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Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars – “The Good, the Bad, and the Warty”

img_3437Episode Number:  3

Original Air Date:  September 22, 1991

Directed by:  Karen Peterson

Written by:  Christy Marx

First Appearance:  Mother Aldebaran

It seems our animal friends can’t stay out of trouble. At the end of the first episode it looked like Bucky and his crew would be annihilated by the entire Toad fleet. They escaped destruction there with the help of the recently displaced Willy DuWitt. Victory was short-lived as episode two ended with the sleazasaur spy, Al Negator, making off with the codes to the defense system of the capital planet in the United Animal Security Council. He managed to escape capture by Bucky O’Hare and was safely in the confines of the Toad Mothership. Worse, the Righteous Indignation was in turn captured by the Toad Empire and we’ll begin episode three with Bucky and his crew inside the Toad Mothership as well.


It’s action time!

Our episode begins as the second did with a broadcast from Toad TV. Andy Phibian is broadcasting from inside the Toad Mothership to report on the imminent capture of Bucky O’Hare, until Toadborg strolls into the picture. Phibian is the same reporter featured in the opening credits, and given how the last two episodes begin, it makes me wonder if the show was supposed to feature him in most episodes giving a news broadcast. If so, it’s abandoned quickly as this is Phibian’s last official appearance. His character model will be re-used as a generic background character, but he won’t be giving any more broadcasts. Toadborg is apparently camera-shy, putting an end to that transmission. Bucky and the rest are grouped on the Righteous Indignation as Toad Storm Troopers blast it from outside. They can’t hide forever as the ship can’t take much so they do the only thing they can:  they fight!


Guns? Bruiser doesn’t need guns.

Bucky, Jenny, Dead-Eye and Willy burst through the laser fire and head in different directions. Despite being severely out-numbered, they escape harm. Dead-Eye and Willy climb aboard the Toad Croaker that Al Negator abandoned while Bucky and Jenny duck into a corridor, eventually splitting up. Bruiser is left to guard the ship while Blinky remains aboard, presumably to make repairs. Bruiser has little trouble with his task as the Toad Storm Troopers are paralyzed with fear at the sight of him. He squishes one into a ball and has fun jumping up and down on the others.


Dogstar looks like he’s taking a snooze while Wolf looks stoned. Good allies.

The Mothership is heading for Genus accompanied by the Toad fleet of Double Bubbles. Commander Dogstar and Wolf are shown from the Indefatigable when Dogstar realizes where he recognized Al Negator’s scent from. Theorizing that Bucky is in trouble, they activate their warp drive to zero in on Bucky’s last known position. Bucky is shown running through a corridor being chased by Storm Troopers. He shoots up some pipes along the walls releasing steam, allowing for a “steamed” pun (sadly, no pigs are present for a Steamed Ham pun). Jenny is also shown making the rounds taking out security cameras wherever she finds them.


The latest Toad mechanical monstrosity.

Dead-Eye and Willy are soon shown being chased by a rather nasty looking Toad robot. Air Marshall seems to refer to it as a Void Droid, and Toadborg will make a reference to it later. Dead-Eye’s lasers do nothing to it, and as it gains on he and Willy in the Toad Croaker he insists Willy use his secret weapon. Willy tries to protest as he knows his gun is just a water pistol, but he gives it a shot when Dead-Eye insists. It turns out the machine is not waterproof and one squirt from Willy’s gun takes it out. The Air Marshall, watching via a security monitor, is enraged at this deficiency while Frix and Frax seem to be amused. Dead-Eye congratulates Willy and then makes a confession. He hands over the play money he swiped from Willy’s bag, and Willy tries to tell him what it is. Dead-Eye instead is rather impressed that he considers a stack of cash of that size “play money,” but a hard turn of the Croaker causes Willy to tumble out and into a laundry chute of some kind which causes his helmet to pop off. When Willy looks up, he’s face to face with Al Negator.


Bucky’s initial shot makes a dent, but none of the others will.

Bucky enters a prison yard in hopes of freeing his fellow hares, but all he finds are empty shackles. He soon comes face to face with Toadborg. He informs Bucky that all of the hares have already been moved to slave factories and there’s nothing he can do about it. Bucky, taking Toadborg to just be another robot, fires his gun at him and chips away at Toadborg’s frame. Repeated blasts have no effect though and he’s forced to crank his gun up to full power, but even that fails. He then tries to jump away (and the episode uses a silly spring sound effect for Bucky’s leaps), but Toadborg is a pretty fine jumper himself and is able to grab Bucky by the ears. He then deploys some kind of gas from his fingers that knocks him out. He then heads off with his prize.


Jenny’s powers prove to be just as “effective” as Bucky’s pistol.

Jenny soon breaks into an area of the Mothership and too comes face to face with Toadborg and the unconscious Bucky. She uses her powers on him thinking he’ll crumble like the droid she encountered in the previous episode, but Toadborg returns fire knocking her over. She remarks that he’s not actually a robot and Toadborg is impressed she could detect that. He picks her up by the hair and uses the same gas that he used on Bucky to knock her unconscious. Toadborg then orders some troopers around him to throw she and Bucky into some “jettison tubes.”


Al and his “Willies”

Al Negator is pretty puzzled by the sight of Willy. Not really knowing what he is, he tries to figure out a way to make use of him. Willy demands Al return the codes he stole, and to his surprise, Al Negator is willing to do so – for a price. Willy gets resourceful and pulls out the stack of play money. Al Negator has never seen currency like that before, though he seems to recognize it as some kind of currency. Willy calls his play money “Willies” and says they’re a new currency backed by the United Mammal Fleet. His fib fools the purple lizard and he agrees to deal for the codes, but he wants all of Willy’s Willies. Willy acts like the request is outrageous, then feigns acceptance as he hands over the play money in exchange for the disk. Al Negator then walks away counting his Willies.


You would think Dead-Eye would have better luck than the others with these canons.

Toadborg then confronts Dead-Eye who is still flying around in the Toad Croaker. He tries blasting Toadborg with the Croaker’s canons at close range but they’re just as ineffective as a pistol. He then resorts to just trying to run him over, but Toadborg grabs the Croaker and swings it causing Dead-Eye to crash into a wall.


Not the place to be.

With Bucky, Jenny, and Dead-Eye captured, Toadborg places all three into clear cylindrical tubes. They’re airlocks of some kind and Toadborg intends to torture his captives to get some information. He starts with Bucky, and he causes the tube to empty its oxygen while demanding Bucky tell him the status of the United Animal Fleet. Bucky won’t talk though, and Komplex interjects that Bucky won’t be broken (Komplex is rather impatient). Komplex goes on to say it doesn’t matter, they’ll soon have the codes to attack Genus as they currently wait just outside the defense perimeter. Willy then enters and attempts to use his squirt gun against Toadborg. Dressed in his baboon outfit, Toadborg initially recoils in fear before reminding himself that he’s now far beyond the power of a baboon. When Willy blasts him he acts insulted that he thinks a small amount of water could harm him. Realizing he can’t stop Toadborg, he whips out the disk he purchased from Al Negator and uses it to demand the release of his friends. Bucky orders Willy to destroy the codes reasoning his life, and the that of the others, is not as important as protecting Genus. Willy is hesitant to do so, and there are repeated shots of his face with a worried look even though in every other shot he’s wearing his baboon mask. I can’t tell if this is an error or if its intentional to show us Willy’s anguish. At the urging of his friends, Willy does indeed smash the disk preventing Toadborg from getting the codes.


Jenny has some explaining to do.

At least, that’s what Willy thought he was doing. Al Negator comes strolling in to let Toadborg know he didn’t fail in his mission. He made a copy, as he should have, and happily hands it over to Toadborg in exchange for his payment. Toadborg then grabs Willy and tosses him in another pod before inserting the disk into his own mainframe. He and Al leave with the console controlling the tubes switched on. The oxygen is leaving the tubes and soon Bucky and his friends will be launched into space. As things look dire, Jenny kneels down and reaches out to her Aldebaran sisters. The gem on her helmet then changes to display a green-furred cat she refers to as Mother Aldebaran. She asks for her permission to use her secret powers in the presence of outsiders. The Mother reminds her that such an act is forbidden, but then suggests a Level 3 psychic blast would likely go unnoticed. She thanks the feline, and a beam shoots forth from Jenny that destroys the console and frees them all. When Bucky questions what happened, Jenny simply reasons that they don’t build them like they used to.


Something weird is going on with Toadborg here.

On the bridge, Toadborg strolls in to declare that he possesses the codes to Genus’ defense system. When Air Marshall requests he hand them over, he refuses saying he’ll broadcast them. He seats himself in a throne-like chair as radio waves seem to transmit the codes to the orbiting satellites. They go into an idle mode and Toadborg then ejects himself from the controls of the Toad Climate Converter. The saucer-like vessel then heads for the surface world.


While the others ran around, Blinky was busy making repairs.

Bucky and the others return to the Righteous Indignation. Bruiser had kept the Toads at bay while Blinky made repairs and reports the ship is at a functional 70%. Upon leaving the Mothership they encounter Dogstar and the Indefatigable. Dogstar agrees to do what he can with the many Toad ships surrounding Genus while Bucky and his crew go after Toadborg. They head down to Genus to find a storm raging all around the Climate Converter. Bucky disembarks to go take on Toadborg alone and insists everyone else remain on the ship, but Willy jumps at the last-minute. When Bucky asks him what he’s doing he insists that Bucky will need an engineer to take this thing down.


Bucky vs Toadborg, Round 2.

Bucky and Willy are quickly confronted by Toadborg. Bucky shoves Willy behind some machinery so that Toadborg doesn’t notice him. He once more tries blasting Toadborg, but that’s just as effective as it was on the Mothership. He then uses his brains and insults Toadborg, wondering why Komplex would waste resources on preserving one measly toad. It’s apparently effective, as Bucky gets Toadborg to chase him to the surface of the structure allowing Willy to head for the main controls. Outside the storm rages all around them, and Bucky is able to seek cover behind some electrical structures. Toadborg demonstrates another one of his tricks as his arms extend to try and grab the green hare, but he just gets zapped by exposed wires. Down below, Dead-Eye bursts in to help Willy and Willy informs him he switched some stuff around and basically turned the apparatus on the surface of the Climate Converter into a lightning rod. They jump back into the Righteous Indignation and flee knowing this thing is about to get destroyed. As they fly off, Bucky sees them and makes a jump for it while Toadborg runs off to try and undo what Willy has done. When it looks like Bucky’s leap will come up short, Bruiser reaches down and snatches him by the cape. Toadborg can only watch helplessly as lightning batters him and the Climate Converter eventually causing it to explode.


Komplex does not look happy.

With Toadborg taken out, the defense codes cease their transmission. The satellites then re-arm themselves and take aim at the Toad vessels in Genus’ airspace. They open fire and all of the toads inside the Mothership are forced to head for the escape pods. Air Marshall and his lackeys leave in a slave ship and we see a battered Toadborg, floating in space, grab onto a fleeing Double Bubble. Komplex appears on the monitor in the slave ship demanding the Air Marshall to return to the home world at once. While he passes out, Frix and Frax giggle and ponder what Komplex will do to him as punishment.


Apparently lightning and explosions can harm Toadborg.

The Righteous Indignation is shown buzzing around Genus taking in the cheers. Bucky then ducks inside to find Willy as he prepares to leave to head home. He tells him he should come out and soak in the cheers since he played a huge role in saving Genus, but the modest Willy DuWitt insists he needs to get back. They all say their goodbyes, except Jenny who is no where to be found. Willy asks Bucky to say goodbye for him, with a little blush, and then Jenny emerges from the cockpit. She says she was working on an Aldebaran crystal communicator called a memory stone which she gives to Willy so he can contact them whenever he needs to, and vice versa. She plants another kiss on him and sends him on his way, Willy blushing uncontrollably.


Al takes Willy’s deception quite well.

On some planet apparently occupied by mammals, Al Negator is at a bar and is attempting to spend some of his “Willies.” An orangutan working the bar tells Al he’s checked all over and no one is backing any currency called Willies. Al realizes he’s been cheated, but rather than act mad he actually has a laugh. When the bartender starts laughing along he takes exception and tosses the guy aside. He then vows to find the mammal who gave him the Willies and make him pay.


Willy continues to have the hots for Jenny.

We’re then taken to Earth where Willy, Doug, and the other guys are showing their skateboard off at a science fair for school. Doug is taking all of the credit for the invention while Willy is behind a computer monitor. One of the other guys tries to reassure Willy by telling him not to pay Doug any mind, but Willy doesn’t care as he’s staring forlornly at the amulet Jenny gave him and the image of the crew appears on it as the episode ends.

Episode 3 is essentially the action-heavy episode I was expecting. Bucky and his crew are in enemy territory without the aid of stealth and are forced to blast their way to safety while also trying to protect the planet Genus. The action is fairly tame as apparently Bucky won’t be allowed to simply blast Toads, which is expected, and probably why we’ve seen some robots early on. Toadborg gets to demonstrate his might and he’s a formidable foe. He also shares pretty much his entire back story confirming he’s not a robot, but a former Storm Trooper turned into a cyborg. We also see more of the Dead-Eye/Willy pairing which is working well early on and we also get a little insight into Jenny’s powers. The Mother Aldebaran thing will get a bit more confusing in a later episode when Jenny returns to her home world and there isn’t a character matching that name. She’ll confer with someone named the High Artificer, but she doesn’t match the image we saw in Jenny’s amulet. At the time, Jenny’s ability to free them from the trap they’re in feels a bit too convenient, but at least the show plans on following up on it. I also like that some mystery is preserved here.


Our first happy ending of the series.

Visually, this episode is the worst so far. It might have to do with our characters no longer largely being stationary as they’re forced to flee the confines of their spaceship and do battle on foot. The running, particularly Bucky and Toadborg during their fight, is choppy and the characters practically glide. There’s clearly not enough frames of animation in places. Toadborg’s eyes also keep changing color, and I don’t think it’s intentional, and at one point Dead-Eye’s head turns orange. Some images look all right, such as when Toadborg is walking away with a limp Bucky and carrying him by the ears. Aside from the eye thing, Toadborg in general looks imposing. I found it confusing though that Bucky’s initial shot blasted away some of Toadborg’s outer shell, but then every subsequent shot did nothing. The blemish also disappears quickly so maybe it was an error to even include it initially. I do like that the fight between Toadborg and Bucky is basically resolved through some ingenuity. Bucky just basically occupies Toadborg while Willy goes to work. No weakness is really exposed with Toadborg, he just under estimates his opponent. The Willy/Jenny stuff still remains weird, but at least we weren’t stuck on Earth for very long in this episode.

This episode essentially concludes the show’s first arch. There’s no cliff-hanger of an ending as Bucky and his crew destroyed the Climate Converter and prevented the Toads from securing the Genus defense system codes. They also destroyed a Mothership in the process, but more likely remain. This is a temporary victory as Bucky still needs to locate his fellow hares and find a way to reverse the damage done to his home world. The rest of the season will focus more on stand-alone stories often with some member of the crew stepping into the spotlight each week, but it doesn’t completely lose sight of those primary goals. Things will steadily build towards the finale, which is a satisfying structure for a show like this. Even though this episode has some warts, it was fairly exciting and the show has created some strong momentum and hopefully the variation in plotting won’t derail that.

Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars – “War of the Warts”

war of the wartsEpisode Number:  1

Original Air Date:  September 8, 1991

Directed by:  Karen Peterson

Written by:  Christy Marx

First Appearance:  Bucky O’Hare, Jenny, Dead-Eye Duck, Bruce, A.F.C. Blinky, Willy DuWitt, Toad Air Marshall, Frix, Frax, Komplex, Any Phibian

The premiere episode for Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars begins with what is probably the most memorable aspect of the show:  that theme song. Doug Katsaros is credited with the music of the show as well as the theme song. Supposedly, Larry Hama hates it. In looking over credits for the show, some familiar names show up in the storyboard section, and if you’ve been reading along with the Batman posts, those names should be familiar to you as well:  Boyd Kirkland, Frank Paur, Will Meuginot, Larry Houston, to name a few. Paur and Kirkland also have producer credits on the show and they’re most associated with Batman where both directed episodes. Will Meuginot did one episode of Batman as well as one of X-Men and has generally been all over children’s programming (The Real Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Captain Planet, and many more). Larry Houston is most familiar to me because of his work on X-Men as he was featured a lot in the Previously on X-Men book about the series as he was one of the only staff members who was actually a fan of the property. He also worked on storyboards for Batman and many other programs, as I’m sure a lot of the other storyboard artists did as well. Those were the guys who just stood out the most.


He goes where no ordinary rabbit would dare, which is probably a lot of places.

Back to that theme song though. It’s very upbeat and the horns section gives it this triumphant quality. Everything builds to the “Bucky!” parts and the lyrics are effectively cheesy. Effective in that they capture the spirit of the show while also interjecting some goofy nonsense, like the ending of “Did you say Bucky? I said Bucky!” And like most shows of this era, the animation on the intro is noticeably better than what is in the actual episodes. Sunbow was quite good at sinking money into brief pieces of animation, like for toy commercials, and was well-versed in this. It’s not as bad as Thundercats, but I do wish the whole show could look like this. That intro makes the show look like an action heavy broadcast with Bucky running and gunning his way through the Toad Empire, but the show is a bit more slow-paced than that, as we’ll see. The song also does employ the age old technique of introducing most of the characters by name as well as the general conflict. Just watching it lets you know this show is about mammals fighting toads in space.


Get used to this, the writers and animators seem to have a lot of fun with Toad TV.

The episode begins onboard the Toad Mothership. Frix (Terry Klassen) and Frax (Scott McNeil) are two Toad officers that apparently don’t take their job very seriously. They’re spending their time watching Toad TV and the only thing on is a commercial in which a female toad expresses her admiration for male toads who feature a lot of warts. The Toad Air Marshall (Jay Brazeau) interrupts them and demands they shut off that brain-rotting Toad TV. He wants them to congratulate him for taking over the home world of Bucky O’Hare as he happily anticipates getting a new medal as recognition for his conquest. He speaks in between grunts or croaks that sound more like burps. Think Rick from Rick and Morty or Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He also drools a bit, and these are characteristics that are going to be dropped in later episodes, which is welcomed as the grunts are a bit annoying. He’s short, chubby, and excitable so he’s a fairly typical villain for the era.


Our first shot of Captain O’Hare and First Mate Jenny.

We’re then shown the Righteous Indignation, the frigate captained by Bucky O’Hare (Jason Michas). The ship is shown from the front and we can see Bucky and First Mate Jenny (Margot Pinvidic) in the command tower/cockpit and Dead-Eye Duck (McNeil) down below behind the guns. Bucky then signals to the rest of the crew to get ready for action, and we get our first animation error as it cuts to Dead-Eye near the lockers as he races over to his guns excitedly, even though the establishing shot a second ago placed him behind the guns to begin with. Also introduced is Chief Engineer Bruce (Dale Wilson), a large baboon creature referred to as a Betelgeusian Berserker Baboon, and Android First Class Blinky (Sam Vincent), a diminutive little robot with a large, orange, eye for a head. Bruce is bemoaning how junky their photon accelerator is, which is the device that allows them to utilize warp drive, which is their light speed and is also referred to as a hyper space jump by the characters. He voices his concerns to the captain who tells him to back-burner it for now because they have work to do.


This is Bruce. Don’t get too attached.

Bucky then tells Jenny she’ll be part of a boarding party, as they’ve located a Toad Slave Ship and six fighters. They intend to spring whoever is being held captive while dispatching the fighters. Dead-Eye is quite eager to fire up his guns and the Toad fighters are equally eager to engage the frigate. Dead-Eye takes out a few rather quick, and as the Toad Double Bubbles are destroyed the pilots inside are show floating in bubble-like escape pods which I assume is there to quiet the censors. Dead-Eye also shows his tally of defeated toads as he marks each “kill” with a piece of chalk.


This is what happens to toads when they see a baboon.

Jenny and Bruce then leave via the Toad Croaker, a small, open-air, vessel which does not seem suitable for space travel. They head for the slave ship while Bucky leads the remaining fighters away. Inside, Toad Storm Troopers ready themselves to deal with the intruders in their slave ship. They’re quite cocky, until Bruce smashes in their door. This is where we learn that all toads have a paralyzing fear of baboons, and all drop their guns and run. Bruce, for his part, is overcome with a berserker rage and takes off after them leaving Jenny to shake her head. She makes her way into another area of the ship and is met by a security robot. She then demonstrates her powers for us, which seem to feed off of the many gems in her armor, as she magics up an energy blast to destroy the robot. She does the same to a door, and when she encounters some toads on the other side, they just act relieved she isn’t a baboon. She takes them out in a far less glamorous manner by punching one in the face (something Batman was never allowed to do) and kicking the other in the gut.


Dead-Eye is happiest when blasting toads.

Bucky is still giving the remaining Toad fighters the slip, much to the disappointment of Dead-Eye who would rather be taking them out. He then does a loop move, something Star Fox 64 fans are familiar with, to maneuver behind their would-be assailants allowing Dead-Eye to finish the job. Bucky then shouts out a warning (I guess the ship has external speakers?) to the floating Toad pilots that the entire United Animal Space Fleet will be on their asses (not in those words). They receive a radio message from Jenny to come check out the slave ship and they head over. Jenny warns Bucky that he’s not going to like what happens when she opens the door to the holding area, but the dire warning was partially in jest as Bucky gets mobbed by several happy hares. Bucky then finds out the fate of his home planet from the prisoners, and he vows to head to Genus where the Animal Liberation Security Council convenes. Meanwhile, Toad Air Marshall is incensed when he finds out Bucky took out six fighters and captured the slave ship. The pilot also passes on Bucky’s threats and the Air Marshall is irritated to find out there’s now a fleet ready to oppose him. No matter, he declares that he will have Bucky O’Hare in dramatic fashion.


This is Willy DuWitt, who has problems of his own, small as they may be.

We’re taken briefly to Earth during these events to meet a young boy by the name of Willy DuWitt (Shane Meier). Willy finds his locker has been vandalized with the word “Nerd” spray-painted across it. Three kids convene on him by skateboarding right up to his face. One boy appears to be the leader of this trio, Doug (Sam Vincent), and he has a message for Willy. This is where many boys my age learned what grading on a curve meant, as Doug is ticked off that Willy keeps getting A’s on everything making it harder on the rest of the class. It’s interesting because these three boys are a lot bigger than Willy and basically look like normal people. Willy is shorter, and like most cartoon characters, he has a big head and feet. Either he’s skipped a few grades or this was just an odd stylistic choice. Willy professes that he loves math and science and it’s all easy to him, but Doug doesn’t care and demands he get an F on the next test and the three leave.


The head of the United Animal Security Council, a true politician.

Bucky and his crew lead the Toad Slave Ship to Genus, which has a very advanced defense system surrounding it. It at first sees the Toad ship as an enemy vessel and begins firing upon it. Jenny is forced to transmit a security clearance to get them to back off. Once on the planet, Bucky and his crew storm a council meeting to inform them of what has happened to his home planet of Warren. He’s rightly ticked off, and this is where we find out that the entire mammal fleet is Bucky O’Hare and his crew and his threats to the Toads were just bluffs. He demands more help, and Dead-Eye is forced to silence the chattering bureaucrats with some gunfire at one point. An old pig then confronts Bucky to tell him they need documented evidence of Toad atrocities (apparently a slave ship full of rabbits isn’t enough evidence) in order to allocate more funds to building up the fleet. Bucky angrily leaves vowing to return with this evidence they seek.


He may just a computer program, but Komplex is one tough boss.

Aboard the Toad Mothership, we see Toad Air Marshall at his desk looking over a massive sheet of paper containing a map. It turns out, he’s only holding up the paper to hide the fact that he’s watching Toad TV behind it, proving he’s just as bad as his subordinates. The TV screen then changes, and we get our first introduction to Komplex (Long John Baldry). Komplex looks like a polygonal toad face with red X-shaped eyes. It speaks with a menacing voice through the TV and it’s apparent that the Air Marshall both fears Komplex and is subservient to it. Komplex demands the destruction of Bucky and the hares.


The Toads are coming for you, Bucky.

Bucky decides to go to Warren for this evidence, which may not be the wisest choice. Toad Air Marshall anticipates the move, and he has a fleet of roughly 50 fighters waiting for him. On Earth, we see Willy’s homelife (in a house that could pass as the Tanner residence from Full House) and meet his parents David (McNeil) and Sunshine (Pinvidic), two hippies who have grown up. He’s not excited to eat his tofu burgers and tries asking his dad for advice on what to do about his bully problem and his dad tells him that sometimes you have to do what’s right no matter what the consequences. He’s only half paying attention to his son though as he’s reading the paper. Sunshine parrots her husband while referencing the need to save the whales and such. She then reminds her husband they need to head to a rally and take off leaving Willy all by himself.


Air Marshall unleashes his entire fleet on Bucky’s ship.

The Righteous Indignation finds itself in a real predicament as the Toad fleet surrounds them. The Toads take out two of the six engines on the rear of the ship, and surprisingly the animators will account for that as the ship flees with only four engines illuminated. Their shields are taking a pounding and there’s no feasible way for one frigate to take on 50 fighters. Bucky calls down to engineering for a hyper space jump and Bruce advises it’s dangerous, but what choice do they have? He tries hastily making some adjustments to the photon accelerator, but it’s making a funny sound. He activates it anyway, and it immediately starts trying to suck him in. Blinky grabs onto some equipment as he too is being pulled towards the device. He grabs ahold of Bruce’s belt, but the accelerator pulls him right out of his space suit. Blinky goes flying too, but he braces himself against the accelerator and is able to unplug it before he meets the same fate as Bruce.


Naked Bruce gets sucked into another dimension. So long, baboon.

Blinky radios up to Bucky and informs him of what happened. “Calamity and woe,” he begins which is some-what of a catch phrase for the character. He tells his captain that Bruce was either pulled into another dimension or has attained oneness with the universe, as he puts it. It’s the closest thing to “death” as we’re going to get on this show. Bucky tells Jenny she’s in charge, as he’s positioned the frigate in a crater in a bid to hide from the fighters momentarily. He heads down to survey the damage while remarking they’ll miss Bruce, but he has no time for mourning. Blinky informs him he’s made some repairs, but he has no idea what will happen once the warp drive is engaged. Bucky decides they have no choice, as the Toad fighters have found them and their shields can’t last much longer. He approaches the photon accelerator and activates the warp drive.


Calamity and woe, indeed.

On Earth, Willy is recording himself as he prepares for his greatest experiment. It seems he has constructed his own photon accelerator, and like Bucky, he’s not sure what will happen when he turns it on. His recording is intended to let his parents in on what happened, should something bad happen. He activates his, and everything goes dark. He tries looking out his window and sees just blackness. Meanwhile, on the Righteous Indignation all power has gone out. Jenny declares they’re in some kind of stasis field. Nothing can get in, or out. Bucky is more alarmed by the presence of a door that suddenly appeared near he and Blinky. It’s Willy’s door, and the backside of it just contains a swirling vortex. The door opens, and out steps Willy.


Willy readies his own photon accelerator.

Dead-Eye nearly blasts Willy as he mistakes his flashlight for a lightsaber. Interestingly, in the comics Willy’s room is decorated with Star Wars stuff, so it’s nice they still found a way to slip in a reference via lightsaber here. Willy insists it’s just a flashlight and shuts it off. This seems to calm Dead-Eye some and the characters all stop to stare at each other. Willy is surprised to find a talking green rabbit, while the others think Willy is some sort of shaved baboon. Bucky introduced himself, seeming to take exception with Willy’s description of him, before introducing the others. He tells Willy what danger he faces by being aboard his ship, while Willy is amazed to see that they have a photon accelerator. Willy offers to help, but Bucky doesn’t see how this human could be of use, until Willy tells him that he built his very own photon accelerator. They need to head back to his room for some tools, but Willy thinks he can fix theirs.


Willy meets some interesting characters.

Back in Willy’s room, the young boy is grabbing stuff while Bucky and Dead-Eye accompany him. Dead-Eye spies what appears to be a toy gun on Willy’s bed and confiscates it, pointing it out to Bucky in a hushed voice just in case Willy can’t be trusted. He also spies some play money and seems to mistake it for real cash and stuffs it in a duffel bag with Willy’s tools. They then head back to the ship and Willy makes the repairs. He vows to stay aboard the ship to see it through, even though he knows once the warp drive is activated his door will disappear. Jenny, in reward for Willy’s bravery, gives Willy a kiss and embraces him which causes Willy to blush and plants the seeds for his future life as a furry. As the crew gets ready to fire up the warp drive, the stasis field drops as a Toad gives the order to fire at full strength and our first episode ends on a rather major cliffhanger.


Dead-Eye’s discovery.

There’s a lot to pack into this debut episode. We get the general conflict of Toads vs Mammals, and also a season-long storyline is introduced and that’s the enslavement of Bucky’s home world. We also get a peek at the leaders of the mammal world, who because of their relative safety behind their advanced defense systems, are reluctant to take the Toads seriously frustrating Bucky. It’s basically just Bucky and his crew left to fend off a planet’s worth of toads who are hellbent on taking over. We don’t know much about their goals or their methods just yet, but that’s still to come. We know enough though. The Toads are a serious threat, and Bucky is going to need help to drive them back.


This whole time, the Righteous Indignation in a stasis field and unable to sustain direct damage.

We also get something that doesn’t arise in shows like this often:  death. Well, a sort of death with Bruce getting sucked into the photon accelerator. It’s a bit clunky and weird, but at least the groundwork is partly laid in Bruce’s first scene when he remarks that it seems like part of the device doesn’t exist in their dimension. In the comic, Bruce just gets blasted by the Toads and reduced to a pile of dust. This is far more ambiguous. Blinky theorizes he got pulled into another dimension while also saying it’s possible he’s just dead, though he phrases it in a clever way. We’ll eventually find out that Blinky’s first guess was correct, but for now it looks like a member of Bucky’s meager crew got taken out, and Bruce was one of the most formidable. The whole sequence happens rather quickly, and since they’re in a dire situation there’s no time for the moment to breathe. It’s rushed, but also it’s the reality of war that you can’t stop and mourn in the midst of a fire-fight lest you want to end up like your comrade.


Like it or not, Willy is going to be a part of this crew going forward.

The inclusion of Willy is and has always been odd to me. If I had never read the comics I would have thought he was shoe-horned into the cartoon in an attempt to create a character kids could relate to. He was likely included in the books for the same reason, but it just always felt silly to me which is odd since we’ve got a bunch of animals fighting each other in space. He’s got time to prove his worth and win me over, but I’m not an instant fan. And his hippy parents are just confusing. What’s the message they’re trying to convey here? Did Larry Hama just hate hippies? They’re bad, yuppy, parents more consumed with their activist lifestyle than their child. I guess if the message is a bad parent can come from any background then okay, I guess. I think it has a lot to do with the cynicism of the 80s just viewing hippies as pretty goofy and silly and they’re just supposedly inherently funny as a result. “Ha, look at Willy’s dumb, hippy, parents!” I didn’t find it funny as a kid, and I don’t find it funny as an adult. They also made the choice to not show their faces, not an uncommon technique in kid’s shows of the era. Making them faceless hippies feels like a political statement of some kind, I’m just not sure what that is.


There’s also going to be some weird, sexual, tension between Jenny and Willy.

The animation on this show is pretty inconsistent. It reminds me a lot of another AKOM show, X-Men, as character models get shifty at times. Especially Jenny, whose face seems to change shape at times. The more cartoonish toads, especially the Air Marshall, look pretty good and there are some fun sequences during the firefights. Like one shot from in front of Dead-Eye’s guns. Unfortunately, the premiere episode is basically the high point in terms of visuals. There will be sequences here and there in future episodes that look as good or better than what’s here, but in general the animation quality only goes down from here. The voice acting is fairly capable though and I like the voices for each character. I mentioned Air Marshall’s weird croak/burps, but in addition to that it seemed like there was some confusion over what Dead-Eye should sound like. Scott McNeil does a stereotypical pirate voice at times, which is basically what will be carried forward. At other times though he goes for a southern accent, and even a Cajun one. They’re brief, but weird. I think things get more consistent going forward, as is often the case following a debut episode.


The final shot of the first episode from the cockpit of the Righteous Indignation is pretty ominous.

This episode throws a lot at the viewer and it’s a pretty demanding way to start the series. The scenes move quickly from one to the next for time considerations and the episode feels long, even though it’s only about 21 minutes including the intro. I personally like a lot of world-building in the first few episodes, so I’m mostly okay with it, but by the end I do want to see things start moving. Lets get some action. A lot of the characters are introduced though so the episode does accomplish a lot which will hopefully pay dividends rather quickly. It was probably harder for kids to follow, especially the scene with the animal council, and I know I hated how abruptly the episode ended. A week is a long time for a kid to find out how Bucky and his crew get out of that mess. You’re going to have to endure the same, or you could just run to YouTube or something and watch the next episode.

Bucky O’Hare – The Video Game

Bucky O'Hare - Nintendo Entertainment System (1992)

Bucky O’Hare – Nintendo Entertainment System (1992)

I’ve been away for awhile, a combination of life events and vacation, but I’m back and ready to talk about some old things.  Here is one such old thing and a topic I’ve discussed before:  Bucky O’Hare.  Bucky O’Hare was a part of that glut from the late 1980s into the 1990s of anthropomorphic cartoon characters riding on the coat tails of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Very few of these properties (Street Sharks, Biker Mice From Mars, Battle Toads) had any staying power and Bucky proved to be no exception.  His show lasted one season, and it was a half season at that, before getting cancelled.  There are a number of theories why from poor marketing decisions, bad distribution of the toys, too serious, though I personally think a lot of boys just didn’t buy into the idea of a green space bunny saving the galaxy.  Despite Bucky’s outward appearance, I liked him and the show quite a bit as did a number of my friends.  Bucky probably dominated a good six months of my young life and during that time period he was even able to overtake the TMNT for a brief spell.

Even though Bucky didn’t last long as a cartoon hero (he didn’t last long as a comic book hero either), he was still around long enough to have his likeness inserted onto just about every product imaginable.  From the obvious items like toys and clothing to the less obvious such as dishes and light-switch covers.  Not surprisingly, another item that took advantage of the Bucky O’Hare license was a video game, simply titled Bucky O’Hare.   The game was developed by Konami and released in 1992 a short while after the cartoon had finished its run.  Right away, it should be noted that Bucky dodged a major bullet in that his game was developed by Konami, and not LJN, whom Konami had a tendency to hand all of its licensed products to.  LJN is known as one of the worst game developers from that era; it possessed the opposite of the Midas Touch when it came to game development.  The fact that Bucky managed to avoid such a fate is really quite surprising, in hindsight.  Even more popular properties like the X-Men were unable to avoid LJN but somehow Bucky snuck through.

DownloadedFile-33Bucky O’Hare on the NES is an action platformer starring Bucky O’Hare himself.  Players control the funky fresh rabbit and navigate him through various levels, mostly going left to right but not always, as they run, jump, and gun down the evil toads to save Bucky’s crew.  The game starts off giving the player a choice of 4 different stages, represented by different planets, that Bucky can choose from.  On each planet, one of Bucky’s crew-mates is being held captive:  Blinky is on the green planet, Jenny is on the blue planet, Dead Eye the red, and Willy DuWitt is on the yellow planet.  Bucky can choose to rescue his mates in any order, though at least one planet requires the aid of one of Bucky’s comrades, for when Bucky rescues a character that character becomes playable.  The player can switch on the fly with a press of the select button.  All characters share the same health bar but have their own power bar.

The power bar is where the characters distinguish themselves.  Each character had a unique attack and unique ability.  Attacks are simply done by pressing the B button.  Bucky can shoot horizontally and vertically and his special ability is a super jump.  By pressing and holding the B button, Bucky crouches down and charges up a jump.  The power meter determines how high he can go and it can be increased in size by collecting certain power-ups.  Blinky has a jetpack that allows him to fly for a short duration.  His attack is a canon-ball like  weapon that fires in an arc.  It can also break certain blocks found in the environment.  It’s more powerful than Bucky’s attack, but has limited range.  Jenny fires a laser that may or may not inflict more damage than Bucky’s gun, though it’s rate of fire doesn’t seem to be as good.  Her special ability is some kind of telekinetic ball that the player can control with the d-pad once it’s been fired.  It’s useful in certain spots where the player can sit out of danger and attack from cover.  Dead Eye has a scatter-shot for his main weapon.  Think the spread gun from Konami’s much more popular Contra series. His special ability lets him crawl on walls for a short duration.  Not particularly useful.  Willy has a fairly normal attack with his special being a charged shot.  Unlike, say Mega Man, Willy is stationary when charging making his special ability the least useful.

Mega Man fans, does this look familiar?

Mega Man fans, does this look familiar?

Willy’s special ability isn’t the only comparison to Mega Man one will find when playing Bucky O’Hare.  In many ways, the game is like a Mega Man clone.  The non-linear setup at the start is certainly reminiscient of the blue bomber’s games and the general run, jump, shoot mechanics seem to be clearly inspired by Mega Man as well.  There’s also some levels, or parts of levels, that are inspired by some of Mega Man’s more famous levels such as the red planet’s nod to Quick Man and the vanishing blocks from the Toad Mother Ship.  A quick google search will reveal that, in some circles, this game is known as the Konami Mega Man.  I’ve never heard anyone actually refer to the game as such, but the internet never lies.  Bucky owes a lot to Mega Man, but it’s different enough to maintain integrity and similar enough that it’s safe to say most fans of the blue bomber will enjoy the green rabbit.

Bucky O’Hare may not be among the most popular NES games, but most people who are into NES games seem to know about it and associate it with one word:  hard.  Many games from this era are hard, but Bucky O’Hare is often placed in that upper tier of really difficult games.  I’ve never heard anyone outright call it the hardest NES game ever made, but I’ve seen it included in several lists or youtube videos amongst the elite.  This is mostly a good thing, as Bucky O’Hare is able to achieve it’s difficulty without being too cheap.  There are some areas, when playing for the first time, that will piss a gamer off.  The most obvious to me occurs on the yellow planet where the player has to hop on these futuristic mine carts that zip along a track.  Jumping from one to another is not difficult, as they slow down long enough to make the timing easy, but before long a wall of spikes will pop up that result in a one-hit death if the player doesn’t react fast enough.  These one-hit deaths comprise the majority of player fatalities in Bucky O’Hare.  Very rarely can I recall actually having my life depleted slowly during a non-boss encounter.  And even the boss fights, as one might imagine, include a number of instant death attacks that can put an end to the fight rather quickly.  What keeps Bucky O’Hare from being among the hardest of the hard is its generous continue system.  Each level is broken up into several acts which, by themselves, are pretty short.  If a player loses all of his or her lives the continue screen is displayed and electing to go on will bring the player to the start of the most recently completed act with a new set of lives.  Continues are unlimited, and completing a full level gives the player a password which isn’t overly complex or long.  This means anyone of moderate skill can probably complete Bucky O’Hare so long as they’re persistent.  And given that much of the game’s difficulty comes from being surprised, practice does indeed make perfect.

Right around the time it seems like the game has thrown everything it can at you, it introduces the flying stages.  Prepare to die.

Right around the time it seems like the game has thrown everything it can at you, it introduces the flying stages. Prepare to die.

Bucky O’Hare is deceptively long and offers a good amount of gameplay.  After completing the first four stages the player is abducted by the toads and (annoyingly) must also re-rescue the trio of Jenny, Dead Eye, and Willy.  The setup, beyond the run and gun nature of the game, is pretty straight-forward but there are areas later in the game that are non-linear as Bucky explores the Toad Mother Ship.  After the conclusion of each level, a boss encounter occurs.  They’re usually fairly challenging, but there are some easy ones, and part of the challenge is knowing which character works best.  For the most part, Bucky on his own is enough to take down a boss but I did find some uses for Jenny’s special attack (namely the yellow planet boss) and Blinky has his moments too.  Only Willy comes across as feeling useless as I was able to make regular use of the other four characters.  Bucky never had another console video game release, but he did have an arcade game released after this one though it wasn’t very popular.  This game, along with the cartoon’s catchy theme song, is probably the way most remember Bucky O’Hare.  Considering most of those other shows, TMNT included, received mediocre to terrible games, I’d say Bucky came out ahead in one respect.  If you like NES games and have never played this one, I whole-heartedly recommend it.

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