Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Rank 'Em: The Disney Afternoon, Part 1

I've wanted to talk about the syndicated Disney cartoons of the 1990s for a while now, since they were a significant part of my media consumption as a kid and preteen.  However, the Disney Afternoon programming block includes thirteen shows.  That's a lot of material to cover, and I'm not all that interested in going into much depth.  So, I figured a "Rank 'Em" post would be appropriate, my first involving the ranking of television shows.  

First, however, there are some quick categorization notes that need to be addressed.   First, the Disney Afternoon ran from the 1990-1991 season to the 1996-1997 season.  Shows produced after this like "101 Dalmatians the Series" (1997) and "Hercules the Series" (1998) were technically not part of the block even though they were usually programmed together with the older shows.  So I'm leaving them out of the ranking.  As a high-schooler, I wasn't watching much by that point anyway.

I'm going to order these from the worst of the bunch to the best.

"The Shnookums and Meat Funny Cartoon Show" - An anthology show of cartoons done in the style of "Ren and Stimpy," sort of similar to Disney's Saturday morning shows "Raw Toonage" and "Marsupilami."  Only thirteen episodes were produced, and it ran as a midseason replacement for "Gargoyles" in 1995.  I never saw much of the series, but wasn't a fan of it when I did.  It just didn't fit what the rest of the block was doing.

"The Lion King's Timon and Pumbaa" - This one probably doesn't deserve the very low opinion I have of it, and the Saturday morning episodes were reportedly better.  Still, the globetrotting adventures of Timon and Pumbaa struck me as so cheap and flimsy.  "Aladdin" at least felt sort of like the original movie, but "Timon and Pumbaa" was just constant wackiness with a lot of lame gags and not particularly impressive production values.  It rubbed me the wrong way from the start.

"The Mighty Ducks" - This was a weird one, a very short-lived action adventure show about alien hockey-playing anthropomorphic ducks.  It was conceived as a tie-in to the real Mighty Ducks hockey team Disney was pushing at the time, and only 26 episodes were produced.  It never stopped feeling like a hodgepodge of a lot of different elements slapped together, but some of the characters were memorable, at least.  I can't for the life of me, remember the plot of a single episode though.  

"Quack Pack" - An update on Donald and his nephews in the same vein as "Goof Troop" must have looked like a winner on paper, but the show stumbled with the portrayal of Huey, Dewey, and Louie as too-smooth teenagers.  Donald also felt pretty neutered, not allowed to really fly into his historic rages, and he didn't really work as a parental figure or even an authority figure here.  There were a couple of decently funny episodes with wild comic premises, but the show really suffered for never having much heart.

"Bonkers" - The Disney Afternoon had a string of winners up until "Bonkers," which was a definite bust.  The production was a notorious mess, which is why out of 65 episodes, nineteen give toon police officer Bonkers D. Bobcat a different human partner, and four are actually repurposed shorts from "Raw Toonage," which "Bonkers" spun off from.  The show was mostly still watchable, and I liked all the multiparters, but this was a clear step down from the other shows on the block, and the first that didn't run in syndication for a full four years.

"Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers" - I know this was a childhood favorite for a lot of people, but I never really warmed up to "Rescue Rangers."  Oddly, I really loved the old chipmunk Disney shorts, when the pair were antagonizing Donald or Pluto.  The two of them as bickering detectives is a good idea in theory, but it was only very rarely that Chip and Dale's old troublemaker personalities came through, so the pair were frequently upstaged by the more charismatic secondary characters like Gadget and Monterey Jack.  While the cartoon was a lot of fun, it also felt pretty by-the-numbers.  

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