The Case of Keenan and Kel

This week we’re continuing our SNICK-tember with a very special guest. He’s another old friend of ours, but this is his first time appearing on the show! So let’s give a warm BCD welcome to Jaren Lewis! 

We asked Jaren to join us this week because we’re covering a childhood favorite of his, the hilarious SNICK-com Kenan and Kel! Even though the show ended 20 years ago, Kenan and Kel continues to be one of the most beloved parts of the SNICK lineup. It starred two break-out stars from All That, and followed the misadventures of Kenan Rockmore and Kel Kimble; two teens from Chicago, IL. 

Kenan and Kel had it all: an iconic theme song, quotable catch-phrases, and two lead actors with impeccable comedic chemistry. So, everybody out there go run and tell your homeboys and homegirls, it’s time for Keenan and Kel!

THEY’RE ALL THAT

  • Back in the early 1990’s, Brian Robbins, Michael Tollin, and Dan Schneider started a nation-wide search for young comedic actors. The result was the original cast of All That, premiering in 1994.
  • All That became a huge success for Nickelodeon, and this is where producers and audiences first saw the magic between Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell. The boys made the audience laugh on screen, and the cast and crew laugh off screen. They starred in sketches together as Mavis and Clavis, two grumpy old men. They delivered the lines that played at the end of many All That episodes: “Hey Clavis, Wake up, the show’s over!” “Oh Yeah, kick it!” 
    • In an Entertainment Weekly article, Kenan Thompson remarked about how similar the two were, and how they connected almost immediately. They really shined while playing Mavis and Clavis because of the off-the-cuff nature of the sketch. The boys really made the characters their own.
  • Kenan and Kel were break-out stars, and All That was a major success. Nickelodeon executives started forming plans for a new project starring the teens.

A SITCOM IS BORN

  • Writer Kim Bass was attending a birthday party for the comedian Sinbad (I feel like that’s the most 90s thing that we could ever say), when a Nickelodeon executive approached him about the possibility of a spin-off show starring Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell. 
  • At that point, Bass was well-known for creating “Sister Sister,” an ABC sitcom starring Tia and Tamera Mowry (now streaming on Netflix). Unfortunately, his name seemed to confuse this particular executive, who reportedly told him, “We’ve been looking for you. I thought you were an older white lady.” 
  • Bass agreed to meet with Thompson and Mitchell, and he immediately noticed their incredible dynamic. Bass felt that the two were so naturally funny, it almost seemed as if they had rehearsed jokes before meeting him. He thought the boys were so well matched, they could be the same person. It was a conversation with two people, who were in perfect comedic rhythm with each other. 
  • So, the show was ordered, and once the second season of All That was complete, the actors stayed at Universal Studios in Orlando, to immediately begin filming Kenan & Kel.

THE SHOW: AHH, HERE IT GOES! 

  • In August of 1996, Nickelodeon viewers met Kenan Rockmore and Kel Kimble, two mischievous best friends chasing schemes that always landed them in trouble. Kenan was the straight man, the leader that always dragged a reluctant Kel into his shenanigans. Kel was the goofy best friend, an orange-soda-loving comedic foil.
    • The writers gave Thompson and Mitchell the bare bones of their characters, but they allowed the boys to develop them further. Kenan said back in 1996, “The writers gave us a skeleton of the characters, and we put the meat on them. We bring our own shenanigans into the show.”
  • Filmed in front of a live audience at Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando, FL, Kenan and Kel was the first of many spin-offs from All That. In fact, much of Nickelodeon’s live-action programming from the late-90’s to the mid-2000’s could be traced back to All That in some form, and this was the first of all of them. 
    • Each episode opened with the boys standing in front of the theatre curtain, telling the audience (and viewers at home) what the episode would be about. This always ended with Kenan getting an idea for a new scheme, and often asking Kel to get various items and meet him somewhere. Kel then followed him off the stage crying out, “Ahh, here it goes!” 
  • According to a 1996 issue of the “Ooze News,” it took about 75 crew members and four months to create the first season of the show.
    • Although the show was created by Kim Bass, it shared the same executive producers as All That, and producer Brian Robbins was the head of the crew.
      • He oversaw the entire episode process from script writing to editing. He even directed some episodes.
    • The main writers for the first season were: Kevin Kopelow, Heath Seifert, and Dan Schneider. They were also writers for All That, and Schnieder also guest-starred as Angus, the rival to Kenan’s grocery store boss.
    • Producer Merrie Dudley managed everyone’s schedule. Each workday lasted 10 hours, and she made sure everyone was staying on task. The five-day work week ended in the taping on Friday night, with the studio audience. 
      • Could you imagine going to see Kenan and Kel on a Friday night? A childhood dream. 
    • Joel Fisher was the production coordinator, which is essentially a stage manager. Imagine Kevin from All That. Joel did everything in his power to make the show go on, which meant wearing a headset and beeper to be reached at all times.
      • I wonder how many orange soda runs he did 😉 
    • Bruce Anthony Marshal was responsible for costumes, buying or making about 20 outfits per episode! David Jordan Jr was responsible for the props and scenery, and he also designed the iconic Nickelodeon news anchor, Stick Stickly! 
  • Kenan and Kel originally aired on Nickelodeon for four seasons, from August 1996, to July 2000. After the series finished, reruns continued on Nickelodeon from 2001 to 2004.
  • The series appeared on The N (later known as TeenNick) from 2007-2009, which reinvigorated its popularity with late-90’s kids. 

THEME SONG

  • Coolio
    • All That’s theme song had the incredibly popular and talented group TLC sing their intro, so it only stood to reason that Kenan and Kel would deserve the same treatment. 
    • Who do you choose to do the intro song for an amazing comedy duo? Well Nickelodeon chose someone who had just received a Grammy for the hit “Gangsta’s Paradise.” Yes, that’s right, Coolio. 
      • In the Entertainment Weekly article Kenan said that “It was the best. He had been on All That before at that point, so we felt like we knew him. That’s how you are when you’re young, ‘Oh yeah, Coolio’s my best friend.’”
    • Instead of using an already established hit song, Coolio delivered an original theme that captured the spirit of the 90’s. The intro to the show was essentially a music video, featuring classic Nickelodeon staples like the Universal globe fixture and the big orange couch.
      • The song was named for Kel’s famous line: “Aww, here it goes,” and the lyrics introduced the show’s characters, making the tune unique to Kenan and Kel.
      • The theme song’s visuals are engaging, and honestly endearing. Here are two kids hanging out with a huge star, having the time of their lives. They look like they’re having an absolute blast, and it really reflected the tone of Nickelodeon in general. 

WHO LOVES ORANGE SODA?!? 

  • So, if you  watched Nickelodeon in the 90’s, there was one undeniable truth that absolutely everyone knew: Kel loves Orange Soda. Apparently the line came from Dan Schneider, one of the main writers on the show. It was a silly running gag, that audiences might have forgotten years later–but it was Kel’s delivery and slapstick humor that cemented it into the 90’s Nick quote hall of fame.
  • Back in the 90’s, people would stop Kel on the street and ask, “Who loves orange soda?” Even in later years, it’s something that follows him everywhere he goes. He said, “When my wife and I go out to eat, it doesn’t matter what type of restaurant we’re at, whether it’s a five-star restaurant or a burger shack, people go crazy if I don’t get an orange soda. And they’re like, ‘Oh, what are you going to drink? Orange soda?’ And they just crack up, but I enjoy it. I’m happy that people enjoy the show and are still drinking orange soda.”
  • Kel wasn’t the only character with a catchphrase. Kenan would often scream, “WHYYYY” when things went wrong. The soundbite of it often appeared at the end of each episode after the credits.

STARRING

  • Kenan Thompson as Kenan Rockmore
    • Kenan, before getting a role in All That, had a starring role in Mighty Ducks 2. Before he and Kel starred in Good Burger, he had also starred in Mighty Ducks 3 and Heavyweights. 
  • Kel Mitchell as Kel Kimble
    • We mentioned this in our episode of All That but.. He forgot his monologue he’d prepared for his audition to be on All That, but when he tripped on some studio equipment, he turned it into a joke and had the producers laughing. He has said that his Ed voice for the Good Burger sketch also came out of that audition.
    • Good Burger was his first starring role in a feature film.
    • When talking about their role model status Kel said. “It makes me feel so good to see kids laugh and smile at us. But what makes it really great is kids of different ages, backgrounds and cultures like what we do. That’s when you know you’re doing good work.”
  • Ken Foree as Roger Rockmore
    • Roger is Kenan’s father who is not afraid to ground Kel as well, even though he is not Kel’s father.
    • Ken Foree has had a lot of roles. A lot of them in spooky movies such as Dawn of the Dead, Halloween, and Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. He has also had many small roles in several tv shows like Family Matters, The A-Team, and the X-Files.
  • Teal Marchande as Sheryl Rockmore
    • Sheryl is Kenan’s mother.
    • Teal Marchande has not been in much but was in a movie called Kraa! The Sea Monster and also had a role in an episode of Martin.
  • Dan Frischman as Chris Potter
    • Chris is the owner of Rigby’s which is where Kenan works.
    • Dan Frischman’s other biggest role was in the tv show Head of the Class from 1986. He has had small parts in various tv shows like Seinfeld, Melrose Place, and Passions. 
      • There was a lot of overlap with Head of the Class and Kenan and Kel. For example, Dan Schneider wrote for both, and producer Brian Robbins also acted on Head of the Class as well! 
  • Vanessa Baden as Kyra Rockmore
    • Kyra is Kenan’s little sister who eavesdrops on his and Kel’s conversations and tries to get him in trouble. She is also hopelessly in love with Kel and would do almost anything for him.
    • Vanessa Baden has starred in a couple different tv shows. She was on the kids show, Gullah Gullah Island. She has also starred in the tv shows Fail from 2011 and Giants from 2017.

REBOOT!!

  • In 2000, Kenan and Kel ended, and the actors both left Nickelodeon. The 90’s were over (though most of us still don’t want to believe it) and the boys needed to make it on their own. At this point, they were known almost exclusively as a duo. So, they attempted to establish themselves separately. 
    • Three years later, Kenan landed a spot on SNL. He also starred in the movie, “Fat Albert.” 
    • Although Kel continued to appear in various roles after leaving the show, he seemingly drifted from the limelight. There were even rumors that he had died! 
    • Another, more recent rumor, was that Kenan and Kel had a falling out and would likely never perform together again. Many believed that this was connected to the fact that Kel had also auditioned for SNL and did not get cast. 
      • Kel reportedly told TMZ that Kenan didn’t want anything to do with him, as the two had lost touch. In 2014, Kel reached back out to Kenan, and the two became friends again.
    • In 2015, 90’s nick fans were given a great gift, when the two appeared on The Tonight Show, reenacting the famous Good Burger sketch once more. It was the first time they had appeared on screen together in 10 years. The appearance reignited talks of an All That, and even Kenan and Kel reboot!
  • Well, that was five years ago, and the duo has played a big role in the rebooted All That currently airing on Nickelodeon! 
  • So far, a Kenan and Kel reboot is just rumors and speculation, though both have noted that they would like to do it. They have the money and status to produce it, so will it happen? Who knows! 

So, why was Kenan and Kel so special? Well, much of it had to do with the chemistry between the two leads. The show had great writers, but they also knew when to step back and let the kids do their thing. Kenan and Kel seemed to run the show, introducing the audience to each episode. It felt personal, like they invited you over to see their show.

Kenan and Kel also struck a chord with audiences. Although it wasn’t the first sitcom with a black lead on Nickelodeon, it certainly was the most successful. It set the stage for more diverse stories and characters in the years to come. And, not to mention, its success also paved the way for more All That spin-offs. If Kenan and Kel hadn’t been successful, would there have been an Amanda Show

Kenan and Kel was relatable, funny, and downright entertaining. It had the BEST theme song of any 90s Nickelodeon show (don’t @ me). It was yet another show that defined the golden era of Nickelodeon. 

Thank you again to our guest Jaren Lewis for coming on the show!


SOURCES

The Ka-Case of KaBlam!

From the early 90s until the mid 2000s, children gathered around their TV sets at 8pm on Saturday nights to catch a legendary 2-hour block of programming. It ran on the network Nickelodeon, featuring shows meant for older kids, and of course, a big orange couch.

SNICK, named for “Saturday Night Nick,” featured shows like: Clarissa Explains it all, the Adventures of Pete and Pete, Are You Afraid of the Dark, and so many more. We love these shows so much, it’s hard to imagine a time when they were all airing on the same network. So, to honor a few of them, we are doing SNICK-tember! Each week will feature an episode on a SNICK TV show. The first one on our list? Ka-Blam!

Ka-Blam! was billed as “A New Kind of Cartoon Show,” that featured a mixture of different shorts in a variety of mediums. It played as a video comic book, with the animated hosts Henry and June guiding you through the pages. Ka-Blam was unlike any Nicktoon before it, a strange–yet hilarious–show that perfectly harnessed the magic of 90’s Nickelodeon. 

Today we’re covering the history of this often-forgotten gem. So, grab your popcorn, sit back, relax, and let us turn the pages for you. 

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

  • Many people consider Kablam to be a spin-off from All That, the children’s sketch comedy show that started airing two years before Kablam. 
    • Apparently an episode of All That aired the short: Action League Now before Kablam started airing in 1996.
    • I haven’t been able to track down this episode, but it seems to be a widely held belief.
    • Much like All That, Kablam was a sketch comedy show. The key difference is that the show is animated, but the concepts are similar.
  • Kablam! Premiered on October 11, 1996 as part of Nickelodeon’s plan to extend their prime-time block of entertainment past the usual 8 PM cut-off. It came out alongside another brand new Nicktoon: Hey Arnold!
  • It was created by Bob Mittenthal, Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi.
    • Bob Mittenthal was responsible for classic 90’s Nick shows like, Welcome Freshmen, and Family Double Dare.
    • Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi were, of course, responsible for The Adventures of Pete and Pete (Absolute Heroes, honestly.) 
    • The idea of the show was to fill a half hour with brand new cartoons created by artists all over the country. In a Chicago Tribune article, Will McRobb was quoted saying, “Kids love cartoons and that’s a scientific fact. We are just giving kids more cartoons in a half-hour than they are used to getting and we are giving them stories in a way that’s fresh and new.”
      • Fresh and new is right! The show featured a variety of animation styles, from traditional, to clay, to puppetry, to something they liked to call, “Chuckimation.” (Which we will get to in a minute.) 
      • Shorts like, “Life With Loopy” and “Action League Now!” pushed animation boundaries, and provided a type of entertainment alternative to what children were used to seeing.
  • Henry, June, and Mark
    • Henry and June were two cartoon best friends, and the hosts of Kablam! They provided the in-between segments that tied the wildly different animation together. Without them, the show would seem to be a mis-matched hodge-podge of animation styles. These characters provided commentary on the cartoons, and of course, “turned the page” for viewers.
    • Artist Mark Marek was hired to create the two characters specifically for the show. He operated out of a strip mall (and before that, his basement) in New Jersey. He also owned, “Crank! It! Out! Inc,” a small animation studio.
      • The creators didn’t give Marek a lot of direction, except that Henry should look unkempt–as if he had just gotten out of bed. June was a little more organized, and Henry would be the one who was always catching up to her. Marek filled in the blanks from there.
      • Marek’s studio handled all the animation for the Henry and June shorts.
      • Kevin Kay, Nickelodeon’s former Senior Vice President of Production, told a local New Jersey newspaper that Marek’s style and fairly unknown status as an animator, totally fit with the alternative sensibility of Kablam! 
      • He said, “Mark has a unique talent. We’re very anti-`house style,’ and his work looks very different from everything else that is on our air.”
      • In the beginning, Mark animated the segments by himself, and then with one other animator. By the time the show was done airing, he had a team of 14 people. The 5-minutes of Henry and June for each episode took about three weeks to complete.
    • Henry and June were break-out characters on the show, and Nickelodeon used them as hosts for a summer Nicktoons program. 
    • When Kablam! was in its fourth season, Henry and June got their own special! Nickelodeon was hoping that it could become its own spinoff show. Unfortunately, The Henry and June Show did not get picked up. You can watch the original special here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABsVEPk6gDA 

VOICE ACTORS:

  • Henry was played by 13-year-old Noah Segan.
    • Besides voice acting he also was recently in Knives Out as Trooper Wagner, Kid Blue in Looper, and an x-wing pilot in Star Wars Episode VIII-The Last Jedi.
  • Julia McIlvaine played June.
    • She has worked on several things, some live action and some voice. Examples are Netflix’s Dark, The Seven Deadly Sins, Judging Amy, and Pokemon: Twilight Wings.
  • Bert Pence voiced the general announcer.
    • He has done a few other voice acting jobs, one of the most notable being a narrator for the second episode of Documentary Now!

THE SHORTS

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  • ACTION LEAGUE NOW
    • What quickly became the most popular short on Kablam, Action League Now won over audiences with its childish humor and innovative concept. Created by the same three men who created Kablam, this short followed a heroic group of children’s dolls as they humorously saved the day.
    • The show portrayed how children play with their toys. The audience was meant to imagine an unseen child character, moving the dolls and making them talk. That’s why the events of the show are so zany, they’re meant to come from a child’s imagination. This also explains why the dolls are so miss-matched, a funny collection that you would find on the floor of a child’s bedroom.
    • It was the only segment to air every episode(not including the specials.)
      • It proved to be really popular [on All That], but we decided that it needed to be on its own stage so we made it the anchor of KaBlam!.” -Robert Mittenthal
    • Action League Now! had its own special name for its animation. They referred to it as “Chuckimation!”
      • The name came from the action of chucking the dolls around, just as a kid would do. The creators would throw the dolls, run over them with cars, drop them off the roof, and then just layed funny dialog over the footage.
    • One of the dolls, The Flesh, is notable for not having any clothing. Mittenthal said, “When I was a kid, we used to take action figures and dolls’ clothes off and throw them away. They didn’t have genitalia so it wasn’t dirty. It’s just funny. Just saying the word `naked’ makes kids laugh.”
    • The characters that make up the Action League are various modified dolls and action figures.
      • The Flesh is a refashioned Conan the Adventurer.
      • Thundergirl is a mixture of a Barbie and She-Ra.
      • Stinky Diver is a GI Joe “Shipwrecked” doll with the mask on backwards.
      • Meltman is a GI Joe Cobra figure that has been melted.
      • The Chief and The Mayor are both mixtures of different Playschool People Dolls.
    • The villainous Mayor’s voice was modeled after Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy.
    • Voice Actors
      • Scott Paulsen played the announcer and Meltman.
      • Jim Krenn voiced The Flesh, Bill the Lab Guy, Stinky Diver, and The Mayor.
      • Cris Winter played Thundergirl.
      • Collin M. McGee as The Chief.
    • There was one episode of the show called, “Rock a Big Baby” where Kiss members actually voiced their characters https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118551/ and Harry Connick Jr. played Big Baby?!?!
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  • PROMETHEUS AND BOB
    • Created by Cote Zellers, this segment consisted of claymation (although Zellers did not like this term because the characters were mostly made of foam latex).  It centered around two main characters: One is Prometheus, an advanced alien life-form who continually records his progress in trying to teach the second character Bob (a caveman) how to become evolved. It involved a lot of slap-stick humor that kept you coming back for more!
      • Cote Zellers began by directing commercials. Often there would be leftover sets and equipment that was loaned for another day. He got into the practice of taking these items to create little shorts.
      • The Prometheus and Bob sketch was born from the leftover set for a lottery commercial. He thought it would be funny if an alien tried to teach a caveman how to use fire. This would be the unaired pilot where Bob, after the fire is built, he puts Prometheus on the fire to cook and the monkey flies the saucer into the camera.
        • The producers at Kablam! really liked it but said that this original one could not be used or shown to anyone. He even had to sign a contract saying it would not be released, as it was too intense for kids to watch.
      • David Ernst would help to create the models for the following episodes as Cote would be filming the current episode. Daniel Shklair was the sound director for these shorts. It would mostly be these three men that put together this brilliant segment.
      • You can find the full interview with Cote Zellers here:
    • Each time, a script would have to be submitted for approval. Cote Zellers said that he had a rule. If there were more than 4 notes on the script he would scrap it and start a different one. He did not want to work on something that he felt was not his own.
    • There was a full-length movie planned, but it was eventually scrapped.
      • It had been slated to have David Spade and Chris Farley as Prometheus and Bob but was thrown out when Chris Farley passed away and when Cote Zellers disapproved of the script. What was left of the script was worked into “Gulliver’s Travels” starring Jack Black.
      • The final short that Zellers shot was titled “Painting” but was unaired because it was supposed to be a short before the scrapped movie.
    • In one of the most popular episodes, Tape 677 Evolution Chamber, Prometheus and Bob use the chamber to evolve themselves. Bob turns into Prometheus, Prometheus turns into a version of Bob, and the monkey turns into a modern-day human.
      • The theory behind this episode is that both characters are idiots.
      • Apparently the episode was banned in Kansas for portraying evolution.
    • Voice Actors
      • Prometheus was voiced by Cote Zellers.
        • He said a lot of swear words, which they would have to flip around in the audio.
        • Zellers still thought that it sounded like swear words.
      • Bob was also voiced by Cote Zellers.
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  • SNIZ AND FONDUE
    • Sniz and Fondue was created by Michael Pearlstein who is now known as Mike R. Brandon. 
    • Kablam! was not the first time that Sniz and Fondue appeared. It began as a pilot in 1992 with a short called “Psyched for Snuppa.” In this original pilot Snuppa and Bianca were the main focus and Snuppa was voiced by the musician Meatloaf.
    • This segment was in 3 of the 4 seasons and is done with the more traditional form of animation.
      • When the segment returned as a part of Kablam, Mike Brandon was the only one of the crew to return.
        • He would go on to be its writer, storyboard creator, artist, and voice actor for additional characters.
      • It only was on Kablam for 3 seasons because Mike Brandon’s animation studio, Funbag Animation Studios, was facing bankruptcy while they also were planning animation for the TV series, Watership Down.
    • Sniz and Fondue live with their friends Snuppa and Bianca, as the show follows the four ferrets and their adventures. Sniz is full of life and tends to get into sticky situations, and he usually pulls the anxious and reserved Fondue along for the ride.
    • Voice Actors
      • Rick Gomez as Sniz Bronkowski.
        • Those who are Nickelodeon fans may also know him as Endless Mike Hellstrom from The Adventures of Pete and Pete.
        • Among many other roles he was also Klump in Sin City.
      • Oscar Riba as Squeaky Fondue.
      • John Walsh as Snuppa.
      • Monica Lee Gradischek as Bianca.
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  • LIFE WITH LOOPY
    • This short was created by Stephen Holman. Holman began in the world of animation when he got to work in the last two seasons of Peewee’s Playhouse as a designer. Peewee’s show would greatly influence his personal style because of the mixed media approach within it. 
      • After Peewee’s Playhouse he would go on to create the short “Joe Normal” for Liquid Television on MTV. Liquid Television showcased animation, some of which would become bigger and well known like Beavis and Butthead. Joe Normal combined pixelated live action, stop motion animation, and live puppetry. 
      • In 1993 he and his wife, Josephine Huang, would create their own animation studio called (W)holesome Products Inc. 
        • It was then that he would pitch an idea to Nickelodeon called “We Are the Shrimpskins.” While this live action show would not make it far, only one developed episode, it would be the reason that Life with Loopy exists. When signing with Nickelodeon for the Shrimpskins, there was an agreement in the contract that a short of some kind would be included. This short would end up being Life with Loopy. When Shrimpskins did not continue, Life with Loopy found its perfect home within the Kablam! show.
    • The Life with Loopy segment also combined various art forms by utilizing stop motion, puppetry, and live action pieces done by the show’s creators. 
      • The tricky part with using all these forms was that everything had to match the lighting and atmosphere to make it seem as if it all went together. 
      • Stephen Holman said that doing the live action sequences really helped to break up the long hours spent on animation. It kept it fun and silly. He in fact played several of the live action characters, the most recurring ones being Charlie Chicken and the TV host Hank Hankerman who was meant to be like a David Letterman.
    • Life with Loopy was narrated by Loopy’s 12-year-old brother Larry as he took the audience through the daily life of his family–more specifically his little sister. Loopy is an adventurous young girl, who explores the world around her with imagination and wonder. 
    • The heads were made from metal which is why they have a flatter look but also made it really easy to switch out the facial features as they were magnetic.
    • Voice Actors
      • Danielle Judovits played Loopy.
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  • THE OFF-BEATS
    • The Off-Beats is a traditional animation segment created by Mo Willems, of Codename: Kids Next Door fame. 
    • It had a similar feel to that of the Peanuts TV specials and Hanna-Barbera cartoons due to its art style and jazzy soundtrack. The series itself in story and concept pays homage to the classic Peanuts, especially since the majority of the voice cast are child actors. Originally for the pilot episodes this segment was called “The Misfits” and featured a slightly less developed animation style with different voices.
    • Each segment was two to four minutes in length and are about the title group of outcasts dealing with problems from a rival group called The Populars. The ambience was filled by scoring the short with jazz. It was created mostly with just a piano, drums, and a double bass.
    • Voice Actors
      • Betty Anne Bongo voiced by Mischa Barton
        • She is the leader of the outcast of kids who has her own theme song that she herself sings “My name is Betty Anne Bongo, I sing this little song-O, I sing it all day long-O!” 
      • Tommy voiced by Mark Wagner with his yelling voice by Kevin Seal.
        • He is a self-proclaimed outsider of the group who loves his plaid coat.
      • Repunzil voiced by Trisha Hedgecock.
        • Her name makes sense due to her long floor length hair. She is also the youngest and the most naive.
      • August voiced by Dylan Roberts. 
        • August strives the most to be included with the Populars clique but remains in the status quo with his love for technology, even though most times his inventions are failures.
      • September was the only main character voiced by an adult and that was the creator himself, Mo Willems.
        • September is August’s talking dog with a sarcastic attitude. Although he is there he has no motivation to affect the plot-lines that happen. He is intelligent but yet cannot open a simple can of dog food. You may notice he and his owner August have similarities to Peabody and Sherman.
      • The three “Populars” are Tina, Beth and Billy.
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  • ANGELA ANACONDA
    • Angela Anaconda is a cut-out animated short created by Joanna Ferrone and Sue Rose.
      • These two animators were first known for creating the old mascot for the 7-Up commercials. 
        • His name was Fido Dido, a teenager with a triangular face and wavy hair. He began as a sketch that Rose made on a napkin in 1985, then became a cartoon, and finally was licensed as the mascot for 7-Up by PepsiCo.
      • Sue Rose also is known for creating the popular animated show Pepper Ann.
    • This segment only lived for two episodes within Season one of Kablam! It would, however, go on to become its own show on Fox Family Channel for 65 episodes.
    • In the shorts for Kablam! Angela Anaconda finds herself as the unpopular kid in school that is often mocked by the conventionally pretty Nannette Manoir. She then gets “revenge” on her antagonist but it is mostly just revenge that she imagines to happen. 
    • Every aspect of this segment begins as a photo reference.
      • Each object, even things like hair, is taken from three different viewpoints; the front, side, and three quarter view. All of these images are then stored within a computer database that is easily accessed. 
      • Once they had all these images they would use the program Houdini which would load these images together and switch angles to create movement by quickly changing what angle is shown. 
    • Voice Actors
      • Angela Anaconda was voiced by one of her animators Sue Rose.
      • Nannette Manoir who is the original antagonist of the short, (who is not even french) was according to Sue Rose was the name of an actual person that Joanna Ferrone knew as an adult and disliked for her similar attitude to the character. She was voiced by Ruby Smith-Merovitz.
      • Johnny Abatti is Angela’s love interest though she is only 8 years old. He is voiced by Ali Mukaddam.
      • Mrs. Brinks, her teacher that obviously favors, Nannette is voiced by Richard Binsley.
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  • LOUIE AND LOUIE SHOW
    • This short was only in one episode but featured Louie the Chameleon and Louie the Hamster who are desperately trying to get their owners to pay attention to them.
    • The story was written by Gary Baseman who would later go on to write for Disney’s TV animated show Teacher’s Pet.
    • Voice Actors
      • Louie the Chameleon was voiced by Jim Belushi.
      • Louie the Hamster was voiced by Billy West.
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  • JETCAT
    • JetCat began as an actual comic book series which makes it perfect for the Kablam! line-up. It was created by Jay Stephens and did not appear until Season 3. It would be in a total of 4 episodes. 
    • It centers around a young girl, Melanie McCay, who has an alter-ego which is a cat-themed superhero. 
    • Voice Actors
      • Melanie McCay voiced by Ashley Michelle.
      • Tod Johnson who is her best friend is voiced by Grady Larkin.
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  • RACE RABBIT
    • Created by Scott Fellows was featured in the later seasons, 3 and 4. Scott Fellows was also the creator of the popular Nickelodeon show Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide.
    • He’s a British Race Rabbit and he’s tearin’ up the tracks, he’s got a need for speed, but he’s always got time for anybody in need.
      • While helping others he also manages to always foil the plans of the Boolies (from the upper crust.)
    • This segment is live-action and uses real animals as the race rabbit. The other characters were:
      • Gabby McSHOUTS-ALOT, the race announcer.
      • The Boolies are aptly named because they are bullies that want to catch and stuff Race Rabbit for their wall.
      • Superchip M.A.X. is always trying to keep Race Rabbit on track to win the race. She never wants him to stop and help others because it could delay their winning.
        • This superchip takes inspiration from Knight Rider’s K.I.T.T.
  • SURPRISING SHORTS
    • This segment of the show would feature one of a kind shorts that would not be recurring. In the first season Henry and June would introduce them by having June pull-down Henry’s pants which would reveal boxer shorts with fun animals or flowers on them. In all the other seasons they were introduced just as any other short was, by saying it was the world premier. 
    • Some of these shorts were; Lava!, Anemia and Iodine, The Brothers Tiki, Randall Flan’s Incredible Big-Top, and Garbage Boy.

Kablam! Captured 90’s Nickelodeon in the most wonderful way. It was strange, a little gross at times, silly, and original. It was made to showcase artists that were under the radar, and bring them to the forefront. Kablam exposed audiences to stories and characters that they would otherwise never have seen. It was ambitious and entertaining–and very funny. 

I have so many fond memories of Kablam, it felt like a show that was meant just for me. And in that way, it made it the perfect show for Nickelodeon: the first kid’s network.


SOURCES:

Avatar The Last Airbender

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Water. Earth. Fire. Air. Long ago, well, 15 years ago, Nickelodeon premiered a TV show that is still considered to be one of the best animated shows of all time: Avatar the Last Airbender. In the era of Spongebob, Fairly Odd Parents, and Drake and Josh, this show stood out for its animation style, intense storyline, and unique characters. 

Although it aired on a children’s network and is widely considered to be a children’s show, Avatar appeals to many different audiences and age groups. It’s a series of breathtaking animation and detail, funny quips, and heart-felt moments. 

 

How it came to be

  • In the early 2000s, Nickelodeon was shifting its focus to include shows that explored more mythical and legendary storylines. Eric Coleman, the Vice President of Animation Development approached Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko and asked them for a show pitch. The men returned one month later with the early concepts that would become Avatar: The Last Airbender. 
  • The original Aang was a bald kid with no arrow, though he was drawn with a robot cyclops and and polar bear that both had arrows. The robot monkey was the first inspiration for Momo, while the polar bear became Appa. 
  • Inspired by documentaries about antarctic exploration, the team developed a show concept about nations of people, based on the four elements. One of the key pieces of the puzzle was how to create an action show without too much violence. So, they created the idea of bending elements instead of weaponry. They pitched the story to Eric Coleman two weeks later, and the team started working on a pilot. Bryan went to Korea for a few months to work with artists there on the initial eleven minute episode. 
  • The characters were complex, and animators would sometimes spend as much as 15 hours in the studio, trying to complete the pilot in time. Once the pilot tested well, the show was greenlit for 13 episodes!
  • The tricky part about the show being picked up meant that they now had more work to do with pretty much the same deadline. Bryan and Mike put together a large team of writers, animators, and musicians to get the job done. 

 

The Making of Avatar

  • The martial arts
    • The team was dedicated to learning traditional Chinese martial arts styles, so they sought out Sifu Kisu, a martial arts teacher who helped them develop the individual fighting styles of the four nations.
    • Another martial arts teacher, Sifu Manny, came in to help develop a different style for Toph. Because Toph is a blind character, her fighting style would be different than other characters in the show. Sifu Manny’s method was rumored to have been created by blind warriors on a remote island. 
      • The style worked for Toph because it could be achieved without having to look at an opponent. 
    • Brian and the director would take the script for each episode and choreograph the fight scenes with live actors as reference for the animators.
  • The Animation
    • The creators wanted an expansive view of the universe, with wide shots of beautiful landscapes.
    • The variety of imagery made the show much more dynamic than many other animated children’s shows at the time; with wide, medium, tight, and detail compositions that gave the viewer a strong sense of the universe
      • They wanted it to be cinematic.
  • The Music
    • Jeremy Zuckerman and Ben Wynn were the track team that created the music for the show.
  • The story
    • In a world of elemental magic, there are four elemental nations: The Northern and Southern Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, the Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads. The Avatar, the one person who can control all elements, upholds the balance of the nations. The Avatar is reincarnated into a young boy named Aang, who is reawakened after being frozen in ice for 100 years, to embark on a dangerous journey to fulfill his destiny. With the help of friends he meets along the way, he will have to fight to bring peace to the world.
    • The success of the show came from how well it was made, but what truly connected with fans was the story and characters.
    • The story was meant from the beginning to have a finite ending, with three seasons and 61 episodes.
      • No matter how upset it made creators and fans, Bryan and Mike were consistently clear that the show would end, and building toward that ending was what made the story so solid.
    • Aang
      • Played by Zach Tyler, Aang is a young monk from 100 years in the past.
        • Michael and Bryan initially imagined Aang to be from 1000 years before the events of the show, from a more advanced civilization. In early drawings, he had a futuristic staff and robot sidekick.
        • The air nation, which Aang is from, was inspired by Buddhist and Tibetan societies. 
        • Aang is a cute, fun-loving 12-year-old kid that was thrust into an impossible situation with immense responsibility. He is a skilled martial artist, and as the Avatar he is the most powerful bender in the world. But, because of his nature and upbringing, he is hesitant to use that power to hurt others.
        • Aang goes through a lot of change in the series, though he never abandons his beliefs, even when everyone tells him he should.
    • Appa
      • Voiced by Dee Bradley Baker, Appa is Aang’s best friend and flying bison. The artists were inspired by manatees and bison to draw Appa. His six legs were a direct reference to the Catbus in My Neighbor Totoro from Hayao Miyazaki.
      • Originally there were going to be 20 bison, which was broken down to just a small family of two adult bison and their calves. Eventually they settled on only one.
    • Momo
      • As we said before, Momo was originally a robot! But, his name was Momo-3. The show slowly became less sci-fi and the creators transformed a talking robot to a cross between a ring-tailed lemur and spotted bat.
      • Momo was almost dropped from the story, but instead Aang finds him at the deserted air temple as a symbol of hope for the future.
      • Momo was also voiced by Dee Bradley Baker.
    • Katara
      • Voiced by Mae Whitman, the creators considered Katara to be the heart of the show. In a parody episode called “The Ember Island Players,” the show jokes about Katara’s infatuation with hope. But, this was a big part of her character.
      • To the creators, it was important that there would be a strong female lead to appeal to young girls watching the show. The show itself was targeted to boys, but Bryan and Mike always knew that young girls would also be interested in an action-adventure epic as well.
      • Katara’s original name was Kya, but there was a video game character named Kya and it had to be changed. Her second name was Kanna before they settled on Katara. Kya is Katara’s mother’s name and Kanna is her Gran Gran.
    • Sokka
      • Played by Jack De Sena from the All That reboot, Sokka was very clearly the comic relief of the show. He was created with Katara to have a sibling rivalry, and was meant to appeal to the audience as an everyman.
      • Sokka has one of the best character arcs in the show, as he transforms from a brash kid that hides his insecurities with humor, to a confident leader of Team Avatar.
    • Toph
      • Voiced by Jessie Flower, Toph is the toughest character and one of the most powerful benders on the show. Toph comes from a rich, pampered background where she was forced to be someone she wasn’t. Although she was born blind, she learned earthbending from blind badger moles. 
      • Toph was originally a male character, until one of the head writers, Aaron Ehaz of Dragon Prince fame, suggested they make her female. Aaron argued for a long time until finally he won over the creators. The idea of taking such a huge, brash personality and placing it in a cute young girl really worked with the character.
      • Jessie Flower originally voiced a character in one episode of season one, and the creators liked her so much that they asked her back to play Toph.
      • Even though they thought including another female lead would connect to girls, the most comments about Toph came from young men who cited her as their favorite character.
        • Seugn Hyun Oh, a supervising director was quoted in saying, “She is blind, but I don’t know how to express in English, she just won.
    • Zuko
      • Voiced by Dante Bosco (Hook) Zuko is a fan favorite. He undergoes possibly the most change of any character in the show, and introduces the audience to the concept of a villain you can root for. Zuko has a complicated past that the show reveals over time, and acts with a sense of purpose. The show begins with him knowing exactly who he is, and we watch him become more and more unsure over time.
      • Originally, the show only had one villain: the Firelord. Zuko came about when Eric Coleman asked about a character that actively pursued the avatar and Zuko was born.
    • Uncle Iroh
      • Another fan favorite, Uncle Iroh was voiced by Mako and later Greg Baldwin. 
      • The creators initially thought Iroh would just be a teacher, but then they decided it would be more interesting if he were related. Aaron Ehaz described him as a man trying to enjoy his retirement but was forced to watch his nephew instead. It was Mako though, the original voice actor, who gave uncle the level of wisdom and personality that made fans fall in love with Iroh. 

 Also Starring

  • Jennie Kwan as Suki
  • Grey Griffin as Azula
    • Azula is one of the most complicated and layered characters in the show. She is a villain audiences loved to hate, and she shoots blue fire to stand out against Zuko’s orange fire. 
  • James Garrett as Avatar Roku
  • Mark Hamill as Fire Lord Ozai

The finale is a rare accomplishment, ennobling the characters and bringing a satisfying conclusion to both its world and Aang’s spiritual struggle between his beliefs and the violence the world wants from him as the Avatar.

Awards

  • Primetime-Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Animation in 2007
  • Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Cartoon in 2008
  • Peabody Award in 2009

Drink of the week:  The Jasmine Dragon

Here’s a link to the documentary:

Sources:

Hey Arnold Christmas

Hey Cassettes and welcome back to The Christmas Case Diaries 😉 Today is an extra exciting  episode because not only are we continuing with our theme or Christmas TV specials, we are also joined by a VERY special guest: Brett Wilson!

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(The beautiful art done by none other than Brett Wilson for this episode!)

Brett is an incredibly talented artist, and somewhat of an expert on classic Nickelodeon. So, we called him in to help us this week as we discuss the 1996 Hey Arnold holiday special: Arnold’s Christmas!

Tune in as we talk the brief history of Hey Arnold and why this special still brings tears to our eyes every Christmas. 

Hey Arnold History

  • The character Arnold was created by Craig Bartlett in the late 1980’s, first as a stop-motion character made from Plasticine (a clay-like material)
  • He and his wife Lisa Groening came up with the name together, and Lisa helped with other concepts of the show as well.
    • If the name Groening sounds familiar, Lisa’s brother is Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons.
  • Bartlett created three shorts in this medium, one was called, “Arnold Rides a Chair” which aired on Sesame Street! 
  • After these shorts and a run of comics in Simpson’s Illustrated magazine, Bartlett was able to sell the idea of an animated TV show about Arnold and his friends to Nickelodeon.
  • In October of 1996, Hey Arnold premiered on Nickelodeon.
    • The original pilot was a short that aired in theaters before the movie, “Harriet the Spy” and was later reworked into an episode called “24 Hours to Live” 
    • The show focused on Arnold, a 9-year-old boy growing up in the city of Hillwood, a nondescript urban setting that was a conglomerate of Seattle, Portland, and Brooklyn.
    • Arnold lives in a boarding house filled with unique and hilarious tenants, including his two loving grandparents Phil and Gertie. Arnold is a loving soul who sees the best in everyone, even his constant bully Helga Pataki. He navigates problems of everyday life with his best friend Gerald at his side, along with a cast of wonderfully strange characters. 
    • The show was a perfect blend of the relatable and the surreal; with realistic issues and settings mixed with cartoonish action and characters.
  • Later that year, the first half hour episode of the show came in the form of a holiday special called, “Arnold’s Christmas.”
    • Before the special aired, the show tended to be more light-hearted. This episode covered serious concepts that brought a new level of emotion for the show. 

Starring: 

  • Lane Toran (credited as Toran Caudell) as Arnold
    • He is an actor and musician who also voiced King Bob in the TV show “Recess” 
    • He returned for the Hey Arnold Jungle movie as Che, a handsome young man that falls for Olga (Helga’s older sister). 
    • He is also directing and starring in an upcoming film called “Getaway Girls” 
  • Francesca Marie Smith as Helga
    • She also voiced characters in “Recess” including Ashley B, and did various voices for the VeggieTales TV series.
    • Francesca voiced Helga all the way through Hey Arnold’s initial run and even reprises her role in 2017 for The Jungle Movie.
  • Jamil Walker Smith as Gerald
    • After playing Gerald for the run of the show, he went on to have a recurring role in Stargate Universe. He has found steady work as an actor and will also be in the movie “Getaway Girls”
  • Tress MacNeille as Grandma Gertie
    • An incredibly talented voice actor, Tress MacNeille is known for playing Dot in the animaniacs, and has provided voices for The Simpsons and Futurama. She has a recurring role as Daisy Duck in many Disney projects.
  • Dan Castellaneta as Grandpa Phil 
    • Hey Arnold has a lot of ties to the Simpsons, and Dan Castellaneta is one of them. He has been voicing Homer Simpson since 1989
  • Baoan Coleman as Mr. Hyunh
    • He played Mr. Hyunh for 28 episodes of the show
    • He also had a supporting role in Rambo: First Blood Part II, but Hey Arnold was his last acting credit
    • According to IMDB, Baoan Coleman was at the actual fall of Saigon, which is depicted in the episode when Mr. Hyunh hands Mai to a soldier on a helicopter. I can’t find other sources to back this up, but I thought it was interesting to mention
  • Hiep Thi Le as Mai
    • She acted in a few things since Hey Arnold, including the TV movie “Cruel Intentions”
    • She was born in Vietnam and was separated from her family during the war, similar to her character Mai in the show.
  • Vincent Schiavelli as Mr. Bailey
    • A well-known and respected character actor, he also voiced Pigeon Man in another popular episode of Hey Arnold.
    • He played Lazarus in “Bride of Boogedy” which we talked about earlier this year, he was a teacher in the John Cusack movie, “Better of Dead” 

Arnold’s Christmas: The Story

  • The story for Arnold’s Christmas was created by Craig Bartlett, Steve Viksten, and Joe Ansolabehere. Steve Viksten wrote the episode.
  • After names have been drawn for the boarding house Secret Santa, Arnold is distraught to find that he has been given Mr. Hyunh, a member of the boarding house that he knows very little about
    • In this scene, Grandma wishes everyone a happy Thanksgiving. This started the gag in the show that Grandma always mixes up the holidays. Watching this with Marci, it confused her about the timeline and made her think that the episode jumped ahead to Christmas shortly after.
  • Desperate to figure out the right gift, Arnold visits Mr. Hyunh and asks him about his life. Mr. Hyunh tells Arnold a harrowing tale about his life in another country, and a war that separated him and his infant daughter. Mr. Hyunh came to the US in search of her, but has yet to find her. 
    • This episode was the first of the show to feature a real life event: the Vietnam. They never explicitly say which war or Mr Hyunh is referring to, but images and key phrases would indicate Vietnam. For example, Mr Hyunh says, “there was a war in the north,” and we see images of him running past a ripped American flag. The war was between North and South Vietnam, and involved the US as we were a principal ally of south Vietnam. 
    • When Saigon fell, helicopters did in fact take refugees out of the city, just like in the show. The government wasn’t liberated until 1995, about 20 years later and Mr Hyunh says it took him 20 years to get out of the country. 
    • This episode is often lauded for “giving kids credit” and focusing on serious subject matter in a children’s TV show, and later on the show mentions Vietnam again when we find out that Gerald’s dad fought in the war as well.
  • Arnold is now inspired to make Mr. Hyunh’s dream of seeing his daughter a reality, and springs into action. Arnold heads to the federal office of information, and he and Gerald beg a man named Mr. Bailey to locate Mr Hyunh’s daughter. Mr. Bailey tells the boys that he would do so, if they finish his Christmas Eve shopping. So, the boys set out to get everything on the list.
    • Mr. Bailey is very likely a reference to George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the famous character played by Jimmy Stewart  
  • Somewhere else in Hillwood, we see Helga trying to find a gift for her secret crush: Arnold. She eavesdrops on the boys and discovers what they are trying to do. The last item on their list is a pair of incredibly rare Nancy Spumoni snow boots that Helga also wants for Christmas. 
    • In the Hey Arnold universe, there’s a character named Dino Spumoni who is their version of Frank Sinatra. In real life, Frank Sinatra had a daughter named Nancy who sang the song, “These Boots are Made for Walking.” The snow boots are an obvious reference to Nancy Sinatra. 
  • After Arnold and Gerald return to Mr. Bailey with all the items except the snow boots, Mr. Bailey refuses to help them (what a terrible person). The boys walk away, feeling dejected.
  • Helga heads home to her own family’s Christmas, and her mother gives her a Christmas gift. They are the Nancy Spumoni snow boots! Helga thanks her mom and runs out into the snow with joy and excitement. She dances around in happiness until she remembers that Arnold needs the snow boots as well. 
    • Up until this point in the episode, Helga has repeatedly said that Christmas is all about presents and that she hopes her parents “didn’t screw up” her gift. When her mom hands her the boots, she tells her that she stood in line for hours to get them. This is especially poignant because Helga has a troubled home life, with parents that are somewhat neglectful and much more caring toward her sister.
  • Helga brings Mr. Bailey the boots and begs him to stay and find Mai. She gives a speech about the true meaning of Christmas, and points out that not only would Mr Hyunh and his daughter not be reunited, but his actions would destroy Arnold’s faith in miracles.
  • On Christmas morning, Arnold is about to apologize to Mr Hyunh for not having a gift, when the doorbell rings and Grandpa lets in Mai. Arnold is blown away, confused as to how this happened and Gerald tells him it must’ve been a Christmas angel.
  • The episode ends with Helga, standing alone in the snow after leading Mai to the boarding house. The image drives home the concept of giving for the sake of giving, and the audience could never question how much Helga cares for Arnold. Never once in the show does she ever mention what she did for Arnold, Mr. Hyunh, and Mai. She thought Arnold was naive to believe in miracles, until she became the miracle herself. 

Questions/Opinions

  • Even though the subject matter is intense, the episode still makes room for laughs. What’s your favorite part of the special? 
  • This special deals with very serious subject matter for a children’s TV show. Do we think that a show today would cover something so intense? 
  • What do we think was the benefit of talking about these issues? 
  • This is an emotional episode for a lot of people! What part hits you in the feels the most?

Thank you Brett Wilson for joining us!  You can see some of his work here; https://www.instagram.com/brettwilsonart/?hl=en

https://www.redbubble.com/people/BrettWilsonArt

Sources

IMDB

Salute Your Case

Hey Cassettes! Here are the show notes that we wrote while researching our episode on Salute Your Shorts.

If you’re unfamiliar, Salute Your Shorts was a live-action Nickelodeon show in the early 1990s. It followed a group of young kids and their shenanigans at summer camp.

A brief history 

  • Salute Your Shorts was a Nickelodeon TV show that aired from 1991-1992
    • It was based on a book called “Salute Your Shorts: Life at Summer Camp,” written by Steve Slavkin and Thomas Hill
      • Slavkin went on to write the show as well, after he pitched the idea to Nickelodeon; They were looking for kid-centric show ideas for the network
      • The book and the show don’t have a lot of overlap; essentially the only similarity is the title and the theme of going to summer camp
    • Here’s a quote from The A/V Club “it was a show built on characters, ostensible stereotypes that, through clever writing and earnest performances, were able to (mostly) transcend their quirks to offer an identifiable portrait of adolescence”
    • According to The Los Angeles Times, it originally aired on July 4th, 1991
    • The show lasted for two seasons, each with 13 episodes, and its final air date was June 30th, 1992
    • After Nickelodeon green-lit a pilot episode, they sat on the pilot for over a year. By the time the show was picked up, the kids were too old to play the parts and had to be re-cast. All of the actors had to re-audition with a couple of them getting cast in the regular show
    • The theme song
      • The theme song was written by Ed Alton who also composed theme songs for Head of the Class, The Single Guy, Suddenly Susan, Nikki, My Boys, and Whitney
      • It’s the only theme song in history with the word “fart”
        • Robin’s brother got in trouble in school for singing it
      • A lot of the acting in the theme song was improved by the kids
    • The show was cancelled mostly for logistical reasons, the studio wanted to relocate the kids after two seasons and most of them were already settled in Los Angeles where the show was being filmed on location
    • Actors & Guest Stars
      • When Slavkin was tasked with casting the show, he wanted kids that seemed as natural as possible. There wasn’t much hair or make-up on the set, and when one of the actresses had to get braces, Slavkin wrote it into the show
        • A lot of the kids had no previous acting experience
      • The show starred:
        • Kirk Bailey as camp counselor “Ug” Lee
          • Kevin “Ug” Lee is the main counselor and the only recurring adult on the show. In the first episode, Donkleylips starts the chante “UG-LEE” with the other campers which is where his nickname comes from
          • Kirk Bailey has done a lot of voice work since the show, such as additional voices for Bumblebee, Frozen, and Big Hero 6
        • Danny Cooksey as Bobby Budnick
          • Budnick starts out as the camp bully, picking on the new kid in the first episodes of the show, though he matures a little more over time
          • Danny Cooksey was in other Nickelodeon titles throughout the 90s. He did an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark, but his crowning achievement as an actor was when he played “Stoop Kid” in Hey Arnold
        • Michael Bower as Eddie “Donkeylips” Gelfin
          • Donkeylips is best friends with Budnick, but he’s more like his lackey; He’s known as being one of the bullies, and for being a smelly camper
          • Michael Bower was one of the original actors in the first version of the pilot episode, and had to re-audition for the role
          • Before Salute Your Shorts, he had roles in The Wonder Years and Doogie Houser
        • Venus DeMilo as Telly Radford
          • Telly is the “tomboy” of the girls’ bunk. She’s less shallow than Dina, often clashing with her about the importance of fashion and good looks
          • Venus DeMilo went on to have roles in Family Matters, Sister Sister, Smart Guy, and The Bold and the Beautiful
        • Megan Berwick as Z Z Ziff
          • Z Z is the resident sweet girl, always kind to the other campers despite what they do to her
          • Berwick didn’t do much acting after the show, though she was in a TV movie called, “The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom”
        • Tim (or Trevor) Eyster as Eugene “Sponge” Harris
          • Sponge was the camper known for absorbing information (you know, like a sponge)
            • He’s bullied by the Budnick and Donkeylips, though he becomes friends with them as the series progresses
          • Tim Eyster changed his name to Trevor and has acted before and after the show; his last credit was a short in 2015
        • Heidi Lucas as Dina Alexander
          • Dina is the “girly” girl in the camp, preferring to do nails than play sports; she’s also known for being rich
          • Heidi Lucas has acted in a few things since the show, though her last IMDB credit is from 1996. She was on a science fiction show called Hypernauts
        • Erik MacArthur as Michael Stein
          • Michael is a character that only appears in the first season of the show. He is the main focus of many of the episodes in the first season like “Michael Comes to Camp,” “Brownies for Thud Mackie”
          • Michael Stein’s last acting credit was in 2007; he’s done bit parts since the show
        • Blake Soper as Ronnie Foster Pinsky
          • At the beginning of season 2, Michael has contracted chicken pox and will not be returning to camp. In his place, a scheming ans street-smart character named Pinsky is intro
          • He also was Joey the Rat on Boy Meets World
        • Steve Slavkin as Dr. Kahn
          • The creator of the show lent his voice to play the unseen Dr. Kahn, to fill up space on the show. Slavkin says he made up most of his lines on the spot and was just meant to fill space between shots
        • Christine Kavanaugh
          • The late actress that voiced Chuckie and Oblina played Ug’s girlfriend Mona
  • Favorite Episodes
    • The Ghost Story
      • Zeke the Plumber is arguably the most famous episode of the show
    • The Radio Call-in Contest
      • In this episode, Sponge gets help from other campers so he can answer the 1000$ question on a radio call-in contest
    • Mail Carrier Mona
      • When Ug’s girlfriend dumps him, the kids in camp set him up with Mona the mail carrier
    • Park Ranger Mona
      • Mona returns in this episode and is now a park ranger. Ug has to improve the camp to make sure they pass inspection
    • Budnick Loves Dina
      • In this two-part episode, Budnick falls for Dina and they begin to date

Fun Facts

    • No one really knows for sure what an awful waffle is–they never actually do it in the show. It involves maple syrup and a tennis racket, but that’s all we know!
    • They’re making a documentary about Salute Your Shorts, it’s in pre-production! We’ll be sure to let everyone know about it once it comes out!
    • The way the show was shot was groundbreaking
      • In “Slimed, an oral history of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age,” producer Courtney Conte was quoted in saying that Slavkin had directors push the show in terms of directorial style. It was a one-camera show that was shot on location, versus many other kids shows of the time which were shot on sound stages with laugh tracks
      • It was also groundbreaking that the show was scored; generally the music in the show was classical and was added to scenes to increase suspense or excitement
        • The guitar rifs in some episodes were performed by Danny Cooksey’s band
      • The Show was shot at Franklin Canyon Park, and Franklin lake which is the same place that some scenes of the Andy Griffith show was shot!
        • AND, it was shot at a real camp
    • Danny Cooksey had Michael Bower and Kirk Bailey as groomsmen in their wedding
    • Donkeylips was originally the bully for the show, but after the year between the pilot and the show started filming, Danny Cooksey had gone through a growth spurt and was changed to be the camp bully
    • Even though the show stopped airing new episodes in 1992, it continued to be one of the most popular on the network. It was among the top 15 highest-rated, regularly scheduled basic-cable series in 1996 (four years after it ended)

The Spongebob Square-Case

On May 1st, 1999 an sea sponge applied to work at The Krusty Krab as a fry cook. Showing off his unrelenting optimism and cooking skills, he won the hearts of Mr. Krabs (his future boss) and children everywhere. Now 20 years later, Spongebob Squarepants is a cultural icon.

Spongebob Squarepants changed Nickelodeon and cartoons forever. He was a beacon of humor in times of struggle, giving Americans reasons to laugh. The world was in need of his talents, and Spongebob was READY.

  • Spongebob’s History
    • Spongebob was created by Marine Biologist Steve Hillenburg
    • Originally the show was to be called Spongeboy Ahoy!
    • Because Spongeboy was trademarked by a cleaning supplies company, they were forced to change the name
    • Hillenburg wanted the word “sponge” in the title because he thought children might confuse him with cheese
      • “Oh great, now the talking cheese is gonna preach to us”
    • Steve Hillenburg first developed the idea from an unpublished comic called “The Inter-Tidal Zone that developed in the late 1980s
    • He worked on Rocko’s Modern Life after studying animation
      • After the cancellation of the show, he began developing Spongebob and asked Tom Kenny who voiced Heffer on Rocko’s Modern Life to do voicework
    • The big pitch
      • Derek Drymon was the creative director of Spongebob and was the voice acting coach for the pilot
      • Together Drymon and Hillenburg made the pitch for the show
        • Hillenburg and Derek Drymon wore Hawaiian shirts and blared beach music while pitching
        • They created a tiny model of Bikini Bottom with all the characters and gave a description of what they wanted the characters to be
        • They pitched the pilot “Help Wanted” to Nickelodeon Executives and had to excuse themselves because they needed to compose themselves
        • The executives decided immediately that they wanted to do the show
  • The Voices
    • Tom Kenny
      • Spongebob
      • Gary The Snail
      • The French Narrator
      • Also known for:
        • Adventure Time
        • The PowerPuff Girls
        • Rocko’s Modern Life
  • Bill Fagebakke
    • Patrick
    • Also known for:
      •  Coach (1989-1997)
      • How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014)
  • Roger Bumpas
    • Squidward
    • Also known for:
      • Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
        • Doc Oc
      • Bit parts in Disney films and TV shows
  • Clancy Brown
    • Mr. Krabs
    • Also known for:
      • CTR
        • Dr. Neo Kortex
      • Schooled
        • Mr. Crosby
      • Highlander
      • The Shawshank Redemption
        • Byron Hadley
  • Douglas Lawrence Osowski “Mr. Lawrence”
    • Plankton
    • Larry the Lobster
    • The Artist at Sea
    • Fred (My Leg Guy) Although Fred has been played by many different actors
    • Also known for:
      • Rocko’s Modern Life
        • Fillbert
  • Carolyn Lawrence
    • Sandy Cheeks
    • Also known for:
      • Jimmy Neutron
        • Cindy Vortex
  • The Flying Dutchman
    • Bryan Doyle Murray
    • Also known for:
      • National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
      • Caddyshack
  • Jill Talley
    • Karen
    • Also known for:
      • Mr. Show with Bob and David
      • The Loud House
    • *Karen is played by Tom Kenny’s wife, and Karen is the name of Steve Hillenburg’s wife

Source Material

  • “Zen and the Art of Writing” essay collection by Ray Bradbury and used the noun game
    • Everyone wrote 3-6 nouns on a paper and placed them in a hat; when they pulled one out, they did a story based on that noun
  • Literary References
    • “Squeaky Boots” is based off the story “The Tell-tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe
    • “Club Spongebob” references “Lord of the Flies”
      • The Magic Conch Shell is similar to the Magic 8 Ball used by the characters in the novel
    • “Frankendoodle” references “Frankenstein” when Spongebob creates DoodleBob
  • Other References
    • Some references mentioned in this episode:
      • Toulouse-Lautrec reference:
      • In “Something Smells” Spongebob hides in his house with a mask on, referencing Phantom of the Opera. We wanted to find you a clip, but we couldn’t find a good one
  • Spongebob’s personality came from Jerry Lewis, PeeWee Herman, and Stan Laurel
  • Awards
    • Won Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Special Class Animated Program
    • British Academy Children’s International Award in 2007
    • Nominated 34 Kid’s Choice Awards and won 27
    • Best animated television production Annie Award 2005

 

Thank you, Steve Hillenburg!

The Case of Pete and Pete

Hey Sandy! This week we took a trip back in time to Wellsville, USA and visited with our favorite red-headed brothers! If you get a minute, sit with us a while and listen as we chat about Pete Wrigley, his brother Pete, Ellen, Artie (the strongest man in the world), Mom, Dad, Mom’s plate, and Petunia.

The Adventures of Pete and Pete is a beloved 90s Nickelodeon show with a cult following. This week we sat down to discuss what made this show so special!

petenpete

While we researched for this episode, we found A LOT of great resources. For example, we referenced this video by PushingUpRoses

We also highly suggest visiting any of the articles put out by The A/V Club on this show.

If you are interested in watching the show, there are episodes on YouTube! You can also buy seasons 1 & 2. Season 3 has never been released on DVD. We linked to a petition to have it released here.

One of the most important and special aspects of the show is the music. Here is a link to the theme song:

Episodes mentioned:

  • Yellow Fever
    • Big Pete is in for the ride of his life as he and his classmates embark on a school field trip with their unstable bus driver Stu Benedict
  • What I Did on my Summer Vacation
    • Big Pete and Ellen wonder about the mysterious town ice cream man, Mr. Tastee as summer comes to an end in Wellsville
  • The Call
    • On the hottest day of the year, a remote phone booth will not stop ringing. It’s been ringing for almost three decades and no one wants to answer the call
  • Inspector 34
    • Little Pete is determined to meet his guardian angel: the man who inspects his underwear. Once they’re together, he wants to become perfect just like his hero.
  • Grounded for Life
    • Little Pete is grounded after destroying his dad’s prized possession: his lawn. Will he be able to escape the house and see the fireworks on the Fourth of July?
  • Don’t Tread on Pete
    • Big Pete discovers that he forgot to study for a huge test on the revolutionary war! While he spends the last minutes of lunchtime trying to cram, little Pete is fighting for freedom in gym class.
  • Nightcrawlers
    • Little Pete doesn’t understand why he needs to go to bed. So, he and his friends resolve to stay up all night for several nights in a row, just to see if bedtime is necessary.

A Case Submitted for your Approval

Premiering in Canada on October 31st 1990, “Are You Afraid of the Dark” was a horror anthology series for children. It aired on Nickelodeon until 1996 and followed a group of kids that gathered once a week to tell stories. They referred to themselves as “The Midnight Society.”

With stories that ranged from terrifying to downright silly, this show was a fan favorite on the SNICK line-up. This week we discuss this 90s classic and our hopes for the upcoming film set to release this October.

BDC-AYAD_2

*We mention the screenwriter for “Are You Afraid of the Dark” (2019) as the screenwriter for “It” (2017). His name is Gary Dauberman and he is credited as one of three screenwriters for “It” (2017).

Main Characters of the original series 1990-1996:

  • Gary- Played by Ross Hull, Gary was the lovable leader of the Midnight Society. A magic fan (his dad owned a magic shop,) Gary incorporated magic into his stories. For example, he created the character Sardó, a magic shop owner who sells questionable merchandise to unsuspecting kids. Gary showed romantic interest in Sam, who seemed to reciprocate those feelings.
  • Frank- Jason Alisharan played this resident 90s bad boy. Frank told great stories and gave us the incredible Dr. Vink! He also had a thing for Sam but those feelings were never returned
  • Kiki- All the women of the Midnight Society were bada**, but none more than KiKi. Portrayed by Jodie Resther, her tough attitude and spooky stories made her a lovable member of the group.
  • Betty Ann- The quiet, mysterious Betty Ann always told the strangest stories. Her stories weren’t scary in the conventional way, but they had a way of giving you an unsettling feeling. She was played by Raine Pare-Coull
  • Kristin- One of the original cast members, Kristin was played by Rachel Blanchard. She would often dress up for her stories. One story she told, “Locker 22” is one Marci listed as a favorite.
  • David- Played by Nathaniel Moreau, David was an early member that left the same time as Kristin. This lead us as kids to believe that they were siblings, but in the show they just happen to move away at the same time.
  • Eric- Played by Jacob Tierney, Eric is a character only in the first season of the show. He disappeared in Season 2 without an explanation. He only told two stories, one of them is considered by many to be one of the scariest in the show’s history: The Tale of the Dark Music.
  • Sam- Played by JoAnna Swisher, Sam became a quick favorite. She told some of our favorite stories (The Long-ago Locket.) Originally introduced as a friend of Betty Ann’s, Sam surprised the group by being a girl (girls can also wear flannel and be named Sam.)
  • Tucker- Gary’s little brother, played by Daniel DeSanto. Tucker replaced David from the earlier seasons and later took over as the leader of the Midnight Society when the show returned for seasons 6 & 7. In “The Tale of the Silver Sight,” we learn that Tucker and Gary’s grandfather started the Midnight Society.
  • Stig- Played by Codie Wilbee, Stig was a friend of Tucker’s and a replacement for Frank (though he could never replace Frank in our hearts). He clashed with the rest of the group, and had to tell two stories before getting accepted.

*We only covered episodes from the original 5 seasons. Nickelodeon created a revival show that lasted two seasons under the same name in 1999. We do not consider this the same show because it had different writers, actors, and directors. It was more like a soft reboot.

  • Scariest episodes
    • Midnight Madness (Season 2, Episode 2)
      • Dr. Vink offers a struggling theatre a chance for salvation by letting them show his mysterious vampire film. The film, a version of Nosferatu, draws in big crowds.
    • Dead Man’s Float (Season 5, Episode 1)
      • A young nerdy boy discovers a hidden pool at his school and attempts to use it in order to impress a girl. After the girl convinces the school to reopen the pool, the kids soon discover its dark past. 
      • This episode is notable for its effects. The antagonist has incredible make-up and costume design.
    • Dark Music (Season 1, Episode 11)
      • After moving into a house left to his mother by an uncle they never knew, a young boy discovers a dark presence in his basement. The evil force responds to music and will give him whatever he wants. The catch? He needs to feed it. 
    • The Lonely Ghost (Season 1, Episode 3)
      • A young girl named Amanda spends summer with her snotty cousin. In order for her to be accepted into her cousin’s friend group, she must spend the night in the creepy house next door. After just a few minutes, Amanda discovers there’s more in the house than just dust. 
    • Ghastly Grinner (Season 4, Episode 9)
      • An aspiring artist accidentally brings to life a creepy comic book antagonist known as “The Ghastly Grinner.” 
    • The Doll Maker (Season 3, Episode 5)
      • Melissa finds out that her best friend has gone missing (as if that isn’t traumatizing enough.) After spending time in her house, she discovers that her friend is not missing but instead has been turned into a doll.
    • The Night Shift (Season 5, Episode 13)
      • A shape-shifting green-skinned vampire (more like a wraith but still has a coffin?) has been sucking the life force out of a hospital staff. It’s up to Amanda and Colin, two teenagers, to save the lives of everyone working the night shift.
      • This was the final episode of the original series. The story was told by Sam and ended the show on a spooky note. The story also had romantic themes because Gary revealed in the show’s beginning that he and Sam do have feelings for each other but she’s not interested in dating him.
    • Quicksilver (Season 3, Episode 11)
      • Aaron and Doug just moved into a new house. They quickly discover it is haunted by two ghosts. One is an evil poltergeist. The other is a spirit of a young girl who died trying to trap the poltergeist. After Doug falls ill and gets captured by the evil spirit, it’s up to Aaron to save his little brother.
  • Favorite Episodes
    • The Dangerous Soup (Season 3, Episode 13)
      • Dr. Vink appears again but this time with a SOUP-er delicious soup.  Two young workers discover the dark secret to how this soup is made.
    • Dream Girl (Season 3, Episode 10)
      • A teenage boy working at a bowling alley begins to be haunted by a female spirit after unknowingly putting on her school ring.
    • Bookish Babysitter (Season 3, Episode 6)
      • Books come to life to show a young boy that they can be just as exciting as television.  As he begins each book and tosses it aside the villains come to life and he must imagine his own ending in order to put things right again.
    • The Long-ago Locket (Season 4, Episode 2)
      • On his way home from school, Jimmy gets transported back into 1775. He meets a doomed minuteman named William and Jimmy soon discovers that he must help him escape the red coats so William can stop the woman he loves from marrying another man.
    • Laughing in the Dark (Season 1, Episode 2)
      • A fun house burns down and after being rebuilt is said to be haunted by the clown Zeebo who perished in the fire.  A teenager named Josh is dared to steal Zeebo’s red clown nose to prove that it is not haunted.  He soon finds out that the stories may be true as strange things begin to happen.
    • Midnight Ride (Season 3, Episode 1)
      • The classic tale of the headless horseman from Sleepy Hollow is told through
    • Whispering Walls (Season 2, Episode 8)
      • It’s a full moon on leap year when a babysitter named Louise gets lost on the way home from the park with the two children named Andrew and Claire. She enters a mysterious mansion to get help, but doesn’t return. It’s up to Claire and Andrew to save their babysitter from the terrors inside.
    • Locker 22 (Season 2, Episode 3)
      • An immigrant who attends a new school finds that her locker transports her to a past time where she discovers that the former occupant of the locker had passed away due to a science lab gone wrong.  She and a friend must then figure out what went awry.

Links referenced in this Case:

This is the JonTron video referenced in the episode. He covers the first two episodes (shown on the DVD) and the Tale of the Dark Music.

This is the Are You Afraid of the Dark intro for the pilot episode which aired in Canada on October 31st, 1990.

This the classic intro that Adam refers to as the reason he never watched the show as a kid.

And of course, I feel the Fear! This iconic music video aired on Nickelodeon after a special “Midnight to Midnight” marathon. We don’t know when it first aired on Nickelodeon, but Robin still has the VHS recording of the marathon with this video.

Sources: IMDB