My thoughts are scattered like leaves on the winds these days, so I present a collection of “the good, the bad, and the ugly,” for this entry. Except by “good” I mean “funny” (at least to me) because that’s just how I think.
I obviously did not manage to post this weekend. I was unavoidably detained. I failed to settle new lands successfully, I successfully helmed the most near-sighted group of sailors ever, I looted South American temples better than my colleagues, I dabbled in wordplay, and I raced some pigs. I did see both monsters and aliens, which reminded me why I could never, ever cosplay. I might want to, but I’d want it to be awesome, and after seeing a costume that involved a jack-o-lantern head in which the creator had actually strung up pumpkin seeds inside to make the head look as real as possible, I realized my quest for perfection would only end in tears. And possibly me running down the street without pants doing my best impression of Sonny the Cuckoo. Incidentally, an actual question asked by me over the weekend – “Why was Sugar Bear the God of War?”
Anyway, my thoughts for the midweek that are less random than usual.
Many modern TV shows have lousy introductions. I understand that as the demand to add more commercials to every hour of TV has increased, some parts of the actual show itself need to be decreased. But the introduction is important to pull potential audiences into the show. Older shows had elaborate intros and slick theme songs. More modern ones have a 30-second bit of music and some relevant shots. Kind of lame. If the premise is a bit odd, I think an intro should try to inform the audience of that premise. And if the premise is pretty typical (like yet another sitcom), then the intro should at least be memorable.
Cartoons in general have not forgotten the importance of a good intro. This may be because a lot of cartoon producers think children are stupid and/or easily drawn to bright flashy lights. Even if the reason may be condescending, some of those intros still stick with me.
Honorable mention – Sailor Moon. I’m going to stick with traditional Western animated shows for the rest of this list because anime has its own introduction conventions. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention this because “Moonlight Densetsu” as performed for “Sailor Moon S” (third intro) is my favorite introduction(s) (this song had a lot of iterations). While I had a lot of issues with “Sailor Moon Crystal,” I did like “Moon Pride” a lot as well. I am a sucker for electric guitar.
10) Thundercats – This show is in the unique position of not only having a kick-ass introduction, but having an introduction that is ten times better than the show ever was. Like many shows of the ’80s, the production values of the opening animation were better than that of the show. With a rapid ’80s backbeat, we are introduced to each character via a few seconds of seeing them in action and see some of the villains. Gets the blood pumping for the show, which sadly could not live up to the intro.
9) Scooby Doo, Where are You? – Anyone who didn’t see this entry coming is obviously new to my blog, so welcome! While this show has had several iterations as well, I prefer the original song from the original show (Season 1 and 2 both work for me; incidentally, the video of all intros is a trip through musical history as well). I didn’t welcome having Shaggy sing parts of the intro in later versions, and “Scooby Doo Movies” had little going for the intro anyway. But I like the peppy ’60s pop beat and the fast-paced montage of series scenes which at least gave some idea of what was going on (although not the most thorough explanation of the premise).
8) The Real Ghostbusters – This intro benefits from the cinematic theme song sung by Ray Parker. It’s ’80s pop but damn catchy. The first intro of the series (my favorite) briefly shows a day in the life of the Ghostbusters: Janine gets the phone call, rings the bell, Slimer is obnoxious, and the guys get to show off the relevant parts of the show (Ecto 1, the packs, the traps, and a whole bunch of ghosts).
7) Beetlejuice – I don’t know who thought this movie was something to adapt to a kids show, but it was the ’80s and this seemed to be a popular thing to do. This is another that benefits from using the movie’s theme (by Danny Elfman) as the music. I like both intros, because they are both absolutely insane. The idea of Lydia being taken on this wild rollercoaster ride/crazy circus tour through the afterlife is conveyed perfectly and the characters are quickly introduced as part of this crazy ride. It sure builds up energy and makes the viewer excited to see the show.
6) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – The original ’80s intro. Like Thundercats, the animation of the intro was much smoother and better than the show itself. With fast ’80s pop and a frentic pace, the lyrics introduced the turtles and Splinter by name and with a little description before closing on that synthetic and oddly catchy “Heroes in a Half-Shell” tagline. Unlike the Thundercats, the actual show was as good as its introduction except for the animation quality. For those who are curious about the answer to life’s most important question, I’m Raphael. This should surprise nobody.
5) X-men – Fox wasn’t about to miss out on opportunities to sell kids stuff they didn’t need in the afternoons, so they tried a bit of a superhero line-up (and once upon a time, Fox handled its Marvel properties pretty well). This was my first introduction to comic books, no pun intended. The way the intro ramped up and increased pace combined with the name of each character and a quick demonstration of their power all leading up to a confrontation with all the bad guys was just really well done. I had no clue what this show was about, but I knew I definitely wanted to find out.
4) Ducktales – When Disney decided to get back into the afternoon animation game, Disney did not pull its punches. This theme is insanely catchy (whoo-ooo!). The intro features mostly scenes from the five pilot episodes (which are a much better Indiana Jones-esque romp than “Crystal Skull“) but also shows other scenes from the show including Scrooge leaping into the Money Bin and some of the villains that would plague them. Whoo-ooo indeed.
3) Tiny Toon Adventures – Disney’s competition for the afternoon animation game came from Warner Brothers, who attempted to revive their classic cartoon characters with younger characters that were similar but not quite the same. Babs and Buster Bunny (no relation) sing the introduction song which explains not only the premise (they are in school learning from the original characters) but also introduces pretty much every character that shows up. In a bit of a meta-twist, it’s clear the characters know they’re singing the theme song to their own show.
2) Animaniacs – Perhaps the best WB cartoon to come out in the modern age. The amount of talent assembled was fantastic. “Tiny Toons” was good, to be sure, but by the time this show came around, the good from “Tiny Toons” was made better and the bad (not that there was much) had been worked out. Like “Tiny Toons,” the introduction of Animaniacs explains the premise (via a narrator; which I cannot find a clip of), introduces the main characters, and then goes into the actual song, which introduces many of the other characters. And again, because the creative teams likes meta-humor, at one point the Warners look directly into the camera and sing, “and now you know the plot.”
1) Batman: the Animated Series – This one is kind of a ringer because the theme music is taken directly from Danny Elfman’s cinematic composition. But the animation helps make this theme so memorable. The intro is essentially a night in Gotham City; it’s dark, it’s gritty, it introduces the main character, captures the essence of the show and Batman perfectly, and not a word is spoken. Amazing. This is absolutely my favorite intro.
Of course, there may be other amazing introductions in the future. I hope so. Some of the cartoons are getting a bit lackluster in the introduction department as well. But I hold out hope there will be more investment in the part of the show specifically designed to draw viewers in.
Video games, making fun of movies, and television shows…
Or, a more wordy and less embarrassing way of saying, “Toons that are hot.” I thought about a top ten list or something, and this is what I came up with. Hey, this is my misspent youth and my influences. I’m deliberately leaving out toons who are not adults and anthropomorphized toons. This is only based on my experience, so it’s possible I missed a few toons here and there.
or, “Further Looting of my Childhood for Profit”
or, “And Not Even Good Looting at That”
or, “It’s Not Even as Good as Transformers!”
or, “But at Least There was No Stuttering”
or, “And I Could See What was Going On”
or, “But the Title Indicates a Sequel Will Be Produced!”
or, “Because We Really Need More Stupid Movies Based on ’80s Cartoons”
[[the movie starts with some backstory about the original Destro, who was a weapons dealing Scotsman in the 1600s who got caught and had his face sealed in a white-hot metal mask that totally didn’t kill him; the movie assures us this will be important later]]
McCullen – Okay, so I’ve developed this nanotechnology and made nano-tech warheads which needs to NATO. I’m assuming the U.S. Army is capable of this delivery service?
Duke – Absolutely. What could go wrong?
McCullen – Aren’t you supposed to sound kind of like John Wayne? Or at least try to have a Southern accent or something?
Duke – Yeah, like kids these days know who the hell John Wayne is.
McCullen – And your partner is a Wayans brother!
Ripcord – You got a problem with that?
McCullen – I’m beginning to re-think giving up the role of the Doctor so I could act in movies. I really don’t have a record of picking good ones here…
Duke – Ambush? Wait, what?
[[Mysterious hi-tech mercenary terrorists ambush convoy with extremely advanced weaponry; things go poorly for the soldiers]]
Duke – Hey, I know the hot brunette in the tight outfit! What’s she doing here?
Ripcord – Dude, focus! We’re totally getting killed here!
[[Different mysterious hi-tech mercenary-types ambush the ambush with extremely advanced weaponry and manage to drive away the first group and save the nano-tech warheads]]
Mysterious Redhead – Give us the case.
Duke – Um, no. I’m grateful you chased away that first group that was trying to take the case, but that doesn’t mean you’re the good guys, so I’m keeping this and will deliver it NATO as planned.
Mysterious Redhead – Fine, we’ll take you to our super-secret headquarters and explain to you why you should give us the case.
Duke – Yeah, because that’s totally what good guys do – kidnap soldiers.
Secret MARS Lair:
McCullen – Damnit, Baroness, you were supposed to steal the case of weapons so your stupid husband could weaponize them for me.
Baroness (hologram) – My husband happens to be brilliant and how is he supposed to weaponize something you already made as weapons?
McCullen – Just go with it. Now, I’m going to send Storm Shadow with you, who despite his fashionable metrosexual appearance is actually a ninja. I don’t like your husband and will kill him as soon as he his no longer useful to us. And then we’ll go on a date.
Baroness (hologram) – That is so creepy and romantic.
McCullen – Just get the case back! [[hangs up hologram]] Hello, scientist I am not naming because that is in no way an important clue, how goes your research? What are you doing again anyway?
Mysterious Scientist with a Respirator – I’m utilizing venom from cobrasss to make all sssortsss of biochemical weapons, including sssteroids, ssshapessshifting, and mind control.
McCullen – That’s cool.
[[The Baroness and her cleavage make a brief appearance at a party to tell the audience her husband’s name is Baron DeCobray because this movie has all the subtlety of an exploding truck]]
Ripcord – Could someone please explain what the hell is going here? Maybe, you, the mysterious redhead with the gun-crossbow thing?
General Hawk – That’s Scarlett, the ninja is Snake Eyes, who doesn’t talk, and the big guy is Heavy Duty. We’re a super-secret para-military force called the G.I. Joes. Thank you for not dying like everyone else and protecting the warheads. We’ll take these to NATO now and take you to the nearest Army base where believe me you are going to have a lot of paperwork to fill out.
Duke – I know the brunette who was leading the raid.
Hawk – Wait, what? You know the Baroness?
Duke – I didn’t know she was a Baroness, but I knew her four years ago or so and she was a blonde then. We were engaged; her brother was under my command. He was killed in a raid and she disappeared.
Hawk – Well, that’s an important piece of intelligence which for some reason is enough for me to allow you to take the G.I. Joe training and see if you have what it takes to serve with us.
Ripcord – That sounds like a grueling and time-consuming training regimen. Do we really have that much time?
Scarlett – It’s only one night.
Duke – Seriously?
[[Seriously; after just one night of various physical tests and shooting tests, they pass with the best scores ever and are made full Joes]]
Scarlett – You beat my record!
Ripcord – So?
Scarlett – I’m a perfectionist with daddy issues and that really bothers me!
Ripcord – Really? That’s where the movie is going with this? Why can’t you just be a totally kick-ass redhead in a tight outfit without the burden of a stupid backstory that doesn’t make any sense and no one cares about?
Scarlett – To prove this isn’t a mindless summer blockbuster?
Ripcord – Well, I’m not going to complain too much since it looks like we’re totally going to get together in this movie.
Duke – Hey, I thought Scarlett hooked up with me in the show!
Ripcord – Dude, you’ve got some weird love story with the Baroness. Give me a break, already!
The Pit, Later:
[[The mysterious hi-tech mercenary terrorists who are never named as Cobra but I’m not going to keep typing out “mysterious hi-tech mercenary terrorists” when we all know they’re Cobra find the secret base via tracking device in the weapons case and use giant drill-machines to drill right into the Pit]]
Baroness – Wow, I would have thought such a hi-tech facility would have some sort of perimeter alarm.
Storm Shadow – That’s why we went through the walls.
Baroness – True, but shouldn’t there still be some kind of alarm because the walls have been breached and may be unstable? Also, why aren’t there any cameras or any sort of security at all?
Storm Shadow – Just go with it. Although I hope I run into someone because I need to prove I’m actually a ninja, damn it!
[[Eventually the Joes realize their base is being invaded and try to stop Cobra from getting the warheads; Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes get into a fight which prompts a flash back]]
Flash Back, Asia Somewhere:
Li’l Storm Shadow – Hey! Homeless white kid! You can’t just steal food because you’re starving! I’m going to try to kill you now!
[[Li’l Storm Shadow does try to kill Li’l Snake Eyes until the sensai comes in and breaks things up]]
Sensai – Li’l Storm Shadow, you should be nicer. I’ll take in the little mute boy and train him to be a ninja just like you. You’ll have a friend. Won’t that be nice?
Li’l Storm Shadow – I am totally going to kill you for this.
[[Li’l Storm Shadow totally kills his sensai which Li’l Snake Eyes witnesses, leading him to say the only word he ever says in the movie]]
The Pit, Again:
Storm Shadow – Wow, that establishes me as a homicidal maniac from a young age and establishes why you don’t speak. This is also by far the most interesting story in the movie. Have you got those warheads yet?
Duke – Ana, wait, no!
Baroness – Yep, although it would be nice if this blond guy I totally don’t know would quit calling me by a name I clearly don’t recognize.
Ripcord – How did they even find us? This base is supposed to be secret! It’s like they had a tracking device or something totally obvious like that!
[[Cobra heads on out with the nano-tech warheads; the Baron weaponizes the weapons as expected and then Storm Shadow kills him; then Cobra threatens to destroy Paris; presumably afterwards McCullen will take the Baroness out to dinner and a movie (but not in Paris, clearly)]]
Heavy Duty – Could anyone explain to me why the new guys are the only ones that get power armor here? This seems really unfair.
Duke – Yeah, I know, because this is totally awesome! Let’s fight!
[[Cobra and the Joes fight and the Joes seem oddly unconcerned with death of innocent bystanders or property destruction, but it doesn’t matter because Cobra unleashes the nanobot things which destroys the Eiffel Tower and then they escape, capturing Duke in the process and the rest of the Joes are arrested for terrorism; on the bright side, the Joes manage to put two and two together and come up with McCullen as the guy who lead Cobra right to them]]
Cobra Arctic Lair Set, Lab:
Duke – Oh, man. Hey, who are you creepy guy with the face mask and where’s the Baroness?
Mysterious Scientist with Respirator – You don’t recognize me? And you can’t see the totally obviousss plot twissst?
Duke – Um, yeah, no, I got nothing.
Mysterious Scientist with Respirator – Maybe a brief flashback will help.
Flashback 2, the Doomed Raid:
Duke – Okay, Rex, I need you to go inside that bunker where it’s safe!
Rex – No problem! [[does so]]
[[Random and poorly understood violence happens and despite Duke’s best efforts, the bunker is blown to pieces]]
Duke – Oh, no! My fiancee’s little brother has been killed on my watch! She’ll never forgive me!
Cobra Arctic Lair Set, Lab:
Duke – I knew that part. Wait, unless Rex didn’t actually die, and you’re actually Rex!
Rex – You’re not much of a thinker, are you?
Duke – But why are you evil?
Rex – Oh, it’s turnsss out there was thisss guy called Doctor Mindbinder trapped in the bunker with me after the explosion. He turned me to evil and helped me keep me alive until I could get this ressspirator.
Duke – That actually makes sense. I mean, how could you not end up evil when you were trapped with some guy called Doctor Mindbender?
[[Rex leaves briefly and the Baroness sneaks into the lab to free Duke]]
Duke – Ana! I thought you didn’t remember who you were!
Baroness – Yeah, well, seeing you brought back memories, so I’m getting you out of here.
Rex – Hey! You can’t do that! I injected you with mind control nanobots!
Baroness – You what! You little brat! I’m going smack you so hard our mother’s going to feel it… [[Rex causes her to faint]]
Duke – Dude, that’s your sister!
Rex – What part of me being evil don’t you get? Now, I’ll do horrible things to you!
Duke – Or the Joes will come rescue me.
Rex – Yeah, like that’s going to …[[cue explosion]] I hate you.
[[The Joes, who followed Duke through a poorly explained plot device, I mean, tracking signal, go to bust up the base, but Cobra launches a bunch of missiles to destroy major cities]]
Ripcord – We’ll have to blow up the missiles in mid-air! Luckily I am a highly trained pilot and can do that!
Duke – I’m going to rescue my financee!
McCullen – She’s my girl whether she likes or not! [[tries to kill Duke but ends up with horrible burns on his face, causing him to flee]]
Storm Shadow – And I’m going to fight my nemesis again! [[he fights Snake Eyes, who ends up stabbing him and dumping him in the frigid Arctic waters so he’s probably dead, but then again, maybe not]]
McCullen – Oh my face!
Rex – I’ll fix it. [[injects him with nano-bots, which turns his face into metal]]
McCullen – You jerk! You didn’t have to make my face all metal like my evil ancestor!
Rex – Yeah, that’ssss true, but I am evil. You can call me Cobra Commander and I’m going to call you Dessstro!
McCullen – Whatever.
[[the Joes blow the joint and manage to capture the fleeing Cobra while Ripcord takes out the missiles]]
Duke – So, we win, right? I get the girl, Ripcord gets a girl, and Cobra’s in custody.
Zartan – Sure, except that the whole missile thing was a ruse so I could shapeshift and take the place of the President of the United States.
Duke – Well, it doesn’t matter. We’ll just defeat you in the sequel. Yo Joe!