Saturday Morning Cartoon: The Beginning

As I mentioned in December 2009, I’m introducing a regular feature for the blog called “Saturday Morning Cartoon.”

Pardon me whilst I wax nostalgic to set this up…

I don’t doubt that most reading this have pleasant childhood memories watching Saturday morning cartoons on TV. Even though Saturdays were a “day off” from school, we’d still get up early to sit in front of the TV in our PJs enjoying a bowl of our favorite cereal (at that time filled with less vitamin-enriched sugary goodness).

We laughed at Looney Tunes, Laff-A-Lympics and lots of other comedic characters. We got spooked by cartoon phantoms and costumed villains thwarted by “meddling kids” and their “stupid dog.” We were thrilled by toy-selling animated adventures of robot fights, space flights, rainbow brites, fairy sprites, Bat-Mites and men in tights, but mostly cartoon kids who did the sort of exciting and dangerous stuff that in real life would get us killed, incarcerated or taken away from our parents and sent to foster homes.

And for those of us born before the 90’s, it’s hard to imagine that the major TV networks would ever have shortage of cartoons to watch on Saturday mornings, and yet that’s precisely what has happened. Outside of niche cable programming like Boomerang, Nicktoons, Cartoon Network and Disney😄, it’s slim pickings on the major networks as far as Saturday morning cartoons go. And who’d have ever thought that there would be a time when Looney Tunes weren’t on TV at all, except through a paid cable subscriber service?

But the digital era combined with government-mandated educational programming has brought about an end to broadcast kids TV. Kids mostly don’t want to watch the E/I-rated shows — they get enough educational stuff at school without it being forced on them through what they watch for fun. And with things like videogame consoles and handheld gaming systems, along with the era of streaming videos and content-on-demand, kids no longer have to wait until weekday afternoons or Saturday mornings for their entertainment of choice. And the networks hate it. The advertisers hate it. But it’s the reality we live in.

For animation fans, other than the aforementioned cable channels, our only option for watching cartoons is via DVD, reruns on-demand, the web and digital downloads for portable media devices. And for the duration of this blog (and as regularly as I’m able to do so) I will feature a cartoon here for your viewing pleasure on Saturday mornings, along with behind-the-scenes trivia and details on the voice cast.

So go put on your footie pajamas, pour a yourself a bowl of your favorite cereal, and enjoy.

First up (not counting the cartoons I featured here during the holidays), is Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot, which I was excited to discover in December 2009 that the complete series (all 26 episodes) is being offered on Hulu.com (in partnership with Crackle.com).

Based on the Dark Horse Comics mini-series by Frank Miller and Geof Darrow, Big Guy and Rusty aired from 1999-2001 on Fox Kids. It felt more grown-up and “mature” than most animated fare on Fox Kids, and developed a fair following from adult animation fans as a result. I consider it to be an underrated and largely undiscovered gem of a cartoon show that needs more exposure.

The episode I’m featuring here is “The Inside Scoop” which originally aired October 2nd, 1999. (Sorry, I’m unable to embed videos from Hulu via WordPress.)

Voice cast for this episode:

Pamela Adlon as Rusty, Jo
Jonathan Cook as The Big Guy
Gabrielle Carteris as Dr. Erika Slate
Jim Hanks as Dwayne Hunter
Stephen Root as Dr. Axel Donovan
Kathy Kinney as Jenny the Monkey
Kevin Michael Richardson as Garth
M. Emmett Walsh as Mack
Maurice LaMarche as Dr. Ellerby, Medical doctor, Security officer
– and Tim Curry as the voice of Dr. Neugog

Trivia and notes:

– Brain gags galore in this episode.
– This episode reveals full details on the subplot that Big Guy is actually piloted by Hunter, a secret that Hunter and the team manage to keep from Rusty for the rest of the series.
– This episode features Dr. Neugog’s second (and unfortunately last) appearance in the series.
R. Lee Ermey voiced General Thorton in this series, although the character doesn’t appear in this episode.
– Big Guy’s voice, Jonathan Cook, will likely sound familiar — not so much from his other animation and video game work, but more from the huge volume of TV promo announcing he does for CBS, Bravo, NBC, FX and others.
– The sibilant slurp-like sound Dr. Neugog makes at one point closely resembles the same eerie sound Anthony Hopkins made as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.

And by the way, if the same ad plays for you that ran during my viewing — that’s Roger Rose (voice actor in The Tick, Grim & Evil, The Super Hero Squad Show and many other cartoons) appearing in the Ad Council spot cautioning against reckless driving.

4 Responses to Saturday Morning Cartoon: The Beginning

  1. ShadowWing Tronix says:

    Glad to see you doing this, Craig. Bemoaning the “death” of Saturday morning was one of my early posts, and it’s gotten worse since, if that were possible. And I just found out today that Crackle has Big Guy and Rusty, but Crackle doesn’t let anyone embed–despite having the embed option in their share form. (They just put a “can’t embed” notation on it.)

    Big Guy and Rusty is a great show, and someday I’d love to track down the original comic. I think the show either is out on DVD or coming to DVD. Everyone should get it.

    As for embedding via Hulu, I’ve done so using Vodpod, which allows you to collect video. (I also use it for Joost and a couple other sites that don’t embed. Blip.tv and some other sites like Marvel.com belive it or not do have a code that you can input into WordPress.) It’s not perfect, since you can’t go fullscreen (actually, only YouTube seems to be able to do that, not even Google Video embeds), but at least you can post it.

  2. Elenore says:

    I LOVE IT!!!

  3. […] although some of them aren’t for kids. Craig Crumpton of Voice Actors in the News is also starting a reminder of when Saturday Morning was fun on his blog by posting old […]

  4. Paul Baker says:

    I think that that was really interesting. Good post!

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