If you were a kid in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, chances are you probably (didn’t) watch a little cartoon produced by Hanna-Barbera studios featuring the antics of two highly-stylised and intellectually-challenged canines. The show in question, 2 Stupid Dogs, is one of the rare, unappreciated gems that helped herald the new renaissance in American animation and gave way to later unbridled shows–such as The Oblongs, Superjail, and Robot Chicken (pretty-much the entire Adult Swim lineup)–that have come to define a humour for an entire generation.
The show was the brainchild of Disney house animator Donovan Cook who had worked on several feature films while finishing his degree at CalArts. In addition to Cook’s demented sense of humour, Spümcø president John Kricfalusi (“John K.” of Ren and Stimpy fame) as well as other Spümcø writers and artists would often contribute story and artistic elements (Kricfalusi was even credited with contributing “Tidbits of Poor Taste” in some episodes). The series also helped launch the career of some of the biggest names in animation in the 1990’s and 2000’s: Genndy Tartakovsky (Dexter’s Laboratory), Craig McCracken (The PowerPuff Girls), Butch Hartman (The Fairly OddParents), and Rob Renzetti (My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic), to name but a few. The writing was fresh and often topical, appealing to a mature audience while silliness, gross humour, and slapstick appealed to the “target” audience.
The sheer brilliance of the series laid not only in its razor-sharp wit, but also in its unusual “retro” style. The cartoon was drawn the the very simplistic, stylised manner of cartoons common in the 1950’s and 60’s, considered to be the golden age of television animation; the show also employed many conventions that had fallen by the wayside during the 1980’s such as absurdism, irrelevant sound effects, and wild takes. The show also employed a gaggle of celebrated voice actors, some of which were legends in their own right (June Foray, Carol Channing, Casey Kasem, Frank Welker), and some of which were just beginning to get noticed (Ben Stiller, and Everybody Loves Raymond‘s Brad Garrett).
Though only 36 shorts were produced (a paltry 4.5 hours of content compared to other shows at the time), they are packed full of quality content with absolutely no “throw away” episodes. 2 Stupid Dogs guarantees to appeal to both the classic animation lover and to the casual aficionado of cheap jokes and hearty guffaws.
P.S.: This is quite possibly the best line in the series.
Admit it, you thought these videos were the coolest thing ever when they were playing in the background at Natural Wonders!
The Mind’s Eye (1990)
Beyond The Mind’s Eye (1992)
The Gate: To The Mind’s Eye (1994)
Odyssey Into The Mind’s Eye (1997)
Remember once upon a time, back before Netflix and Crunchyroll, before Facebook and Wikipedia, back when there were few ways to find out about anime beyond obscure internet fora or trawling your local video store?
When I was a kid, it was a difficult–and expensive–proposition to find new anime. In west Cobb county, we didn’t have access to a hearty VHS sharing community, and the nearest Japanese shops were 30+ miles away in Gwinnett County. We did, however, have Hollywood Video on Dallas Highway and Suncoast Motion Picture Company at Town Center Mall!
Hollywood Video did manage to have a decent selection of anime for a video store in suburban Georgia in the 1990s–Macross, Fist of the North Star, and Ranma 1/2 to name but a few. Mostly older titles at the time, but it was a great introduction to the classics. Suncoast, being a retail store, stocked the latest titles being released by Bandai and Pioneer–they just happened to cost around $25 per VHS tape (a veritable fortune, considering only 2 episodes per tape). A series might cost someone upwards of $150, and you have no way to preview it!
To help sell these outrageously priced VHS tapes, Suncoast occasionally published a catalogue of upcoming titles to generate buzz. I grabbed one of these one afternoon while I was at the mall and, for some reason, held onto it these last 17 years or so. Obviously, I’ve seen a few of these titles in the intervening years, but I thought it fun to use it as a springboard to get back into anime as I haven’t really paid much attention to it since giant robots faded into obscurity. Keep an eye on this space; I’ll review each of these titles as I watch them and maybe get a little insight and reminisce about a bygone era in animation.
Remember when Cartoon Network was but a brand-new cable network? Remember when they showed only Hanna-Barbera, Looney Tunes, and Tex Avery shorts 24/7?
Call your cable operator and tell them you want Cartoon Network!
I’ve been a huge fan of the “reimagined” Space Ghost franchises since they first appeared on TBS back in the mid-1990s (notably as Cartoon Planet) and I’ve already talked about how Space Ghost Coast to Coast irreparably affected my psyche through middle and high school, so it should come as no surprise that I was genuinely saddened by the news that Marty Croker had suddenly passed.
I met Marty once at Anime Weekend Atlanta in 2001. The story goes something like this:
This was my first AWA, having come back for the occasion from my exile in Athens. I remember cosplaying as “Melvin” (Umino) from the Sailor Moon anime because it was easy, recognizable, and didn’t involve sourcing a proper flight suit. Walking around the exhibit hall, I ran across George Lowe (voice of Space Ghost) at a table chatting with some people and stepped up to see what was going on. Lowe was upset that he was not allowed to sell his autograph (per convention rules), so he was signing drawings that he did on the spot and selling those as his loophole. Anyway, Lowe seemed a bit of a jerk–he didn’t look to be enjoying himself, had a latent disdain for the crowd at the convention, and certainly didn’t want to talk to anyone there for longer than it took to sell a drawing–so I left his table somewhat nonplussed, browsing around the rest of the con.
Walking around the Airport Sheraton (which is where the con was held until KATL expanded, perpetuating the need to knock the building down), I noticed this guy with a small crowd gathered around him doing the best Zorak impression that I had heard! Better than mine, even (and mine was pitch perfect)! So it turns out that this guy was Zorak (and Moltar, actually, which made things even more interesting)! We chatted for a bit about the show and how he helped create the premise and characters, and about how “CHiP’s” was one of the best shows ever, and even about how George Lowe was a brilliant comedian–albeit a persnickety one!
The animation community has lost one of its shining stars, a dreamer born of the 1990s renaissance who created an entirely new paradigm when he was given the keys to Hanna-Barbera’s catalogue and a desk at TBS’s old Williams Street headquarters. He will be missed.
Commercial broadcast bumper for Hanna-Barbera’s Heidi’s Song starring Lorne Greene!
The author of Brave New World‘s words are eerily prophetic and seem to be even more relevant than when he spoke them nearly 60 years ago.