldn’t you find that even a little creepy?

At MegaCon 2013, I met Billy West, who is the voice of Stimpy, Ren’s psychotic laugh, and Mr. Horse, who is a Jack of all trades kind of character.

Billy West is also best known for voicing several characters on Futurama, but did you know that he has done some old classic characters as well? Ones like Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd from Space Jam and Popeye and Pappy from Popeye’s Voyage: The Quest for Pappy. He totally nailed them. It was interesting when he told me about getting these roles. With the studios wanting to continue using old characters and the original voice actors, like Mel Blanc and Jack Mercer, no longer alive today, there are a lot of auditions to go through and Billy West felt lucky because he had a lot of big shoes to fill.

The Ren and Stimpy Show was a good series for its time, but I wouldn’t recommend it too highly unless you’re into gross humor.

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.

Mar 072011

Dogs are well known as man’s best friend. To some heroes, they also make great sidekicks. On the other hand, there are even dogs that make great heroes themselves, unlikely or not. There were so many good ones, it was difficult to narrow down. Here they are, my top 20 favorite canines in pop culture. I guess you could call them top dogs.

#20) Astro from The Jetsons: When Elroy found this dog he was labeled as a puppy, even though he is the same size as George when standing upright. Astro can also speak English, sort of. He’s very close with Elroy and loves to slurp George. “Now cut that out!”

#19) Max from How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966 version): This is the Grinch’s companion, actually his only companion. As loyal as Max is to the Grinch, he’s not exactly a sinister sidekick. Max only does what he’s told out of fear. Why else would the Grinch make Max a reindeer? Poor little fella.

#18) Rude Dog from Rude Dog and the Dweebs: I can remember back when this character was part of a popular line of T-shirts. Then he had his own cartoon series about living with seven other dogs, who are a bunch of dweebs. Rude Dog tries to teach them how to be better dogs. In addition to his wisecracks, Rude Dog is a good leader to guide the dweebs in the right direction. It’s not easy, but somebody’s got to do it.

#17) Mr. Peabody from The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show: Now here’s an intelligent canine. He can think his way out of any situation with his boy Sherman. It’s unknown how Peabody became such a brilliant dog, but he is one of a kind, leaving his mark through history.

#16) Santa’s Little Helper from The Simpsons: This greyhound with a long name used to run in the dog track, but was booted out for always coming in last place. Now he’s the Simpson family dog. He’s well loved, but highly unintelligent. Santa’s Little Helper fits in perfectly.

#15) Ren from Ren and Stimpy: He is the straight half of this duo. Ren constantly has to put up with Stimpy’s antics, which drives him up the wall. However, when Ren sees an opportunity to get rich based on what comes from Stimpy, like hairballs being more valuable than gold, he always jumps at the chance. Don’t get me wrong though. Ren can be as gross as Stimpy sometimes, but at least he’s more sensible.

#14) Muttley from Dastardly and Muttley: He is the loyal companion of Dick Dastardly, but tends to be a bungler. However, Muttley has the ability to fly by using his tail like a mini helicopter. It’s very helpful when Dastardly falls out of his plane time and time again while chasing that darn carrier pigeon. Muttley always expects medals for his heroic deeds, even before actually earning them. He’s also comedic with that wheezing laugh he’s best known for, which is still classic.

#13) Ravage from Transformers (80s version): This Decepticon is a robotic attack dog, who can transform into one of Soundwave’s cassette tapes. Ravage is fearsome with his sharp claws and teeth, but is more dangerous than any other attack dog because of the missiles in his arsenal. This brings “Beware of Dog” to a whole new level.

#12) Snoopy from Peanuts: We all remember this classic beagle. Unlike other dogs, Snoopy likes to lay on top of his doghouse flat on his back. He’s also imaginative and likes to party. Of course, Snoopy’s antics can drive Charlie Brown crazy. However, he’s hilarious when he kisses Lucy. She hates dog germs… a lot.

#11) Odie from Garfield and Friends: Jon Arbuckle doesn’t just own a cat, he owns a dog too. Odie is a good pal to Garfield, despite how Garfield treats him sometimes. Odie isn’t bright and doesn’t speak like the other dogs and cats, but is very enthusiastic. I wonder, if Odie could talk, what would he sound like?

I’ll have to stop here for now, but there are still more dog stars to come. Check my blog in Part 2, where I’ll be talking about my top ten.

May 212010

As many of us know, cats are lovable and comedic animals from the cat that plays a keyboard to Rap Cat, the former mascot of Checkers restaurants. (I miss Rap Cat.) Here is my top ten list of classic animated felines.

#10) Krazy Kat from Krazy Kat: You might not be familiar with this old character from the early 60s, but she is unique. There is a mouse, Ignatz, who is a total jerk that likes to throw bricks at people. However, Krazy Kat doesn’t want to chase him. She’s actually in love with Ignatz. Pretty weird, huh?

#9) Top Cat from Top Cat: Unlike many of the others listed here, this alley cat focuses on making a fast buck, along with the rest of his group. He has to be slick to avoid getting caught by the law.

#8) Hello Kitty from Hello Kitty: This character has been highly popular in Japan and America for years and still going strong. She is adventurous, but appeals to a much younger group. That is, unless you’re still into the merchandise.

#7) Tom from Tom and Jerry: This old cartoon series represents one of the first “cat and mouse” shows. Tom has tried to catch Jerry the mouse many times, but keeps getting clobbered. Neither of them ever speak, but fast paced action speaks more then words here.

#6) Heathcliff from Heathcliff: Here’s a funny cat that likes to be sneaky. He loves fish, but instead of fish flavored cat food, Heathcliff goes to a fish market. That always makes the owner angry. Heathcliff also has a nemesis, Spike the dog, who’s always out to get him, but Heathcliff always manages to outsmart that brute.

#5) Sylvester from Looney Tunes: This cat usually has food on his mind, which is why he keeps going after Tweety, Speedy Gonzolez, or a baby kangaroo, who Sylvester thinks is a mouse also. Not too bright is he.

#4) Stimpy from Ren and Stimpy: I admit, he’s not very recognizable as a cat, but Stimpy is a happy one. I mostly remember his attempt to make Ren the dog happy with a happy helmet and the “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” song. However, he does have some gross habits, but I don’t want to delve into that.

#3) Azrael from The Smurfs: He may be a villain, but Azreal is a cat many of us remember from the 80s. He works with Gargamel to capture the Smurfs, but he keeps fumbling. It’s also hilarious when Azreal keeps getting his tail slammed on with a book, which always freaks him out.

#2) Puss and Boots from the Shrek franchise: This classic fairytale cat comes to life as a slick warrior. He also has the charm of a real cat when he uses that cute face and purrs. That’s just what makes Puss so likable.

#1) Garfield from Garfield and Friends: That’s right. This sassy feline makes the number one slot with his hilarity and appetite for lasagna as well as all different kinds of people food. Garfield loves big meals, but hates to eat mice or cat food. It doesn’t sound very realistic though. I mean, how many cats do you know that like to eat pasta?