Classic Animation Remixed
While Adult Swim is generally regarded as the pioneer of irreverent short-form animation — especially for ‘toons that reimagine past hits — it wasn’t always the king. In fact, the late-night programming block arguably found its birth in a series of short toons and interstitials
that ran in the heyday of its daytime alter ego, the venerable Cartoon
Network. The brainchild of C.N. Creative Director Michael Ouweleen and
Hanna-Barbera chief Fred Seibert, these cartoons reinterpreted the
network’s properties through stock footage, indie music, and original
animation in a wide variety of styles, as well as introducing
prototypes of characters that would become some of the most famous in
the history of American animation.
PART 1: The Early Days
The groundwork for the following projects was arguably laid by two cartoons: The Moxy and Flea Show (the network’s first original series) and Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Though little is remembered of the short-lived Moxy, which starred mo-capped entertainers Penn Jillette and Bobcat Goldthwait as a 3D animal duo, Space Ghost
hit a chord and ran for years in the night block as a cult series —
its bizarre, incoherent “interviews” and repurposed 1960s characters
set the stage for Adult Swim in later years.
PART 2: Cartoons That Never Made It
Crafted by the aforementioned-Ouweleen in the mid-90s, “Cartoons That
Never Made It” was a brief series of four “bumps” — short cartoons
that play before commercial breaks or split up longer programs. The
four shorts acted as promos for various fictional cartoons, all
rejected for obvious reasons. Surprisingly twisted for the network’s
early, more staid days, the popularity of the bumps inspired Ouweleen
to expand his ambitions in projects to come.
PART 3: The Groovies
“Groovies” was the term for a new series of shorts which took the form
of music videos. Each one was based on a property in the Cartoon
Network stable, from Betty Boop to Dexter’s Lab. Old clips and in some
cases fresh animation work was mixed with original music from
well-known artists like Devo, The Apples in Stereo, and will.i.am,
resulting in amusing and surprising tributes that respected the classic
animation while showing it in a whole new light.
The Jetsons – “24th Century Mecha Mix” by Michael Kohler
Quick Draw McGraw – “El Kabong Rides Again” by Calexico
Atom Ant – “We Must All Get Ready Now” by Michael Kohler
Betty Boop – “Rolling” by Soul Coughing
Superfriends – “That Time is Now” by Michael Kohler
Porky Pig – “Pork Jam” by Michael Kohler
Elmer Fudd – “Wascally Wemix” by Todd Eaton
Bugs Bunny/Marvin the Martian – “Mars Forever” by Fantastic Plastic Machine
Magilla Gorilla – “Gorilla 4 Sale” by Michael Ungar
Yogi Bear – “Yogi Bear” by High School Jim
Jabberjaw – “Jabberjaw” by Pain
Josie and the Pussycats – “Music Evolution” by Michael Kohler
Courage the Cowardly Dog – “Courage the Cowardly Dog” by They Might Be Giants
Johnny Bravo – “Hey, Johnny Bravo” by The Reverend Horton Heat
PART 4: The Shorties
Following the success of the Groovies, Ouweleen acted a little more
adventurously by introducing the Shorties. Shorties were similar to
Groovies in that they repurposed older properties broadcast by the
network, but they did so in longer-form shorts sans music, and more
often with a new visual style. The shorts were often more sarcastic in
tone than their inspirations, and acted along with Space Ghost as the
sources for later programs like Sealab 2021 and Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.
Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinks: “Harasscat”
Pixie and Dixie sue Mr. Jinx for stalking them.
Huckleberry Hound: “Sound Hound”
An exasperated Huckleberry tries to silence a noisy soundscape collage.
Birdman: “Birdman Coffee Break”
Birdman shows Falcon-7 just how trained his companion Avenger is.
Superfriends: “Whiners Can Be Losers”
The Legion of Doom runs into a few issues at its biweekly meeting.
Johnny Quest: “Time is Running Out”
Using sound bites and music from the original series, gamepiece
versions of Johnny, Hadji, Race, and Bandit fly over a gameboard
outrunning their various opponents.
Hillbilly Bears: “Miss Understanding”
The Hillbilly Bears appear on a Jerry Springer-like show to air out their problems.
Quick Draw McGraw: “City E-Scape”
Quick Draw and Baba Louie, drawn as real horses, travel to New York City to wipe out crime.
Droopy: “Thanks a Latte”
Droopy, a coffeehouse barista, haunts a caffeinated businesswolf who refuses to tip.
Yogi Bear: “When Animals Nap”
Yogi and Boo-Boo try to hibernate despite the efforts of a TV crew working to get footage of a ferocious bear attack.
Wally Gator: “Alligator Liberation”
A cool 3D plastic doll-like version of Wally Gator is “liberated” from
the confines of the city zoo by a group of concerned citizens.
PART 5: World Premiere Toons
Known variously over the years as World Premiere Toons, The What a Cartoon! Show, and The Cartoon-Cartoon Show, this program was the magnum opus of Ren and Stimpy
creator John Kricfalusi and cartooning workhorse Fred Seibert, the
original creative director of MTV and Nickelodeon and the one-time
president of Hanna-Barbera. Seibert, who would later go on to found Frederator Studios,
intended to recreate the atmosphere of the 1950s animation industry by
returning creative control to the animators. The cartoons introduced by
the show ranged from the quaint to the grotesque, from the traditional
to the bizarre. Many were popular enough to become full-fledged series
— these characters, referred to as the “Cartoon-Cartoons”, would serve
as the network’s programming backbone for years to come.
First, the one-off shorts that never got picked up by the network.
(NOTE: Only some of these videos have made their way online. To
save space, I’ve excluded all the episodes I couldn’t track down. If
you want to look for yourself, there’s a full episode list here. If you manage to find any more, feel free to post ’em here!)
“Help?” – Bruno Bozzetto
A cat that pricks his finger while sewing asks for help at the
hospital, but the ruthless personnel there offer nothing but pain.
“Boid ‘n’ Woim” – C. Miles Thompson
A gangly worm hitchhikes through the California desert with a Bird that secretly wants to eat him.
“Kitchen Casanova” – John McIntyre
A first-time cook is preparing dinner for his date, but trouble arises when the wind flips the pages from his cookbook.
“Rat in a Hot Tin Can” – Jerry Reynolds, Russ Harris
A rat and his fly companion try to find a place to stay for the night during winter in the city.
“Tales of Worm Paranoia” – Eddie Fitzgerald
Johnny is a peaceful and forgiving worm until a human steps on him
repeatedly. As a result, he becomes paranoid and angered at the human
race, seeking revenge.
“Hillbilly Blue” – Butch Hartman
Crawdad Eustace is tired of being treated like food and goes with
possum pal Mordechai on a cross-country trip to New Orleans to be
“served” in royal fashion.
“Gramps” – Butch Hartman
Gramps tells his grandchildren about his battle against alien invaders, getting corrected by the children repeatedly.
“Larry and Steve” – Seth MacFarlane
Steve, a homeless dog, is adopted by dimwitted Larry (the only man that
can understand what he’s saying), and experiences disaster when Larry
takes him shopping. A prototype of MacFarlane’s later hit show, Family Guy.
“Drip Dry Drips” – Jon McClenahan
Brothers Louie and Elmo start a laundry business, expecting to earn
some cash. They get a request from the president, but accidentally
destroy his suit.
“No Tip” – Robert Alvarez
A delivery boy must deliver a pizza to Antarctica safe and sound and before time runs out, or he won’t get a tip.
“Awfully Lucky – Robert Alvarez
A valuable yet cursed pearl brings both great luck and disaster to its hapless owner.
“Buy One, Get One Free” – Charlie Bean
A neurotic cat is afraid when a newcomer trashes his abusive owner’s apartment.
“School Daze” – Robert Alvarez
A Wild West outlaw needs to finish the fourth grade, and deal with his obnoxious class rival Little Timmy.
“Lost Control” – Zac Moncrief
Two zoo animals lose their prized remote control and must travel to the waterworks to retrieve it.
“A Clean Getaway” – Meinert Hansen
Captain Buzz Cheeply and his robot sidekick Sly must escape a planet
whose inhabitants have abnormally sized foreheads but tiny brains,
while also finding a place to do their laundry.
“Raw Deal in Rome” – Eugene Mattos
A superpowered flea named Flick has a strange vendetta against a local
performer, a dog named Shake, in an anachronistic Roman setting.
“Mr. Monkeyman” – Van Partible
Jealous King Raymond stains Jungle Boy’s heroic reputation by impersonating him and causing mayhem.
“Hard Luck Duck” – William Hanna
Hard Luck Duck, after venturing away from Crocodile Harley’s watch, is a hungry fox chef’s next target.
“Bow-wow Buccaneers” – Mike Milo
Bloo and his fellow dogs sneak out of their owner’s houses at midnight to set on a pirate adventure in the city.
“Ignoramooses” – Mike Milo
Two moose believe they’re going to be adopted by a rich hunter, and wreak havoc in his mansion.
Next up, the more popular shorts — ones that made it to two or three episodes, but didn’t quite make the cut.
Pfish and Chip – Butch Hartman
“Short Pfuse” (clip)
– Pfish and Chip (a carefree shark and a short-tempered lynx) attempt
to stop their foe, the Mad Bomber. The only problem is that the chief
needs to take his nap and demands quiet.
Malcolm and Melvin – Ralph Bakshi
“Malcolm and Melvin” – Melvin is an alienated looser, until he meets Malcolm, a trumpetist cockroach.
“Babe, He Calls Me”
– Melvin’s saga continues, as his partnership with Malcolm is
compromised by an urban superhero’s intrusion. Meanwhile, Melvin’s
mother aids a criminal after being unable to meet with her son.
Mina and the Count (5 episodes) – Rob Renzetti
Yuckie Duck – Patrick A. Ventura
“Short Orders” (works, slow) – Yuckie Duck works as a cook and waiter in a dirty restaurant, and delivers unappealing orders to the demanding customers.
“I’m On My Way” (unavailable) – Yuckie Duck works as a paramedic, but does more harm than good to his patients.
George and Junior – Patrick A. Ventura
(based on the 1940s short “Henpecked Hoboes”, in turn based on Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men characters)
“Look Out Below”
– A bird crashes a light bulb so it doesn’t disturb his sleep and sits
in the empty socket. Geroge and Junior, the building’s
janitors/engineers, are sent to fix it.
“George and Junior’s Christmas Spectacular” – George and Junior are forced to deliver Santa’s presents to the kids, as they fail to deliver one of Santa’s letters.
Finally, the shorts that became pilots for successful series.
Dexter’s Laboratory – Genndy Tartakovsky
“Changes” – Dee-Dee and Dexter battle turning each other into animals, using Dexter’s latest invention.
“The Big Sister” (unavailable) – Dexter prevents giant Dee-Dee from attacking the city.
“Old Man Dexter” – Dexter uses a machine to age himself and be able to watch a late-night movie, but ends up aging far too much.
“Dimwit Dexter” – Dexter’s brain shuts down after exhaustive activity, and he becomes the neighborhood’s laughing stock.
Cow and Chicken – David Feiss
“No Smoking” – Chicken is saved from damnation of smoking by Super Cow, who is his sister, Cow.
Johnny Bravo – Van Partible
“Johnny Bravo” – Johnny Bravo tries to score with a zookeeper girl by capturing a runaway gorilla.
“Johnny Bravo and the Amazon Women” – Johnny Bravo is left stranded in an island filled with beautiful tall women, and their bodyguard elephant.
The Powerpuff Girls – Craig McCracken
“Meat Fuzzy Lumkins” – The Powerpuff Girls fight to stop Fuzzy Lumkins’ plot to turn everything into meat.
“Crime 101” (unavailable) – The girls aid bumbling Amoeba Boys in becoming able criminals.
Courage the Cowardly Dog – John R. Dilworth
“The Chicken From Outer Space” – A fearful dog tries to stop an alien chicken’s plans to invade Earth while in his owners’ farm. Oscar-nominated.
PART 6: SPECIAL MUSICAL BONUS!!
Most, if not all, of the music used in Cartoon Networks various bumps
and interstitials — including much of the music in the Groovies shorts
— can be found on Bluetube.com,
the homepage of Michael Kohler, the chief composer of most of these
projects. So if you heard some music you liked while browsing these
videos, chances are its on his site, free to listen to and without any
distracting sound effects. Just click on “WORK” from the main page and
scroll through the list of pieces.
PART 7: Random Miscellany
Two Yogi Bear shorts, “Boo Boo Runs Wild” and “A Day in the Life of Ranger Smith” (unavailable), directed by , creator of Ren & Stimpy. Not connected to any of the above projects, but just as strange.
(Surreal) intro to “Mr. Spim’s Cartoon Theater”, a weekly special that broadcast obscure animated films
“Acme Hour” bumps: takeoffs on classic Warner Bros. themes that don’t really fit anywhere else.