Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars – “Home, Swampy, Home”

img_3506Episode Number:  4

Original Air Date:  September 29, 1991

Directed by:  Karen Peterson

Written by:  Christy Marx

First Appearance:  Mimi LaFloo, Captain Smada

Episode Four essentially marks the part of this series where we move from a strictly serialized format to something more traditional for a children’s program. “Home, Swampy, Home” does not follow a cliff-hanger nor does it leave another one at its conclusion. However, that doesn’t mean we’ve lost all semblance of continuity. The plot of the episode is still a reference to the first set of stories as Bucky’s home planet of Warren needs to have its climate restored and there’s still the question of where the Toads have taken Bucky’s fellow hares.

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A sleekly animated intro welcomes our hero into episode four where he truly gets to shine.

Considering this episode is going to focus primarily on the hares, it should be no surprise that Bucky is front and center. Our first three episodes were very much an ensemble, with perhaps Willy getting the most focus and backstory on the greater conflict between mammals and toads taking center stage. The writers and producers of this show will now take time to flesh out the supporting cast, and they’re starting with the captain himself. Eventually, characters like Dead-Eye and Bruiser will get episodes that allow them to spread their wings and even dabble in their past lives before joining Bucky’s crew. It’s a smart approach when your cast of characters is sizable, and it’s a strategy Fox’s X-Men would utilize the following year and even well into season two as its cast was particularly cumbersome. Even though the episode focus is getting narrower, we still have time for new characters and this one will introduce a fairly important one in Mimi LaFloo (Margot Pinvidic).

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I suppose it makes sense that the Toads would have some amphibious vessels.

The episode opens with one of the better pieces of animation we’ve seen so far. Bucky, on the flooded planet of Warren, is piloting the Toad Croaker like a jet ski as it shoots across the surface of the water. Jenny and the others are in communication with him from the Righteous Indignation and we quickly learn that Bucky is surveying the planet for remaining hares while also being on the lookout for Toad forces. A barge like watercraft soon rises from below the water’s surface with a trio of Storm Troopers aboard it and a large canon. Our quite lovely animation level then drops back to the standards we should be used to by now as Bucky maneuvers the Croaker into the sky to avoid laser fire. He then turns around and demonstrates the primary method of attack of the Croaker by squishing the troopers and the barge they’re floating on.

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That’s why they call it the Toad Croaker.

In Warren’s orbit, the Righteous Indignation is under fire from Toad spacecraft and is forced to pull out. Their communication equipment is down, and Jenny instructs Blinky to take over piloting duties while she tries to reach Willy. On Earth, Willy seems to be enjoying a sunny day outside piloting a remote controlled airplane when he hears Jenny inside his own mind reaching out to him. She reminds him of the memory stone she gave him at the conclusion of the previous episode and he reaches into his pocket to pull it out. He can see Jenny communicating through the stone and she urges him to return to the Righteous Indignation as they need help.

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The memory stone in action.

Willy soon arrives and Bruiser is there to greet him with his battle suit in hand. Willy heads up to the cockpit and is surprised to find only Jenny and Blinky. Jenny tells him Bucky went to Warren to seek guidance from his mentor, which is why he didn’t permit anyone to go with him. We cut to Bucky pulling up the Croaker to a cave. Light is pouring out and we just hear a voice over play while Bucky stares into the cave telling him it’s easier to take a fortress by stealth from within than by force. Bucky then turns around and jumps into the Croaker and takes off. I don’t know if that statement was meant to be cryptic, because it was pretty direct. I also have no idea why they felt they needed to keep Bucky’s mentor a secret. Maybe for time? Maybe no one could come up with a design that was interesting? It’s pretty clunky and weird though.

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How Bucky reacts to the site of his mentor. I guess we’re not missing much.

As Bucky shoots through the sky, another barge emerges and this fires grappling hooks. They grab onto the Croaker and stop it in mid-air. Bucky, who is neither wearing a seatbelt nor helmet (tisk, tisk), is ejected from the Croaker when it comes to an abrupt stop and lands right in a net aboard the Toad barge. The Toads then happily celebrate the capture of Bucky O’Hare.

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Captured again. Aww gee.

Bucky is taken to a rather neat looking Toad spacecraft. This show seems stretched thin in terms of its budget so its nice to see that AKOM didn’t just continually reuse the same spacecraft for the Toads over and over. This vessel is under the supervision of Captain Smada (Richard Newman), a rather fancy looking Toad who would look at home on the stage. He’s pretty delighted to see what his subordinates have brought him and he immediately radios to the Toad Air Marshall to inform him of what’s transpired.

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Meet Mimi LaFloo. She’s an important one to remember.

On a planet new to us, we get a look at the hares who have been captured and are being forced into labor for the Toads. They’re being worked hard, apparently, but all anticipate being set free eventually by their hero:  Bucky O’Hare. All, that is, except one fox by the name of Mimi LaFloo. She is not content to sit around and wait for some hero to come and save them and is pretty sick and tired of hearing about Bucky O’Hare from the other hares. The workers are introduced to the new overseer of this factory:  Toad Air Marshall. He promises to make them work harder and faster so their very important project can meet its deadline.

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Captain Smada gets the credit for the capture.

Air Marshall’s proclamations are interrupted by a transmission from Captain Smada. Smada proudly displays his captured Bucky O’Hare and an excited Air Marshall orders he be sent to him immediately. From the ship, Bucky is able to watch this conversation play out and learn the location of his fellow hares. At the factory, the Air Marshall happily announces over the PA the news of Bucky’s capture. The other hares are shown down-trodden at the news, some even weeping, while Mimi tries to use it as a rallying cry. There’s no more waiting around, they need to act if they want to save themselves.

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The other hares do not take the Bucky news well.

Mimi begins actively organizing a resistance movement and needs the cooperation of the hares if they’re going to escape. She interacts primarily with a hare named Larry (Scott McNeil) and a chubby hare named Bob (Jason Michas) who are rather meek in her presence. They’re wiling to take orders from her and provide a look-out as she sneaks into a secure area to hack a computer terminal. The animation of Mimi at the console is particularly brutal as she seems to float around while typing. She is able to print out (on old school computer paper) plans for whatever it is they’re being forced to work on and when she shows it to the other hares they recoil in horror to see it’s a climate converter, like the one used to turn Warren into a swamp.

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Mimi’s awkward keyboard animation.

On Smada’s ship, Komplex contacts the captain and demands to know why it wasn’t informed immediately about Bucky’s capture. Smada is quivering and we cut to Toadborg who reminds Smada they have a score to settle with the green rabbit. Komplex, demands Smada place Bucky on his fastest transport vessel and send him to the Toad home world and Smada is forced to obey. A sleek looking Toad ship is then shown launching from Smada’s and it shoots through space.

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Smada is in a bit of hot water.

Mimi and the others are shown at work at the factory. Mimi literally tosses a wrench into the machine they’re working on causing an explosion. As they celebrate their little act of sabotage, Storm Troopers come racing in and round them up at gunpoint. It doesn’t seem like they thought this one through.

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Torture time, in a very Saturday morning kind of fashion.

Aboard the Righteous Indignation, Jenny is able to intercept the communication between Komplex and Captain Smada. They also use it to figure out a last known location and she has Willy engage the warp drive. As he does, we get more goofy animation where Willy appears to turn a gauge like a dial. The Righteous Indignation rockets through space and is able to catch up with the transport ship. Apparently unaware that Bucky is physically on the ship, Dead-Eye opens fire and scores a few hits. Aboard the ship, the fire causes the ship to lurch and the trooper drops the keys to Bucky’s restraints. He’s able to secure them and takes out the others before radioing to the Righteous Indignation to hold their fire. He then shares the news that he knows where his fellow hares are, and citing the message his master had for him, that he knows someone who can infiltrate the base and free them:  Angus McJump.

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The Righteous Indignation goes after their captain.

In the slave factory, Frix and Frax are overseeing a torture session. Mimi and the other hares who participated in her little stunt are plugged into a machine that broadcasts Toad TV directly into their brains, basically. We’re even shown what they’re watching, an infomercial for fly paper wallpaper. The Air Marshall is then shown ranting about the injustice of Komplex diverting the captured Bucky O’Hare to the Toad home world. Feeling he needs to get back in the good graces of Komplex, he orders the torture session suspended so that the workers can start working double-time to complete the climate converter ahead of schedule.

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A shadowy hare among some pretty cool looking ruins.

Back on Warren, some toads out on patrol in another new piece of watercraft spot a lone hare at the mouth of a temple of some kind. They head over and find an elderly green hare in a ragged cloak with a beard and an eyepatch. He pleads for mercy as they apprehend him and it’s not hard to figure out that this is Bucky in disguise. Angus McJump, as he’s called, is taken to the factory with the other hares. There Bucky is reunited with his Aunt Iris (Pinvidic) and he reveals his disguise to her. She lets him know they have formed a resistance and that she’ll bring him to its leader in the evening. They then enter the hangar where most of the construction is ongoing and Bucky is horrified to see another climate converter.

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The Toads are not too impressed with the capture of Angus McJump.

In the mess hall, Aunt Iris is showing Bucky around and he sees Mimi for the first time and is rather impressed. She’s rallying the troops, so to speak, and when one mentions Bucky O’Hare she practically bites his head off. Bucky assures his aunt that he’ll handle things from here, and he approaches Mimi with some exuberance. He claims to be a hare of 92 who really wants to help, and after some convincing, Mimi agrees to let him be a lookout. Larry is then selected to be the focal point of their attack as he was the second best jumper on Warren (I bet you can’t guess who was first) and his skills will be crucial for Mimi’s plan.

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Bucky is able to track down his Aunt Iris among the hares.

The next day, Mimi and the hares are basically standing around just wiping walls. It seems like a rather useless task, but whatever. When the sentry yawns and closes his eyes a moment they duck inside the main chamber of the climate converter. There Mimi sneaks up behind the lone guard and puts him in a chokehold while dragging him out of frame. She and the hares emerge with the guard’s rifle and they use it to subdue the scientists inside. Outside, Angus heads in and the sentry awakens to see the missing fox (who must really stand out) and hares and demands to know where they are. The remaining hares simply shrug their shoulders and the sentry raises the alarm.

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Mimi’s introduction to Mr. McJump.

Mimi and Larry race to the surface of the climate converter. The other guards are now aware of their location and are firing upon them. Way up high is the command tower they need to reach if they want to shut the place down. It’s up to Larry to make the jump, but one look and he balks. He turns to Mimi to tell her he can’t make it, but she won’t hear it and reminds him their whole plan is dependent upon him making that jump. With no other choice, Larry prepares to make a leap he knows he can’t possibly make when a commanding voice from offscreen shouts “Forget it, kid, you’d never make it!” Angus emerges, and as Mimi reminds him he’s supposed to be the lookout, he removes his costume to reveal his true identity. Larry and Mimi are shocked as Bucky informs her he doesn’t do well taking orders, referring to her as “Foxy.” He bolts for the tower and with a mighty leap he’s just barely able to reach the railing. He hops over the guard rail and batters the lone armed guard and steals his rifle. The Air Marshall and others are forced to run and seek shelter in an elevator. As the door closes, poor Frax collides with it knocking himself unconscious.

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Mimi doing her best Solid Snake.

Bucky gets on the PA and alerts the other captives that he’s here to set them free. Larry and the other hares are shown jumping and cheering while Mimi looks on with awe. Bucky blasts the console which controls the various turrets and other security measures allowing the prisoners to revolt and take down their captors. Jenny is able to detect the reduced security measures and the Righteous Indignation heads down.

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Larry is not up to the task at hand.

The other hares happily approach Bucky and thank him for the rescue. The hand shake is rather awkwardly animated, hopefully I don’t sound like I’m beating a dead horse by pointing this out. Mimi also thanks Bucky and seems to be quite impressed with the funky, fresh, rabbit. She does inform him to never address her as “Foxy” again though before taking her leave. The others arrive and Bruiser enjoys flattening a few leftover toadies and everyone appears to be in a joyful mood.

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And here comes Bucky!

Their celebratory moment is interrupted though by the Air Marshall. He’s now in a Double Bubble vessel with Frix and he informs Bucky that he’s going to explode the entire factory. Frix is alarmed to hear this and he informs the Air Marshall that there are still toads in that factory, including Frax. Air Marshall remarks it’s a price he’s willing to pay. Willy is on it though, and he fires up the climate converter and creates a massive windstorm around the factory. It’s almost comically effective as the hatch on the Double Bubble is blown open causing the Air Marshall to lose the remote detonator he held. The ship then goes spinning wildly out of control and crashes in a firy explosion, so I guess Frix and the Air Marshall are dead? Bucky congratulates Willy on a job well done while Willy shares some good news. He theorizes that they should be able to figure out a way to reverse the damage done on Warren now that they have a climate converter in their possession.

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If this were some big sporting moment we’d probably dub this The Leap.

On Genus, the Secretary General is proud to announce that the United Animal Fleet is being expanded once again to include a third frigate. It’s captain will be none other than Mimi LaFloo, based on a recommendation from Bucky O’Hare. Mimi is dressed in a regal looking blue pilot ensemble and when the Secretary General suggests she thank Bucky she is more than happy to do so, in her own way. She plants a kiss on the smitten captain while Jenny turns away in disgust. I’m not sure how we’re supposed to take that. Jenny is either disgusted with Mimi for her conduct of utilizing her sex appeal to woo Bucky, or does she harbor feelings for Bucky as well? Maybe she’s just ticked he recommended Mimi receive her own frigate rather than advocate for Jenny to get her own ship? That would make sense, though I doubt that’s how we’re supposed to take it. Or is this just a lame joke and Jenny is acting “catty” towards another female since she is a cat? Anyways, Mimi names her new vessel, a gray frigate, The Screaming Mimi as the episode ends.

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Looks like Bucky won over a new fan.

Going into this series, if someone told me they wanted to watch one episode of Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars and asked me to recommend just one, this is the episode I would have selected. It basically gives us a look at both the myth of Bucky, as perceived by the hares, and the actual hero that Bucky is. I wish the episode went even further with that and included the captive hares sharing some tall tales of Bucky, with some fun ones that were obviously more myth than factual. It’s interesting to see how Bucky is perceived by the other hares and how they expect him to just show up eventually and make everything right. And he kind of does, and the moment where he reveals himself and makes his gravity-defying leap of faith is one of the better moments in the entire series.

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Mimi looking rather dashing in her new uniform.

That’s not to say the episode is perfect. I noted many animation shortcomings throughout and this one does get rather ugly in places. Running animation continues to be an issue and overall things are just very stiff. Which is a shame since the episode looks great in the opening moments. AKOM definitely has an easier time with the spacecraft which makes sense since there are less moving parts. That’s not to say there isn’t some room for praise. The backgrounds on Warren look really nice and I enjoy the look of that world the short time we’re there. The additional new pieces of Toad tech are also welcomed so at least there’s a willingness to keep introducing new designs and models and not just re-hashing the same old thing. Budget constraints are also taking their toll on the cast as well as it’s obvious the show wanted to keep things small. Margot Pinvidic has been tasked with voicing every female so far and to differentiate Mimi from Jenny she basically talks in a lower, more even, tone with Mimi. At times, some more excitement would be nice out of Mimi, but maybe then she’d sound too close to Jenny or something. Scott McNeil also does a ton of Toad voices in addition to Dead-Eye, though given that Dead-Eye is barely in this one, it’s not as noticeable as it has been in past episodes.

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That’s one way to thank a rabbit.

Mimi LaFloo is a great addition to the series, whatever your thoughts on her methods of showing gratitude. It was really uncommon in 1991 to see a female character take charge like she does throughout the episode. She’s an anti-princess if you’re definition of a princess is in the classic Disney sense where a damsel in distress sits around and waits for her prince to show up. Mimi is a go-getter and a natural leader. It’s also amusing for the viewer to see her irritated at the mention of Bucky O’Hare only to be left in awe when she gets a glimpse of his exploits herself. At the end of the episode she gets acknowledgement from the council for her leadership skills in freeing the slaves and also rewarded by having the rank of captain bestower upon her. She and Bucky are essentially equals, and I expect her to be portrayed as such going forward.

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Jenny is not a fan of Captain LaFloo.

“Home, Swampy, Home” does still suffer a bit in the pacing department, even though it’s more of a stand-alone episode than the previous three. Bucky’s meeting with his mentor is basically glossed over and the whole thing feels really awkward. There wasn’t a better, more streamlined way for Bucky to have the idea planted in his head that a stealth approach is better than a full-frontal assault? He should already be familiar with that anyways, since he and his crew have had to fight the entire Toad army basically on their own. They should have cut all of that and just had Bucky get captured like he did anyway and come to that conclusion on his own. Then there would have been a little more time to build towards the big escape or to add some more of that myth-making I desired.

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So they do come in different shapes and colors.

After the episode basically leaves Warren, the pacing is actually all right. The Toad security measures are obviously laughable, but I like the little textures put in place. The Toad guards are always aware of where Mimi is, because she stands out. Komplex overruling the Air Marshall is a nice callback to its displeasure at the end of the last episode and demonstrates how far the Air Marshall has fallen. It’s the type of thing little kids might not really notice or even appreciate, but it’s a nice observation for older viewers. The main competition for Bucky was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and aside from all of the jargon that show threw at viewers, its plots were super simple. This show was aiming higher. The execution isn’t perfect, but at least it’s trying. It should be mentioned that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles enjoyed a similar start with inter-connected episodes introducing the Turtles and their main foes before things started to get really silly when it got a full episode order. Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars would obviously never get that order, but it’s only four episodes deep right now and there’s time for it to devolve into lesser entertainment. For now, the start has been solid and this episode is still the one I’d recommend to people just looking to get a taste of what the show is about.

 

 


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