It's fair to say that, round about the mid 1960's, the Hanna-Barbera shows were, to some, hit and miss in terms of characters and/or writing - by the latter, everything was pretty much illustrated radio where the characters would fill as much dialogue as possible to fill the time slot or explain the heck out of everything that's going on on-screen for anyone who's out of the room and misses the action....maybe.
One of the worst offenders I've seen has been from the Precious Pupp series (the character was originally part of "the Atom Ant / Secret Squirrel Show" and, by Don Messick's wheezy laughter, naturally a predecessor for Muttely of "Dastardly and Muttley" some years later). The basic outline of the episode "Bones and Groans" is a follows:
Bruiser the dog next-door tries various schemes to nab Precious's large soup bone, which totally backfire on him - and the reason being is Bruiser telling us (the viewers) exactly what he's going to do and while he's doing it, clear in ear-shot where Precious himself can overhear and thwart him each time.
If that isn't poor planning, I don't know what is :P
First time I watched this, I felt rather ticked at the quality HB appeared to be slowly sinking into, constantly muttering: "if I had been in charge of that episode, it would have been much different". Then I got thinking...
...on the one hand I could have produced a similar storyline of my own without relying so much on "narration"...
....but on the other hand I decided:
"Why try and better a weak episode when I can improve on the original?"
So after some weeks of planning, editing and scrounging for all available files, this is the final result. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find all the necessary sound effects or music scores which were used at the time, but halfway through editing I just gave up and went with whatever sounded good - hence how we have a mixture of Hoyt Curtain's scores from the Yogi Bear/Loopy De Loop period as well as numerous Warner Bros. SFX to boot.
In short, the final result isn't entirely perfect but is, I hope, a much better cartoon in terms of improved dialogue (or lack of it), sharper timing and....well....trying to be as resourceful with what I've got, basically.
Top props, as well, for fellow artist and decent chap Andrew Morrice for offering to play the role of Bruiser, with myself substituting for Don Messick in brief scenes here and there. And don't worry, a lot of Messick's trademark "Muttley laughs" have been left as intact as possible. He is as brilliant if not equal as Daws Butler in terms of voice acting at this time =)
So enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of my labour, with links to the original episode and my "revised" version below for you to compare on.
Oh, and carefully note for my video how the TV Logo never leaves the corner of the screen... ;)
Out of all the countless and countless of adaptations made in the past, present and future, my all-time favourite version of "The Wind in the Willows" has to be the Cosgrove Hall successor.
Next to the carefully-chosen cast members and the stunning realism of its stop-motion animation, it's the writing that truly won me over. Obviously starting with the film, Rosemary Anne Sission and Brian Trueman kept the writing of the series directly in the faithful roots of Kenneth Graham's own style and characters - long after they had adapted all the original Willows stories (some that became TV Series episodes which weren't included in the first film) and also not afraid to show some "dark" tales, too - long before PC Nonsense reared its ugly head.
And the fact this spanned two feature-length films and five seasons is no surprise in my books. If you haven't bought the complete DVD Collection or have yet to see any of the episodes - DO SO. Then perhaps we can introduce today's hyped-up generation to decent children's television....
And believe it or not, this is my attempt at realistic drawings
Recently I have just got into another blast from the past - brought to us by Misseri Studios this very charming little series about a playful ducking who encounters different animals and learns new "languages" about each one. Based solely in Italy, Misseri Studios are one of many European places that still rely on traditional animation methods for quality children's entertainment; proudly demonstrated with claymation (Mio Mao, Red and Blue), sand (A. E. I. O. U), water (Pozzie) and paper origami models (this series). They are even the masters behind the stop-motion series Bert and Ernie's Great Adventures via Sesame Street, so that says a LOT for this studio's efforts when every other studio and series is suddenly turning CGI on us.
So for your enjoyment, here's a QuaqQuao eppie to sample Misseri's amazing quality =)
To get rid of the last blog post, here's a more fun comic storyline to enjoy - this, sadly, was a reprint of the comic formally known as "Toonerang" (The home of Boomerang UK, when it used to show regular repeats of Hanna-Barbera, DePatie-Freleng stuff as the US do), so I've no clue when this storyline was first printed in whichever magazine overseas - nor if any original dialogue was altered in this reprint.
Anyhow, it's quite a fun story that keeps the spirit of Mike Maltease's wild style fresh with some peachy-keen artwork. And apparently, Guitar Showmanship (or smashing of the instruments) seemed to have originated as far back as roughly 1964, at least according to this story:
"In 1964, while playing at London's Railway Station nightclub, Pete Townsend was having trouble with his Rickenbacker. The electric guitar was buzzing and humming, so Pete tried shaking it around, but accidentally hit the low ceiling. To his complete amazement, the guitar broke in half. Pete, thinking quickly, acted as though it was part of the act and started stomping on the guitar and completely destroyed it, and so guitar smashing was born."
Seems a little out of the time zone, though, considering that both Quick Draw and El Kabong were "born" sometime before 1959, a few years before Pete's memorable incident. All the same, it still makes for a neat comic to read =)
Whilst we Brits may not have the glamorous and humorous issues of Boom! Studios Comics (including Darkwing Duck, Donald Duck & Friends and various Pixar titles) nor consistent, laugh-out-out issues of Looney Tunes (with NO puzzle pages whatsoever), we still rely on what appears to be the last remaining and long-running British Comics to keep this century's generation amused, at least for those who lack a TV, Computer, DS and/or Mobile phone for entertainment.
Unlike The Beano, however, its "rival" The Dandy - which was first published on the 4th December 1937 - has seen many major and shocking revamps over the course of 2000 and beyond. Here's a basic history of its timeline:
16 October 2004 - the comic changed format and content, reflecting a more television-oriented style, now printed on glossy magazine paper instead of newsprint.
August 2007 - changed its name to Dandy Xtreme, with every issue featuring celebrities and other Non-Dandy cartoon characters on the front cover fortnightly.
October 2010 - returned as a weekly comic and ditched the 'Xtreme' from the title.
I remember following the Dandy as long as the Beano the moment I could read. And going by the content and characters provided by the Dandy Staff in later years (not to mention the immense price of nearly £3 per issue), I thought it the kindest option to leave the Dandy well alone. If it can't please me, then at least it'll still amuse today's generation.
Then when news of its latest "revamp" came about, my curiosity peaked up again - mainly because British Comedian Harry Hill (famed for TV Burp) was helping to get its comedy values back up again - next to getting his own comic strip series, which he himself pens the scripts for, and with Nigel Parkinson drawing the comics.
So I decided to pick up a copy to satisfy my curiosity - and call me an old fogie, but sadly, Harry's comic was the ONLY story I laughed loudest at. What shocked me most of all was discovering that all the original Dandy cast had been dropped completely - bar Desperate Dan, Bananaman and Korky the Cat - and replaced with, in the nicest terms possible, "brain farts". Here's a list of the cast present:
The Mighty Bork - a stupid Blue Alien who attacks news reporter Rocky O'Flair.
Kid Cops - a pair of kids on a mission to bring boring adults to justice (yeah, REAL original...!)
The Phantom Pharter - "guilty of dropping a bean-bomb in Buckingham palace and ruining the Queen's Speech". Need I say more?
The Bogies - based off of this latest 'net fad ----> LINK!
Count Snotula - a vampire who sucks (surprise, surprise....) bogies.....
Pre-Skool Prime Minister - fed up of grown-up politics, the United Kingdom elected a four-year-old as the next Prime Minister...
Shao Lin Punks - Avatar/Anime/Manga fad....thingy...
Little Simon - Adventures of "younger" versions of pop celebs. This week is Little Simon in X-factorville - who tries to be bad but can't help being good.
Robot on the Run - set in Ipswich in the year 5173, the world's first robot escapes from "the Museum of Ancient Really Awesome Old Things from the Olden Days of the Past". Too much dialogue, not enough funny.
Postman Prat - skateboarding looney parody with his unlucky cat Tess.
Pepperoni Pig - about the only other comic that kept my interest. A red pig working as a delivery guy at "War 'n' Pizza" takeaway place.
Noel or No Noel? - Noel Edmonds delivering unfunny variations on his "Deal or no Deal" catchphrase...groan-worthy even for me.
So it seems the likes of Ollie Fliptrick, Sneaker, Beryl the Peril, Cuddles and Dimples and the "new" Dandy mascot, Jak, seems to have fallen victim to the job-cut like the rest of us. There are so many new characters altogether, if you changed the name of The Dandy, it wouldn't matter at all; it'd still be an entirely different comic altogether.
And what really made my heart sink was the radical new designs Desperate Dan, Bananaman and Korky received here. A far cry from the wonderful, original works of Dudley Watkins, John Geering and Robert Nixon many of us still fondly remember from our faded copies of previous Dandy issues.
I'm sure many of us will give it a chance...but if you ask me: the only good entertainment I'll ever find is either from friends with sharper wit or by making my own. Have it whatever you like. But until someone over there wakes up and gives us decent stuff that's on par with Gary Northfieldor Mike Pearse's stuff, then I wash my hands with the Dandy altogether.
This was a lil' something I drew for my Grandad's Birthday last week - two of his fave British Comics, Tommy Cooper and the Two Ronnies (Barker and Corbett respectively) while making use of one of Cooper's own jokes...!
Another selection of screenshots from "Pink Panther and Pals". Just a shame that the best piece of animation came so very near the end of this short...
In this episode, the Pink Panther comes across a strange pair of sneakers which have a life of their own - with many high-speed hi-jinks to come. The only low point of this episode is, throughout it all, "Big Nose" and his dog constantly pop up at irrelevant times whilst on a walk, with hardly any connection to the story at all. I'll admit, once or twice would be enough for a running gag (no pun intended)....but 7 times!???
Anyway, as I said, my favourite moment cane just near the end when Big Nose discovers the shows himself and tries them on. The stretchiness of this scene is to die for!
I've tried to grab it as best I can, frame by frame.
And just for kicks, here's the actual eppy below to watch while it's avaliable - it's in Spanish, but no one's gonna mind, right?
OK, since I've said my share on the modern revival of "The Ant and the Aardvark", now onto the star of "Pink Panther and Pals" - Pinky himself.
One thing I will give the crew credit for is that when this "new, younger" Pink Panther show was announced in 2005, I had my serious doubts over how it would handle (especially as everyone seems to bleat about the 1993 series where the title character was voiced by Matt Frewer throughout its two-season run). But it seemed that some brainiacs over at MGM were paying attention when the animation community went in total uproar about it - next to the fact that the whole "babyised" versions of popular characters has been run into the ground countless of times, the original draft style presented wasn't exactly "thinking pink" either... :P
Note how here, The Inspector was also a chosen candidate...
Then of course over a count of time, the chosen characters were given a new redesign, this time aging the Pink Panther to be a teenager instead of a kid. Better thinking and the background design seems more DePatie-Freleng-ish in the next draft below - which was happily continued into the series itself - but the character design was still pretty "yecchhh" to many.
FINALLY...someone at MGM finally pulled their finger out and gave the character designs one last major revamp, giving us the final result below:
Happily (but only just) the public accepted this new look, which remains more faithful to their original designs, with the Ant and Aardvark looking much more cartoony and fun in their redesign during the development process. But as you will notice, The Inspector was eventually dropped from this latest revival, the cast and crew instead deciding to bring back the Pink Panther's adversery the Little Man (originally "Friz" in the theatrical shorts, a fun caricature of Friz Freleng himself, but renamed "Big Nose" in PP&P), that dog who received many a beating from "Friz" and the laughing horse from "Pinto Pink", now renamed "Hoarse"...
Pinky's design could have been handled better, but admittedly he looks more plesant than the original promotional artworks before.
OK, so with the history lesson over, how does the show hold up to me?
From having observed a whole season of the show on Cartoon Network - when it decides to play the episode in the correct airing order!! - I've taken particular note on the series per episode in terms of animation and storytelling; two vital key points that ANY cartoon series/movie must take special care with, whether it's in 2D, Flash, CGI or stop-motion.
First off, the animation - while obviously made using Flash MX and/or ToonBoom, the animation for both Pink Panther and Ant and Aardvark segments were all drawn frame-by-frame, which helps the show a lot. According to research, much of the animation was done by Rubicon based in Jordan, Arabia, and for the most part it's fairly decent - though at times the PP cartoons look rather stiff and slow-paced, and some of the jokes seem to suffer because of this. Whereas the A&A shorts are more stream-lined and indeed animated; it really helps keep their fast-paced humour up with chuckles a-plenty.
In fact, according to a Cartoon Brew review of the series, it seems a cast member from PP&P had this to say for the animation:
"Rubicon definitely had a ton to learn regarding timing and following boards. Our animatics were timed and fully posed out, however, a lot of it just didn’t translate overseas. Gags that got laughs in animatic form fell flat because they evened out or simply didn’t understand the timing. We eventually resorted to animating certain actions in-house just because it was impossible to direct animation from 3000 miles away.
They did get better over the course of production."
As with the design styles, very smart thinking there ;)
To add to the artwork style, I do love the "animated title cards" to this series; another creative plus for the animation team.
Next up comes the storytelling. For the Pink Panther shorts, they're rather a mixed bag, TBH. While the writers did try to remain as faithful to the original shorts as possible, in terms of telling a story with little or no dialogue at all, they seem to rather struggle in that section - notably when it comes to the comedy relationship between PP and "Big Nose" steady.
In the original theatrical shorts, the Pink Panther would pester or persist the Little Man either intentionally or unintentionally reg; the storyline or set up: in most cases, either "Friz" is the innocent by the Panther's suave intentions - in episodes like "The Pink Phink", "The Pink Blueprint" or "Twinkle Twinkle Little Pink" - or both characters are without meaning any intended malice to one another - like "Gong with the Pink", "In the Pink" or "Sky Blue Pink".
Heck, even the Panther still managed a good story on his own without pestering "Friz"; turning even the simplest of tasks into major cartoon backfires, happily demonstrated in "Pink Punch", "Shocking Pink" or "Reel Pink".
But in terms of what Pink Panther and Pals has brought us, "Big Nose" seems to be branded the "bad guy" throughout (often paired alongside his dog) who PP has to do battle with a vast majority of the time. To add also, many episodes wind up with Big Nose taking up most of the screen time over the titular character, often focusing far, far too much on his short temper and "LOL Random" moments that take too long to show or aren't properly executed. Such shorts including "Pink Up the Volume", "Pink Beard" and "Life in the Pink Lane" demonstrate how Big Nose unwittingly takes over, leaving PP a cameo in his own cartoons...!!! Another problem with the Little Man is, whereas "Friz" remained totally silent in the original PP cartoons, here "Big Nose" has to continuously grunt, squawk, squeak, shriek, yell, sob, mutter, grumble, mumble and sneeze in every damn scene he's in just to show the audience how he's feeling. Intended audience or not, I'm more than happy to tell how Big Nose is feeling just by seeing his expressions and complete pantomime acting rather than indicate his "feelings" by stupid little noises.
However, with the bad comes the good. When the writers bring us a good episode they do, happily in cases when Pink Panther takes complete centre stage without Big Nose's nose poking into his business. Some of the newer shorts often do recall the original PP cartoons where, again, he turns a simple everyday task into a manic but humorous mess. Notable shorts worth checking out include:
"Pinkaroni Pizza", where PP tries to make himself a home-cooked pizza with a cookery kit.
"Remotely Pink" which has PP buy a new remote control that manages to control everything but the TV!
"Pink Hi-Tops", where PP tries on some strange running shoes with a mind of their own (even if it does involve annoying, unnecessary cameos by Big Nose and his Mutt)
And just for the heck of it, a short which involves PP properly pestering Big Nose:
"Pink Party Of One", which has PP trying to sneak into a restaurant for food, avoiding the detection of Head Waiter Big Nose.
One more qualm I do have with PP&P is the music. from what I've seen in recent years, it's become a common trait in many present day animations that they become lumbered with dull or uninteresting background scores that don't have enough "punch" to keep the action or attention of the story. What made Doug Goodwin and Walter Greene's music oh-so popular was their unique styles to fit within any cartoon their scored, even when the same themes are used as "stock music" in later episodes to come. They were catchy, they were fun. They didn't try too hard to be "hip" or "down with it", even for the '70's! ;)
Doug Goodwin gave Ant and Aardvark their swinging signature Dixieland themes (their "Chase" theme being the most signifigant with their wild trumpets and pianos!) whilst Walter Greene had cool flutes and guitar strings along with a smoking sax for The Pink Panther. Hell, even Bill Lava's ominous but sexy sax and piano sting themes were brilliant for the first several dozen Pink Panther scores!
But here, while David Ricard does do the job well for the most part, he could really take a few pointers from Goodwin and Greene on upping his soundtracks for a possible future series to come. Even James Stemple gave his heart and soul into his soundtrack for the 1993 Pink Panther series (yes, AGAIN with Matt Frewer!) with an intro that would make Henry Mancini glow with pride:
So my view on the series as a whole is Pink Panther and Pals has certainly come a long way from those early promo posters. While they still have faults that should be noted and hopefully amended in future, the crew have done a splendid job in trying to remain as faithful to the original theatrical shorts as they can in this day and age of television. If they are ever granted a second season, I'd love to see them improve over their human errors - mainly in terms of scripting - and really push themselves to keep the Pink Panther segments as hilariously active as the Ant and Aardvark shorts.
It is fair to say, too, that they have obviously watched and rewatched the original PP cartoons, taking special attention to the art style and storyboardings from the DFE crew - keen eyes will notice that they even pay homage to a few classic scenes from the classic PP shorts in the modern-day cartoons made...
However, if staying faithful to the original PP cartoons is their selected goal, it leaves me with two more questions should I ever meet anyone from the PP&P team:
- What was the whole point of deaging the Pink Panther? Is it because TV producers think teenage viewers think he'd be "better" when brought down to their age group? Is it because they fear his nature of smoking fancy cigarette holders might encourage busybody mothers to shriek like tree monkeys over this "bad behaviour"? Or is it because someone thinks he'd look better without complicated whiskers to animate?
- Why the HEX did they bring in "Hoarse" as a proposed main character? From what I've seen so far, all this character has done is cameo in several shorts as either a Knight's noble steed or as an unlikely competitor in the Olympics - basically an extra slot to full the quota.
IMO, there are plenty of other DFE characters the PP&P crew could have also brought back onto the small screen alongside the Ant and Aardvark, and with many good reasons why:
- why not exploit Pancho and Toro the Tijuana Toads, since Warner Bros are daring enough to bring Speedy Gonzales in the latest Looney Tunes series and forget the whole "racial Mexican" issue ever happened. Think Laurel and Hardy but with "meh-hee-kan" accents!
- The Blue Racer, another favoured character by David DaPatie himself. Plenty of fun stuff to do with this stretchy, fast little serpent; very expressive without the need for limbs and a chance to bring awareness of this endangered species in real life. Also with another redesign, have his target prey the Japanese Beetle alongside him, too!
- Crazylegs Crane, one of the busiest and actively-used DFE characters throughout the studio's legacy: starting as a threatening but goofy bird of prey for first the Toads then Blue Racer respectively before gaining his own series alongside a hilarious (but totally non-racial) Firebreathing Dragonfly. The latter would be a good reason to see if Frank Welker is still up on voicing a singing Dragonfly again!
- Roland and Rattfink - think Spy Vs. Spy but one is a British do-good and another is a evil green version of Frank Nelson. Brilliant opp to have hidden anti-war messages and stuff that'll go way over the Kid's heads but make the adults hoot with laughter over!
- The Dogfather. OK, so kids won't get the whole Godfather reference but hey, old style gangsters in snappy suits, who happen to be talking dogs, is more than enough to keep the knee-biters entertained. Besides, their design is more visually approving than the version of the Dogfather that was presented to us in the 1993 Pink Panther Series... XP
- The Inspector - no, NOT Inspector Clouseau, not someone who looks like or sounds likeInspector Clouseau - just "The Inspector". It's the poifect set up for bizarre criminals harassing France with a violent Paul Frees-like Commissioner and a humble, misunderstood Spanish French Officer, Segt: Deux-Deux, to make up a small but winning French Police cast.
- Hoot Kloot. Hell, why not!? A Yosemite Sam-wannabe with a put-upon war-horse as his getabout. If Warner Bros can allow guns in their Animated Marvel / DC shows, why not Kloot? The ol' western set-ups were good enough storytelling for Quick Draw McGraw, after all...
A'right, I think this blog post has run its lengthy course for one night. But for those who have managed to read it this far: please do share it around for others to read and learn from, for the sake of creative freedom everywhere...we beg of you! =)