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The animator of the first episodes....

Discussion in 'Muppet Babies' started by Drtooth, Sep 20, 2007.

  1. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    ...Toei animation?

    now, why am I so amazed by this? I just found this out a few minutes ago.

    Toei animation is the studio behind such famous Japanese shows as Kinnikuman, Dragon Ball (all versions) Saint Seyia, right up to One Piece and Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo. They also animated a lot of American shows in the 80's, including G.I. Joe, Transformers, and the first 5 episodes (and some subsequent ones) of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

    I will say I'm a bit surprised, since it didn't look like their style, especially at the time they animated it.

    The great thing is this helps provide a link between my 3 favorite things. TMNT, Kinnikuman, and Muppets.
  2. GonzoLeaper

    GonzoLeaper Well-Known Member

    Hmm- that is interesting. The main thing I know Toei for is their lavish 1970s live action Japanese shows (like "Battle Fever J" for instance- which is essentially a Japanese version of Captain America)- basically the forerunners of Power Rangers. I don't really get into watching any of them as such-
    but the one I do know is their 1970s live action Spider-Man series!
    A very different and interesting take on Marvel's character- I guess they got the licensing from Marvel, but don't expect to see any continuity with the comic books. Although the Spidey costume is actually pretty decent.
    And the funny thing is- the Japanese series lasted longer than the American series! The Japanese one went for 41 episodes and it has actually been released in its entirety on DVD! (Along with a Stan Lee interview!)

    The American version, also made in the late 1970s and a live action show- starring Nicholas Hammond as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, went for 13 episodes (yet pulled off two short-lived seasons, as the episodes ran staggeringly from 1977 to 1979) I remember watching this series some as a child and I enjoy it pretty well. I'd love to see this one come to DVD too.

    Okay- well, that was pretty much off-topic from the Muppets, but I guess it is cool to have a Spider-Man and Muppet Babies connection. (Besides the fact that Marvel's Star Comics had both a Muppet Babies and Fraggle Rock comic book running for a while in the '80s, as well as an adaptation of "The Dark Crystal" and I think "Labyrinth"- and definitely "The Muppets Take Manhattan".)
  3. frogboy4

    frogboy4 Inactive Member

    Does anyone remember the end credits of "Tiny Toons: How I Spent My Summer Vacation"? They rolled twenty seconds or so of obvious Japanese names followed by, "Just kidding" and then rolled the real credits. I love that.

    I know that so much animation is completed overseas, but I guess I'm an animation snob. I just don't dig 98% of what comes from Japanese animators in content or style. It just doesn't near the atmosphere of classic Warner Brothers, Disney, Fleischer, Clampett productions that I use to set the mark. Again, animation snob. However, I do find much of the work from Miyazaki and Otomo inspiring, though motivationally confusing to my western sensibilities.

    I'm not much of a Muppet Babies cartoon fan, in part, because of the inconsistencies in quality of character movement and proportions that often occur in it, as in many overseas animation. The shrill voice work of Baby Piggy doesn't help either, but that's not the animators' doing. :mad:

    That said, I hope it someday returns with a new team and better style behind it. I understand the nostalgia many Muppet fans have for the show. I admit to having a little as well. I drew a cast picture in 4th grade (including my version of the Mayhem) that was used by the teacher for a class project.

    There's just such a wealth of promise in the Muppet Babies that has gone untapped. The sparks are there, but it could be so much more. The rumored motion-capture puppetry (like Skrumps and Waldo C. Graphic) could be cool if Disney ever pursued it. I hope they do! :cool:

    Just my unsolicited 2 cents. I'm known around MC as somewhat of a Muppet Babies hater which is untrue. Heck, it was my idea and execution for the Easter banner. Now that I've used Muppet Babies and execution in the same sentence I must stop before getting into more trouble! :zany:
  4. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Uh.... not to be an animation snob as well, but that pretty much goes for any commercially made animation for tv since the 50's. Not just Japanese. it's pretty much like compairing Beetoven to Liberace...

    The one thing I really have for the style is the attention to detail, but there's less motion. With Japanese animation, much like animation all over the globe the theatrical stuff is much much better than the television stuff.

    That said, i loved the Japanese animation for American television programs they had back in the 80's, it was a perfect marrage of Western and Eastern styles. Funny thing, they animate BEFORE voice recording, while we animate after the voice recording. Which lead to confusion on some parts. I remember a story of someone at the US recording studio kicking over a waste basket, and the Japanese animators were confused if it was intentional or not. I recall this was about Kid Video.

    That said, I think TMS did the most beautiful limited TV animation in the 80's... Insperctor gadget, Heathcliff, and they did a simply fantastic job with Disney, Ducktales and Rescue Rangers. Compair that with the simply ukky looking stuff coming out of Korea today. it's just disgusting looking. Though I gotta admit, the Animation on the new Cureous George cartoons are surprisingly good.

    But then again, animation is one thing. It really boils down to story lines. Now, Pochahauntus was a beautifully animated movie and all, but watching it was like having surgery without anesthetic. Now look at the Bullwinkle show. Some of the Worst Mexican animation of all time (though their Hollywood studio did pretty great stuff), but I can't get enough of it.

    Saying that, the animation towards the end of the series from Taiwan.... yuck city. They really did a number on Kermit's eyes....
  5. Baby Rowlf

    Baby Rowlf Well-Known Member

    Voices and stuff

    Well, regarding Piggy's voice work, since the adult Piggy isn't exactly quiet and has a falsetto voice, there's no way to have a Baby version without that voice getting higher. Though I adore Frank Oz's rendition of Baby Piggy. Henson's voice for Baby Rowlf was adorable too. Granted, I like what Katie Leigh did, and I always thought that Baby Rowlf's voice sounded the closest to a real child.

    But as the series progressed, Baby Rowlf's voice kept getting higher and higher (and the animation got worse, and the background music became all nasty and synthesized, and the personalities got worse and....GAH why couldn't this have been done with the puppets?)

    As far as animation, I've always wondered which studio animated the show. It doesn't surprise me regarding the earlier episodes, since the animation and the characters' facial expressions always had an anime-ish look to them (The Case of the Missing Chicken is a perfect example). The later episodes though especially towards the end though, I absolutely HATED, and for the same reasons...inconsistency with proportion and animations. They were very sloppily done.

    However, somewhere in the middle of the series' run, the animation company used was a pretty good one. Look at the episodes "By The Book", and "When You Wish Upon a Muppet" to see what I mean. What studio was that?
  6. frogboy4

    frogboy4 Inactive Member

    I wouldn't say all TV animation is done overseas. I do get the process (from the bit of experience I've had and from professionals I've met). I just always thought the Muppets (Babies) deserved much better - especially in the era of Jim Henson. This cheapy-stuff is akin to moving the characters around on popsicle sticks (in my eyes).

    I always found it interesting that the classic WB cartoons were done on such a shoestring budget and limited frames-per-second, but still look much better than more expensive, higher frame-rate projects of today.

    You're right about Rocky and Bullwinkle. Not only did they transcend the cheapness, they actually incorporated it and made it an asset to the style of the production. Heck, they looked better there than they did in their CG movie.

    I despised Pocahontas (and not for the PC reasons others did or the misfortune of casting Mel Gibson as John Smith). It was beautiful but mind-numbingly dull with flat undeveloped characters (writing-wise).

    Ducktales is another great exception to the rules. The animation was more impressive than it needed to be and I always appreciated that as a kid.

    Now, back to the Muppet Babies. I hope they do something new for them (after the classic grown-up Muppets have a project, of course). Again, I always admired what the show stood for and the unique example it set by way of content.

    I do think that if the Babies return there should be a style revamp. No, not Muppet Bratz! Definitely not that. Ugh! But to find a distinct style for an animated series. By the way, do you think that CG live-feed puppetry would be a good way to go with it?
  7. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Actually, I have mixed thoughts about CGI... I do love it as much as I love any other style of animation (the only one I think deserves special treatment is Stop motion/ clay puppet). But I feel it's around to much.

    The problem with CGI is that few companies that use it see it as a form of art, and more as a source of revenue. Pixar is the only studio that I think really made it there own. Dreamworks and Blue Sky stuff is alright too, but Pixar runs the happy gammut between cartoonish and realistic.

    Not to many people are daring to come up with new stuff in this field. That's why I say if they do make a new series, they SHOULD use WALDO style CGI live feed puppetry. I mean, puppetry and CGI can mingle and co-exist, and it shouldn't replace the other. This would be amazing if they used this, and it would certainly be a step above other CGI stuff on television.

    Another thing we do not see enough is Cel Shading, which sadly is designated only to video games.

    If more companies like this were innovative, and didn't just use it to be flashy, or because it costs less than 2-D mediums, I'd like CGI a bit more.
  8. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

  9. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member


    I'vw also noticed the visuals were a lot more impressive in the music video sequences than in the Akom episodes...

    check out this Yellow Submarine inspired number.

    Plus, I found influence of this particular company's animation in the explosion of the balloon Pig thing... the very same style of explosion they have in Dr. Slump and Dragon ball.
  10. muppet baby

    muppet baby Well-Known Member

    I am a big Muppet Babies fan , but i am really glad that you bought up some of the ponits that you did , about the plot lines and voices because as a teenager i got to see them again on nicalodian i began to see all the ponits that u brought up but in a way i could not stop watching i guess because of like all the fun that it brought to my life .

    I am seeing alos as i watch the utube clips when i get a chance .

    I do wish that they would bring it back though , as u say with all the ponts that u talked about because of great things that could come out of , and yes we can only hope really love the old muppet babies though that we had , so please for those of u that read this and see that i put muppet baby for my user name don't think that i am trashing my faveroite show and then being a little dingy haha .

    i just wanted to see if someone had the same thoughts in the back of there mind .
  11. wiley207

    wiley207 Well-Known Member

    I thought the 1987-1991 episodes were animated in Korea by Akom Productions, not in Taiwan! If it was outsourced to Taiwan, I bet Wang Film Productions and Cuckoo's Nest Studios would've done the animation.

    As far as Toei's work on Muppet Babies goes, in the first season it didn't look as good. The movements got a little choppy (ala the first-season TMNT episodes), colors would change occasionally (I remember Animal having an orange face a couple of times), some voices got swapped, and Baby Animal had these thick eyelashes all around his eyes, even when he closed them! Starting in the third season, Toei's animation became much more refined. The characters were always on-model, the colors were correct, and Baby Animal's eyelashes were in their proper place and not all around his eyes (this was around the time when Dave Coulier took over as Baby Animal). In the fourth season when Akom took over (starting with my favorite episode, "This Little Piggy Went to Hollywood") some of the characters started going off-model again, and mistakes began to pop up. But by the end of the season the animation looked much better, with on-model characters, etc. The seventh season had the animation going downhill all over again.

    Also, you think TMS's animation work on "Inspector Gadget" was limited? Why I recall a few episodes they animated, the animation was far from limited. Look at "The Curse of the Pharaoh," "The Coo-Coo Clock Caper" and "Did You Myth Me?" to see some of the best animation on the show. And there were a handful of episodes in the first season where they outsourced the animation to Wang Film Productions/Cuckoo's Nest Studios, including "Down on the Farm," "Amusement Park" and "Art Heist," among a few others. That set of episodes had lower-quality animation than the TMS episodes. Asides from Gadget and Heathcliff, TMS also animated "The Littles, "The Real Ghostbusters" and quite a few other DiC shows from the 1980s. TMS also did the best animation for "Tiny Toon Adventures" and "Animaniacs," while Wang, Akom, StarToons, Freelance and a few others contributed their share, though Kennedy Cartoons was another story. :rolleyes:

    Good think the people at Marvel didn't hire Kennedy Cartoons to do the animation for the final season of Muppet Babies. It probably would've been ten times worse!
  12. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Limited TV animation, as opposed to full length theatrical animation.

    But TMS always did a great job. In fact, their DIC partnership started with something called Ulysses, and it carried on to the unfinished Lupin the 8th television special. They were the first (or one of the first) studios Dic really dealt with. Funny thing is, if you watch Lupin III and Inspector Gadget episodes animated by TMS you'll notice similar lanky leg movements.
  13. wiley207

    wiley207 Well-Known Member

    Yep. TMS's "Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland" also has really good Disney-like animation to it. I didn't even realize it was an anime movie until a few years ago! It reminds me of the animation in the first season of "The New Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh" (also animated by TMS, until Wang Film Productions and Disney Animation Australia took over).

    I also wonder what it'd be like if TMS ever animated the Muppet Babies? I bet it'd look really good, and less G.I. Joe-like.
  14. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Well, I'd say it looks a tad more Dr. Slump like, if you look in the right places. Makes me wonder if Toei had 2 animation teams in the 80's. Gegege No Kitaro looks a lot different from Dragon Ball, and they were relatively made at the same time.

    Anyway, I'm guessing Marvel went with Toei because that had a pretty good relationship. After all, Toei did animate a terrible version of the Marvel comics Dracula and filmed that weird live action sentai show version with Spider-Man. They were also set to do other Marvel projects at the time, but nothing was set in stone...

    Though I wounder if the 1980's Unsold X-men pilot was going to be animated by them...

    Unless something did come out of it and the pilot was produced.
  15. muppet baby

    muppet baby Well-Known Member

    i know that would be so cool i mean if the TMS had animatied the muppet babies that would have been great , i guess in a way they still could do it now if they would just bring them back it would be very easy i mean in one way i think they did not give the other series long enough .

    I guess there is always hope that they could bring it back .

    i hope disney might be smart enoggh to do that i hope .
  16. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I would say that a TMS animated Muppet Babies would resemble "Anpanman" to some extent, but Anpanman came out 4 years after Muppet Babies premiered.....

    I'd say it would tend to look almost like Wuzzles or Gummi Bears, though those are still a little older than MB.
  17. wiley207

    wiley207 Well-Known Member

    That is pretty neat. However, I recently found out the 1986 (or was it 1987?) opening sequence was also animated by Toei as well:


    Even though by this time the Japanese animators got more comfortable with the characters and made their movements more fluid and less anime-like, I recognize their on-model character designs from the third season and excellent animation.

    Suffice to say, I think my favorite MB character model designs might be the 1986 Toei designs like in this intro here.
  18. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Undoubtedly... though, honestly, they moved forward with the Ninja Turtles much faster. With Ninja Turtles, mind you, they had about 5 episodes... and the Turtles look like they stylistically evolved in those very 5 episodes. And they did borrow a lot of stylization from their shows with TMNT... I saw vague elements of Kinnikuman and Dragon Ball in those episodes... especially the turtles' teeth.

    MB, looking closely, you can see a lot of Dr. Slump like elements... mainly due to the squat stature of the MB.
  19. erniebert1234ss

    erniebert1234ss Well-Known Member

    BTW, did anyone else notice in that film clip that Muppet Dude linked to in his post; that this film is ALSO celebrating its 25th Anniversary in 2009, and the studio actually has the SENSE to celebrate the anniversary? Hint: Who you gonna call?

    Oh, okay, I'll give it away: GHOSTBUSTERS!

    Disney should take the example of Sony and actually do SOMETHING for the 25th anniversary of Muppet Babies! Maybe even the first season of MB on DVD at long freaking last?

  20. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Heh, I wish... even a best of collection of episodes they don't have to pay royalties for. Even a line of Muppet Babies Baby merchandise/goods.

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