Did you hear Tiny Toons is back? Well, sort of. There's a new show on Cartoon Network that has the same characters, but it uses a different continuity. For example, Acme Looniversity is a college, not a high school, and let's just say Buster and Babs will have to introduce themselves by saying "Relation."
If you grew up with the original series, as I did, you probably feel like reflecting back on it now. So let's do it! Here are my personal picks for the Top Five Best and Top Five Worst episodes of Tiny Toon Adventures. Every episode has been taken into account because I have them all memorized! However "How I Spent My Vacation" was not included for eligibility because it wasn't technically an episode (even if it was eventually cut into four episodes). So to get on with it...
Yeah, if you've been around this site long enough you saw this one coming a thousand yards away. It was the third season opener and it's not only my favorite Tiny Toons episode, it's one of the most treasured half-hours of TV I can remember.
As a kid I felt insulted by shows that would talk down to me, and I appreciated the few that were unapologetically intelligent and assumed kids could follow along. We could! The social satire and celebrity jabs in this episode are a riot! I loved them then and I love them now. Babs makes a bet with Buster that she can land a lead role on her favorite show, Thirteensomething (which is really 90210, they don't even try to hide this). She gets the position and in her human disguise becomes famous, but she soon feels she made a mistake.
It's not only the funniest Tiny Toons episode, it's the most real and heartfelt. So many episodes, especially the earlier ones, tried to infuse drama into the story and failed. This one succeeds. It's hard not to feel for Buster and Babs during that phone conversation, as they're starved to hear they miss each other but neither can say it. When they finally reunite, it's a very sweet and satisfying moment. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll hurl (because it's 1992).
The target of this one is a movie absolutely no child in the 1990s was familiar with. I showed a taping of the episode to my dad, and he was more than eager to educate me about Thor Hayerdahl and the voyage of the Kon Tiki, but...I've forgotten most of what he told me that day.
But a truly good parody should be funny even if the subject is obscure. And this is extremely funny. Plucky is on an experimental voyage to prove travelers in the 1970s went a short distance from one city to another by boat instead of plane. He wastes half of the trip time waiting for the first breeze, and from there it's one outrageous calamity after the next.
At one point Plucky looks up and realizes a gigantic cruise ship is about to hit his boat. He asks Hamton for advice and he says "What can I do, tell them to stop?" Sweetie walks up to the crow's nest and does exactly that, and the ship actually SCREECHES TO A HALT RIGHT THERE (sending a dozen crew members overboard). Literally impossible on the water and the last solution you'd expect, but that's the kind of thing this episode constantly does. It's hilarious.
As a bonus, the third act is a "making of" documentary, revealing Kon Ducki to be a movie Plucky made himself. I'm not sure if this one would hit quite as hard today, given a lot of the jokes are jabs at 70s kitsch. You have to understand, at the time this first aired, the 70s weren't that long ago and NO ONE was making jokes about it yet. All that material was fresh.
HENNY YOUNGMAN DAY
We'd seen splashes of Jon McClenahan's animation before, when he was freelancing for Kennedy, but we finally get a whole episode done by his studio StarToons, and it's the perfect one for those guys to show their chops to the world, with "humor" as the theme. Youngman hosts, as a chicken version of himself, and I have no doubt many of his lines were his own ad-libs. The highlight of the episode is the debut of Baby Plucky in his greatest short, "The Potty Years" -- destined to be quoted on playgrounds across America for the next few years. Water go down the hooooole!
BRAVE TALES OF REAL RABBITS
The opening parodies Masterpiece Theater and introduces two British-themed shorts: "And All That Rot," a Sherlock Holmes parody, and "Knight And Daze," a twist on King Arthur. But what it really is is a stealth overdose of Monty Python style humor for kids too young to watch that show. There are a thousand jokes stuffed into every minute and most of them are hysterical. Buster's Holmes is a complete failure of a person, coming to the wrong conclusions all the time when he's not having dramatic fights with his archenemy Montiarity (who has actually reformed, but Holmes is too clueless to notice). Then Buster as a knight must rescue the fair damsel Babs from a Woody Allen dragon (wow, that has danger of more than one kind).
TAKE ELMYRA PLEASE
Random memory moment: I used to watch Square One on PBS before Tiny Toons, and Lenny in drag looked a lot like Kate Monday.
Here's where I part ways with most of you. A lot of Tiny Toons fans don't like this episode because it barely feels like a Tiny Toons episode at all -- and that was intentional, as it was originally made as a pilot for a proposed spinoff starring Elmyra. All the characters in it are human and the animals don't talk, with the exception of the bolted-on Buster and Babs intro that uses recycled animation from an earlier episode.
But to be honest I LOVED this episode for the different track it went down. We've never really focused on Elmyra's family, have we? Well, surprise! The dad is an eccentric inventor, the baby has super strength, the brother has an overactive imagination, the sister is....a boilerplate teen rebel with no twist, but she's voiced by Soleil Moon Frye so that should count for something. I thought it was very creative to focus on this one little corner of Acme Acres, already immense with characters, and reveal this whole other world. Plus the TMS animation is great and the writing and gags are pretty darn sharp, especially the dialogue from the bumbling kidnappers who hold Elmyra prisoner. As a bonus, this episode introduced Mr. Skullhead!
Like....how can you not love it? I don't get you people.
Buster and Babs Go Hawaiian
Acme Cable TV
The "Slugfest" segment from "Mr. Popular's Rules of Cool"
I really wish I had the time to fit in some of these. Heck with it -- I'm gonna write about "Two-Tone Town" anyway, it deserves it. It's another good example of pathos done right, as you really feel for these "obsolete" toons and their struggle in the shadow of a system that's abandoned them. Very similar to "Fields of Honey" from Season One, yet executed much better.
SAWDUST AND TOONSIL
When you're writing for new characters, it's easy to make mistakes. And if you're on the kind of schedule where you can't take those mistakes back later, it's all the worse. "Sawdust and Toonsil" is one big, giant, ugly mistake.
As every other episode makes clear, Gogo Dodo is a wild, crazy character best used in small doses. He appears, he does something nutty and then he leaves. That's the extent of Gogo except here, where's he's made the lead character of an entire episode-length story, and not only that, it's a serious story. A crooked circus ringmaster named Silas Wonder captures rare creatures and puts them on display in his sideshow, and he's after Gogo. And he gets Gogo, and the others have to save him.
Does anyone want to see Gogo in a cage next to crying, depressed creatures? Does anyone want to see multiple minutes of it? Absolutely not. It feels so wrong, but it gets worse. Turns out if Gogo stays away from Wackyland too long, he'll "run out of wackiness" and fade away into nothing. WHO WANTS TO WATCH GOGO DIE??? WHOSE IDEA WAS THIS??? Thankfully, that aspect of him doesn't appear to be canon because it's not in any other episode.
If all that wasn't messed up enough, Silas is defeated when he falls off the Wackyland bridge into the canyon below. The canyon turns out to be so deep that Silas falls INTO HELL, being caged by Satan in a just-desserts kind of fate. This means if you fall out of Wackyland YOU WIND UP IN HELL! And that gives the episode "Her Wacky Highness" an extra-dark twist it didn't have before. Buster and his friends almost fell off this same bridge once!
If there's anything more depressing than a rainy day, it's turning on Tiny Toons and finding this particular episode is airing that day. It consists of three shorts that are rather bland. The third short, "Fur-Gone Conclusion," isn't great but it it's an improvement over the first two. Buster and Babs wind up in the Arctic by mistake and are targeted by a a Cruella DeVil knockoff named Gotcha Grabmore. Freelance New Zealand animated this episode in their usual mushy style.
I can't get my computer's DVD drive to play this episode, so no screenshots for you.
Topping the charts for most fans as the single most grating Tiny Toons episode, it's a saccharine story where a baby whale is separated from his/her mother when Ma is captured by a cosmetics company, ruled by Gotcha Grabmore in her second, expanded, and last appearance. Buster, Babs and the gang must bust the whale out. There's not a single joke in it.
The interesting thing about Tiny Toons' first season is that you can feel the 80s turning into the 90s as you wind through it. Near the beginning there are a lot of "safe" episodes that would have felt at home on other programs that had come before it, but as you progress there's an increasing presence of the attitude and irreverence that would dominate the new decade's culture, and when we get into the final two dozen there are gross-out gags, scatalogical butt stuff, and other things kids' TV was just barely beginning to get away with.
This one is aimed at the youngest audience Tiny Toons has ever targeted, and when you consider its preschool-like softness it's surprising it came from Season 2, an edgier batch overall. Three shorts are paired together with the connective theme "kids having fun with toys." Buster and Babs go shopping for Hamton's birthday, but decide they like the toys they bought for him and conspire to pawn off some of their older toys to Hamton instead. But when they think about it, the old toys have too much sentimental value so they switch the toys back.
The second short stars Montana Max and is one of those rare roles where he isn't a complete irredeemable jerk, which is a problem since he's not funny otherwise. The third short is about Furrball playing with a piece of ribbon and you'll forget everything about it the moment it's done.
PLUCKY'S DASTARDLY DEED
Part of a package with two other, much better shorts in the episode "Son Of Looniversity Daze," "Plucky's Dastardly Deed" is a very "80s Tiny Toons" kind of short...it not only forces a moral, it delivers it in as heavy-handed a fashion as possible. This cartoon REALLY, REALLY wants you to know cheating is bad. It's bad, people! Cheaters never graduate! (Except they do, all the time.)
Plucky is faced with a pop quiz that he bombs, so as the papers are being passed up front, he decides to quickly switch his name on his paper with that of a brighter student. This was not a scenario that could be replicated where I went to school...the teacher would walk around the room and take each paper from each student individually, to avoid this very thing. You were also given the graded test back, and this would have immediately tipped off the one who was cheated on. Looking at another kid's answers during the test was still doable, but not reliable.
The kid Plucky pulls his cheat on is only seen for this one cartoon and never again: a human boy with a gigantic forehead named Egghead Jr. He is obviously based on the Egghead character from some early Looney Tunes shorts that eventually turned into Elmer Fudd, but to make matters even more confusing, there's a small chicken in Season 2 with this same name (Egghead Jr). "Egghead" was also the name of Foghorn Leghorn's son, so there are two different riffs on two different Eggheads on this show.
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