FUNKY FUN THING #7: "SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK" VIDEOS FROM 1987

I bought these items at the Longs Drugs store in Salinas, California back in the late 80's:

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Growing up in the 70's and 80's, watching Saturday morning cartoons, a phenomenon occurred on ABC every time the clock reached 7 minutes to the half hour.  Pray tell, "What was that phenomenon?" you ask.  Well let me tell you my ever-so-curious blog reader, that's when a Schoolhouse Rock short would air between the regularly scheduled cartoons (along with other bumpers such as "Yuckmouth" and "Beans And Rice").  If you have no idea what I'm talking about, Google it. (You'll be a better person for it.)

For me, the fun part was always trying to figure out which short they were going to surprise me with.  (I was always hoping for "Elbow Room" or "I'm Just A Bill.")

Trying to flip the channel to these animated music videos was a common practice of mine until the mid-80's when they slowly started swapping the shorts with bumpers featuring the hit boy band, Menudo.

By 1985, they put the final nail in the coffin and stopped showing Schoolhouse Rock altogether, replacing them with exercise shorts starring Mary Lou Retton.  I never thought about recording the SR shorts (because they were supposed to go on forever!), so when they stopped showing them, I, along with the rest of the world, were left with the memories of the songs stuck in our heads.  That is, until these cheesy (yet entertaining) videos were released on VHS!

Mind you, the original shorts were intact and brilliant in these collections.  The problem was, as the series musical director, Bob Dorough said, "The quality is poor and there is also some new, inappropriate and inferior material not written by me and more or-less sung by Cloris Leachman and some kids."

So what does this have to do with "Johnny Bravo?"  Everything!  It was inspirational and educational on so many levels for a budding animation geek.  Besides the fact that I can recite the preamble of the Constitution, it helped me hone my timing skills and foster my love of music put to animation.

Naturally, I had to do an homage:

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In this particular episode, Johnny Bravo learns how to pick up women from a more gentleman-ly man using tools such as manners and respect. Like in Schoolhouse Rock, the Sensitive Male educates Johnny through song and fun visual aids. For each lesson, we took inspiration from several SR staples such as "A Noun Is A Person, Place, Or Thing"...

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..."Conjunction Junction"...

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...and "Telephone Line."

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To make the show even more authentic, we hired the legendary jazz artist, Jack Sheldon, the original singer of "Conjunction Junction" and "I'm Just A Bill" to voice the Sensitive Male.

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(BACK ROW: Donna (Casting Director) Grillo, Jack Sheldon, Collette (Assistant Director) Sunderman, Lou (Composer) Fagenson, Seth (Writer) MacFarlane  FRONT ROW: Bodie (Music Supervisor) Chandler, Kara (Line Producer) Vallow, Me

Here's a pic from the 1996 recording with the rest of the cast in the sound booth at Hanna Barbera:

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BACK ROW: Collette Sunderman, Seth MacFarlane, Cynthia McIntosh, Jamie Torcellini, Michelle Nicastro, Candi Milo  FRONT ROW: Jeff Bennett, Mae Whitman, Me, Butch Hartman, Donna Grillo

Unfortunately, (well, fortunately too) it wasn't until 2002 that we were able to bring the team back together to record an episode for the final season of Johnny Bravo.  Entitled, "Traffic Troubles," Johnny goes to Musical Comedy Traffic School in hopes of meeting some high kicking musical comedy chicks.  Instead, he gets a lesson a la Schoolhouse Rock from the Sensitive Male.

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BACK ROW: Craig Bartlett, Robert Serda, Jeff Bennett, Grey Delisle, Seth MacFarlane, Diana Ritchey, Jack Sheldon  FRONT ROW: Lou Fagenson, David Faustino, Me, Collette Sunderman

It was the first time and only time we had Seth come back to the show, but this time as a voice artist instead of a writer.  We even reprised his song, "Manners," but changed the lyrics to be about taking your driver's license test.  The other fun thing about the episode was reconnecting with Jack Sheldon again.  To bring everything full circle, he even agreed to be the house band at our final cast party where he brought along his trio.

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So, to go back to those videos, we watched them over and over as reference because the original cartoons weren't readily available at the time (Curse you YouTube for being in your infancy!).  Today, the shows are on demand and I can watch whatever, whenever I want. Although, I often wonder, is my life really better that I don't have to sit through Cloris Leachman singing and dancing?  Only time will tell...

FUNKY FUN THING #5: SCOOBY DOO ANIMATION CEL

With the help of Star With (the Xerox Department Supervisor) and Allison Leopold (the Ink and Paint Department Supervisor) , I was able to create my next favorite funky fun thing...

Working at Hanna Barbera in the pre-digital world was like a dream come true because they had all their original artwork onsite!  I created the piece above by using the original model sheets, xeroxing them onto a cel, and borrowing a paint station in the Ink and Paint department (after hours of course!).  I later got it signed by Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera, Don Messick (the voice of Scooby Doo), and Casey Kasem (the voice of Shaggy).  It's basically a stock pose of Scooby and Shaggy superimposed in front of an image of the Mystery Machine.

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Yes, the Mystery Machine.  Mystery Inc.'s signature mode of transportation.

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Even Batman loves the Mystery Machine!

Animation Art had a real life Mystery Machine (which was awesome!) custom made for signings and appearances to draw crowds.  There was a bit of grumbling from some of the artists when they unveiled it because it wasn't made from a vintage FordVW, or Corvair van, but I didn't care.  It was the Mystery Machine!  It was so cool driving in to work every day and seeing it in the parking lot.  So when we were producing interstitials for "Johnny Bravo" I, of course, asked to do my interview inside, where else...?

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One time, back in 1997, Butch Hartman, Seth MacFarlane, and I got permission to bring the van out to Glendale for a school visit with Mae Whitman and her elementary school class.

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The interesting part was, when we pulled into the school parking lot, we were followed in by a police car! (You would think they would be in front of us as escorts, but fat chance there!)  As a hoard of kids ran up to the chain link fence to see all the commotion, we started to stress out about the ramifications of getting a ticket in a vehicle we didn't own.  When the officers pulled up beside us, I asked, "Is there anything wrong, officers?"  One of them nonchalantly answered, "Nah.  We just wanted to see if Shaggy was in the back."

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Seth and I grabbing some Carl's Jr. after the school visit.

In 2003, I was able to use the Mystery Machine one last time during our wrap party for the fifth season.  We had them drive the van out to Loyola Marymount University where we parked it out in the middle of their Sunken Gardens and used it as a photo op.

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"Seriously.  Why rent a photo booth?"

The Mystery Machine is a definite crowd pleaser and Warner Brothers often uses it when there's something eventful going on.  For example, here's a pic of Jay Bastian (the head of development for Warner Brothers) and I during the unveiling of the Hanna Barbera relief statue at the Academy Of Television Arts and Sciences in 2005.

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So it's fair to say that I've taken my share of pictures with Mystery Inc.'s mobile of choice.

There are several vans now.  Most of them created specifically for the live action movies.  One of them is on permanent display at the Warner Brothers Studio Lot so now everyone can take a picture with it!  Scooby Doo is now a Warner Brothers property and is a part of their lineup as you can see by the WB mural on the corner of Olive and Pass Avenue.

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Whatever your feelings are about that, it's nice to know that he's being well taken care of after all these years.  You can especially thank them for this swanky DVD box set...

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Besides being a big fan of Scooby Doo, I'm mentioning it because I did an on-camera interview for the DVD featurette, "Scooby-Doo The Whole World Loves You" which, according to Amazon.com, "focuses on Scooby's continued popularity and fans continued love of the character. Features interviews with various writers, directors and actors who have worked on Scooby TV and Movie projects over the last 40 years. (20 mins)"  For me, it was a tremendous honor to be a part of it because I'm such a huge fan.  I can't really say I'm the "ultimate" fan because I don't dress like anybody from the show and I haven't named my kids Velma or Fred.  But I have been known to say "Jinkies!" so I got that going for me.

Awkward picture of me from the video, courtesy of Scoobypedia @ http://scoobydoo.wikia.com/

Awkward picture of me from the video, courtesy of Scoobypedia @ http://scoobydoo.wikia.com/

For the DVD, I mostly talked about my work on our "Bravo Dooby Doo" episode and Mr. Barbera's involvement in the show.  The most random anecdote about my interview is that I wore a shirt with green stripes for the interview.  Why is that interesting, you ask?  Well, whenever they do these interviews, they do them in front of a green screen so they can lay down whatever images they want to in the background by altering anything that's green on camera.  (I don't want to go into too much technical details when we have Wikipedia for that.)  Anyhow, I ended up changing shirts with one of the crew members who happened to be my size.  It was just another reminder of why it's important to shower before you leave the house. So, if you're watching the featurette and thinking, "Man, that Van sure is a fancy dresser,"  then I apologize for misleading you into thinking I'm so fancy.

That was really the only anecdote I have from the recording session. Besides the fact that they put some man makeup on me before the shoot.  At least that's what they said it was.