A new splash of fresh programming is soon to hit the airwaves. In this pivotal year of FCC rulings and vertical integration, let's see what has been produced.
Don't be surprised when you notice cartoons are having more social sermons and educational tips than usual. That's because, this September, the United States federal government begins enforcing its requirements for television stations to air three hours per week of educational programming. Will the "FCC-friendly" cartoons entertain viewers enough to keep them from turning the channel? If not, they'll turn to the cable networks, who are unaffected by the FCC's educational mandate. CBS Don't look for any cartoons here. They've switched to news and live-action "FCC-friendly" shows. This ends the long-running Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but, never fear, their adventures will continue on Fox as a live-action series.
Fox Kids Network
Fox is currently the ratings leader on network television. Still, they're totally revamping their Saturday morning schedule, while moving their current hits, Bobby's World, C-Bear and Jamal, Spider Man and Casper, to weekdays. Life with Louie and Bobby's World however, stay on Saturdays, as does Casper until October 11. Fox is going further by continually rearranging their line-up throughout the season by bringing in new, fresh programming. Will this keep them on top or just confuse the audience? Time will tell. Produced by Nelvana Limited and Medialab, Stickin' Around will debut at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday mornings. This series was created by Robin Steele, whose style you may recognize from the Stick Figure Theater shorts on MTV's Liquid Television. Ned's Newt will premier at 9:00 a.m., replacing Casper starting on October 18. This show details the adventures of Ned and his pet newt, Newton. A victim of overfeeding, Newton grows into a huge monster and is Ned's very own superhero. This superhero, however, is part time. When the going gets tough...Newton goes back to his original four-inch length.
On Saturday mornings at 9:30 a.m., Fox will air Space Goofs. This show was formerly called Home to Rent but was renamed at close to the last minute. The show stars five alien monsters who reside in the attic of an abandoned home and spend their time scaring potential renters. No doubt inspired by Nickelodeon's Ahhh! Real Monsters, this is the first European import produced by France's Gaumont Multimedia in association with ProSieben (Germany) and France 3 to pierce the U.S. market.
At 10:30 a.m., Fox will begin to air The Adventures of Sam & Max: Freelance Police, produced by Nelvana Entertainment in Canada, on October 4. It's based on Steve Purcell's comic book starring two crime-fighters: a rabbit and a dog.
Original episodes of X-Men air at 11:30 a.m. until November, when a three-part preview of Stan Lee's The Silver Surfer will air. Produced by Saban Entertainment, Surfer replaces X-Men in January 1998.
In February 1998, DreamWorks introduces its first animated comedy, Steven Spielberg Presents Toonsylvania, starring Igor, the hunchbacked assistant of Dr. Frankenstein. The series reveals that it is actually Igor who is the genius, not the famous doctor.
The remainder of Fox's Saturday morning is filled with live-action programming: Mowgli: The New Adventures of the Jungle Book, Ultimate Goosebumps, and Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation.
The Dubba-dubba-dubble-you Bee Network starts Saturday mornings with an "FCC-friendly" show, Channel Umptee-3, created by former Disney writer Jim George, executive-produced by Norman Lear and produced by Columbia TriStar in association with Act III Productions and Enchante/George. Story-edited by veteran humorist Mark Evanier (Garfield & Friends), the show stars a band of broadcasters who operate a pirate television station from "a fast-traveling super news van." Umptee-3's producer is Ogden, a 7-foot ostrich voiced by Rob Paulsen of Animaniacs fame . Also from Columbia TriStar is Men in Black: The Series, which of course capitalizes on the success of the live-action movie. Due to production delays, Channel Umptee-3 and Men in Black premiere October 11, while the other series begin September 13. At 9:00 a.m., and on weekday afternoons, The New Batman/Superman Adventures will alternate 41 episodes of Superman (including the 13 from the first season) with 24 new episodes of Batman. Producer Bruce Timm has revised the design of the Batman series, streamlining the characters and brightening Gotham City. Batgirl has learned Batman's secret identity, and teams with him on a regular basis. Dick Grayson has become a new superhero, Nightwing, while 12-year-old Tim Drake has become the new Robin. These Gotham Knights will tackle the usual rogue's gallery: Mr. Freeze, the Joker, Harley Quinn, Clayface, Catwoman, the Ventriloquist, and a new creation from producer/writer Paul Dini, Roxy Rocket. Guest appearances will come from the Demon and the Creeper. Also, Superman will have a three-part World's Finest crossover with Batman, in which they team up against Lex Luthor, the Joker and Harley Quinn.
Meanwhile, Supergirl will appear occasionally on Superman, in which they combat the threat of Darkseid and the New Gods. A hilarious Mr. Mxyptylk episode, written by Dini, premiered at the San Diego Comic Con, with frequent laughter and applause by fans. A spokesman noted that Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and Alan Burnett had such an obvious handle on the DC heroes, why didn't Warners let them do the live-action feature versions?
At 10:00, The Legend of Calamity Jane also features such legends as Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild Bill Hickock as they tame the Wild West. The French studio contre-allée originated and produced the project, while scripts and voices were done in the United States. Fresh episodes of Steven Spielberg Presents Pinky & the Brain, Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs, and The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries round out their Saturday morning.
On weekdays at 7:00 a.m., the very popular Steven Spielberg Presents Tiny Toon Adventures leaves Nickelodeon for the WB Network. At 7:30 a.m., FCC commitments rear their head again when reruns of TBS' The Adventures of Captain Planet air. In the afternoons, WB will rerun Bugs 'n' Daffy and Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs. New episodes of Steven Spielberg Presents Pinky & the Brain will air at 4:00 p.m. and feature more celebrity cameos this season. It will be followed by The New Batman/Superman Adventures.
WB Network (Prime Time)
Sometime in 1998, DreamWorks will premiere Invasion America, in which a teenager, David Carter, discovers he's part alien -- and is the key to thwarting an invasion from outer space. One storyboard artist describes this as "the best action-adventure series since The Adventures of Jonny Quest."
The Disney-owned network has filled its schedule with product from its own studio, with the exception of The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show and the educational live-action Science Court. The network boasts that four of its five program hours are "FCC friendly" -- which means Bugs Bunny is ABC's only show done for pure entertainment.
At 8:00 a.m., 101 Dalmatians: The Series continues the adventures of the Dearly family (formerly Ratcliff, from the original movie), their polka-dotted pups and of course, Cruella DeVil and her bumbling henchmen. The new series eliminates their British accents, moves them to America, introduces a mix of eccentric farm animals, and streamlines the designs of the characters and their environment. The focus is on three pups and a chicken: the adventurous Lucky, the perpetually hungry Rolly, the New Age-minded Cadpig, and the practical Spot, the spotted chicken who thinks she's a dog. One episode, "A Christmas Cruella," is a candidate for a holiday prime time airing. Aside from its inspiration from Dickens, it's notable because it details why Cruella hates Dalmatian puppies. 101 Dalmatians: The Series comes from the same creative team responsible for The Lion King's Timon & Pumbaa, Bobs Gannaway and Tony Craig, along with executive producers Jim Jinkins and David Campbell of Jumbo Pictures, Inc., creators of Nickelodeon's Doug. Harvard Project Zero is the company that ensures Dalmatians will comply with FCC regulations for educational value.
While Disney is currently the leader in animated features and direct-to-videos, Disney's broadcast television product seeks to emulate rival studios. 101 Dalmatians uses the thick-and-thin line approach from Hanna-Barbera's 2 Stupid Dogs (which both Gannaway and Craig worked on), Recess echoes Klasky-Csupo, while Pepper Ann is reminiscent of Jim Jinkins' Doug. Now that Disney owns Jumbo Pictures, they own The Brand-Spanking New Doug, which is no longer brand-spanking new.
Recess is sort of an older version of Rugrats, complete with crude designs and point-of-view stories from six kids in the fourth grade. Not so coincidentally, the show's creative team happens to be the creators of Rugrats: Paul Germain and Joe Ansolabehere. Germain says, "If Rugrats was a show about seeing the world for the first time and exploring its wonders, then Recess is a show about the next stage of childhood -- when you've seen the world and have to figure out how to survive in it."
Pepper Ann is like a female version of Doug Funnie. She's a neurotic tomboy who is "too cool to be 12." The character was inspired by the real-life childhood memories of Sue Rose, who proposed the series first to Nickelodeon. Now, in an effort to out-Fox the competition, ABC is enclosing Recess, Pepper Ann, and some "interstitial elements" within an umbrella format called One Saturday Morning. The network hopes a host and studio audience will keep viewers glued to the two-hour block. Programs won't begin on the half-hour, but will be staggered within the block -- to keep competing networks guessing about how to counter program. From 10:30 on, the rest of the schedule is repeats of Bugs Bunny & Tweety, The Jungle Book's Jungle Cubs, the not-so New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the live-action Science Court. Jungle Cubs and Pooh will also show on The Disney Channel. ABC's fall season begins September 6.
Weekday Syndication/Disney-Kellogg's Alliance
What used to be "The Disney Afternoon" has been reduced to a 90-minute block sponsored by Kellogg's. Its season begins September 1.
Fifty-two new episodes of 101 Dalmatians will air daily in nationwide syndication, while 13 additional episodes will be broadcast on ABC.
Reruns of The Mighty Ducks will air Mondays and Tuesdays, while Quack Pack will air Wednesdays through Fridays. The ever-popular DuckTales, starring Scrooge McDuck, will air daily in the third half-hour slot -- or whatever time period that's determined by the local television station.
Disney's Aladdin and The Lion King's Timon & Pumbaa move to The Disney Channel while Gargoyles disappears into limbo.
Bohbot Kids Network/Syndication
Weekday afternoons will be action-packed on stations subscribing to the Bohbot Kids Network, the largest independent syndication network. Reruns of The Mask and Sonic the Hedgehog are on tap, along with a new series and an updated version of an old favorite.
Mattel sponsors Extreme Dinosaurs, 52 episodes brought to you by DIC Entertainment. Basically, it's a band of dinosaurs who awaken in the modern age, just in time to combat an evil band of dinosaurs. Whew, what luck.
The Ghostbusters return in Extreme Ghostbusters, forty new episodes starring the next generation of spirit-fighters, produced by Columbia TriStar Television. It's been ten years since the original team cleared New York of its ghostly malcontents. But now, the supernatural has returned, and the city needs a new team of Ghostbusters. Egon and Janine quickly train four teenagers and arm them with the latest ghost-trapping technology. Slimer is also back, along with a friendly spectre named Gnat.
On weekends, Space Monkeys, Extreme Dinosaurs and The Mask will air.
A new series, Pocket Dragon Adventures, features the cuddly little dragons created by renowned artist Real Musgrave. Twenty-six half-hours have been written by veteran animation scribes Marv Wolfman and Craig Miller. The show will ultimately be stripped to air six days a week for one month.
The Disney Channel
Nelvana Limited produces Rolie Polie Olie, a robot boy who lives in a magical mechanical world. It's a CGI-series with three seven-minute episodes that demonstrate "positive family and social relationships." Children's book author William Joyce is the show's creator.
PB&J comes from Jumbo Pictures, and is about three playful young otters named Peanut, Baby Butter and Jelly, who live in a houseboat on Lake Hoohaw. The show encourages creative problem solving and using imagination.
Time slots for these 1998 series have yet to be announced.
Animated repeats come from Chip 'n' Dale's Rescue Rangers, Katie and Orbie, The Little Mermaid, Madeline(from DIC, now owned by Disney),Mickey's Mouse Tracks, The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Timon & Pumbaa and Aladdin.
In October, Arthur, said to be PBS's most popular children's series after Barney & Friends, begins a second season with ten new shows, adding to 30 repeat episodes. Fred Rogers makes a special animated appearance in one of the episodes.
The latest network to own its own studio, HBO is venturing into a market largely untouched by any of its rivals: adult animation. Supervising director Eric Radomski has helmed six episodes of both Ralph Bakshi's Spicy City and Spawn. With two more seasons of Spawn in production, plus developing his own properties for the network, he's a busy man and a hot commodity.
Rugrats is back by popular demand with a sixth season, which premieres August 23, showing Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. There's also a Thanksgiving special, a direct-to-video, plus, a motion picture in the works.
Hey, Arnold!, yet another adolescent angst comedy, premieres its second season on September 22, Mondays and Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m.
An eclectic mix of cartoon shorts airs on KaBlam!, which has its second season premiere September 26, Fridays at 8:00 p.m.
Daria's success on MTV has prompted a second season order of 26 episodes, which begin airing early next year, totaling 39 episodes. The show airs regularly on Mondays at 10:30 p.m. Aeon Flux and of course, Beavis and Butt-Head will continue to air. MTV will also serve up Cartoon Sushi, a series that will show animated short films produced by independent animators like John R. Dilworth.
Comedy CentralSouth Park is a show with cheap cutout animation and a disgusting sense of humor. It features a quartet of foul-mouthed third graders who take on weird happenings in their small Colorado town. It's based on the raunchy short, The Spirit of Christmas, created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who executive-produce the series along with Brian Graden. The series airs Wednesday nights at 10:00 beginning August 13 and is definitely not FCC-friendly!
The popular but cheaply animated Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist airs with new episodes Sunday nights at 10:00.
The Cartoon Network got a head start on the competition with three series spin-offs from the "What a Cartoon!/World Premiere Toon" program.
Thirteen episodes of Johnny Bravo began July 14, airing Mondays at 8:00 p.m., with repeats on Fridays at 8:00 p.m. Johnny Bravo is a blond, muscle-bound hunk with an eye always open for the chicks -- and we're not talking about farm animals, baby! A series of episodes titled "Johnny Bravo Meets..." features animated celebrity appearances from the likes of Adam West, Michael Dorn, Tom Bosley, Mark Hamill, Donny Osmond, Jonathan Winters and Farrah Fawcett.
If you like Teats and Ass, Cow & Chicken is the show for you. Twenty-six episodes began July 15, with show times at 8:00 p.m. Tuesdays and 8:30 p.m. Fridays. It's a blend of Ren & Stimpy and Baby Huey, in which little sister Cow and big brother Chicken contend with The Red Guy (aka The Devil) in two seven-minute segments. In the third segment, I Am Weasel, the internationally famous genius, I.M. Weasel (voiced by Star Trek's Michael Dorn) is pitted against his jealous rival, I.R. Baboon, who sports a shiny red behind. Yes, bare buttocks are commonplace in these cartoons; such exposure is taboo on a commercial broadcast network.
The second season of Dexter's Laboratory began July 16, with show times at 8:00 p.m. Wednesdays and repeats at 9:00 p.m. on Fridays. Special mention must be made of the episode "Mock 5," a hilarious send-up of Speed Racer and for my money, one of the greatest shorts ever made.
The "What a Cartoon!" program will continue with 16 new shorts. The first two have been made by John Kricfalusi and star Ranger Smith of Jellystone Park. Yogi and Boo Boo are also along for the ride.
Space Ghost: Coast to Coast is also back for another 24 new episodes. This is the only late night talk show hosted by an irreverent superhero who dishes up many off-the-wall surprises.
And there you have it: the latest in animation entertainment ... and education. It'll be interesting to see if viewers tune in the new "FCC-friendly" shows. If viewers instead watch cartoons on cable networks and home video (Nickelodeon has already surpassed its network rivals in popularity), the decline in ratings may discourage the commercial broadcast networks altogether. They may abandon Saturday morning cartoons, as NBC and CBS already have. For television animation, this will be an especially pivotal year. The season is just beginning and far, far from over.