Freakazoid!

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Freakazoid!
Freakazoid.jpg
Also known as Steven Spielberg Presents Freakazoid!
Format Animated series
Comedy
Created by Bruce Timm
Paul Dini
Voices of Paul Rugg
Edward Asner
Craig Ferguson
David Kaufman
John P. McCann
Tress MacNeille
Narrated by Joe Leahy
Theme music composer Richard Stone
Composer(s) Richard Stone
Steve Bernstein
Julie Bernstein
Gordon Goodwin
Tim Kelly
Carl Johnson
Country of origin United States
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 24 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Steven Spielberg
Running time 22 minutes (approx.)
Production company(s) Amblin Entertainment
Warner Bros. Animation
Broadcast
Original channel The WB
Picture format SD: 480i
Audio format Stereo
Original run September 9, 1995 (1995-09-09) – June 1, 1997 (1997-06-01)
Chronology
Related shows Animaniacs
Pinky and the Brain
Tiny Toon Adventures

Freakazoid! is an American animated television series created by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini for the Kids' WB programming block of The WB. The series chronicles the adventures of the title character, Freakazoid, a manic, insane superhero who battles with an array of super villains. The show also features mini-episodes of adventures of other bizarre superheroes. The show was produced by Amblin Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation. The cartoon was the third animated series produced by the collaboration of Steven Spielberg and Warner Bros. Animation during the animation renaissance of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Bruce Timm, best known as a major principal of the DC animated universe, originally intended it to be a straightforward superhero action-adventure cartoon with comic overtones, but executive producer Steven Spielberg asked series producer and writer Tom Ruegger and the Animaniacs team to turn Freakazoid! into a flat-out comedy.[1] The show is similar to fellow Ruegger-led programs such as Animaniacs, and the humor is unique in its inclusions of slapstick, fourth wall firings, parody, surreal humor, and pop cultural references.

The series was one of the first to debut on the new Kids' WB Saturday morning block of The WB, on September 9, 1995. The series lasted for two seasons, finishing with 24 episodes, the final one broadcast on June 1, 1997. Although the series originally struggled in the ratings, reruns on Cartoon Network and a fan following have elevated the series to become a cult hit.[2] The show also ranked #53 on IGN's 'Top 100 Animated Series' list.[3]

Background[edit]

The show's title character is the superhero alter ego of geeky sixteen-year-old Dexter Douglas who attends Harry Connick High School. His name is a parody of various superheroes' alliterative names (e.g. Bruce Banner, Peter Parker). Gaining his abilities from a computer bug (becoming absorbed into his computer and instantly gaining all the information on the Internet), Freakazoid has enhanced strength and endurance, extraordinary speed, agility, and negligible amounts of sanity. These changes make him a powerful and fearsome force for upholding freedom and righteousness, unless he gets distracted by something like a bear riding a motorcycle. He has a base called the Freakalair, a parody of the Batcave, built by his mute butler, Ingmar. The Freakalair contains a "Hall of Nifty Things to Know" and even a mad scientist lab. His greatest weakness, as he once explained to a villain, is that he can be imprisoned in a cage with graphite bars charged with negative ions. He also expresses a great aversion to "poo gas."

Peripheral powers come and go: Freakazoid once developed telekinesis triggered by anger that was never mentioned again after the episode, and once crossed the globe to yell at a Tibetan monk for raking too loudly. He also has the ability to assume the form of electricity and cover long distances instantaneously, although he just as often simply sticks his arms forward and runs while making swooshing sounds with his mouth, pretending to fly.

Dexter can change into and out of Freakazoid at will with the words "Freak out!" and "Freak in!" When not in Freakazoid mode, Dexter looks and acts completely normal, and his family is unaware that anything has happened to him. Freakazoid spends this time in an area of Dexter's brain called the Freakazone, where he reflects, has profound thoughts, and watches reruns of The Rat Patrol.

The "secret key sequence" that must be typed for the computer bug to become active (a reference to the Pentium FDIV bug) begins with: "@[=g3,8d]\&fbb=-q]/hk%fg" (the quotes are included) as seen when Roddy MacStew types the combination in "The Chip (Act IV)". The bug manifests when the user presses Delete after entering the string. The bug was first manifested when Dexter's cat crawled onto the keyboard.

While the show's setting is set around Washington D.C., the locale often varies with the show's humor, taking Freakazoid to locations around the world as needed.

Characters[edit]

  • Freakazoid (voiced by Paul Rugg) – The protagonist of the series. He was once geeky sixteen-year-old Dexter Douglas (voiced by David Kaufman) who became Freakazoid from an overloaded Pinnacle chip inside his computer. He attends Harry Connick High School. To transform into Freakazoid, Dexter says "freak out". To change back into Dexter, Freakazoid says "freak in."

The Douglas Family[edit]

  • Duncan Douglas (voiced by John Di Maggio) – Dexter's older brother. He is a bully towards Dexter, and is portrayed as a caricature of a high school jock.
  • Debbie Douglas (voiced by Tress MacNeille) – Dexter's mother. She has no clue that her son is Freakazoid, and is in general blithe and clueless. Her lines often involve morose subjects delivered in a cheery tone, a parody of a stereotypical domestic mother.
  • Douglas Douglas (voiced by John P. McCann) – Dexter's father. An automobile dealer who thinks a goblin lives in the gas tank of his car. Occasionally used for laughs as a stereotypical technologically-inept father figure.
  • Mr. Chubbikins (voiced by Frank Welker) – The Douglas' morbidly obese cat. Formerly Mr. Chubbskins. He jumped on Dexter's keyboard while chasing a butterfly, accidentally typing in the key sequence which activated the Pinnacle chip's flaw, turning Dexter into Freakazoid.

Allies[edit]

  • Sgt. Mike Cosgrove (voiced by Edward Asner) – A heavyset, gruff cop with a heart of gold, who is friends with Freakazoid and several other characters. By pointing at something and saying "cut it out", he has the almost supernatural ability to get people to stop whatever they are doing on command, no matter what they may be doing at the time, be it panicking at the sight of a villain, stealing a television, or attempting to capture Cosgrove and Freakazoid (In the Animaniacs comic series, he even once managed to get Yakko, Wakko, and Dot to "cut it out", something many had tried, and failed, to do). Often has nothing better to do than engage in hobbies or visit tourist traps with Freakazoid (such as building a Go-kart or getting a mint). He speaks in a gruff monotone and shows very little enthusiasm for anything. Strangely, he always manages to find Freakazoid with his police car, no matter where he is at the time (he will even catch up with him in different countries, car and all). He also has a habit of asking Freakazoid "Do you want to get a..." every time they are not busy with something. On a related note, Sgt. Mike Cosgrove also resembles his voice actor.
  • Roddy MacStew (voiced by Craig Ferguson) – Freakazoid's mentor, and expositionist; an ill-tempered Scotsman who once worked for Guitierrez. He first found that the Pinnacle chip was flawed. In the continuation of the seventh episode (detailing how Freakazoid gained his powers) he was trapped in the Internet. He was later kicked out of the Internet by Guitierrez and resumed his mentor role. Favorite word: "Crud!"
  • Steff (voiced by Candi Milo) – Freakazoid's perky blonde girlfriend; her real name is Stephanie. She discovers Freakazoid's secret identity when Cosgrove accidentally points it out aloud in "Mission: Freakazoid".
  • Hans (voiced by Larry Cedar) – A mysterious agent with a Western European accent, who takes Freakazoid to Professor Heiney's lab.
  • Professor Heiney (voiced by Ed Gilbert) – A scientist, with a lab in the mountains, who Freakazoid often goes to for help. He does research on monsters, zaps them and is often attacked by them at his lab.
  • Ingmar – Freakazoid's mute butler, in charge of the maintenance of the Freakalair (according to Freakazoid, he constructed it himself from scratch). He quit in "Mission: Freakazoid" to become a rodeo clown and was replaced by Professor Jones. A take-off on Bernardo, the mute manservant of Zorro and Batman's butler Alfred.
  • Professor Jones (voiced by Jonathan Harris) – A snooty, cowardly manservant, essentially recreating his role as Doctor Zachary Smith from Lost In Space (every time Jones appears in a scene, someone asks him if he was "on a TV show with a robot"). He is the replacement to the Freakalair's previous butler, and old friends with him. Does not get along with Cosgrove well.
  • Joe Leahy (voiced by himself) – The show's very vocal announcer, who sometimes gets a little more involved than the job usually requires.
  • Freakazette- Only mentioned in the first episode for a brief verse during the "Freakazoid and Friends" theme song (which plays to the same theme as Animaniacs).
  • Foamy the Freakadog (voiced by Frank Welker) – A vicious, rabid dog which Freakazoid had freed from the pound. Foamy is painted blue, has a Freakazoid costume (complete with hair), and is prone to maul and/or beat Freakazoid to a pulp.
  • Handman (voiced by Paul Rugg) – Freakazoid's brief "right hand man". He is quite literally just a painted face on Freakazoid's hand who has great difficulty pronouncing Freakazoid's name correctly. Fell in love with and married Freakazoid's left hand.
  • Expendable Lad – Freakazoid's brief sidekick from the start of And Fanboy was his Name. He was taken to the hospital due to injuries sustained from milk (a bruised clavicle) and was subsequently released from the service of Freakazoid.
  • Norm Abram – He was kidnapped by The Lobe to make a wooden instrument to destroy Freakazoid but got free and helped turn the tables. Abram supplied his own voice and trademark line for the episode.
  • Leonard Maltin – He was kidnapped by Dr. Mystico during the episode Island of Dr. Mystico, while Maltin was giving his opinion of the same episode. Freakazoid points out that Mystico's prisoners all have superpowers, and Mr. Maltin's is that he knows every movie ever made. Maltin provided his own voice for the episode.
  • Henry Kissinger (voiced by Maurice LaMarche) - A Jewish politician who was kidnapped by Dr. Mystico's "orangu-men". In the show, he speaks in a low, groggy, incomprehensible mumble. He is briefly mentioned in one episode after his only appearance.

Enemies[edit]

Freakazoid! features a number of campy villains and enemies, including:

  • The Lobe (voiced by David Warner) – Freakazoid's archenemy. He is a super genius whose entire head appears to be a giant brain. Despite his high intellect, he has very low self-esteem, once even having a scheme foiled by Freakazoid simply insulting the plan, despite actually being impressed by it. No background information of any kind is given for The Lobe; not even his real name is revealed.
  • Cobra Queen (voiced by Tress MacNeille) – A former shoplifter named Audrey Manatee whose encounter with an experimental cosmetic left in the sun too long transformed her into a cobra woman, with command over snakes and other reptiles. In later episodes, Cave Guy and Cobra Queen are a couple. She has a lair in the sewers, and often complained about the lack of light until Freakazoid suggested getting Japanese lanterns. He defeated her when she faints while trying to say Silly Sally Sells Sappy Seashells in Seattle. He later wonder how that worked, she also shows up as part of the team in Mission: Freakazoid. She seems to be offended when compared to Sylvester the Cat.
  • Longhorn (voiced by Maurice LaMarche) – Formerly Jubal "Bull" Nixon, he was once an employee of the "Johnny Cat" cat litter company, until he turned to a life of crime. Because he was searched for by law enforcement so frequently, he had plastic surgery to turn himself into a humanoid Texas Longhorn Steer. He loves country music and, despite being a lousy songwriter, is determined to get a recording contract at Nashville. He also owns a massive truck, nicknamed "Bessie Mae", which is outfitted with all kinds of devices.
    • Turk (voiced by Hal Rayle) – Longhorn's sidekick.
  • Armando Guitierrez (voiced by Ricardo Montalban) – The eye-patched man whose company, Apex Microchips (not to be confused with Apex Digital), designed the faulty Pinnacle chip responsible for Freakazoid's creation. Physically, Guitierrez resembles Ricardo Montalban, who provides the character's voice as well; at times he shows similarities to Khan Noonien Singh from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; also played by Montalban. One of his recurring jokes is demanding others to laugh with him, including his henchman Jocko. When he fell to his supposed doom he asked Freakazoid to scream with him Originally a normal human being, he briefly gains powers similar to Freakazoid's by exploiting the Pinnacle chip's flaw; later, he appears as a cyborg in a hood and cloak to cover scars caused by Freakazoid knocking him into a pit. He hates being called a weenie to which he will angrily respond "I am not a weenie! It is YOU who are the weenie!."
  • The Nerdator (voiced by Aron Kincaid) – A man who planned to kidnap all the nerds in the world and absorb their knowledge to become a "Super-Nerd". His plan succeeded until Freakazoid convinced him of the downsides of being a nerd, where he instead kidnapped "good-looking, but vapid airheads". Is a parody of the Predator.
  • Candle Jack (voiced by Jeff Bennett) – A supernatural villain with a burlap sack over his head, called "the Boogeyman, the for-real one" in the series. He abducts anyone who says his name and ties them up with rope. Although he prides himself on being scary, he has a weakness for pie and also seems to enjoy watching F Troop. During "Mission: Freakazoid" Freakazoid and Cosgrove have him chase around and scare Jonsey.
  • Waylon Jeepers (voiced by Jeff Bennett) – A creepy little man originally from Venice Beach, CA who created the Medusa Watch, which has the power to turn people (and pigeons) into stone. He has also created a similar device that turned beavers into gold, and once summoned the demon, "Vorn the Unspeakable", with the help of a book entitled How to Summon Monsters the E-Z Way. His schemes seem to deeply infuriate Freakazoid. His name is a play on the name of famous country guitarist Waylon Jennings.
  • Invisibo (voiced by Corey Burton impersonating Vincent Price) – Real name Ahmon Kor-Unch. An invisible, smart mouthed pharaoh who is only visible via the staff he carries. Freakazoid gave Invisibo his name because "you're invisible and it's my show and we already had a title card made up and it makes me very happy!" Invisibo accepts the name, saying it has a "somewhat sinister ring to it."
  • Arms Akimbo (voiced by John Schuck) – A spoiled model turned extortionist with an Edward G. Robinson-esque voice who, after years of posing, was left with his arms frozen in a jaunty pose, hands on hips. When fighting, he strikes with his over sized elbows. His first appearance is in a local shop selling "oops insurance," a form of protection racketeering, which mainly consists of him breaking something of value (or causing a building to detonate spectacularly), before comically following it up with a small "oops."
  • Milk Man – Only shown/mentioned in the episode And Fanboy was his Name. Shown on a news report in a pitched battle with Freakazoid and his then-sidekick, Expendable Lad. As the name implies, he uses milk as his theme.
  • Deadpan (voiced by Bebe Neuwirth) – A plain-looking (almost blank-faced) female supervillain with a monotonous voice. She is a shapeshifter who once tried to conquer Washington by transforming into Freakazoid, but this plan was quickly foiled when the real Freakazoid appeared immediately after and nonchalantly pointed her out. She had only one appearance in a short segment before the opening credits for "The Wrath of Guiterrez."
  • Mary Beth (voiced by Tress MacNeille) – Cosgrove's former girlfriend, cosmetics executive, and monster. She is short tempered and when angered, turns green and develops a deep raspy voice, and often lights candles by shooting flame from her nose. Her plan to steal Freakazoid's hero essence to remain immortal is foiled and, as a result, she shrivels, dies, and becomes a pile of dust. Her name is a play off of the cosmetics giant Mary Kay.
  • Janos Ivnovels (voiced by Jim Cummings) – The ruthless dictator of Vuka Nova and minister of state security. He is responsible for capturing Freakazoid's family (and a mime) and imprisoning them in the High-Security Wing of Chesky Beresch Prison, the toughest prison in Europe. His subordinate is Janos was defeated after Freakazoid and his friends rescued the Douglas Family (and the mime). Janos and Anton were last seen being tortured by the mime and his pals. He is a one-time villain, having appeared in "Mission: Freakazoid!".
    • Colonel Anton Mohans (voiced by Larry Cedar) – A vicious thug who finds it relaxing when Janos tortures his prisoners.
  • Dr. Mystico (voiced by Tim Curry) – A mad scientist who turns orangutans into human-like beings (and vice-versa) in parody of H. G. Wells's The Island of Dr. Moreau. He seeks to take over the world, though he always seems to say Cleveland instead. He has a white cat, similar to Ernst Stavro Blofeld. His first name may actually be Wendell, since he once says, "They called me mad, insane, Wendell!".
  • Kid Carrion (voiced by Jeff Bennett) – A zombie cowboy who was never named, and only appeared in "Relax-o-Vision" and "The Lobe". He can be seen in the opening credits standing next to Candle Jack. He bears a passing resemblance to the revamped version of The Scarecrow from Bruce Timm's The New Batman Adventures, yet seems to be a parody of the villain Tex Hex from the 1987 Filmation cartoon series Bravestarr.
  • Eye-of-Newt – A strange one-eyed creature with a hairstyle resembling Newt Gingrich's; his name is a reference to Shakespeare's Macbeth ("Eye of newt and toe of frog..."). He has no dialogue and is a background villain, although it seems he is frequently recaptured by heroes like Freakazoid or the Huntsman.

Other characters[edit]

A few characters fall somewhere in the space between "enemies" and "allies" to land squarely in the category of "nuisances."

  • Mo-Ron/Bo-Ron (voiced by Stan Freberg) – A dimwitted alien from the planet Barone's. His name was later changed to Bo-Ron, to appease network censors' concerns that use of the word moron might be offensive.[citation needed] In one episode Lord Bravery refers to him as "Mo-Ron or... Bo-Ron, whatever." Is a parody of Ro-Man, the ridiculous-looking monster from the notoriously bad science fiction film Robot Monster. His first appearance was when he tried to deliver Earth an ”important message”, only to forget what it was. He also appeared in an episode that was a parody of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.
  • Fanboy (voiced by Stephen Furst) – An obese, acne-stricken, socially awkward fanboy (hence his name) and would-be sidekick to Freakazoid who obsesses about numerous comic books, TV shows and movies, from The Black Hole to Star Wars. Fanboy's age is never specified. He could be anywhere between his late teens to early thirties.
  • Hero Boy (voiced by John P. McCann) – The title character from Freakazoid's favorite TV show that is first shown in the episode of the same name. Hero Boy has no powers (save for flying) and his black and white show is a parody of the animated series Astro Boy. Hero Boy has the catchphrase "I must succeed!", though he is invariably shrugged off by the monsters he fights when his pathetic fighting techniques (consisting of weakly pounding on the enemies) fail miserably.
  • Steven Spielberg (voiced by Frank Welker) – The show's executive producer. His most notable appearance was in part of an episode where Freakazoid, The Brain from Pinky and the Brain, and Wakko Warner from Animaniacs get into a disagreement over which of their shows he likes best.
  • Paul Harvey (voiced by Paul Rugg) – A loud, obnoxious man who often interrupts the story to give background information on a villain, or to spoil the ending. He is a parody of the radio personality, and his scenes in the series frequently feature "The Rest of the Backstory."
  • Lonnie Tallbutt (voiced by Mitch Schauer) – A werewolf that begs Dexter for help. His name is a combination of that of Lon Chaney, Jr. and Lawrence Talbot, the character Chaney played in the 1941 movie The Wolf Man. He is prone to grabbing people's shirt collars and yelling "You don't understand!"
The elusive Emmitt Nervend, who is often only seen briefly between frames of animation on the show.
  • Emmitt Nervend usually shows up at least once an episode, always in the opening credits, but usually in the background. He stands looking at the camera (as pictured), never saying a word. Sometimes things happen to him directly, like birds pecking his head or laser beams shooting just above his head. The end credits will often contain a credit revealing how many times Emmitt can be found in a particular episode.
  • Weena Mercator as The Hopping Woman – A person acknowledged whenever credits are used in an episode. Note that no episode or sketch has ever featured a hopping woman. Her name also appears with multiple spellings. "Mercator" in "Dance of Doom" and "Mercatur" in "The Cloud."

Mini-Segments[edit]

Freakazoid! also features several mini-segments, primarily during the first season. Each of these have their own theme songs, title cards and cast, and only rarely "cross over" into the continuity of the main show. These segments include:

  • Lord Bravery – A John Cleese-esque superhero (voiced by Jeff Bennett) from the United Kingdom in an outfit slightly resembling that of a Roman soldier. He doesn't do much in the way of superheroism; in fact, he's very snooty, cynical and unwilling to do unpleasant tasks in the course of his duties such as entering a sewer to perform a rescue. Likewise, he gets little respect and recognition as a superhero from the general public and even his wife and mother-in-law, with whom he lives. At one point he loses his name due to a trademark dispute with a bakery of the same name, after which he changes his name to Lord Smoked Meats and Fishes. Has been mistaken for a party clown. His theme song is delivered in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan's song "A British Tar". His real name is Nigel Skunkthorpe.
  • The Huntsman – The Huntsman (also voiced by Jeff Bennett) is a good guess at what Robin Hood would be like if portrayed by Charlton Heston. He can never find enough crime to fight and secretly suspects that the police are hiding crimes from him because they don't trust him (it's also possible that he was so good at being a superhero that his villains simply gave up). He was once a hunter called Marty Feeb, who saved a chunky elf from being eaten by a crow. The elf rewarded Marty Feeb with a magic sack of corn. Upon eating it, he was granted strength, speed, and shiny teeth, thus as the Huntsman was reborn. He also has a brother called Hector Feeb, who he claims lives in a townhouse. He can be summoned by a policeman blowing into the Horn of Urgency on top of the local police station, and his battle cry is "Into action!". When he appears before Lt. Artie King (voiced by Dorian Harewood), the Huntsman is told in those two episodes that either a rookie mistakenly blew the horn or the blowing of the horn was a false alarm. Possibly a parody of comic character Green Arrow. His trademark phrase is "Darn, the luck, darn!". His sketches are often themed around beginning with a lengthy, overly heroic opener, with a title that would indicate an action-oriented episode, that ends up being a short anticlimactic skit of the Huntsman not being needed. In one of his episodes, it was mentioned that he had fought Lobe and Cave Guy, and he is shown fighting Cave Guy and Candle Jack in his opening. He was once seen as the umpire during the Superheroes/Villain All-Star Benefit Softball Game; when Freakazoid and Arms Akimbo both asked his opinion on a play, he responded that he had looked away to have some berry water.
  • The Lawn Gnomes – A group of lawn statuary that come to life at night in a parody of the Gargoyles animated series. Infamous for their mischief, they were cursed to become stone by day by a powerful wizard after they played a prank on him and after they attacked his brother Erik the Large. They would revert at night, during which time they were given the opportunity to mend their ways to fight evil alongside mankind, after which the curse would be lifted. They have yet to do so to this day.
  • Toby Danger – A (somewhat) loving parody of Jonny Quest, featuring the voices of Scott Menville, Don Messick (in his last role before he died), and Granville Van Dusen (all of whom provided voices for JQ). That was originally written by Tom Minton as a twelve minute stand-alone short for Animaniacs, but slotted into Freakazoid! after that series was green-lighted and had an eight minute opening. The completed twelve minute Toby Danger storyboard was trimmed by director Eric Radomski to fit into the available Freakazoid! time slot.
  • Fatman and Boy Blubber – The misadventures of two morbidly obese superheroes, in a parody of the Batman TV series. Their only segment involves them saving a boy being bullied about his weight, only to unintentionally bully him themselves when they try to take a sweet bun in his lunchbox to prevent him from getting fatter, as he practically only eats sweet buns. Fatman also makes an appearance during "Heroboy" where it is revealed the episode is also a storybook being read by Fatman to children.

Production[edit]

Voicing[edit]

The voice actors of the show Freakazoid! included various actors from other television series and films. Tress MacNeille, Maurice LaMarche, Jeff Glen Bennett, and Frank Welker, who all provided voices in the series Animaniacs, were on Freakazoid!. Actors Edward Asner, Ricardo Montalbán, Larry Cedar, Jonathan Harris, and Stephen Furst also provided voices for the series. Also, writers John P. McCann and Paul Rugg (who played Freakazoid) added voices themselves.

Casting for the show had been difficult for the Freakazoid! staff, as no lead character had been found even after extensive auditions.[4] Eventually, when writer Paul Rugg was brought to demonstrate the voice in a recording session, he ended up filling the role, as he said: "I went in there and did it. Then they played it for Steven [Spielberg] and he said 'Yep! Fine, sure, great,' and then I panicked ... and I had to do it."[4] Rugg played the role of Freakazoid through the entire series run.

Music[edit]

The music for Freakazoid! was written by supervising composer Richard Stone and his team, consisting of Steve Bernstein Julie Bernstein, Gordon Goodwin and Tim Kelly. Stone won a Daytime Emmy with lyricist (and senior producer) Tom Ruegger for the main title song in 1996. Julie Bernstein was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Original Song in 1998 for the song "Invisibo" from the episode Freak-a-Panel.[citation needed]

Controversy with Mike Allred's Madman[edit]

The show and its lead character have been criticized as being plagiarism of the comic book Madman by the creator of Madman, Mike Allred.[citation needed] Both titular characters share several personality traits, and, according to Allred, wear similar costumes, both featuring a chest emblem of an exclamation mark (though Freakazoid's logo adds his initial F before the exclamation mark). During the short run of the show, Allred remained relatively silent on the subject. However, in 2003, he responded to a question about the show on the message board of his official website:

[Show creator] Bruce Timm was kind enough to tell me that Madman was a direct inspiration for the show, with comics open and referred to when developing the show.

Stupidly, I was flattered; happy to inspire anything. But when the show came out, with no acknowledgement or credit or any kind of compensation, I slowly became annoyed as everyone and their uncle confronted me with "there's this cartoon that's ripping off Madman" and "you oughta sue".

I simply wrote a friendly letter to [show producer] Steven Spielberg telling him his production was a direct lift of my creation, I had no intention of creating ripples, I just wanted him to know that I knew. No one replied, which is fine. And to be honest, Madman is an amalgam of a half a dozen other influences. So who am I to complain (the exclamation mark on the chest still kinda urks [sic] me a little though. A little too close for comfort).[5]

Humor[edit]

The humor in Freakazoid! relied heavily on slapstick, parody, and pop cultural references. Due to the series being meta-fiction, much of the series was self-aware humor (i.e. breaking the fourth wall); for instance, after the first appearance of the Freakmobile, the show goes immediately into an impromptu commercial for a toy version, and later in the episode, Freakazoid addresses an audience, congratulating the staff on how hard they have worked to make the show toyetic. A typically strange running gag involves a repeated credit for "Weena Mercator as the Hopping Woman", though no such character appears in any episode. Her credit is usually preceded by a number of other fictional names and followed by a fictional director. The show also incorporated humor aimed at the then-newly founded WB Network, such as questioning the meaning of the initials "WB", e.g., "Weird Butt" or "Wet Bananas" instead of Warner Bros.

Freakazoid! made frequent use of stock footage, including the peaceful scene of a field of flowers ("Relax-O-Vision"), numerous people screaming ("Scream-O-Vision"), traditionally dressed Bavarians dancing and slapping each other, a man being shot in the belly with a cannonball and a man wrestling a bear.

Cameo appearances were also a major element of the show's humor. At various times, Freakazoid! hosted appearances by characters from other Warner Bros. Cartoons such as Pinky and the Brain, Animaniacs and even an insinuation appearance of the Batman from Bruce Timm's animated version, which has a similar drawing style (its concept of old movie-style title cards at the beginning of each episode was also replicated in Freakazoid!). Portrayals of many celebrities (including producer Steven Spielberg) and guest appearances by such figures as Jack Valenti, Leonard Maltin, and Mark Hamill as themselves were also commonplace. Norm Abram had an entire episode, "Normadeus", built around him. One original character, a bizarre-looking man named Emmitt Nervend, plays no role whatsoever other than enabling a Where's Waldo-esque hunt for his constant cameos (complete with the number of his appearances announced in the closing credits).

One of the show's longest cameo appearances was when Wakko (from Animaniacs) and Brain (from Pinky and the Brain) appeared in a scene in which they argue with Freakazoid over which of their shows is Steven Spielberg's favorite, with Freakazoid arguing that his show was the favorite because "we got a memo." (Tiny Toon Adventures was not represented in the discussion as it was on Nickelodeon at the time, while the others were on Kids' WB.) However, when the trio confronts Steven over the issue, he simply replies: "Who are you people?"

History[edit]

Creation[edit]

Freakazoid! was created by animator Bruce Timm, who had previously produced Batman: The Animated Series, and Paul Dini, who was a story editor for Tiny Toon Adventures.[2] Timm was called upon by Steven Spielberg, who Timm said "liked" Timm's Batman series, to help create a new superhero show.[6] After a meeting with Spielberg, Timm said that Spielberg had "really liked" the idea for Freakazoid!,[6] after which Timm and Dini created the character Freakazoid, an edgy superhero with a manic personality. Timm came up with the name 'Freakazoid' for the character naturally, as he recalled: "The name 'Freakazoid' just kind of jumped out of me, I don't even know where from. I said "Oh, yeah, 'Freakazoid', that might be an interesting name."[2]

Timm originally created Freakazoid! to be a serious "adventure show" with some comedic undertones.[2] However, Timm’s initial idea for the series did not come to be, as Timm stated:

I don't mind that it's [Freakazoid] not on my résumé. [Laughs] I bailed on it really early. It started out as an adventure show, but it ended up turning into more and more of a comedy show; every time we'd have a meeting with Steven, the concept would kinda [sic] change, and it kept leaning more and more towards zany comedy. It really started out almost like Spider-Man, on that level of, like, a teenage superhero. And it reached a point where it became a comedy with the Tiny Toons/Animaniacs kind of humor. (...) I don't have anything against that; I just don't have a flair for it, so I bailed—I just hung out here while my staff had to do the show. [Laughs][6]

Timm said that he later left the show because he felt he could not deliver the kind of series that Spielberg was looking to make.[2]

After Timm left the series, Tom Ruegger, who developed other Spielberg series Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs, was brought in to redevelop the series Timm had created "from the ground up".[2] Ruegger's version of the series used some of Timm's designs and concepts, but Timm said that the series was "radically altered" to become the comedy series that was more to Spielberg's liking.[2]

Ruegger then began writing stories for the series, and came up with a pile of very short segments. Spielberg liked what Ruegger had written, but wanted longer stories for the series as well. Ruegger then asked writers John McCann and Paul Rugg to come onto the series to write longer, more elaborate stories for the series and, according to Rugg, "(...) figure out what this [Freakazoid!] was going to be, and the answer was like, 'We didn't know', and still don't".[2]

Premiere, cancellation, and syndication[edit]

Freakazoid! premiered on Kids' WB Saturday lineup on September 9, 1995.[1] During its run, Freakazoid! came across problems of appealing to its target demographic, young children. Tom Ruegger said that Freakazoid! had done poorly in ratings because the audience that the series gathered was older than the target audience.[2] Also, Freakazoid! ran into timeslot problems. Writer John McCann said that the timeslot of the series changed frequently: "They put it at eight o' clock in the morning, 3:30 in the afternoon, they shifted it all around; we couldn't even find it, and we wrote the thing".[2] The series ran on Kids' WB until February 14, 1997, when it was canceled due to poor ratings, airing only one complete season and part of a second season.[1] The series won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Class Animated Program.[2][7] Rugg said the series' demise was the result of a combination of people not understanding the series, timeslot changes, appealing to the wrong demographics, and that "(...) there aren't a lot of Nielsen boxes in federal prisons. Had there been, I'm telling you, we'd still be on the air today".[2] Bruce Timm said that the series still has a cult following of fans who ask him questions about the series whenever they meet him.

However, the show was later picked up by Cartoon Network and was rebroadcast from April 5, 1997 until March 29, 2003.[1] The series had a total number of 24 episodes. In 2006, Freakazoid! was one of the shows scheduled to be broadcast on the AOL broadband channel, In2TV.[8]

Merchandise[edit]

Print[edit]

Freakazoid never had his own comic book, but he did make a special guest crossover in issue #35 of the Animaniacs comic published by DC Comics.[9]

DVD releases[edit]

Warner Home Video has released the entire series on DVD in Region 1.

DVD name Ep # Release date Bonus features
Season 1 13(+1) July 29, 2008 Audio commentary on three "key episodes", promos from the series launch, and a featurette tracking the evolution of the show from an action series to a comedy series.[10]
Season 2 11 April 21, 2009 Featurettes on the making of the last episode, "Favorite Moments" from the series, and an original demo tape for the song "Bonjour, Lobey" from series composer Richard Stone.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Lenburg, p. 638
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Tom Ruegger, Bruce Timm, et al. (2008). Steven Spielberg Presents Freakazoid: Season 1. Special Features: The Original Freak (DVD). Warner Home Video. 
  3. ^ "53. Freakazoid". Top 100 Animated Series. IGN. Retrieved 13 December 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Rogers, Brett (1996). "Freaking Out With Paul Rugg". Animato! (36). Retrieved 2007-06-29. 
  5. ^ Allred, Mike (2003-11-07). "Re: Freakazoid". Mike Allred Message Board. Retrieved 2007-05-27. [dead link]
  6. ^ a b c Lamken, Saner (2000). "The Ever-Lovin' Blue-Eyed Timm! Bruce Timm Interviewed by Brian Saner Lamken". Comicology (1) (TwoMorrows). Archived from the original on 2006-06-04. 
  7. ^ "Freakazoid! on WB: 1995, TV Show". TV Guide. Retrieved 28 May 2009. 
  8. ^ "AOL to Launch New Video Portal". TimeWarner Newsroom. TimeWarner. 2006-07-31. Retrieved 2007-06-29. 
  9. ^ Moore, Jennifer; Sean Carolan (w), Batic, Leonardo (p), McRae, Scott (i). "Tour DeFreak" Animaniacs! 35: 1-19 (March 1998), DC Comics
  10. ^ "Rear Box Art for Freakazoid!". TVShowsonDVD.com. Retrieved 2008-04-28. 
  11. ^ "Freakazoid! – Finalized Box Art, Front & Back, for 2nd Season Better Explains DVD Bonuses". TVShowsonDVD.com. Retrieved 2008-04-28. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Lenburg, Jeff (1999). "Steven Spielberg Presents Freakazoid!". The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons (Third ed.). New York, New York: Checkmark Books. pp. 637–638. ISBN 0-8160-3831-7. 

External links[edit]