Sunday, July 26

Bonkers and Marsupilami

The Bonkers animated series originated from an attempt at a television adaptation of the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which never reached production due to legal complications. As a result, the show created original characters, but still set the action in a Roger Rabbit-like world where "toons" and humans co-exist. Unlike the film that inspired it, however, Bonkers was entirely animated and featured no live action Disney was developing a 65-half hour series for their Disney Afternoon block entitled He's Bonkers D. Bobcat. The series dealt with his adventures post-stardom. The actual production of this series was troubled, in large part because the so-called real characters in the series were also animated, only not as broadly as Bonkers and friends.

At the same time, Michael Eisner had purchased the rights to the popular Belgian comic strip Marsupilami. At some point, someone had the post-modern idea to actually make the cartoons that Bonkers had starred in before becoming a policeman, and the show that would become Raw Toonage was born. Raw Toonage only aired 12 episodes in 1992. Marsupilami had bumpers or eye-catchers on CBS for s ome time and htne had its own spin-off series that aired only 13 episodes.

The "Miranda" episodes were actually produced first, and produced by Duane Capizzi & Robert Hathcock. But the episodes including Lucky Piquel were aired first and Bonkers varied in appearance. This discrepancy becomes evident when observing the look of the main character in both sets of episodes. In the Raw Toonage shorts, Bonkers was orange with one brown spot, golf-club-like ears, and an undone tail. This look was used for the Miranda Wright-era episodes. When the Lucky Piquel episodes (produced by Robert Taylor) were made, the character had a major overhaul: skinnier ears, two black spots on each his tufts, black Tigger-like stripes on his tail, and a different uniform.

The Raw Toonage shorts were an after-thought of production. While the Bonkers series was in pre-production, the Raw Toonage team, headed by Larry Latham produced 12 "He's Bonkers" shorts. These shorts were, in the context of Bonkers, explained to be some of the shorts Bonkers made at Wackytoons Studios before he was fired. The animated short entitled Petal to the Metal was originally shown in theaters in 1992 before the feature movie 3 Ninjas. In syndication, the shorts were collected into four full episodes with fillers of new material in between.

Meanwhile, Duane Capizzi, making his producing debut, was brought into the fold and teamed with animation veteran Robert Hathcock and charged with making 65 episodes (a full season's worth in syndication) with Miranda. These episodes came back from overseas animation studios looking less than spectacular, causing considerable concern at Disney. Only 19 of the original-order "Miranda" episodes survived to air. Ultimately, the original team was replaced, and a team headed by Robert Taylor. Taylor threw out the old premise of the show, replaced it with the Lucky Piquel scenario, but his episodes were revised and established to occur before the original episodes. 42 episodes of the "Piquel Era" were made. "New Partners On The Block" bridged the gap between the two somewhat contradictory storylines.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit rejuvenated the animation industry, as Steven Spielberg worked with Amblin Entertainment and Warner Brothers to produce "Tiny Toon Adventures," "Animaniacs," "Pinky and the Brain," "Histeria!" and "Freakazoid." And Disney with the Disney Afternoon cartoons.