NUMBER SEVEN OF FIFTY COOL THINGS
I bought these items at the Longs Drugs store in Salinas, California back in the late 80′s:
7. “SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK” VIDEOS FROM 1987
Growing up in the 70′s and 80′s, watching Saturday morning cartoons, a phenomenon occurred on ABC every time the clock reached 7 minutes to the half hour. Pray tell, “What was that phenomenon?” you ask. Well let me tell you my ever-so-curious blog reader, that’s when a Schoolhouse Rock short would air between the regularly scheduled cartoons (along with other bumpers such as “Yuckmouth” and “Beans And Rice”). If you have no idea what I’m talking about, Google it. (You’ll be a better person for it.)
For me, the fun part was always trying to figure out which short they were going to surprise me with. (I was always hoping for “Elbow Room” or “I’m Just A Bill.”)
Trying to flip the channel to these animated music videos was a common practice of mine until the mid-80′s when they slowly started swapping the shorts with bumpers featuring the hit boy band, Menudo.
By 1985, they put the final nail in the coffin and stopped showing Schoolhouse Rock altogether, replacing them with exercise shorts starring Mary Lou Retton. I never thought about recording the SR shorts (because they were supposed to go on forever!), so when they stopped showing them, I, along with the rest of the world, were left with the memories of the songs stuck in our heads. That is, until these cheesy (yet entertaining) videos were released on VHS!
Mind you, the original shorts were intact and brilliant in these collections. The problem was, as the series musical director, Bob Dorough said, “The quality is poor and there is also some new, inappropriate and inferior material not written by me and more or-less sung by Cloris Leachman and some kids.”
So what does this have to do with “Johnny Bravo?” Everything! It was inspirational and educational on so many levels for a budding animation geek. Besides the fact that I can recite the preamble of the Constitution, it helped me hone my timing skills and foster my love of music put to animation.
Naturally, I had to do an homage:
In this particular episode, Johnny Bravo learns how to pick up women from a more gentleman-ly man using tools such as manners and respect. Like in Schoolhouse Rock, the Sensitive Male educates Johnny through song and fun visual aids. For each lesson, we took inspiration from several SR staples such as “A Noun Is A Person, Place, Or Thing”…
…and “Telephone Line.”
To make the show even more authentic, we hired the legendary jazz artist, Jack Sheldon, the original singer of “Conjunction Junction” and “I’m Just A Bill” to voice the Sensitive Male.
(BACK ROW: Donna (Casting Director) Grillo, Jack Sheldon, Collette (Assistant Director) Sunderman, Lou (Composer) Fagenson, Seth (Writer) MacFarlane FRONT ROW: Bodie (Music Supervisor) Chandler, Kara (Line Producer) Vallow, Me
Here’s a pic from the 1996 recording with the rest of the cast in the sound booth at Hanna Barbera:
BACK ROW: Collette Sunderman, Seth MacFarlane, Cynthia McIntosh, Jamie Torcellini, Michelle Nicastro, Candi Milo FRONT ROW: Jeff Bennett, Mae Whitman, Me, Butch Hartman, Donna Grillo
Unfortunately, (well, fortunately too) it wasn’t until 2002 that we were able to bring the team back together to record an episode for the final season of Johnny Bravo. Entitled, “Traffic Troubles,” Johnny goes to Musical Comedy Traffic School in hopes of meeting some high kicking musical comedy chicks. Instead, he gets a lesson a la Schoolhouse Rock from the Sensitive Male.
BACK ROW: Craig Bartlett, Robert Serda, Jeff Bennett, Grey Delisle, Seth MacFarlane, Diana Ritchey, Jack Sheldon FRONT ROW: Lou Fagenson, David Faustino, Me, Collette Sunderman
It was the first time and only time we had Seth come back to the show, but this time as a voice artist instead of a writer. We even reprised his song, “Manners,” but changed the lyrics to be about taking your driver’s license test. The other fun thing about the episode was reconnecting with Jack Sheldon again. To bring everything full circle, he even agreed to be the house band at our final cast party where he brought along his trio.
So, to go back to those videos, we watched them over and over as reference because the original cartoons weren’t readily available at the time (Curse you YouTube for being in your infancy!). Today, the shows are on demand and I can watch whatever, whenever I want. Although, I often wonder, is my life really better that I don’t have to sit through Cloris Leachman singing and dancing? Only time will tell…Read More