Sunday, March 21, 2010

SMCS Companion Piece #8: Camp Candy

I like John Candy, I really do. He was a funny guy who made a ton of great films (Canadian Bacon being my favorite of his) and died too soon. It’s safe to say that I am a fan. I don’t think he was a comedic genius or anything but I enjoyed most of the work I saw him do. That said who the hell thought he should have his own cartoon? I’m not saying he had no business having one but how did executives come to the conclusion that Candy needed a kids show? “You know who’d make a great cartoon character? That dog-guy from Space Balls.” Again I’m not saying that it doesn’t work. Sitcoms based on material of comedians get made all the time so there’s no reason for it to be limited to primetime. But here’s an interesting question: where does the line get drawn when making shows based on celebrities? For every logical cartoon made (While he may be technically worthless as a comedian Louie Anderson’s cartoon certainly makes sense considering the material he uses in his stand-up) we get some crazy self-indulging venture featuring a celebrity fighting terrorists or space aliens. Is this justified entertainment? Or is just another example of amoral opportunists making money off of American celebrity worship?

Celebrity Worship: 1, Justified Entertainment: 0

This week on the Saturday Morning Cartoon Show we saw Camp Candy. Let’s take a look of similar cartoons featuring celebrities.

Beta VERSUS Celebrity Cartoons

Johnny Actor is very popular, even if it’s just a craze that will only last a few years. Even if Johnny wasn’t marketed for children kids seem to love him nonetheless. Therefore if we make a cartoon about him than logically the little twits will flock to it, right? Maybe I’m not being fair. Plenty of shows were developed by actors/comedians/whatever who earnestly wanted to produce children’s television. But this is not every show. Basically it depends on how much said celebrity has to do with the production (Whether s/he’s voicing his/hers cartoon counterpart or just letting them use his /hers likeliness), whether or not the show has a fantastical and unlike scenario (If the celebrity fights crime/evil), and the overall quality of the cartoon. A good show would probably be a Slice of Life cartoon about growing up in non-ideal situations but making the best of it and ultimately triumphing. A bad show almost certainly involves a celebrity and his elite team battling the forces of evil (I’m looking at you Sgt. Slaughter).

Let’s look at some of these shows and judge them on these criteria and see whether they pass or fail. Take in mind that this is strictly for shows that are based on some celebrity whether they be actor musician or athlete. A cartoon based on a movie is a different type of cartoon altogether even if a character looks exactly like the actor that played the original. Also a show that happens to feature the vocal talents of a popular celebrity shouldn’t count unless an aspect of the show was based on him or her of his or hers material. Let’s start with the show that sparked this essay to begin with:

Camp Candy

Due to his inherent "Santa Factor" John Candy is an ideal candidate for child care

Premise: John Candy runs a summer camp for kids but unfortunately Candy is about as competent here as he is in all of his movies. Hilarity ensues.

Celebrity Involvement? Candy voices his avatar in the show, sings the theme song, and appeared in live-action segment that were placed in the show after its initial run. It seems that he did his best to be a part of the production as much as possible, despite that at time his acting seems forced and insincere probably due to the fact that he’s not primarily a voice actor.

Farfetched? It’s a pretty wacky cartoon, and it never forgets it’s a cartoon for sure, but even so it’s still pretty mundane. Although if Candy had started a summer camp in real I hope he wouldn’t cheap-out but on the equipment and living conditions as much as he apparently does in the cartoon.

Beta Says: This cartoon wasn’t Shakespeare, but it wasn’t offensive either and that is a victory in itself.

Grade: Pass

Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos

Roundhouse kicking your enemies is half the battle!

Premise: “Man of Action” Chuck Norris takes time off from making B-Action Movies to form a government team of specialists to fight the evil forces of The Claw and the Super Ninja.

Celebrity Involvement? Sure enough Norris voices himself and also taught the audiences moral an lessons at the end of the episode in live-action segment but, like everything else he does, he is completely devoid of actual acting ability.

Farfetched? That the government would leave the defense of our nation in the hands of an actor and his sumo wrestler friend is pretty insane. Maybe, maybe, if Norris wasn’t playing himself it would be fine but as it is I can’t buy it.

Beta Says: Despite the fact that Chuck Norris is involved with the show proper he leads still a GI Joe-like team against a Cobra-like villain and that just makes my eye twitch. Add to the fact that this cartoon was insanely terrible means the result is obvious.

Grade: Fail

Hammerman

Premise: MC Hammer Brokey McNo-Money Stanley Burrel is given magical talking shoes (?!) that transforms him into the super hero Hammerman, because why the hell not?

Celebrity Involvement? MC Hammer voices Stanly/Hammerman according to IMDB and also does the terrible terrible theme song which has some of the worst raping-exposition lyrics in cartoon history.

Farfetched? I don’t believe MC Hammer could manage a savings account correctly let alone fight crime. If he really had super powers then why couldn’t he save his music career?

Beta Says: This cartoon was so bad that I repeatedly pondered putting my head in an oven in order to make sure I never had to watch it again. I was seven years old! Anyway this cartoon is nothing more than a limb of bigger money making monster wherein MC Hammer proved to White America™ that Hip Hop wasn’t completely all about political change, racial awareness, and shooting cops and could be “safe” for them as well. See also: Vanilla Ice.

Grade: Fail

Bobby’s World

Behold the face of madness

Premise: 4-Year Old Bobby Generic lives a fairly normal life save for his amazingly vivid imagination. He has adventures both in mundane reality and in his own twisted mind.

Celebrity Involvement? The entire concept of the character was completely ripped from comedian/servant of the damned Howie Mandel. He voice both Bobby and also Bobby’s father Howard, who is clearly Howie Mandel as a cartoon character. More importantly Mandel is credited as the creator of the show which probably means that he was the man pulling the strings in the cartoon’s production. If you liked this show he’s the reason why…God help us all.

Farfetched? Despite the fact that Bobby tends to dream up all sorts of crazy crap about every five minutes or so it’s all in his little kid head and the world he actually lives in is about as Slice of Life as you get. It does seem be bit unrealistic that Mandel was able marry any real human being and have a family considering he’s suffers from a fear of germs (And is also really greasy looking) but sure enough in real life he’s married and has several kids so there you go.

Beta Says: This show is very similar to Rugrats, except that Bobby is a little older than the toddlers from that show and also might be insane, but this show actually predates the Nickelodeon cartoon by about a year. Anyway as a kid I didn’t care for this cartoon but as an adult I’ve come to decide that it’s pretty decent at the least. It has one of the best theme songs in cartoons, that’s for sure.

Grade: Pass

Also voiced by Frank Welker


Jackie Chan Adventures

Premise: An archeologist who is clearly not Jackie Chan named Jackie Chan, who is also a part-time secret agent, battles the forces of evil as he collects a variety of ancient artifacts of power (Depending on the season) in order to keep them out of the hands of evil. He is sometimes aided by a group of specialists known as the “J-Team”.

Celebrity Involvement? Jackie Chan did do some live-action scenes where he answered supposed fan made questions but that is apparently the extent of his involvement with the show. Not only did Chan not voice the title character the Animated Jackie doesn’t really resemble him that much. Add to the fact that the actual actor playing the role, James Sie, isn’t doing a great job of mimicking Chan’s voice I might actually assume that this is not a cartoon based on Jackie Chan but rather an amazing coincidence.

Farfetched? Well if “Animated Jackie Chan” just happens to share a name with the “Live-Action Jackie Chan” than I would just assume this is another ill-conceived action cartoon. Otherwise I am uncomfortable with the idea of Jackie Chan, actor/stuntman/gymnast, involved in an American Government endorsed power struggle against an army of demons.

Beta Says: This cartoon could probably being changed to Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos 2000 as the two shows are practically identical on paper except that Chan is more popular in 2000 than Norris was in 1986 so the newer series lasted much longer (Five seasons). Even with the dumb premise and Chan clearly just using it to cash a check I would probably be neutral on the show if it wasn’t for Jade, the most annoying action cartoon sidekick in history. Something of a Mary Sue insert Jade actually makes me think Scrappy-Doo was just misunderstood. If possible let’s all destroy all footage of this show so we can banish this wretched character from pop culture forever.

Grade: Fail Fail A Thousand Times Fail

Life with Louie

Premise: A young Louie Anderson deals with the pressures of growing up in a large middle class family in Wisconsin. Um…that’s it.

Celebrity Involvement? Like with Bobby’s World Life with Louie is based on the stand-up of the star of the show, in this case Louie Anderson. Anderson also provided the voice of his eight-year old counterpart as well as his insane, but genuinely good-hearted, father Andy. Also he voiced the narrator who, seemed to be Anderson himself as an adult looking back on his childhood, and is credited as a co-creator of the show meaning he, like Mandel on his show, was likely heavily involved in many aspects of the cartoon’s production.

Farfetched? Uh…no. This was Slice of Life at its best. It’s just a normal everyday (If hideously ugly) eight-year old who’s trying to find his place in the world, one mundane adventure at a time. Bullies, chores, problems with his father, etc, stuff that you or I had to deal with ourselves. Frankly this show was about everyday life for a kid.

Beta Says: Though it pains me to give Louie Anderson any credit at all I have to say that this may be the best example of a celebrity cartoon done right. This was clearly a show he wanted to do, stories he wanted to tell, and he made sure that he had as many fingers in as many pies on the show as he could. Then he ate the pies.

Pictured: Louie Anderson on the Set of Family Feud

Grade: Pass (Alright!)

So I think based on that we can see that if there’s a comedian involved it’s not going to be as bad. This was pretty fun; we’ll have to do another one of these later since there are a lot of other cartoons like these out there.


For the Saturday Morning Cartoon Show Podcast visit the SMCS Blog or the WIDR web page.

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