Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Green Lantern Filmation!

Before there was
Young Justice, and Batman: Brave and the Bold, and Teen Titans, Batman and Superman the Animated Series, and The Batman, and Justice League (limited and unlimited)—even before the frickin’ SuperFriends—there was… Filmation.

Which doesn’t get enough love, in my estimation. When Filmation got the gig to make cartoons (that’s what people used to call “animated series”) of Batman, Superman, and Aquaman, Filmation was four years old, had about 12 bucks per episode to work with, didn’t hire warehouses of artists in some foreign company working for pennies, had a mannequin for a receptionist, and used about five voice actors, including Master of a Thousand Shrieking Alien Despot Voices, Ted Knight.

In fact, they had to bluff Elliot S! Maggin with some shenanigans to get the job. Of course, "bluffing Elliot S! Maggin" is pretty much in the same box as surprising your infant by magically 'reappearing' when you play peekaboo. They probably just told him that villainous cats banished by Krypto into the Phantom Zone were whispering story ideas into their ears at night and he was sold.

What they lacked in ability and resources, they made up for with ingenuity (like making up the story about the Phantom Zone cats). For example, Filmation’s animation was certainly not sophisticated, but (as previously mentioned), they understood how to make Aquaman cool. Heck, they never let Aqualad leave his side, and even Mr Bean looks cool in comparison when standing with Aqualad.

But in addition to their work on Batman, Superman, and Aquaman, they did a smaller number of “Side B” cartoons of other DC heroes, including the Teen Titans, the Atom, Hawkman, the Flash, the Justice League, and one of the Absorbascon’s favorite whipping boys, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan).

Let’s watch one of the GL Filmation cartoons together, shall we? You can currently watch the whole thing here, but I’m going to use screen caps below anyway.


Filmation often had little oopsies in their coloring department for a few frames, but this next frame isn’t one of them. For some reason, they decided not to make the Guardians blue. It kind of robs them of their Alien Dignity. When not colored blue, the Guardians just look like some old guy who gives the counterman at the corner deli a hard time.

“You call this fresh?”

The visuals may not be helping the Guardians’ credibility, but the audio does; nobody but nobody in animation could generate awesome majesty and sincerity with his voice alone than Ted Knight (whom most remember only as “Ted Baxter”, the pompous and moronic newscaster on the Mary Tyler Moore Show). Ted Knight was an orator; he didn’t just say his lines, he practically SANG them. If Ted Knight says Mr Scheinmann up there is one of the “Miss Tick GAHHR dee ahns uvthuh YOO nee verse”, then you will damn well believe it and bow down accordingly.

Why, the voice of Ted Knight even makes you take Hal Jordan seriously.

Stupid, stupid Hal Jordan.

At least, until Hal starts talking. More on that later.

Smug, smirking Hal Jordan. Lap it up, ladies and Geoff Johns.

So the Mystic Guardians of the Universe live on...

...a giant glowball. Jeez, Jor-El would have a conniption.

Actually, they live on Oa, with its awesome but impractical architecture.

Little known fact: on February 4, 1989, the day after all the Filmation animators were fired by L’Oreal, they were all hired by an architecture firm in Dubai.

The story starts with Hal Jordan sitting on his phat ass at home, long-distance coaching some sucker who’s taking some experimental flight into space, sidekicked for no apparent reason by “Kairo”, Green Lantern’s Venusian Man Friday.

"Hey, Kairo; let's see what's on the Bacon Channel. Mmmmm...bacon."

I’ve never heard an explanation why Filmation decided to recast/replace Tom “Pie-Face” Kalmaku, Hal’s Eskimo mechanic, with some blue kid from Venus named after an Egyptian cafe. Probably because Green Lantern needed a “space-oriented” sidekick and an Aleutian simply wasn’t exotic enough. Or perhaps it’s the Conservation of Blue theory; if the Guardians weren’t going to blue, somebody in the cast had to be.

"Hear me, MetroCity! You WILL bow down to Megamind!!!"

Regardless, the use of Kairo accomplished one important thing: it let Ted Knight use a Venusian accent, which … well, you’ll just have to hear it for yourself. It’s kind of what you’d get if Squiggy from Laverne & Shirley had a son with Pebbles Flintstone and raised him in the Philippines.

This is also the point where Hal Jordan starts talking, losing all the credibility that announcer Ted “Voice of Awesome” Knight had build up for him. Hal sounds exactly like the drunk at the bar in every other episode of Bewitched. “I wan’ choo to shteer offfff, Thom, yer too closhe t’ the Shargasho pl*hic*planneetoid.”

Guardians bless brilliant B-movie actor Gerald Mohr, the "King of Cool", for his work as the voice of Green Lantern. Hal Jordan’s voice falls about halfway between Dean Martin and Foster Brooks, and it is priceless. Once you hearit, suddenly the whole “Hal gets arrested for DWI” thing falls into place for you. All the while you thought Hal was just an idiot. Now you know better; he’s a drunken idiot. No wonder he’s benched at home driving flight simulators while somebody goes out to drive the spacecraft.

Naturally, coached by Hal, they shteer—sorry—steer the spacecraft right toward the evil and odiferous Sargasso Planetoid, whose stinkyon emanations overwhelm them.

"Can't resist... smell of... bacon!"

So Hal Jordan does what any sensible, subtle hero would do: steps outside in the middle of the airfield where he works and changes into Green Lantern in public.

Stupid, stupid Hal.

NEXT UP: We meet our villain!


SallyP said... MAGNIFICENT! Oh Hal, you're a sorry dumbass, but still, I love you so. And here I thought Kyle was the only one who changed into being a Green Lantern right in front of people.

And thank you for the Megamind bit. I've only watched it thirty times or so.

CobraMisfit said...

Perhaps Hal IS drunk...on power.

Will power, that is!


But yeah, his buddy is in trouble and Hal reacts like it's just another day-trip to the hardware store. Or liquor store, from the sounds of it. Love old cartoons.

Bryan L said...

Did Kairo steal that helmet from Speed Racer? You can't trust a damn Venusian.

tad said...

SPOILER ALERT (I watched the long version):

She shot him with an OWL! That's like the best thing I've ever seen. Take that, Grant Morrison and Brian Johns and your puny world-devouring monstrosities. Shoot somebody down with an owl to the back of the head, that's what I'M talking about.

Scipio said...

Tad!!!!! WAIT for it !!!!

Anonymous said... wasn't Elliot S! Maggin. He wasn't working at DC in 1966. It was Mort Weisinger ( or as Lou Scheimer says he called himself when telling the story, 'Superman Weisinger.')

Scipio said...

That's what I get for trusting the INTERNET.

I blame The Construct.

ronald said...

Just curious, why the disrespect for Elliot S! Maggin (re the "bluffing" commentary)? Is it just the exclamation-point-after-the-middle-initial thing, or something more?

Scipio said...

The man responsible for the crapfest that is Bronze Age Superman?

The man who wrote Starwinds Howl?

The "S!" is pretty much the only thing I don't hold against him.

Actually, he did some amazing stuff: the man who wrote "Luthor, You're Driving Me Sane!' can't be all bad, after all.

ronald said...

Thanks for the reply. :-)

AFAIK he's also the guy who came up with "the real reason" pre-Crisis Luthor hated Superman so much; when Superboy inadvertently destroyed Teen Luthor's lab, he killed Luthor's then-greatest achievement: an artificial life-form that Luthor loved like a child. So there's that, anyway.

At least, that was in one of Maggin's novels, don't know if it was ever mentioned in the comic books.

Anonymous said...

It was in a comic too; I remember the image of the big protoplasmic blobby thing burning away.

If memory serves, the research into creating artificial life also yielded a cure for kryptonite poisoning ... also destroyed in the fire.

Elliot Maggin (curiously without an ess-factorial) also gave us a story where Tomar-Re almost saved Krypton from destruction, and here it is:

My favorite part is how the Guardians identify Lara as an "astronaut" ... on a planet that famously didn't have a space program. I think that's the Guardians' polite way of saying, "she has no marketable skills".