Author Archives: Joe

The New Batman Adventures – “Torch Song”

torch songEpisode Number:  10 (95)

Original Air Date:  June 13, 1998

Directed by:  Curt Geda

Written by:  Rich Fogel

First Appearance:  Firefly

One of the advantages in moving Batman from Fox to The WB was a lessening on restrictions placed on the character. It’s a bit funny since Fox was often the butt of many jokes, usually by shows it was airing, for being willing to put crass and outlandish content on its airwaves when compared with other networks. Maybe it’s just a simple case of escalation, but when The WB Network was launched it proved to be even less restrictive. When Batman was a part of Fox Kids, he had some rules he needed to follow. He couldn’t bleed and for some reason he couldn’t break glass. He often had to deal with his enemies indirectly, though at times he landed some solid blows (unlike Spider-Man who came later who wasn’t allowed to be seen punching a bad guy). Batman did enjoy a major concession by the network in that his foes could use realistic weaponry, so it’s not like it was all bad.

Something Fox was apparently loathe to include was fire. During production on Batman, the writers wanted to include the villain Firefly, a lesser villain but one who had been around for a long time in the comics. Firefly, as the name implies, likes to use fire as his main method of attack and that was apparently a no-no. It’s interesting because the same year Batman premiered, X-Men would as well and it was able to include the villain Pyro in its first season. Whatever. With the move to the new network though, former villains once shot down were now in-play, so here is the apparently long overdue episode introducing Firefly.

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Bruce Wayne, always with a new girl.

“Torch Song” begins with Bruce Wayne taking a new girl to a concert. Her name is Shannon (Jane Wiedlin) and the episode seems to imply she’s a lot younger than Bruce. There’s either a generational gap here, or Bruce could just be really out of touch with pop music. He doesn’t seem too thrilled to be dragged here, but Shannon is quite eager to see tonight’s performer, Cassidy (Karla DeVito), and from some choice seats. As they head in to the venue, they pass Barbara who is apparently there solo. Her seats are much worse. She seems to be amused at the sight of Bruce literally being dragged into the show and into a situation he seemingly has no control over.

Backstage, Cassidy is getting ready to hit the stage. Cassidy is a short, curvy, blonde with a low voice. She’s played up to be rather sexy, but the visual style for this show makes all of the women just look weird to me. She’s in the midst of an exchange with someone who works backstage. He’s a large fellow by the name of Garfield Lynns (Mark Rolston) and he’s more than a little creepy. It would seem the two used to be an item, but now they’re not, and old Garfield isn’t too happy about that. Worse, he’s apparently in charge of the pyrotechnics and we’re about to find out they’re a pretty big part of the show. Cassidy is sick of the conversation and wants the guy fired, but apparently doesn’t see the danger in having a just-fired ex-boyfriend controlling the pyro for the show that’s about to begin.

cassidy stage

Even Iron Maiden would be impressed.

Cassidy takes to the stage. She’s on a podium surrounded by flames. Her voice actress, Karla DeVito, is a professional singer herself so Cassidy both looks and sounds the part of a singer. As she gets into the song, the fire rages around her. It soon reaches unsafe levels, but the crowd is in awe. Eventually, Cassidy can’t continue the performance because it’s too hot as she drops to her knees. The fire then rages out of control and people start to flee. Backstage, Cassidy’s manager tries to stop Lynns from making things worse, but he shoves him aside. Soon he realizes this thing it out of control, and bails.

Bruce doesn’t budge, despite the protests of Shannon. He stands there and is apparently scanning for any way he can get to the woman and save her, but nothing is opening up. Suddenly, Batgirl swings in and makes the save, letting Cassidy know she’s a big fan before taking off. Bruce is apparently not concerned about blowing their identities as he approaches Batgirl to praise her for the rescue. She reminds him sometimes it pays to get the cheap seats.

Detective Harvey Bullock (Robert Costanzo) is shown storming an apartment with a host of police officers in tow. It’s the home of Lynns and it’s basically a shrine to Cassidy. Lynns is no where to be found though, so Bullock helps himself to the contents of the guys’ refrigerator. Now feels like an appropriate time to note that Bullock’s character model has put on quite a few pounds between series. Lynns is then shown at work in a different building, vowing revenge.

cassidy shrine

Probably not the mark of a man in good mental health.

Cassidy is then shown at her apartment having a chat with her agent, Frank (David Paymer). She’s unconcerned with the apparent attempt on her life, and remains so even after opening a threatening letter that burns in her hands after she reads it. The letter contained a picture of her and the message “The star that burns brightest burns fastest.” She’s not going to let this threat prevent her from her next appearance at a new club calls Rock City that night, which is where Firefly chooses to make his entrance.

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The villain of the day:  Firefly.

Firefly comes onto the scene dressed in what I think is an all metal suit. That would probably get really hot really fast, but I guess he’s not bothered by it. He has oversized lenses on his eyes giving him a bug-like appearance which the wings also add to. He has a gun and a tank on his bank making him visually resemble a Bizarro Mr. Freeze since his gun shoots fire instead of ice. His fire-bombing of the venue sends people fleeing, which attracts the attention of Batman and Batgirl who had been enjoying a drama-free evening up until now. They’re able to swoop in as Firefly confronts Cassidy amongst the flames.

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He’s got a sword made of fire. Better add that one to the notes, Batman.

Firefly demonstrates his wings aren’t just for show, as he blasts off out of there following a wicked right hook from Batman. Batman isn’t willing to let him go, as he uses one of his many ropes to grab onto Firefly. He’s then taken for a ride through the skies of Gotham, but his trip is cut short, literally, when Firefly produces a freaking flame-sword. He slashes the rope binding his ankles sending Batman plummeting pretty violently to the ground where Batgirl and Cassidy are waiting to check on him.

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Cassidy seems quite happy to see Batman.

Sometime later, Batman drops in on Cassidy for a little intel. She seems happy to see the caped crusader and immediately puts on a flirtatious act as she cozies up to the Batman. She tells Batman about Lynns and her past relationship with him. Interestingly, from her perspective they were never really an item, just a pair of people who had dinner a few times and he couldn’t take the hint that things weren’t going to progress any further. She then makes a play for Batman to be her personal bodyguard, but Batman pulls his disappearing trick to get out of that one.

Batman and Batgirl head out to an old warehouse connected to Lynns. Sure enough, it appears to be his hideout as it’s loaded with lots of pyrotechnic equipment. No Lynns though, and as Batman looks around Batgirl is ever chatty. This appears to be a theme for this show where Batman’s sidekick of the moment keeps yapping away while Batman remains stoic, only for the yapper to screw things up. In this case, Batgirl apparently wanted to shine some light on the area and throws a switch as Batman shouts at her not to. Too late, and the building explodes.

firefly kidnapping

Not the hero she was looking for.

As we’re left to ponder the fate of Batman and Batgirl, Cassidy is shown rehearsing in a studio. Things seem rather normal, until smoke starts to fill the studio. As people flee, Cassidy stumbles through the smoke in search of a helping hand. She finds one in Frank, and the two escape. Only, she though it was Frank, but it turns out to be Firefly who now has what he’s apparently sought for some time.

Back at that warehouse, the explosion apparently wasn’t as bad as the cut made it seem. Oh there is tons of fire, but Batman and Batgirl appear to be no worse for ware. The fire is too much for them to handle though, and they’re forced to flee out a window. Some debris falls on Batgirl and she lets out an awful scream. Batman finds her unconscious beneath a pile of rubble.

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It’s always Batgirl that seems to get hurt.

We immediately cut to the Batcave where Alfred is tending to Batgirl. This is apparently now a solo mission as Batman ponders how to deal with this new villain. The police have no leads on Cassidy’s kidnapping, but a matchbook Batman found has an address on it and he seems to think that’s where he should look next. Alfred then ends up being the one to suggest he dawn something more durable, which likely excited the marketing department at Warner since Batman will get a new outfit to turn into an action figure.

The matchbook Batman found was from the Mephisto Paint Company, and lo and behold, that’s where Firefly has taken Cassidy. She’s bound and doing the usual thing of trying to reason with her captor. He’s beyond reason though, and instead chooses to do the old villain routine of demonstrating how his fabulous and destructive scheme will go down. It would seem Lynns is a pretty smart guy when it comes to combustion, and he’s invented a gel that is highly flammable. As he demonstrates it for Cassidy, he explains he’s going to fill the Gotham sewer system with the stuff then set it ablaze. As the city burns, the two of them will make their escape out of Gotham and to a new life in parts unknown.

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There’s a Batman under there.

Before Firefly can set his plan in motion, Batman arrives. He really does have wonderful timing. Sporting an all black heat-resistant suit similar to Firefly’s, Batman goes after him demonstrating that it will take more than a few fireballs to take him out. Firefly turns to his trusty flame-sword to turn the tables on Batman, slicing up some piping and causing it to fall on him. He then sets his plan on motion by starting the gel feed, then turns his attention back to Batman. The flame-sword may have been a handy equalizer, but it’s also a useful tool for Batman to screw up Firefly’s plan. He kicks it out his hand, and it lands in the gel, igniting it. Since it didn’t have time to spread into the sewer, only the plant they’re in goes up in flames. That’s not an issue for two guys in fireproof suits, but poor Cassidy sure has a problem with it. Firefly runs off to apparently try and correct this error, while Batman goes after Cassidy. He’s able to get her to safety, and it must be his lucky day because Firefly stumbles out of the burning building and collapses due to exhaustion, or maybe heat stroke, who knows?

As an epilogue to the events of the episode, Cassidy is shown dining at a restaurant with Frank. She seems to have returned to her defiant and headstrong personality in spite of all that has happened to her as she brushes aside Frank’s concerns about her wellbeing. And Frank couldn’t be happier as all of the publicity created by Firefly has made her more popular than ever. As Frank goes on about incorporating a fire theme into her persona, Cassidy’s gaze goes to a dessert at nearby table which is ignited with flame. She flinches, and Frank takes notice by asking her what’s wrong. As the camera tightens on her face, a look of horror fills her eyes as the episode ends.

bat fire suit

It’s not often an episode gives us a new look for Batman.

Batman: The Animated Series had a lot of success in adapting B-tier villains and boosting their image. Sure, not every one of them was successful, but many were and they became favored villains for viewers of the show and even readers of the comics. Firefly sort of settles in the middle. He’s got a solid gimmick and he’s certainly creepy given the whole stalker aspect of his persona, but I never really bought into him as a high stakes villain. Batman suggests he is by going with this new suit, but it doesn’t really feel earned. Not that I mind the new duds which just strike me as practical. If you’re going to fight a guy who shoots fire, it’s probably a good idea to go with something flame-retardant.

The Cassidy character is fine. I like that they hired someone in Karla DeVito who could both handle the speaking role and do the singing to add some authenticity to her. I can’t decide if we’re supposed to think of her as just a very strong and self-confident individual or if we should view her as foolish for not taking Firefly’s threat seriously. I suppose it’s a little of both, though I admire her bravery. It makes the ending, which seems to implicate she’s going to be traumatized by the events of this episode for years to come, feel a bit mean. It’s similar to how the villain of Riddler’s debut episode turned out who was shown living in fear of The Riddler coming to get him. Cassidy didn’t earn that, and I can’t tell if the episode wants us to think she deserves this. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and presume we’re just getting a glimpse at the lasting impacts one of these supervillains can have. Even though his scheme ultimately failed, Firefly still left a mark that’s pretty significant. It’s not something we’re shown often.

Visually, this episode is pretty neat given all of the fire on display. I feel hot just watching it, though maybe that’s because I’m writing this during a brutal heat wave. Firefly is a bit silly looking, but at least his suit appears functional. The look of it would have fit I quite well with the previous iteration of this show as it has a retro design. Batman’s fire suit is a little more bland by comparison as it’s just an all black suit with no mouth opening or cape. It’s easy to animate at least, and like Firefly’s suit, it certainly looks functional which is probably what Batman would prioritize over style. It’s just not something I’d be clamoring for an action figure of.

cassidy fire eyes

Poor Cassidy is going to have some stuff to work through.

Firefly will not be a one and done villain as he has one other appearance yet to come. As I said earlier, he’s fine and so is this episode. It’s nice to get some new blood into the mix and not every villain needs a sympathy angle. As for Cassidy, this is it for her so we’ll never learn what lasting damage Firefly inflicted upon her. Maybe she would have been brought back had this show received a second order of episodes, but that was not to be. I actually would have liked to have caught up with her again. Since the show declined to follow-up on her, I’ll take the road of the optimist and assume she got the help she needed and was able to live a well-adjusted life going forward. It feels cruel to assume otherwise.

 

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The NEOGEO Mini

 

img_0003When I was a kid, there was a game console that was so unattainable it was practically mythical. And that console was SNK’s Neo Geo, the home console version of SNK’s popular arcade technology. I only heard about it through social circles, but never knew anyone who actually had one. And had I wanted to even see one I wouldn’t have known how to even go about that. Game magazine didn’t bother covering it and I can’t recall ever seeing one in a store. And that’s because the unit ran for around $650, and that was just for the console. The individual games were often sold for $150 a piece, some even more. And these things were behemoths! Just eyeballing it, they look to be around 8″ by 6″ and are about an inch and a half thick.

It’s sort of ironic that the Neo Geo was so expensive and rarely encountered because SNK’s arcade cabinets were the opposite. Those white, black, and red cabinets were pretty prolific in the 90s and that was because they were quite the value compared with other games. A SNK cabinet contained a board that usually had at least two cartridge slots and as many as five. These cabinets essentially functioned like a console, and arcade owners could swap out games whenever they wished if they felt they needed to change things up, which is a heck of a lot cheaper than buying an all new cabinet. Plus the owner gets to save on floor space, making SNK machines pretty popular for smaller venues looking to just add a game or two like a pizza place or a bowling alley.

The Neo Geo was also super expensive because SNK wasn’t really looking to compete with the likes of Nintendo and Sega. SNK knew what it did well, and it had a dedicated fanbase. The Neo Geo was for people who loved SNK’s arcade games and wanted to take the experience home without having to buy an actual cabinet. Because of this, the guts inside the Neo Geo is essentially identical to that of the arcade cabinet. Where other console developers looked to achieve a half measure or so, SNK said “screw that.” And the gigantic cartridges gave SNK plenty of room to increase the power in its games helping the Neo Geo to still be viable into the 2000s.

Something the Neo Geo brand has never really shook is its high cost. Even decades removed from its debut, a secondhand console will still set you back several hundreds of dollars. And the games might set you back even more since they weren’t produced in massive quantities. SNK’s home version of the Neo Geo hardware was referred to as the AES, with the arcade version referred to as the MVS. Since they were the same, SNK made the shape of the cartridges different between the two. The thinking was that SNK didn’t want Neo Geo owners just buying the cheaper MVS carts, which featured no artwork or case, and playing them at home. Over the years, third parties have come up with adapters so Neo Geo AES owners could indeed play the cheaper MVS carts on their home system. More experimental and determined gamers have even taken old cabinets and “consolized” them to create their own Neo Geo. Many years ago, I bought such a device as I wanted to get into Neo Geo. At the time, the MVS community was starting to take off and now collecting those instead of AES games isn’t the value it used to be. I made one post on that thing, and no more because I just wasn’t willing to devote all of those resources to Neo Geo.

 

Not surprisingly, SNK decided to get into the mini console business. It’s a business presently booming, and there’s money to be made. SNK also decided it needed to do things a bit different. While Nintendo and Sony had dedicated home consoles to celebrate from its respective pasts, SNK also wanted to acknowledge that Neo Geo wasn’t just a home brand, but an arcade as well. And in true SNK fashion, it also decided it needed to be the most expensive option in town.

The Neo Geo Mini was released late in 2018 for both Japan and the international market. Like other mini consoles, the lineup of software differed between the two regions and was supposedly tailored to the tastes of each. Considering SNK’s games span few genres, I’m not sure what differences there really is in terms of taste save for SNK’s football title. The Neo Geo Mini ran for as high as $130 on release, though of all the mini consoles this one seemed to vary the most in price depending on where you purchased it with some offering price points closer to $100 (which is what the Japanese version translated to in US dollars).

That price point may have seemed alarming at the time, but there was some justification behind it beyond the usual “it’s Neo Geo.” The Neo Geo Mini comes with 40 pre-loaded games, the most yet for these official mini consoles (the soon to be released Genesis Mini will top it with 42) so if you were placing a value of 2 bucks a piece on each game that would already get you to 80 dollars. And to celebrate the arcade legacy of Neo Geo, SNK opted to make its mini console a dedicated gaming device without the need of a television. The Neo Geo Mini is an adorable little arcade cabinet all by itself. It more resembles the barcade style than an actual SNK cabinet, but this makes it much easier to place the device on your lap. It has a 3.5″ LCD screen which is in a 4:3 format to preserve the native aspect ratio of the software. There’s a mini analog joystick on the left, and the four buttons are on the right. Because of the limited space, the buttons are arrayed in a diamond shape as opposed to in a row as they would have been on an actual cabinet or on the AES joysticks. The Mini is powered by a USB cable, but it does not come with a wall adapter. It also does not contain an internal battery, so it has to be plugged in. This is the first of many design flaws to come.

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Left to right: SNK Black controller for the Mini, Neo Geo CD controller, SNK White controller for the Mini.

The Neo Geo Mini is undeniably cute, but SNK made some odd choices with it. First of all, one such odd choice is not the screen. It may be LCD, but it looks just fine for these games. If you found these titles impressive to look at in the arcade, the same will be true here. Playing them though won’t be quite as fun. The joystick SNK went with is pretty basic. It’s floaty, like an analog stick on a modern console, which works okay for games like Metal Slug, but for fighters it’s problematic. It’s confounding because SNK has a history of making good analog sticks that are actually usable for fighters. The Neo Geo Pocket had a great one. It had plenty of resistance and had that satisfying click to it. The gamepads for the Neo Geo CD too had these clicky analog “discs” on them that were also usable in fighters. You would prefer to use a joystick, but you also didn’t feel severely limited if you had to use one of the gamepads. More confusing is SNK’s decision to change the layout of the buttons. On the old controllers where this diamond shape was utilized, the buttons went (starting at the top, clockwise):  D, B, A, C. On the Neo Geo Mini they go:  A, C, D, B. I’m not super familiar with old Neo Geo games, but even I’m thrown off with this new configuration. I have to assume it has something to do with how these games have been released in emulated form on modern consoles, but it’s weird that they opted to make things different here.

Making things even odder, is you can purchase additional controllers for the Mini. They’re styled after those Neo Geo CD gamepads, but they’re different in the worst ways. For one, they have the new button layout so if you thought you could get around that setup, well, you can’t. They’re also using new components, and sadly the analog disc is one of them. It’s no longer that satisfying clicky input. There’s even less resistance in it when compared with the Mini’s joystick, making it a downgrade if you want to play VS modes. They connect via USB Mini, so it’s possible that better joysticks are available, but it’s a shame that the official SNK controllers are so disappointing.

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When both controllers are plugged into each side of the Mini, the controls on the device go “dead” making this a maximum of 2 players only.

The Neo Geo Mini includes a TV out function via HDMI mini. Strangely, it did not come with a cable though so you had to buy a separate one. Thankfully, if you own any of the Nintendo mini consoles then you’re all set. I actually often just switch the cable between my mini consoles when I want to play since I don’t have enough inputs on my television. If you choose to go this route, know that it isn’t really optimal. SNK didn’t spend much time on this feature it would seem as the games all feature a noticeable downgrade in visual quality when played on a television. It’s not unplayable, but also not very kind to these otherwise lovely looking games. On the plus side, the controller cables are at least generous in length and the Neo Geo Mini is heavier than the Nintendo mini consoles so there’s less chance of yanking it accidentally off a TV stand. Though, if you happen to do so there’s also more risk of damage given the presence of the screen.

Because of the cost and shortcomings, I passed on the Neo Geo Mini last year. This summer though, a new bundle was released and it was enough to get me to jump onboard. The Neo Geo Mini bundle is available at Amazon and Wal-Mart and it includes:

  • The Neo Geo Mini International Edition
  • 2 SNK controllers (one black, one white)
  • 1 HDMI cable
  • $99

The bundle addresses the monetary shortcomings and puts the console closer in-line with the SNES Mini. Yes, it’s still more expensive than that device, but it also has nearly twice as many games and features the off-TV mode. In addition to all that I highlighted, the Mini also comes with stickers. The only graphics on the International version are the Neo Geo logos on each side of the cabinet so if you want to add some extra flash to it you have the stickers. I haven’t placed any on my unit, but I probably will stick one above the screen at least.

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You may bemoan the lack of variety, but there’s no denying this thing comes packed with a lot of games.

Of course, if you’re interested in this device then you probably want to know what you can play on it. The games on the International version are as follows:

  • Metal Slug 1 – 5
  • Metal Slug X
  • King of the Monsters 1 and 2
  • Sengoku 3
  • Magician Lord
  • Blue’s Journey
  • Shock Troopers
  • Shock Troopers 2nd Squad
  • Robo Army
  • Crossed Swords
  • Mutation Nation
  • 3 Count Bout
  • The King of Fighters 95, 97, 98, 2000, 2002
  • Art of Fighting
  • Fatal Fury Special
  • Real Bout Fatal Fury
  • Garou: Mark of the Wolves
  • Samurai Showdown II, IV, V Special
  • The Last Blade 2
  • World Heroes Perfect
  • Kizuna Encounter
  • Ninja Master’s
  • Top Player’s Golf
  • Super Sidekicks
  • Football Frenzy
  • Blazing Star
  • Last Resort
  • Ghost Pilots
  • Puzzled

That’s a lot of fighting games. Safe to say, if you don’t like fighters then this isn’t the machine for you (and you probably already knew that). I’ve tested all of the games in off-TV mode and all emulate very well with no input lag. If you liked these games before, you’ll like what you have here. The obvious shortcoming being the input method for the fighters. I’m not particularly good at SNK fighters, but I’m really not good on this machine. Maybe I can get used to it and get close to what I am when playing on a Neo Geo, but it’s going to take some practice. I should also note, that since this contains US versions of these games, Samurai Showdown features the censored green blood. If you want the red stuff you’ll have to get the Japanese version.

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There are some design shortcomings with this device, but there’s no denying the games look good on the small screen.

As for the lineup, it’s hard to argue it’s not a solid representation of what SNK’s legacy is. I would have preferred fewer fighting games, but there’s not a ton missing either. I’m surprised at the exclusion of Bust-A-Move, aka Puzzle Bobble, but that might be because SNK doesn’t own those characters. I would have liked to see Baseball Stars as well, and I’m surprised at its exclusion. Since these games are all essentially arcade games, they’re pretty damn hard since they were meant to guzzle quarters. You’ll be happy to know that there are Save State options present making these games a bit easier to manage. Simply pressing Start and Select together brings up the menu to do so which is also the way you exit a game without powering off the console. The user interface is bare bones, but gets the job done. If you happen to get the Japanese version you can even switch the language to English, though the in-game text will still be Japanese (not that any of these games contain required reading).

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Getting used to this little guy will be key to enjoying the fighting games. For games like Metal Slug though it works just fine.

Given all of this, it’s a bit hard to recommend the Neo Geo Mini as anything other than a novelty. If you like the idea of being able to play these games off-TV in a unique format then by all means give it a shot. The new bundle makes it a little easier to recommend, though the extra stuff also highlights what this system isn’t very good at doing. If you just want to experience SNK’s games on the cheap, or even on the go, you have lots of options now as most of these games can be purchased digitally for various platforms, including Nintendo Switch. Of course, the Switch will give you its own issues with inputs for fighting games, but it will also give you better on-TV emulation. These games are no longer prohibitively expensive to enjoy, which does harm the novelty of the Neo Geo Mini.

I find the aesthetic of the Neo Geo Mini to be so pleasing that I’m reluctant to say I find it disappointing. It’s too charming to be a dud. The only true disappointment for me is that the on-TV experience isn’t good enough to make me get rid of the few MVS games I own. Hopefully I keep at it with this thing and eventually get a little better at a few of the fighters. I’d also like to see SNK take at least one more stab at creating a dedicated gaming device that’s cost-effective and also sets a new standard for the best way to experience SNK’s games. The Neo Geo X and the Mini both were tantalizing, but come up a bit short. If you like SNK’s offerings and don’t mind the price tag, the Neo Geo Mini is fine. If you’re still on the fence, then maybe wait and see if the price comes down more or seek out a used one. I’ve seen stand-alone Minis for as low as $89 new. I don’t think it will crash to the levels of the PlayStation Classic (which I’ve seen for as low as $15!), but there may be some more room to fall.


The New Batman Adventures – “Love is a Croc”

love is a crocEpisode Number:  9 (94)

Original Air Date:  July 11, 1998

Directed by: Butch Lukic

Written by:  Steve Gerber

First Appearance:  None

 

There are no noteworthy first appearances in this week’s episode, “Love is a Croc,” but it almost feels like we have a pair. Killer Croc was a frequent contributor during the original run of Batman. He was sometimes portrayed as a vicious killer, and sometimes as a goof, but he was always voiced by Aron Kincaid. Kincaid is no longer a part of the show though, and he’s been replaced by Brooks Gardner. Perhaps less noticeable is the addition of Laraine Newman as the voice of Baby-Doll, replacing Alison LaPlaca. This is only less noteworthy because the character previously only had one appearance, but the difference between the two is pretty noticeable so I would guess that long-time fans picked up on it quite quickly.

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Killer Croc is back with a new look, a new cell, and a new love for raw chicken. It’s finger-licking good!

The New Batman Adventures consists of many redesigns for villains, and today is no exception, and it also contains new directions for said characters. Perhaps the show was unsure of what to do with both Croc and Baby-Doll, so rather than create a new scheme for them on their own they decided to do an odd couple pairing. Baby-Doll is the sympathetic villain, as she has largely been victimized by her condition which is summed up in this episode as one that does not allow her to grow. Croc, on the other hand, has never been played for sympathy even though he has an obvious physical condition that could lend itself to such a portrayal, had the show wanted to explore that. Instead though, Croc seems quite happy as he is and enjoys looking rather freakish. Basically, Baby-Doll views her outward appearance as a betrayal of what she feels inside, while Croc’s is more like an accurate manifestation of the person, or reptile, he is on the inside. It’s certainly an interesting approach, so let’s see how it turned out.

The episode opens in black and white, a palette we were accustomed to in the first run of this show, but one that is now rare. And it’s colored that way because we’re watching an old clip of Love That Baby, the sitcom starring Mary Louise Dahl. It’s a little comedy piece that is there to remind us of Baby-Doll as we head into the episode proper.

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I think he made her mad.

A wife is helping her husband stumble into a hotel lobby. Judging by their attire, I’d say they’re on vacation in some place warm. The man is obviously drunk, which is probably a first for this show, and he’s lost his room key. The wife seems to have lost something as well, her patience, as she drops him and heads to the concierge. Working the desk is a diminutive woman with an oversized shirt on. She informs the guest that she can get her a duplicate. The woman watches as this host hops off of a large stool and pushes the stool over towards the wall where the keys are hanging. Drunk husband is also watching and he’s the first to notice her. Phrasing it as, “You used to be somebody,” he eventually remembers and starts reminding Mary of her past failures, including the whole trying to kill Batman thing. He tells her to do something funny, and eventually the former Baby-Doll snaps. She grabs the man by the nose and slams his face into a ledger before shutting it on his head violently. She then utters her catchphrase, “I didn’t mean to,” but not in her usual playful way.

Mary retreats to her own room where she angrily tosses aside her coat before settling into more of a depressive state. She asks why people can’t see her as an adult before plopping on the couch between two giant teddy bears (that might be contributing to your problem, Mary). Of course, her show is on television and she angrily changes the channel and finds some live courtroom show. Killer Croc is being presented to a judge and is shown pleading his case that he’s the victim of prejudice based on his appearance. And his new appearance is even more monstrous than before. He’s green-skinned now with monstrous eyes, claws, and these weird ridges on his body. In short, he more clearly resembles a crocodile.

croc escape

That seemed a little too easy.

The judge (Buster Jones) decides Croc is competent enough to stand trial, and Croc is not in agreement. Apparently wanting to prove the judge wrong, be breaks out of his restraints and goes on the attack. As he batters the police aside and makes his escape, Mary cheers him on from her couch apparently recognizing a kindred spirit.

croc batarang

Croc is clearly not impressed with Batman’s toys.

Croc’s escape from the courthouse does not mean he’s home free. Outside, he’s forced to contend with more police, and then a Batman. Batman swings in to deliver a nice kick, but Croc is up for a challenge. He starts putting on a show by tossing cars and crushing batarangs in his jaws, but he’s eventually subdued by the caped crusader. At this point, a crowd has formed to watch and Baby-Doll herself is among the spectators (so I guess her hotel is no where tropical?) and looks on with sadness as Croc is apprehended.

crocs confines

That bag of several chickens probably weighs more than she does.

Arkham Asylum is our next setting, and it seems they’ve made some modifications for old Croc. He’s shown swimming in a giant tube of water that’s open on top. A guard walks in to inform him that he has a visitor, and in strolls Baby-Doll. Croc has no interest in conversing with her, but she informs him she brought chicken. She tosses a whole, raw, chicken at Croc who devours it in one gulp bones and all. She’s brought more than one, and her strategy seems to have worked as Croc is willing to listen. She tells them their kindred spirits, and Croc seems disinterested owing to the fact that he’s being sent to jail tomorrow. Baby-Doll tells him not to lose hope by suggesting that accidents can happen on the way.

baby-doll and gun

They’ll let anyone be a villain these days.

The next day, Croc is being transported at night and everything seems to be going smooth, for now. The driver of the truck then notices a little girl appear in the road suddenly and he has to swerve in order to avoid her. The truck goes through a guardrail and flips over, and Baby-Doll is there to once again utilize that catch phrase. She goes around to the rear of the truck and finds two guards picking themselves up off the ground. They question what she’s doing there, and she pulls out a gun. It fires two suction cup-tipped darts that strike each man in the forehead. Each dart has a wire trailing out of it back to the gun and an electrical current shoots up it rendering the two unconscious. Baby-Doll then finds Croc inside and gives him a big hug (she’s about the size of his head and neck) while Croc wears a confused expression on his face as she tells him they can be together forever now.

croc welcome home

Welcome home, Precious.

Sometime later, Croc is shown returning home. Home appears to be in a sewer and it’s made up to look like a 1950’s kitchen. Croc comes strolling in to find Baby-Doll at the table in her high chair. She’s delighted to see that her precious has returned home, and Croc is equally delighted. He comes baring newspapers, local and out of town (The Daily Planet), which all feature he and Baby-Doll on the front page. It would seem they have a successful string of robberies under their collective belt, and the stacks of cash in the cupboard make Croc very happy indeed. He’s not here to chat long though as he tells Doll that he’s heading back out. He apparently subscribes to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle philosophy that a trench coat and hat are all you need to disguise an otherwise noticeable appearance. Baby-Doll is sad that he’s leaving and she grabs onto the end of his coat imploring him to take her along. She’s clearly regressed back to an almost child-like persona as she speaks in the third person referring to herself as Baby. Croc spins around like he’s about to backhand her, but he relents. He then resumes his leaving while Baby-Doll tries to tell him they should plan a new job, but he informs her (and us) that’s her job as he disappears down a tunnel.

Batman and Batgirl are shown zipping around in the Bat Boat apparently in search of Croc and Baby-Doll. Batman informs Batgirl that all of their jobs have so far taken place near water tipping him off that Baby-Doll is taking advantage of her new beau’s obvious strengths. A casino cruise ship just happens to be roaming Gotham Harbor and that’s about as likely a hit as one will find for this particular duo. Croc and Baby-Doll enter the casino floor. Baby-Doll plays with a ball which attracts the attention of a security guard who moves to remove “the child” from the area. As she does so, she abandons her position beside the cashier and Croc reaches into his window and rips him through the wall. He heads inside to get the cash as the guard abandons Baby-Doll to go after him. Baby-Doll throws her ball at her and it explodes releasing a gas that takes out the guard as other patrons flee. Baby-Doll joins her man as the two grab as much cash as they can before beating a retreat.

spoiled getaway

They act surprised to see Batman, but how long did they think they could really keep this up before he’d show up?

Getting away won’t be easy though, as Batman and Batgirl show up and block their escape. Croc is clearly unnerved as he turns tail and runs. He ends up chucking a giant roulette wheel at the two, which initially misses but causes a whole host of problems for the two. Batgirl gets squashed under a table while Batman gets nailed by the ricocheting wheel. This provides enough cover for the two to escape, only they lost most of the money. Batman recovers and tells Batgirl they’re getting away, who seems irritated with him for not first making sure she was all right via a sarcastic remark. Batgirl joins Batman on the ship’s deck, and Batman spies the villains heading into a large sewer pipe he assumes is taking them home.

Back at their lair, Croc is livid by Batman’s interference. Baby-Doll tries to calm him down, but he’s not listening. He tells her he’s going out, causing her to give chase once again. This time, Croc doesn’t pull his backhand and he swats her away. Baby-Doll looks hurt, emotionally, by this display of aggression as she watches Croc once again vanish down the sewer pipe. On the waterfront, Croc is shown leaving a place called Live Bait (gross) with a woman on each arm and lipstick on his cheek. He’s bragging to the girls that he’s about to fly solo and confirms that he plans to ditch Baby-Doll. From the shadows, Baby-Doll is shown watching as tears well up in her eyes.

baby-doll hurt

Someone’s been caught.

Croc is shown sleeping on the couch until Baby jumps on him. She wraps her arms around his head and apologizes for before promising he can go out whenever he wants. Croc seems confused, but not concerned. She gives him a kiss and he bushes her aside. As he walks away she tells him she has a new job. Croc gets excited as he learns that this is The Big One and Baby-Doll promises that it will be the one that will allow he and her to live in warmth forever and ever. Her delivery is more than a little creepy so I don’t think this job is going to end well.

Batman and Batgirl are shown walking in ankle deep sewer water. Batgirl is complaining that the two days they’ve spent doing this will result in her suit being forever ruined, as well as her nose. Batman simply replies that it’s better than sitting around the cave. They soon find the happy home of their targets, only it’s empty. As Batman examines a childish drawing of an exploding nuclear power plant, Batgirl picks up a doll that was left on the table. The head rolls off and soon Baby-Doll’s voice is heard admonishing the intruders. A stuffed crocodile opens its mouth and a bomb is revealed. Batman and Batgirl have just enough time to jump back into the sewer water to avoid the explosion. An angry Batgirl emerges from the water expressing a sentiment that this girl needs a spanking (and she’s a-hankering, for some spankering!).

croc baby reactor

I think they’re about to break-up.

Croc and Baby-Doll are shown at the controls for Gotham’s nuclear power plant. There are no workers, no guards, and how they got there isn’t explained. Baby-Doll then cuts off the water supply which keeps the reactor cool. Croc is confused since they can’t accept ransom from a dead city. Baby-Doll informs him via limerick of her plan to destroy Gotham by causing a meltdown, in turn killing them as well. This is Baby-Doll’s punishment for Croc and the solution to his womanizing. First we had a drunk guy, now we have a plot involving a murder-suicide, this show sure has grown up.

Before the two can get into a lengthy argument, Batman comes swinging in and nails Croc. He tries to tell Batman that she’s crazy, but he responds with fists. Batgirl swings in and nails Baby-Doll before turning her attention to the controls. Batman asks if she can fix it, and she responds that he’ll either know in a minute, or he won’t care. She is successful, as Baby-Doll flees. Batman tells Batgirl to keep an eye on the reactor as Croc takes off after Baby-Doll and Batman is forced to pursue them both.

croc vs batman

It wasn’t that long ago we saw Bruce Wayne tangle with the real thing, so this doesn’t seem too threatening for Batman.

Croc reaches Baby-Doll first and he apparently isn’t going to forgive her for her little attempted murder. He grabs her, and dangles her over a large turbine seemingly intending to kill her. As he drops her, Batman is there to make the save as he usually does. This leaves him open to attack though as Croc pummels him into a wall. Hoisting him over his head, he heads back to the turbine to finish off Batman, only this time it’s Baby-Doll making the save. A little gun-like device fell off of Batman as Croc carried him, and Baby-Doll grabs it. It looks like an injection device, but when Baby-Doll uses it on Croc it behaves like a stun gun (shrugs). Croc is angered, but not really affected, but the distraction is enough to allow Batman to pull him down off of the catwalk they’re on and down onto another.

crying baby doll

Nothing but tears in the end for old Baby-Doll.

Croc then gets on top of Batman and tries forcing his head into the turbine (he’s really determined to make use of this turbine). As Batman’s “ears” enter the danger zone, the turbine clinks off of them revealing to us that Batman’s cowl is now reinforced with steel (clever bat). Batman kicks him off and into a wall covered with pipes. Croc ignores the warnings, and a verbal one from Batman, regarding the pipes and rips one off the wall. He’s rewarded with a face full of hot steam which knocks him to the ground. He looks dazed, and then appears to slip into unconsciousness. Beside him, Baby-Doll mourns for the relationship they could have had. Just as her debut episode ended, this one ends with her gentle sobs as Batman looks on.

This is another one of those episodes I wasn’t really looking forward to rewatching. Baby-Doll felt like a one-shot to me. She was fine in her original appearance and made for a unique and sympathetic villain. She was certainly memorable given her appearance, but she also struck me as someone who just needed some help and would then be able to live a semi-adjusted life. And apparently she did, for a time, until someone pushed her buttons too far and she was introduced to Killer Croc. It’s an odd pairing, but one that is mostly logical. Baby-Doll is a bit more mentally distressed it would seem, sd evidenced by her child-like state throughout the episode. It’s a bit strange as we were lead to believe she thinks of herself as an adult, but she certainly doesn’t act that way. She’s obviously not well though, so it’s not illogical to see her act this way, just different.

Killer Croc, on the other hand, is mostly true to his nature. It is a bit hard to get used to his new voice. Aron Kincaid brought this New York sleaziness to the character that is mostly replaced by just a deep, some-what monstrous, voice by Brooks Gardner. It’s fine on its own, but I definitely miss Kincaid. Otherwise, Croc just wants money and apparently girls, and remains a main without morals who just happens to resemble a crocodile.

With so much of the episode devoted to showing us the home life of our unlikely couple, there’s very little time for Batman and Batgirl to do much of anything. They write Batgirl much in the same way as they used to write Robin. She makes jokes and sarcastic remarks and is all together rather chatty compared with Batman. Batman is slightly more willing to banter now, as I feel like before he would have met Robin’s remarks with silence, but here he does not. When Batgirl openly wonders what Croc and Baby-Doll do on a date he takes a long pause before responding with a “I don’t want to think about it.” I think it would have been a touch more humorous to just have Batman let her question hang in the air rather than have him respond. I sometimes get the sense that the writers are trying to find Batman’s personality now that he’s always shown to have someone with him, where as his personality before was mostly just silent brooding. Something just feels “off” about Batman, and I keep waiting for things to click, but I’m not sure they will.

high angle croc ending

Baby-Doll’s second appearance ends the way her first did with an almost identical shot.

This is the final appearance for Baby-Doll, while Killer Croc will return. It was a surprise to see her brought back at all, so the fact that she won’t be making a third appearance is hardly a surprise. There’s only so much that can be done with her. Plus she basically tried to nuke Gotham, so she’s probably been sent somewhere that isn’t likely to set her free anytime soon. She did her job, and while her episodes are not among my favorites, they certainly weren’t bad.

 


Hot Wheels Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Party Wagon

 

img_4586I’ve mentioned on many occasions in my toy reviews that action figures were my first love. That’s not entirely true, as before those came into my life there were cars. My dad was always into cars, so when I came along he made sure I had a bunch of them. I had Hot Wheels, Matchbox, and plenty of Tonka. I liked them quite a bit. My favorite was some black car of unknown make. I liked it best because the rear of the car featured a molding that, to me, resembled the exhaust on the Batmobile from the Adam West show. I don’t know how close it came to actually resembling that, or if my little brain just wanted it to, but it was enough. I’d eventually get a proper Batmobile when merchandise from the 89 movie started arriving, which was probably around the time I ditched the cars for good.

Despite my dad’s best efforts, I never became a car person. It was all super heroes following that. He’s given it another try with my own son, and it’s not looking good. My nephew is still into cars, so maybe that will be his gear head. Who knows? I tried helping him out a bit myself as I’ve bought a lot of Hot Wheels for my son and daughter. When Toys R Us was still a thing, it was an easy task to leave the store with a new one since they’re so inexpensive. Prior to my son coming along, I have no idea when I last bought a Hot Wheels product. As for the last one bought for me? That’s almost impossible a task to figure out. It may have even been that Batmobile. At least until now.

 

Mattel has a history of doing exclusives for San Diego Comic Con, and this year was no exception. In addition to a brand new Batmobile, they did a first:  The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Party Wagon, or Turtle Van for short. This nifty little piece of diecast is based on the classic Turtle Van from the old cartoon with an obvious nod to the toy counterpart from Playmates. It comes in a standard box with some modern artwork on it, and within that box is a cylindrical “sewer pipe” box with the actual toy sits inside. When you remove the slipcase on that you’re met with this attractive window box display. Inside is the vehicle and around behind it is a city backdrop with villains Shredder, Krang, Bebop, and Rocksteady. Interestingly, Bebop and Rocksteady look to be based on concept art from Playmates, specifically the mutating figures toy line as Rocksteady has his helmet and green jacket and Bebop his red coat. They almost look to be celebrating the presence of the Turtle Van, which is a bit amusing, but it’s a nice touch to see them featured.

 

The underside of this display features these little plastic tabs that can easily be bent to allow the base to slide out. Once done you have access to the toy inside, which sits on a black pedestal with an ooze covered manhole beneath it. The van is screwed down to this base, and if you want to remove it you need to cut away at the label on the underside. Mattel almost made this packaging tamper-friendly, but this label is glued down so if you want to free your van you’ll have to mangle the packaging a bit. I was going to, but opted not to as I’m just going to display it in the box anyway and I don’t feel like I need to roll this thing around to get the full experience. If you do remove it from the packaging there is a disclaimer on the packaging that it’s not compatible with playsets, not that it would be a good idea to go drop this thing into your Criss-Cross-Crash set even if it were.

 

The Turtle Van itself is quite an attractive little piece. Like most Hot Wheels products, it’s done up in diecast metal. The only plastic parts are the fin on the roof, the canons, and the swinging door. There’s a transparent elastic on that door to keep it open for display, but if you were to remove it then you would find it closes pretty easily. It does look a touch off because of the colored plastic on that door piece, but from a distance you likely wouldn’t notice. The wheels appear to be rubber coated, or all rubber, which is pretty cool. The logo on the front of the van is obviously the modern logo and I do kind of wish it was the classic one, but it’s no big deal since they’re so similar. The fin is unpainted, which makes it toon accurate though I’m torn on if I wish there was another logo or something there as well for an added splash of color. The top does not open like the Playmates toy, in case you were wondering.

 

You’ve likely noticed one other cool addition to this vehicle, or rather four. Each of the four turtles is represented in plastic form. Mikey is seated on that swing out door behind a laser turret while Donatello looks on from inside the van. Behind the wheel is Raph, and beside him is Leo. These little guys look pretty great, though Mattel was apparently reluctant to paint them up in greater detail. If you look closely you’ll see they have sculpted belts and pads that were left unpainted. Perhaps a confident collector would add some additional paint to these guys, but I’m not such a collector.

 

As I mentioned earlier, I am not a Hot Wheels collector, but when I saw images for this thing I had to have it. My love for the Turtles combined with just how well this turned out made it hard to resist. Unfortunately, it was a San Diego 2019 Comic Con exclusive and was only available to those attending the show. Leftover stock sometimes goes up for sale after the event, but I never caught wind of anything like that happening with this set this year so I had to turn to eBay. The MSRP on this was about 20 bucks, but obviously I had to pay more. It’s definitely worth the $20 Mattel pegged it at, and depending on your level of fandom it may be worth more than that. I’m happy to have this one on my shelf as part of my TMNT collection. And if it seems like something that might interest you, then give it a look.

img_4595

“Umm, Donnie, how are we going to fit in there?”


The New Batman Adventures – “Growing Pains”

growing pains titleEpisode Number:  8 (93)

Original Air Date:  February 28, 1998

Directed by:  Atsuko Tanaka

Written by:  Paul Dini and Robert Goodman

First Appearance:  Annie

“Growing Pains” is the first episode of this new series to make me actually happy there are no title cards this time around. I largely miss them for their artwork, but one thing I don’t miss them for is their tendency to spoil parts of the story. There have been a few episodes where the villain of the episode is a mystery, but only if you happened to miss the title card. This is another such episode, but the absence of a title card actually preserves the mystery for much of the episode. The only way to know the identity of today’s bad guy is to recognize the voice, and since guests sometimes do multiple characters there’s still some mystery even in that scenario. If you’ve never seen this episode, and you don’t want it spoiled, maybe skip this entry until you do.

annie

A mysterious young girl is the star of today’s episode.

This episode opens in Gotham at night under that ominous red sky. A young girl is running through a run-down area and she seems quite scared. She’s decked out in a long red coat and she has black hair cut at an even length. She reminds me of Coraline. Some bikers see her and immediately start giving her a hard time. They surround her, and I guess they’re just bad guys as she doesn’t look like someone who would be in possession of any valuables, though I suppose if you’re open to kidnapping then any kid has some value.

robin places to be

It’s not everyday you get cock-blocked by a fancy light bulb.

Fear not, for this young lady has someone looking out for her. Unfortunately though, she apparently drew the short straw tonight because it’s Robin, and only Robin, who comes to her aid. The bikers aren’t impressed with Robin’s threats, but he makes them regret their hubris in style. Some lumber was just laying around, and Robin knocks one biker off his mount with a javelin-like toss of the wood. The others make a hasty retreat as Robin checks on the girl. She (Francesca Marie Smith) is in a real panic and seemingly can’t remember who she is or where she’s from. The only thing she knows is that she has to keep moving. Robin wants to help, but the girl takes off on him. Up in the sky, the Bat Signal flies high and Robin is forced to let the girl go to tend to his other responsibility. As she runs off, so too does Robin in the opposite direction. The real drag of being an actual boy wonder off on his own means the only mode of transportation he has are his feet.

batmans tough love

Batman dishing out some life lessons on love and the battlefield.

Batman and Robin convene in Gordon’s office to view some surveillance footage of a violent robbery. A very large man can be seen on camera and Gordon suspects the guy has acquired some super strength via chemical means. Batman doesn’t recognize him, but both key-in on his wild looking gaze. His eyes appear to be all white, which is sort of interesting of them to acknowledge since it seems like a fairly common thing for comic book villains (and heroes) to possess which almost always goes unnoticed. As the two discuss what they see, Batman notices Robin is staring off into space. When he asks him about it he mentions the girl he ran into earlier. Gordon remarks “teenagers…” and then makes a comment about being glad daughter Barbara is past those “wild” days which causes Batman to give him an odd look. As the two leave, Robin talks about the girl and wanting to help her, but Batman cold as ever, tells him they can’t help her. He needs him to focus on the task at hand which is finding this big dude while also passing on some Batman tough love.

The next day, Tim complains to Alfred while he’s being chauffeured around Gotham that Bruce always treats him like a kid (a line that really needs to go away). Alfred points out that he is a kid and Tim gets bent out of shape about him taking Bruce’s side. He then spots the girl from the previous night, and tells Alfred there’s been a change in plans. Alfred tells him he was told to bring him straight home, but that smart-ass just gives him the whole “Tim’s not here,” thing as he gets into costume. Alfred then lets him out of the car in his Robin attire. He doesn’t even pull off into an alley or anything, he just stops and lets him out in the middle of the city. He then gives old Master Bruce a call who’s currently at work.

Robin races off into what looks like a bus terminal, a very large bus terminal, and catches up with the girl. The girl cries and collapses into his arms, which was probably the reaction Robin dreamed about. They have a nice little chat where she reiterates that she remembers nothing of her past, even her name. Robin decides to arbitrarily give her a name. Spying a girl holding a Raggedy Ann knock-off, he decides to call her Annie and the girl seems to like it. She goes on to explain that she’s running from someone. She doesn’t know who the person is, but he’s a man and she can sense his presence. She then jumps and points at a shadowy area declaring the man is there!

robin vs big guy

Robin has his hands full with this guy.

Robin looks and from the darkness emerges the burly fellow from the surveillance tape. His eyes look pretty normal, but he is indeed a very large individual. He starts yelling at Annie and demands she come home. Robin puts himself between the two and demands the man identify himself. He ignores the request and Robin is forced into action. He jumps at him and rains blows upon him, but they’re not very effective. The bad guy gets his mitts around Robin and lifts him over his head, but then Batman comes swooping in.

Seeing Batman seems to frighten the big guy, and he decides to turn tail and run. Robin tells Annie to stay put as he and Batman give chase. They wind up chasing him through a parking garage or something and into a tunnel. Batman enters from one side while Robin swings around and enters from the other. When the two meet up in the middle, there’s no sign of the big guy. Batman looks around, but the only way out he can find is a grate. Robin tries removing it, but it’s sealed shut. Without any additional clues they return to Annie, only to find out she’s gone too. As Robin wonders where she could have gone, Batman scrapes some mud off the ground that came off the guy’s shoe. He tells Robin they’re done here and that they’re going back. Robin gets angry, saying he doesn’t want to wait around while Batman looks at some mud. He defiantly shouts “No,” when told to return to the Batcave and Batman looks surprised. Robin then takes off to go after Annie and Batman doesn’t stop him.

Robin winds up in a part of town full of homeless folks. As he walks around he pauses to look at a family of four sleeping on the ground. He looks a bit sad, but it’s hard to tell given the mask and all. He eventually finds Annie, or maybe it’s better to say Annie finds him. She tells him he shouldn’t be trying to help her, but Robin insists he can handle the guy that’s after her and likens him to his own father. Annie seems touched by Robin’s sincerity, and even plants a kiss on his cheek. As the two stand there, she notices some lights in the sky. She says they look familiar to her, only the light she’s trying to recall was higher and atop a tower of some kind. Robin smiles and seems to know what she could be talking about and tells her to come with him.

annie kiss

Annie is a lot happier to see Robin this time.

Robin leads Annie to the coastal shore and points out a lighthouse. Annie does indeed recognize it and she gets a bit excited. As they explore the area she takes note of some pipes spilling who knows what into the ocean. They’re connected to a chemical plant, something Gotham has no shortage of, and she and Robin head inside.

At the Batcave, Batman is doing his thing and having his computer check out that mud. Alfred joins him to inquire about Tim, but Batman assures him he’s keeping an eye on the boy. Alfred then remarks that he still has a tracer in his utility belt and confirms to Batman that he does indeed treat Robin like a child. Batman makes a sour face at this revelation as the computer dings that it’s done analyzing the sample. For the third time in this series, Batman drops an “Oh my God,” on us when he gets the results. He explains only that he knows who the assailant is and that Robin is in danger. He jumps into the Batmobile and rockets away leaving Alfred to look on with worry.

In the underbelly of this assumed chemical plant, Robin and Annie are walking in near darkness. Robin is too distracted by the girl and fails to notice an opening in the floor. They both fall down a pipe even further down into the plant. They’re fine, but there’s now only way to go and that way is soon blocked by the big mean guy. He seems to be in a better mood at least, and remarks to Annie that he’s glad to see she came home. Robin is ready to attack as the man approaches, but then his body starts to shift and change revealing his true identity:  Clayface!

clayface revealed

There’s that face we all know and love!

Clayface (Ron Perlman) moves in on the boy and reaches for Annie, but Robin slaps his hand away. They run, and Clayface does his extending arm trick which curls into a steel fence blocking their escape forcing Robin to smash through it. They run deeper into the plant to get away from the monster and as they regroup Annie notices that some of the clay splattered on her when Robin chopped at Clayface. Her body starts to absorb it and she seems horrified at first, but then a knowing calm settles over her. She shows Robin, then explains to him what happened.

robin smash

Robin seems unimpressed by this clay guy.

After the events of “Mudslide” Clayface could barely hold himself together. As he drifted through the water he arrived at this plant, and specifically, those pipes. Whatever chemical it was they were dumping into the ocean had an affect on Clayface’s makeup and it helped him to pull himself back together. He crawled into the pipes, too weak to do much else. Not wanting to be kept in the dark, he created a scout with a piece of his body That scout is Annie, and she was to explore the area surrounding the plant and then return to Clayface, only once she left his side her memory vanished and became lost. There’s no attempt to put a timeframe on any of this so who knows how long this girl was wandering around.

Robin is confused, and he probably should be, but undaunted. Annie has a different perspective, and tells Robin that he shouldn’t protect her because she isn’t real. Robin insists otherwise. He tells her to run as Clayface closes in and she obeys. Robin can only keep him away so long though, and Clayface gets agitated with the diminutive hero. He had been telling him to get out of here, but now he’s mad and grabs ahold of him. With Clayface seemingly intending to kill him, Annie can’t let that happen and throws herself at Clayface. He drops Robin, but that’s because he has her now and she is soon absorbed back into her “father.”

goodbye annie

Goodbye, Annie.

Robin is enraged by this development and demands that Clayface bring her back. He tells him he can’t and she’s gone. Robin starts throwing batarangs in his direction. At first, they seem like mild annoyances, but Robin strikes some containers full of solvent. They start emptying their contents and Clayface seems to find the substance quite painful. It’s causing him to fall apart, and as he backs away Robin targets more of the tanks full of the stuff forcing Clayface down a catwalk and into a dead end. Batman arrives and tries to stop Robin as he’s going to kill Clayface. As the two grapple, Clayface tries to kill them himself with his old blade hand trick. He misses and the metal causes a spark which ignites this solvent that’s all over the place. Batman grabs Robin and uses a grapple gun to get out of the area as it goes up in one big explosion.

The police are now on scene and Clayface is shown being loaded onto a truck. He’s in a tank of some kind full of water or some other liquid and appears to be unconscious. As Robin looks on, Batman walks up and attempts to console him. He’s not very good at it, and basically can only muster up a line about there not always being a happy ending. Robin says nothing, but overhears a cop going over a list of charges with Gordon concerning Clayface. Robin adds “murder” to the list before turning his back on the scene and walking off sullenly. The camera pans up towards the sky as he does to rest on the light from the lighthouse streaking across the sky.

“Growing Pains” is an episode that is quite a bit of fun for longtime viewers of Batman. It reintroduces fan favorite Clayface, and even ties up the loose end of how he’s still alive following his appearance in “Mudslide.” I wish he had not appeared in “Holiday Knights,” but at least he now looks better. And that’s because this is another TMS episode. The famed Japanese studio handled Clayface’s original appearance, so it’s only fitting they do his true return for this series. He’s been redesigned somewhat with a more rocky appearance. He’s also a darker shade of brown and the shape of his head has been altered some. He looks pretty great though, and the effects of his shape-shifting powers are quite spectacular. While it’s not as amazing as “Feat of Clay Part II,” it’s still mighty impressive. It’s also nice to see the studio get to extend itself a bit with the Clayface character, as the previous TMS episode “Never Fear” didn’t really allow for the usual flourish one associates with the studio.

clayface blade

He may look a little different, but Clayface still has the same old tricks up his sleeve.

And it’s not just Clayface that looks great. Some extra care was definitely put into Robin during his fight with the villain at the end. He makes some expressions we’re not accustomed to seeing, and overall just looks really intense. This is the first episode to really sell the audience on what Robin is capable of. He’s definitely been the least heard from hero, and it’s nice to see that when given a bigger role the character ends up shining rather than being an annoyance.

The plot of the episode is more than a little bonkers. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, this one manages to keep the villain a secret for quite awhile. Ron Perlman voices him throughout the episode, and that’s basically the sole clue for much of the episode. I think most viewers probably at least figured it out when Batman started scraping mud, but it was still handled well. I have no idea what to make of Clayface suddenly being able to create life. It’s a pretty wacky power, but it does at least lend itself well to creating some drama here. I felt pretty bad for Robin in the end, but Annie took the news pretty well. Maybe she could have reacted differently and played up the sympathy angle, but it was interesting in its own way to see Annie just sort of accept the reality of her existence.

robin sad

There’s more Robin in this one than we’re used to, but it’s actually a good thing here.

The other underlying plot device is Batman’s treatment of Robin. The whole “He treats me like a kid,” thing is way overplayed in cartoons, so I don’t really find it very interesting. I’m also not sure if I should expect there to be some payoff of this down the road, and I don’t remember if there is. I suppose I could look ahead, but I’d rather take advantage of my faulty memory and hope to be surprised. My thought is there isn’t a payoff though, so there may be no surprise to come.

As for Clayface, I’m afraid this is goodbye. If you wanted to know more about where this life-creating power came from you’ll just have to look elsewhere I suppose. Clayface will stay gone this time, presumably imprisoned somewhere. He was one of the show’s best villains and certainly the character benefited from the show as prior to it I had never heard of Clayface. His debut episode was the first episode of this show I happened to see, so there is a touch of nostalgic affection on my part for the character. Even without that though I’m pretty sure he’d still be one of my favorites. It would have been fun to see him again, but TMS probably doesn’t come cheap and I don’t ever want to see the character done cheap again like he was in “Holiday Knights.” Clayface, you will be missed.


NECA San Diego Comic Con The Capture of Splinter Action Figure Set (TMNT)

 

img_4504.jpgOver the years, various toy companies have given their take on the venerable Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And no company has done that more often than Playmates, holders of the master toy license from back in the late 1980s when the property made the leap from print to world-wide phenomenon. I have no idea how many iterations of Leonardo or Raphael that company has made over the years, but it wouldn’t shock me if the number is over 100. For whatever reason though, when it came to the biggest foe the Turtles faced Playmates often came up short.

The Shredder was the villain in the debut comic and naturally he was chosen as the main villain for the cartoon series. As a result, he was one of the four villains in the debuting toy line. That Shredder left something to be desired. Few of those toys resembled the cartoon, but Shredder was particularly off. He had a blue helmet with a purple mask that appeared to reference a cloth material in the sculpt. He had his various spiked pads and a piece of purple cloth that served more like a gi than an a cape (most of my friends ditched the belt and opted to display him as a shirtless, caped, villain). Worst of all, he had this weird crouching pose that made him so hard to stand. It used to drive five-year-old me crazy that I couldn’t get him to stand or get him to properly wield a sword or something.

The toy was bad, but surely a better one would follow. Right? Eh, not really. There was a Super Shredder toy that became my favorite Shredder toy, though he was comically out of scale when compared with the other figures. He also wasn’t exactly like the Shredder I wanted. There was a wacky-action Shredder and a Toon Shredder, who was just a cartoon-accurate repaint of the original figure. Arguably, a good Playmates Shredder didn’t arrive until the 2003 cartoon series, long past the point at which I cared about the old cartoon.

 

When Playmates decided to make figures based on the film version of the Turtles, it oddly chose to essentially skip the first film. Maybe the company was unsure of how successful the pivot to live-action would be, but there were no movie tie-in toys for that film, which is really surprising in retrospect. The sequel came quick though just a year later and for that Playmates did make figures. Shredder looks pretty neat in the first film, and while he was changed for the second, it wasn’t a drastic change. Basically, he wore purple instead of red and the edges of his helmet were now serrated like a sawblade. Playmates opted against doing a figure though and instead just made a Super Shredder. Opportunity wasted.

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I need more shelf space.

It took almost 30 years, but NECA has delivered where Playmates failed. Earlier this year, the company released a quarter-scale version of Shredder from the first movie. I want it, and it looks awesome, but I made the painful decision to take a pass. I was partly able to do so because I knew this set was on the way. For San Diego Comic Con, NECA delivered another set of action figures based on the 1990 film. Last year it was the Turtles, and this year it’s Shredder, Splinter, and a pair of Foot Ninja.

I’ve had really good luck with these NECA exclusives over the past couple of years, but I had to sweat this one out a bit. I landed my set on the last day of the presale, having failed the days prior. It arrived just at the end of July as it was shipped after San Diego Comic Con and I’m happy to finally have it in my possession. The box will probably strike people as being understated compared with the past two convention exclusives. Last year’s Turtles set came in a box resembling the original VHS of the film. This one settled for a simple black with the Foot bandana wrapping around it. The inner box has some photos of the set, as well as the actual figures in a window display. It’s a nice piece, it just happens to follow two spectacular looking ones between last year’s VHS box and the prior year’s Archie action figure collector case inspired look.

 

We’ll get to the big guy eventually, but lets not forget that before Shredder there was the Foot Ninja. NECA did a quarter-scale version of this character as well and released it early this year. Unlike Shredder, the Foot Ninja has a Playmates counterpart which was actually one of the better figures Playmates did during that era, save for the fact that he was made green for some reason. A quarter-scale version of this figure was a bold move, and hopefully one that has worked out financially for NECA as he’s what we would call an army-builder in the collector community. You can’t have just one, but at that size and price point few can justify acquiring more than one. In a seven inch scale though, the figure works just fine.

img_4514Just like the Turtles from last year, the Foot Ninja appears to be an almost exact scaled-down version of the larger figure. He looks great, and best of all there’s two! The texture of the costume is so realistic looking that I feel like I’m looking at a still from the film. There’s numerous weapons from the film and even a weapon rack to stack them on. Want to re-enact the nunchaku face-off with Mikey? You can. Maybe you just want to see them smash the floor of April’s apartment with those giant axes? Go for it. The only thing limiting you is your imagination. This figure is expected to get a single card release down the road at retail (Gamestop exclusive) and I imagine there will be lots of people interested in acquiring more and more Foot to pose with their heroes.

img_4515The Foot Ninja is dressed all in black and sculpted with a soft, plastic, material in many places. This helps make him have a really excellent range of motion even with those funny shaped shoulders and such on account of his costume. He’s all plastic, save for a strip of cloth around his waist just above his sculpted belt. At first, I didn’t understand why NECA would include that until I realized it functions as a great way to store weapons on him. And he has a lot of weapons. There are two nunchaku, one with a plastic strap similar to Mikey, and one with a chain linking the two handles. He’s also got a katana, a baton, and the aforementioned axe, plus a pair of sai and a bo staff for good measure. I do not recall any of the Foot wielding sai in the film, but I’m happy to have the extra weapons. The longer weapons can be stored on that included weapon rack, and the smaller ones in the fabric strip on the belt. He also has a pair of gripping hands and a pair of open palms. I have no complaints about this figure, but one obvious shortcoming is in the hand selections. The two Foot by default have punching hands which means they have to share the other two sets. Really, the default hands should have been gripping hands with the pair sharing the fists. If you want one of the ninja to hold a pair of sai, or nunchuks, or even the staff with two hands then that means the other one gets to hold nothing. They also share an extra knot for their bandana, but that doesn’t bother me.

 

Splinter is the lone all-new sculpt in this set. There is no accompanying quarter-scale version and as far as I know there is no planned one. 2020 will mark the film’s 30th anniversary and NECA will surely celebrate that in some fashion, so maybe a quarter-scale Splinter could be a part of that. Anyway, this is a depiction of Splinter from when he was captured by the Foot in the first film. He looks a little worse for ware, and even comes with shackles for you to hang him with. A separate to purchase diorama of that area he was held prisoner would have really made this set perfect, but beggar’s can’t be choosers. Splinter looks solid, with cloth accents used for his rags. He’s done-up all in plastic, in case you expected NECA to do something else with the fur. Because of that, he doesn’t look as picture-perfect as the other figures, but this is still a near spot-on likeness of the character. This battle-damaged version of the character is expected to remain exclusive to this set, so if you want your Splinter tenderized you’ll have to track one of these things down. Otherwise, a standard version is expected to be made available at some point in the future. Presumably his robe will be cleaner (though the guy lives in a sewer so it can’t be too clean) and maybe he’ll have a brighter paint deco. This one is fairly dark, and I do wish some red was added to his fur to warm him up a bit (since he was often under a harsh light in the film). Maybe he’ll also gain some swappable hands as this one just comes with shackles, which can be removed if you wish, but I’m a big baby so I haven’t tried.

 

As mentioned above, Splinter is light on accessories with the shackles being the main feature. They clip around his bicep area and are joined by a chain. He also has a crate to stand on that’s just a printed piece of cardstock. Plastic would have been better, but the figure appears to stand on it just fine without putting much force on it so I don’t think durability will be a major issue. His cloth robe looks great and even has a nice feel to it, almost grimy. There’s a fabric belt around it that’s really long. It kind of stands out too much and I’m tempted to remove it, though I probably won’t as I don’t really mess with the integrity of my toys. That robe hides a surprising amount of articulation as well, so if you want to remove the shackles and go nuts you can. My Splinter’s arms want to stay in that hanging position and I’m reluctant to force them, but I’m pretty sure they can be positioned more naturally (I might just need to remove the shackles). It’s a bit of a shame he can’t hold the nunchaku convincingly, but I’ll probably just display him in chains so it’s not really an issue for me. I don’t have a nice chain-link fence to hang him from, but that weapon rack seems to function as a decent stand-in.

Which brings us to the main event, Shredder himself. This is the figure I have wanted since I was a kid first seeing these characters I loved so much on the big screen. Even more so than the Foot Ninja, he looks like he was ripped from the screen. His magenta outfit has that slight sparkle to it and the helmet looks like it’s actually made out of metal. The faceguard pops off to reveal the scarred visage of Oroku Saki underneath and it’s a quite satisfying and fun accessory to play with. He comes with various extra hands and weapons, including his hidden dagger he tries to take out Splinter with. His weird, shiny, zebra-print, cape is also here and it’s a heavy cloth material that convincingly drapes over the character. It looks great and it really causes a dilemma as to how to pose him on a shelf since he rarely sported that look in the film. I’ve opted for the no-cape look for now, but I might change in my mind in a month or so when I get sick of looking at the current pose I have going on.

 

The body of Shredder appears to be the same as the Foot Ninja. I suppose that’s a bad thing if you wanted your Shredder to be taller than his minions, but otherwise it’s fine as the body sculpt looks excellent. There’s a lot of softer sections of plastic making posing free and easy. His extra parts are also snug against his limbs, but can be manipulated if necessary. Mine needed some adjusting out of the box and at no point did I fear breaking anything. Like the Foot Ninja, he has a strip of fabric across his waist for storing a weapon or two, an obvious necessity for Shredder given the events of the film. He also has his long spear weapon to combat his foes with. He has additional hands as well including a pair of gripping hands and two open palm hands. The material his helmet is made of is soft plastic so getting the faceguard on and off is pretty simple. His face looks amazing and it’s almost a shame to keep it hidden under that faceguard, but he just looks so cool with it on!

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Hang there, until you die!

That’s not to say that Shredder is perfect. He’s almost perfect, but there’s one shortcoming with him and it resides with that helmet. It looks awesome in promotional images, and the texture of it is also well-sculpted, but that soft plastic which makes it easy to slide the faceguard off and on can also bend. Most of the images I’ve seen from consumers all tend to have an issue where the left side (Shredder’s left) curls into the figure or bubbles out. I’ve tried messing with it a bit, and I don’t know if hot water or a hair dryer would help or hurt (the heat might make it curl more). It’s not something I feel like I need to contact NECA over, but it does bother me a bit. Since removing him from the packaging and messing around with him it has improved, so it may settle into the right position eventually. The only other nit I can think to pick with these figures is that the Foot and Shredder don’t have the necessary amount of movement in the shoulders to hold the axes over their head in a swinging motion. That’s minor though, and really the only solution would be additional joints in the front of the shoulders which would harm the aesthetics of the figure. Given the choice between the two, I think NECA got it right.

img_4517

Maybe all that hardware’s for making coleslaw?

Overall, this is a really satisfying set that should please Turtle fans out there. If you happened to get one of these and you’re not satisfied with it, I’ll just add that NECA has some of the best customer support you’ll find. I haven’t had to do it, but I’ve encountered people who felt there was a problem with a part of their figure and NECA either replaced the part or the entire figure at no charge, often with no questions asks. It might take a few weeks, but they always deliver and stand by their product. The only real fault I can find with this set is the lack of extra gripping hands for the Foot Ninja, but if I’m really bothered by that I could always try and buy more Foot Ninja when they hit retail. Otherwise, the rest is just nitpicking here and there. At the end of the day, these are some really finely sculpted action figures and it’s hard to imagine anyone being able to top what NECA has done here.

 

The only other major shortcoming many people might add is that this sucker is a convention exclusive and thus, if you don’t have it, you can’t get it unless you’re willing to pay a scalper. The good news is that there’s a high likelihood of these figures all hitting Gamestop either by the end of the year or early next year. NECA all but confirmed that and if I had to guess the only exclusives with this particular set might be the weapon rack and shackles on Splinter and possibly some of the weapons the Foot get to play with. The single-carded Foot Ninja will likely have a full assortment of hands and the extra bandana knot and I’d be surprised if Shredder was changed at all. So if you missed out and you’re real upset about it, just be patient and keep your eyes open as these guys will sell fast once they’re made available. Earlier this year, Gamestop had issues fulfilling all of the pre-orders online for the Turtles so a pro-tip for you is if you have a local Gamestop preorder in store. Everyone I know that did so got their set and it was only the online orders that were cancelled. I don’t go into Gamestop too often, but every time I have I’ve taken a peek to see if they have the Turtles and I’ve never seen them so they’re still selling extremely well.

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Now I will finish what I began with your ear!

As for the future of this line, expect more! Nothing is certain, but Randy Falk at NECA was quick to remind folks during his interview with Pixel Dan that next year marks the 30th anniversary of the first TMNT film. Expect something from the company to mark the occasion. As for what that could be, your guess is as good as mine. NECA also confirmed it will make figures based on the sequel, The Secret of the Ooze. Whether or not those include quarter scale versions is unknown, but I think it’s safe to say if you’re a fan of two prominent adversaries from that picture then you’ll probably be happy, eventually. And of course, NECA is continuing its line of TMNT with cartoon themed figures in two-packs at Target (Bebop and Rocksteady should be showing up this fall) and also video game themed figures at specialty shops. Expect Turtles in Time themed toys, including Slash, to start showing up at those places this fall. Right now may be the best time ever to be a TMNT fan, so start saving!


Russi Taylor

 

Russi TaylorEven though they made their debut together, Minnie Mouse has rarely been celebrated as much as Mickey. Last year marked Mickey’s 90th birthday, a tremendous achievement, but seldom was it mentioned that his beloved Minnie was also celebrating a birthday too. Such has been the case with Minnie as she started off as a fixture of Mickey Mouse shorts, but slowly saw her star fade. When Mickey and the gang made their big return to the world of cinema with Mickey’s Christmas Carol in 1983, Minnie was there as always at his side. Unfortunately, she was the only one of the classic characters who appeared in that film to not have a single line or word of dialogue. She was practically invisible.

That changed in 1986 with the hire of Russi Taylor as the voice of Minnie Mouse. Taylor was already known to the world of Disney as the voices of Huey, Duey, Louie, and Webby on DuckTales. Taylor likely voiced Minnie for theme park segments and attractions initially, as the world would be properly introduced to her version of Minnie via Who Framed Roger Rabbit? in 1988 as well as the NBC television special Totally Minnie that same year. Taylor’s high-voiced, but sweet tempered, version of Minnie was an instant success, a perfect fit for the venerable mouse. And she held onto that role for the rest of her days, voicing Minnie on the small and big screen in hundreds of features.

totally minnie

Totally Minnie was essentially a reboot for the character.

Because of her contribution to the company and her role as the voice of Minnie Mouse, Russi Taylor was recognized as a Disney Legend in 2008. Also receiving that same honor that day was her husband, the late Wayne Allwine who had been the official voice of Mickey Mouse for decades. It was a tale too perfectly sweet for this world as the voices of Mickey and Minnie found happiness and love in each other’s arms.

I had never met Russi Taylor or had an interaction with her, but based on what I’ve seen in interviews over the years I get the impression she was a very humble woman. She would insist that Minnie is the star and she was just there to give her a voice. I must respectfully disagree for Minnie would not be the character she is today without Miss Taylor’s contribution. Her Minnie is wonderfully versatile. She can be the sweet-natured mentor to children everywhere via The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse as well as a songstress. She demonstrated more recently her knack for comedic timing with her more manic and bubbly version of the character for the present line of Mickey Mouse shorts. In those cartoons, Minnie has finally become her own character capable of being funny and entertaining without playing off another character. Her star rivals that of her famous partner and others – she’s that good! If you’ve been sleeping on those wonderful cartoons then you owe it to yourself to check them out.

martin pool

The role of Martin Prince may be retired following Taylor’s passing which has been the custom for The Simpsons.

Beyond Minnie Mouse, Taylor had many contributions to the world of voice acting. She was in-demand if you needed someone who could pull-off a convincing child or needed to provide words to a kind-hearted woman. Her most famous non-Disney role (well, until recently) is likely that of Martin Prince on The Simpsons. Martin was often called on during the show’s golden years to provide a laugh, often at the character’s suspense, and Taylor always delivered. She was also the voice of twins Sherri and Terri on the same show, a smaller role, but one still often proving to be very funny.

the disney fab four

People my age have grown up with these individuals serving as the voices for the iconic Disney characters. Left to right:  Tony Anselmo (Donald Duck), Wayne Allwine (Mickey), Bill Farmer (Goofy), and Russi Taylor (Minnie).

Russi Taylor has been a presence in the media I consume for basically my whole life. I’ve never really known another Minnie Mouse, and the same is obviously true of my kids. I have a daughter who will be turning 3 in the fall and Minnie Mouse is her world. She often requests, no demands, to wear a Minnie dress daily. When we took her and my son to Disney World for the first time this past winter, she was playfully shy with all of the characters she met, basically sticking close to mom or dad and waving from a distance. All except Minnie, of course. She ran to Minnie and gave her a big hug. I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to get her out of there. It was a heart-warming moment, and I have to believe part of my daughter’s love for Minnie can be credited to the performance of Russi Taylor.

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My own little princess would be devastated if she knew that Minnie Mouse had passed away.

Russi Taylor passed away this past Friday at the age of 75. I don’t know how the news was received by those who knew her in life, but for fans it came as a shock. Images of this happy, smiling, woman flooded my mind when I heard the news, then came the images of all of the voices she provided. Her legacy is incredible, and my condolences go out to her friends, family, and colleagues who must all be hurting right now. Many of them have expressed some wonderful sentiments all across social media and through entertainment channels. I encourage you to seek them out. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that Russi Taylor was the best Minnie Mouse yet. I mean that as no disrespect to the women (and man, as Walt himself once voiced her) who came before her. Someone out there is about to land the role of a lifetime, and they’ll have some big shoes to fill.

There are likely more cartoons to come featuring Taylor, as well as episodes of The Simpsons. A new attraction will be opening at Disney World’s Hollywood Studios soon, a ride featuring Mickey and Minnie which is something that is long overdue. Her voice will be featured there likely for many years to come. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the ride ends up being dedicated to her and will hopefully serve as one of many enduring tributes. The last Mickey cartoon released before her passing, Carried Away, also strikes me as a fitting farewell. It features Russi Taylor’s singing as Minnie, something the writers of these shorts seem quite fond of because she does it so well. It contains a great twist of an ending that encapsulates the modern spirit of Minnie Mouse so see if you can watch it without having a tear come to your eye. I know I can’t.
wayne and russi