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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.