Monday, November 24, 2014

Saturday Morning Cartoons - Star Wars Spinoffs and Spoofs

I've always been a proud uncle, but this past week, I was even more proud. My brother mentioned that he was walking through his living room a couple of days ago, and passed his 6-year-old daughter, who was quietly humming the Imperial March theme from Star Wars while colouring in a Christmas activity book. How could you not beam with nerdy pride?

It reminded me of how everything was coming up Star Wars back when I was a kid in the late 70s and early 80s, lingering in the realm of Saturday morning cartoons even years after when I was a pre-teen and the afterglow of Return of the Jedi was fading from pop culture consciousness.

The Secret Railroad did a Star Wars spoof episode not too long after Episode IV debuted (I can still remember the awesomeness of Mr Passenger pulling an extension cord out of his carpet bag, running it from his umbrella to a wall socket, then going toe-to-toe with Darth Vader in a light sabre duel with said electrified umbrella), and others followed overtly or somewhat subtly over the years. I wish that TSR episode was available online to share, but I can't find any sign of it — I fear the bulk of the series is lost to time.

However, one of the later spoofs that is still available is the "Gonzo's Video Show" episode from season 1 of Jim Henson's Muppet Babies. The show, in general, teeters precariously on the edge of being insufferably cute and aimed at too young an audience, but then sometimes spins right around and has funny elements that can appeal to older viewers — not as sly and adult as the original Muppet Show itself, but enough to make the cartoon series worth watching if you're in the right mood. And this episode is no exception. Of note is the inclusion of actual footage from Star Wars in the gang's playroom production (used to illustrate what the Muppet kids are seeing in their imaginations — rather than what's actually playing out on their camcorder), which is no surprise, given the Henson group's deep involvement with 'Empire and 'Jedi. Personally, I've always gotten a kick out of Kermit's narration of the opening crawl. The episode also strikes a cord with me because when I was a kid, my friends and I would pretend to be Star Wars characters and act out our own adventures — we called it "Star Wars With Us". We never video-taped these sessions like the Muppet Babies did, but we would have if one of us had had a camcorder. And so, for your amusement, here's Muppet Babies — scroll forward to about the half-way mark to get past the non-Star Wars material. (full episode)



From the potentially insufferably cute to the unquestionably insufferably cute, here's a cartoon spinoff of Return of the Jedi that came out shortly after the two made-for-TV Ewok movies. It's called, not surprisingly, Ewoks, and, like the the afore-menioned live-action TV movies, I don't know if it's considered official franchise canon, but I really hope it isn't. (full episode)



Lastly, I'll try and redeem this post with something cool that (unlike Ewoks) was actually worthy of the Star Wars monicker: Droids. This cartoon detailed the adventures of R2D2 and C3PO, in what were probably the years prior to their service aboard the Tantive IV at the beginning of Episode IV, although the prequel trilogy more-or-less undercuts that possibility. In any event, our favourite mechanical thralls find themselves associated with well-meaning racers/hoodlums, Rebels, and others, as they try to avoid the forces (no, not Forces) of the Empire, and, on one occasion at least, survive crossing paths with the dreaded bounty hunter Boba Fett. I remember the show being pretty cool back in the old days — good enough to warrant a prime-time special at one point, and I still enjoy the theme song. (full episode)



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