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03 September 2014 @ 11:26 pm
The bottom of the Hanna-Barbera barrel  
20 years ago today, TBS premiered a new Hanna-Barbera made-for-TV movie that was nothing like the company had ever made before. Unfortunately, it was also one of their worst, and could have nearly killed the company if it wasn't for Cartoon Network's "What-a-Cartoon" series premiering in early 1995. Hanna-Barbera has produced some bad material over time, and this is no exception. The movie in question is "Arabian Nights"...

Being a Hanna-Barbera fan, I rented this just for kicks, thinking it could be fun, but it wasn't. This was made during Hanna-Barbera's "struggling" period from the late 1980s to the mid 1990s. The movie has a heavy influence of "Animaniacs" (especially the music) and the Disney cartoons of the time (no surprise, with the Disney Renaissance going on during this period.) It was produced on a higher budget than your typical Hanna-Barbera TV fare of the time, and at times it shows. The music soundtrack is pretty much your typical Carl Stalling imitation orchestra score of the 1990s (like "Animaniacs" and "Freakazoid" used at the time), and instead functions more like musical sound effects than an actual music underscore (like Hanna-Barbera had often done prior to this.) It sounds very out of place with the H-B characters, and when I hear it I swear at one point the Warners are going to run in for a cameo appearance! (Though the late Richard Stone, who did quite a bit of work for Warner Bros., really understood the style and his work was pretty good, ESPECIALLY on "Tiny Toons.")
The story also consist of Shaggy and Scooby telling stories to a blind, geeky caliph (this is also borrowed from Looney Tunes, mainly "1,001 Rabbit Tales"), with Shaggy telling "dumbed down" versions of Aladdin (obviously inspired by Disney's version, but with a gender flip, and Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo as the genies!) and Sinbad the Sailor (with Magilla Gorilla in the title role, joining a small pirate captain on a fake cruise.) Despite often being billed as a Scooby-Doo movie, Shaggy and Scooby only appear in about 15 minutes of the film's 70-minute running time. The film's story is too long and too boring, and it drags for quite a bit, and tries to be funny but usually fails.
The animation is also pretty poor, too. Most of Hanna-Barbera's great talent had left the studio or died by this time. The actual animation was done overseas by Wang Film Productions in Taiwan, and looked pretty bad here. I don't understand why: Wang has done good animation for Warner Bros. (they did a LOT of work for Animaniacs) and Disney. If they really wanted to go for a Warner Bros. style, H-B should have just hired Tokyo Movie Shinsha to animate this movie. THEN it would've looked much better (Tokyo Movie Shinsha was my favorite animation studio Warner used in the 1990s.) The ink-and-paint work was done by H-B themselves, but that looked pretty bad too; they used a rather dated computer system, resulting in a very bright, flat look with wonky character designs and animation. The editing also seems a bit sloppy at times, the sound effects are often misplaced (and it doesn't even use many of H-B's famous sound effects much in this movie, instead often opting for the Looney Tunes sound FX and whatever "Animaniacs" was using at the time....) and some of the voice acting isn't as strong. This was notable for being the last title with Don Messick voicing Scooby-Doo, and it does sound kind of weak here (too bad, because Don Messick was my favorite Scooby-Doo voice.) The rest of the voice acting doesn't seem very strong either, even with great voice talents on board like Rob Paulsen, Brian Cummings, Maurice LaMarche (in one of his few H-B voice roles), Tony Jay and Frank Welker.

Here's some pics showing the bad animation...

Shaggy's design seems somewhat inspired by the young version seen in "A Pup Named Scooby-Doo" here, and Scooby's design is also somewhat simplified.

When their skin goes green among overreacting learning they were supposed to taste the food to see if it was poisoned, they become semi-transparent for a second as they do so!

They just did a digital zoom on this image. The film had quite a few crude digital pan-and-zoom effects...

The caliph, voiced by Eddie Deezen. Earlier in the film, he wears thick coke-bottle glasses, but then he falls and completely breaks them, and doesn't bother to get them fixed or replaced, and just remains blind and squinting for the rest of the movie!

Oh yeah, Shaggy actually is in drag when in the harem room, and this is how he tells the Caliph the stories. But his bad female voice when he first says "ME?" always makes me laugh cause it's so crappy!

From the "Aliyah-Din" story. On the right is Haman, the Jafar knock-off. He also seems to look a bit like Dick Dastardly! And on the right is the sultan.

Aliyah-Din and the Prince. They are actually designed quite decently, if a bit simple. Here's a good example of how overstylized and angular all the backgrounds are in this film. All the clouds look overstylized, too. It is a far cry from the realistically-designed backgrounds seen in Disney and Warner's stuff of the time.

Yogi as the Genie. He looks actually kinda lumpy compared to the streamlined 1950s/1960s Yogi Bear. A real annoying running gag is when Yogi keeps constantly asking/hoping for food every three minutes.

The second story, “Sinbad the Sailor,” features Magilla Gorilla, voiced by Alan Melvin reprising the original role (and the final time he did so too.) Magilla looks OK in a few shots, but at other parts he looks a little strange.

The evil captain from the Sinbad story. He is voiced by Charlie Adler, using his Ickis voice (from "AAAHH! Real Monsters!") The captain does annoy me a bit at times, though.

During this bit, they do a rip-off of Wile E. Coyote's famous cliff falls. The camera angle and the style of the captain falling is the exact same style, the small puff of dust in the distance when he lands is identical too, and they even use the SAME SOUND EFFECT of Wile E. landing too! The animation of him actually falling the first time is rather choppy, not surprisingly.

The upper-class Cyclops from the same story. His design somewhat reminds me of someone that would appear on an episode of "Tiny Toons" or “Animaniacs.” Maurice LaMarche uses his Toucan Sam voice for him. (Now all we need is him saying "Part of this nutririous breakfast!") A semi-running gag here is that the Cyclops keeps complaining he's going to miss a performance of "Cats" he got tickets to (again, this is H-B taking a shot at mimicking Warner's use of pop culture references.)

And of course, the final line ever uttered in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon featuring the classic non-Flintstones characters is…


Ah come on, Scooby. You didn’t even do much in this film! Why'd you have to close the film by saying that for the millionth time? It's like the last original theatrical Warner Bros. cartoon, "Injun Trouble" from 1969, ending with Cool Cat saying "So cool it now, ya hear?"

This movie was pretty much Hanna-Barbera's equivalent to the crappy 2001 animated movie "Titanic: the Legend Goes On", but without the rapping dog. I did get a pretty funny YouTube Poop out of it though...

(A number of views came from people who never saw the movie and wanted to see how bad it was!)

I apologize for any trauma or nightmares I may cause with this!
C Eagle: bc_eagle on September 4th, 2014 04:54 am (UTC)
Thanx for yer review, saving us the grief of sittin thru it! :D