Monday, August 2, 2004

Obscure Cartoons

Today I am thinking about cartoons again. I have no idea how many cartoons have aired on Saturday mornings in the past forty years, but it seems to me that the average cartoon is forgotten as soon as it goes off the air. I have fond memories of many cartoons from my childhood that I seriously doubt most children would recognise today. In fact, I don't think I have seen any of them on cable in recent years, not even on the Cartoon Network.

This is especially sad of Beany and Cecil. I only have vague memories of the cartoon, although I know it was one of my favourites as a child (I remember I had a Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent jack in the box that was one of my favourite toys). From what I understand, however, the show is considered something of a classic in animation circles. That should come as no surprise, as it was created by Bob Clampett, the veteran animator who had worked at Warner Brothers making the early Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoons. Among other things, he designed Porky Pig and introduced Tweety. After a stint at Screen Gems (Columbia's animation studio), he went into television with the puppet show Time for Beany. Given Clampett's past, it was perhaps inevitable that the puppet show would one day become an animated series. Beany and Cecil followed the adventures of Beany and his friend Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent as they travelled with Captain Huffenpuff aboard his boat the Leakin' Lena. A constant, but comical threat was the villain Dishonest John. Beany and Cecil was filled with Clampett's love for puns, song, parody, and satire. Through the cartoon, Clampett spoofed everything from TV production to New York to Disneyland (a particular episode which very nearly got Clampett in trouble...). Despite the fact that Beany and Cecil is recognised as a classic, I doubt many adults, let alone children have heard of it.

I remember Cool McCool better than I can Beany and Cecil. Cool McCool was the creation of Bob Kane, co-creator of Batman. Cool McCool was a bumbling superspy who dressed in a trenchcoat and an ascot, sporting a ridiculous moustache (I thought Matt Dillon in There's Something About Mary looked a lot like McCool). Like any superspy, he had an array of gadgets at his command, including the Coolmobile (which would come to him when he whistled) and his moustache radio. Unlike any other superspy, McCool fought supervillains such as Dr. Madcap, Hurricane Harry, the Jack in the Box, the Owl, and the Rattler. McCool also had his own slogan--"Danger is my business (picture Jack Benny saying that and you have an idea of how he sounded)." I have no idea if Cool McCool was any good, although I remember watching it loyally as a child.

Another cartoon from my childhood was The Super 6. It followed the adventures of six superheroes who worked for Super Services Incorporated. The six were the Brothers Matzoriley, Captain Whammo, Elevator Man, Granite Man, Magneto Man, and Super Scuba (I guess the Brothers Matzoriley counted as one member...). The Super 6 also featured a separate segment about a hero called Super Bwoing, which I remember as my favourite. Super Bwoing whose superpower was his guitar--he even flew around on the thing, riding it like a surfboard!

Another cartoon I remember also dealt with bizarre superheroes. The Mighty Heroes was probably one of the last original Terrytoons to air on a network. The series was the creation of Ralph Bakshi, who go onto make such animated features as Wizards and American Pop The Mighty Heroes were Cuckoo Man, Diaper Man (the leader of the group), Rope Man, Strong Man, and Tornado Man. Together they fought such villains as Enlarger, Frog, The Shrinker, and Toy Man. Unfortunately, The Mighty Heroes haven't been seen much since their series went off the air.

Of course, all of these cartoons aired in the Sixties when I was very young. In fact, I was only about four years old when both Beany and Cecil and The Mighty Heroes left the air. Oddly enough, I don't remember much about cartoons from when I was older. I think that this probably has to do with my idea that the Golden Age of Saturday morning cartoons ended in 1968. After that, the cartoons were pretty forgettable. If the Cartoon Network didn't insist on rerunning Scooby Doo, Where Are You? twenty times a day, I probably wouldn't remember it at all....

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