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Austin Chronicle TV Eye

By Margaret Moser

NOVEMBER 16, 1998:  The "Twinkles" dilemma solved for reader Craig C., "TVEye" now turns its attention to the outpouring of e-mail requesting information on other "lost" cartoons. (Thank you to Kim C. and everyone who sent me the words to the Tennessee Tuxedo theme song. The music editor is bitter.) Here's something else you curious folks need to know: I can only address Fifties and Sixties cartoons, not ones made in the Seventies or after. Yes, I follow Mike Judge's oeuvre, loved early Ren & Stimpy, and have of late been very enamored of Space Ghost, but I claim no expertise in the contemporary era, Eighties, or Seventies. I was, however, an original TV baby.
Still, the outpouring of mail I got about cartoons hasn't been matched since ... well, since the last time I wrote about cartoons. (This just goes to prove my theory about the importance of animation in boomer lives.) My favorite query came from Steve M. about a short-lived 1963 series called The Funny Company. This show was underwritten by Mattel Toys, and I do remember a good bit of toy marketing tie-in. This was another show inspired by the FCC Chairman's 1961 "TV wasteland" speech. In its ludicrous concept, the group of children forming the Funny Company Detective Agency were constantly battling agents of foreign governmments, prime Cold War mythology. The cartoons had little educational segments spliced into them and the show was cited in 1966 when a boy saved the life of a drowning little girl with a technique he said he learned on The Funny Company. There was even a computer-like character named Weisenheimer.

I remember The Funny Company not just because of the marchy theme but because it was one of the few cartoons the neighborhood kids imitated. We formed our own Funny Company newspaper in the basement of my neighbor Mark Page. You all knew a Mark Page. He's the fat kid whose parents bought him all the good toys, which was the only way he could get anyone to play with him because he was such a creep. The Funny Company was also the first place I can remember seeing that Smiley Face that would become so ubiquitous by the Seventies. There you go, Steve!

Jason, I agree with you about the Pink Panther being a cut above other cartoons of its days. It was silly but had a lot of style and sophistication. I believe some of these cartoons were in theatrical release, so that would explain the high degree of entertainment and wit present within. But Jason, I categorically refuse to accept Hanna-Barbera as anything short of the Anti-christ. I will say that stable turned out one cartoon that was good in spite of HB: Top Cat.

The intriguingly named El Diablo wanted to know more about Clyde Crashcup and Leonardo. This was no stretch. Crashcup was another post-Wasteland speech creation by The Alvin Show creator Ross Bagdasarian, better known as Dave Seville. They were a kind of Sherman and Peabody foil for the chipmunks' antics. Crashcup re-appeared in 1981's A Chipmunk Christmas, when the whole crew had been redesigned by none other than Chuck Jones. Ross Bagdasarian Jr. stepped into his father's spot as the voice of Dave Seville, Alvin, and Simon.

Okay here's some trivia for you: What is the connection between Ross Bagdasarian and George Clooney? First person to write or e-mail the answer correctly wins a bunch of silly movie and TV swag, including an odious review copy of WB's 7th Heaven. Readers, your help is needed. Jim T. wanted to know did I:

"remember a cartoon, early Sixties, of a cat and a dog called Ruff and Reddy -- possibly part of the Crusader Rabbit show (or maybe not) ... I remember what seemed like an epic episode -- perhaps a continuation, like a serial -- of them descending into a canyon with miniature horses... it has stayed with me all these years but nobody I talk to remembers it but me... but the real reason I wrote is this: can you please send me the "dirty Disney site" web address?"

Whoa. I ran into a brick firewall here. I could find no Ruff and Reddy info on the Net, but I most definitely remember them. Readers? BTW, I found this almost all this stuff all on the Net again, through http://www.surfpoint.com/Movies_Tele-vision--Television_Shows--Cartoon_ and_Animation.html.

In closing this week, "TV Eye" would like to point readers to the fine new film Velvet Goldmine and its soundtrack, which features a blistering version of the Iggy Pop song for which this column is named. The track features Ewan MacGregor on vocals (pant, pant) and the band includes Mark Arm, Thurston Moore, Mike Watt, and original Stooge Ron Asheton. High marks for the New York Dolls underground classic "Personality Crisis" as done by Teenage Fanclub with Donna Matthews, Brian Eno's "Baby's On Fire" as done by TheVenus in Furs with Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (swoon), and "Satellite of Love," performed by Lou Reed, the guy who wouldn't let the Velvet Underground's music be used in the perfectly respectable I Shot Andy Warhol. Sorry for the rant but I probably won't get to review the album, so no one else will point out that Carter Burwell, who wrote and performs "Velvet Spacetime" and scored the film, is the same classical composer who did the Rob Roy soundtrack.

TVEye@auschron.com figures if you write, you know you're likely to be referenced.

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