Friday, November 02, 2007

From the Jetstones To Mighty Mouse

Back in the 80s I tried to sell a story to Hanna Barbera that combined the Flinstones with The Jetsons. I wanted to do the future of cavemen. Needless to say, the story people there just stared at me like i was an idiot. "People can't ride rockets made of rock".

Between season 1 and 2 of Mighty Mouse, Ralph wanted us to come up with new ideas for cartoon shows and Tom, Eddie, Jim and I wrote up a bunch of non Mighty Mouse shows including Snow White and The Motor City Dwarfs, and I wrote up a short idea about The Jetstones.

I didn't stay for season 2. I took some of the crew and we went to work on the doomed Beany and Cecil revival for ABC.

Meanwhile Ralph needed stories, so he had Jim and Tom write new ones, but also take stories we had already written for other projects and adapt them for Mighty Mouse.

Here's a really funny parody of Saturday Morning Cartoons they did for the second season.





I think Kent Butterworth directed it and he did a brilliant thing:

For the Scooby Doo parody, he went and hired a cartoonist who was actually a huge fan of the show-if you can imagine that possibility. He hired Daryl MacNeill (I think) and handed the scenes out to him straight instead of telling him to make fun of it.

It came out even funnier looking all naive and sincere.

If Tom, Kent, Jim or anyone reads this, please add more backstories about the making of it and I will add them here.

37 comments:

Ryan G. said...

Ha! That was awesome! That was the funniest voice acting ever! I love the Ed Sullivan/Mr T. guy too.

Jadthe said...

The Jetstones! That's hilarious.

Tom said...

John,

Jim Reardon wrote the bulk of "Don't Touch That Dial" and I penned the beginning and the Mighty Mouse tirade at the end, with a couple of nods to the late Fred Allen. Rich Moore drew the character designs and did a great job of pulling off the Jay Ward house style, in particular. Vicki Jensen handled color keying, Kent directed and contributed the authentic anime look for the scenes involving "Ghostbusters" near the end. Daryl McNeill indeed provided layouts, as per Kent, for the "Scooby" section. Daryl also threw in a written reference to Dr. Donald Wildmon on the wagon Shaggy rides downstairs (in the 1988 wake of the media firestorm surrounding the flower sniffing shot in "The Littlest Tramp") which Ralph demanded be removed after he saw it in the A-Frame reel. Writers at other studios were baffled by this short, asking me things like 'why is Mighty Mouse bald?' "Don't Touch That Dial" may play as a bit ragged and low budget in 2007, but it was emotionally right on target, and all of us had been wanting to say what was said in it for at least ten years, having had to work on pure garbage to eat. The original exit line was Mighty Mouse telling the audience "But enough lies and hypocracy - now a word from our sponsor!" CBS demanded we not make direct verbal reference to a sponsor in programming material, an FCC broadcast rule. So the line was altered to "...here's what television is all about!" Which worked anyway, since they cut directly to a bumper for a commercial. There are no small victories in life and "Don't Touch That Dial" was one of them, in my book. None of us ever enjoyed that degree of creative freedom again. Chuck Jones, who was lurking about Ralph's studio shortly after this was made, consulting on Dr. Seuss's "The Butter Battle" special with the in-house Maurice Noble, said "the best thing about Mighty Mouse is that it was a bite instead of a lick."

Tom Minton

Jadthe said...

Actually that's the most I've ever laughed at one one of your cartoons! Great work!

Tom said...

Forgot to credit Kent Butterworth for nailing the stock 1970's/1980's sheet timing of Hanna-Barbera in the Scooby section. It has been said that parody has to be dead-on to really work, and Kent, with his experience of slugging and animating for every studio in the industry, knew how to pull that off, no simple thing when working through a Taiwan animation house. Mike Kazaleh virtually animated that color slate wipe, by drawing so many layouts they acted as key poses. None of this would have been possible nor gotten on the air without Ralph. Happy Birthday, Ralph! We should make Ralph the same cake we made Clampett, John, but a beef tongue today costs triple what it did in 1981.

JohnK said...

Hey Tom

thanks for all the info.

I wish we could do something new together.

deadfelix4 said...

Hey John,

First off I want to say that I love your stuff. I wasn't sure how I should get in contact with you so I figured through here would be good. I was wondering if you'd be interested in having an interview with me. I write for a site called Almost Monumental ( www.almostmonumental.com ), and that's where the interview would be put up. If you're interested in doing this, please let me know by e-mailing me at almostmonumental[at]yahoo.com . Thanks, and I hope to talk to you soon.

PS: You probably shouldn't approve this comment.

Mr. Trombley said...

The episode is very light on "Rocky & Bullwinkle" as compared to the other shows, especially the "things" that walk in the door next. I don't know what they're supposed to be, but they're creepy. I liked Rocky & Bullwinkle, but owe my entire knowledge of literature to Scooby Doo. Reading Dante's Inferno was more entertaining than that...

Lex said...

I almost peed my pants when the Ghostbusters showed up. Extremely well-done.

PCUnfunny said...

That was frickin' hilarous. Finally someone took those flat shows down a peg. And thanks for additional info Tom.

Bitter Animator said...

They're pretty funny but that story about the Scooby-Doo guy is just mean. Was he told afterwards?

Vincent Waller said...

And thus adult swim was born...if only

Chip Butty said...

Yay!! Thanks for sharing some info behind this cartoon, John and Tom!

And Tom, it doesn't look "low-budget" or slipshod in the least. Besides the fact every New Adventures still contains better animation than any cartoon on TV today, all the attention to bad animation details in this particular episode, like the Scooby Doo sheet timing and the fact all the Real Ghostbusters sound like Lorenzo Music, makes it the definitive satire of post-60s television animation.

What I mean is, it's way more relevant to this day than the time Tiny Toons had "Bort Sampson," or any other toothless "parody" of cartoons done within cartoons after MM did it first and went for the jugular.

Mr. Semaj said...

Sounds like your Jetstones idea was instead used for that crossover movie. :-/

Clinton said...

off topic, John, but i wanted to tell you that i donated to your project. you might see the name, "SugaCrcl" that's me; or my full name.

Sketch said...

This is a pretty good cartoon. Snappy dialog and Vince is right, this looks like the building blocks for Adult Swim.

Sam L. said...

awesome.

amir avni said...

My favorite part in "Snow White and the Motor City Dwarfs" is when she buys the dwarfs distinctive personalities for their birthday. "Mighty's Wedlock Whimsy" is great too.

"Don't touch that dial" has excellent satire! I love the hallway chase sequence, and the real Gagbusters are still a menace till this day!

Hey Kids, Freeze frame the channel surfing before Rocky and Hoodwinkle and you'll see POPEYE AS A SMURF and Beany as Cecil!

lastangelman said...

I remember falling off my chair first time I saw this. How was the Tiffany network letting something that irreverent happen on a Saturday morning cartoon?

cartoonjoe said...

Wait...you mean tyo say that the "Scooby-Doo" portion was NOT supposed to be a joke?

Oh, my sweet Lord...


(I did like "The JetStones", though...;-)

Jaime J. Weinman said...

This still plays beautifully 20 years later. And it was a revelation at the time, when cartoons were still considered interchangeable "product" in between toy commercials, to see a cartoon that actually reminded us that cartoons could be better than they were, that maybe kids were being cheated by the networks.

Tom Minton later wrote an Animaniacs cartoon, "Back in Style," that was similar and in my opinion just as funny (the Filmation parody was particularly good), though the "Mighty Mouse" cartoon is better overall, if only because Mighty works better in this context than the Animaniacs characters.

James said...

How the heck did you parody anime before anyone knew what it was- and make jokes about it that are more relevant today then they were in the 80's?

Oliver_A said...

I just love how this episode rubs it in the viewer's face. Especially the Scooby Doo and Ghostbusters segment kills me, oh, and stuff like the typical H-B type endless self-repeating fast scrolling backgrounds (making it even more obvious by putting in some stuff like an eye catching portrait in the background).

Wouldn't this make it the earliest example of an open & self aware critic the way animation has been made in the 70s and 80s?

Andrew Fry said...

Very funny. I can't believe I haven't heard it before, but that line about television being called a medium because it is neither rare nor well-done was perfect. My kids watched the cartoon with me and didn't recognize some of the parodies but shouted out when recognition did occur. They were a little freaked by the neck and tendons comment. I connected with them all. Their has been a recent Fairly Oddparents movie called Channel Chasers that ran with the same concept.

Tom said...

jaime,

Putting that Scooby parody in "Back in Style" was something I was told to do. I felt it was redundant to do almost exactly what I had a part in doing a decade earlier but was overruled, being just a writer on that show. That picture also should have ended with the Filmation bit, imo. "Back in Style" went to a subpar overseas studio and endured almost a full year of retakes, just to get it as good as it looks. "Don't Touch That Dial", made ten years earlier, probably cost about one-fifth of the Warners short. Retakes were minimal at Bakshi's because we had to get it right the first time. There was no corporate parent company to foot one cent of overage.

Today nobody remembers "The Little Clowns of Happytown" who make a brief appearance just after the Ghostbusters bit in "Don't Touch That Dial. The Clowns were what a certain network and studio of the day considered the epitome of great comedic cartoon programming, until it got almost immediately cancelled. A certain network exec waved the "Little Clowns" story bible in my face in early 1988 and told me that it was the best such document ever written! That person was later canned by the network for embezzlement and is now a cashier at the Palmdale Wal-Mart.

Jaime J. Weinman said...

"Back in Style" went to a subpar overseas studio and endured almost a full year of retakes, just to get it as good as it looks.

Didn't "Toby Danger" also go to that studio (Akom) and have to go through a lot of retakes? Or am I misremembering?

Yes, "Don't Touch That Dial," made for a lot less money, actually looks better -- it seems (from the outside) that there was a lot of money being spent inefficiently on studio cartoons in the '90s.

Aconites said...

Haha. That was great.

JohnK said...

>>it seems (from the outside) that there was a lot of money being spent inefficiently on studio cartoons in the '90s.<<

at most studios in the last 40 years, that would be the case.

That's why I am always writing about using a better system, and why we did use one on Mighty Mouse and Ren and Stimpy.

You get a lot more of your money on the screen.

John Pannozzi said...

Tom Minton, you HAVE to have your own blog. Please?

Tom said...

jaime,

No, 'Toby Danger' only had time for one quick round of retakes, correcting a few major gaffes but leaving a conspicuous in-camera multiple exposure mistake (where Dash leaps from the balcony onto the Semiconductor) onscreen in the final aired version. That one had a very tight, Doug Wildey style board, drawn by Brian Chin and Butch Lukic. The uncredited director of the segment was Eric Radomski.

PCUnfunny said...

"at most studios in the last 40 years, that would be the case.

That's why I am always writing about using a better system, and why we did use one on Mighty Mouse and Ren and Stimpy.

You get a lot more of your money on the screen."

It just boggles the mind why no one uses the old system anymore. According to this CPI inflation calculator, a 1940's Warner Brothers cartoon short would cost $297,842.86 today. I am going by the average cost Clampett said in BUGS BUNNY SUPER STAR. The point I am trying to make is, these modern animated shows can cost up to 15 million dollars. They spend all this money and they can't even churn out a half way decent product.

Joel Bryan said...

I remember seeing this when it first came on and thinking, "Wow! Someone's making cartoons that directly address MY sensibilities!"

And being really amused and feeling grateful for it.

Adam Pockaj said...

Aw, theres nothing under here. Just a neck and tendons.

Haha, that was awesome. I remember watching Mighty Mouse as a kid, but I don't recall seeing that one. I loved the Ghostbusters part!

R. Banuelos said...

That's the best Mighty Mouse episode I've seen. The Scooby segments a little weird, but the Gagbusters was super funny. The voices were great. Cool show.

JohnH said...

"We're sorry, this video is no longer available." Ah, looks like I missed it....

Chris Sobieniak said...

Tom said...
The original exit line was Mighty Mouse telling the audience "But enough lies and hypocracy - now a word from our sponsor!" CBS demanded we not make direct verbal reference to a sponsor in programming material, an FCC broadcast rule. So the line was altered to "...here's what television is all about!" Which worked anyway, since they cut directly to a bumper for a commercial.


Those ol' CBS Control Room bumps of '88 (having a better spot in my heart for those funky space ones of the early 80's). Yeah, that line worked perfectly and got the point across as much as the original. I think I actually went outside an played after the cartoon was over too, knowing well I didn't have to go through another minute of a Juicy Fruit ad with the guys on water skis!

I still get "Pester your parents" running through my head constantly. Too bad my mom is now departed, and if I even for once said something to my senior pop, he'd belt me one! Can't do that anymore!

lastangelman said...
I remember falling off my chair first time I saw this. How was the Tiffany network letting something that irreverent happen on a Saturday morning cartoon?


Nowadays you wish the Tiffany Network was back to it's old ways!

Jaime J. Weinman said...
This still plays beautifully 20 years later. And it was a revelation at the time, when cartoons were still considered interchangeable "product" in between toy commercials, to see a cartoon that actually reminded us that cartoons could be better than they were, that maybe kids were being cheated by the networks.


To me, this was a wake-up call to the MTV crowd that was being force-fed crap for the entire decade, and perhaps laid the groundwork for more interesting and highly creative works to come out in the 90's. It felt like everything before MM: The New Adventures on Saturday morning was total crap, and didn't deserve another moment of my time, yet I was still quite young to fully grasp that notion.

Oliver_A said...
Wouldn't this make it the earliest example of an open & self aware critic the way animation has been made in the 70s and 80s?


There was one I've noticed that came out before "Don't Touch That Dial", though as a segment in a comedy program that aired in the UK called "End of Part One" from 1980. I thought it was pretty dead-on.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5SD2UU_XYU

Tom said...
Today nobody remembers "The Little Clowns of Happytown" who make a brief appearance just after the Ghostbusters bit in "Don't Touch That Dial. The Clowns were what a certain network and studio of the day considered the epitome of great comedic cartoon programming, until it got almost immediately cancelled. A certain network exec waved the "Little Clowns" story bible in my face in early 1988 and told me that it was the best such document ever written! That person was later canned by the network for embezzlement and is now a cashier at the Palmdale Wal-Mart.


I love reading the stories of those who fail (especially execs.), brings warmth to my heart! Somehow I forgot "Happy Clowns" for a LONG time before you spoke it here. Now it's all painfully running through my head again, it was just a waste.

Only wish CBS would release this classic once and for all on disc, we've waited 20 years too damn long.

Felicity Walker said...

I like how when Spumco-style animators parody the flat Rocky & Bullwinkle style, the result is something that looks like modern cartoons. We really are living in the age of watered-down, computer-animated, imitation Spumco.

I thought the Gagbusters bit was too harsh. For one thing, it implies that the Real Ghostbusters weren’t funny, when they were. But it was verbal humour rather than wacky expressions, so the writer of “Don’t Touch That Dial” might have missed it.

But more importantly, it felt like Mighty Mouse was enforcing a uniformity of style. No realism allowed! No heroic proportions allowed! No shading! No perspective! No technology or fashions newer than 1960! It makes me want to draw a response comic where a group of toony stormtroopers called “The Flat Squad” go around the dial doing what Mighty Mouse did to the Gagbusters, only to be stopped by the cool forces of beauty and realism.

I know, I know: lighten up; it was just a cartoon. Anyway, it’s important to note something: “Don’t Touch That Dial” was written during the 1980s, when realistic cartoons were available to the viewer, and (as told by John) animators were forbidden to do cartoony animation even on cartoony cartoons. I, on the other hand, am writing these comments 21 years after the last realistic cartoon was made, in a time when the kids today aren’t allowed to see realistic animation anymore, so I have the same long-bottled-up rage against the present as the writer of “Don’t Touch That Dial” did against his time.

Imagine how it would feel if “Don’t Touch That Dial” climaxed with Mighty Mouse being humiliated by being turned realistic—and that was supposed to be a good thing.

Wow. I was going to stop ranting on this blog about 1980s-bashing but “Don’t Touch That Dial” brought it out of me again. Well, to end on a positive note, it was a clever, well-executed cartoon, with a lot of good art in it, and exceptionally hip for its time. Kudos. ☺