Tag Archives: Galaxy High

The Seedy Adult Underworld of 80s Family Entertainment

I know every generation says this about the decades when they came of age, but growing up in the 80s was seriously a whole different world; like living on another planet at times.  There was a lot more going on when it came to entertainment aimed at kids in terms of adult themes and material that surely went over the head of most of the viewing audience.  Looking back I love this and really appreciate that the creators and writers didn’t dumb down the content, even if some of it might stray a little further towards “adult” than many people might realize. You definitely saw this in a cartoon like Ren & Stimpy (which granted was the early 90s, but was the culmination of the freedom the previous decade expressed), which constantly toed the line of what was considered decent for a kid’s show.  Heck, I’ve mentioned before that I think John Kricfalusi is very probably the guy responsible for animating anthropomorphic penis aliens into the background sequences in the Saturday morning cartoon Galaxy High (particularly in the first and second episodes)…

Galaxy High penis creature 2

I was having a conversation with a co-worker the other day about catching up with some 80s flicks that they hadn’t seen in over 20 years, in particular Ghostbusters and the Goonies.  The topic turned to the awkward dream sequence featuring a sex scene between Dan Aykroyd’s Ray Stanz and spectral “presence”.  I guess you could call it oral innuendo, but the background behind that sequence is pretty plain.  Ray banged a ghost.  It’s one of the interesting aspects of reading the original Richard Mueller novelization

Ghostbusters Novelization

In the book (which is based on the Aykroyd/Ramis screenplay) we learn that, that dream sequence was actually from a real sequence planned for later in the film.  Right after Ray and Winston are driving through the city talking about the end of the world, when the two go to Fort Detmerring looking for a spook. They split up and Ray stumbles upon a room that is a replica of a revolutionary war officer’s barracks. He finds a uniform and puts it on, lays on a bed and promptly falls asleep. When he wakes, the ghost they were looking for is about to go to town on his junk. Apparently this sequence was largely cut, but I’m betting none of them wanted to ditch the blowjob joke, so they sandwiched it into the montage (and it also explains the old war uniform Ray is wearing beyond the fact that they morphed the scene into a dream.)  What’s even weirder is that this is actually the culmination of a plot thread in the book where Ray is both lonely and changing his feelings about catching the ghosts. Since Peter is courting Dana and (in the book) Egon and Janine are becoming an item, Ray is looking to blow off some steam, and the experience with the ghost is just what he was looking for. Also, there’s a bit with Ray thinking about how it might be wrong to catch these ghosts just to jail them in the containment unit, and when he awakes to his spectral date-night he wonders if maybe some ghosts are good.

The author, Mueller, actually expands the sexuality in the novel here and there. For instance, everyone thinks about sex to one degree or another, but if I’m used to dealing with a character where this is never brought up, say the Librarian in the opening sequence of Ghostbusters, then when she starts “thinking” about how she feels guilty for seeking out all kinds of ancient kinky woodcuts featuring taboo sexual practices in the library’s non-public collection, well, I get a little weirded out. As far as I can tell, the librarian character in the script is slightly different; she’s written to be rotund and in her mid to late twenties, but for all intents and purposes the scene in the script is almost shot for shot what we’ve come to know and love in the final film. Mueller, though, felt the need to paint her as a bit more sad and depraved, which for an incidental character is pretty weird. This sort of thing pops up here and there in the novel, including in the scene where we’re first introduced to Dana as she gets out of a cab and goes into her building. The narrative is fractured into a bunch of perspectives as a handful of people on the street take notice of her and give their two cents. One of these includes an elderly man walking his dog who glances at her and thinks, “…how long (has) it been since it’s been long…

This is actually a trend in 80s era novelizations, and for some movies that might be surprising, like say, the Goonies book

Goonies Novelization

Now you may be asking what could possibly be sexualized in the Goonies, I mean it’s not like there’s a secret love scene between Chunk and Sloth right?!?  Well, Sloth love Chunk, but that’s actually (and thankfully) not explored in the novel, but that didn’t stop author James Kahn from evoking electricity-induced orgasms.  Say what?!  Um yeah.  So in the wishing well sequence, at the end, after Andy has sent up the bucket empty, all the kids realize that they’re covered in leeches. Data has a bright idea and end up strapping two wires to a 20-volt battery. He sticks the wires in the water by his feet sending a light electrical charge through his body that’s lethal enough to kill the leeches. He does this for the rest of them, and afterwards, James Kahn tags on a small scene that is, well, almost obscene. After getting the shock, Andy and Stef are standing off to the side, and Kahn describes them as having “…limp smile(s) and small sigh(s)…” Then Stef says to Andy, “I got all tingly – just my luck, I’m in love with a pond!” After which the following passage appears: ‘It annoyed Andy, for some reason, I don’t know, like someone had made her feel good and she didn’t want to…’ Then Andy hauls off and slaps Data saying “Don’t-you-ever-try-that-again-with-me-Buster!” What the hell! Did Kahn actually suggest that Andy and Stef had orgasms from the electric shock!?!  Yeah, yeas he did.

What I’m really curious about is how much of this was in the original shooting script.  I know the leech sequence was in the script (as it made it’s way into both version of the book, including the leaner kid’s version) and was shot and deleted (and has sadly been lost to time), but how much of the subtly was in the actual film versus something that Kahn added for the book.  On the one hand, looking back this is so weird and out of place in the story, yet I have to remind myself that I was reading about pre-teen and teen orgasms in Judy Blume books when I was 7 years old!

There had to be flicks that were completely pure and free from blowjobs and sexual innuendo though right?  I mean you’d never see any of that in E.T. The Extra Terrestrial right?!  Wrong.  Again, taking a look at the novelization by William Kotzwinkle we get a much darker depiction of the story than what would eventually end up on film (well, I’m assuming the following sequences weren’t shot…)

ET Novelization

There’s a sequence in the novel where Elliot, Steve and Gertie’s mother Mary (played by an exasperated Dee Wallace in the film) is so lonely and lost in her own mind that she fantasizes about disappearing from life and, believe it or not, masturbation. (See page 17; the innuendo is there.) She’s also simultaneously dreading the world her children have to face, wondering if they’ll succumb to overdosing on drugs, all while listening in on them playing a campaign of Dungeons and Dragons in the kitchen.  There’s also portions of the book where E.T. becomes weirdly stalker-ish and longs to bond with Mary, starring at her from the closet, thinking about how he could fulfill her needs.  E.T. even gets pretty downright creepy in the sequel novel, E.T. The Book of the Green Planet, where he reaches out to his long lost friend from Earth, melding with the now older Elliot’s mind from across the cosmos.  It comes across very peeping Tom-like, and sort of disturbing.  Experiencing love and yearning “through” Elliot.

ET sequel

All in all, though all of this adult stuff might seem really questionable on the surface of things, again, I’m really glad that these authors and creators took the chance to expose kids to the real world.  Some of it is for the sake of comedy, some of it is important info that awkward pre-teens probably need, and some of it is just exploring deeper adult themes.  Weird, interesting and kind of neat…

Cartoon Commentary! #18, Snot Bubbles…



Though I thought I was going to be able to knock out the Cartoon Commentary! columns with the 31 days of Halloween with no problem, it looks like I was basing that assumption on the idea that there were about four more hours in the day than there really are. So for the next couple of weeks there frequency might be off a little. I did manage to knock out a lot of the legwork on the next week’s (or two) worth of Halloween posts so I might be able to get to two of these CC! columns a week, but I’m not gonna hold my breath.

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a little deeper into the series and a lot of the conventions that had been bothering me (loud color scheme, wacky pacing, insane amount action going on all the time) are becoming a little easier to swallow, or if my mind has finally been able to shift gears from a show like Dungeons and Dragons to this one, but I’m starting to enjoy the experience a little more. There are still a few aspects that I don’t love, but the show certainly has it’s place in 80s cartoon history. Today’s episode, titled The Beef Who Would be King, is chronologically (I believe) supposed to come after last week’s Pizza’s Honor airing on September 27th, 1986, though it’s listed as the second episode on the DVD release (which lists the cartoons in production order.) The episode was penned by the script-writing duo of David Wiemers and Ken Koonce who worked together on a few 80s cartoons including Muppet Babies, DuckTales and Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors.



This episode basically revolves around the rivalry between Beef Bonk and Doyle as a diplomatic committee from the planet Cholesterol comes to Galaxy High looking for a new king. Their interest in Beef makes Doyle and his friends a little jealous, so the two decide to put the kingship on the line in a winner takes all race…

The episode starts off with an answer to a question I had about the concept of exchange students in space, which is, where are Aimee and Doyle staying? Typically in the exchange student comedy situation there is a wacky fish out of water scenario involving the student shacking up with a family that is the polar opposite of them (ala Long Dock Dong from Sixteen Candles or Monique from Better Off Dead), but in this cartoon the producers and writers decided instead on a college dorm type of situation. The dorms are connected via a woosher pneumatic tube to the high school just like Luigi’s Pizzeria and the galleria are.



What’s kind of interesting about this opening scene is that the writers do a decent job of working in the concept of gravity in space (or a lack there of) with the gag of having had Beef put an anti-gravity pill in Doyle’s breakfast. A little later on in the episode though, this is all thrown out the window with a different gag that makes it seem like there is gravity in space, which is kind of weird.

There’s a small continuity error in the next segment involving Beef’s woosher patrol sash/belt, which disappears on the monitor screen when the Cholesterolians are spying on him and Doyle.



Though this is a little error, it’s interesting to note that this points to a choice that directors and animators face when using the picture within a picture gag in cartoons. Basically it raises the question of whether or not to simply reuse the existing animation, though shrunk down and cut to fit the screen in the new sequence, or to re-draw and paint the scene taking place on the screen with the reset of the animation in this sequence. You also see this in comic books when panels are repeated for effect with either slightly different art or different speech bubbles, and it’s up to the artist as to whether they re-draw the same panel over and over again, or to photocopy it (or digitally copy them nowadays.) The sash/belt error came about because the director had the animators re-draw the scenes in the monitors instead of recycling the previous animation. What’s also kind of interesting is that neither choice is easier or safe, and both pose possible continuity errors. For instance, in the opening sequences of Transformers the movie, Laserbeak is spying on the Autobots on their moon base orbiting Cybertron. Laserbeak then returns to Megatron and plays back his video, which director Nelson Shin decided to show by recycling the animation from the opening on a monitor. Because of this, and because there were many dynamic p.o.v.’s in those scenes, the whole effect is thrown off a bit because it would have been impossible for Laserbeak to get the shots that are displaying on the monitor (at least without finding a way into the room he was video taping.)

This is a little long winded, but it goes to show that there is a lot of thought and artistry that goes into all aspects of animation, comics and filmmaking that get overlooked by the audience a lot.

On a lighter note, I though the character design work on the Cholesterolians was fun (and sufficiently bulbous and soft for their eating habits), though it reminded me a lot of the Michelin Man (who apparently has a name, Bibendum)…



Though I’ve complained in the past about how busy the backgrounds are in this show (what with the myriad of aliens cramming every scene), I’m really starting to get to like the ‘Where’s Waldo’ aspect to freezing the action and looking through all the different characters. Some of the designs are just sort of weird shapes or almost Seussian aliens, but then again a lot are also anthropomorphic Earthy items. For instance in the three screen shots below we have a hamburger alien, a ‘peas in a pod’ alien, a walking cigarette lighter (that’s an odd one for a cartoon, not to mention a missed opportunity visually), and, well, Mr. Penis man (again.) When, oh when, will the penis gags stop on this show. Heck, by this point I’m almost coming to expect it, like the Dragons in the D&D cartoon.



Another odd subject that’s broached in this episode (for a comedy series that is) is the death of a student. I realize that by pointing this out I’m sort of upping the drama of the situation as it really was meant to be a one-off gag, but it’s still a little weird. Doyle, having just come back from the garbage bin where Beef had wooshed him off to, is supposed to be dirty and smelly as he’s walking down the hall. It’s so bad he’s attracting flies, one of which he takes a moment to smash, only to find out that it wasn’t just a fly, but a student, Harold Horsefly.



Granted, it’s just a cartoon, but I thought it was a little weird, maybe even a little inappropriate, to illustrate Doyle’s problems with integrating into the school by having him mistakenly kill another student, no matter how silly it is. I don’t know. Death is such an odd subject to broach in cartoons..

One thing I noticed that I really respected is that the show had been thought out past the gags they incorporate into it. For instance, the weird notion that everything is alive, like the ships and chalkboards and stuff.  Well we haven’t seen the chalkboard in action since the first episode, yet in the background paintings of the classrooms the board is depicted with robot arms and stuff. I think that this would be an easy detail to overlook, especially in a BG painting, so I’m really happy to see it here.



As far as the plot of this episode goes, I thought it was a little weird that Aimee and Doyle were jealous of the Cholesterolians choice of Beef Bonk as their new king. I guess since Doyle seems to be on his last leg as far as school is concerned, maybe Aimee thought it was a chance for him to make something out of his life, though idea of the characters wanting to leave school this early on into the show is kind of jarring. Heck, you’d think they’d want to be rid of Beef Bonk instead.



Also, the design on the alien’s ship (a sort of flying waffle with a cherry on top and fork satellite dishes) reminds me a lot of a similar design in a Garfield coloring book I had as a kid. I guess the idea of food-centric aliens isn’t a new one (Pizza the Hut from Spaceballs for instance.)

According to a Galaxy High fansite, this cartoon, like many others that made it into re-run syndication after their initial airings, was also subject to the editors knife to make room for additional commercial time. Because of this, about two minutes of footage was cut from each episode, which typically consisted of material that was considered non-essential to the plot like one-off gags. One of these gags was probably the Creep serenading Aimee from time to time in each episode. The website alludes to the fact that this joke was done multiple times in a given episode, so it would make prime material for cutting.



So, in getting back to Harold Horsefly for a second (and to illustrate how silly the whole idea is) there is a scene at the start of the big race in which Coach Frogface eats a fly as he’s announcing the race. Beef even made a joke about Frogface eating Harold earlier when Ms. Mcbrain called on him during roll call. Again, it’s a cartoon and just silly, but why would you, as a writer, use a common horsefly as a student to illustrate the idea that the environment is alien and that you have to respect it, and then include a gag with the coach eating a fly just minutes later? As far as morality in cartoons goes, this is very conflicting. Oh crap, now I’m starting to sound like a member of ACT or something. In my defense, I simply think it’s interesting, not something that needs to be changed. There, I feel a little better (maybe I am looking too deeply at these episodes…)



To illustrate the wacky Tex Avery quality to the show, there is a gag at the start of the race where Doyle and Beef fly though a time warp (represented by a giant clock floating in space, a gag that I think the first Starfox video game also used) and are intermittently switched from being babies to rickety old geezers as they’re driving…



Specking of moral content in this episode, I thought it was fun that the writers decided to make the morals a little ambiguous. For instance, at a point in the race when Doyle realizes that Beef is cheating, he makes a pit stop and tells Aimee that the only way he can win is if he also cheats. Aimee gives the obvious speech about cheaters never winning, and sends Doyle off with a clear head to win the race…



…which he does, reinforcing the moral lesson and all. (By the way, like Penis man, there has been a confetti-throwing scene in every episode so far. What is up with this penis-confetti obsession?)



Now to muddy up the waters a bit, we find out that the Cholesterolians actually celebrate cheating, and therefore Beef Bonk is still crowned King. I thought that this made for a nice spin on the whole idea of morality in cartoons, and it’s used a bit later to illustrate yet another moral lesson, so in the end it all works out.



Now this seems a lot like Kricfalusi design, though again, I’m not sure on what aspects of the show he worked. It just reminds me a lot of the inserted paintings in the Ren & Stimpy cartoon, not to mention the zaniness of a planet made out of bologna, eggs, head cheese and salami.



Also, we get a clearer view of the spaceship and it’s possibly waffle influenced. It’s either that or it’s supposed to be one big pie, which probably makes more sense now that I think about it…

In the vein of getting a little more mileage out of the conceptual aspects of the cartoon (like the muddied morality), I was impressed out how naturally the gag of why Beef was chosen king plays out. First off, the Cholesterolians plan on eating him. There, I’ve ruined the surprise. What I love is that in what should have been some pretty by the numbers joke writing (ala giving Beef a bath that’s actually in a stew, ala Looney Tunes), the writers (or whoever worked on the gag) instead decided to have Beef be given a ‘beef’ tenderizer shower. I don’t know, I just found that really witty and clever.



Similarly, in a segment on the planet, there is a crowd gathered to greet Beef, and there’s a gag concerning two kids spoiling their supper (their Beef Bonk supper). I thought it was a nice extra detail to have their chocolate on a stick be in the shape of Beef’s head. Again, a detail that could have easily been more ordinary and less in on the joke, so it seems a little more thought out.



Now how the candy making denizens of the planet managed to know ahead of time what Beef looked like in order to mold chocolate in his visage is beyond me…

So finally getting back to the whole gravity and morality issues, there is a scene when the students figure out why Beef was chosen as king of Cholesterol and decide to go help him. First off, this plays into the ‘doing the right thing’ lesson, even though Doyle did the right thing before and was still stomped on because of it (Beef winning the race by default because he cheated.) This moral plays out very straightforward but is made a little more powerful by Doyle overcoming his feelings about Beef, and helping him anyway. Second, we’re brought back to the idea of gravity in space as Aimee’s car conks out mid flight and it starts to fall downward (only being saved by a balloon that pops out of the trunk) instead of say drifting forward as they would in reality. Now, I get that the whole falling thing is a funny gag, but I don’t think it’s really funny for the most artistic of reasons. I think it was intended in a very straightforward manner; ship takes off, flies, conks out, and then falls. Ha ha, funny. Now think about a similar gag in say Spongebob Squarepants where it’s raining under the sea. Sure there are your normal rain jokes thrown in, but it’s all encapsulated in the irony of rain under the sea, and it’s obviously written to be that way. I’m not convinced Galaxy High was written this way, it just doesn’t feel intentionally ironic. This is of course, just my opinion…



Okay, I keep invoking his name, but this seems so Kricfalusi inspired…



The idea of milking a giant chicken (who bears a striking resemblance to Beef Bonk for anyone who didn’t think that he was chicken inspired; which also sort of makes this scene weirdly Beef Bonk inspired as his name could be considered ironic considering his appearance, and the cows and chicken here are switched as well), and having to collect the eggs from a bunch of nesting cows seems like something that would fit perfectly into the Ren & Stimpy universe.

For once I was so glad when I heard a very obvious joke in this show as the Cholesterolinas are chasing Beef and his savior Doyle and someone shouted "Where’s the Beef?" I sat through the whole episode hoping to hear that silly Wendy’s slogan from the eighties, as it seemed like it would be a crime if it weren’t used.

Now getting back to the whole idea of these American created and written cartoons being animated overseas.  There is a moment at the end when we can see that the Asian animators added one of their cultural touches to the cartoon. In a pile-up of aliens, there is a pink Cholesterolian on top who is either out-cold or sleeping from the strenuous chase, and he has what can only be described as a snot bubble coming out of his nose. This is a convention in anime and manga that is used to illustrate deep sleep or unconsciousness. Why a snot bubble you ask? Well, why do we use a series of floating Z’s or a pictogram of a log being cut by a saw to illustrate the same point?



I thought it was really cool to see something like this make it’s way into an American cartoon, and it makes me wonder how many other little instances our cultures have crossed in 80s animation.

Well, hopefully later this week, but probably not until next week I’ll get to episode four of Galaxy High, Where’s Milo.

Cartoon Commantary #17, Spookiness in Space…



I was re-reading over the first Galaxy High commentary and I think that I came off a little cold regarding the main characters and how I was viewing their archetypes. I think part of this comes from my mindset after watching 27 episodes of Dungeons and Dragons where all the characters are painted in very broad strokes for the most part. Venger is evil, Dungeon Master and the kids are good, and that’’s just how it was. There are episodes later in the series where the characters are put into some more dynamic situations and end up growing a little bit, but there aren’t that many shades of gray in the show (except for Dungeon Master who can come off kind of suspicious at times.)

With the first episode of Galaxy High, Chris Columbus shook the conventions of the good/bad characters up a bit, for instance by painting Doyle Cleverlobe as an ass in the beginning (in particular in the credits where he not only hogs most of the scenes and song cues, but also ends up treating Aimee like crap)…



Going into the episode I was sort of hoping he’d get his yet at the same time I also immediately felt for him, as he and Aimee were exposed to the weirdness of 80s animated space. I guess at the end of the day Doyle isn’t all that much different from a character like Eric on D&D. Hell, when you get right down to it, Beef Bonk and his stooges aren’t all that different either. I think there’s a part of me (a subconscious part) that really took it to heart when I was a kid that being evil was wrong, and therefore I shouldn’t get behind evil characters. This is kind of crazy though as I feel villains tend to make the much more interesting characters. Take Cobra Commander and his crazy ranting, or the mysterious Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget, both are pretty damn entertaining. Hell most of my favorite characters from childhood fall under the umbrella of evil in one shape or another. I don’t know, maybe I’m looking too hard at these cartoons and finding stuff that isn’t there (well except for that giant penis man in the end sequence, he was definitely there…)

Anyway, just a thought. On to the next thrilling chapter of Galaxy High, an episode that I ended up really liking (though it’s probably because of the season we’re about to jump into; more on that in a bit.) Today’s episode, titled Pizza’s Honor, originally aired on September 20th, 1986 and was written by Larry DiTillio (of He-Man and Beast Wars fame.) DiTillio also served as story editor for the series’ 13 episodes.



I’m not positive, but the title might be a reference to the film Prizzi’s Honor (starring Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner) which came out the year before this episode aired, though that film’s themes aren’t really visited upon in this episode.

Out of all the characters on the show, I think my favorite in terms of design and concept is Booey Bubblehead, the girl with the impaired short term memory. I think part of what I like are the clean lines on her bubble head, not to mention that fact that it’s made of glass which gives her color scheme more depth than the average character as there will usually be two shades of the pink used to color her (to illustrate where her collar is behind the glass neck for instance), as well as a shine. This is something that I like about cartoons that are painted with using flat colors; whenever there is any shading needed the animators typically add another layer (possibly on another cel) with a darker shade of the same color already in use, which adds a world of dimension to what amounts to a very flat painting. It’s something that I’ve found in the style I’ve chosen to color my own artwork with. So with Booey this concept is always used to one extent or another simply because of her design…



Something else that I brought up in the first episode commentary is the sense of claustrophobia that the writers, storyboard artists and animators have in many of the scenes as there are at time up to ten to twenty characters on screen. So far in the establishing shots of Luigi’s Pizza there has been a recycled animation scene featuring a bunch of background characters dancing to a band playing up on an elevated stage. The creators chose to animate the point of view of this scene looking up from about waist level and to give both depth and a sense of how crowded the place is they placed out of focus figures close to the camera.



I find this very interesting because it’s a very cinematic move, which is rare in cartoons. Actually this is the opposite of something that tends to give me a headache when watching most animated movies, the fact that every single part of a scene is drawn in perfect focus; there’s just too much information going on and my eyes strain to take it all in. So a subtle focus adjustment on one of the levels of animation actually makes the scene a little easier on the eyes, though it still puts me in a very confined space.

Another thing I’d like to revisit for a second is the odd convention of having Beef Bonk turn blue when he’s angry. I got to thinking about this as well, and I completely forgot about the Hulk, whose thick angry green skin doesn’t bother me in the least. In fact, back when I took a look at the TV pilot movie I mentioned that the show/film’s writer/director Kenneth Johnson had wanted the character to switch from his classic green to a more logical red, which I thought was ridiculous. So why does the switch to blue bug me so much? I think it has something to do with the character’s color scheme to begin with. I’m not fond of the clashing, loud red, yellow, pink, green and flesh colors he sports, and when you replace the red with blue and the green eyes with magenta, it’s just as loud and clashing, so the change doesn’t really grab me the way I think it’s supposed to.



The basic gist of this episode involves a phantom spaceman arriving at the pizza parlor to order 100 pizzas for his master who resides on the supposedly haunted planet Tingler in a manor called Tremble Hall. Doyle, Luigi’s newest delivery boy gets the job of delivering the pizza’s, who unbeknownst to him is being followed by Beef Bonk and his cronies who hope to scare the living crap out of him…



When the phantom shows up in the pizza joint, there’s something odd about him, something I couldn’t pinpoint at first, as there’s a static-y like effect that shivers through him every so often. Eventually he reveals that he’s a hologram sent by his master, which normally would have been just hunky dory, but then I remembered that as he entered the pizza joint he was doing things, turning off lights, freezing the band, etc., things that a hologram shouldn’t be able to do. This is another pet peeve of mine, the idea of introducing technology and then writing it incorrectly. It’s funny because, if there was another explanation, even a made up technology, like solid holograms, then I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, but when you go so far to invoke something in particular I think it would be best served to treat it like it actually works. We’ll see this again in this episode…

So, last episode we stumbled upon a little adult themed in-joke between either the storyboard artists or the animators in the form of a giant penis man in a crowd scene. Not that I’ve got my eyes peeled for more penis references, but I think I found another one, though this time a little more veiled. When the phantom stranger revels that he’d like the pizzas delivered to planet Tingler, the supposed haunted planet, the crowd inside Luigi’s goes nuts running in panic. In the craziness there is a character running across the screen that has a very phallic shape to his body (I say his for obvious reasons, though maybe in space there are female penis people, who knows.) In a scene just a few seconds later, the character pops up again, though this time colored more normally (he was tan and flesh colored in the first scene, and now he’s purplish-blue and green and wearing a T-shirt…)



Though in his purplish-blue hue he looks more like a lizard alien, his distinctly phallic shape is hard to ignore (or maybe I’m just seeing this.) What sort of seals the deal for me in terms of this being another veiled sexual reference is the T-Shirt depicting an arrow pointing downtown, if you know what I mean. Granted, I could so see this as being in my own head, if it weren’t for the appearance of the other such ‘alien’ in the first episode. Here’s to hoping giant penis men aren’t to Galaxy High what Dragons are to Dungeons and Dragons…

I do have to say that I really like the design on Beef Bonk’s ride. I’m not a huge fan of the idea that everything futuristic has to be rounded or saucer shaped, ala the Jetson’s. This is something that made the design work stand out for me in flicks like Star Wars and Alien, that the ships were a nice mixture of boxy and a bit futuristically rounded (or in Alien’s case, a floating city mining compound that looks much like what it would probably look like if it were just a compound on Earth.) The squared jets with the soft rounded corners on the back of Beef’s cruiser are nice, along with a subtle nod of the hat to the fined card designs of the 50s. It just really works for me.


Of course it is weird that this is a vehicle that’s proposed to be ready for space travel and yet there is not sort of canopy, not even a rag top hanging on the back. Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s a fun cartoon that’s not really taking the space setting seriously, but it still bugs me a bit. I think Futurama did a much better job of dealing with the balance between fun comedy and factual environments…

It begs the question why in the next scene Doyle is stepping aboard the Luigi delivery ship with does have a handy dandy glass canopy. Is this more of a visually pleasing design element or is it because Doyle is human and can’t survive out in space?



I’d like to point out again how weird it is that so many things in this show are anthropomorphic in design. There’s a scene later when the ‘face’ on this ship makes a weird, almost surprised expression when it’s rear-ended by Beef’s ship. I get why it’s done, but I still struggle with the idea if it’s a good idea or not. I think the show feels like it has got one foot firmly planted in a pseudo-reality that makes these weird design aspects too foreign for me. Maybe I just need to let go of that notion and sit back and enjoy the ride more…

Like I mentioned earlier, this is basically a Halloween episode with out all of the trappings of the traditional Halloween celebrations. You know the planet is spooky because of its giant foggy cloud that surrounds it…



So, in dealing with holograms weirdly again, there is a sequence where Beef Bonk, who hopes to scare the crap out of Doyle by using a hologram gun to disguise his car as a monster. The thing that bugs me is that the hologram that Beef has Roland make takes on a corporal aspect, so much so that the car’s new monster jaws can bite at Doyle’s delivery truck, get stuck on the back and force both of them to crash land on the planet. Though I can see where DiTillio was going with this, it doesn’t work for me because of the idea of using a hologram…



It is a fun moment though, and it does get the job done as far as having both parties stranded on the planet.

The two parties end up separated in the crash, and Doyle ends up running into the first inhabitant of Tingler, Mutie (the stereotypical New York auto mechanic.) What’s kind of cool is that Mutie is a reference both visually in titularly to the Mutant creature from the flick This Island Earth (a fact that I only realized because I have a little toy of that character that I got with a set of Little Big Head monster figures a few years back.) It makes me wonder how many of the other characters are similarly referenced from other 50s and 60s B movies…



Now something else that was kind of weird to me in a ‘this doesn’t really jive sort of way’ is the fact that when Beef and his cronies run into some of the other indigenous life forms on the planet that are scarred out of their minds…



The reason that this bugs me is that the character design on the students from Galaxy High leaves little room for scariness. I mean if some of the inhabitants of GH aren’t already scary to Beef, then why would a big tree with goofy eyes be scary? Again, I realize that it’s an aspect to this world that I’m supposed to take for granted, but as a viewer who is trying to get acclimated to the craziness he’s seeing under normal circumstances, this seems a little silly. It ends up working a little better for me later on when the penguins show up…

Another main-ish character that’s introduced in this episode is Ollie Oilslick the resident taxi driver extraordinaire. His amoeba-like design is practically burnt into my psyche and is one of the things I remember most about this show from watching it as a kid.



To reinforce that this is basically a Halloween episode, we get a lot of creepy background design which actually plays really well into the overall color scheme of the show. I really liked the jack-o-lantern rocks surrounding the very creepy grounds of Tremble Hall, which is a very Castle Duckula-esque mansion…



So I mentioned penguins a little earlier. There’s a sequence when Beef, Roland and Earl split up looking for Tremble Hall and each of them comes across a different crazy monster, my favorite of which is vampire penguins. I don’t know why this concept hasn’t been broached a million times before as it seems perfect to me, what with the cold environments and the fact that penguins are basically already dressed for the part. Comparing them to Count Duckula, I almost sort of wish he was a penguin now…



The giant man-eating mushrooms are pretty neat as well, and it was a nice touch by DiTillio to have the two creatures fight as Beef and Roland crossed paths…

As Doyle enters Tremble Hall there are some pretty heavy Rocky Horror vibes coming from the place with the phantom spaceman in the place of Riff Raff, and the Master as Frankenfurter. I though this was a nice touch, though Rocky Horror itself is playing off of countless old horror movies itself, so it might all just be paying homage to the same material.



Though the idea of weird monster aliens doesn’t work all that well for me, I did like the design work on the various creatures hanging around Tremble Hall, in particular the light brown insect looking alien with the nail stuck through its head. Honestly, when I think about it, the whole moral of this story sort of works because the monsters don’t look all that different from the denizens of Galaxy High. Because of this Doyle isn’t really scared of them, so maybe there was sort of a point to this after all. Yay DiTillio for bringing a deeper layer of meaning to something that actually came off as silly, and in a nutshell, this makes a great argument for the artistic validity of cartoons…



By the way, though this episode was the second aired, I think it’s actually chronologically (or possible production order-wise) supposed to be after the third episode which I’ll talk about next, The Beef Who Would Be King.

Cartoon Commentary! #16, Wait until you see what’s in the last screen shot…



Well, here I go with my first episode of Galaxy High on Cartoon Commentary!, and I hope I don’’t blow my wad, commentary-wise, as I’ve mentioned that this show was harder for me to get into than Dungeons and Dragons. Who knows, I managed to take more notes than I thought I would, so it’s probably just worrying for worry’s sake.

This first episode was written by show creator and series consultant Chris Columbus and originally aired on September 13th, 1986 on CBS Saturday mornings. The episode, aptly titled Welcome to Galaxy High, was the only one that Columbus took full writing credit on, but I’m sure he had a hand in the tone of the rest of the series considering he stayed on as a consultant. As I’ve mentioned before, the show’s back story on how Doyle and Aimee come to be exchange students in space is more or less told through the ultra concentrated opening theme song and credits. On Earth Doyle was popular, athletic and not very good in his studies, while Aimee (who is very short changed in the song) was apparently the opposite.



Now, even though he’s portrayed as popular and sort of dumb, Doyle is far from a villainous character (I mean he is one of the points of view we’re supposed to follow into this strange space high school), but there is a tinge of ill will cast over him by a scene in the credits where he knocks Aimee down while playing Frisbee. From the moment the kids arrive at the school, almost every scene for the next twenty two minutes focuses on beating Doyle down and treating Aimee like a queen, to a point where I think the show becomes a little unbalanced.

Also, from the opening shot of the school onwards, the audience is treated to an almost uncomfortable amount of loud colors, sounds and non-stop zany antics. I mean you know you’re in for it when the school’s name is in flashing pink neon above the door…



In fact, the two main colors in the show’s palette are pink and yellow, not always the best combination.

In addition to the scene in the credits, there are also a couple of moments at the beginning where Doyle comes off as an ass, which sort of pit both Aimee and the audience against him, but I think this dynamic would have been a little easier to swallow had we seen some of this in a comfortable environment, like on Earth. In this fashion the show moves a little too fast (in fact, it moves a little too fast in most other fashions as well…)



Though the show doesn’t really break any new ground in terms of plot (there was a very similar premise in the cartoon the Partridge Family 2200 A.D.), I was surprised buy some instances where the show didn’t stoop to the level of making a million Star Trek references. The main mode of transportation throughout the school (and possibly to other locals) is by pneumatic tubes (ala Futurama) and not by transporter beams…



The first resident of Galaxy high that the kids run into is class president, Milo De Venus (whose name is a play on Venus De Milo, though instead of having no arms, he has six.)



For some reason this is when I started counting the number of fingers each character had. Apparently, all of the aliens have three fingers and a thumb, while Doyle and Aimee have the more normal four fingers and a thumb. It seems like you tend to see the three finger hand in more comedic cartoons (like the Simpson’s or Looney Tunes), whereas in more serious or action/adventure cartoons characters typically have four. I suppose that the reason there would be varying amount of fingers in Galaxy High could be to show the difference in Earth and otherworldly characters, but I wonder if it was also influenced by the comedy cartoon convention (if only because the character design would sort of call for it?)

Part of the reason that I was dreading the idea of deconstructing this show is that the cartoon itself was so loud in terms of color palette, action, and character design. I realize that the show is set in the future and in space, but man was this show wacky. Part of this insane wackiness is the fact that everything moves in this show, the characters, the backgrounds, everything. This is very distracting, unsettling almost, and one of the most extreme examples of this is that practically everything at Galaxy high is alive. For instance, Doyle and Aimee are introduced by Milo to their lockers, both of which are basically robots with extreme personalities…



We’ll end up seeing more, much more, of this later as well.

Another comedy convention that I noticed this show delving into is the practice of breaking the fourth wall, which was pretty big in the 80s (just watch Ferris Bueller to get enough to last you a lifetime.)



Seriously, everything is alive at Galaxy High, even the gymnasium…



At this point in the cartoon my head was reeling from things bopping all over the screen. If it was Columbus’ intention to throw the viewer off balance, mission accomplished. What’s funny is that this is, more or less, a common practice in cartoons, especially in the eighties. I’ve shown friends the Transformers movie (guys who never saw it the first time around) and they are completely lost in all the frantic action and quick plot movements. I guess I was weaned on it enough to be used to it, but I can certainly see (going back to GH) how it could be off putting.

Like I mentioned earlier, loyalty-wise, the show leans heavily towards Aimee as she’s portrayed as smarter and more of the underdog (even though the second she steps foot into the school she is instantly and for no reason amazingly popular.) Reinforcing this is the number of (more or less) main cast members who are both female and ‘on’ Aimee’s side. When I say main cast members, I’m sort of referring not only to the reoccurring characters, but also to the ones that are considered ‘good’, or at least the ones advancing the plot in a positive way. There are a couple of guys who would serve to balance out the cast if they weren’t basically the villains of the show.



When Doyle and Aimee are shown the gym, they meet Booey Bubblehead (literally an almost brainless girl with an apparently glass ‘bubble’ head), Gilda Gossip (voiced by Nancy Cartwright of the Simpson’s), and Wendy Garbo (who is possibly named after Greta Garbo.)

In these scenes we get some queues to the extent that the physical and visual comedy will go with some Looney Tunes conventions (e.g. the love inspired eyes turning into hearts gag.)



Did I mention that EVERTHING is alive at Galaxy High?



It’s at about this point in the episode where Columbus really starts sticking it to Doyle, who has just watched Aimee be rewarded with a full scholarship and a brand new car (not to mention plenty of confetti dropping, when taken into context with the opening credits you have to wonder who on this production had such a hard on for confetti as a means of celebration…) Doyle, who as far as the audience is concerned, seems to be just as qualified to be at Galaxy High (I mean he is there and all) is told that not only will he not be getting any sort of scholarship, but that he also has to get a job and is only shown a little bit of the happy with the revelation that he’s now the proud owner of a used intergalactic scooter. At this point Doyle even wants to go home, but is refused with the knowledge that (and I’m paraphrasing here) Galaxy High is his last chance at graduating.  Not to look too deeply into a cartoon plot, a comedy plot at that, but this isn’t the story I was set up with in the credits. As far as I knew, Doyle, though a little inconsiderate and dumb, was the king of his high school, and could easily have breezed by on his athletic merits alone. So why is this all of a sudden such a dire situation for him? I think this should have been covered in the credits…



Pretty much (with one exception we’ll get to in a minute) the rest of the episode is a beat down on Mr. Doyle Cleverlobe, starting with his introduction to the school janitor, Sludge, an unassuming little pink puppy who can change into a lumbering monster at the drop of a hat (or a pat on the head)…



Sludge chases Doyle through the school, corners him, and is about to do God knows what, when Milo happens by and stops him. To complete the zany atmosphere, Milo explains who Sludge is, and then in an attempt to illustrate his capabilities, Sludge mistakenly causes a tide wave inducing plumbing snafu that whisks the three (and eventually Aimee) away into a garbage dump…



This is sort of a tone in cartoons that was kind of missing in the 80s, hearkening back to the Hanna Barbera cartoons of the 60s and 70s, and the Loony Tunes shorts as well. Sure, there were plenty of Gummi Bears, Smurfs, and Get-Along Gangs to cause silly havoc in their towns, villages and hollows, but it was never quite as zany as it was in the HB and Looney Tunes cartoons, and in turn in Galaxy High. Though I doubt he had a hand in setting up the gags in the show, John Kricfalusi did work on the project, and he is a big fan of this style of animation.

Of course weird space food equals antennae, holes, and negative colors…



So rounding out the cast of male characters you have Beef Bonk (the odd red chicken-looking guy with the Earth Stinks shirt), Rotten Roland (the weird blue egg-centric guy in the overalls), Earl Eccchhh (the anthropomorphic pile of slime), and the Creep (the flying yellow guy who almost literally attaches himself to Aimee.) All of which fall into the seriously annoying or basically villainous category, so they don’t seem like main characters as much…



Just to illustrate that the show throws all conventions about physics out the window, in space humans can be turned into French fries, and then reformulated into many creatures before being reconstructed to a (temporarily silly-putty-esque) human…



As far as the geography of the show, everything is basically just floating in space, ala some sort of high school themed space station. There’s at least a mall and a pizza joint connected by the afore-mentioned pneumatic tubes to the school. Also, you can really see the Jetson’s as an influence in these scenes as all of the vehicles make the patented Jetson’s space sputter.



Like the Ferris Bueller moment when Doyle broke the fourth wall, there’s another huge 80s cinematic convention in the form of a montage as the girls take Aimee ‘Style’ shopping at the galleria. It’s really weird to see a montage in the middle of a cartoon, but then again it was the 80s, even commercials had montages.



It’s interesting to note that by the end of the style-shopping Aimee has changed in appearance enough to almost push her away from human and into alien territory. Add to this the fact that she’s getting attention and praise heaped on her at every turn, her character seems close to losing the audience as far as following her through the series. Because of this Doyle pretty much becomes the defacto main character, which is weird as he was painted the schmuck at the beginning of the episode. This is another bit that alienates the viewer…

Even in space there are amazingly silly stereotypes as in Luigi, Doyle’s boss at the pizza joint (who-a talks-a like-a this-a.)



Towards the end of this episode Columbus shoves a second plot into the mix as Doyle tries to befriend Beef Bonk and his cronies, only to piss him off to the point of getting, um, blue with anger. By this point I’m getting pretty comfortable with not being comfortable with the odd visuals and stuff, but having a character turning blue with anger illustrates a pet peeve I have with design. I am not a fan of using cool or dark colors as a means of highlighting or illustrating anger as it’s ironic, but not in the good way. (As an aside, I also hate it in DVD menus when there is a choice between options and the the highlighted option is dark or of a cool color and the rest of the options are like yellow or bright colors. It messes with my head.)



Also, as far as Rotten Roland is concerned, I think it’s really disturbing that he has a tendency to throw ‘rotten’ eggs at people, eggs that look so much like they came from him that it’s a little bit more than weird.

So have I mentioned that everything is alive…oh you get the picture…



It was kind of fun to see the ‘puck’ written and animated as a masochist. Not only is it fitting, but it’s funny.

Another odd aspect to the show is the amazing amount of background characters in all of the scenes. In fact there’s so many of them that the animation almost becomes claustrophobic at times, but I have to give the designers a hand in putting so much thought into the background. Of course having this much leeway can only lead to insanity mixed with a little bit of stereotypical character design, and a pinch of salacious design. Let’s take these in turn. In the screen shots below you can get a feel of the mass amount of BG characters as well as the claustrophobia (in particular in the top two shots on the left.) In the shot on the bottom left you can get an idea of the insanity that comes out in crazy space crowd shots (I’m more or less referring to the flowery pig creature.) There’s also the muted craziness of the little brown Droopy looking dog in the shot on the top right. Now, in the middle shot on the right, there’s a very stereotypical Asian caricature that’s actually fun to watch as it’s in a looped bit of animation that has him dancing. Finally, in the bottom right shot we have, well, we have a giant penis. Man, I thought I was going to be leaving the odd sexual imagery behind when I took a hiatus from writing about D&D…



Lo and behold, Giant Penis Man in the crowd. Penis man.  That is just wrong on so many levels…

Okay folks, I think that does it for this episode of Galaxy High. Hope there’s still stuff left to talk about in the next episode…

Cartoon Commentary! #15, In space a giant chicken will make you scream…



As I’ve been mentioning ad nauseam for the last couple weeks, I’m going to switch my focus on Cartoon Commentary! away from Dungeons and Dragons in hopes that I can keep my perspective a little bit fresh. I had thought that the best way to do this was to take a look at a cartoon that was more or less the polar opposite of D&D, so I chose Galaxy High, a sci-fi comedy set (I believe) in the year 2024. Since I’m not super knowledgeable about the cartoons I grew up watching, I figured I’d just take the same approach to each series, doing some preliminary research on the internet as well as watching the series from beginning to end and any special features that might be included on the DVD sets. After I started into D&D I became sort of confident, finding plenty to write about (as you can see so far in past CC! columns), but now I’m not so sure.

I started watching Galaxy High a couple of weeks ago and honestly it’s been a struggle trying to make notes. I’m not sure whether it’s because the show is so different from D&D, so I’m having a hard time switching gears, or if I there isn’t as much that I find interesting. That isn’t to say that I’m not going to try, I mean I have the same fond memories of this show as I had for Dungeons and Dragons, it’s just that these following 14 or so columns might not be quite as in depth.

I think the main reason I’ve been stumbling is that the environment of the cartoon is so utterly wacky that it’s very hard trying to figure our when something is intentionally odd or just plain odd. Though Dungeons and Dragons is set in a fantasy environment, there are enough parallels to our world, as well as stories told from the ‘fish out of water’ point of view to make the job of analyzing the cartoon easier. Galaxy High on the other hand isn’t as patient with the viewer, and even though the two main characters also come from the ‘fish out of water’ P.O.V., they’re expected to, and end up, adapting much quicker, leaving the audience in the dust. The comedy in the show also comes more from the Looney Tunes school of extreme physical comedy than say the standard sitcom fare (which seems like it’s more influential on other cartoons of the 80s.) You’re more likely to see a character smashed down into a tiny cube or turned into a gelatinous blob than to see them misplace their homework or have a crush on another character. Heck, actually you probably do see these sitcom conventions, but in the middle of realizing their homework is missing, the character would be reduced to a pile of ooze and then scooped into a small box after which the character would completely forget about the homework.

Anyway, enough griping. I thought I’d start off with a quick column (made long by the above rant) on the show in general before moving onto the episodes themselves. Galaxy High was created in 1986 by none other than famed writer/director Chris Columbus who was responsible for writing some of my favorite movies from the 80s including Gremlins and Goonies, and directing some of my least favorite films of the 90s including Home Alone (and the sequel) and Mrs. Doubtfire. There were only 13 episodes produced by TMS Entertainment over one season, which is pretty common for a major network 1st season episode order. Larry DiTillo served as story editor, as well as writing or co-writing four of the episodes, and the great John Kricfalusi (of Ren and Stimpy fame) worked on the graphic design of the show (yet another reason that it might look so wacky.) The rest of the show was mostly written by a couple of writing teams (Karen Willson & Chris Weber, Ken Koonce & David Weimers), with a few other writers filling in here and there (Marc Scott Zicree, Jina Bacarr, Eric LeWald.)

The show featured a bevy of great voice actors, including Susan Blu as Aimee Brightower and Hal Rayle as Doyle Cleverlobe, the two main characters. Other voice actors include Nancy Cartwright (she of Bart Simpson fame), Pat Carroll, Gino Conforti, Jennifer Darling, Pat Freley (of Bravestarr fame), David L. Lander (Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley), Neil Ross (veteran voice actor of too many shows to mention), John Stephenson, Howard Morris, and Henry Gibson (of Laugh In fame.)

The basic premise of the show centers around two characters from Earth (Doyle and Aimee) who are picked to be exchange students in space at Galaxy High. The back-story, much like that of Dungeons and Dragons, is featured in the credits sequence and theme song (which was written and preformed by Don Felder of the Eagles), the first verse of which describes Doyle:

Doyle was a high school star.
Everybody thought he’d go real far.
But he didn’t get a thing from the classes he took.
You know he just wasn’t interested in his books.










Actually, the majority of the credit sequence is dedicated to Doyle, as seen in the myriad of ‘Doyle being popular and good at sports’ scenes above. Aimee sort of gets shafted in this respect, as well as in the song, only garnering two lines to Doyle’s four so far:

Aimee was the smartest girl at school,
not very popular, not very cool.

The rest of the song sort of makes up for this as the kids arrive at Galaxy High, reversing roles as I guess smarts and girls are much more popular in space…

Two kids will be chosen from Earth,
to go to school at Galaxy High.

Traveling millions of miles through space,
to go to school in a far out place.
Aimee is the sweetheart.
Doyle’s got a lot to learn.
Here at Galaxy High.












The rockin’ theme song ends on a chant of the school and show name in time with a zooming close-up of a blinking neon title over a shot of the school itself…



The series was released on DVD by Media Blasters in 2006 in two separate one disc sets, which unfortunately had no special features, not even episode summaries. Heck, even the cover artwork provided on the cases is really weird and amazingly off model (even though it’s artwork done at the time of the series.) Al least it’s on DVD though, which is all you can really ask for these days.

Hopefully I’ll have another CC! up this week detailing the first episode, but if not, I’ll dig in and make sure to really get going on the series next week.