Sometimes it makes sense to spin-off a live-action property into a cartoon. Like ALF: The Animated Series, which let audiences learn about Alf's life on Planet Melmac and meet all of his friends before they are killed when the planet is destroyed. But sometimes a TV show or character is dumped into the laps of some cartoon writers who are told, "Just make up whatever shit pops into your head. Kids are stupid." And thus you wind up with ...
The video game character Q*Bert came from a time when games were designed to be less complicated than the mind of the average Nickelback fan, and yet somehow more addictive than a fictional drug we just made up that's 10 times more addictive than heroin. The game, like most games of the era, has no story to speak of. Q*Bert is a little orange monster thing who hops around on squares. It's basically a puzzle game.
There are also some villains, including snakes, balls and other random shapes, that Q*Bert has to avoid. But the game can be described simply as "a little orange guy jumps on some blocks to make them change color." Or cubes. Oh, we just got it. Q*Bert. Cube*bert.
The Baffling Cartoon:
The Q*Bert cartoon series was sandwiched into the Saturday Morning Supercade, a super-stuffed block of video game themed cartoons, in between comparatively normal cartoons like Donkey Kong, Frogger and Donkey Kong, Jr. But then came the whirlwind of non sequiturs that was Q*Bert. The 30 second theme song illustrates the insanity.
"Wait, didn't I see you in Zelda?"
The Q*Berts are aliens(?) apparently. They live in what looks like a planet trapped in the 1950s, what with the hot rods, Greasers and letterman jackets. Then, suddenly, it's the '80s. There are surfers. A mermaid Q*Bert. Suddenly, dinosaurs. Cave-Q*Berts.
Robots. A Frankenstein. Futuristic '80s musical instruments. And then another '50s soda shop, complete with sock hop. Finally, Q*Bert flies into frame on a flying disc.
He looks as stoned as the people who bought this show on DVD.
The series actually features everything the video game did: boxes, Q*Bert, evil snakes. It just adds 40 extra levels of insanity. The show takes place in the town of Q*Burg and features the mild-mannered Q*Bert and his Valspeak-talking girlfriend Q*Tee. The writers decided to take advantage of the '50s nostalgia that permeated the '80s, giving the characters a 1980s sensibility in a 1950s sci-fi city, which gives it a double-whammy of '80s/'50s nostalgia when viewed today.
This cartoon was made two years before Back to the Future combined the '50s and '80s.
Q*Bert goes to Q*Burg High School, hangs out at the Q*Burg mall, listens to Q*Wave music and is generally pretty boring considering he's a furry space alien. His adventures are as diverse as looking for a lost dog, dealing with a robot with low self-confidence or telling the story of a group of cave Q*Berts by reading their crude cave drawings. Like any normal teenager living in the '50s (?) would do.
The cartoon's villains are the snakes from the game, but instead of just being snakes, which are already impossibly terrifying and require no justification for being murderous sons of bitches, they are now a gang of leather jacket wearing, Fonzie-style greasers, who do evil things like compete against Q*Bert in races or brainwash Q*Bert's pal Q*Ball after he turns into a monster after drinking a potion.
It's like if Roger Waters wrote a version of Grease.
So if you've ever wondered what American Graffiti would be like if the characters listened to Duran Duran, Richard Dreyfuss was a fuzzy pint-sized alien and sometimes there were robots, then this is the cartoon series you've been waiting for.
Since Godzilla exploded into Japanese cinema in 1956, the lovable prehistoric terror-machine has become as much a symbol of Japanese culture as cherry blossoms, samurai and grown men buying the used panties of school girls out of vending machines. Godzilla has survived a number of different film interpretations, including that one in Manhattan with Hank Azaria and Ferris Bueller.
Godzilla just seems wrong without awful dubbing and confused Japanese extras.
The Baffling Cartoon:
In 1978, Hanna-Barbera produced an animated series starring the titular radioactive dinosaur. The series theme sums it up well:
The music swells up, with a bombastic singer proclaiming, "Up from the depths, 30 stories high!" as Godzilla, a terrifying prehistoric monster who can wreck untold destruction unto humanity, rises from the waves. He roars and then breathes fire so powerful that it incinerates the opening title. This is one dinosaur you don't want to fuck with.
"You DICK! That sign cost more than your car!
We then cut to Godzilla's sidekick and nephew, Godzooky. The music plays light and bouncy as the whimsical little lizard flies clumsily through the air and crash-lands in an adorable way onto the deck of the ship. As the music vaudevilles it up, Godzooky rolls around and looks into the camera with his doe eyes. This is one dinosaur you may want to fuck with.
We then cut back to a nightmarish hellscape of scorching flames. What the hell is this series? It seems pretty clear that the producers wanted to appeal to children at the same it was scaring the living shit out of them.
"No, mommy, I'll be good! Don't make me watch it!"
Although Godzilla's name is the title, the series actually stars the soft, squishy human crew of the Calico, a research vessel that runs into giant monsters every week for some reason. Let us reiterate: This is not a ship that is researching monsters, but a regular research ship that coincidentally runs into monsters every episode. Whenever this happens, they summon Godzilla, who is apparently their slave.
He rises from the ocean, kills the other monster and disappears, all while Godzooky flies around like someone who is blind, drunk and a moron, messing things up in his adorably dangerous way.
"Godzilla's word of the day is ... 'Bukkake.'"
We should also probably mention that the people look nothing like the people in any of the Godzilla movies, which is to say that there are no Asian people in the cartoon. It's also one of those scientific missions that seem to pop up in comics and cartoons shows all the time in the '70s, when it was OK to bring a young child onto a dangerous mission.
"You shut your mouth and do as you're told, and you might see your mother again."
In this case, it's a towheaded young moppet named Pete, who hangs around on all the missions, bossing around Godzooky and treating him like a dumb pet. Although it's really all just a matter of time until Godzooky realizes that he is a centuries-old reptilian monster and could easily kill and eat all of the other crew members with zero consequences.
"That's a good boy, Godzoo- OH MY GOD, HE'S GOT MY ARM!"
#4. The Robonic Stooges
Ever since the first night they scrambled onto a vaudeville stage and started gouging each others' eyes out, The Three Stooges have proved the comedy constant that anytime three grown men have their heads banged together, it's going to be funny.
The Stooges have outlasted other comedy teams from the '30s and '40s because, even though people like the Marx Brothers or Laurel and Hardy have been more sophisticated, they lacked the blunt ultra-violence that makes the Three Stooges timeless. Although most of their success came with their series of theatrical shorts, the Stooges have appeared in a rich cornucopia of media, including feature-length films, stage shows, comic books and even cartoons.
And then things got weird.
The Baffling Cartoon:
In the late 1970s, the Stooges were revived for the Hanna-Barbera series The Robonic Stooges. The cartoon finally answered the demand for a cartoon series that featured the Three Stooges re-imagined as crime-fighting robots who are also superheroes. And since in real life, the Three Stooges had all been dead for at least two years, there was the added, creepy subtext that maybe the robots had been constructed from the Stooges' reanimated corpses.
Keep your fingers crossed for a gritty reboot.
According to the series' first episode, "Invasion of the Incredible Giant Chicken," the Stooges were "built from the world's finest electronic parts" and "designed to be the world's most perfect electronic robots," although if that's the case, it's never fully explained why they were designed to look and act like famous knockabout comedians best known for almost killing themselves for our entertainment. The Stooges also have secret identities and a day job working in a junkyard. Why robots would need secret identities and a source of income is unclear, since they are robots and could probably just be shut off when they aren't being used.
Anyway, in each episode the Stooges fight supervillians (usually giant ones) through a series of comic misfortunes and bunglings, which makes sense since they're the Three Stooges.
Their shenanigans get to be so unbearable that, for comedy purposes, the Stooges are a constant thorn in the side to their employers, the Superhero Employment Agency. They frequently come close to firing them, even though they are robots who have been designed to act like famous comedians and not superheroes.
THIS IS BULLSHIT!