Tuesday, July 1

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

Remember the cartoon "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" back in the 90's? I watched it as a kid and liked it, but had no idea it was based on a movie. Later on cable, I discovered the movie Return of the Killer Tomatoes (pretty good movie by its standards) which had George Clooney. I found it fascinating because it has most of the characters from the cartoon: Professor/doctor Gangreen, Igor, Tara, F.T., Chad and Uncle Wilbur. So this is how it all started... In 1978, with a comedy spoof of B-Movies released by Four Square Productions. The concept of Killer Tomatoes was created by Costa Dillon, and he is the only person to appear in this film and all three of its sequels. The film opens with a scroll dictating that, when Alfred Hitchcock's film The Birds was released, audiences laughed at the notion of birds revolting against humanity, but when an attack perpetrated by birds occurred in 1975, no one laughed. This is followed by a pre-credits sequence of a tomato rising out of a woman's garbage disposal unit.

It became a cult hit and predated the movie-spoofing disaster film Airplane! by two years. The Killer Tomatoes might have remained in that genre had it not been for an unlikely intervention from an equally unlikely source. During the 1986-1987 season of "Muppet Babies," there was a segment in an episode upon which Baby Fozzie deals with how he once faced an 'Attack of the Silly Tomatoes'. The segment used clips from the movie. Oddly enough, it became one of the higher-rated episodes of the season, so much that New World Pictures (the owner of Marvel Productions, which made Muppet Babies) approached Four Square about making a sequel to the first movie. Four Square had never intended to make a sequel but when New World approached them with a two-million dollar budget towards filming a potential sequel, John De Bello, Costa Dillon and Stephen Peace got to work on crafting a script.

Return of the Killer Tomatoes released in 1988, John Astin was in all the sequels as Professor Grangreen. The resulting film, Return of the Killer Tomatoes, was a surprise success. It was one of the rare films where the sequel was actually better than the original (unsurprisingly, considering the obvious low-budget value of the first). New World was pleased with the results, and the company decided to duplicate the results of the film with an animated series aimed at a younger audience. Tweaking various characters and ideas from both Attack and Return, Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes: The Series was born and debuted as one of the first Saturday morning cartoons on the Fox Children's Network in the fall of 1990. What is interesting about the cartoon series, is that in one of the episodes, evil actually won. The show was a big hit, but unfortunately its second season spelled its cancellation because it changed in animation style, plot, and was out of order.

George Clooney did the movie Return of the Killer Tomatoes after he did "The Facts of the life' and Chad was played by Anthony Starke, Sebastian Balfour in "Prison Break," and played the Jimmy on "Seinfeld," who would referred himself in the third person. Rumors are circulating about a remake as well, one starring Bruce Campbell and some other sources says Adam Sandler.