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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Happy Days With Mr. Cool And The Fonz

Before Family Guy, there was another animated TV series that featured a time-traveling talking dog and Donny Most and the Fonz.  Mr. Cool starred in Hanna Barbera's 1980 Saturday Morning cartoon, The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang.

Model sheets for the show reveal that Mr. Cool was originally named Chopper.

Looking at the development artwork, it is interesting to see the changes made before the show ultimately aired.

The design for the Fonz himself changed, presumably to make him easier to draw.

Mr. Cool's character design always stood out to me, and I could not figure out why.  Then I learned about the way he was designed.  According to The Animation Anecdotes #101 by Jim Korkis on Cartoonresearch.com:

 In 1980, when Hanna-Barbera decided to develop an animated television series based on the popular “Happy Days” sitcom, they were faced with a problem. They needed a “cool” dog character to add to the cast but all the submissions they got from HB artist resembled previous HB dog stars like Scooby-Doo. As a joke, animator Scott Shaw! who was amused at the fact that no artist could come up with a truly different looking dog character, decided to use his vast knowledge of cartoons to create an outrageous character. He took the head of Wile E. Coyote and grafted it onto the body of Walt Kelly’s Pogo Possum and submitted it. The design was accepted and after some reworking it became Mr. Cool, the dog companion of the Fonz.

The Happy Days live action show, created by Garry Marshall, debuted in 1974.  Henry Winkler's cool Fonz quickly became the most popular character on the series.

The Fifties were big in the Seventies, and characters similar to the Fonz could be found all over TV.

Mandy Patinkin played a similar (though ghostly) character called Teen Angel in 7Up ads in 1970 (yes, before Happy Days!).  The Trix rabbit dressed up like "King Cool" in 1975.  A suave dude named "Rocky" sang in 1977 commercials for 5th Avenue candy bars (complete with swooning backup singers).  A Fifties motorcycle riding "Big Bully" tried to take cereal from kids in 1977 ads for Honeycomb Cereal.

Also in 1977, Hanna Barbera launched a Saturday Morning cartoon series called "Heyyy, It's the King!" which mixed Jungle Animals and Happy Days-type situations and characters.  The Fonz type character was represented by a lion, "The King."

Another very similar character called Chopper could be found in a famous nutritional Public Service Announcement (animated by DePatie Freleng) in the Eighties singing "Exercise Your Choppers" on ABC Saturday Mornings.

The Fonz could be found on all sorts of merchandise, including Halloween costumes, action figures, and comic books.

There was a small amount of merchandise created for the Hanna Barbera cartoon, including the puffy stickers that I have here (stickers were really a big deal in the 1980s).

Hanna Barbera's Fonz merchandise was nothing spectacular.

Carded, plastic "dime store" items were the focus of the Hanna Barbera toy line.

Cupcake, a new character for the Hanna Barbera cartoon, was from the future and voiced by Didi Conn (Frenchy from 1978's Grease).

Jeff Conaway (Kenickie in Grease) appeared in an episode of the live action Happy Days.  Grease and Happy Days were both projects from Paramount Studios.

Ron Howard voiced Richie in the cartoon.  Donny Most was Ralph Malph.  Henry Winkler, of course, was the Fonz.  Mr. Cool was voiced by Frank Welker.  Potsie (Anson Williams) was not part of the Gang for some reason.

These days, you can find Henry Winkler and Ron Howard on Arrested Development.

Happy Days spin-off shows were also given the Hanna Barbera cartoon spin-off treatment.  Laverne and Shirley in the Army (complete with a cartoon pig sidekick, Sgt. Squealy) aired in 1981 and Mork and Mindy (with an alien dog sidekick) debuted in 1982.

These cartoon Garry Marshall shows were animated by Hanna Barbera's animation studio in Sydney, Australia.  When Hanna Barbera closed this studio, it morphed into Walt Disney Animation Australia (they produced many Disney Afternoon shows and films like The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride).  Then Disney closed the studio.

Interestingly, American animator Jon McClenahan (founder of StarToons Animation in Chicago, which worked on Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs for Steven Spielberg and Warner Brothers) got his start on these Happy Days spin-off cartoons in Australia.  Check out this very informative interview with Jon McClenahan for some behind-the-scenes dirt.

The Hanna Barbera Happy Days cartoons are owned by Paramount (Warner Brothers owns nearly all the other Hanna Barbera shows), so we will probably never get to see The Fonz appear in any new cartoons with Jabberjaw the shark.

In 1990, Hanna Barbera essentially brought back the Fonz in the form of vampire Vinnie Stoker.

Vinnie Stoker was the "cool kid" in NBC's Saturday Morning Cartoon, Gravedale High.

Vinnie Stoker Gravedale High Cel

 Gravedale High starred Rick Moranis as a teacher in a school of monsters.

Vinnie Stoker was voiced by Roger Rose.

Vinnie Stoker Gravedale High Cel

Gravedale High was short-lived, but there was a McDonald's Happy Meal toy tie-in for the show.

The Gravedale High toys became part of my Halloween decorations.  Check them out at Trick Or Treat, Smell The Halloween Decorations.

The Happy Days gang can currently be found in a stage show called Happy Days A New Musical.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Muppet Christmas Carol At Taco Bell

Many people have happy memories of collecting fast food toys.  I vividly remember getting this Muppet Christmas Carol ornament at Taco Bell in 1992 and thinking it was pretty sad.

At the time, Taco Bell was not known for having cool toys for kids.  I don't think there were any commercials for this promotion.

At least the artwork (with Kermit as Bob Cratchit, Robin as Tiny Tim, and the penguin carolers) is nicely done.

These ornaments are just two stickers and a blank plastic disc with a piece of string.  You have to put them together yourself.

A better set of fast food toys (finger puppets) for The Muppet Christmas Carol was released at Hardee's in 1993.  You can check them out at The Muppets And Pee-Wee Herman: The Great Big Christmas Caper Adventure.

A more impressive set of Muppet fast food toys that required assembly was Jim Henson's Muppet Workshop At McDonald's.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Seinfeld, The Animated Series

Did you know that some people never knew about the Seinfeld cartoon?  To quote Jerry Seinfeld, "Who Are these people?!?"

Cartoon Seinfeld characters first appeared in 1998, and were created by artist Glen Hanson (known for his work in illustration, comics, and animated shows like MTV's Spy Groove and a proposed TV series version of Disney's The AristoCats).

The Seinfeld animated series took viewers places that the live action show never could.  This included guest cameos by some very famous personalities, including Monica Lewinsky, who played "Gipple" in the episode The Double Date With Mulva and Gipple.

In Three Men and an Ugly Baby, Ted Danson and Bill Cosby guest star as Jerry's new neighbors, Bill and Ted.

Danson and Cosby also appeared in the episode Bill and Ted and Jerry's Excellent Adventure.

Kramer gets cloned in Kramer VS Kramer, and becomes a co-owner of a diner in Green Eggs and Pigman.

Kramer also becomes a Ninja in Kung Fu Fighting With Donna Chang.

Elaine continues to explore her writing and cartooning career by scripting a children's show in Spongebobworthy.

Jerry's postman nemesis ruins the holidays by sending everyone to jail (for mail fraud) in How The Newman Stole Festivus.

Kenny Rogers Roasters chicken restaurants had a special Bobble Head promotion to promote the Seinfeld cartoon.

The taxi cab display with all four Seinfeld bobble head figures is highly valued by collectors.

Of course I've made up most everything I've written here (there was NOT a Seinfeld Animated Series), but the content (totally out of context) could be found in a special issue of TV Guide in May of 1998.

This special Seinfeld issue of TV Guide featured covers by legendary illustrator Al Hirschfeld.

There were covers for Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer.

Hirschfeld's work has been enjoyed and admired for decades, and even served as the inspiration for Disney's Aladdin and the Rhapsody in Blue segment of Fantasia 2000.

For more fun, check out NBC It! Seinfeld and Wings Kellogg's Cereal Prizes (which is real!!).

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Walt Disney World And The Christmas Moose

Melvin the Moose loves Christmas at Walt Disney World in Florida.  It is the one time of year that he is not just a disembodied head.

In the Country Bear Jamboree, Melvin is an animatronic Moose head mounted on the wall.  For Miss Minnie's Country Christmas, Melvin gets his Christmas wish granted: he gets a body!

Fans of Disney's One Saturday Morning on ABC may remember a very similar looking female character (without antlers) named Miss Moose.  She and Melvin should get together.

Vat vill ve get Moose and Squirrel---I mean Moose and Mouse---for Christmas?  Starring roles in a live show at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom during the holidays.

This show played at the Diamond Horseshoe in Frontierland in the late 1990s, not far from The Country Bear Jamboree.  Melvin previously headlined the Melvin the Moose Breakfast Show (as a head on the wall) at Pioneer Hall in Fort Wilderness (Walt Disney World's camping resort) in the late 1980s (the show later became "Chip and Dale's Country Morning Jamboree).

Walt Disney World is also famous for having a team of reindeer at Christmas, too.

These goofy characters are a holiday favorite.  At Disneyland in California, the reindeer got a makeover years ago, and they don't look as silly (they look more like Bambi now).

For more fun, check out Walt Disney World and Disneyland Christmas Characters.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Disney's Lady And The Tramp Holiday Dog Treats For Humans

Most dogs would not think twice about eating garbage out of a trash can.  Lady and the Tramp prefer a nice spaghetti dinner.  These classy canines also enjoy fancy desserts.  They would like to share a couple of their favorite holiday recipes, which are intended for people.

Tramp wants the English Butter Toffee Bars.  The ingredients include 24 saltine squares with unsalted tops (say what?!?).  The Toffee Bars are also made with a package of semi-sweet chocolate morsels.  Sorry Tramp, they say you aren't supposed to eat that.

Lady and the Tramp was released on videocassette for the very first time in 1987 (I got it as a Christmas present).  Let's talk about how much this video was.  The suggested retail price was $29.95!

Lady wants to chat and gossip with her b*tches (in the doggy sense) and munch on Eggnog Cream Puffs.

This dessert also has chocolate.  If you try to take chocolate away from a Lady, you do risk getting your hand bitten off.

For more fun, check out Disney's Lady And The Tramp At McDonald's and Disney's Live Action Lady And The Tramp: The Real Life Reference Models.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

That Guy Will Be The Next Food Network Star

Some guys always stand out in the crowd.  Especially if their name is "Guy."

I was looking through an April 7, 2006 issue of Entertainment Weekly Magazine and discovered a very interesting ad for The Next Food Network Star.  It really looks like Guy Fieri (who clearly dominated that photo session) is the star of the show, and he ended up winning the competition.

Guy then went on to star in Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and Guy's Big Bite, and Rachael vs. Guy, and Rachael vs. Guy: Kids Cook-Off, and Guy's Grocery Games on Food Network.  And he usually has seasonal TV specials on Food Network.  He also hosted NBC's game show, Minute to Win It.

Of course, he also has merchandise and restaurants everywhere, including Guy's Burger Joint on Carnival Cruises.

I would like to pitch a new "Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs" type storybook and animated film called Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner of Flavortown (a mixture of Guy's catchphrases).  I've even made concept art of the title character.

As far as I know, Guy is the only winner of The Next Food Network Star to become this successful.  (Comedian Bobby Moynihan frequently impersonates Fieri on Saturday Night Live).

Food Network is currently celebrating their 20th Anniversary.  I started watching within the last few years and it is one of my favorite channels, boasting some incredibly creative shows that are fun to watch even if (like me) you don't cook.  Some of my favorites include Halloween Wars, Aces of Cakes, Cupcake Wars, and Food Network Challenge (especially the Cake episodes, which often have episodes tied to popular film and TV properties.  Seriously, someone made a live-size cake replica of Big Bird from Sesame Street that looked exactly like the Muppet).

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Turbo, The Live Action Snail Mascot For Go Go Escargot Fast Food Restaurants In France

Bonjour!  The 2013 DreamWorks animated film "Turbo" stars Ryan Reynolds as a snail racing in the Indianapolis 500.  The Turbo F.A.S.T. series on Netflix was just the start of the snail's quest for world domination.

Today, Chanson Pourlespetitsenfan, the CEO of Go Go Escargot Restaurants (the fastest growing restaurant chain in France) has announced that Turbo will become the official mascot of the snail-based fast food empire.  Chanson says, "We encourage children to play with their food, so Turbo is the perfect fit.  Also, the character works well with our slogan."

That slogan just happens to be "Slow Food---Fast!"

New live action commercials will star a trained garden snail playing Turbo.  The snail will be fed peanut butter to stimulate the mouth movement, and Ryan Reynolds will add the voice later.  The new ads, directed by Michael Bay, will be filmed all over the world as part of the new ad campaign for Go Go Escargot.

Or I was inspired to make all that up when I found this 1999 STP fuel injector cleaner snail ad in an old magazine, and it reminded me of Turbo.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Frozen McDonald's Happy Meal Snowman Toy Gets Thawed, And The Frozen Snow Theme Park

Once Upon A Time, the release of a new Disney movie was a accompanied by a highly anticipated set of toys sold at McDonald's (or Burger King).  If the Disney film "Frozen" had been released back then, we'd probably see an Olaf the Snowman toy similar to this one.

Changes in marketing back in 2006 have made new additions to this popular subset of Disney collecting a thing of the past.

In 2000, Simon Marketing, Inc. posted this clever Snowman toy Classified Ad for a McDonald's Happy Meal Premium Designer.

Simon Marketing, Inc. created some great International McDonald's Happy Meal toys for Disney's The AristoCats and Disney's Lady and the Tramp.  (Check out the links to see them).

In recent years, Disney has partnered with Subway Restaurants to promote the newest films and TV shows.  They usually offer reusable lunch bags or things like WALL-E Digital Calorie Counters to collect.

UPDATE 12/6/13:  I saw Frozen on Thanksgiving Day and thought it was fantastic.  Especially amazing is the "Let It Go" sequence (sung by Idina Menzel) where Elsa finally unleashes her powers, creates her ice palace, lets down her hair, and transforms into the Snow Queen.  It was so good, it gave me chills. Elsa Rules!

And yes, Subway Restaurants have Frozen lunch bags to collect.

UPDATE 7/8/14:
In July of 2014, Elsa and Anna took Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Florida by storm with Frozen Summer Fun.  The new event includes shows, a parade, and an indoor ice skating rink.

I'm going to make a bold prediction here, and start a very plausible rumor:  I bet there's a good chance that we could see an indoor Frozen snow theme park attraction at Walt Disney World in Florida.  This sort of attraction idea is not new.  In fact, Dolly Parton planned a Snow and Water park for the former site of the Opryland theme park in Nashville, Tennessee.

Dolly Parton's water-snow park was announced on January 19, 2012:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Dolly Parton plans a water-snow park in Nashville, described as the first of its kind in the country, to join her other tourist attractions in East Tennessee.
The new $50 million venture, announced Thursday on Parton's 66th birthday, is a 114-acre park projected to open as early as summer 2014. It is not yet named.
It will join her Dollywood theme park and a water park in Pigeon Forge, about 190 miles away in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee.

Sadly, Dolly Parton's snow and water park was never built.
However, given the popularity of the (up-charged) ice skating Frozen experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios, I think there's a good chance of Elsa stirring up an eternal (indoor) winter at Walt Disney World in Florida.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Dawn Of Donkey Kong And Mario

It seems like every kid that I know is obsessed with Mario and Donkey Kong.  My niece, my nephew, and the kids that my friends have all share the same interest in the little Italian plumber and the lumbering gorilla.  I get it, of course, because I remember when those particular Nintendo characters first took the world by storm way back in 1981.

The version of Donkey Kong we had was made by Coleco and could be played on the Atari Video Computer System and the Sears Video Arcade.  This game was very, very primitive.

I think Mario has been popular for so many years because kids feel like they actually participate in his adventures.

Are you ready to play Donkey Kong?  There's a bit of prep work you need to do first.

You need access to a really old TV to play this game.  It is OK if the TV is a black and white set.

Familiarize yourself with the game controls.  Be careful not to break them when you get frustrated.

I'd like to mention here that there was actually a Donkey Kong Cereal sold around this time (It had "Crunchy Barrels of Fun For Breakfast").  It was tasty (kind of like Cap'n Crunch)---and healthy (nothing says "nutrition" like frosted pieces of cereal shaped like barrels).

The levels in the game all looked very similar.

Donkey Kong was so popular that a spin-off called "Donkey Kong Jr." debuted in 1982.  Donkey Kong had to save his son from Mario (the villain in this game).  Yes, there was a Donkey Kong Jr. Cereal, too (it had marshmallow fruit pieces).

I no longer have the game system to play this version of Donkey Kong, but the Game Cartridge and Instructions somehow survived.

By 1983, Donkey Kong, Mario and Donkey Kong Jr. starred in the animated TV series "Saturday Supercade" on CBS.

For more fun, check out Q*bert and Saturday Supercade.

Of course, everyone knows that Donkey Kong and Mario went on to star in many popular Nintendo games, including "Chiropractor Mario" and "Donkey Kong's Frozen Banana Cart Race."

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Jim Henson's Muppet Workshop At McDonald's

In 1995, visitors to McDonald's could get a Jim Henson's Muppet Workshop Happy Meal.

This was much more popular than the Jim Henson's Muppet Sweatshop Happy Meal offered in 1994.

For the Muppet Workshop Happy Meal, kids (or more likely, parents) are put to work to create their toys.

Even the box itself can be turned into a puppet.  In this case, it is a Muppet Dog.

Kermit is always Green, so it is fitting that even the bottom of the box has a use!  That's where you'll find the ears for your dog puppet.

The puppets for the Muppet Workshop Happy Meal consist of hard plastic pieces.  Check out the Kermit the Frog on the Bird's red hat!

The bodies of these puppets are hollow, so feel free to feed your puppet French Fries just like those cute little birds you see eating fries outside your local McDonald's.

Once the head piece is snapped in place, you can add the provided accessories to your hard plastic puppet.

Well, don't you know about the bird?  Everybody knows that the bird is the word!

Is this the Muppet version of Snoopy and Woodstock?

Or perhaps this is Rowlf's niece, Hairy Potter.

It is easy to make your Muppet Dog speak.  Just push the lever at the back of its head.

Your Muppet Dog will be happy if you give it a McDonald's Hamburger patty.

Watch out for the Muppet Monster!

All the puppet pieces in this set are interchangeable, so you can come up with some very colorful characters.

The Muppet Workshop Happy Meal found a very clever way to make mass-marketed, creative fast food toy puppets.

Feed your Muppet Monster some tasty McDonald's Cookies!

A fourth toy (a yellow "What-Not" Muppet) was available, but I was not able to get that one.

The Muppet Workshop McDonald's toys came with coupons for Muppet Workshop Craft toys and kits.  And Cheerios, because I guess the Muppets like to eat Cheerios.

Each McDonald's puppet features an emblem of Kermit on the lever used to operate the Muppet's mouth.

Time to get to work and create some new Muppets!

I'm not sure how popular the Muppet Workshop toys were, but I don't think the brand lasted very long.  Then again, the Muppets have changed hands (as in ownership) a few times since 1995.

Disney and FAO Schwarz opened up the Muppet Whatnot Workshop (here's a link to a story I did about it in 2010), where puppeteers can create their own custom-built Muppets.  You can even order them online.  These days, it looks like there are fewer parts and costumes to choose from, but the puppets are less expensive to create now.