'2 Stupid Dogs' V1 DVD: '90s Neomodern Approach to Retro Cartoons Proving Ground for Best 21st Century Animators
The Warner Archive August 14, 2018 three-disc DVD release of "2 Stupid Dogs" V1 coinciding with the (soon-to-be-reviewed) Blu-ray S2 release of the current CW edgy teen drama "Riverdale" is an iota of the buckets of proof that the Archive catalog extends far beyond DVDs of Golden Age films. As the "Warner Archive" category of this site shows, that distributor truly has something for everyone.
A post on a past Norman Rockwell Museum exhibit of Hanna-Barbera animation provides includes information that enhances appreciation for "Dogs." The gist of this is that the concept, the style, and the format of the 1993-95 TBS series "Dogs" pays homage to the Hanna-Barbera mid-60s "talking animals" fare with three shorts, as least one of which features the star anthropomomphic critter. This give ways to super hero fare that includes reviewed sets of "Space Ghost" and "Bird-Man" that the "Architects of Saturday Morning" produce in response to Spider-Man and his amazing friends invading the turf of Secret Squirrel and his peers.
Speaking of Squirrel, updated adventures of this cool 000 gadget inspector from the Golden Age of Bond occupy the center square of "Dogs." The tales (pun intended) of the titular talking canines sandwich the exploits of Squirrel.
The general idea of "Dogs" is that these nameless pals have hilarious misadventures that typically ensue as a result of the dachshund, who is the excitable "Little Dog," seeking food. Future "Everybody Loves Raymond" star Brad Garrett puts his trademark deadpan style to good use as the very chill sheep dog "Big Dog." For his part, Squirrel continues his tradition of battling the Bond-style super-villain of the week.
The retro vibe commences in cold opens in which legendary narrator/"Laugh-In" star Gary Owens announces developments that fit right in with the clips from that episode but that have nothing to do with the plots. Further retro fun comes via essentially "We'll be right back" and "We're back" bumpers that appear immediately before and after commercials during the broadcasts.
The following YouTube clip of the opening credits for "Dogs" illustrates (pun intended) the '50s/early '60s animation style of the series.
The animation-yet-to-come aspects of "Dogs" is just as amazing as its nod to the past. Creator Donovan Cook goes on to bring us the edgy and subversive "Duckman" starring Jason Alexander of "Seinfeld." The other "Cooks" include Genndy Tartakovsky of subsequent "Dexter's Laboratory" fame and "Powerpuff Girls" "dad" Craig McCracken, The influence of "Dogs" on these series extends beyond the similar drawing visual style and overall tone. "Powerpuff" fans will recognize the exaggerated sound effects that are more prominent in the later series.
The modern sensibility is apparent right at the outset with "Door Jam" in the first episode. The tin can of Big Dog rolling behind an electric eye door of a department store leads to Little Dog concluding that getting the door to open requires wearing shoes. The genuine hilarity that ensures includes a trip to a strip club in which Little Dog urges the human "exotic dancer" to take off her high heels,
A notable later change-of-pace episode has a geeky elementary school boy bringing the dogs in for Show and Tell. The absurd approach of Little Dog regarding getting down off a coatroom hook demonstrates how our boys get labelled as stupid. A later back-view scene in which the aforementioned dork proves to his peers that Little Dog is a boy in a manner that traumatizes the pooch establishes that these are not your father's Hanna-Barbera cartoons; not that there is anything wrong with that.
One more typical outing has the dogs having an incredible winning streak while in Vegas for a hot-dog buffet. One with a nice bit of edge with a great surprise ending has pursuit of ice cream leading to our temporary far-out space nuts launching a space shuttle.
The primary manner in which Squirrel shows that he is all grown-up is that his sadistic treatment of nerdy sidekick Morocco Mole is much more overt than in the earlier incarnation of their adventures. This begins with making fun of a temporary lisp and coercing him into donning a wig in their initial adventure. Their nemesis this time is Goldflipper, who is using a very powerful magnet to extract gold teeth from victims.
A "nuts" joke is apt regarding Squirrel facing Queen Bea involving an effort to pollinate. A tamer but very clever outing has 000 using his brains rather than his toys to outwit a subatomic bad guy named Quark. The outcome should endear "Squirrel" to both Trekkies and Trekkers.
The special feature is a series of "2 Stupid Facts Collection" that are amusing short shorts that provide filler.
Giving the Warner Archive July 25, 2017 Blu-ray release of the 1993 animated theatrical film "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" a portion of its due requires an extended review. The condensed version for the short-attention span readers who are used to 140-word news reports and six-second videos borrows a catchphrase from another unsung cult classic. Trust me, I know what I'm doing. Buy the fucking Blu-ray!
The numerous awesome aspects of "Mask" warrant starting from the general and narrowing in on specifics about this feature-film quality story that highlights the evolution, angst, and conflicting emotions that makes the highly damaged Bruce Wayne such a compelling and complex character.
"Mask" fulfills the pure purpose of a Blu-ray; to provide a (in this case spectacularly) enhanced version of a previously not widely available quality film or television series. The only criticism regarding this is that Archive deserves a tap (rather than a slap) on the wrist for not including any extras about this stylish and literally orchestrated film.
Warner Prime deserves credit for deciding that releasing "Mask" theatrically in an age that included direct-to-VHS movies was a chance its gotta take against all odds of the film breaking box-office records. The better news is that look at "Mask" nearly 24 years later verifies that the suits knew Jack back then.
The errors that contributed to "Mask" not having much of an opportunity to succeed back in the day included having incredibly limited marketing that neglected to spread the word that the wholly original "Mask" was not a re-release of episodes of the television series "Batman: The Animated Series" (by Batgod Bruce Timm) that spawned (pun intended) it. Further, releasing underdog (pun intended) "Mask" on Christmas Day 1993 pitted it against films that included "Schindler's List," "Philadelphia," and "The Pelican Brief."
"Mask" additionally suffered from coming out in a pre-widespread-web era in which that Al Gore invention was mostly being used for its intended purpose of sharing the fruits of scientific research. Word-of-mouth largely was limited to that means of spreading the news about the latest and the coolest out there.
Millennials must remember as well that it was not quite hip-to-be-square in the early '90s. San Diego Comic Con was much more limited in scope and popularity; further, having a "My Other Car is the Batmobile" bumper sticker was not entirely off the risky scale that plastering a pink triangle or a rainbow flag on the rear window of your car represented.
Society-at-large had not greatly embraced fanboy or gay culture at that point. That was one reason that many gay folks turned to fellow outcast fantasy aficionados for a sense of community. They too did not let being considered "queer" deter them from being themselves.
The following YouTube clip of the "Mask" theatrical trailer highlights both the above and the following aspects of this "must-own" release.
Readers who are still here now get the reward of learning specifics about "Mask." It is richly and vibrantly drawn with apt sharp angles. Further, the deep rich orchestration is appropriate for the operatic themes of the film (and evokes great thoughts of the quality music of the Looney Tunes theatrical shorts). As mentioned above, this production is ideal for a Blu-ray release.
The high concept of the film is that the titular grim reaper style specter with the literally chilling voice is hunting down and eliminating mob bosses on the Gotham home turf of our hero. The Rodney Dangerfield aspect of Batman (and Marvel counterpart Spider-Man) is that he is not getting any respect. The rank-and-file members of the Gotham Police Department believe that the Dark Knight is the murdering vigilante, and they are dead-set (pun intended) on shooting first and not bothering to ask questions later because dead men tell no tales.
The simultaneous big event in the life of Batman/Bruce Wayne is that the one who got away comes back. Former coed/heiress/main bat squeeze Andrea Beaumont literally jets into Gotham after the requisite decade-long absence. One of several flashbacks in "Mask" shows how this pair initially meets cute when Wayne comes across Beaumont speaking to the grave of her mother.
Related scenes have a pre-bat Wayne talking to the grave of his parents. A truly Messianic moment has a happyish Wayne begging his deceased mother and father for permission to end his suffering by abandoning his pledge to avenge their deaths.
Uber-veteran Batvoice god Kevin Conroy does his usual superb job bringing this character to life; having equally prolific (and talented) "China Beach" vet/Lois Lane voicer Dana Delany is a slightly odd but highly successful choice.
Also-still-going-strong Joker voice actor (and current Jokeresque Trump impersonator) Mark Hamill once again steals every scene in which he conveys the utter madness of his character. He joins the action out of a survival instinct related to knowing that he in on the animated version of The List of Adrian Messenger. This aspect of his origin story is one of numerous highlights of "Mask."
These current events converge to keep Wayne on the typical edge of sanity that his limited human contact keeps him from fully going over to the dark side. His To-Do List includes coming to terms with saving the bad guys, capturing his competition who does not follow his capture-and-release to the police philosophy, avoid having the GPD gun him down while he is out doing their job, and seeing if he and Andrea can make it work the second time around.
The aforementioned flashbacks chronicle both the course of the Brucea courtship and the evolution of Wayne from grieving son to Dark Knight. (Many other critics note that "Mask" is one of the few Batfilms to show the period leading up to Wayne becoming Batman.) These scenes further provide present-day Wayne with clues related to the mystery of who is killing the great mob bosses of Gotham.
The past and the present fully merge in the climatic scene between the primary ensemble. This further avoids the Hollywood ending that typically eludes Batman.
It is no mystery that this Blu-ray is highly recommended. The flashback of this review is imploring readers to buy the fucking Blu-ray!
Fans of "The Flintstones," "The Jetsons," "Scooby-Doo" and the scads of other Hanna-Barbera classic animated shows can relate to the not-so-youthful exuberance of your not-so-humble reviewer on recently visiting (and writing about) "Hanna-Barbera: The Architects of Saturday Morning," which is open through May 2 2017, at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Exhibit curator extraordinaire Jesse Kowalski inviting me to interview animator/vintage HB toy collector David Nimitz, who loaned 300 of the 4,000 items in his collection to "Architects," made me extraordinarily more ecstatic than the average bear.
Nimitz stating that his favorite HB shows included the "sweet ones" such as "Yogi's Gang" and "The Flintstones Kids" further illustrated his kind and gentle nature. Learning that he is the live-in caretaker for a 99 year-old friend (and delights in surprising her with HB toys that he finds at swap meets) fully makes the rest of us look like dirt.
Examples of the dedication of Nimitz to the exhibit included an offhand remark that he bought a "Speed Buggy" board game to supplement the small amount of merchandise from that (Unreal TV reviewed) series in his museum displays. He further spoke of the incredible effort that he devoted to those cases and expressed his disappointment that a Scooby-Doo bank could not be included because it was too tall for the available enclosure.
One of countless highlights of the nearly two-hour telephone conversation with Nimitz a few days later was his stating regarding the 18 months that Kowalski devoted to creating "Architects" that "he really put his heart into it, and it shows." An even more apt way of stating this is that Kowalski and Nimitz are the true dynamic duo of the HB universe, which includes "The Superfriends."
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Nimitz further demonstrated his deep love for HB in discussing his introduction to animation. He shared his excitement of being a 17 year-old intern on "A Pup Named Scooby-Doo" after years of riding his bicycle to the HB studio and rummaging through the trash for discarded animation drawings and cels during his younger days.
His numerous subsequent projects included the films "Space Jam" and the cult classic "The Iron Giant."
Mother Knows Best
An advance apology to Nimitz for asking the same questions that he has answered 1,000s of time resulted in discovering the origin story of this righteous dude. The first trite inquiry related to asking when the collecting habit of Nimitz evolved from amassing cool stuff to becoming a vocation.
He initially and generally stated that "It just has always been there since I was about five." He added that "my mother was really into it because I was into it." Learning next that Mrs. Nimitz began packing away the toys to protect them from young David earns this mother of the century the gratitude of "Architects" visitors who get to see the museum-heist worthy contributions of her boy to the exhibit.
Nimitz next discussed that he did not become the literally museum-quality collector that HB fans know and love today until his 30s. His stating that that was when he began going into the garage of his mother to get his toys was highly relatable to memories of the numerous times that the parents of your not-so-humble reviewer told him that he could keep a few items and must toss the rest.
The awesomeness of this coolest mom in the neighborhood extended beyond her lovingly storing the aforementioned treasures for two decades; she had been adding to the collection by attending swap meets on her own.
Nimitz also shared a tale of an even more awesome milestone in his collection. He stated that the secretary of recently deceased Joe Barbera gave Nimitz a huge box of HB toys in 2008. He noted that that bonanza prompted him to inventory his collection.
Nimitz subsequently noting that "it took a life time to realize the destiny of these toys" demands an enthusiastic "Amen, Brother."
The Holy Grail of Collectibles
The next trite inquiry related to asking about the Holy Grail of collectibles. Nimitz stated he currently was into a line of Mexican vinyl figures, and that "nothing really gets me like old old Scooby stuff from the late '60s and '70s." On a more general note, he stated that many collectors looking for the same toys hindered efforts to acquire coveted items.
One that has eluded Nimitz for years and would drive lesser collectors stark raving mad was having every character in the Italian Mini Flexy "Jetsons" collection except Elroy. An odd note regarding this line (which "Architects" includes) is that the doll for the patriarch of this space-age nuclear family is identified as Chico, rather than George, Jetson.
Nimitz further shared regarding that series that "Astro is very hard to get [from any line] because everyone loves him so much." He stated on a related note that "without Astro, there would not have been Scooby-Doo."
Nimitz was unsure of the exact reason for the "Chico" error but noted regarding other anomalies that "the weirder the better," and "the cooler the toy." One of numerous examples was a doll of tow-headed Barney Rubble having green hair. Nimitz explained regarding errors of that nature that toy companies had to work off black-and-white versions of "The Flintstones" and other cartoons of that era and made their best guesses regarding colors.
To Box or not to Box, That is the Question
The rote questioning continued with asking Nimitz for his opinion regarding the age-old question of whether it is best to keep a toy in its box or take it out and use if for its original purpose. His reply was "I'm all for the boxes; boxes of older stuff often are worth more than toys." He went on to describe a find that was in its packaging as "a double score." That logic included that that packaging typically had characters on it.
This wisdom included that one never knew when one would need to sell a toy to pay the bills.
The conversation turning to the Cartoon Network era of television animation included discussing Seth MacFarlane, who arguably is the Howard Stern of primetime cartoons. The discussion of the work of MacFarlane on CN series such as "Dexter's Laboratory" and "Johnny Bravo" included your not-so-humble reviewer opining that the proposed MacFarlane reboot of "The Flintstones" would have been deplorable. Fears included crude lesbian jokes regarding the Wilma/Betty relationship and Fred being a clone of the crass Peter Griffin of "Family Guy."
Nimitz politely but strongly defended MacFarlane. The most ringing endorsement was that "the core of Seth is that he is a Hanna-Barbera kid; I know that for a fact." Nimitz stated as well that MacFarlane realized that the Flintstones characters were so beloved that anyone who attempted a reboot would be incur tremendous scorn.
Learning of Mariana Trench depth of love that Nimitz has for his collection and the shows with which that treasure is associated required asking about his plans for his legacy to continue. He responded that his ideal would be to purchase the "Flintstones" themed campground/RV park/diner/gift shop Bedrock City near the Grand Canyon and turn it into a museum that would display his 4,000 and growing items. He noted that a spontaneous road trip there several years after he last visited the park has led to making that journey an annual pilgrimage.
You Oughtta Write a Book
The conversation then shifted to Nimitz discussing a book on which he was working; it was a catalog of his collection that organized his toys by the company that made them and the year that they were produced.
Nimitz pointed out that his method made more sense than the approach of others who organized comparable books by character of series, rather than by product line. He expressed the opinion of HB fans everywhere in noting that we wanted to see everything that was in a collection on the same page.
Exit Stage Left
The exhaustive chat with Nimitz and the stab at sharing all of his insights in this post require wrapping things up with sincere thanks to Nimitz and his mother for preserving such an enormous portion of '60s and '70s pop culture. Nimitz deserves additional thoughts for being so kind and generous regarding discussing this labor of love.
'Hanna-Barbera: The Architects of Saturday Morning' Exhibit at Rockwell Museum is Yabba Dabba Doo Worthy
[EDITOR'S NOTE: An article on an interview with world-class animator/Hanna-Barbera toy collector David Nimitz, who provided the museum every toy for the exhibit, also is on Unreal TV.]
Children of the '60s and the '70s (and other lovers of Saturday morning cartoons) must raise a bowl of tasty sugar-laden cereal that comprises the delicious part of a delicious nutritious breakfast in tribute to Norman Rockwell Museum curator Jesse Kowalski.
This former exhibitionist at the Andy Warhol Museum bringing both his curatorial talent and his love for the Scooby gang and the 1,000s of other Hanna-Barbera creations to Stockbridge, Mass. is why your not-so-humble reviewer and 1,000s of others who have uttered "yabba dabba doo" at least once in their lives have had the privilege of seeing "Hanna-Barbera: The Architects of Saturday Morning" at the Rockwell Museum. Having Kowalski guide me through the exhibit was like personally seeing Willy Wonka show off his chocolate factory.
The copious information that Kowalski shared included that the exhibit has been incredibly popular. He noted that it set a record for Fall shows and blew an exhibit of the work of comic book artist Alex Ross "out of the water."
One Scooby-worthy mystery that Kowalski cannot solve is why the late-'50s H-B cat-and dog series "Ruff and Ready" is a "lost" treasure. The historic significance of this first television effort by "Tom and Jerry" creators Hanna and Barbera includes it being the first Saturday morning show that is all cartoons, rather than a primarily live-action series in which a flesh-and-blood host incorporates cartoons that begin life as theatrical shorts in the program. Speculation regarding "Ruff" not achieving the same status as later H-B offerings is that our animation gods use this show to work out the kinks that their classics lack.
Alas, the exhibit tour did not end with owning the 100s of drawings, animation cels, video clips, and case-smashing worthy vintage merch. that comprises the exhibit. The exhibit catalog, which has reprints of much of the aforementioned art and photos of the aforementioned collectibles, is a nice consolation prize. Buying Funko-style toys of Daphne and Velma of "Scooby" fame when exiting through the gift shop is another highlight.
Folks who have not visited the exhibit have until May 29, 2017 to do so. Parents of K-12 kids particularly have the option of making this an April vacation week activity that the whole family truly can enjoy,
The exhibit fulfills the same ideal as a documentary film in that it equally entertains and informs. The scope extends from the early days of this 60-year partnership/friendship to the near present. Highlights are early rejected sketches of the Flintstones and other classic characters and concepts, such as "Josie and the Pussycats 1,000,000 BC," that never see the light of day.
Awesome verification that your not-so-humble reviewer is in sync with the exhibit is writing the caption for the below image of "The Flintstones" preceding Kowalski telling the tale of a female reporter who responds on seeing it in a pre-exhibit promotional campaign that it deplorably depicts whom your not-so-humble reviewer calls "sexy Wilma." Kowalski states that his respectful response to the real-life Lois Lane includes asking her to consider that this image is from the relative caveman period of the early '60s compared to the more enlightened "Jetsons" era in which we live.
Another highlight of the show (and a Herculean labor of love by Kowalski) is an interactive touch-screen exhibit with a homepage display of thumbnails of 96 HB characters. Touching a small image opens a page that allows you to read about that character, see video clips with him or her, and listen to related sound effects.
Light-hearted personal disappointment regarding not seeing Goober the disappearing dog of the Scooby clone "Goober and the Ghostchasers" prompted Kowalski to good-naturedly share that he was told to pick 96 characters. He and I both understood that that limitation precluded including the favorite HB creation of every visitor.
An underlying theme of the exhibit that is awesome for folks who suffer from the current big studio practice of producing films that blatantly sacrifice art for commerce is that Hanna and Barbera maintain both quality and the bottom line. The primary technique is the cost-saving practice of limited animation that the exhibit describes. An obvious element of this is the oft-repeating backgrounds on "Flintstones" and other Hanna-Barbera productions.
The audience additionally sees how Hanna-Barbera are true pioneers of television and how they successfully adapt to changing regulatory and cultural environments. This explains how "talking animal" Hanna-Barbera offerings lead to superhero and other action-adventure shows, which leads to animated versions of prime-time hits, which evolve into series such as "The Flintstones Kids" and "A Pup Named Scooby-Doo." (Nimitz began his animation career as a 17 year-old intern on "Pup.") You also will learn how the combination of governmental and consumer influence ultimately kill off Saturday morning cartoons.
Kowalski further proves his entitlement to induction in the Fanboy Hall of Fame in sharing at the end of our sadly less than three-hour tour that he will continue curating animation exhibits for the Rockwell museum. His reasoning that these shows further the objective of the institution to educate the general public about the legendary The Saturday Evening Post illustrator for whom the museum exists makes sense.
The statements of Kowalski that he wants to keep classic cartoons and other animation in pop culture (and that many young visitors do not know about Scooby-Doo) endears him to the heart of your not-so-humble reviewer. Readers of early manifestos know that Unreal TV owes its existence to larger sites rejecting coverage of "TV Land shows" that does not generate enough income to satisfy the suits. The specific founding principles of this boutique site include keeping Lucy Ricardo and Ralph Kramden in the public consciousness.
On a larger level, it is nice to learn that Hanna and Barbera are guys with whom you would want to share a mug of cocoa while watching their creations do the things that endear these men to all of us.
Unreal TV 2.0 evolves from http://classictvdvdreviews.blogspot.com/ (which still is up.) Both sites are labors of love dedicated to preserving the golden and silver ages of television and film and celebrating new content that values art over commerce. The same principle applies regarding boutique hotels.