Sunday, January 26, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: No Happy Days for Cartoon Fonzie

After discussing the animated Gilligan last time, I figured I'd look at another cartoon adaptation of a popular sitcom this week. In fall of 1980, ABC's Happy Days was into the eighth of its eventual eleven seasons (well past when it famously "jumped the shark"). And while it had dropped out of the ratings top five, it was still one of TV's top shows, which I'd assume was at least part of the impetus behind the alphabet net teaming with Paramount to spin a Saturday morning 'toon entitled The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang (anyone else feel like that's one definite article too many?).

Producers Hanna-Barbera apparently realized early on that the wee ones probably weren't going to line up for cartoon adventures of Richie, Ralph, et al, sipping malteds at Arnold's while Fonzie regaled them with stories of his various sordid conquests. And thus, after what I can only assume was the worst round of focus grouping in television history, they reasoned that the missing ingredient in making Happy Days palatable for the kidvid crowd was...(wait for it)...a talking dog. And...(wait for it)...time travel. Not making that up. Watch this:

Ayy! That actually existed. For two seasons! That's right, we got twenty-four episodes of Fonzie and Co. (which included dog sidekick Mr. Cool, and future girl Cupcake) lost in time and trying to get home. In my reality, this show was Donald Bellisario's direct inspiration for this. Also, per Wikipedia, the events of this series occur during either the second or third season of the live action show, which is good to know if, like me, you're trying desperately to keep the reams and reams of conflicting Happy Days canon straight.

Even more unbelievable to me than this thing existing is that they actually roped in Henry Winkler, Ron Howard, and Don Most to voice the animated incarnations of their TV alter egos. After The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang ended its run in fall of '81, that still didn't mean the end of cartoon Fonzie and his dog. The pair next showed up on the Laverne & Shirley cartoon. (Yes. There was a Laverne & Shirley cartoon.) That, in turn, was eventually paired with the animated Mork & Mindy. (Yes. There was an animated Mork & Mindy.)

Thanks to various rights issues stemming from Hanna-Barbera being owned by Warner Bros. and the properties in the Happy Days universe being owned by Paramount, none of these cartoons are currently available on DVD (though you can find plenty of full eps on YouTube without searching too hard). But hey, if Warners and Twentieth Century Fox can put aside their longstanding legal battle and finally allow the '60s Batman show to hit home vid, then maybe hope springs eternal for Cartoon Fonzie and that damned dog, right? Eh.

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