Unpredictable as Weather (Part 33)

In this chapter, we enter the TV era, where the most prevalent form of weather is television snow. It would be virtually impossible to track all episodes in which some form of weather change appeared (for example, every time atmospheric thunder appeared on such shows as “Scooby Doo, Where Are You?” or “Milton the Monster”) – and in most of such instances, use of effects work would likely be rather brief anyway due to restrictive budgets. So instead, we’ll focus on selected highlights where weather was more prominent to plot. Also, to save on the arduous task of chronologizing work between numerous studios, I’ll try to present films in groups categorized by a single studio at a time, presenting an overview of their representative output.

The first up in our survey, mainly because its offerings neatly fit within the expanse of a single article, is Terrytoons. Paul himself, always the non-innovator, was not a part of the move to TV – though it might have seemed that the thought of being able to mass-produce films on a shoestring budget should have appealed to his old instincts. Instead, he got out while the getting was good, selling off all of his interests to CBS. The network was, of course, the required impetus to push for material it could program into its daily or weekly schedules – and the first to respond was enterprising creative director Gene Deitch, adapting his comic strip “Terr’ble Thompson” into Tom Terrific for the Captain Kangaroo show.

A host of other new characters would be developed in the years that followed, some intended for the small screen, others of which would share their existence between cartoons produced for television and those for the big screen. The distinction between such productions became exceptionally blurred when CBS began reissuing cartoons which had already aired on TV in 35mm theatrical prints to pad out theatrical distribution schedules (and in some instances, such as the theatrical release of Deputy Dawg cartoons, in response to public demand over the popularity of the character). Records are inconsistent and sketchy between sources as to which episodes received belated theatrical distribution, and a surprising number of prints have surfaced with grafted-on Fox theatrical titles, so it is unclear how many of the films below may also have received a theatrical life. But it at least appears likely that most if not all of the episodes discussed herein may have originated as television projects, accounting for their inclusion here.

Isotope Feeney’s Foolish Fog (Tom Terrific, beginning 9/23/57 – Gene Deitch, dir.) – The extreme minimalism of animation on Tom Terrific episodes is rather stark – almost like watching first-season episodes of Crusader Rabbit with more cels. Yet, there is a certain charm to them, rather akin to gazing at a child’s doodles, plus an appeal of the principal characters: a young boy who can transform himself into anything he can think of, seemingly filled with intelligence and resourcefulness, but utterly blind and naive as to the obvious shortcomings of his “Wonder Dog”, Mighty Manfred, who is the laziest, sleepiest, most cowardly dog on Earth. The formula was enough to support a few 13-week seasons (a point cleverly exploited in one episode where, if I recall, Manfred actually performs some feat to his own musical performance, then collapses, while Tom moans that Manfred can only repeat the feat “every 13 weeks”). Episodes were aired as both a five-chapter serial Monday through Friday, or on weekends as a self-standing half hour editing together the five chapters (without most of the recaps, often shown in the form of stills of photographic negative images) with one commercial break in the middle.

Tom, in his treehouse “World Headquarters”, is bedding down for the night, setting an alarm clock to wake them bright and early at 7 o’clock (although Manfred slyly resets the alarm for 10:00). However, bright lights from the neighboring castle lair of mad scientist Isotope Feeney tell Tom that some weird experiment is brewing. Sure enough, Feeney, utilizing a giant machine which is something of a boiling vat and vaporizer, is mixing up a batch of his latest creation – foolish fog, a gas that emerges in clouds patterned in polka dots, whose effect is to make anyone it touches foolish. Feeney intends to release it upon the entire planet, leaving himself as the only one left with intelligence, to rule the world. Principal ingredients include a bag of foolish notions, another of foolish things kids bring home in their pockets, and a toothless comb for bald people (something really foolish). After boiling the mixture overnight, Feeney releases his first cloud of the stuff in the morning. Manfred is the first to be hit, and reverts to the chirping of a tweeting bird, balancing on a limb of the treehouse. Tom saves him from a fall by converting himself into a spring mattress. Inconsistent to the storyline, Manfred, receiving a rebounding blow to the head, is seemingly is the only one who is by such method able to shake off the effects of the fog. But the cloud begins drifting toward the city, and Feeney appears, challenging Tom to try to stop the cloud if he can – which will only give Feeney time to make tons more of the stuff. Tom ponders what will happen if he is hit by the fog – then only able to think foolish thoughts, rendering his “thinking cap” (an inverted funnel) useless. Tom uses the cap to think of a solution, and presumes that if he makes himself invisible, the fog won’t be able to find him to touch him. (This stuff must have eyes, instead of merely spreading everywhere like most vapors do.) To get to the city faster, Tom becomes an invisible racing car, taking along Manfred for an “air-flow” drive. As he reaches the city limits, Tom stops at a service station, as he is running low on fuel. Manfred, seemingly sitting atop thin air, asks the attendant to check the oil and clean the windshield. The confused attendant, finding neither within view, assumes he has been inhaling gasoline fumes too long, and heads for the hills.

I couldn’t resist posting this Tom Terrific weather related jigsaw puzzle.

Feeney’s fog is doing its work. A man wheeling a baby carriage exchanges places with his toddler after the fog hits. A scolding mother changes tune from ordering her child to pick up his toys, to playing at stacking the blocks herself. A schoolteacher’s lecture is reduced to jump rope rhymes. Lions in the zoo begin dancing a minuet with one another. Manfred cowers in a trash can, while Tom pursues the cloud, as it drifts into a boathouse of the dock. Tom shuts the boathouse door, trapping the cloud inside. Spotting Manfred in the trash can, Tom assumes Manfred had disguised himself as a knight in armor, heroically scaring the cloud into the boathouse. Manfred will take the unearned praise when given, but more pressing matters need their attention. Feeney has restoked the boilers, and now claims to have enough fog to cover the world. As the gas begins to emerge from Feeney’s castle window, Manfred worries that there is no way to stop it. “What will your fans say?”, he asks Tom. Tom praises Manfred as having done it again, suggesting the solution to the whole problem – as Tom converts himself into a giant electric fan, blowing the fog back at Feeney. Feeney runs into the castle, with the cloud in pursuit through the doorway. Tom returns to normal form, and shuts the door, leaving Feeney inside with his own fog. Moments later, the castle is filled with the sounds of ridiculous giggling laughter – and Tom knows Feeney won’t be in shape to cause further trouble for a long, long while.

One of the earliest episodes of Deputy Dawg was the charming Li’l Whooper (1/15/60 – Dave Tendlar, dir.). Muskie the muskrat, Alligator, and Vincent Van Gopher share a mutual problem. All of them are starving with hunger, but it is raining cats and dogs (for once, not literally) outside, so they can’t raid the henhouse in the usual fashion. Muskie hits on the idea that Gopher can tunnel underground all the way, providing the necessary eggs without getting soaked. Vincent expresses doubts about the plan. “I can’t see good enough to find my own house, much less the henhouse,” “You gotta try, Vince” encourages Muskie, pointing Vincent in the right direction inside his tunnel entrance. Vincent, whose progress is only seen as a lump in the ground, tries to maintain a straight direction, but passes right by the henhouse, into the woods. Popping his head out for a look, he spots a couple of boulders, about the size of the henhouse and its entrance ramp, then charges for the entrance, slamming head-first into the rocks. Returning to his hole, he proceeds a bit further, then pops out again for another look. Now, he is at the base of a tall tree. “This looks loke it, but I’m gonna make sure.” Cautiously, he approaches the trunk, finding a hole by which to enter its hollow interior. “Yep, here’s the door.” Vincent climbs and climbs inside. “Seems kinda high for a henhouse.” At the top, he encounters the underside of the nest of a mother whooping crane. The bird lets out a sudden startled whoop, and a moment later, Vincent emerges from the trunk base, carrying an egg about four times the size of a chicken egg, and disappears back into his tunnel. “How’s this, boys?”, Vincent asks, popping up inside Muskie’s home. “Man, oh man. That’s the most beautifulest egg I’ve ever seen”, responds Muskie. He cracks the shell open upon a frying pan. Instead of a yolk, out pops a baby whooping crane, quite tall and spindly for a hatchling. Muskie and his pals have never seen anything like it and have no idea where it came from or precisely what it is. All they know is, it won’t stop whooping, which seems to be driving Alligator in particular crazy. Conveniently, the rain outside lets up, and Muskie pushes the bird outside. “You run along now and find your own house.” But the bird thinks this is its home, and keeps returning into the door.

The boys even float out into the swamp upon Alligator’s tummy, leaving the bird stranded on a small island in the creek – but the bird unexplainedly is already back in the house to greet them when they return home. Muskie decides to “play games” with the little guy, by tying a blindfold around his eyes, and leaving the bird walking blindly around the woods in a game of blind man’s bluff. They run from the spot, hoping to never see the little noisemaker again, when they encounter Deputy Dawg. “What you boys runnin’ from?”. inquires Deputy. The boys fill Deputy in on their unwanted feathered nuisance. Hearing that he was a “bird-type whooper”, Deputy unfolds a bounty poster he is in the process of distributing around the swamp, notifying that whooping cranes are almost extinct, with a reward offered of $500 for their capture. “Five hundred dollars?” respond each of the boys – and all scatter in search of the bird. Catching on that they have a lead on the wanted specimen, Deputy drops his duty to join in the chase himself. The whooper, still wandering blindly, leads them on a merry chase, causing Muskie to fall into the creek mud, Vincent to grab a twig instead of the bird’s leg, then react to Deputy and Alligator running atop him, “Help! Help! He whomped me in the head and got away!”, and Deputy and Alligator to collide head-first in a simultaneous dive for the bird in the middle. Finally, good fortune smiles on Muskie, as the bird steps off the creek banks onto a floating log. Muskie spins the log around, causing the whooper to reverse direction, and walk back right into his arms. “Hello, little whooping crane” says Muskie, removing the bird’s blindfold and ending the game to the bird’s happy whoops.

Our four heroes triumphantly march back together across the swamp, Muskie keeping a tight grip on the bird at Deputy’s instruction. “That’s a whooping five hundred dollars, there”, Deputy reminds. But suddenly, a louder sound draws the attention of Deputy’s ears. “Hold it, boys! I just heard another $500 whoop.” They have reached the tree where the trouble began, and the disconsolate mother whooper sits in her empty nest crying. The little whooper instinctively recognizes her immediately, and flaps its wings, whooping with excitement and lifting Muskie off the ground. Alligator and Vincent each grab hold, trying to pull Muskie down, as the bird continues to keep them all aloft. Surprisingly, Deputy announces, “We gotta turn him loose, there. That’s his natural born mama.” Despite Alligator’s protests, Muskie does the right thing, and lets go. The gird is happily reunited with Mom, while Muskie reminds Alligator, “All babies belong with their natural born mamas.” Even Alligator comes around, as our four heroes march back home, penniless but proud that they made the right decision. Alligator observes, “Oh, well, who needs money here in the creek? Let’s all go fishin’.” Muskie delivers the curtain line in a remark to the Deputy. “Deputy Dawg, you may have a tin badge, but your heart is pure gold.” Deputy responds with his signature laughing howl for the fade out.

No video – but our pal Greg Ehrbar posted the soundtrack off the Camden 33 1/3 long-playing vinyl record. Enjoy!

In Penguin Panic (5/15/60 – Mannie Davis, dir.), the South experiences a surprising chill, dropping down to a record 45 degrees. (Don’t many parts of the country wish winter would be this cooperative.) For Muskie and Vincent, this is enough to make them jump around with the shivers. “This Yankee weather’s gonna freeze us half to death if we don’t get a fire built”, observes Muskie. The obvious source for wood is Deputy Dawg’s jailhouse, where the Deputy sits comfortably under a blanket, close to the heat from the fire in a pot-bellied stove. Muskie cautiously reaches an arm through one of the windows of the jailhouse, slipping one log at a time out from the Deputy’s wood pile. On his third reach, a much thinner cylinder is lifted through the window – the barrel of Deputy’s shotgun. “Put ‘em back, Muskie”, shouts Deputy. Though Muskie appeals to Deputy that he wouldn’t want to see Muskie freeze, Deputy insists he needs the wood to keep from freezing himself. Back at Muskie’s house, Vincent still paces the ground and slaps his arms against his sides to keep warm, bit is scared silly when he spots a stranger, who has a very different reaction to the weather. Trotting along comes, of all things, a penguin – perspiring profusely, and waving a small hand fan at himself in a futile attempt to keep cool. Vincent, unable to see clearly, hides inside the house, and when Muskie returns, insists he’s seen a moon monster. Muskie drags Vincent outside to investigate the sighting and prove Vincent wrong, and catches up with the penguin at the jailhouse, where the bird, passing the window of Deputy, has become irate with the heat emitted from the stove, and throws a bucket of water upon the Deputy’s fire. Muskie identifies the bird to all as a penguin, referring to him as a “real Southerner”. The bird, still in search of relief from the heat, suddenly disappears, and is heard inside Deputy Dawg’s ice box, where he is discovered devouring Deputy’s frozen vegetables, and resetting the thermostat to its coldest setting.

Deputy tries to pry the bird loose from the ice box, but ends up knocked inside the device himself. Muskie can’t get the door open to release him, and the only way Vincent can think of to solve the problem is to blast the door open with dynamite. The ice box is shattered, revealing Deputy inside, frozen into a solid block of ice. Muskie pushes and lifts the ice block over to atop the pot-bellied stove, while the penguin, happy to see something cold again, hops atop the ice block and begins skating figure-8’s atop poor Deputy. Muskie strikes a match to restart a fire in the oven below, bit the angry penguin bends down, repeatedly blowing out each match the muskrat lights. Vincent warns that something needs to be done fast, as Deputy Dawg is now turning a deep blue. Muskie cooks up a plan to distract the penguin, and whispers it into Vincent’s ear. The next minute, Muskie is looking out the window, and shivering at the sight of what appears to be a snowstorm outside. In reality, it is Vincent on the roof, shaking a salt shaker down in front of the window, and jingling a string of sleigh bells for audio effect. (Where’d he get the sleigh bells in the sunny South?) The penguin leaps out the window, giving Muskie time to light the fire, then run outside to assist Vincent in trying to capture the penguin. Deputy is left with the fire roasting under him, and suddenly leaps out of the ice block like a rocket and through the roof, landing outside hard upon his roasting tail bone. Deputy ultimately winds up cooling off his sizzling tail in a bucket of water, while a radio broadcast announces that the penguin has been returned to the circus after a three-day absence. Muskie appears with a fistful of cash – a reward he received for returning the penguin. Easy come, east go, as Deputy confiscates the cash, to replace the ice box, compensate for his injured tail bone, and impose a fine “for upsetting my dignity”.

Heat Wave (1/12/63 – Dave Tendlar, dir.) finds the jailhouse at the opposite extreme of temperature – a climate more typical for the South, of sweltering heat. In a funny scene, we find the Deputy more active than usual, dealing with a single oscillating fan inside the jailhouse by repeatedly hopping from side to side in one direction or another to keep himself within the direct air path of the moving fan. Muskie and Vincent are meanwhile doing their best to slip past the jailhouse door unnoticed – attempting to make their way to the Sheriff’s ice house uphill from their location. But Deputy’s sharp eyes spot them, and he deduces the boys’ intended destination. Deputy appears on the steps of the ice house, blocking the boys’ path. Deputy suggests they go down to the swimming hole instead to cool off. “We already tried that”, moans Muskie, and Vincent adds, “It’s like sittin’ in a bowl of hot pea soup.” The boys leave for the moment, allowing Deputy the excuse to go inside the ice house himself to cool down. Once Deputy is inside and the steps left unguarded, Muskie and Vincent rush the door, scooting past Deputy, and a moment later charging in the opposite direction, sliding a block of ice ahead of them at full speed. With precision timing, Deputy slams the front door ahead of them to block their escape, and the boys and the ice block crash into it, the ice fracturing into a small mountain of ice cubes. “Something happen?” asks Vincent, sitting among the cubes. Muskie, sitting next to him, responds, “Don’t ask questions, Vince. Let’s just enjoy it.” But Deputy won’t let them enjoy it for long, throwing them outside. Muskie vows, “As a famous general said, I shall return.”

They try to do just that – tunneling underground in Vincent’s tunnels, and breaking through the floorboards of the ice house with a drill – pointing right into Deputy’s rear as he sits upon an ice block. Muskie and Vince pull a momentary bluff at the door, standing one on top of the other and wearing a hat like the Sheriff’s to get Deputy to open the door. Deputy keeps another ice block from disappearing by grabbing it away with a set of ice tongs (but dropping the ice on his toe bones). Finally, Muskie climbs up the delivery chute of the ice house, carrying a saw, and saws away the door at the other end of the chute. A moment later, he slides out of the chute, riding a block of ice, followed by another, and another, and another. “We hit the jackpot”, he declares. Vincent follows atop another block – and soon, Deputy is swept away too, as he tries to block the path of the exiting ice, but is knocked off his feet by another block. They and the ice all slide directly into the swimming hole at the bottom of the hill, where the water temperature becomes reduced to a perfect coolness. Deputy is about to sentence Muskie and Vincent to 30 days in the “cooler”, when a familiar voice is heard from the other end of the pond. It is the Sheriff, dressed in a bathing suit, who had also been trying to keep cool, and now relaxes among the ice blocks, remarking that cooling the pond was the best idea Deputy has had all summer. Muskie remarks that he sure has a smart Deputy, and all the embarrassed Deputy can do is take the undeserved credit without making an arrest, and breathe a sigh of relief to himself that the Sheriff didn’t discover the real cause of the whole incident.

Unavailable for review is Dry Spell (1/26/63 – Dave Tendlar, dir.), a Deputy Dawg episode borrowing its title from a 1930’s Farmer Al Falfa installment reviewed in one of the early chapters of this article series. I have located one synopsis for it on the internet, which is quoted below, though I cannot speak firsthand for its reliability. Anyone with information or confirmation of the details below is invited to contribute.

“When a serious drought hits the town of Creek Mud, the sheriff orders Deputy Dawg to turn loose Big Chief No Treaty and have him do a rain dance and bring much needed waters to the town’s reservoirs. In exchange, the chief would get his freedom. But the Chief is only interested in escaping. While trying to catch the fleeing Native American and make sure that he does his rain dance, Deputy Dawg only succeeds in falling on top of the chief… thereby breaking the poor man’s ankles and preventing him from doing his rain dance. So the Chief teaches Deputy Dawg his rain dance, and it works out well. A little too well, because a massive rainstorm soon floods the town and washes everything- including the Sheriff and the jailhouse – out to the Mississippi River.”

Sidney the Elephant (in what possibly may be an overlooked theatrical) contributes an interesting entry in Clown Jewels (10/61, Dave Tendlar, dir.). It is rainy season (which it seems to Sidney to always be) in the jungle, and while Cleo the giraffe and Stanley the lion are taking it in stride as just a natural part of jungle life, Sidney has had it with standing around and getting drenched all day. He gets an idea that maybe he can find a cave in the hills to establish a home in, and thus find somewhere to dodge out of the recurring downpours. Squeezing himself into a small cave that seems available, Sidney contemplates interior decorating such as creative placement of doilies – when he spots a suitcase stashed behind a rock. Opening it, he discovers a cache of glittering jewelry. Neither seeking reward nor seeming to realize the value of the stuff in money, Sidney decides to spread his good fortune among his jungle friends. He appears before them, wearing fout expensive men’s watches on his trunk – allowing him to tell the time in four different time zones. He decks Cleo out in diamond earrings and necklaces. “Men don’t wear jewelry”, snorts Stanley. “Why not?” responds Sidney, slapping a golden crown upon Stanley’s head, and telling him that now he really is king of the jungle. Bracelets adorn the rhino’s horn. And the female apes are presented with long golden and diamond necklaces for use un place of vines for their trapeze. However, a pair of human smugglers row toward the cave entrance, seeking to pick up the loot they stashed inside for safe keeping. When they discover the case is gone, they sulk while seated upon a log, having no explanation nor idea where to begin a search. Along comes Sidney, offering them samples of his giveaway wares. Treating him like an unwanted nuisance without realizing what the elephant is carrying, one of the smugglers shoos Sidney away. Sidney leaves in a huff at the human’s rudeness. Then, dawn breaks in the smugglers’ heads as to where the elephant obtained his jewelry. Four shots ring out, severing one by one the straps of Sidney’s wristwatches. A wild chase ensues, with Sidney jumping to the conclusion that the humans must be poachers – thus leading him to run for the hut of the local game warden. Both Sidney and the bandits eventually wind up inside the warden’s hut, where one of the bandits hold the warden at gunpoint. Sidney pleads for the warden to arrest the poachers, but the warden, recognizing the two from a wanted poster, informs Sidney that they are not poachers, but desperadoes. “Desperadoes?”, shouts Sidney in fear – and he keels over in a faint on the spot, and onto the two robbers. For capturing the bandits, Sidney receives a reward, and decides to put the money to good use. “Raincoats for everybody” he announces to his jungle pals, decking them out in hats and slickers. Suddenly, the jungle sky changes from sullen gray to golden yellow, as Cleo informs Sidney, “Thanks a bunch, but the rainy season just ended.” Sidney sits, stupefied, while Stanley remarks in his usual dour way, “Always zigging when you should be zagging.”

Hector Heathcote’s Valley Forge Hero (10/1/63 – director credits unavailable) featires no storm action, the snow being already on the ground, and so receives only honorable mention. One original touch is having the American flag frozen stiff in icicles over the encampment. With the camp snowed in and supplies exhausted, Camp Cook Hector is ordered by Captain Benedict to find food, and reminded that an Army marches on its stomach. Hector is well prepared for this, having an old shoe strapped to his tummy. An Army manual suggests ice fishing. As Hector saws at the ice, his dog Winston comments, “At least he can’t saw himself off a tree limb – but I’m sure he’ll do the next best thing.” He does, cutting the circle of ice around Benedict, dumping him into the icy water. A frustrating attempt by Benedict to build a fire by striking two stones together only produces a blaze when Hector adds a horn of gunpowder to the kindling – of course, its side-effects on Benedict are obvious. The finale gets Hector into the old rolling snowball gag, bowling over everything in his path for miles, and crashing into a structure – the supply depo, to which he’s miraculously cleared a road. Hector receives a decoration – the good conduct icicle.

Weather Magic (Astronut, 5/65 – Cosmo Anzilotti, dir.) – The “Cheery Weatherman”, a dour grouch who never seems to smile in his life, broadcasts the weather report for the community in which Oscar Mild and his outer-space pal Astro reside. As usual, the forecast is all bad, with high pressure zones in the low pressure areas, and vice versa. Astro candidly asks Oscar, “Don’t you make your own weather down here? We’ve been doing it on my planet for centuries.” Disbelieving Oscar thinks Astro is making up whoppers, and challenges, “You mean you could give us rain and end this dry spell?” “I’ll do better than that”, says Astro, and hops in his saucer to bring back a weather machine from his own planet. Oscar is dumbfounded to see that Astro is serious, and before he leaves, Astro tells Oscar to call that weatherman, and tell him there’ll br four inches of rain at 12 o’clock. Still not quite sure he knows what he is getting into, Oscar follows Astro’s instructions. On hearing Oscar’s bizarre prediction, the weatherman sarcastically responds, “Where are you calling from? A cage?”, and hangs up on Oscar as a crackpot. Astro returns with a small control panel about the size of a TV set – the economy model – and sets a number of dials and switches to a setting of 4 inches of rain at the desired hour. At the TV station the weatherman still laughs to himself, believing that Oscar Mild is “ready for the rubber room” – until a flash of lightning outside calls his attention to the predicted downpour, at precisely the predicted time. The phone rings at Oscar’s house, as the weatherman apologizes for “everything I was thinking about you”, and congratulates Oscar on his prediction. “I didn’t predict rain…I made it”, Oscar boasts. Covering the receiver, the weatherman gives a long, low whistle, and observes, “This boy’s WAY out!” But, to humor the nut, the weatherman asks Oscar to prove his point by producing some snow to cool a hot summer day. “How much do you want?” asks Oscar, spurred on by the nodding head of Astro. Only two inches, replies the weatherman, stating that he wants to take it easy on the sunbathers at the beach. No sooner said than done, as the aghast weatherman’s jaw again drops to the floor at the sight of snowflakes and icicles outside. And the beachgoers are indeed left shivering and with chattering teeth, while a golfer on the links putts his ball across a snow-covered green, where it grows into a large snowball and plops in a lump at the base of the flag at the hole.

The weatherman drives as fast as he can to Oscar’s door, while Astro disguises himself as an ugly blue dog to avoid being noticed. Before you know it, the utterly-convinced weatherman has Oscar making a personal appearance on his broadcast, announcing in advance what weather he will create today. The prediction includes prevailing winds for the sailboat races, perfect sunshine for the beaches, and rain for Death Valley. When all the predictions come true, Oscar is an instant celebrity and front-page news, and invited to be guest of honor at the annual Weatherman’s Society Picnic. But the weatherman is feeling pangs of jealousy. He discovered Oscar, made him a star – but is getting no reflected credit or recognition. Feeling that he himself should be the celebrity and hero, the weatherman vows to find out how Oscar is doing it. He spies on Oscar’s house, and spots Oscar manipulating the machine to provide perfect weather for the picnic. Before the dials are fully set, the weatherman grabs the machine through the window, and makes off with it down the street. Oscar shouts protests that the weatherman doesn’t know how to operate the machine. But the weatherman claims that anything Oscar can do, he will learn. Then, the weatherman stumbles over a fire hydrant, and the machine flies out of his hands, landing with a crash upon the sidewalk. The framework of the control box splits apart, and springs and wires protrude from the machine. The skies above transform to instant rain – and the controls get stuck there. The picnic is a washout, and the head of the weatherman greets Oscar by further smashing the machine over Oscar’s head, then making an aside to the audience that it’s men like Oscar who give weathermen a bad name. The smash to Oscar’s head jostles the switches out of their stuck position, and restores bright sunshine to the world – but Oscar still gets the boot from the picnic anyway. Washed up in the weather business, Oscar accepts a ride home in Astro’s saucer, complaining that he still thinks he could make things fine if he could just get the machine to work again. Oscar spots a loose connector between two lengths of wire, and plugs the components together again. All he succeeds in accomplishing is to produce a miniature raining cloud directly over his own head, trailing him as he rides in the saucer. Astro closes the film with his observation that he does not think this planet is as yet ready for weather making, and laughs at Oscar’s plight as the cartoon closes.

The Big Freeze (The Mighty Heroes, 1’21’67 – Ralph Bakshi, dir.) – The Mighty Heroes, a series concept legendarily dreamed up by Ralph Bakshi on the fly at the end of a failed presentation of ideas to the CBS executives in a last ditch effort to sell a project, took to the skies almost as hurriedly as it was conceived. Plot was thus definitely not of the greatest concern, and emphasis was on formula. Dream up a villain of the week to sic on Goodhaven (with not necessarily the clearest of motives or master plans). Add an army of villainous henchmen if possible. Call out the heroes in stock animation that eats up over a minute of each week’s running time. Have the heroes fumble or stumble their way into a villain’s lair. Place them in battle instantly, with each hero interfering with the other and repeatedly uttering apologies among themselves. Get them all tangled up together, and toss them all into a cliffhanger. Resolve the cliffhanger, and finally hit upon a villain’s weakness to finish off the henchmen and at least disable the villain’s plan, if not make a capture. Fly off in stock animation into the sunset. Such went every week.

Most of the heroes (excepting Diaper Man) had a day job, to keep their super-identities a secret. Among them was Tornado Man, an average employee of the weather bureau by day (a career never delved into in the plot lines, and only typically shown by a few scenes of the stock animation as he suits up for action). His power is that of a cyclone, becoming a miniature whirlwind in the style of the Tasmanian Devil, but with the power not only to spin, but to suck things up in his vortex. He was prone to weather puns, on one episode coming back into the battle after a mishap and pause, claiming that he had gotten his “second wind”.

The episode titled above was one of the few to deal directly with a weather/climate change. The city is under siege by an underground refrigeration machine that is instantly turning a summer day into a frozen land of ice. The cause of it is a “weird character”, a “cold-blooded” villain, purple in color, for whom this week the writers cannot even think of a name (or even give a new design – he looks exactly like a previous villain, “The Shocker”). His sole motive: he hates heat, and wants it cold, colder, colder. (So, since he does not appear to be going outside for any reason, why not merely refrigerate his lair? As usual, we’re not supposed to think of such things.) To make things more incongruous, for once, we are shown a shot of Tornado Man in his usual window at the weather station, in advance of the call for the Mighty Heroes. He appears to have been frozen solid where he rests, leaning on the windowsill. Yet, with no attempt at explanation, ten seconds later, he is seen as usual in the stock animation, with no ice in sight and suiting up. And all the other heroes are suiting up with no sign of the icy chill that is supposed to have captured all of Goodhaven. Only after the Heroes are finally seen in new animation in flight do they start complaining about the cold (Diaper Man commenting “How do you think I feel wearing only a diaper?”) Were the kids expected to be so blind as to not notice these ping-pongs in continuity? Would it have really cost so much to superimpose a few snowflakes over the stock opening, to make things mesh for the final cut?

Cuckoo Man’s arms ice up, ruining their flying formation with a five-man crash. The crash places them right at the mouth of the underground tunnels from which the cold air is escaping. They thus locate the villain almost instantly. But he unleashes from a deep freeze an army of abominable snowmen. The snowmen inconsistently cannot be harmed by a sock to the midsection (Strong Man’s fist going right through them, identical to a problem with haystack monsters in a previous episode), yet pack a solid fist that sends Strong Man into a backwards slide on the icy floor. One thing leads to another, and soon all five heroes are sliding toward a trap door. The villain allows them to fall in, then closes the door above them, and turns on his super-fast deep freeze, sealing the Heroes in a block of ice. Even Diaper Man’s bottle is frozen solid like a rock, giving Strong Man the idea that maybe it can serve as an internal ice pick. A little wiggling of Strong Man’s hand with the bottle, and a loud crack shatters the ice and sets them free. They re-engage the snowmen in battle, this time discovering that an impact with an object larger than a fist can smash the snowmen into an immobile snowdrift. Strong Man obtains a large boiler from the villain’s machinery, and bowls it on its side at the snowmen, flattening several of them like a steamroller. The boiler also rolls into the villain’s master control panel, shattering it, and setting its wires on fire. The villain tries to grab Diaper Man’s bottle to use as a fire extinguisher, but Diaper Man pulls him and the bottle back by means of the stretching rubber nipple, delivering a sock to the villain on the rebound. He reminds the villain that no one should ever try to take away a baby’s bottle. The remaining snowmen melt from the heat of the fire, and the caverns return to normal temperature. The villain is last seen imprisoned for an indefinite stretch in the “cooler”, and our Heroes fly off as usual.

More TV time, next time.