Focus this week is on two studios who more or less got in on the ground floor of the 80’s-90’s animation resurgence. Film Roman scored early with the long-running hit, “Garfield and Friends”, providing a healthy helping of robots fit for the “fat cat’s” appetite. Also an early-riser in the wake of the success of the Disney Afternoon was WB, who, in collaboration with Steven Spielberg, produced two early hits, “Tiny Toon Adventures” and “Animaniacs”, which will be discussed below.
Robodie (10/21/89) – While Garfield raids a local “all-you-can-eat” buffet for everything they’re worth, Odie, left outside, is dognapped by a mad toymaker/scientist, Dr. Garbanzo Bean (who, as a reader observed of tree robots last week, bears a certain resemblance to a Don Martin character from Mad Magazine), for use in his experiments. Using a hollow fire hydrant placed atop Odie, the doctor pumps in materials for a mold, in similar fashion to the robot-making devices of Ruff and Reddy’s Muni-Mula adventure. Then Odie is tucked away in a cage, while a conveyor belt rolls out of a molding machine mechanical duplicates closely resembling the original. They do just about everything the original model can do – just about as stupidly – and are guaranteed to fetch over 1,000 sticks on two double-A batteries. One of them wanders out of the back-alley laboratory, and back to the restaurant, where Garfield mistakes the duplicate for his dimwitted pal. Though the device’s “Bow wow” sounds a bit deep and metallic, Garfield seems not to notice the difference, commenting, “Your usual intellectual conversation.”
Upon reaching home, Garfield begins to observe certain subtle differences in his companion. The robot’s positioning itself at the edge of a table prompts Garfield into his familiar pastime of shoving Odie off – after all, it’s “something to do.” But an attempt to give the dog a swift kick results in a loud “Clang’, and one “painful paw” for Garfield. Garfield tries pushing with both front paws, but can’t budge the heavy contraption of iron. “Odie’s putting on weight”, pants an exhausted Garfield. Determined to finish what he started, Garfield rushes Odie from behind – but the robot unexpectedly steps nimbly out of the way, causing Garfield to fall over the table edge. “When did Odie get clever?” ponders Garfield. Odie-bot wants Garfield to throw a ball, but when he does, the pup catches it by telescopically extending his neck rather than chasing it. “What is wrong with this picture?” quips Garfield. Jon enters the roo, with a dish of water for Odie. The pup laps it up, but is short-circuited by its effects inside, and explodes. “That’s the way Jon’s cooking affects me too, fella”, responds Garfield. With gears and springs now exposed in exploded view, Jon finally realizes the switch, and has Garfield lead him back to where he and Odie spent the day. Sounds of a distant whimper lead Garfield and Jon to the lab. Upon entering, they are surrounded by the bounding robots. Two of them greet Garfield simultaneously with a “team slurp”. The real Odie, spotting Garfield, shakes at the bars of his cage, and manages to tip it off a table, breaking free. Now among the duplicates, Garfield must single him out. Easy, since Odie’s is the only head which makes a hollow sound when knocked upon. The Doctor enters, and some mutual explaining is in order, and Jon reveals the Doctor took his dog. Dr. Bean refers to Odie as a model “intelligent creature”, to which Jon responds, “Well, I wouldn’t say that.” The Doctor learns that Odie is the opposite of the doctor’s description, and begins to wail that no one will buy a robot dog lacking in a brain. Realizing his waste of his resources as worthless, the Doctor gladly relinquishes not only Odie, but his duplicates as well, who follow Garfield and Jon out of the lab. Feeling hungry, Jon suggests dinner at the buffet – but the owner waits at the door, ordering that Jon keep his cat out of the premises. Jon gets the owner to agree to let himself and his dog enter while Garfield waits outside (although Garfield protests, “No fair.”) But the restaurant owner discovers he has a new problem, as not one dog enters, but the whole line of robots as well. “How many dogs have you got?”, screams the owner. “Just one. How many do you see?”, responds Jon in deadpan, as the owner collapses. Jon, Odie, and the robots help themselves to the buffet, as Jon ponders that he now has a lot of new mouths to feed. He thanks providence that at least there is only one Garfield. Among the duplicates, one dog flips his head, revealing that Garfield has sneaked inside, too, wearing an Odie costume. “And don’t you forget it!”, ge declares for the curtain line.
Invasion of the Big Robots (12/2/89) – A regular anticipated delight of “Garfield and Friends” was a different funny one-liner which Lorenzo Music would provide for each program in voice-over at the end of the opening credits – much in the manner of the changing Simpsons couch and blackboard gags. Some of these may have been lost to time during the show’s re-syndication, due to their topicality to Garfield’s original Saturday-morning time slot on CBS. (For example, in the week when NBC changed its Saturday lineup to all live-action programming, Lorenzo couldn’t resist the comment “Don’t bother to switch to NBC, kids. They don’t do cartoons anymore.”) Another of the earlier “lost” openings may have been, “The Garfield Guarantee: No giant robots, and no aggravating little blue people” (referring to NBC’s biggest ratings-getter, Peyo’s “The Smurfs”). Oddly, however, within approximately one season, Garfield would break this guarantee, with an episode that begins with Garfield awakening in his cat box, and rising to saunter over to the kitchen for a snack. He notes something unusually dark and modernistic about the wall decor, and assumes Jon must have been redecorating. Suddenly, a strange voice is heard, and Garfield looks up, to find he is not in the kitchen at all, bit in the cockpit of a space ship, with a captain at the controls who looks like a cross between He-Man and any number of Hanna-Barbera or Marvel action heroes. Named Star Wolf, he radios the leader of an alien planet about the impending attack of the Moto-Rods. Garfield realizes in an attack of shock that he has somehow awakened in the wrong cartoon. Star Wolf passes him, then stops to observe the strange orange creature with huge eyes. He assumes Garfield is a mutant gnome from the galaxy of Ra, come to spy on him and steal the energy jewel of Wizzig. Garfield attemts to explain that he is only a cat, in search of a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. “I’ll immobilize him with a polar laser orbitron”, says Star Wolf. “Hey! Geez, if you don’t have a BLT, just say so”, says Garfield in an attempt to pacify. But a blast from the hand-held device sends Garfield running. He calls out for any sign of Jon or Odie, then encounters a canine – but not the one expected. It is a realistically-drawn German Shepherd, wearing a rocket belt around its waist, and snarling fiercely. “You’re so not Odie”, responds Garfield. The cat runs ro a launching area where a space capsule rests in wait for takeoff. Garfield slams the door of the capsule in the dog’s face, stunning him. Garfield then spots an assortment of buttons upon a glassy panel framed in lights, which he assumes is a candy machine, to at last provide him with something to eat. Instead, it is the master control for the capsule, through which Garfield inadvertently decodes the launching sequence. Star Wolf assumes the gnome is stealing the “Power Pod”, as the pod capsule blasts off out of a hatch, its destination set for the planet under attack.
A trio of giant robots, closely resembling the basic styles of Tranzor Z or Voltron, is laying waste to a city, picking up and smashing tall buildings. Garfield’s Power Pod enters the atmosphere, and makes a link-up as the head unit of the lead robot. (A funny touch is that the link-up is in much less complex fashion than most anime robots, the power pod containing extenders shaped like the connections of a giant electrical plug, which neatly fit into matching socket openings in the robot’s neck.) In a standard anime metallic sound-effect, the robot is energized, and under Garfield’s control. It marches forward, while Garfield shouts for it to stop – a command picked up through a microphone on the pod’s dashboard. The robot halts, and Garfield realizes who is in command. He issues an order to the other two robots: “Stand on one leg.” They obey. Garfield engages in a game of “Garfield says”, and soon has the other robots strutting and clucking like chickens. Producing a pair of drumsticks (not of the chicken variety) from nowhere, Garfield begins hammering-out a tap-dance rhythm upon the buttons of his control panel. The other robots lift a couple of roofs off the tall buildings to don as straw hats, and uproot some lampposts as canes, then perform a tap number that shakes the city buildings and stuns the populace, finishing a chorus of “Swanee River” with an “Off to Buffalo” exit. As for the robot he’s riding, Garfield spots another set of controls inside the pod, indicating that the robot is one of those type that can “transform” into other things. At the press of a few buttons, the robot changes in shape to a vintage 50’s automobile, a giant refrigerator, a gumball machine, and finally a giant parking meter. The time on the meter is apparently set to expire, and the robot’s systems short circuit, causing an explosion. The power pod is blasted from the head of the robot, transporting Garfield into space again, and out of the galaxy. The pod comes to rest on a green, forest-covered world, where Garfield emerges, happy to be rid of the robots. That is, until he sees what he is now surrounded by. An assortment of adorable, fuzzy animals who appear to have stepped out of the frames of Walt Disney’s “Bambi”. Garfield is definitely in the wrong cartoon again. A Thumper-look alike informs Garfield, “We’re the cute creatures of the forest, and we’re going to teach you how to be nice to everyone and never, ever be mean.” “Giant robots! I want the giant robots back!”, shouts Garfield, racing back to the pod, and blasting off for parts unknown. “Hey, he’s not so cute”, says the rabbit, as he and the other animals watch the pod rise into the skies. “How’d he ever get his own show?”
Robodie II (10/19/91) suffers from a degree of “sequel-itis”, with less originality than its predecessor. Not that anyone is trying to hide this. Garfield himself interrupts the cartoon from a network command center, to remind us who Dr. Garbanzo Bean is, and of the original episode aired a few years back in Season 2, which Garfield looks up in a library of old videotapes, and acknowledges they’ve rerun about 98 times by now. “Same title, same guest star…and probably the same jokes”, sums up Garfield regarding what we are about to see, then returns us to the cartoon in progress. Garbanzo seems to have forgotten completely that there is no money in producing toy dogs without a brain, and dognaps Odie again while on an outing with Garfield and Jon in the park. Taking Odie to a new laboratory hidden in a cave, Bean tries out a newly-designed duplicator, which uses a ray to analyze and duplicate Odie’s DNA structure, then turns out a new robot duplicate off its conveyor belt. Dr. Bean takes the robot into town for a test run through the city. It allows a policeman to pet it – then bites his hand. It tears the pantlegs off the trousers of a second citizen, then steals a cash register out of a meat market. Bean can see the robot has more bugs than it has fleas, and sensibly departs with his creation. Odie meanwhile is struggling inside his cage back at the lab to set himself free, and again knocks the cage over. One of the bars snaps loose from the front of the cage, and flies across the room, hitting a lever on the Doctor’s duplication machine. The machine shudders and shakes, then bursts open at the top, causing to emerge a ten foot tall robot duplicate. That’s enough to spook Odie for good, and he runs from the cave into the park, where he is immediately spotted by rangers on the lookout for the dog who attacked the town. A chase ensues, and Odie is finally captured. But the appearance of his giant duplicate frightens away law enforcement, and Odie races away, to finally find Jon and Garfield. They are also found by the giant dog, who almost swallows Garfield in an attempt to give him a friendly slurp. Luckily, Garbanzo arrives on the scene, getting his giant dog to heel, and offers his apologies for getting Odie into trouble. The giant dog follows its master back to the lab, where Garbanzo disassembles it, as well as the normal-size robot, vowing never to make robot dogs again. Small wonder, because now he’s moved on to robot cats. He reveals this creation, which looks like Garfield asleep in his cat box, and passes Jon the remote control to test him out. Jon pushes the button repeatedly, but the robot provides no response. “It just lays there and doesn’t do anything”, says Jon. The proud Doctor happily agrees. “It does everything a real cat does!” Slightly insulted, Garfield states to the audience, “Don’t get too attached to Dr. Bean. This is his last time on the show.”
Rainy Day Robot (U.S. Acres, 12/19/92) – In the co-series of the Garfield show, Roy Rooster is getting robbed blind by Orson’s three mean pig brothers, who have raided the barn’s supply of vegetables by disguising themselves as a car with pigs’ feet instead of wheels. Orson, busy with his own task of seeking a location for a new well to avert the effects of a dry spell, gets into a war of words with Roy, in which the two challenge each other to trade jobs to show that each can do the other’s better. But Roy is no diviner, and his burrowing efforts come up bone dry. Wade Duck suggests maybe they could make it rain, a suggestion which brings only scoffs from Roy – but brings about an entirely different reaction from a passing traveling sales-bird from the Schlocko Company. He happens to be exclusive distributor of the Dance-O-Matic Weather Robot, a device that looks much like a red cannister vacuum with protruding eyes and a voice speaker. The robot is guaranteed to perform the Indian rain dance, as well as dances for snow or any other kind of weather you might want. A demonstration proves it can produce both by its jiggling maneuvers, and Roy makes a purchase. However, the robot’s eyes have a tendency to doze off, and every time Roy repeats the word “rain”, the robot appears to be asleep. However, whenever Roy reaches frustration point and flings a verbal insult, the robot pops to life, and interprets the insult as a command. Thus, Roy receives a painful barrage of objects falling from the sky, as every phrase gets interpreted too literally. (“You bucket of bolts.” “Overgrown vacuum cleaner.” “He’s gonna make me yell until I’m hoarse.” “I’m really up a tree.” “Someplace where it’s safe.”) The horse and safe falling from the sky make one realize the setup is something of a homage to Tex Avery’s “Bad Luck Blackie”. As well as obviously influenced by “Porky the Rainmaker”. Meanwhile, the mean pig brothers raid the barn again, right under Orson’s nose, and their escape path crosses that of Roy trying to get away from the robot. The pigs are about to throttle Roy, but the clever rooster asks for a few last words, well chosen. They as “27 pianos.” The robot arrives, and takes the cue. In Avery style, each of the pigs is buried under a rain of the musical instruments. Orson asks Roy to return to his job of guarding the vegetables, and Roy takes the comment with the remark, “I can take a hint, I don’t need a house to fall on me.” Of course, what falls, thanks to the robot? The only thing they could have done to make this ending more complete, was have Dorothy Gale step out of the door, and wonder if she’s back in Kansas.
At Warner Brothers, Tiny Toon Adventures would provide at least two robotic encounters. In Open and Shut Case (12/7/90), Hamton Pig, in reward for his A+ average and Piggy Cum Laude honorarium, receives the unique privilege of being assigned the school’s first Acme Wonder Locker, a state of the art computerized, robotic security system. Professor Granny hands him the owner’s manual, and reminds him that she is sure that he will take good care of school property. Hamton presses a button to begin activation sequence, and is greeted by a mellow, underplayed computer voice parodying computer “HAL” from Stanley Kubtick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”. He is requested to enter a combination, which Hamton does by pressing another series of buttons. The front panel of the locker, flashing in multi-color lights, slides downward, opening a hatch for Hamton to insert his lunch, then closes tight. Hamton neglects to notice that he has set down the owner’s manual beneath his fruits, vegetables, and sandwiches, causing it to be sealed inside the locker too.
12:00 arrives, and Hamton can only think of his yummy food, images of it dancing around hs head from his active imagination. At the sound of the bell, he is back at the locker in an instant, punching in the combination. “Ta Daah”, he shouts, expecting his lunch to pop out for an entrance. “Incorrect”, says the computer voice. Hamton tries it again – and again – with the same computer response. Hamton’s temper rises, briefly converting him to the shape of a steam whistle blowing its top. Hamron tugs at the locker’s door handle. “I wouldn’t do that” recommends the locker, as the handle breaks off, causing Hamton to fall backwards into a wastebasket. Hamtom shouts at the top of his lungs, causing a robotic hand to emerge from the locker, slapping a piece of tape over his mouth, inscribed with the words “Shhh…This is a highly sensitive machine.” Desperate times call for desperate measures, so Hamton raids shop class of all the tools he can find. “Okay, Mr. State-of-the-art. We’re going to do a little open-part surgery!” In a thought cloud, Hamton hears the words of Granny cautioning him to take good care of school property. Hamton blows the cloud away. “Buzz off, Granny! A pig’s gotta do what a pig’s gotta do!” The locker develops a face screen similar to Rudy in the Jetsons’ reboot seasons, and in its usual voice underplay, announces “Intruder alert.” The extendable hand grabs Hamton by the neck, while a robotic foot extends from the locker hatch, booting Hamton across the corridor. For “kicks”, the locker door remains open, briefly displaying Hamton’s lunch to taunt him, accompanied by sadistic laughter. “Stop laughing at me”, shouts Hamton, bit is unable to run back before the locker seals the food up tight again. Hamton returns with a welder’s mask and blow torch. But the locker is again one step ahead of him, and the hand extends out again, carrying a water pistol to put out the flame. Hamton reaches his limit, races outside, and drives up to the front of the Looniversity with a construction crane, carrying an electro-magnet as its payload. Positioning the magnet over the school roof, Hamton throws a switch. The locker is attracted to the ceiling – but so are all the other lockers in the corridor. The entire mass of metal is pulled upward through the roof. Hamton climbs out onto the crane rope determined to retrieve his locker from the debris. His extra weight snaps the crane cable, and everything, including Hamton, falls back into the corridor in a heap. This last blow, however, does the trick, and the locker door slides open, displaying Hamton’s long-awaited food. As Hamton chows down on a sandwich, he turns to the audience. “Sure, I got a little peeved. But for olive loaf, it’s worth it.” “Olive loaf?”, moans the locker’s computer face, as the locker keels forward in a faint, for the fade out.
C.L.I.D.E. and Prejudice (9/18/91) – A new student enrolls in the Looniversity – a metallic one, with a triangular video screen that appears to depict the mouthless eyes of Marvin the Martian. He is a very small robot, who again talks in an underplayed voice resembling HAL (carrying the resemblance further by habitually referring to everyone as “Dave”), and seems fixated in his speech patterns on phrases we would associate with game show hosts. He immediately becomes the target of jeers from Plucky and Montana Max, who refer to him as “Robo-Tot”, and a cover boy for Better Homes and Grease Guns. Only Buster Bunny extends him a little common courtesy and a handshake, despite still having to refer to him as “whatever you are.” The robot identified itself as “C.L.I.D.E. – Cybernetic Laser Ionized Digital Entity.” Everybody shuns the robot at lunch, while Montana Max keeps flinging insults, and presses a button on the robot’s back that causes him to spit out the motor oil he is drinking for a beverage. A few drops end up on Max’s “Dacron dickey”, causing him to swear revenge. The robot is left alone and friendless as everyone else leaves the table, and mutters to himself “We are experiencing technical difficulties.” Only Buster again shows up, willing to share a table with him. He encourages the confused robot to just be his robot self. “I don’t want to be a robot. I want to be popular – like you”, responds C.L.I.D.E. He begs Buster for help, and Buster asides to the audience, “What can I say? I’m a role model.” Buster tries dressing up the robot as a duplicate rabbit. However, Montana Max plots his revenge in a nearby storeroom, displaying his latest purchase – a robot twice the size of C.L.I.D.E., named S.N.I.D.E. – Super New Improved Droid Eradicator. Pressing a button on a control box, Montana orders it to attack, but receives no response, as he forgot to program the device. Montana climbs up to the robot’s head unit, adjusting some controls inside to the setting, “Attack nearest geek.” Misinterpreting the definition of the target, the large robot directs its attack upon Max. As Montana is pursued down the corridor, he passes Buster and C.L.I.D.E. Seeing Monty’s plight, C.L.I.D.E., in the manner of a game show announcer, declares that Monty has won a brand new car – transforming himself into a high powered racer. Speeding down the corridor, he catches up with the monster, then transforms into a second “prize” – a Leer jet. His robot hand projects out the landing-gear door, delivering a few distracting blows to the larger robot’s head – then holds a sign for the monster to read, stating “Look out ahead”. The distracted giant runs out of corridor, smashing face first into the wall. C.L.I.D.E., still in flying mode, scoops up Max, and carries him back to the other Looniversity students, while continuing his game show spiel – “Transportation provided by Air C.L.I.D.E.” Max has learned his lesson at having his life saved, stating that the answer is what you are on the inside is what counts. “Correct, Dave – but you didn’t state it in the form of a question”, says C.L.I.D.E., transforming into the shape of an anvil to crash down on Max for blowing his line. Buster comments that he thinks this new kid is gonna fit in just fine.
Animaniacs would also provide a smattering of robots. Regular feature “Pinky and the Brain” would begin its run with the episode Win Big (9/14/93). While Pinky laughs himself silly watching an old episode of ‘The Honeymooners” on TV, repeatedly imitating Ralph Kramden’s catch phrase, “Bang, Zoom, right in the kisser”, Brain plots to take over the world with a super-conductive magnetic infindibulator, which will increase the earth’s gravitational pull to draw every person with loose change in their pockets helplessly to the ground. “Wait. What if they take their pants off?”. observes Pinky. “Then, we shall have to take over the world quickly”, replies Brain, taken aback by this small hole in his plan. A larger hole, however, looms at them from the pages of a Farmer’s Almanac where the infindibulator can be purchased – the price tag of $99,000. The TV broadcast has switched over to a game show, “Gyp-Parody” (takeoff on perennial quiz show “Jeopardy”). Brain realizes the show’s top prize of $99,000 will just meet the needed price to fulfill his plan.
To become a contestant on the show, Brain invents a massive-chested robotic suit, about twice as wide as the average human and slightly taller in height, but dressed in a conservative suit with red bow tie. The device has only a small hole where aneck should be, and Brain enters the toe of the robot’s shoe to climb into a cockpit area inside the robot’s upper chest, poking his miniature head through the hole while seated below neck-level in a driver’s seat, to pull levers and gearshifts to operate the robot’s feet and arms. Carrying Pinky in the robot’s pocket, Brain marches the mechanical suit out of Acme Labs, and hails a taxi to the TV station. The taxi driver curiously asks what happened to Brain’s head to make it so small. “Nothing. I’m a mouse in a large mechanical suit.” “Okay”, responds the cab driver. “My fault for asking.” Brain appears on that evening’s show, quickly beating the other contestants to the buzzer to answer every question correctly. He is thus the only contestant to play the bonus round of Final Gyp-Parody. In clever homage to the classic “Honeymooners” episode, “The $99,000 Answer”, Brain receives the final answer, “This classic TV character is known for saying “Bang, Zoom, Right in the kisser.” The only factoid which Brain has repressed from his mind. Drawing a blank, the only response Brain can stammer is, “Uh, Pinky?” Bye bye $99,000, as Brain has wagered his entire winnings on the question. Nothing to do but prepare for tomorrow night’s plan to take over the world.
The robot suit would receive use again when “Pinky and the Brain” became a spin-off, moving into a prime-time slot, in Of Mouse and Man (9/17/95). Once again, Brain is in need of financing for his latest scheme: $1,614,000.000, to construct an endless-loop voice mail system with so many choices, any user will be occupied for at least 72 hours, unable to defend the planet. Brain ponders how to obtain so much money without running for Congress. A TV commercial about recoveries for on-the-job accidents seems to provide the solution. Pulling the robotic suit out of moth balls in a storage closet, Brain settles into the driver’s seat (though repeatedly struggling with a sticky gearshift that keeps crushing objects with his right hand), and applies for a job in the corporate world of re-reinsurance. There, he stages an accident with a combination of a microwave oven and a non-dairy creamer – two objects about which Brain claims that no one really knows how they work. Ditching the robotic suit in a closet, Brain jumps waist-deep into the creamer powder, and claims to have been transformed into a mouse. The matter is taken to court, where a defense attorney attempts to prove that Brain is in fact not a mouse, but a peculiar little man. Pinky sneaks into the courtroom to watch rhe proceedings, claiming he can’t find any coverage of the trial on cable TV. He whispers that it’s a good thing that nobody’s found the suit, and Brain realizes the oversight of leaving it in the company closet. He sends Pinky to recover the suit. Pinky infiltrates the company premises by getting caught up in delivery of new stock to the lunch-room candy machine, then finds the suit and scrambles into the control cockpit. His mastery of the controls is far from perfect, and he marches the suit through doors and walls, intermittently crushing objects in his path. At the courthouse, Brain is slowly succumbing to cross-examination, as the defense counsel challenges his claim of being a mouse based on his demonstrations of high intelligence. Brain tries to feign stupidity, repeating Pinky’s favorite catch word “Narf”. But the counsel confronts him with, “Then you would have no problem with me saying that Albert Einstein was a champion surfer.” Even worse, he misquotes a rule of quantum physics, leading Brain to irresistibly blurt forth an outburst of complex equations. “Oh, blunder”, moans Brain, as the jury titters with skepticism. The judge not only dismisses charges, but sentences Brain for fraud, perjury, and appearing naked in a public place. Enter Pinky, in the out-of-control robot suit, who lays general waste to the courtroom, stomps on Brain, yet eventually scoops him up and carries him back to the lab, smashing a hole in the courthouse wall for an exit. With head bandaged but not bound too tightly to prevent thinking, Brain once again waits for tomorrow night, to “try to take over the world.”
Here’s another reverse picture video embed.
Super Strong Warner Siblings (9/9/95) – The Warner Brothers (and sister) provide a riotous and wicked sendup of then-current juvenile hero squads in “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” and “Voltron”, with a few additional elements common to other Japanese manga-style shows of the day. The siblings begin the episode in an unusually peaceful and generous mood, complimenting the behind-the-scenes work of their cameraman and rewarding him with a bag full of money, then being equally generous with a sack of cash to a little girl who likes their song on serendipity. A boy next to her mildly points out, “Hey, I liked your song, too.” Yakko hands him a consolation prize of a fat-free yogurt. Far away on an alien planet, they are observed by an evil sorceress in outlandish costume (including a crown made of a buzzard’s nest), who shouts every dialogue line with rage and non-stop syllables, even when there’s nothing particular to be angry about. (A parallel to series villainess Rita Repulsa from the Power Rangers.) She teleports a squad of ninjas to finish the Warners, who counter with choreographed ninja moves, repeated unison shouts of the word “Right”, and giant tennis racquets to “smash” the enemy ninjas flat against a studio wall. The sorceress casts a spell to magnify a common garden insect into a massive monster, who begins devouring and tearing up studio buildings. A distress signal comes in on the Warner-shield shaped wrist-receivers of the siblings. They go into their choreography again, and, in another lampoon of shows of the day, call for the “power of” one species or another, except with odd choices. “Power of the blowfish”, shouts Yakko. “Power of the anteater”, shouts Wakko. “Power of the platypus”, chimes in Dot. They leap into the studio water tower, transforming it into a giant robot. The studio logo from the roof of a sound stage becomes a shield, while they morph a shield-shaped executive board room table into a fighting sword. Their robot battles fiercely with the giant insect, stomping through and destroying sound stage after sound stage, and setting on fire what little is left. They finally pick up the insect in an old wrestling show “helicopter spin” grip above their head, and hurl him into the side of a building, where his powers wear off and he becomes small enough for the giant robot to squash with one foot. Studio mogul Plotz appears, shouting, “Look what you’ve done to my lot. Do you know how much it’s going to cost to rebuild it?” Rather than reach for a sack of money, Yakko hands Plotz a fat-free yogurt, and Plotz faints dead away. The Warners close with a final warning to kids to just say no to fighting giant bugs, and wave goodbye for the iris out.
NEXT WEEK: We’ll return to Disney developments.