Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Fearsome Five Revealed!

First posted as a Claymation Werewolf Digital Digest Exclusive!
Later posted on June 15th, 2011 on The Retroist Retro Blog and Podcast - CW post link

          I often receive letters from loyal coo-coo cola cult members asking

“CMW, how do you obtain such insight? So many behind the scenes observations on the characters we remember and love?”

          The rest of the letters we get can be pretty insulting so I’m going to focus on these. In short, I have spent a large portion of my professional life serving on the front lines of Gen-Y toons, actually living among these characters in the own worlds!

          To give my readers a better idea of what I mean I have decided to share the details of one assignment that has recently become de-classified. The two years I spent in Saint Canard embedded with The Fearsome Five were some of the most exiting I ever experienced.

          In 1992, hoping to cash in on the recent wave of individual villains joining forces to create super villain teams, Nega Duck embarked on a highly aggressive recruiting campaign to bring together the most feared criminals in and around St. Canard. I had long awaited an opportunity to perform research within the Darkwing Duck universe, and as there was an open call for despicable characters, there was never a better chance. Under the guise of the cleverly named “Clone Wolf” I gained the trust of the super villain team using my Claymation powered abilities to makes copies of myself I proved my criminal value to the team.

          As with all other cartoons of the era, any evidence of my presence was removed before being presented to the public. I sacrificed the wealth, and prestige I would have inevitably gained so that I could continue to bring you the un-filtered non biased frontline reports you have come to expect from every issue of the Claymation Werewolf Digital Digest. While I may have removed myself from the full report, one thing that does shine through is the incredible depth of character in the Fearsome Five. While the five, as a whole may have seemed like a Bloodthirsty group riddled with in-fighting. Individually they were so much more.

          The Liquidator or as he is know to the rest of the group “Showbiz”, is actually the cruelest of the team. Camouflaging his casual disregard for life with his hilarious puns and “infomercial pitch man” personality. In addition there is no one better at whipping up a great hot cocoa at three in the morning when you just want to have a quite talk, or even a good cry.

          Bushroot, a botanical genius was an understated and often misunderstood member of the team. Only those who really knew him, ever appreciated his ability to turn a simple hobby like murder into an art form.

          My favorite member of this team was always Mr. Elmo Sputterspark. Megavolt was not just a desperate mouse filled with hatred, self doubt, and thousands of volts of electricity… He was a desperate mouse who would stop at nothing to provide top notch slapstick comedy much to the amusement of his friends.

          Some may have seen Nega-Duck’s constant willingness to stab his team members in the back as a lack of leadership skills, but it was just tough love. Trying to kill them may have been a little excessively tough but what can you do? Plus the guy has his own evil mirror universe…and you have to enter it through a giant “stripper cake”! Honestly. How could you possibly judge a guy who has his own magic stripper cake portal.

          And What can I say about Quacker-Jack. Seriously. LEGALLY what am I allowed to say about Quacker-Jack. Unfortunately the wacky jokester member of this team genuinely is a raving lunatic. Prone to random act of intense violence, he is seldom aware of his surroundings, his evil toys barely even obey him. The acts that this madman committed are the only parts of my research that I was never permitted to repeat. Suffice it to say Mr. Banana Man was Disney’s last minute replacement for the severed head that he was actually carrying around.

          The members of the Fearsome five are amazing villains with powers that have long been the envy of evil doers, not only within the realm of Disney but cartoons in general, reaching heights as far as the Justice League of America. More important than being great villains however, the fearsome five were great people…err, great ducks, dog and um.. a mouse, or possibly rat. Regardless the fearsome five are the type of guys you can really trust. Who you can always turn to when things are bad. The times we used to spend burning down orphanages, and torturing helpless people are times that I will never forget. I not only documented their story, I came to know each of them better than I had ever imagined.

          While some may see the events portrayed in “Just us Justice Ducks” as an amazing tale of adventure, and a heroes triumph against staggering odds. Being an insider of the story I can see it for what it truly was, the tragic tale of a team, full of potential and brought to destruction at the very height of it’s glory. Handed a physically and emotionally crushing defeat, with total success just within their reach.

          Many questions come to mind when you consider the members of the FF. Does Bushroot consider himself a member of the plant world, or just it’s protector? How is Megavolt able to be electrocuted, when he already harnesses the power of electricity? And why is QuackerJack chewing on my leg? We may never know the answers to these questions. Perhaps……we were never meant too.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Happy Late Mother's Day.

        Okay here is the set up…there is this kid, right? His Mother has been dead for a couple of years and he lives with his father Gus, who drives a cab. The dad is overworked and struggling to balance raising a child with working enough to pay the bills. The father is lonely, and his child has been getting in fights at school, because Mother's Day is coming up and one of the other kids teased him for not having a mom to make a card for. In comes a woman that they believe is a nanny that cares about them, but who is in fact planning to kill them. If you guessed that this is the Mother's Day episode of the hilarious animated series “KissyFur”, then you are correct!
        Once we get past these minor characters we meet the real stars of the show; ladies and gentlemen, your villains and mine… the Swamp Gators! Floyd and Jolene are trying to catch something to eat and of course, failing miserably. You have to wonder how cartoon villains don’t all starve to death considering the fact that they never seem to eat anything. The “good guys” eat and often times they even eat meat but the bad guys keep the audience laughing at there desperate attempts to survive. If I wrote the cartoons, I think I would have thrown a few minor characters their way every once in a while, I mean really who’s gonna miss them.
        In their desperation, the gators find a trunk buried in a river sand dune, which contains: 1. A pair of high heeled shoes 2. White gloves and a ladies hat 3. A pink dress and parasol 4. A realistic bear mask.
        It was quite a struggle for me to pull myself away from wondering what kind of crazy fetish sex this gear was intended for, but I eventually did. (For now anyway.) After I got back to focusing on the all too common situation of male alligators dressing like female bears, I began to appreciate the subtlety of the show. In any NORMAL cartoon the bad guy would pretend to be the nanny and get to know the kids and family. He would still go through the motions of the plot to betray them but in the end, he would have a last minute change of heart and show them mercy. This is not one of those shows. He gets the trust of the family, and he and his lady gator trap the kids in a cage and try until the very end of the show to boil them alive.
        If all of this weren’t enough, we are treated to a anthropomorphic bear love triangle, focusing on the cub’s teacher Miss Emmie. Emmie has clearly been positioning herself to be Kissyfur‘s new mom. Her obvious attempts at impressing father and son, paired with her resentment of the new “nanny”, add a nice amount of romantic tension to the show. She radiates jealousy throughout this episode by insulting her rival, and throwing fits when she thinks Gus prefers the nanny. I haven’t seen enough episodes to find out if she ever becomes Kissyfur’s step mother but I think the odds are that she does. If nothing else I’m sure she occasionally gets some from papa bear… I mean, a lonely schoolmarm needs a little honey now and then, am I right?
        Between the murderous plotting, and the sexual tension it makes me wonder what kind of audience this show was geared toward exactly. The one thing I do know is that Kissyfur seems to be the quintessential 80’s cartoon. The drawing style is incredibly weird with unique character and background design. Even the wonderfully bizarre soundtrack music adds to the feeling that this cartoon exists in it’s own separate world. If I had known about this show I guarantee I would have watched the hell out of it when I was a kid. The quality of the animation and the writing make each episode play out more like a miniature animated film.
        The discovery of this show is better than any gift I could have gotten for Mother's Day… if I were a woman… and a mother… and… It’s just a really good cartoon okay! Now watch it. Watch it!!! Or I’ll give you such a guilt trip.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


In memory of Dom DeLuise. An incredible screen, and voice actor. A truly unique man with great comic timing. He was a large part of the cartoon memories of my childhood that helped to make me who I am today. He will be missed.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

After These Messages...

        Greetings Humans... The First official issue of the Claymation Werewolf Digital Digest has hit the stands! Incredibly, I am already behind on my goal to write at least one issue a week. (I will of course always stay on schedule in the future . . . scoundrel’s honor!)
        What you are currently reading is a “bumper issue” which I will periodically post to keep you abreast on the latest in the land of the CMW. I will give you a heads up on upcoming issues, changes in format and all other gloomy tidings. Other special editions will include:

Holiday Specials - Such as the recent Easter, and upcoming Mother’s Day issues. These will be produced the week of each holiday.

Commercial Breaks - Will be a video and short essay about a retro commercial. I will post these issues at times when I want attention, but don’t want to make a lot of effort.

        There will be other special issues announced later, as well as the regular issues of Claymation Werewolf. Each issue will focus on a specific story, not cartoons or products as a whole . . . so if you find yourself thinking “I waited all this time for the Ducktales issue and all I got was a four paragraph rant about whether or not Launchpad was a licensed pilot?” Fear not citizens, we will make a return flight to Duckberg.
        I hope you have enjoyed what you’ve read so far in my ongoing attempt to bring something a little bit different to the world of Gen Y Nostalgia. I did say different….not better.
Until next time.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Improv Down The Bunny Trail. Easter Special!

Well, another Easter has come and gone, along with it’s commercials and TV specials. To me, most Easter Traditions have always seem to have been made up at random, nothing set in stone as an actual tradition shared by everyone else. From having to hunt down your toys and candy Easter morning, to the total Santa knock-off “picture with the Easter Bunny”, to the bizarre ritual of dyeing eggs and then hiding them in the yard. Because, as everyone knows, kids love them some hard-boiled eggs! Although as perplexed as we all may be this time of year, I think a much better example of how confused people can become by Easter is the Rankin/Bass Claymation Special “Here Comes Peter Cottontail”.

You get the feeling the big wigs at Rankin/Bass decided they needed an Easter special to round out the collection, and only gave the writers one day to slap it together. And slap they did. It seems that instead of simply writing a holiday special, they took every special ever made; melded them together, and created a giant mutant special! For those of you who may not understand the ways of anthropomorphic rabbit storytelling, I’m going to break it down for you. So ladies and gentlemen, for my first real entry on my blog dedicated exclusively to cartoons from the eighties and nineties; I bring you . . . a cartoon from 1971!

Our story begins in typical R/B fashion with the introduction of the narrator. This time our storyteller is in the form of a crazed, traveling color salesman voiced by Danny Kaye. Before telling his story, he demonstrates his awesome control of the dark arts by actually changing the color of the world! He then gives us a glimpse through his magic black egg, at the rabbit infested world of April Meadow. We are introduced to our hero Peter Cottontail, the heir apparent to the current Easter Bunny and (King?) of April Meadow. Peter is everything that you would want in an Easter Bunny. His two most outstanding character traits are that he constantly brags about himself, and he is a pathological liar. In a way that is not at all like Pinocchio; whenever Peter tells a lie, he has an obvious physical flaw (the drooping of his left ear) that immediately reveals the fact that he is lying. Peter is about to be given the ceremonial basket when out from the shadows steps the villain, a strange looking, evil and handicapped rabbit named January Q. Irontail. He lost his real tail in a horrible and graphically depicted bicycle accident and has since been forced to make due with a fake tail made of . . . anybody? Iron!

Irontail challenges Peter (played wonderfully by Scooby Doo’s Shaggy) to some kind of wacky duel where you race to see who can give away the most eggs in one day. The night before the race, Peter goes on an all night bender and has to rely on his Flintstones-style alarm clock which is a regular wind up clock and a chicken that sits on his windowsill. The chicken reads the clock, and then wakes him up. Apparently, April Valley has yet to harness the technology of the bell. While Peter is asleep, Irontail cheats by OF COURSE giving the chicken a kind of chewing gum that is specifically designed to sabotage chicken alarm clocks. Therefore Peter sleeps through the day and loses the race to the tortoise….I mean, Irontail. In disgrace, and leaving the village he loves in the hands of a ruthless disfigured false king, Peter leaves the Pride Lands hoping to one day redeem himself. 30 minutes later, he runs into the traveling color salesman who give him his time machine airplane piloted by a talking caterpillar with a strong French accent. They plan to go straight back to Easter and give away eggs like nobody’s business.

Unfortunately, Irontail get his monstrous hell-beast to sabotage the plane and now Peter has to fly aimlessly through the Calendar stopping in separate worlds that are each dedicated to a specific holiday. And to those of you that didn’t see the Archipelago of Last Years in Rudolph’s Shiny New Year, this idea will seem totally new. At every stop, he lies to people while his insect friend follows him around and tries to keep him on the straight and narrow. Let me say again that Peter is nothing like Pinocchio.

So now Peter has to travel to different holidays, painting his Easter eggs and trying to pass them off as some kind of other holiday-specific egg. He goes to Halloween World and gives an egg to a witch. He goes to Mother’s Day Town and gets a guilt trip. And he goes to 4th of July Town and almost gets beaten up by two little kids. Thanksgiving Town is my personal favorite. He prepares to offer Thanksgiving eggs to a family who has just finished their meal at their beautiful dining room table which is, of course, in their front yard. (interior shots are hard after all) I believe this scene best represents the entire rest of the movie. Peter begins to tie down his ears and put feathers on his tail when his worm friend asks, “What are you supposed to be? An Easter turkey, or a Thanksgiving rabbit?” To which our hero replies… “Who cares as long as I can give away these eggs!” This is obviously the writers’ way of asking, “Where on earth are we going with this“?

Where they are going next is Christmas Town, where Peter dresses like Santa Clause and tries to give hard-boiled eggs away on a street corner in the middle of the night. Amazingly, he doesn’t have any takers. The sound of crying leads him to a hat store where a talking hat is alone in the window. No one wanted the hat because it is an Easter bonnet in Christmas Town, and is therefore a misfit. I think there is also a bird that swims like a fish and a charley-in-the-box in the store too, but that might have a been another show… Peter makes a deal to purchase that hat for a basket of eggs, which you will find that most of your higher-end hat stores will do, and has to leave quickly because the evil bunny has stolen said eggs. Peter leaves so quickly, in fact, that he leaves his pet caterpillar crying cold and alone on the sidewalk below. As Irontail tries to get away, Santa Claus uses his festive Christmas sleigh as a weapon, knocking his flying monkey-bat creature out of the sky. Peter recovers the eggs and continues on his journey. He makes a side trip to Valentine’s World and ice skates with a girl bunny. They sing a song about how they are going to love each other for just one day. It looks like there is about to be some serious rabbit-on-rabbit action when unbeknownst to them, Irontail show up to sabotage the eggs!! He wants to stop Peter from giving the eggs away once and for all and the best way he can think of to do this is to turn them completely green. It is unclear whether Irontail is aware of just how easily eggs can be smashed, but I guess that’s not important. In the aftermath, Peter offers his foxy lady a green egg, and just like that the relationship is over. She begins crying because I guess green eggs are a terrible insult to her people. He leaves yet another unfinished storyline in his wake and heads off to St. Patrick’s Day Land. While no one else in all of time and space wanted his eleven-month old eggs, they sell like hotcakes in St Patrick’s day Land because as you know the Irish will eat anything. I hoped that in this part of the film they would take the opportunity to explain the connection between hard-boiled eggs and beer to me but I was horribly disappointed. So he dumps the eggs, returns home to rule over April Meadows, and I don’t remember exactly but I’m pretty sure they publicly-executed Irontail. And as we have all apparently been waiting for, the French caterpillar returns as a butterfly!

As crazy and mixed up as this movie is I do have to say that it is one of my favorite Rankin/Bass Cartoons, if for no other reason than the fact that it can be described as; Shaggy, a bug and a talking hat use the power of Saint Patrick’s Day to battle an evil, physically-disabled rabbit for control of Easter! You might ask, “Did people actually like this? What does it have to do with Easter? Why did they have to incorporate so many other Holidays?”

...Who cares as long as I can give away these eggs!

Friday, April 3, 2009

First Horrific Issue!

I suppose you’re wondering why I have called you all here today… well my friends, tonight from my laboratory in the darkest recesses of an abandoned castle on Dead Vulture Mountain… I launch my creation. The Claymation Werewolf Digital Digest is born! My plan… is to entertain! Provoke thought, provoke fear! Provoke… pity? I ponder the questions of a life being raised by cartoons, and assembling a virtual army of some of the greatest action figures the 80’s and 90’s had to offer. I realize the CMW is far from being the first Generation Y blog, but unlike those that just list cartoons, show videos of the openings, or even describe episodes, I hope to provide a totally new insight on the cartoons, commercials, books, and toys of the golden age of cartoon pop culture. Together we will drink the gummi berry juice! We will BE the terror that flaps in the night! And we will unleash the power of Greyskull! But most of all I intend to throw you blindfolded and frightened into my experimental time machine, and journey to the nostalgia fueled chaos of my mind….Not literally of course (that comes later.)
Until next time, ride free citizens!