Disney's 1985 CBS Saturday Morning series "The Wuzzles" may have only lasted one season, but it is far from forgotten. In fact, the characters continue to appear on TV and in the movies. You just may not have noticed.
The Wuzzles was one of the first shows created by Walt Disney Television Animation, and it was better than it needed to be. The series was based on a toy line that Disney developed with the Hasbro toy company.
The Wuzzles lived in the land of Wuz and were two animals in one. "They got originality, living with a split personality." The fun, nonsensical, fantasy stories were narrated by Stan Freberg.
The main Wuzzles included Bumblelion (bee/lion, voiced by Brian Cummings---another lion named Lionel, voiced by Jim Cummings, appeared on the Dumbo's Circus TV show in 1985), Butterbear (butterfly/bear, voiced by Kathleen Helppie---who later became a producer at Warner Brothers named Kathleen Helppie-Shipley), Hoppopotamus (rabbit/hippo, voiced by Joanne Worley), Rhinokey (rhino/monkey, voiced by Alan Oppenheimer), Eleroo (elephant/rabbit, voiced by Henry Gibson) and Moosel (moose/seal, voiced by Bill Scott).
Visitors to Disneyland in the Eighties could meet The Wuzzles in person and see them in parades. At some point, The Wuzzles characters were evicted from Disneyland, and found themselves available for rent. The Wuzzles have been seen in a number of non-Disney commercials, movies and TV shows, including the Fox series "Grounded For Life" starring Donal Logue and Megyn Price.
Bumblelion can be seen in T-Mobile's 2012 "Bring The Game To You With T-Mobile TV" commercial.
Bumblelion has had a bit of cosmetic work (sometimes his antennae have been removed) and costume changes over the years for his different roles in commercials, TV shows and films.
I also remember seeing a Rhinokey plush toy on at least one episode of the TV show "Roseanne."
The story and voice work for the TV show was done in California, but the actual animation production for The Wuzzles was handled by TMS Entertainment (Tokyo Movie Shinsha) in Japan. TMS is well-known in the animation industry, and later worked on shows like "Tiny Toon Adventures" and "Animaniacs!" for Warner Brothers.
I thought the villains (Croc, Flizzard and Brat) were the best characters in the Wuzzles universe. I don't think they appeared on any merchandise. Maybe because they were a little scary. That's why I liked them so much.
The artwork in this comic book story is really impressive, and unfortunately, sort of uncredited. Note that even in the land of Wuz, there are dog-faced "background characters" so often used in Disney comics.
The Wuzzles debuted on CBS in the Fall of 1985. Their competition on NBC was Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears. The Gummi Bears won that fight, and The Wuzzles were done. Or so we thought.
The Smurfs and Alvin and the Chipmunks recently returned to movie theaters. A Fraggle Rock movie has been in the works for years, and ALF and Don Johnson never really left. Maybe someday we'll see a return of Disney's Gummi Bears.
The Wuzzles have successfully infiltrated movies and TV shows made by rival studios and in multiple commercials that you only subliminally noticed. You thought The Wuzzles were cute and innocent. You were wrong! I bet the Wuzzles are plotting their return to TV and the big screen right now.
More Monorail Cafe, May 1999
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