Thoughts on “The Looney Tunes Show” preview clips

The Looney Tunes ShowThe other day I, like the rest of the online world, got to see clips of the upcoming new Looney Tunes TV series, “The Looney Tunes Show.” Unlike the original shorts, this spinoff seems to be taking a more sitcom-like approach, keeping the characters in one setting (a suburban neighborhood), and more emphasis on dialogue than slapstick humor from what I’ve seen. The series debuts May 3 at 8 PM ET on Cartoon Network.
A few of the better aspects:
  • The “Krypton” clip. Big surprise for a Superman fan, I know…
  • The writers making a few shout outs to some of the original shorts, such as when Bugs (in the “Krypton” clip) mentions growing up “on the east side of New York” (the same line he used to describe his childhood in one of the original shorts), or Bugs tipping off to a clueless Daffy that Bugs’ birthday is July 27… which is the date in 1940 that his first cartoon debuted, so it is his “birthday.”
My two cents addressing some of the online criticisms of the show’s previews:
  • The suburban setting: We’ve seen the Looney Tunes gang in a suburban/urban setting before. 1990s series “Tiny Toon Adventures” featured the Tiny Toons and Looney Tunes cast living in and around the fictional city of Acme Acres, which managed to provide a funny setting. Granted, “The Looney Tunes Show”‘s suburban setting looks more “realistic”/less slapstick than Acme Acres, but I’ll wait to see how it turns out. (Bonus points if they do name the gang’s town “Acme Acres,” or something with the word “Acme” in it).
  • Speedy’s voice: I assume Speedy’s somewhat-different-sounding voice is an attempt to make him appear less stereotypical, a change I don’t mind. That and the clip with Speedy and Daffy was one of the funniest ones so far (along with the “Krypton” clip).
  • Comparisons to the original shorts: Yes, there’s no way they can possibly match the classic Golden Age shorts, so I’ll be satisfied if this show lives up to the “Silver Age” WB shows that used the characters (Tiny Toons, Taz-Mania, Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries). These series also attempted to update the characters, but did so in a respectful (and funny) manner.

Finally, to list a few of my concerns:

  • It looks a bit light on the slapstick and background/incidental music from the clips I’ve seen, presumably in favor of the sitcom-like approach. The lack of incidental music felt particularly odd to me; some of the best aspects of the original shorts were the use of appropriate music, such as “We’re In the Money” for moments involving money, etc.
  • The feel of the clips remind me a lot of Cartoon Network’s “Regular Show.” Though I’d have to see whole episodes, of course, to get a better idea, the resemblance felt particularly strong with the clips of Lola Bunny (retooled from “Space Jam” into a loopy-acting would-be-girlfriend for Bugs).
  • Hopefully the characters will get to go off on adventures to other places besides Acme Acres (or whatever this town is named), just as Buster and Babs did on “Tiny Toons” (or the Looney Tunes characters in the original shorts).

Overall, I look forward to seeing the debut of this show, and hope it manages to revive the characters’ fortunes on American TV (which they’ve been off of for way too long), and especially keeps them visible to kid viewers.

Easter specials that pass (or fail) the Bechdel Test

It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie BrownIn the spirit of last Christmas’ post about Christmas specials that pass (or fail) the Bechdel Test, I thought it’d be fun to apply the same thing toward the handful of animated Easter specials that’ve been produced.

Pass:

It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown: One of the best of the animated TV Easter specials also passes this test easily, thanks to Peppermint Patty’s repeated failed-but-hilarious efforts to teach Marcie how to prepare and color Easter eggs.

Fail:

Bugs Bunny’s Easter Special: One of the various 70s and 80s Looney Tunes TV specials that consists of various Looney Tunes shorts linked together by newly-produced animated footage to create a “story.” In this case, the special fails, as while there’s a few female characters (Granny, Miss Prissy, etc.), none of them talk to each other (given the nature of the shorts).

Here Comes Peter Cottontail: The 1971 Rankin-Bass Easter special telling the origin of Peter Cottontail as the Easter Bunny… which involves, of all things, time-travel (to other holidays). While one of the great Rankin-Bass specials, this one fails; there’re female characters who get screen time (a wicked witch at Halloween; Bonnie the sentient female Easter bonnet and a hat shop owner at Christmas; and Donna at Valentine’s Day), but none of them talk to each other. The closest, if  it counts, is the shop owner and Peter negotiating over buying Bonnie in exchange for Peter’s eggs.

The Easter Bunny Is Comin’ to Town: The 1977 Rankin-Bass special that tells the story of how the Easter Bunny (and the various secular Easter traditions) came to be, contradicting/ignoring the events of previous Rankin-Bass special “Here Comes Peter Cottontail.” This one fails, as the few female characters (Lily Longtooth, several girls in Kidville) don’t talk to each other.

Uncertain

Yogi the Easter Bear: I haven’t seen this 1994 special, the last animated appearance by Yogi (not counting that CGI movie from last Christmas), but I assume it also fails, given the lack of females in Yogi’s already-small cast (Cindy Bear the only regularly-appearing one). The Wikipedia page shows there’s a few females in the special, so I may be wrong.

Hop: This film, which opens (at the time of this writing) a few days from now, is a CGI/live-action hybrid film about the Easter Bunny’s son not wanting to take over the role. From the previews, there’s at least one female character (a human woman).

Here Comes Peter Cottontail: The Movie: The confusingly-named direct-to-video sequel to “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” features several prominent female characters, as well as a female villain (“Jackie Frost,” a relative of Jack Frost). However, since it’s been awhile since I’ve seen this special, I can’t recall if it passes or not.

Comic review: Love and Capes: Ever After #2

Love and Capes: Ever After #2Love and Capes: Ever After #2

Written by: Thom Zahler
Art by: Thom Zahler

The second issue of the five-part miniseries focuses on the happy couple (Mark and Abby) and their parents, as the two sets of parents pay their respective offspring a simultaneous visit. Mark and Abby also ponder whether (and how) to tell Abby’s parents about his alter-ego. All this, plus fun with temporal hijinks!

Another fun issue. Favorite parts: the cover (reminiscent of a Silver Age Lois Lane or Flash cover); the “grim visage” bit; the time hijinks (from the ages mentioned, I gather Mark’s around 30-32?); and, of course, the “reveal” aspects.

Mark’s fellow hero, Windstar, makes another appearance. I wonder if he’s supposed to be an analogue of Booster Gold (minus the Daffy Duck-sized ego)? Also of note: apparently on “Earth-Love and Capes,” LeBron James never left Cleveland for Miami, judging from the opening artwork…

I bought this issue at C2E2, and was pleased to get to meet Mr. Zahler, who autographed the copy for me. (There’s also available a variant cover version that I didn’t see/buy…).

The “Jay Sherman Test” applied to summer 2011 animated and comic book films

Besides the well-known Bechdel Test, another possible set of rules for movie-viewing, though way more lenient than the Bechdel Test, might be the ones that were proposed by Jay Sherman in the 90s animated series The Critic. While the show had some flaws (too many forced attempts at being “wacky” at times, especially after it moved from ABC to Fox), it did have its moments. In an episode where he’s forced out of his job as a film critic and winds up hosting a show on public access TV, Sherman finally tells the public that it’s up to them to think for themselves and avoid watching bad movies. His listed criteria for movies to avoid:

  1. If it’s based on a TV show, just don’t go.
  2. After Roman numeral II, give it a rest.
  3. If it’s a remake of a classic, rent the classic.

Granted, Jay was forced by his job to watch his world’s awful film fare, such as “Dennis the Menace 2 Society” (Dennis the Menace-as-a-gang-member type) and “Robo-clapper” (Robocop with “the Clapper” built into him), plus he was generally cranky and dismissive about popular culture as a whole. Still, the above set of rules, as well as Jay’s closing with a plea for his viewers to ask for “stories about people, not $100 million of stunts and explosives,” would be interesting to apply to Hollywood cinematic far, especially if they think they can justify charging $10+ for a ticket (or more for a 3D movie ticket).

Thought I’d look over the list of this summer’s animated/comic based movies to see which ones pass or fail the Sherman Test. Of course, I’d have to watch them first before seeing if they pass the Bechdel Test (though I suspect most of them don’t):

  • Thor: Pass.
  • Kung Fu Panda 2: Pass.
  • X-Men: First Class: Fail, I assume. “The Critic” came along before the current spate of movie prequels, but since Sherman took a dim view of an excessive amount of sequels, I imagine this would apply to attempts at prequels as well. Since rule #2, which allows for only one sequel, could be seen as also only allowing for one *prequel*, and assuming all of these films fall under the “X-Men team” label (versus specifically about the individual characters), then it still fails, since we already had a prequel, “Wolverine.”
  • Green Lantern: Pass.
  • Cars 2: Pass.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger: Pass.
  • Cowboys and Aliens: Pass.
  • The Smurfs: Pass, if we assume it’s just an adaptation based on the original Belgium comic strip (a la any number of superhero movies), though I’m sure its producers (and the general public) are more familiar with the 80s TV cartoon.
  • Conan the Barbarian: Pass, assuming it’s based on the original books (and/or comics), though the description I read (like its Hollywood producers) were probably only thinking of the old Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.
  • Winnie the Pooh: Pass, as an adaption of A.A. Milne’s books.

Seems most of this summer’s animated/comic book fare passes, despite stuff like “The Smurfs” looking and sounding rather awful.

Comic review: Tiny Titans #38

Tiny Titans #38Tiny Titans #38

Written by: Art Baltazar and Franco
Art by: Art Baltazar

This issue centers around Aquaman’s youthful sidekick, Aqualad (the original Aqualad, not the current African-American one), and several misadventures he has under the sea. After meeting a young lady named “Aquagirl,” Aqualad (along with Lagoon Boy) join her underwater version of the Tiny Titans. There’s also several bits centering around the heroes’ aquatic pets (showing a few members of the underwater-Titans aren’t the brightest), and a funny sequence centered around the “Aquaman Family” home.

My favorite parts of this issue were the underwater Pet Club scenes (and the reactions Aqualad and Lagoon Boy had to the whole thing), and the scenes in Aquaman’s home.

I assume some of the references to “Hurtin’ Titans” (and possibly the use of Aquagirl herself) are references to whatever’s going on in current mainstream DC books (that I won’t touch with a 10-foot pole)…

 

Archie comic reviews: World of Archie Double Digest #5, Veronica #205

World of Archie Double Digest #5World of Archie Double Digest #5

Written by: various
Art by: various

This issue of “World of Archie” features a complete reprint of the “Tiny Titans/Little Archie” crossover storyline from last fall. Interesting that it’d be cheaper (at $4) to buy this digest than the individual issues (three issues at $3 each = $9), plus you’d receive extra material to boot.

For newer (reprint) material, the rest of the digest begins with several stories about Mr. Weatherbee and Svenson (the school’s Swedish janitor). We then get the biggest surprise of the issue to me, a reprint of “She’s Josie.” “She’s Josie” (or just “Josie”) was a mid-to-late 60s series about the Archie-type hijinks of Josie and her two best friends, Pepper (a glasses-wearing girl) and Melody (an attractive-but-dim-witted blonde girl). Around 1969/1970, Archie decided to retool the comic to match the then-upcoming “Josie and the Pussycats” TV cartoon, and dropped Pepper (plus a few other supporting characters) while bringing in the more familiar “Pussycats” cast (and making Josie the lead singer in the group). Of course, none of that in this story… here, we see Josie and her friends try to outwit two criminals in an abandoned house. A story that could’ve been used in the Pussycats setting, I suppose, but here is written more like a traditional Archie story. Interesting to see that Archie’s decided to reprint anything from the pre-Pussycats incarnation of Josie. Maybe they have a story planned someday that explains whatever happened to Pepper; perhaps she’s hanging out with also-vanished Cousin Ambrose, working together on some funny, fourth-wall-breaking dual-comeback plan?

The remaining stories include a tale about some one-shot classmate with telekinetic powers, the Chocklit Shoppe being cast in the part of a movie, and Dilton (rather eagerly) working with Archie at getting back at Reggie.

Veronica #205 coverVeronica #205

Written by: Dan Parent
Art by: Dan Parent

Here’s the long-awaited return of Kevin Keller, Archie’s new gay character that made a splash (in terms of sales and media attention) last year. In this story, we see Veronica and Kevin have become quite close (Kevin even earns a nickname from Ronnie, “Kevvy,” which I guess keeps with “Archiekins” and the less-often-heard “Reggiekins”/”Juggy”, etc.), to the irritation of Betty, who feels like she’s being ignored. Helping set things straight between Betty and Veronica is Jughead.

A pleasant story, plus we learn more about Kevin’s background—his father’s in the military, he’s not interested in musicals (to counter a stereotype), and he has an interest in journalism. I assume this means Kevin could be used in stories revolving around Riverdale High’s school paper, though those stories usually involve Betty (or depending on the story, Reggie) rather than Veronica or Jughead, the two characters Kevin’s mainly been associated with so far. The upcoming miniseries for Kevin should go into more detail about his family and writing interests, as well as (hopefully) any romantic interests—this *is* an Archie comic, after all, so I assume at some point they should show Kevin dating someone. Since dating is a central part of the comic’s plots, it’ll look odd to *not* see Kevin dating. (As for how soon before Kevin gains a boyfriend, Nancy Woods was added to the cast as Chuck’s girlfriend within several years of his introduction, so who knows…)

Archie’s OK with Veronica spending most of her free time with Kevin, though his reasons seem a bit selfish (as Betty notes)—seems more like a motive of Reggie’s to me, anyway.

One odd story point: based on the cover and the opening pages, Veronica’s cell phone has A) no call waiting or caller ID, and B) a limited number of text messages (albeit a high number). Did the Lodges get their cell phones/cell phone plans from a company stuck in 2001 or something?

Anthony’s picks for Archie Comics for June 2011

Kevin Keller #1Here’s what I’m interested in for Archie for June 2011. As usual, the two dates are in order of comic shop and newsstand availability:

http://www.majorspoilers.com/solicitations-archie-comics-for-june-2011

Comics I’m buying:

  • Archie & Friends #156, on sale June 15/June 21, $3
  • Betty & Veronica Double Digest #192, on sale July 6/July 12, $4
  • Kevin Keller #1 (Veronica #207), on sale June 8/June 14, $3

Comics I’m considering buying:

  • Archie & Friends Double Digest #6, on sale June 15/June 21, $4
  • Betty & Veronica #254, on sale June 29/July 5, $3

Comments:

This month sees the introduction of gay character Kevin Keller’s own miniseries, which (from the odd looking listing) seems to be under the “Veronica” numbering/banner. I guess they’re treating it similar to how Chuck’s miniseries from a few years ago was sold under the “Archie & Friends” title, or Salem’s own miniseries a few years ago was under the “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” numbering. I assume newsstands probably don’t want to clear room for yet another comic title, much less a miniseries, thus Archie going this route. Either way, I’ll be buying it!

The retro vibe continues for the look of the Archie titles, as “Betty & Veronica” seems to have regained its old 70s/80s-era logo, sans the old/outdated “Archie’s Girls” prefix. Meanwhile, on the cover of the “Jughead” comic, Ethel looks more like her older, ungainly self. This seems to veer a bit from Archie’s recent effort to update no-longer-”Big” Ethel. Or maybe it’s just how cover artist Fernando Ruiz wanted to draw her…

Finally, Sabrina appears in reprints in “Betty & Veronica Double Digest,” and makes a new appearance, alongside comic-geek Chuck, in “Archie & Friends.” This issue sees Riverdale get its first huge C2E2/San Diego-like comic-con. Should be an interesting story just from the cover alone.

Anthony’s picks for Marvel Comics for June 2011

Spider-Man #15Here’s my choices for what Marvel’s putting out for June 2011:

http://www.newsarama.com/comics/marvel-june-2011-solicitations-110322.html

Comics I’ll be buying:

  • Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #15, $3
  • Marvel Adventures Super Heroes #15, $3

Comics I might buy:

  • Human Torch & Hulk: From the Marvel Vault #1, $4
  • Hulk-Sized Mini-Hulks #1, $3

Comments:

Lots of Thor and Captain America this month, per the two heroes’ movies being out this summer. “Super Heroes” features Cap, among others.

Meanwhile, “Spider-Man” features Spidey at the UN fighting some plot by Dr. Doom. Should be an interesting matchup.

“Hulk-Sized Mini-Hulks” is some compilation of backup humorous comic strips about the Hulk. Seems amusing looking, so might give it a go (even if I prefer the original green Hulk). Same goes for the Human Torch/Hulk story, which I’m guessing is just some old inventory story they’d been sitting on for years.

GLAAD awards this year’s “outstanding comic” to “X-Factor”

LGBT media watchdog group GLAAD’s announced its winners in this year’s award show. For the category of “outstanding comic,” the winner this year is Peter David’s “X-Factor,” one of the (875) monthly X-Men-related titles.

I was hoping for “Veronica” to win, given it’s broken ground by being a comic mainly aimed at children/preteens with a positive gay character introduced. Still, it’s nice (if unusual) to see an Archie title just get nominated nominated…

AT&T to buy T-Mobile: not a good sign

In the tech news here this week is the announcement that US telecom giant AT&T is buying smaller mobile carrier T-Mobile, which will reduce the number of nationwide major carriers to three (AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint, though Sprint is smaller than the “big two”). Ars Technica reports all the ugly details of this, and why such a merger is a bad idea:

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/03/analysis-higher-prices-fewer-choices-once-att-swallows-t-mobile.ars

As the article (and a million other people online) have noted by now, this is definitely a bad thing for the already-sorry state of US mobile phone service. Only two major cell phone companies to choose from, and both of them mediocre companies at best, isn’t good for consumers. While I’m currently with Sprint, an even-worst-case-scenario would see Sprint (a smaller company than AT&T and Verizon) bought out by Verizon. Not something I’d like to see come to pass, though if it did, I’d probably give some thought to going to some smaller regional provider, like the midwest’s US Cellular.

Of course, the FCC *could* stop the merger from happening, but since they clearly just rubber-stamp any media merger nowadays, no matter how ill-conceived or money-grubbing (see: Comcast-NBC), I’m sure they won’t be a problem…

Update (3/22/11): Verizon’s CEO has stated that his company has no interest or plans to buy Sprint. Assuming it’s true (or Verizon doesn’t change their minds later on), that’s good news for Sprint, though they could still be bought by/merge with some other company…