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by Steve Fritz
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The last issue of TV Guide--the one with The Simpsons in groovy, ghoulie green on the cover--hints on a dark secret of the animation world. When it comes to the holidays, us 'toon heads really don't give a damn about Christmas, Hanukkah or Thanksgiving. The big one's Halloween.

There's just something about putting your fave cartoon character through them spooky paces, whether it's Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Scooby Doo or the current kings of the creepy, Homer and family. Animators just love scaring the daylights out of the characters, and Halloween is the perfect excuse to do just that. To top it, you get to play with all the B-movie cliches we've all grown to know and love such as aliens, werewolves, the mandatory vampires and let's not forget those oversized apes and experiments that just go wrong. The Simpsons will air their ninth annual Treehouse of Terror this weekend. It's just this time Bart better be ready -- he's in for some competition from the Angry Beavers.

"It all started out as a regular episode with the Beavers being big fans of B movies," says series creator and executive producer Mitch Schauer, "but I kept pushing and pushing to do a special. Finally, Nickelodeon was nice enough to let me do it. So what started out as a regular show has now ended up as a tribute to Hammer horror films. In fact, next year we already have a commitment to do another special called I Was A Teenaged Beaver."

That's right, on Monday, October 26, Nickelodeon has graciously let Schauer and company put Norbert and Daggett--aka the Beaver Brothers--into a haunted house. Also, true to animation form, the Beavers are going to be assaulted by all things big and creepy, most notably B-movie actors.

One might even say this is Schauer's way of doing his own Treehouse of Terror.

"Yes," Schauer acknowledges, a tad sheepishly for being caught when the Treehouse reference is brought up. "It's a lot of fun. It's something I have a lot of love for, even as a kid. Now I have an opportunity to express myself about it."

The basic scenario of the half-hour special is Norbert and Daggett do what every cartoon character in their right mind should be doing on Halloween night, be out trick or treating. For some reason, they decide to hit up the big haunted house that just happens to be part of the local color. Quite to their shock, they find the house is populated by no less than Oxnard Montalvo, their favorite B-movie actor of all time.

What do you mean, you never heard of Montalvo?

"He's a cross-section of a lot of B movie heroes," says Schauer. "Jeff Morrow, John Agar, Peter Graves, the honest-to-god heroes who had their hair drenched in Vitalis with the mandatory curl in the front. They were always in the big suits with the great ties and all had girl friends who wanted to marry them but for unspoken reasons never wanted to or just plain ignored these B movie starlets. In other words, they were all very heroic, but really buffoons. After all, the hero is the only one who takes his job seriously. No one else does."

"Well, the Beavers love him. He's their favorite B movie actor. They're big fans of him. They have all his movies on video tape but one. By the end of the show, they know where he's coming from and appreciate him because they get to experience something they never get to see."

So, does that mean the Beavers get to take on upside-down ice cream cones with fangs and tentacles like It Came From Outer Space? You better believe it.

"There's a couple of them in there," says Schauer. "We also have a golem and a flying demon called Keilor. We got plenty of monsters rampaging through the house. Oxnard also has a lot of girl friends who all look alike. Alan King did the voice of Oxnard and we even got Peter Graves to do the voice of the cynical, typical army general. John Byner did the voice of the mandatory alien. We also had William Shallett, who played Patty Duke's dad in her TV series. What most people don't know was he also played a lot of mad scientists in those movies. He even came to the rehearsals in a lab coat."

Then again, this special shows why Nickelodeon has been having a lot of success with the Beavers.

"We've been doing very well," says Schauer. "We're in our second year and not only are we getting kids, but we're crossing over to college students and adults due to the Beavers' love of everything retro. The adults get the references such as the Tijuana Brass that we use to underscore the sound- track while the kids are into the silliness."

If you notice a touch of Rocky & Bullwinkle in the Beavers approach, you wouldn't be too far off. Sure, Schauer had paid his dues doing some of the lowest dreck that would ever be created in the animation world, ranging from the likes of the old Pac Man, Star Fairies, Pound Puppies and Superfriends cartoons, but his resume shows that whenever he got a shot at a decent series such as Danger Mouse spin-off Quackula, he was there as well. The man worked with Friz Freling on the Pink Panther, so he's got some good blood in his veins.

But things really took off for Schauer in the early 90's. At that time he was working at Film Roman, where he was put in charge of design for their new series, Bobby's World. In fact, the character of Bobby is actually based on Schauer's then four year-old son, not series co-creator Howie Mandel. From there, Schauer jumped to Gunther-Wahl where he produced the still respected Red Planet miniseries. It was during this time he came up with the idea for the Beavers. While it took Gunther Wahl some time to get that series off the ground--in fact Schauer did the first season of Steven Spielberg's Freakazoid! while waiting--Nickelodeon finally bit and the series made its debut on April 19, 1997.

From the looks of things, Schauer will be working on the Beavers for a while to come.

"Well, we just pitched a movie to the execs in New York," he says. "We were told that if the Rugrats movie does well, then we'll get the green light. So I'm wishing them well and keeping our fingers crossed.

"As for the series, we're planning to do a pompous rock opera called The Golden 8-Track. What happens is they find this 8-track and put it on their headset because they are both so small they can both wear it. From there, we get to do takeoffs on Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer, The Moody Blues, Jethro Tull and even a little King Crimson. All the most pompous stuff the 70's ever produced. So the 8-track takes them to this world very much out of Fantasia where they have to deal with a King--King Crimson, of course-- and a court jester and everything else. Oh god! Just the scratch track we have is a lot of fun and we haven't even produced the lyrics for it yet."

If anything, The Golden 8-Track could end up being one of the biggest cult cartoons ever produced. You see, for this one Schauer is calling in every favor and getting out his big guns.

"We submitted some material to Jeff Lynne of ELO and he's very excited about doing it," Schauer gloats. "He's even called up some of his friends such as Roger Daltry to sing on it. He's not promising anything yet, but he says he's going to try to get Ringo Starr to do a bit. We don't know if that's going to happen, but you keep your finger crossed."

Let's hope it does. Heck, if the Golden 8-Track ends up anywhere near what Schauer is dreaming about, it could end up being more scary than all the best B movies rolled up in one.

Now wouldn't that be a heck of a way to spend a Halloween night?

-#-

MAINFRAME SIGNS DEAL WITH RODDENBERRY: Mainframe Entertainment--home of such shows as Beast Wars, War Planets and the upcoming Weird-Ohs--is at it again. They've just signed a deal to produce a CGI-animated series based on another Gene Roddenberry project, called Starship. As anybody who reads this webzine knows, Roddenberry was the creator of Star Trek. His properties are now being developed by his widow, Majel Barrett Roddenberry. One of these ideas is now the syndicated series Earth: Final Conflict. Starship promises to be something entirely different.

"The fertile imagination of Gene Roddenberry was without doubt as vast and diverse as the galaxy in which he set Star Trek," says Mainframe CEO and Vice Chairman Brough. "Within that one historic television show, and the subsequent motion pictures that were spun off from it, Roddenberry created many concepts that have become permanently ingrained in the popular cultural consciousness of the world. It is our intention to use the production magic of 3D CGI animation to breathe life into Starship and to give audiences that special kind of entertainment experience they expect from a project that bears the Roddenberry imprimatur."

In commenting on their new venture with Mainframe, Roddenberry and Semper noted, "Gene is no longer with us, but if he was, there is no doubt that he would be using the latest technological tools of the cinema to continue his exploration and celebration of his Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations philosophy. Gene Roddenberry's Starship is to be that celebration. Based upon his concept of a vast starship built and launched to explore scientifically the reaches of the galaxy. It is, at its very core, the latest evolution of Gene's imagination in which once again the fortunate viewer will be taken where no one has gone before."

The treatment for Starship was developed by Majel Barrett Roddenberry and John Semper and was written by Semper. Both will serve as executive producers along with Brough and Mainframe President Ian Pearson.

Pre-production activities including animation tests, character modeling and production design have begun at Mainframe's animation studios. It is anticipated that the series will begin production in mid-1999.

You can browse our exciting selection of great Xena products at the AnotherUniverse.com online store!


previous animated shorts
Animated Shorts, Oct. 16, 1998
Animated Shorts, Oct. 9, 1998
Animated Shorts, Sept. 18, 1998 Oggy and the Cockroaches: animation a la Francais!
Animated Shorts, Sept. 4, 1998 Kids WB fall lineup!
Animated Shorts, August 28, 1998

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