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Yakko, Can You Conjugate?: Episode 16

This is where things start to get a little ugly. The show was clearly frontloading its first three consecutive weeks with episodes full of strong cartoons, mostly stuff animated by TMS, with Startoons and Wang picking up the slack. Now that the show was established and had proven how good it could be, it was time to finally start airing the weaker material that was no doubt being held back until the show had almost a month of episodes under its belt. This week (well, four days at least, reruns finally began airing that Friday)has more Akom and Freelance than we’re used to, as well as what’s probably the worst TMS cartoon of the entire series. The show would eventually pick back up again with knock-out episodes, but for now let’s strap in and get ready for a few clunkers.

Variable Verse: Here’s the show’s name-y!

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In another desperate attempt to get the Warners under control, Plotz hires Miss Flamiel, a no-nonsense teacher who draws F’s on people’s foreheads at the slightest infraction. In her words. “There hasn’t been a child yet that Miss Flamiel hasn’t been able to control…except Buddy Hackett but that’s genetic.” A hazmat suit-clad Ralph brings the Warners into class in a wooden crate for their first day of school, and the little song they sing upon emerging seems to indicate that they’re eager to learn. But things go south immediately when Flamiel asks them to repeat after her for the Pledge of Allegiance, which spirals out of control. The new teacher winds up ending her very first encounter with the Warners by running out of the classroom screaming.

As the lessons begin, Miss Flamiel finds all her efforts to teach the Warners defeated by their silly responses to her questions. When asked to count to one hundred, Yakko takes a shortcut, “One, two, skip a few, ninety nine, one hundred” because, hey, it’s only a six minute cartoon. When asked what she knows about the great 18th century scientists, Dot answers, “They’re all dead.” That’s not the response Flamiel was looking for, so Dot changes her answer to, “All right, they’re all living.” That’s not right either, so Dot just gives up and says, “NOW we’re getting into philosophy”. When asked to define the word “procrastination”, Wakko leans back casually in his seat and says, “I’ll tell you tomorrow”. Trying to get Yakko to conjugate verbs goes absolutely nowhere and eventually the kids simply stop humoring her and begin playing games behind her back.

After a surprise pop quiz turns into a cola taste test - complete with Wakko as Ray Charles - Miss Flamiel finally reaches for her marker and draws big, fat F’s on the Warners’ foreheads. Wakko doesn’t take this very well at all and literally explodes with anger. The school day eventually ends and Ralph returns for the crate, supposedly containing the kids. However, Yakko, Wakko and Dot reveal themselves to be disguised as Miss Flamiel, with the teacher actually trapped inside the crate, screaming her head off and threatening to give everyone F’s as she’s dropped into the water tower.

"Chalkboard Bungle" is the first of a tiny handful of Warners shorts animated by Freelance and the difference between their work and TMS or Wang is absolutely staggering. The characters are constantly off model, sometimes drastically, and often the most basic principles of construction and movement are ignored in favor of animation that oozes from pose to pose, but never settles on an appealing key drawing. There are a few interesting bits of animation in this cartoon, but a lot of them don’t last long, or just come off as happy accidents. In fact, some of the worst stuff in any given Freelance cartoon is downright horrifying and it’s a shock to think a company as mediocre as this one could end up working on what was meant to be such a high quality show. Even the backgrounds suffer, looking just as cheaply done as the animation. WBTA obviously knew what they were getting into with Freelance, as their high-priority secondary characters never went anywhere near the studio. That the Warners ended up in their grasp a number of times is no doubt only because of the high volume of shorts starring the characters that had to me made in the first place. Freelance was dumped like a bad habit after the first production season, and no one in their right mind complained.

The biggest shame in all of this is that there’s actually a really good cartoon buried deep within it’s ugly exterior. Some of the dialogue is truly funny and Miss Flamiel does make an entertaining foil for the Warners. The cartoon is careful to set her up as the disciplinarian from hell, someone who deserves a class of uncooperative, rowdy students. This makes her torment by the Warners actually enjoyable, where in a badly written cartoon you’d feel sorry for the person who is being driven insane. The cartoon is also relatively famous for its hilarious back-and-forth with Flamiel and Yakko on the nature of conjugation, another one of those Animaniacs moments I can’t believe they got away with. When asked if he knows how to conjugate. Yakko clasps his hands innocently on his desk and says, “I’ve never even kissed a girl!” Miss Flamiel volunteers to conjugate with him, so Yakko waves to the audience and responds, “Goodnight everybody!” Finally, Flamiel goes to the board to show him how it’s done and (once again addressing the audience) Yakko whispers “Don’t look” right before the scene cuts away. Even bad animation can’t hurt something that well written and timed. But if anything, all of this is topped a little later, when Yakko asks, “What else ya got in there?” as Miss Flamiel pulls a marker out from the front of her dress, which is animated as graphically as possible while still being G-rated. And it’s also worth pointing out a scene at the beginning of the cartoon featuring Ralph, who gets an F plastered on his forehead after using a double negative. As Flamiel drives off, he hangs his head sadly and walks away, saying, “Aw, my folks are gonna kill me.” There are several other fun moments in this cartoon that rise about the shoddy visuals, so let’s forge ahead get to the screenshots.

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Maybe it’s because I’m just not used to her being handled extensively by many other studios, but there are some pretty decent drawings of Flamiel in this cartoon. This is one of the better ones.

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The animation of Flamiel slapping Plotz on the back to get him to spit out his gum is all right, but the actual drawings of Plotz are just ugly, and don’t really fit this show.

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Where exactly are his hands coming from? Are his arms six feet long and under the desk? Is there a midget down there? Is Colin Mochrie behind him?

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And here’s are our Freelance Warners. What’s up with Yakko’s eyes? Each one of them is drawn differently from the other.

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Some extremely noticeable animation mistakes here. First we don’t see their feet at all. Then we see their feet, but Dot’s are missing. Then we see all their feet, but Wakko’s legs are completely missing. Try not to stare too long at how terrible they’re drawn in the second image.

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Some of the absolute worse drawings in this cartoon happen during the “Our dog ate it” sequence. This is some of the most horrible stuff ever seen on this show. It’s like they didn’t even look at a model sheet. Did Wakko gain about three hundred pounds in the second and third images?

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Wakko multiplies. Not a bad gag, but better drawings could have brought it home. How did the people animating this thing ever get a job on a series like this?

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"Well, learning isn’t easy." A pretty likeable "innocent Yakko" drawing. It’s cute.

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Probably the most memorable visual in the entire cartoon. Flamiel warns that she has eyes in the back of her head. The Warners one-up her. And once again, Wakko goes a little further.

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Holy jeez, that’s an unsettling drawing.Ouch!

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The strangest thing in the whole cartoon is Wakko’s freak out. What was that about? Was that supposed to be a character trait? Why does the scene just fade out? What did he do to Flamiel? And wow, what a terrible Yakko drawing. Dot is in the middle of dialogue, but Yakko is in a held pose! Just…no!

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I don’t know what’s creepier, these images, or hearing Harnell try to groan psychotically in Wakko’s voice.

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Why does the water tower suddenly have water in it? Is that part of the joke? Whatever.

Slappy Squirrel Intro (Startoons)

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The Farm Fresh Friar’s Club is throwing an awards banquet in Slappy’s honor, where she is to be presented a lifetime achievement award. While Slappy is a little miffed at being labeled a “former” toon great in the newspaper, three of her old co-stars are far more frustrated. Villains Walter Wolf, Sid the Squid and Beanie the Cerebrally-Challenged Bison have always held a grudge against her thanks to how often they were defeated in Slappy’s old cartoons, and see the banquet as the chance to finally do away with their enemy. Outside the banquet hall on the red carpet, Beanie attempts to blow up Slappy with an exploding pen by posing as a little kid asking for an autograph, but Slappy easily turns the tables on him. During dinner, Sid shows up with a cake lined with dynamite instead of candles. Wise to that old gag, Slappy blows Sid up as well. Finally Walter rigs Slappy’s award with explosives, poses as the Master of Ceremonies and presents the award to her. Not fooled by any of this, Slappy invites all three villains up to the podium, thanks them for getting her where she is today, gives them the award, and blows them sky high. As she makes her exit, Slappy is asked by Mary Hartless what she’s going to do now. Slappy announces, “I’m going to…bed”, before the three defeated bad guys fall to earth and crush Hartless.

It should be obvious based on the unenthusiastic synopsis above that “Hurray for Slappy” isn’t much of a cartoon. “Slappy Goes Walnuts” had a simple story with excellent direction and animation. “Bumbie’s Mom, meanwhile, is one of the best Slappy shorts in the entire series. This cartoon, however, is several notches below either of those. The story is weak with a lot of cliché “blow up the bad guy” gags, the dialogue doesn’t have the punch the Slappy cartoons are known for and the Akom animation is unfortunately lifeless and bland. Sherri Stoner’s contributions in the writing department are sorely missed, as John P. McCann simply treats Slappy as a vessel for a lot of gags based on bombs, dynamite and other such explosives. There’s nothing clever about the cartoon at all, and without something visually for viewers to latch on to, the end result is one of the weakest Slappy cartoons of the first season. I feel like a lot of these really weak early first season cartoons are trying to make up for their mediocrity by cramming lots of cameo characters into the background, because there’s a ton of that here. In this particular cartoon it’s just distracting.

The most notable thing about “Hurray for Slappy” is that it introduced three villains who turned out to be more than just one-shots. Walter Wolf is your typical Big Bad Wolf character, only aged to about eighty years. The most distinctive thing about him is his Yiddish accent, supplied in this cartoon by Frank Welker, and in all others by Jess Harnell. There’s really nothing special about the lisping Sid the Squid (voiced by comedian Jack Burns) either, aside from his unique appearance. Voiced by Avery Schreiber, Beanie is definitely the most interesting of the three. This fat, drooling simpleton is a parody of every big, brainless adversary that ever appeared in animation’s golden age, only with the knob turned up to eleven. His stupidity doesn’t make him a credible threat whatsoever, but it’s hilarious that they were able to get away with making a character this mentally handicapped, even if they had to get rid of the “Brain-Dead” part of his name. Beanie and Sid would return once in a blue moon, but only Walter would show up for solo appearances, with his next one easily blowing this cartoon away.

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You know you’re in trouble when your very first “gag” is Skippy being trapped by his bow tie.

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Character Cameo: the Warners appear with Elvis in the newspaper, along with photos of Plucky Duck and Buster Bunny.

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Beanie is just so far gone that a river of drool just flows from his mouth as he sleeps. I’m still wondering what a “classic era” Slappytoon featuring Sid would have been like. I mean, how many sea animal adversaries does Bugs have?

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What an unappealing drawing of Walter. They would streamline him a little after this cartoon. Trying to give him those detailed teeth was a baaaaad idea. Yuck.

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There’s a small chance he may have popped up before, but I’m pretty certain this is the first appearance of the random background guy in the Hawaiian shirt with a cast on his foot. He pops up here and there, sometimes without the cast. You can’t miss him.

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By putting him in a little boy’s outfit, they (probably unknowingly) really complete the “cerebrally-challenged” look to this character.

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Didn’t the blond guy in the lower left eventually end up in Histeria?

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I actually really like this Don Rickles caricature. He turns up again, looking pretty much the same in a cartoon that aired in season five…in 1998!

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Character Cameo: the Warners drop by, jumping on the tables. Ralph follows doing the same thing. That’s Angus MacRory from the Bugs Bunny cartoon, “My Bunny Lies Over the Sea” sitting at the table. Oh yeah, we’re also getting an Akom Warners cartoon very soon. I know…

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"I’m going into a coma. Uh oh, too late! I’m in a coma." Probably the best line of dialogue AND the best expression in this cartoon.

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This always bothered me. This scene lasts almost 30 seconds and every single background character stands there looking at absolutely nothing. It’s like watching an episode of Family Guy.

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It’s a beautiful night at the Hollywood Bowl, and a large audience has turned out for a performance. “And now performing another classic work, the Great Wakkorotti” says an announcer in a hushed tone. Wakko, wearing his best tux, walks out on stage, eyes closed, nose held high. He gestures to Yakko, who begins to play “The Blue Danube” by Johann Strauss. With that, Wakko accompanies the music by…belchingloudly, and wildly gesturing as he does so. After a little bit of this, Dot comes on stage and sprays a large bottle of soda into Wakko’s mouth, allowing him to finish his performance. Once he’s done, Wakko takes a bow, excusing himself over and over again to the applauding crowd, who cover the floor of the stage with roses.

One of the strangest things the show has done so far, “The Great Wakkorotti” is so bizarre and so unabashedly silly that it almost becomes compelling. The juxtaposition of the high-brow setting with the low-brow humor is only one element that makes this cartoon work. TMS really nails all the silly faces Wakko makes during his performance, especially towards the end when he pulls out all the stops. The follow-through with his tongue swinging everywhere is beautiful in the most disgustingly possible way. But what really brings everything together are the unforgettable burps supplied by Maurice LaMarche, who is actually credited for them at the end of the episode. Everything combines to create one very silly little cartoon, but something that is so unique it should really only work once. And that’s the problem. They return to this concept twice more in the first season, using much of the same animation but somehow never really matching the first cartoon’s energy. Why they brought this back in season 3, retooled and without TMS, is beyond me.

None of the following screenshots are captioned. I think every single one of them speak for themselves.

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The Shepherd: Kathryn Page

Tower Outro: Goooodbyyye Nurse!!

  1. legion1979 posted this