Today’s Saturday Morning Cartoon is The Centurions.
Made in the mid 1980’s by Ruby-Spears and animated in Japan by Sunrise, this series started as a five part mini-series and was followed with another 60 episodes. Legendary comic creators Jack Kirby and Gil Kane worked as consultants on the show.
The plot took place in the near future where an evil cyborg genius called Doc Terror is trying to take over the world. The Centurions are a team of men dressed in battle armor that can fuse weapons to themselves by shouting “Power Extreme!”
It’s Easter. An it’s spring time. So today’s Saturday Morning Cartoon theme is rabbits. But not a certain licensed Warner Brothers rabbit – that’s too obvious.
First up is Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Created by Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney for Universal, this rabbit was the precursor to a certain mouse that Disney would create after leaving Oswald. Disney and Universal got into a fight over money and Disney left to form his own company.
Next is the first television cartoon – Crusader Rabbit. Created by Jay Ward (Rocky and Bullwinkle) and Alex Anderson in 1949, the show had very limited animation but was amusing enough to usher in the age of animated television shows.
After watching John Johnstone’s Dungeon Crawl last night, I couldn’t help but start thinking about that classic 1980’s cartoon Dungeon & Dragons.
Based on the popular role playing game – the cartoon featured a group of kids transported to another world called The Realm of Dungeons & Dragons. Once there, they all get one magically weapon. There was a magical bow, a magic shield, a magic javelin, a magical hat, a magical cloak and a magic club. I couldn’t help but think that the guy who got the shield but no sword got short-changed. Naturally they try to make it back home.
Co-produced by Marvel Comics – it featured famed comics writer Steve Gerber (Giant Size Man-Thing, Howard the Duck) as story editor and a contributing writer. The show lasted 27 episodes and was once voted the most violent television show on TV in 1985 by the National Coalition on Television Violence. Ah good times.
Today would have been Akira Kurosawa’s One Hundredth birthday if he was still alive today. He was one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Seriously. His movies are amazing to watch. In honour of this day, The Criterion Collection has just released his films Yojimbo and Sanjuro on Blu-ray. Turner Classic Movies has also been running a marathon of Kurosawa movies all day.
If you have never seen one I highly recommend either Yojimbo or Sanjuro and although Sanjuro is the sequel to Yojimbo – it’s stands up on it’s own quite well. Or Seven Samurai. Or Ikiru, Rashomon, High and Low, Ran – well you can’t really go wrong.
This week marked the end of another failed experiment by Marvel Comics. Written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Alex Maleev, Spider-Woman was a really good comic. Lasting only seven issues, Marvel tried to simultaneously release the comic along with what everyone keeps calling a “motion comic”. I call it a cartoon. I think the idea was to sell the motion comic online while selling the regular comic in comic stores. But the motion comic is available for free on several sites and the comic didn’t sell as well as it should have.
To create the motion comic, they took the comic and animated minor parts of it. By trying to compete in the digital age by coming up trying to come up with some thing new – all they’ve managed to do is create a poorly animated cartoon.
In 1965, a Canadian animation company called Grantray-Lawrence Animation produced a show called The Marvel Super Heroes which featured a variety of Marvel characters. They took the actual art from the comics and provided limited animation or a motion comic if you will.
If I want to read a comic, I will read a comic book. If I want to watch a cartoon, I’ll watch this.
Michael E. Uslan has produced a lot of comic book movies. The Swamp Thing movies, the Batman movies (that’s all the Batman movies – good and bad), the Batman Animated series, Catwoman, Constantine and The Spirit. He’s also written some comics such as The Spirit and more recently the Archie comics where Archie marries Veronica then marries Betty because that’s the way Archie rolls. But there was only one show that Michael E. Uslan had created, written and produced all by himself.
It was a little known 80’s cartoon called Dinosaucers. It featured intelligent anthropomorphic dinosaurs who called themselves Dinosucers and flew around in space ships fighting a group of super evil dinosaurs called the Tyrannos.
There were also four kids called the Secret Scouts that helped the Dinosaucers because giant walking intelligent dinosaurs needed sidekicks that they could feed to the enemy in a moments noticed I guess.
It’s scary to think that the future of the Batman franchise is in the hands of the man that created this cartoon.
Tim Burton has made another adaptation or at least a follow up to the popular Alice in Wonderland novels by Lewis Carroll. For a kid’s story, I’ve always found the novels to be kind of disturbing in an entertaining sort of way.
There have been adaptations of the story for over a hundred years now. The very first was a silent film from 1903.
The story has also been the inspiration for several cartoons – some of them borrowing the plot and working their own characters into it.
One of the more surreal adaptations was from Czech filmmaker Jan Švankmajer. In 1988 he made a full length stop motion version called Něco z Alenky (Alice).
Lotte Reiniger was a brilliant German animator. Her style consisted of taking black silhouette cut-outs and animating them. Her first short film was made in 1919 and in 1926 she made one of the earliest full length animated movies – The Adventures of Prince Achmed (It’s actually the third full length animated movie ever made but the first two are currently considered lost).
BFI has just released an awesome collection of her short films. It’s a shame that it’s only available in England but for those folks out there who have all region capabilities, this DVD is quite the treat.