Category Archives: Television

NECA TMNT Cartoon Casey Jones and Slashed Foot Soldier

It’s never a good day to be a Foot Soldier.

Something that is likely common to most of humanity is a desire to be successful. We all measure success differently, be it professional, financial, or something else, but we all strive for it. And sometimes success can feel like a burden. Take NECA’s line of action figures based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles property. Since these toys hit retail over a year ago they’ve been a challenge to get hold of. Exclusive arrangements with big box retailers, who definitely do not specialize in collectible toys, can make simply tracking them down difficult. And when anything is hot, it attracts the attention of re-sellers, or scalpers, as they are often referred to as. With unemployment at record highs, the temptation to make a quick buck off of a toy might be even more tempting than it normally would be. Collectors who simply want a hunk of plastic that resembles a cartoon they watched 30 years ago are forced to fight a system not designed for them in addition to the scalpers, bots, and other collectors. Not to mention a global pandemic.

As such, tempers have been running a bit hot lately on social media. Follow NECA on Twitter and likely any tweet will be met with a reply, usually several replies, about folks complaining about their inability to find TMNT product. The most cheeky and overused response is usually something like “Check out this eBay exclusive!” but sometimes things can get downright abusive. NECA’s Creative Director, Randy Falk, even went on the Pixel Dan show recently just to talk about TMNT and the difficulties in getting product to fans. It’s one part rant, one part informational, with a little room for announcements and optimism towards the end (and I encourage you to check it out if you have any interest in NECA’s Tokka and Rahzar set). It has become a rather insane situation, and collectors come out looking the worse for it based on the reactions of a few, but NECA is at least acknowledging that some change is needed so hopefully things can improve.

One way to combat this scarcity is simply to buddy-up! I have had no luck finding the newly released Target exclusives in my area, but a fellow collector out in Illinois has hooked me up with one of the releases: the Casey Jones and Slashed Foot Soldier Two-Pack. This two-pack is the first two-pack in Wave 3 of NECA’s line of figures based on the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series from 1987. In an attempt to get more product on shelves, NECA has opted to release this wave in a staggered fashion. This Casey two-pack arrived first alongside the single figure release of Metalhead. Later this week, the second two-pack is scheduled to start rolling out and the third will follow two weeks later. That next two-pack might be even more hard to get as it features the villainous duo of Slash and Leatherhead. This third will feature April O’Neil and a “bashed” Foot Soldier. Fans in the UK had the whole wave dropped all at once so you may see fans from across the pond with all three sets already. What hasn’t been clarified is if Metalhead will continue to ship with the other two-packs. I sure hope so, because he’s been difficult to find with most stores apparently only receiving two per shipment. As a result, he is going for roughly triple the MSRP on eBay at the moment, which is a shame because he looks like a contender for toy of the year and one that deserves to be in the hands of collectors as opposed to scalpers.

This two-pack marks the second such two-pack headlined by Casey Jones this summer, the first being the movie version of Casey Jones with Raphael in disguise. It’s kind of amusing that both versions of Casey have arrived bundled with a variant of a previously released figure, but maybe that speaks to the popularity of the Casey Jones character that NECA thinks he can carry a two-pack with a variant alongside him. Casey Jones is definitely one of the most memorable allies of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from the old show and action figure line. He had a strong presence in the comics and obviously the first film. The hockey mask look is striking, and in the cartoon he was voiced by Pat Fraley doing an obvious Dirty Harry impersonation. He only appeared in five episodes and was basically just some crazed vigilante whom the Turtles had to hold in check, but he definitely left an impression. He didn’t form any real personal connections with anyone which is a distinction between this Casey and the others.

The accessories!

NECA’s action figure of Casey is based off of his first appearance in the show. His costume and weapons are quite screen accurate as he has the cut-off shirt and sweatpants look. He carries a golf bag over one shoulder that you have to pop the head off of the figure to slip on and the bag can hold all of his included weapons. He stands a little over six inches making him taller than the Turtles, but shorter than the villains. He is fully articulated,as one would expect, with articulation in the following places: ball-jointed neck, ball-jointed shoulders, bicep swivel, double-jointed elbows, wrist swivel, waist swivel, ball-jointed diaphragm, ball-jointed legs, double-jointed knees, and ankle joints on a hinge with some pivot motion from side to side. This is fairly standard of NECA which tries to avoid things like cut thighs and ab crunches so as not to take away from the look of the figure. The only consistent complaint I see for this figures is the lack of hinges in the wrist area that allow the hands to move in four directions as opposed to just in and out.

The sculpt work on Casey is pretty damn fantastic. He looks like he’s pulled right from the show. NECA did a great job adding subtle detail to the mask, which is non-removable as he never took it off in the old cartoon, to really allow the character’s personality to shine through. He’s also a rather fit dude, but the sculpt doesn’t go overboard with the muscles. A lot of Casey’s attire is done with a separate piece of soft plastic which gives the figure a nice feel and texture. The little strings on his sweatpants are in this soft plastic so they have some play as is his shirt and shoulder pad. The pliability of the plastic allows for some movement in the diaphragm area, though the shirt does hinder it as well. The shoulder pad also limits some of the range of motion on his left arm. The only articulation I personally miss is a butterfly joint in the shoulder area which would have allowed him to do more forceful looking, two-handed, weapon swings. My figure was quite loose and ready to rock out of the box, so no heat was needed to get things working. His elbow and knee hinges though have a very rubbery feel to them. I worry about durability down the line. Hopefully my fears are unfounded.

Casey seems to scale rather well with the other figures in the line.

The paint job should seem familiar to fans of this line. You either like it or don’t when it comes to NECA’s shading. They apply a darker shade of paint to the backside of their figures to mimic the shading from the show. Sometimes this looks fine, and sometimes it comes across as overdone. With Casey, I think it mostly works on his clothing, but looks a bit silly on his arms. Natural lighting should take care of this without the need for the added paint, but it appears this tactic is here to stay at this point. The paint itself though is rather cleanly applied with little slop. NECA did a great job matching the plastic arms to the paint on the exposed knees. NECA also likes to use a lot of black lines to give the figures added pop. I’ve seen some complaints of this online, but it’s something I’m a fan of.

The only area I see for criticism is just in the amount of paint and choice of plastic. There’s a lot of paint on this guy and I worry about it flaking off down the road. It’s already an issue on the ankle joints and wrist hinges where NECA used a flesh-toned plastic and then painted green to match the boots and brown for the gloves. This paint has a tendency to flake off (or the entire hinge was never painted to begin with) leaving an exposed area of flesh tone in the middle of the boot and at the base of the glove. Casey’s wristbands do hide the hinge on the hand fairly well, so it’s more of an issue with the boot. NECA would do well to have the factory match the color of the foot with the plastic rather than paint in future releases. The paint also has a tendency to rub off when it comes to the hands. This is particularly an issue on the bone-white hockey stick which already has a brown smudge from inserting and removing it into Casey’s hands.

Casey is known for having a small arsenal on his person at all times, and NECA doesn’t disappoint here. In addition to the golf bag he uses for storage, Casey has the following weapons: a hockey stick, a goalie stick, a baseball bat, a metal bat-like rod, and a mallet. All feature a lot of black linework giving them a real toon appearance. I think my favorite is the traditional hockey stick, but that mallet is certainly fearsome looking. In addition to the weapons, he also has a few extra hands. He comes packaged with closed fists for when weapons aren’t needed and has a set of gripping hands. He also has an optional right hand with a pointing gesture, and a left hand giving a thumb’s up. The gripping hands seem to work just fine with all of the accessories. Some probably wished for an open hand or double thumb’s up hands, but this allotment certainly gets the job done.

And of course, Casey is not alone! Joining him in this two-pack is the Slashed Foot Soldier. Initially, many fans simply assumed that Casey and April would be packed together since they were first unveiled side-by-side and the two characters have an established relationship outside of the cartoon universe. That didn’t come to pass though and instead both come with a battle damaged Foot Soldier. I was initially disappointed with this development as I’m not the army builder type, but I will say this particular Foot Soldier is pretty cool.

The majority of the figure is the same as the previously released Foot Soldier. The only difference is in the torso which features the battle damage. The clothing has been ripped away exposing some of the robotic parts inside. All of this is sculpted really well and you can see where parts were severed and intended to match up and so forth. There’s one thick wire that’s still connected and it holds the two halves together. It’s bendable, though coated with plastic so you will want to go easy with it to avoid cracking that plastic coating. This allows the figure to be displayed as he’s in the process of being torn in half. He could be doubled-over, in mid-slash, or even pulled apart entirely. It’s a very descriptive figure and one toy photographers might actually want multiples of. It wouldn’t shock me if down the road we get a refresher wave that bundles the two battle-damaged Foot together if there’s a demand for it, and maybe then Casey and April will be bundled together as well.

The Foot looks great and his battle damage is quite possibly the best application of that concept I’ve ever seen. He also comes with accessories though so he’s more than just a prop. He has the same hands and rifle as the previously released Foot, plus he has a new, more bulbous, gun that undoubtedly showed up in the show at some point. He also has the same communicator released with several figures previously, only this one has a sticker of Rocksteady on it. If you’ve been collecting everything, that means you should have a communicator with Shredder, Krang, Bebop, and Rocksteady now which is a fun little touch.

The Casey Jones and Slashed Foot two-pack is a worthy addition to NECA’s cartoon line of TMNT product. Casey is a fan-favorite and I think fans will be very pleased with how he turned out. While the Slashed Foot may not be something fans were crying out for, it’s a fun, gimmicky, figure that works well in a display especially considering he comes with a figure who’s a big fan of slashing, as is. There will be a handful only interested in Casey, but I’m sure if that’s the case they won’t have much trouble unloading this extra figure considering how in-demand this line is. This set is sold exclusively at Target in the US and at various specialty shops outside of the country. Since NECA stocks its own product at these stores they won’t show up on the website or on inventory tracking sites like Brick Seek except for under rare circumstances so get out there, make some phone calls, and good luck!

The collection is growing! And if you’re wondering why all of the glassware is present, it’s because the best place to display these in my house happens to be behind my bar.

I need to send out a special “Thanks” to the fellow poster over at thefwoosh.com for hooking me up with this figure at cost. Without him, I may have never encountered it in the wild. And that’s the thing I want to stress in this review – help each other out! If you’re a collector, get onto social media or a forum and find fellow collectors that can help you and that you can in turn help out. I see too many selfish collectors who buy up stock with the intention of keeping one for them and flipping the others to in effect “pay” for the one they kept. That’s just using the rest of the collecting community to fund your hobby and it’s a dick move. So if you happen upon these things don’t be shy about buying two and selling one at cost to a collector in need. Some don’t live near a Target, or might be immunocompromised and shouldn’t be out in public places right now. If there’s another collector at the store then by all means don’t take one out of their hands, but we should do what we can to try and make sure these don’t fall into the hands of scalpers. And it should go without saying, but don’t buy from scalpers. If people weren’t paying 80 bucks on eBay for this set, then no one would bother trying to sell them. It’s tough out there, but you don’t have to go it alone.


Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling

After taking a trip to the past with Rocko’s Modern Life during the spring, it seems only fitting that I also take a look at the Rocko’s Modern Life movie from 2019: Static Cling. To be fair, the term “movie” is definitely used loosely when applied to this piece of media. Static Cling was originally conceived by Nickelodeon as a one hour TV special with commercials so the running time is a tidy 45 minutes. It’s basically a double-episode, but considering Rocko’s Modern Life had never had a special before it’s easily the longest story the show ever committed to.

The special was announced in 2016 by Nickelodeon and it rejoins the original cast, alongside series creator Joe Murray, and gives fans a look at what Rocko (Carlos Alazraqui), Heffer (Tom Kenny), Filburt (Doug Lawrence), and the rest have been up to since. The theme of the special is change as it’s a very metta look at how audiences grapple with the loss of something from their past and seek out nostalgia binges to fill that hole left behind. The special will drive that point home quite literally by having Rocko, who has been lost in space since the events of “Future Schlock,” return to an O-Town that has long since ridden itself of his favorite cartoon: The Fatheads. Rocko is forced to confront this new O-Town and adapt to a new modern without his binky and he finds it impossible. Conversely, he has to watch his two best friends adapt just fine as Heffer and Filburt become immediately enchanted by modern technology. A clerical error by neighbor Ed Bighead (Charlie Adler), whose life has apparently been bliss since Rocko and his friends were blasted off into space, causes the mega-corporation, Conglom-O, to lose all of its paper value thus plunging all of O-Town (since Conglom-O owns everything) into a depression. Rocko is able to convince the head at Conglom-O, Mr. Dupette (Adler), that a way to help the company out would be to produce a new Fatheads TV Special. The only problem is that series creator Ralph Bighead (Joe Murray) hasn’t been seen or heard from in years.

Alternatively known as Static Cling: The Rocko Special.

The early bits of the special unfold in a predictable, but still entertaining, manner. Rocko and the gang are shown adjusting to modern life and the classic opening segment from the TV show is even redone with modern technology now harassing Rocko. There’s also a nice bit of the boys taking in a gritty reboot of Really Really Big Man that’s an obvious parody of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Even though the special is basically mocking those who have been begging for this show to return for the last 20 years, there’s still a ton of fan service throughout as basically every character of note returns for a cameo, at the very least.

Some of the jokes the special makes are rather easy, but they’re also the type of jokes that pretty much have to be made.

Static Cling was commissioned as a Nickelodeon TV Special initially, but the network wound up passing on it and selling the rights to Netflix. This caused a rather significant delay in getting the special in front of fans. Nickelodeon never offered up a reason why it chose to option the special to Netflix, but many speculate it has to do with the character formerly known as Ralph Bighead. A major plot device in the special is that when Rocko eventually finds Ralph, he finds that Ralph no longer identifies as male and has taken the name Rachel instead. The reaction of Rocko and his friends, and basically everyone in town, is very positive as they basically congratulate Rachel and that’s that. Rachel’s father, Ed, is the only one who has an issue with it resurrecting his line “I have no son!” from the Season Two premiere. Nickelodeon was reportedly supportive of the idea to add a transgender character, and it certainly fits the theme of change, but it’s not the best look for the network that it chose to pass on airing this. Maybe the network found it could make more by selling the distribution rights to Netflix, but how much would the pay-out have been affected if Nickelodeon chose to premiere it on its own network and then pass it off to Netflix? Probably not a lot and it’s a shame it didn’t see this as an opportunity to make a positive social statement.

The re-done opening credits gag will likely be a favorite part for many fans.

The look and sound of Static Cling is quite similar to what fans remember from the show, but also a bit different. Cartoons just aren’t made in the same manner they were back in the 90s so Static Cling doesn’t necessarily look like a 90s cartoon. It’s obviously all digital and a bit more “clean” to look at. Some of that Rocko’s Modern Life grime has been lost and this is overall a far less gross version of the show than viewers are used to. Not that Rocko’s Modern Life needed to be gross in order to be funny. The only big change I felt a bit jarring is that Rocko’s fur is a deeper shade of beige than it was before. As mentioned before, basically all of the cast returned to voice the main characters and the side ones as well. Pretty much all of them still sound the same, though Tom Kenny’s Heffer is a bit higher and is the most notable difference.

The Chokey Chicken has undergone a makeover.

Rocko’s Modern Life was able to garner itself a reputation for adult humor during its life as it sometimes found itself censored after airing. Fans hoping for something as titillating as “Leap Frogs” or the infamous moo-milker gag might be a little let down by Static Cling. The Chokey Chicken does get to have its original name restored (it’s mascot has also been slimmed down as it’s become health conscious in this new modern setting) and Really Really Big Man’s magic nipples get some screen time as well. The only borderline lewdness I picked up on was just an emphasis on Mrs. Bighead’s ample bosom. There’s a scene where a fence divides her and Rocko and her breasts hang over it right in Rocko’s face, though he doesn’t seem to notice. She even reaches into her cleavage to pull out an object, though that’s the kind of gag I feel like the original show could have got away with anyway (and maybe did).

Static Cling does an excellent job of giving these characters a reason to exist in the 2010s. The foundation is solid, though I found the last fifteen minutes or so started to drag for me. A lot of the best humor and gags occur early in the special and it doesn’t help that the Rachel Bighead plot feels very similar to Ralph’s debut in “I Have No Son.” It was both disappointing and predictable to see Ed Bighead serves as the conflict once again for Rachel and the character just re-learns the lesson he had already learned back in that old episode. Maybe it could have been more interesting if the opposite had occurred and it was Bev Bighead that took issue with Rachel? Anything to make it feel less redundant would have likely helped, though maybe it didn’t feel redundant to someone who hasn’t seen that episode in 20 years.

It shouldn’t be glossed over that the inclusion of Rachel is a pretty eventful change, and one that should be celebrated.

Ultimately, Static Cling does have something to say and it’s a worthwhile message. It’s examination of modern fandom and nostalgia is pretty on point, and the overall message that change is necessary is a statement worth saying. The fact that it also contains a positive portrayal of a transgender character is also great as that’s a minority that is still under-represented. It never stoops to cheap trans jokes too, which is a plus, as the production did seek input from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) during production. It’s also hard not to enjoy Static Cling for the reason it seems to not want the viewer to enjoy it for and that’s just the pure nostalgia trip one gets from interacting with these characters once again. I have no doubt that because of it’s approach to comically infuse cartoon characters into a modern society that Rocko’s Modern Life could make a full comeback and be just as funny in 2020 as it was in 1995. It’s perhaps the cartoon from that era that has aged the best. It doesn’t seem like Joe Murray is interested in a full-blown comeback, but at least we got a little taste of what life would be like for Rocko in the 2010s.


Bandai Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Megazord

It was now a couple of weeks ago I posted about some toys I always wanted as a kid, but never got. Shortly after, I rectified some of those decades old injustices by purchasing the Dragonzord with Green Ranger from Bandai’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers line of action figures from 1993. The Dragonzord was my number 2 miss, but number 1 had always been the Deluxe Megazord from that same line. Well, predictably, I have now made peace with the two biggest toy omissions from my youth by securing my own set of Dinozords!

The Megazord was always appealing to me because it was essentially five separate toys that could combine into two additional toys. That’s basically seven toys in one box, and the fact that it was pretty screen accurate made it appeal to me even more. I was just a casual fan of the television show, but those toys were just too awesome to ignore. The demand for the toys was something I couldn’t overcome though, so I learned to go without. As an adult though, I don’t have to.

“We need Dinozord power now!”

I purchased a Megazord secondhand. Unlike the Dragonzord set I acquired, this one did not come with a box, but it did come with all of the parts. In my search for an authentic early 90s Megazord I found it was common to find some missing the sword, shield, and especially the canons that double as feet for the pterodactyl zord. Some also would feature a broken gun on the triceratops zord or missing horns. I assume most of these that were acquired in 1993 were played with and not kept on a shelf so it’s not a surprise that it’s hard to find a fully intact Megazord. It’s also why these things end up being quite expensive. I don’t feel as good about the price I paid for this set as I did the Dragonzord, but it is what it is. I’m actually relieved the seller no longer had the box or else I probably would have had to spend more!

Like the Dragonzord, I had some options when it came to buying a Megazord in 2020. Bandai released two different versions of the Megazord in 2010 as part of the Legacy line of figures. That one, from what I can tell based on video reviews, is very similar to this one. The functionality is virtually identical as both basically transform as it did on television. The standard 2010 version has a pretty ugly sword, but there was an updated version with some diecast parts and a much nicer looking sword. Overall, the 2010 Megazord appears to be a touch smaller, but the thing that bugged me about it is the triceratops zord lost the gun articulation on its tail. It’s a really minor thing, but it irritated me because it’s a clear downgrade. The 2010 version should have been superior in every way to a toy released in 1993! Also like the Dragonzord, there’s a Soul of Chogokin version from Tamashii Nations. It’s fantastic looking and easily the superior Megazord, but it’s also upwards of $300 at this point. There was also a model kit, Mini-Pla, version that’s almost adorably small and still retains the five zords into one (unlike the Build-A-Figure version from the Legacy Collection line that’s just an action figure) that I would have loved to consider, but it’s long since sold out and now fetches around 200 bucks on the secondary market. Ultimately, it was the 93 Megazord that vexed me as a kid so it was the 93 Megazord that I should acquire.

On their own, they’re merely okay, but put them together…

In case you’re not familiar with the Megazord concept, please allow me to present this refresher. The Megazord is the combination of the five Dinozords. Each of the five original Power Rangers was aligned with a prehistoric beast and each Ranger controlled what is essentially a giant robotic representation for each beast. They are: Tyranosaurus, Pterodactyl, Triceratops, Sabre-toothed Tiger (sic), and Mastodon. In nearly every episode, the monster of the day the Power Rangers are fighting grows to roughly the size of a skyscraper, so the Rangers attack via their zords. They can attack separately, though rarely do. Instead, they combine their beasts into one massive robot: the Megazord.

The Megazord actually has two forms: tank mode and battle mode. Tank mode is the less elegant version as it’s basically just the Megazord, but sitting down without a head. The T-Rex serves as the body, and the sabre-toothed tiger and triceratops form the right and left legs respecitively. The mastodon zord loses its head and wraps around the T-Rex to form the arms of the Megazord while the pterodactyl zord just sort of rides on the thing. The feet of the pterodactyl become the canons which attach to the mastodon arms, while the mastodon head sits on the T-Rex chest and the whole thing rolls similar to a tank.

There’s the face you know and love!

When the Power Rangers want to switch to the more memorable battle mode, the tank basically just stands up. The mastodon head is removed and the pterodactyl becomes a chest plate. The T-Rex head folds down and into its chest revealing the Megazord’s head and hands pop out of the arms. The canons from before are affixed to the Megazord’s back and look like boosters or something. The Megazord can attack with its fists, or rely on the power sword. The mastodon head can also be utilized as a shield, though it rarely was used in the show in this fashion.

Both transformations are essentially identical in how they occur with the toy as they do on television. This is probably due to the designer of the Megazord having to account for future toys down the road. At least, that’s what I assume. The show really only takes liberties in that once the models combine on the show, they’re swapped out with a costumed actor and the proportions change slightly. The most notable being the head of the costumed performer is much larger than what ends up on the toy. The only other aspect of the toy that isn’t entirely screen accurate is the T-Rex tail, which kind of just disappears on TV but is folded up the back of the toy. And the actor is able to move in a far more graceful manner than the toy. The Megazord is basically only articulated at the shoulders and hips and they’re just hinge joints. The lack of ball-jointed shoulders and basic elbow articulation really limit the available poses for the toy as it basically can only assume one position on your shelf.

This version of the Megazord is composed almost exclusively of colored plastic. This means there’s less opportunity for paint-slop and chipping over the years. The graphics and highlights are all done with stickers so when buying secondhand you’re at the mercy of whomever originally put these stickers on. Like the Dragonzord, the stickers aren’t 100% screen accurate, but it’s really only noticeable when doing a direct comparison. It doesn’t look like the original toy asked too much of parents and kids when it came to applying them and my unit looks as good as one could expect of a toy from 1993. It was clearly loved and enjoyed by a kid long ago and it shows. The sword is quite attractive as it has a shiny paint-app and is probably the portion of the figure that would be most likely to show ware. Same for the similar chrome portions of the other zords, namely the mastodon tusks and triceratops horns.

Whether you have instructions or not, transforming the Megazord is rather easy since you can basically just watch the show. The individual zords offer limited play. The mastodon and triceratops basically just sit there, though the triceratops has wheels. The pterodactyl also doesn’t do much, but since it’s a flier it doesn’t have to. The little canons can clip to it like feet, but they look stupid and I don’t recall seeing them in the show. The saber-toothed tiger has solid articulation though and it can emulate a running motion while also featuring moveable fangs. It’s a shame Bandai didn’t go the extra step of putting a hinged jaw on this one. The tyranosaurus has about as much function as you would expect, though it’s a little disappointing that it’s mouth has a big, red, wad, of plastic for the throat that makes it look odd. The connections are easy to utilize and pull apart just as easily, but they also won’t just fall off. The only complicated part is the mastodon which basically splits down the middle and clips around the T-Rex. Both of the leg zords are super simple, especially the triceratops which just has to fold its tail in and bend its neck, and even kids should be able to handle it.

In hand, the Megazord has some nice weight to it. It stands about ten and a half inches tall and is noticably larger than the Dragonzord, which is about nine and a quarter inches to the top of the head. Since it’s all plastic, it does get a bit creaky. The joints on mine are still fairly tight and I have no issues getting the Megazord to hold its arms out forward, basically it’s lone pose. On the individual zords, the tails of the triceratops and saber-tooth tiger are loose and getting them to stand in a blasting pose is a balancing act. The T-Rex tail is also a bit loose and doesn’t stay locked in place for very long. That’s also partly due to the toy needing to be bent forward at a pretty extreme angle so the legs don’t interfere with the tail. The little flaps that are the pterodactyl’s wings are also fairly loose, but they also don’t have to do much. All of the connections though are really satisfying and it’s a lot of fun to plug and play. It makes a nice clicking sound when things are put together and it’s really impressive what Bandai achieved since it seems like there’s little chance of forcing something into place at the risk of breaking it.

Of course, the fun doesn’t end here. If you have the Dragonzord, you can take advantage of that as well. The Dragonzord has a battle mode in which it basically assumed the role of the T-Rex zord in the Megazord construction. The mastodon becomes the arms as the chest piece is removed and the Dragonzord arms fold in to make a new chest piece. A face can then fall down from the Dragonzord head while the legs of the Megazord serve the same purpose here. The T-Rex and pterodactyl are free to do whatever they wish, and in the show the T-Rex would often fight alongside the Dragonzord in this battle mode, though in toy form the scale is way off. The Dragonzord’s tail also combines with the former chest piece and the included shaft to make the Power Lance, or Power Lazer Drill (as the box refers to it as). It’s pretty neat to behold, and like the Megazord the transformation process is really satisfying. The only thing I don’t like about it is the drop-down face on the Dragonzord has nothing behind it so it kind of just swings there. And while the lance is pretty cool looking, it’s functionally useless since it’s so huge. It has a handle that basically just rests in the hand of the zord, but the zord itself can’t actually wield the thing. Modern iterations make this aspect work better by fudging with the scale just like the show does by including an extra lance for play purposes.

If you wish to leave your Megazord intact though, you can still combine it with the Dragonzord to from the Mega-Dragonzord. This one is a bit less interesting as it’s basically the Dragonzord with the chest and tail removed and draped over the top of the Megazord. The tail can clip onto one of the sides, as can the discarded chest piece of the Dragonzord, though it basically just looks cool. This version of the character was deployed more like a tank in the show as it would just shoot a giant laser at the enemy as opposed to battling with fists and sword or whatever. It’s also this version that can combine with the unfortunately named carrier zord, Titanus, to form the Ultrazord. It’s another tank-like mode and the only change is the chest of Titanus is clipped onto the chest of the Mega-Dragonzord as it’s placed inside the carrier zord. I never really cared for the Ultrazord as a kid, so I have little compulsion to go after a Titanus so you probably shouldn’t expect a review of that one to come.

I don’t see myself getting a Titanus to form the Ultrazord.

There’s no doubt in my mind that had I been able to collect this line as a kid I would have loved the hell out of it. These are some of the best toys of the early 90s and it’s no surprise they ended up being incredibly popular. I could see myself transforming and de-transforming these things constantly and swapping in all manner of other action figures I had laying around as bad guys, maybe even big stuffed animals. I was also the type of kid that could busy himself for long stretches of time just playing with my action figures so imagination was never an issue. Not that these toys even require much since they’re so similar to what was presented in the show.

Acquiring both the Megazord and the Dragonzord has certainly scratched an itch for me. I don’t think it’s going to lead to much more from me where Power Rangers are concerned, but who knows? My kids have really taken to it, and I read Hasbro is looking to release a Megazord later this year so I may need to keep an eye out for that if my kids remain interested. In looking at the other iterations that have come, I’m certainly tempted to by the Soul of Chogokin version, but I likely won’t be able to justify the expense and take on another line of collecting. That’s fine though, because I have what I always wanted. It may have taken nearly three decades, but I finally have a Megazord!


Rocko’s Modern Life Season 4

It’s an accepted part of life that all good things must come to an end. Bad things have endings too, but the only endings that are usually painful are the good things. And for Rocko’s Modern Life, it certainly was a good thing that ended perhaps before it needed to. After 52 episodes (100 segments) creator Joe Murray felt it was time to move on. It should be said that it was more of a personal decision in that he just didn’t have anything more to say with the show. He even stepped back some taking on the role of executive producer for the final season allowing Stephen Hillenburg to assume the role of creative director. Murray encouraged the network, Nickelodeon, to continue the show without him, but the network decided not to renew it for a sixth season. This was pretty typical of Nickelodeon as it often didn’t go beyond this type of episode count with its Nicktoons, or really any shows. As a result, Rocko’s Modern Life is one of those shows that feels like it went out on top. There were likely many more stories that could be told with these characters, but they’ll have to remain untold.

The fourth season of Rocko’s Modern Life continues to explore the setting of O-Town and life in the 90s for the main cast. Rocko (Carlos Alazraqui) once again is forced to tackle the mundane and the insane like managing conflicts between friends, rude neighbors, love, ghosts, and even a bout a hypnosis. His gluttonous best friend, Heffer, (Tom Kenny) takes on the role of co-star for many segments and even gets to assume a larger role at times than the star. Filbert (Mr. Lawrence) returns as a married turtle and will get to experience fatherhood this season while the Bigheads (Charlie Adler) are still around to make life miserable for neighbor Rocko.

A theme of the final season seems to be an emphasis on side characters. In this one, Rocko teaches Heffer’s mom how to drive.

The fourth season might be the best looking season of the show. I don’t know if anything changed on the production end, or if it was a case of the masters being better stored, but the DVD release really pops. The colors are deeper than they were on the first three seasons and the animation is quite fluid. It’s perhaps not as gross as the prior seasons, and that could be Hillenburg’s influence as creative director this season. There’s still moments that are somewhat gag-inducing, but it’s definitely not a defining characteristic.

Seeing Heffer, Rocko, and Filbert as O-Town High students doesn’t make much sense, but it does give us one of my favorite scenes from the show involving Filbert and some potato chips.

On the flip-side, this season seems to feature less continuity. We’ll see Filbert become a father in the early season episode “From Here to Maternity,” but afterwords his life doesn’t seem to change a whole lot. There will be times the gang goes to his trailer and it looks like he lives alone. I understand not wanting to be restricted by this development (it would be tiresome to write into every episode who is watching the kids), but there is a disconnect. Similarly, the dog Earl taken in by Bev Bighead seems to disappear this season and there’s a confusing flashback episode in which Rocko, Filbert, and Heffer are depicted as high school students even though Rocko moved to the US during adulthood. These aren’t really things that prevent one from enjoying the show, I just liked the continuity on display in the past seasons since so few cartoons contain such.

This season seems to feature a couple of movie parodies, including this obvious Ghostbusters one.

The show is still wildly funny in many places. I think a lot of fans consider season three of the show to the peak for it, but it’s hard to find any real drop-off with season four. “Sailing the Seven Zzz’s” might be the show’s funniest episode. The plot concerns Ed Bighead and his somnambulism in which he thinks he’s a pirate and makes nights miserable for Rocko. Heffer and Filbert see this as an opportunity to mess with him, and it gets pretty wacky. And speaking of Ed, he basically assumes a starring role in several episodes of this season. My favorite might be “Closet Clown” where we find out Ed enjoys playing a clown, but hides it from everyone. It’s yet another episode of the show that might be dealing with a sensitive subject, such as closeted individuals, but doing it in a very funny, natural, way.

There are a few segments that don’t work as well as others. “Dumbells” gives Gladys the Hippo (Adler) a starring role alongside Rocko in which she gets addicted to the thrill of the childhood prank ding, dong, ditch. It’s okay, but not really an interesting way to shine a light on a one-note character from prior seasons. “Wallaby on Wheels” is another episode where Rocko is trying to impress a girl (he seems to finally be over Melba) that feels a bit too familiar. The same could be said for one of the broadcast finale segments, “Turkey Time.” That one is depicting Rocko’s introduction to Thanksgiving and he invites a turkey home for dinner not realizing the intent is to serve it for dinner. It plays a lot like the episode where Heffer brings an elk home for the same reason. “Turkey Time” then gets extra redundant when everyone in town finds out about Rocko having a party and invites themselves over, which is the same plot as “Rocko’s Modern Christmas.” It does feature one of the racier jokes in the season though when Heffer brings out a turkey for the party and Rocko’s living room is basically decked out like a strip club.

Closet Clown is a funny episode, but might also be scratching the surface of a bigger societal issue.

Speaking of racy jokes, you can’t have a discussion about Rocko’s Modern Life without a discussion of censorship. This season contained one episode that was essentially banned after its initial airing and that’s “Heff in a Handbasket.” In it, Peaches returns whom viewers should remember from “To Heck and Back.” Peaches is the lord of the underworld and he’s tasked with acquiring Heffer’s soul, since he outwitted him before. It’s nothing too salacious and it’s a very silly episode where Peaches rigs a game show designed to steal Heffer’s soul, only Heffer is so stupid that he keeps messing it up. It’s a funny episode, so it’s a shame it got kicked off the air, and I guess it got the boot simply because part of it is set in a version of Hell.

Unlike a lot of cartoons, Rocko’s Modern Life did get a proper series finale. The segment “Future Schlock” is the intended finale, though the Thanksgiving episode aired after it to line-up with the actual holiday. Most of the episode takes place in the future when Filbert’s kids find a banana in the refrigerator of Rocko’s abandoned house and bring it to their eldery-looking (but only 38 year old) father to find out why anyone would put a banana in the refrigerator. Much of the episode from there is a flashback, but I enjoy the fact that it displays Filbert’s contempt for Heffer which is something that seemed to be rising with each season (though Filbert in general got a bit nastier, see him try to sacrifice Rocko for a wig in the segment “Rug Birds”). The show ends with the whole gang getting mistakenly blasted-off into space and the Netflix special Static Cling from 2019 actually picks up where the episode leaves off and you’ll definitely hear my thoughts on that before the summer is through.

The plot for the final episode is set in motion by an old banana.

The DVD for the fourth season of Rocko’s Modern Life is a lot like the other three. It’s essentially just the episodes presented in broadcast order. It would have been nice if they could have been arranged in production order for this season, since it has a proper ending, but it’s not a big deal. The only special feature is a video recording of a fan event from 2012. Hosted by voice acting legend Rob Paulsen, it’s a gathering of the main cast of the show for a reading of “Wacky Delly Part 1” and it’s quite a bit of fun. After the script is read, they also talk about the show and share their thoughts on everything. It’s crazy to think this was recorded 8 years ago at this point, but everyone sounds great and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

If you liked Rocko’s Modern Life or have all three seasons up to this point, then there’s absolutely no reason not to own season four. It’s a little different, but still plenty hilarious, wacky, and silly. Some characters get more of a spotlight shined on them so if you had a favorite side character from before then maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised by their inclusion here. There’s just a great chemistry between the characters in the show and the people behind the image that shines through. Joe Murray and his team can be proud that they created a cast that could work in almost any setting because they’re interesting, funny, and even sympathetic. Reliving this fourth season has me wishing even more than I already was for more content down the road. I don’t know that any will ever come, but it doesn’t hurt to hope.


Bandai Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Dragonzord

So a week ago I did a post that I titled The Toys that Got Away. It was about toys that I had pined for as a child, but for one reason or another, was unable to ever acquire. It wasn’t intended to be a sympathy piece or anything, because I had an awesome childhood and rarely was left wanting, and was intended to be a shared experience piece as everyone can likely recall a toy or other item that they wanted really bad at one point in time, but never attained. Well, the thing with toys is that they never go away. Sure, they disappear from store shelves (and in the case of toy stores, sometimes the very shelves disappear) and eventually go out of production, but there’s almost always a robust after-market for even the most obscure of toys. And once a kid becomes an adult, they usually have access to more money and that’s certainly the case for me so after making that post I went out and did the predictable: I bought a Dragonzord.

Back in 93, I found myself a fan of the show Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Many kids at the time could claim the same and Bandai was unprepared for the show’s popularity. And that’s important because Bandai handled the distribution of toys which meant that come Christmas 1993 a lot of kids wondered why there were no Power Rangers under the tree. I was definitely one of those kids, to a point, but I think my fandom took hold more in 1994. That’s when I found a flyer for the Dragonzord which came bundled with an 8″ Green Ranger action figure. I hung onto that advertisement for months telling anyone who would listen that I wanted that for my birthday when the summer came around. I figured that was enough time for my mom or grandmother to find it somewhere, but alas I was wrong. I couldn’t tell you what I did get, probably some Genesis games, maybe some X-Men toys, but I did not get a Dragonzord.

It’s been 26 years and I’ve hung onto that. Not that it has haunted me or anything, but any time I encounter the Power Rangers franchise I inevitably think about those old toys I was unable to acquire. Recently, I’ve started watching the original series on Netflix with my own kids and they seem to like it. The show is just as insane as I remember and it often feels like it’s making up the rules of the setting as it goes along. As an adult, it’s really easy to now notice when the old footage from Japan is spliced into the American production. It’s still pretty fun, in a good-bad way, but more than anything it just constantly reminds me how much I felt I had missed out when it came to the toys.

After doing some light research, I decided to just go for it. Going after a Dragonzord in 2020 presents more options. Bandai reissued the big guy as part of its Legacy line and Tamashii Nations has also released one semi-recently as part of its Soul of Chogokin premium collector line. There’s even a mini-one from a separate line of model kits that was really tempting, but in the end I felt I had to just get the one I had wanted as a kid. Maybe I’ll be tempted to upgrade at a later date with a more modern one, but I feel like I’d be doing my inner child a disservice by not getting the one I had wanted all those years ago.

I was able to score a Dragonzord complete in box on eBay along with the coveted Green Ranger (aka the best Ranger). I feel a little crazy in doing it since I don’t consider myself a Power Rangers fan. I have no idea where I’ll end up putting this thing, but I finally have a Dragonzord.

Before this guy arrived I tried to keep my expectations in check. This is, after all, a toy from the early 90s and it’s not going to compare to what I’m used to buying these days. It’s also the Dragonzord, a character that was pretty stationary in the show. He’s got stubby arms and basically no neck. He can kind of walk and has a tail with a drill-bit at the end, but mostly he’s supposed to just stand there and look cool (unless you have a Megazord to combine him with). And then there’s also the fact that this is a used toy with stickers that have already been applied that likely aren’t going to look great now.

The box the figures come in is pretty intense looking. Mine, being used and supposedly stashed in an attic, is pretty beat-up, but the graphics are all intact. There’s even some bios on the side of the box and, of course, advertisements for the rest of the line on the rear. It’s a pseudo-window box release as there’s a space for the Green Ranger to peek through, so buyers knew they were getting the figure as well. To see the main event though, you have to open the box up.

The Dragonzord comes packaged without his chest piece and everything is housed tightly in styrofoam. There are instructions for how to piece the thing together and also how to integrate it with other sets. There would have been a sticker sheet as well, but that’s not the case with a used set. His tail is in one pice, and there’s also a stand, base, and handle for the Power Lance for use when combined with the Megazord set. The Green Ranger comes with his golden shield on so he looks cool in the box. I assume his blade-blaster was holstered as well originally.

The Green Ranger stands a little over eight inches tall – let’s call it eight and a quarter. In 1994 this line represented a new era in terms of articulation, though by today’s standards it’s not quite as good. Tommy is articulated with a balljoint at the neck that actually sits below the neckline and in the figure’s chest. Mine is a little loose, but he holds a pose no problem and has a good range of motion there. His shoulders, on the other hand, are nice and tight and they’re on balljoints as well. He has a bicep swivel, and hinges at the elbows, wrist, and knuckles. The thumbs are frozen in place, and the index finger on each hand is a separate piece to give him trigger-finger poses. His legs are on balljoints with swivels above the knee. The knee is a standard hinge joint and there’s a hinge joint at the ankle as well. Excepting the neck, all of the joints are good and tight on my figure so he can hold any pose I can put him in. He doesn’t have quite enough articulation to achieve a wealth of posing options as he’s really harmed by the lack of waist and torso articulation, but if I had a team of Rangers I could probably get a decent display out of them.

The sculpt for this figure is the same sculpt Bandai used for all of Rangers. For the males, it’s fine, but for the females it looked worse. He’s got some bulk to him, but nothing outlandish. A lot of the figure is molded plastic, save for the white diamonds on the body and the green ones on the gloves and boots. The only other paint is reserved for the helmet and it’s nice and clean. The shield is a hard, light, plastic and it clasps together at the top seam. It can easily be removed and if done so the chest features a power coin design, something Bandai did with all of these figures even though no such design is featured in the show. For the Green Ranger, the coin image also looks like Titanus for some reason, as opposed to the Dragonzord or the emblem he has in the show. Students of the show will also notice that the Green Ranger isn’t 100% accurate as he’s missing the gold bands around his biceps, and his gloves and boots should have gold trim. The green diamonds should also be triangles. This is Bandai just being cheap as they copied the same design as the other Rangers, just switching in green. Even still, he looks the part enough and is an attractive piece. The only other negative is those hands are a bit annoying. Articulated fingers were a bad idea, but we didn’t know it at the time. It can be more challenging than it should be to get the blaster into one of the hands and have it look right. The blaster is also unpainted, but that was pretty common of accessories back in the 90s. Also of note, there’s no dragon dagger! Oh well.

Now lets talk about the big guy. The Dragonzord is only slightly taller than the Green Ranger as he’s just a tick under eleven inches. Future zords in this line would come with tiny representations of the Ranger pilot, which actually would have made a lot of sense for this figure had Bandai thought of it since the Green Ranger sometimes stood on the Dragonzord’s head. The Dragonzord has a lot of stickers that I thankfully did not have to put on. Some have taken a beating and could use some glue, but all in all this guy looks pretty nice for an almost 30 year old toy. As anticipated, there isn’t a whole lot of articulation to speak of. He basically can move his legs only. The drill-tip of the tail can spin, and if you disengage the arms from the body you can kind of gain a little articulation there, but that’s pretty much it. The horn on his head can also slide back and forth as I think it’s supposed to position straight-up for the fighting mode transformation. He’s basically a dragon-shaped tank so he’s not supposed to do much aside from just stand there and look cool.

The Dragonzord disassembles pretty easily, and I presume attaching him to the Megazord components would be just as easy. Everything clicks together in a very satisfying manner, and the designer took care to make sure parts can only go in a certain way to keep things simple. Popping off the tail is a cinch and from there the whole body basically splits in two with the chest piece sliding out from there. The chest piece is battery operated and is supposed to blink and make Dragonzord sounds, but mine arrived with two batteries that long ago burst inside it so mine does not function. With the chest piece out, you can also drop open the Dragonzord’s mouth to reveal a robotic face underneath for when it’s combined with some of the Megazord parts to go into its fighting mode. It’s in that mode that it’s supposed to use the Power Lance, which is just the chestpiece affixed to a separate part and the tail attaches to the top. It’s a very cumbersome-looking weapon, but it’s still pretty cool. The whole unit has some nice weight to it. It’s a bit creaky, but doesn’t feel cheap.

That’s a big lance.

As a toy in 2020, this thing is actually still pretty cool. There’s not a whole lot that can be done to improve the Dragonzord. The tail isn’t entirely accurate as it’s supposed to be longer with more segmented parts, but then the Power Lance would look even more ridiculous. Modern toys basically just include extra pieces for the tail that get discarded when the lance is formed, but Bandai was likely looking to keep the extra pieces at a minimum since kids tend to lose them (plus they add cost). Some of the sculpting could be better, like the hands of the Dragonzord which feature stickers for the missile portions. For the most part though, this looks like the thing from my television so there’s little to nitpick. The Green Ranger could obviously have better articulation and a paint-job that better matches the show, but even he still looks pretty cool. Never underestimate the appeal of a shiny, golden, shield.

As a result, I have no regrets about picking this guy up. I do wish I had inquired with the seller regarding the electronics as that wasn’t disclosed in the listing, but I honestly don’t know if it would have stopped me from buying it. I could always buy another chest piece as loose parts show up on eBay from time to time anyway. And since this is an old toy, I don’t feel as much anxiety when I let my kids play with it. The only worry I have is that shield on the Green Ranger getting broken. Mostly, now I just wish I had a Megazord to combine with this one!


The Toys that Got Away

My whole life I have loved toys. Anytime I had money as a kid I wanted to spend it on a new toy, for my birthday I always wanted more toys, and when it came time to write Santa a letter I asked for more toys. Most kids like toys, that’s a given, but I feel like many mix in some other loves as well. Maybe arts and crafts, movies, books, comics, etc. And I liked a lot of that stuff too, but not enough to sacrifice even a tiny fraction of my toy allotment. As an adult, my love continues though I’m not as single-minded when it comes to my pursuits and hobbies. Though even now, few things thrill me in such a unique way as a brand new toy.

For a kid with a middle-class upbringing, I really wasn’t left wanting for too much. My parents usually delivered around the holidays and I had a grandmother that seemed to enjoy buying me toys as much as I enjoyed receiving them. It also helped that I liked action figures and they usually weren’t too expensive. Most Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cost less than a Barbie, and I never really got into more expensive properties like Transformers and Lego. Sure, I had a few from both lines here and there, but for the most part I focused on one major franchise.

Even though I rarely lacked for anything, inevitably there’s always something that remains elusive. Either the toy was hard to find or it arrived at an inopportune time, but there are a few items that vexed me as a child enough to still leave a lasting imprint. Now that I’m an adult, there’s sometimes a temptation to try and fill that void now that I have the means, even though I know doing such is often fleeting. A recent reintroduction of a certain property to my life has recalled some of these feelings though and is serving as the genesis for this post, and I’ll save those for last. This post though is about the toys I never got as a kid, but am sorely tempted to seek out now.

Venom II – Toy Biz 1992

Toy Biz had the comic book figure on lockdown in the 80s and 90s. It even held both the Marvel and DC license at the same time, before it eventually became owned by Marvel through one of the venerable comic book company’s many bankruptcy filings. Toy Biz no longer exists now, but it was best known for its Marvel action figures and the first line was simply referred to as Marvel Super Heroes. As part of that line’s second series, a Venom action figure was introduced. It came with a plastic spider that resembled the insignia on Venom’s chest. It could be inserted into a rather large hole on the figure’s back and squeezing it caused black goo to ooze from a hole on the figure’s chest. Eventually, a running change would be made to replace the spider with a generic red plunger that was instead intended to just use water instead of slime. The lame gimmick, combined with the giant hole it required exist in the figure, made this Venom kind of shitty.

Toy Biz rectified this with a new figure in 92. I recalled seeing it for what felt like a year on the back of other card-backs, but never could find it in stores. This Venom was leaner with a bit more articulation. It’s gimmick was a tongue-flicking action controlled by a little button on the figure’s back which was simple and didn’t detract much from the sculpt. It also came with a chest attachment that I guess was meant to create the illusion of a living costume, but it was kind of dumb. Venom would become my favorite Marvel character, due mostly to my dad taking me to a flea market where he bought me a copy of Lethal Protector #1. When the Spider-Man cartoon arrived in 94, it meant more Venom action figures so even though I really wanted this one, the sting of never finding him was mostly removed. This is the only toy on this list that I did seek out as an adult. Since I have him now, I can say if I had been able to find one in 92 it probably would have been one of my favorite toys for a long time, at least until the Venom II from the cartoon line with removable mask.

Monty Moose – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1993)

I had a lot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys as a kid, most of which are now gone which is unfortunate (kids, don’t let your parents throw away your old action figures!). That line was fairly easy to collect because it was well distributed and also pretty affordable. When the first figures came out, they retailed for $3.99 in my area – that’s a mere two visits from the Tooth Fairy! Because for a few years Turtles were all I wanted I usually cleaned-up at Christmas and birthdays and as a result there were only a few I didn’t get that I really wanted. Some of them included really popular characters like Baxter Stockman and the Rat King, but for some reason the only one that bothers me a little today is Monty Moose.

Monty even got featured in a commercial, though he never made it into the cartoon.

I don’t know what it was about Monty Moose I found so appealing. Moose are kind of funny looking in general, and Monty Moose certainly looked a bit odd with his huge antlers and long snout. I also really liked the blue and red color combo as a kid, so he was just eye-catching to me. And I saw him in a store on one occasion. It was an Osco Drug, which I don’t think even exists anymore. For those who don’t remember, Osco Drug is basically like a CVS or Walgreen’s and it was a store that was never known for its toy selection. My mom and I had to go into one for a prescription for some reason, it wasn’t our usual pharmacy, and we walked down the toy aisle and I saw Monty Moose staring back at me. I tried to get my mom to buy it for me, but I think my birthday was coming up so she was in no mood to buy me a toy with that on the horizon. My birthday would come and go and I had to beg my mom to take me back to that specific store now that I had some birthday money. She thought it was silly to go to a pharmacy, of all places, to spend birthday money, but she took me and of course the figure was gone. I’d never see him again.

Batman Returns Batmissile Batmobile – Kenner 1993

Despite being a bit dark, the Tim Burton Batman films were a merchandising behemoth for DC and Warner Bros. I had a few toys from the first film and the supplemental series Kenner produced in-between, but what really caught my attention was the Batmobile from Batman Returns. If you recall, in the film, the Batmobile demonstrates a new ability to shed the sides of the vehicle to take on the form of a skinny, missile-like, vehicle to fit through a narrow alley. Kenner made a Batmbile that could do the same with the push of a button, and when I saw the commercial I immediately wanted it.

I do wonder how well this thing actually worked.

I had that toy on my Christmas list for 1993, and when Christmas morning came there was indeed a Batmobile under the tree. Only it was the wrong one. I was never one to complain about gifts, so I was happy to have a Batmobile. This was one was a re-release of the first film’s Batmobile with pop-up machine guns. It was pretty cool, just not what I wanted. It was somewhat overshadowed though by another gift that year – a Sega Genesis. Sometime after the holiday, I even saw the Batmobile that I yearned for at the toy store. I had some money and nearly bought it, but I did the smart thing and decided to be happy with what I had and put that cash towards something else. And I feel good about the decision even now and I mostly have it on this list because I’m still curious if the gimmick worked well or not.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Green Ranger and Dragonzord – Bandai 1993

And now we get to the real deal. Recently, my son has shown an interest in Power Rangers largely thanks to his best friend having some affection for the property. We’ve watched around ten episodes or so of the original run, and it’s stirring some memories. Painful memories.

Power Rangers burst onto the scene in the late summer of 1993. Saban Entertainment had found it hard to sell the property to American broadcast networks for years, and maybe because of that there was skepticism that the property would be a success. Whatever the reason, the show ended up being a smash hit, but Bandai of America was woefully unprepared to meet the demand for toys. Which sucked because the toys were awesome! The Rangers themselves were huge, around 9 or 10 inches, with loads of articulation. I had never seen an action figure with finger articulation before, and it blew my mind! I wanted them, but I wasn’t quite sure how much since the show was pretty new. I was also at an age where it was almost taboo to like it. I was supposed to be growing out of toys, but I found them way too compelling.

When these came out, I thought they were the most incredible action figures imaginable.

I didn’t get any Power Rangers toys in 1993 and I spent much of 94 chasing them without much luck. I would eventually get a Power-Morphing Green Ranger, but that was nearly all I got. What I really wanted was the deluxe Green Ranger who came bundled with the Dragonzord. I even found a page from a flyer sitting outside at my grandmother’s house advertising the set. I carried that thing around and clung to it reminding my mom and grandma that I really wanted that toy, but try as they might, it just didn’t happen.

He’s practically a statue, but damn does he looks cool.

I never once saw that toy in a toy store. To this day, I’ve never seen it in person. None of my friends had it, and because of that I still kind of want it. Looking at the set now, I still think that Green Ranger is pretty slick. The Dragonzord impresses me less, but he’s still a delightfully, chunky, robot dragon and robot dragons are pretty awesome on their own. It doesn’t do much beside just look cool, but that’s basically all I ask of my toys in this day and age.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Deluxe Megazord – Bandai 1993

As much as I wanted that Green Ranger and Dragonzord, I think the toy I wanted most that I never was able to my hands on was the Deluxe Megazord from the same line. Tommy the Green Ranger was my favorite of the Power Rangers for the time I watched this show (basically up to the first movie), so I naturally wanted the best toy based on him along with the zord. The White Ranger was cool too, but not as cool as the Green Ranger. The Megazord though, was just too awesome to ignore. It was five robots that combined into one massive robot – how awesome is that?! Yes, I realize this made the toy very similar to Voltron, but the Voltron toy from the 80s didn’t impress me much because it didn’t really look like the cartoon. It had to fudge with the scale of the lions a bit to work in real life, and that’s the type of thing that would bother me as a kid.

Now you can re-enact that same transforming sequence you see every episode!

The Megazord, however, seems like it was designed to be a toy from the very start. The toy basically imitated the transforming sequence from the show to perfection. The only compromise really was in the articulation of the finished product. The show would feature models to assemble the Megazord, but once formed it then swapped that out for a guy in a costume who would battle the monster of the week. He could obviously move in ways a clumsy toy could not, but that seemed like a small price to pay for such accuracy.

Robots that combine to form bigger robots are arguably the greatest toys ever made.

Unlike with the Green Ranger/Dragonzord set, I did actually see the Megazord in the flesh. A kid in my class brought one into school, maybe for show and tell or something, and he showed it to me at his desk. Cruelly, he wouldn’t let me touch it, but he at least demonstrated the transformation including both the robot and tank modes. I was floored by it and I wanted it so bad, but it was just so impossible to find! I never saw the thing in stores and I’m sure my grandmother likely never did as well.

I was able to get the Red Dragon Thunderzord (left), but never did get the rest.

When the showed moved on from the original zords, the toy supply improved. For Christmas, my grandmother was finally successful when it came to Power Rangers and she was able to get me the Red Dragon Thunderzord as well as some of the roleplay toys (blaster and morpher). The Red Dragon was pretty cool, and if I’m being honest, a better toy than the Dragonzord would be. I was never able to get the other zords though to form the new Megazord, and by the following Christmas the fad had passed for me. I would put all of my energy towards video games at that point, leaving toys behind for a few years.

In 2010, Bandai re-released the original Megazord, now often referred to as the Dino Megazord. It was almost an exact recreation of the 93 toy with a few changes to make the set cheaper to produce. The wheels were removed from the Triceratops and Sabre-toothed tiger, as well as the articulation on their guns. Otherwise though, it’s basically the same. It retailed for $75 and I am kicking myself now for not just buying it then. The 93 version, if you can find one in good condition, easily fetches thrice that on eBay and the re-releases are expensive too. I was tempted to buy one when I was first on my own, but got cold feet and didn’t really know what I would do with. Maybe my son or daughter will become obsessed and force my hand, or maybe Bandai will re-release it again when the show turns 30 in three years and I’ll finally take the plunge. Or maybe the Megazord is just a toy destined to haunt me for the rest of my days.


Donald Duck Turns 86!

It’s June 9, and that means I can’t let the day go by without acknowledging that it is the birthday of my favorite animated character: Donald Duck. Donald Duck debuted in the 1934 short The Wise Little Hen and it wasn’t long before he joined Mickey and the gang becoming one of the most popular characters in the world. The past few years, I’ve marked the occasion with a post about one of the four Walt Disney Treasures releases of The Chronological Donald Duck. Well, I’ve run out of them! I’ve shared my thoughts on all four volumes now, so this year I’m giving you a quick post about some of the Donald Duck merchandise I’ve acquired over the past year.

Now it should be said, the best way to celebrate Donald Duck these days is via Disney+. Not to sound like a commercial, but Disney+ is the most convenient way to get your Donald fix as there are a handful of classic shorts, movies that feature Donald, episodes of Disneyland also featuring Donald, and even an exclusive series definitely worth watching called Legend of the Three Caballeros. To celebrate Donald’s birthday, Disney even added a Donald Duck section to Disney+ to make it easier to find stuff featuring everyone’s favorite waterfowl. It was long overdue too, as finding Donald shorts was a pain on the platform.

Everyone in my family knows I’m nuts for that duck, so Donald themed gifts are an easy way to my heart. The only challenge is getting to them before I do. This clock I keep on my nightstand is something I bought for me, and I actually bought it nearly 10 years ago so unlike everything else this one is not from the past year. I just felt it was worth sharing. It’s a sculpture featuring the classic black and white Donald from 1934 alongside a more modern Donald. It was commissioned to celebrate his 65th birthday and the actual clock is a pocket watch which is removable. It even came with a thick, gold colored, chain if you wish to sport it as a traditional pocket watch. I have only done so on one such occasion: my wedding. You’re damn right I was repping Donald on my wedding day.

This key-shaped ornament is something I acquired a year to the day. It was an item sold on Donald’s birthday last year in celebration of his 85th birthday. Some other merch was available too, like pins, but I’ve resisted the temptation to become a Disney pin collector. These keys are something the Disney Store turns to often to get people into the store. Basically, they’re first come, first serve and you have to buy them. I don’t remember what it cost, but apparently Disney collectors love them as there was a huge line before opening the day these came out by me. I was almost in trouble too as my kids had seen the advertisement for this thing ahead of time and I told them, “Sure, we’ll go get the special Donald key.” When we arrived to see that line I had to start preparing them for the possibility we might get shut out. We were fortunate though and managed to receive one of the last ones and it’s hung on my wall ever since.

These slippers were a Christmas gift from my wife and kids last year. They’re by a company called Happy Feet, and I liked them so much that I got my wife some for Valentine’s Day (Santa also brought some for my kids). Happy Feet makes two styles of slippers: big, puffy, character head ones like these, and also a zipper slipper that’s a more conventional slipper shape, but has a removable toe section. They’re called Zlipperz and they’re pretty neat. They do have Donald ones and I may have to grab a pair of those eventually to pair with these. These ones are super comfortable, though with the weather heating up I’m wearing them less and less. I’m sure they’ll wait patiently for me to turn to them this Fall when the weather cools.

Lastly, how about some Christmas in July June? These are some ornaments that were released for Christmas 2019 and if you read this blog regularly you know how I feel about Christmas. The one on the left is a traditional globe-styled ornament in a heavy-duty box. The ornament features redrawn images from the classic Christmas short Toy Tinkers starring Donald Duck alongside Chip and Dale. The middle ornament is a tin lunchbox with artwork from the latest edition of DuckTales adorning it. It opens to reveal a tiny thermos as well. Donald is featured on both the lunch box and the thermos and both also have a little eyelet to attach a hook to hang from a tree. It has yet to hang from one of my trees though as I actually got this after the holidays when it was on sale (FYI – right now is prime Christmas ornament buying season as Hallmark makes room for the coming year). And on the right, we have another commemorative ornament celebrating Donald’s 85th birthday. It’s double-sided with one side featuring a sculpture of a black and white Donald and the other featuring a modern interpretation. A circular medallion featuring the number 85 is affixed to the string from which it’s supposed to hang. Beware though, this sucker is pretty heavy for an ornament and can tumble easily from a Christmas tree.

That’s but a small piece of the Donald Duck collection in my home. It’s a collection I’m always looking to add to so hopefully 2020 brings more Donald my way. The next big year for Donald will probably be 2024 when he turns 90 and I expect there to be a whole bunch of new items then. And at that point we can begin the countdown to Donald’s 100th. I’m already saving now as I need to be at a Disney park for that one!


Boss Fight Studio Bruiser the Betelgeusian Berserker Baboon (Bucky O’Hare)

The baddest baboon in the Aniverse has arrived!

2019 was not a plentiful year for Bucky O’Hare product. After receiving my two-pack of Toad Storm Troopers from Boss Fight Studio on Boxing Day 2018, I had not received a new Bucky sculpt until now. Not that 2019 was necessarily light on Bucky developments, it’s just the nature of the game when a small company invests in a niche property. Any company that makes Bucky toys, and there is currently only one such company, can’t just make a bunch of product and ship it to stores expecting a gradual sell-out. Rather a more cautious approach needs to be undertaken that involves basically doing one figure at a time and then putting it out there on pre-order for a bit to gauge interest before ultimately committing to a big factory order. It also doesn’t help when the figure is based on a licensed property and needs to go through an approval process with the license owner to make sure everything is all good. And when you add a global health crisis to the mix, well then nothing goes as planned.

Such is the reason why it has taken more than a year to make this figure of Bruiser, the Betelgeusian Berserker Baboon, a reality. He is the first in what toy company Boss Fight Studio is calling the Bucky O’Hare Deluxe line of figures. He’s much larger than any of the figures that have come before him, so much so that he had to forego the usual blister packaging in favor of a window box. And since he’s a lot bigger that also means he’s a lot more expensive which makes even commissioning the big guy a bit of a gamble on the part of Boss Fight Studio. Since he did indeed end up getting made, it would seem that gamble has paid off and it’s a good sign that the fanbase of both Bucky O’Hare and Boss Fight Studio were willing to sink approximately $55 into Bruiser to get him onto collector shelves where he rightfully belongs. And I can’t stress this enough, but he was worth the wait!

Bruiser represents a first for the Bucky line in that he’s the first figure released that is based on a character who originated in the cartoon series. The cartoon is where most people familiar with the product have the greatest affinity for, so it’s not really a surprise to see Boss Fight head in this direction. Bruiser is the younger brother of Bruce, the engineer on the Righteous Indignation who sadly didn’t make it out of issue #1 or episode #1. Perhaps seeing the potential in having a baboon on the crew in a permanent role, Bruiser was added for the cartoon in episode #2 as basically some hired muscle. Toads have a natural fear of baboons so for the writing staff he represented an easy way to end a conflict as he basically just needed to show up to scare away the bad guys. He also formed a bit of an odd couple with Blinky, the diminutive android on the crew, and their relationship was quite cute. He was popular enough that he was also a part of the Hasbro series of toys and he came with a rifle, even though he basically just uses his hands in the cartoon as weapons.

That’s one happy ape!

Even though he began as a cartoon character, he’s still a Larry Hama creation. All of the characters were and they all had artwork created by Continuity Comics to accompany them which I assume went into a series bible for the show. In moving from concept art to cartoon, some changes were made to make the character either easier to animate or to make them stand out better in terms of colors. As has been the case with all of the figures from Boss Fight Studio, Bruiser is based on that concept art as opposed to having a more toon accurate color scheme. This means black armor instead of blue with a red strap instead of pink. His gloved left hand is also colored correctly as opposed to the old Hasbro toy which didn’t bother adding any paint (and annoyed me to no end as a kid). His fur is also a touch more brown which just plain looks nicer than the old bright orange. Basically all of the yellow parts on his show costume are gold here making this Bruiser seem like the luxury model compared with the toon.

You can even remove his gauntlet if you wish to have your Bruiser cosplay as Cloud City Luke Skywalker.

The sculpting on Bruiser is something to behold. He’s a big, beefy, chunky, monkey and Boss Fight Studio making this for the adult collector means those spikes on his costume are quite the little hazards. The factory head has this lovely side-smirk going on that should remind folks of the Hasbro toy. He’s dense, and quite heavy, but not so heavy that he topples over. The belt and loincloth are a separate piece of plastic and so is the gauntlet on his left arm. When you pop off that left hand, you can even slide it off exposing the sleeve underneath. I love all of the textures on this guy be it the fur on his arms, the ridged portions of the armor, or the gear-like texture on his boots. He’s just a joy to hold and experience.

Like the other figures, Bruiser has pegs on his belt that allow him to holster his weapon for when he wants to munch on a banana or get his hands dirty.

The paint application for Bruiser is pretty simple, which applies to this line as a whole. There’s a lot of colored plastic, especially the fur, which does sometimes give the figure a shiny, plastic, appearance. It is a toy, after all, so it should look plastic, but a paint wash might have toned this down a bit. The paint on the portions that aren’t colored is clean and simple. Some of the spikes have a touch of paint chip at the point which is something that’s going to happen with that type of accent. I love the tan color of his glove and boots and it just mixes so well with the brown fur. The only areas that could stand to see some improvement is the right shoulder and the big fangs on his factory head. The shoulder has some gray plastic in the middle to blend it with the steel shoulder pad that is mostly unpainted on my figure. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it an eyesore, but it is noticeable. The fangs are a bit fuzzy at the edges and the part where the left tooth overlaps the nose chain is a little messy. This is pretty minor stuff though as it’s only noticeable upon close inspection.

Ever see a baboon chokeslam a toad?

Despite Bruiser’s size, he still comes with a fair amount of articulation. His head is on a ball joint, though his hunched stature means it doesn’t have a ton of play. He’s got ball-jointed shoulders and hinges at the elbows. There’s no bicep swivel, but I honestly can’t I say I miss it. The hands are on pegs with no hinge, which is par for the course with this line. He’s got a nice ab crunch, a first for this line owing to his size, that can help pivot his upper body and it’s basically completely hidden by the sculpt, which is incredible as ab crunches are often the bane of action figures because of what they do to the sculpt. He can turn at the waist and features ball-joints at the hips. He has hinges at the knee, but because of squat appearance there’s very little functional movement here. He makes up for that though with some impressive double-jointed ankle articulation. They sit on balls and also possess a hinge so you can really rock and roll ’em to adjust Bruiser’s positioning. The articulation as a whole possesses the perfect amount of tightness as Bruiser is really easy to move right out of the box, but when leaving him on a shelf everything stays in the position you left him in.

He works hard, so it’s important to take time out for a little snack.

So just what does $55 get you besides a big old monkey? Pretty much the same amount of accessories fans are accustomed to at this point. Bruiser comes with a gun that’s very similar to the Hasbro one, referred to as a Betelgeusian Lazer Bazooka, which makes sense since both were based on the same artwork. It has a ton of nice texture work and is painted in this chrome color that really helps stand out. This is a character that typically prefers to get his hands dirty, but good luck excluding that bazooka from your display. He has two pairs of hands to mix and match: a fist, an open hand, and a gripping hand for each arm. He’s got a banana to snack on (yellow peel, not one of those purple space bananas) and a secondary head with a big open mouth for munching on the banana or for yelling at toads. The yelling head has a hint of a smile to it as this is a baboon who likes his work. The banana is pretty great looking, I can honestly say I have never seen a finer plastic banana. The yelling head is also delightfully charismatic. He looks so happy! Position with mangling some toads and you basically have yourself a Bruiser in his happy place. I suppose if you’re keeping score with the other figures, he has one less of everything. Bucky, for example, has three sets of hands and three faceplates compared with Bruiser’s two of each. Though in his defense, he has a whole second head as opposed to a second faceplate. More importantly though, I don’t feel like we’re missing anything. I don’t think we need another expression nor do we really need an open right hand or thumb’s up, for example.

The neck joint can be a bit tricky to work with, but it also allows for weird monstrosities like this.

Swapping the extra pieces with the factory pieces is pretty straight-forward. His hands are just on pegs, so you will want to apply firm pressure pulling-out and resist the urge to bend as that could snap the peg. They’re seated pretty snug out of the box, but I was able to pull them off without the aid of heat. His head is a bit trickier because it sits on what is essentially a plastic dumbbell. It’s two balls connecting by a thick cylinder of plastic. One end snaps into the head and the other into the body. When I tried to pull the factory head off the ball seated in the body was the first to give-way. I had to heat the piece in the head socket under running, hot, water to get it out. Once I did that it worked fine, but don’t panic if the same thing happens to yours as it’s meant to come apart. And you may be switching frequently because it’s hard to pick a preferred head. I initially thought I’d be going with the factory head all the way, but that big old smile is just so charming! Maybe Boss Fight should just do a variant in the cartoon color scheme so I can have both on my shelf (hint hint)!

In terms of any shortcomings, there’s very few with this guy. Some might wish for more articulation, but I’m happy with where he’s at as the sculpt is fantastic. There really isn’t a pose I envisioned for him that I can’t replicate. He’s a big brawler and he looks the part. I suppose I would have liked an open right hand so he could do a big scary, monkey, pose with both open hands over his head. If anything though, I’d sacrifice both extra hands that he came with in favor of a toad head accessory of a terrified Storm Toad. It would be a lot of fun to have some screaming toads, but if he came with one such head then I’d be wishing he came with more! Maybe if he sells well enough to warrant that Aniverse variant, Boss Fight could consider such an accessory. They could even ditch the gun if it saves them money since I don’t think he ever used one in the cartoon. It’s probably more likely though that if such a head were made available it would be via an accessory pack or something.

The crew is looking a lot more formidable these days.

There may have been a pretty sizable gap in release between Bruiser and the toads, but that doesn’t appear like it’s going to repeat. Last summer, Boss Fight opened pre-orders for Mimi LaFloo, another character who first surfaced in the cartoon. Her figure was apparently the quickest to ever receive approval from Continuity and she went up pretty fast. At the time pre-orders opened, I had a brief interaction on Twitter with Boss Fight in which they left open the possibility she could see release in 2019. Obviously that didn’t happen, but I’m assuming she’s not too far off if 2019 was ever in play. Probably because of the delay in getting Bruiser out, Boss Fight has not placed a release window, let alone date, on that figure though I’m certainly hoping it makes it out before 2020 ends. Beyond that, Boss Fight did show off a new style of toys for Bucky that are basically mini figures with big heads that come packaged with small vehicles. They have at least made it to the prototype stage, but this is something that could arrive in 2020 though I haven’t seen any additional information on this series.

Just imagine his smile when his little buddy Blinky comes along!

Hopefully, Bruiser is a success for Boss Fight Studio as this would open the door for more Deluxe Bucky O’Hare figures. It’s hard to know just what characters are candidates for this style of release down the road. I think it’s safe to say Toadborg falls into this category and I have to assume he’d be the most likely figure to follow Bruiser at this size and price point. A character I am looking forward to seeing in Al Negator is a harder one to figure. He’s certainly taller than Bucky, but I don’t know that he’s necessarily that much bigger that he requires a release at this price point. He may end up somewhere in between as I suppose there’s no law requiring Boss Fight to release figures at either $35 MSRP or $55 and nothing in between. Regardless of what’s next, I just hope the line continues as my only real criticism with the line so far is that it’s heavy on good guys and very light on bad guys. My toads need someone to boss them around, be it Toadborg or the Air Marshall, especially now that Bucky has a berserker baboon on his side.


Rocko’s Modern Life – Season 3

The third season of Rocko’s Modern Life originally aired from 1995-1996.

My rewatch of Rocko’s Modern Life really could not have gone better. I suppose it would be better if it wasn’t during a pandemic, but what can you do? The show has been a delight, and while I felt Season Two was pretty much on par with the first season, I think an argument can be made that Season Three is the best one so far.

In case you need a refresher, Rocko’s Modern Life is a cartoon created by Joe Murray that managed to amass a team of extremely talented people, many of whom went on to create more wonderful television. Rocko (Carlos Alazraqui) is a wallaby from Australia trying to navigate the 90s. Season Two saw him deal with thorny issues like immigration as well as some health problems. Money is often tight and his job as a clerk at a comic book store hardly feels secure, but somehow he gets by. The show is able to mix in real world problems with insane lunacy. The phrase “insane lunacy” sounds redundant, but for a show like Rocko’s Modern Life the redundancy feels very appropriate.

For an adult, few things are more relatable than car trouble.

For Season Three, the show tackled more real world issues and even managed to strengthen its continuity somewhat. The relationship between Rocko’s best friends, Heffer (Tom Kenny) and Filburt (Doug Lawrence) added a combative element to the mix to differentiate the two. They’re pals through and through, but the two get on each other’s nerves and they frequently fail to see eye to eye with Rocko often getting stuck in the middle. And for Filburt, Season Three was a big one because he gets engaged to longtime girlfriend Dr. Hutchison (Linda Wallem) in “The Big Question” which is immediately followed by “The Big Answer” where the two tie the knot. The Bigheads are still around as well and get their own shorts to shine and the show even tackles its first musical with the eco-friendly “Zanzibar.” That one, interestingly, is immediately followed by the show’s first dialogue-free short “Fatal Contraption.”

Season Three of the show never fails to be funny and the gags are really upped for this third season. The show’s first Halloween episode “Sugar Frosted Frights” has a lot of horror-themed gags and it’s paired with another spooky episode, “Ed is Dead.” One of the show’s funniest episodes is also present in this season in “Fish-N-Chumps.” The boys go fishing, only to find themselves in turn being fished, and all the while Filburt drives Heffer nuts with his enthusiasm for a new watch. Tom Kenny does some excellent ad-libbing with a captain character who features two peg legs, peg arms, and even peg eyes (Family Guy totally ripped him off)! My favorite might be “Fortune Cookie” though, if I have to pick a most funniest episode since it features the incredibly quotable fortune that Filburt receives, “Bad luck and extreme misfortune will infest your pathetic soul for all eternity.” There’s an episode where Bev (Charlie Adler) is accidentally given a new nose which reveals to her that her husband stinks, a crazed tour guide stalks Rocko and Heffer on a trip to France, and there’s even a famous nude scene in “Camera Shy.”

I don’t think there’s a more outrageous scene in the show’s history than this.

Rocko’s Modern Life is rarely short on laughs, but what sets it apart from its peers is the infusion of real world problems. None demonstrate that better than “The Big Answer” in which Filburt and Dr. Hutchison find out that planning a wedding is awful, especially when your guests don’t get along. It’s a great episode because in the end they realize it’s their day, no one else’s, and they do what works for them. “Old, Fogey, Froggie” deals with getting old, and uses Mr. Bighead (Adler) as a way of exploring that subject. It’s a subject few children can relate to, but one I sure can.

We get another look into what gets Bev’s motor running: novelty noses.

Season Three is also the season where the show got metta before that was even something in style. “Wacky Delly” is a two-parter all about making cartoons. For this one, Ralph Bighead (Joe Murray) returns after airing the final episode of his cartoon The Fatheads and is eager to explore other, more respected, avenues for his art. The problem is the network he works for basically owns him and he owes it another cartoon. Rather than make something his heart isn’t into, he cooks up a plan to have Rocko and his friends make the cartoon for him assuming it will be so terrible the network will terminate his contract. Instead, the show is a huge hit forcing Ralph to go to extreme measures to sabotage it. He has a reckoning eventually, realizing his cartoon making is totally legitimate art and can be quite satisfying. It certainly feels almost autobiographical on the part of Joe Murray as Rocko was never his first choice to bring to life and it’s an episode many cite as the show’s best.

If you ever wanted to know how to make a cartoon, “Wacky Delly” has you covered.

It was also quite interesting to see the show branch into activism for its third season. I mentioned it earlier, but “Zanzibar” is not only the show’s first musical, but it’s also very much about environmentalism. The subject came about naturally, according to Murray, and the musical format was settled on to make the message of the episode not feel so preachy. It’s almost painfully relevant today, but at least the songs are quite catchy and pleasant so it hopefully won’t bring you down too much.

A new hero for environmentalists every where: Captain Compost-Heap!

Over the years, Rocko’s Modern Life has become somewhat infamous for its humor aimed at adults. These are the gags that when looked back upon viewers are shocked they even made it into the show. While there was no major act of censorship after the fact with Season Three, there’s still plenty of humor that’s a little blue. There’s an episode titled “Schnit-heads,” which is a surprising title all by itself. It features Heffer getting caught up in a sausage cult. Sadly, the phrase “sausage fest” is never mentioned. “Fortune Cookie” also features a segment that took a long time to get approval from Nickelodeon in which Really Really Big Man’s nipples go berserk. It’s as ludicrous as it sounds. Plus the whole time he’s trying to talk a bird down from a statue who’s threatening to defecate upon it. And the show even features some death in the episode “Bye Bye Birdie” when Heffer kills Filburt’s bird, Turdy, by sitting on it. Rocko and Heffer then try to hide it from Filburt in a Weekend at Bernie’s manner. Possibly the best piece of awkward humor arises in “An Elk for Heffer” in which Heffer is informed he needs to bring an elk home for dinner as part of a growing-up ritual with his family’s wolf pack. Heffer then goes out and finds an elk for a date not realizing the whole intent of the arrangement is to actually hunt and kill an elk and provide dinner for his family.

Heffer thinks he’s found love, but turns out Elky here is actually a racist. Maybe the show should have let the wolves consume her…

As far as physical releases go, the third season is also superior to the previous ones since it contains better bonus material. While I was hoping for actual commentaries on the episodes, there are what the DVD refers to as selected scene commentaries. It’s a misleading label as the feature is really just Joe Murray going over his thoughts and feelings on the third season of the show. He covers a lot of ground in the short run time and it’s definitely worth a watch and is more informative than the character portraits from the Season Two set. Again, it’s not what I was hoping for, but I did enjoy it.

The third season of Rocko’s Modern Life is simply the show at its best. I continue to be charmed and amazed by the quality and it truly is a show that can be enjoyed by all ages. It’s been a real hit in my house where I’ll watch it with my young kids and even watch it with my wife after they go to bed. I don’t know what the fourth season can do to top this one, but I look forward to seeing how it tries.


Rocko’s Modern Life – Season Two

rocko_season2

The second season of Rocko’s Modern Life premiered on September 25, 1994.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my reintroduction to Rocko’s Modern Life via the show’s first season. Rocko’s Modern Life was a favorite of mine as a kid, and if you had asked me to rank the Nicktoons back then it would have gone something like this:  The Ren & Stimpy Show, Rocko’s Modern Life, followed by who cares? Those two cartoons were so far above the others that they didn’t feel worth mentioning. Sure, Rugrats and Doug were fine for what they were, but they weren’t appointment viewing for me. And after a few years, none of them were as I felt I had aged out of them. I was a young, dumb, kid though and upon revisiting such works I’ve come to find that, if anything, I’ve aged into a show like Rocko’s Modern Life.

What separated Rocko’s Modern Life from the other shows was that emphasis on the mundanity of life itself. Rocko was challenged by simple tasks such as laundry, household cleaning, commuting, work, and all of those others things we as adults have to deal with that we really take for granted as children. Rocko’s difficulties encountered with these tasks are obviously exaggerated for comedic effect, but like all good comedy there is still an element of truth to all of it making the show arguably more relatable for an adult than it is a child.

rocko_filbert_wedding

Like Season One, Season Two of Rocko’s Modern Life is surprisingly topical in 2020.

When it came to Season One of the show, I was delighted by the humor aimed at adults. I remembered the Milk-O-Matic gag as a kid in which Heffer, a steer, is masturbated by a mechanical milking machine and knew there was humor in this show that really only older kids and adults would understand. That type of humor is more of a shocking variety of humor, what I had forgotten is the more nuanced approach such as the episode where neighbor Bev Bighead tries to seduce Rocko because her husband doesn’t make her feel attractive. It’s a pretty adult concept to try to base a cartoon intended for children around, and it’s even affecting in turning Mrs. Bighead into a sympathetic figure. And yes, there’s still plenty of physical comedy in that episode and all of them.

As I approached Season Two of the show, I was hoping for more of that style of story-telling:  mature in concept, but accessible for all via the physical comedy. And for the most part, Season Two really delivers. It starts off with a heavy hitter in the two-part “I Have No Son” in which we learn the Bigheads have an estranged son named Ralph (Joe Murray) who long ago disappointed his father by not accepting a job at Conglom-O where Ed worked. A father being so ashamed and disappointed of his son that it causes him to disown him is a pretty heavy subject for the show to tackle because it’s also a very real thing that happens. Ed looks down on Ralph for his wanting to be a cartoonist, but you can substitute that with pretty much anything and the episode would still work. And even though Ralph has found tremendous success with his cartoon The Fatheads (which is clearly inspired by his parents), he still hasn’t earned his father’s approval.

the_bigheads_reunited

The story of Ralph Bighead kicks off the second season.

The premiere is a pretty weighty episode to kick things off, but it manages to handle the delicate material with the show’s usual brand of humor. It does struggle a bit to fit it all into one episode and the resolution feels a bit rushed, but it’s still quite the achievement. The rest of the season will balance the absurd wackiness of Rocko’s world with actual real world issues and problems. Bev Bighead has to break the glass ceiling, so to speak, and go to work in one episode and another deals with Rocko having to thwart immigration officials who want him deported for an expired green card. That episode might actually hit too close to home for some given the current climate surrounding immigration in the US. A particularly heartfelt episode is “Tickled Pinky” in which Rocko deals with the fear of surgery when he finds out he needs to have his appendix removed. It turns into a story where Rocko meets a personified version of his appendix, named Pinky, via a dream. Rocko, in a bid to cheer up Pinky since he’s essentially about to die, takes Pinky out to essentially check off a bucket list of experiences for Pinky to enjoy before his time is up. It’s surprisingly sweet and it left me wishing I had thought of this episode when my own little boy had to have his tonsils removed.

Season Two is also not without its dose of more crass humor. The episode “Born to Spawn” basically deals with Filbert’s (Mr. Lawrence) desire to mate, though that part of it isn’t spelled out. It’s pretty funny though with that context in the back of your mind. In “Hut, Sut, Raw” Rocko, Heffer (Tom Kenny), and Filbert go camping and leave the confines of a modern camp ground to rough it in the woods. The DVD is censored to remove a scene where Rocko picks berries off of a bush, only to have a bear scream and run out from behind it implying that Rocko just picked one the bear’s “berries.” The final cartoon, “Eyes Capades,” revisits the old white lie of Rocko’s eyesight going bad due to too much “jacking.” In the context of the episode, the jacking is Rocko practicing for a jackhammer competition that’s basically figure skating on a jackhammer, but it’s obvious the episode is playing off the notion that masturbation in a young boy can cause blindness.

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This is the season that features the Christmas episode basically making this a “must buy” for Christmas nerds like me.

A welcomed trend established by Season Two is that this show, unlike many other cartoons, actually has some semblance of continuity. Past episodes are referenced and new characters like Ralph will show up in later episodes at peace with his parents. The cartoon “Short Story” contains the most references when Really Really Big Man details Rocko’s good deeds and accomplishments for him in a bid to build him up. The episode “Rocko’s Modern Christmas” (which has been featured during The Christmas Spot) is the first episode to really bring the whole cast together when Rocko attempts to throw a party that everyone in town wishes to attend. It’s really satisfying to see the writers opening up the world of O-Town and incorporating a lot of these side characters.

In terms of missteps, there are few. The animation is as good, if not better, than the first season and the performances by the voice actors are all tremendous. Especially considering how much screaming is sometimes required of them. There are three oversized episodes in this season, which are episodes that dedicate both halves to one story and they are:  “I Have No Son, “Rocko’s Modern Christmas,” and “Cruisin’.” Of the three, only “Cruisin'” felt like it didn’t really need the extra time. It’s a bit of a weird episode in which Rocko and Heffer take Heffer’s grandfather on a cruise for old people (or rather, they got stuck on the boat by accident) and the ship enters the Bermuda Triangle making all of the old people young and the two young people old. It gives Grandpa a do-over with an old flame, a relatable and pretty adult plot, but one that struggles to remain interesting.

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Kate Pierson (left) and Fred Schneider (second from left) of the B-52’s were brought in to re-do the theme song. Their version would remain for the rest of the show’s run.

In terms of personnel, much of the folks involved with the first season returned for the second. Stephen Hillenburg was around to oversee everything as showrunner and creator Joe Murray still received several writing credits and remained involved. Doug Lawrence, also known as Mr. Lawrence, stepped back from directing, but still has a few writing credits. Some of the newcomers include directors Alan Smart, Pete Michels, and Howy Parkins. All would make future contributuons at Nickelodeon while Michels would go on to direct several episodes of The Simpsons and Family Guy. Voice of Rocko, Carlos Alazraqui, even received a writing credit for “Gutter Balls,” one of two writing credits he’d receive on the show. Considering that episode has four credited writers, I’m assuming he must had ad-libbed something that was considered large enough to warrant a credit. The only major change between seasons is the theme song which was reworked by Pat Irwin and re-recorded by Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider of the B-52’s. It’s still fine, though I miss the swank of the first season’s theme.

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The pilot of the show is contained on this set and is notable for featuring a yellow Rocko.

The DVD release of the first season of Rocko’s Modern Life had the dubious honor of not containing any bonus features. Joe Murray was quite willing to contribute to these releases and for Season Two Nickelodeon at least made some effort to add a little extra, though not much. The original pilot of the show “Trash-O-Madness” is contained here. It’s not much different from the episode that made it to air, but it’s cool to see the original version of the show. There’s also a collection of segments hosted by Murray where he shares the ideas behind the show’s core characters while also demonstrating how they’re drawn. He doesn’t reveal any bombshells or anything, but it’s worth a look. That’s, unfortunately, all that there is for bonus material which means there’s no commentaries and no options to view the episodes uncensored.

Rocko’s Modern Life is a great cartoon series and I’m happy to say the second season is just as good as the first. The show definitely embodies that 90’s spirit of being a bit manic, loud, and certainly gross, but it also includes a surprising amount of heart and relatability as well. In some ways, it’s the perfect children’s cartoon because there’s plenty here to entertain a 7 year old while also keeping mom and dad engaged. And pretty much all are guaranteed to find something to laugh at as well, or be charmed by, or both! I’ve enjoyed it enough that I definitely intend to binge Season Three and report back here on how well I think it compares with the first two seasons, so stay tuned!


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