Tag Archives: bill kopp

Dec. 22 – Eek! The Cat – It’s a Wonderful Nine Lives

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Original air date December 19, 1992

For the second year in a row we are returning to Eek! The Cat, a Fox Kids property that’s probably not remembered by many. At least I never encounter anybody who has anything to say about Eek! The Cat, be it positive or negative. My lack of foresight means we’re working backwards in relation to last year’s post as this episode comes from season one and it’s the first Christmas special the show made.

If you’re unfamiliar with Eek, he’s basically a good-natured character that is always able to look on the bright side. He always tries to do the right thing and is unfailing in his optimism, and since this show existed during the very cynical 90s, it means misfortune befalls Eek at every turn. This is one of those loud cartoons where characters often scream as a result of intense pain being inflicted upon them. For the sake of voice actor Bill Kopp I hope they were able to re-use his screams as Eek for several episodes rather than force him to repeat them. Eek is otherwise a house cat, and his family largely doesn’t seem to care about him. He has a girlfriend named Annabelle who has a pet shark-dog that hates him, even though he tries to befriend the dog whenever he can. It’s a world where animals are able to communicate with humans when needed, though they still remain subservient to them.

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Eek! The Cat had a solid run of 76 episodes on Fox Kids from 1992-1997

“It’s a Wonderful Nine Lives” sounds like it’s going to be a parody of a rather famous Christmas movie, but I’m happy to report it’s not. Instead it’s a story about Eek coming across a gift intended for an orphan named Joey and his quest to make sure it reaches him for Christmas. Along the way he’ll meet some new faces and also lots, and lots, of misfortune.

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The subject of today’s episode, a little green gift bound for Little Orphan Joey.

The episode opens with a narrator. This show is terrible with its credits, so I don’t know who is voicing this narrator as they just list a principal cast at the end of each show. Needless to say, he introduces the story with a few call backs to other classic Christmas tales. The camera then settles on Eek looking up at the sky from inside his home as he sees Santa come speeding by. He has seven reindeer, including Rudolph, which is a Christmas tragedy. He has to swerve to avoid a 747, and as he does so a present falls from his sleigh to land in Eek’s front lawn.

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Eek has a neurotic appearance, but he’s actually a constant optimist who just happens to get hurt a lot.

So far, the narration and dialogue from Eek is following a rhyming scheme. Note to television producers, if you want to make sure your Christmas special is considered annoying and not re-watchable, have everyone speak in rhyme. Eek retrieves the gift, and seeing it’s bound for an orphan named Joey in Dudd City, he sadly imagines the poor lad waking up on Christmas morning to find Santa passed him over. This breaks Eek’s heart and he vows to make sure this present gets to Joey. He tries to go back inside the house first, but finds the window and door locked. When he tries to climb through an open window, Mom (Elinor Donahue) doesn’t notice him because she’s engrossed in some language learning tape and shuts the window on his fingers. At ground level, children Wendy Elizabeth (Elizabeth Daily) and J.B. (Charlie Adler) can’t pull themselves away from the television to notice Eek’s plight.

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Eek winds up on an out-of-control sleigh to get his journey started.

Eek is forced to set off on his own, and immediately he somehow winds up on a sleigh speeding through the snowy streets. He’s going to collide with skiers and attract the attention of a polar bear and even encounter a penguin on a ski jump. It’s an elongated scene meant to soak up time and allow Eek plenty of opportunities to scream. He loses the present for a bit, but it finds him when his sleigh comes to a stop eventually.

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Poor kitty.

Once that business is done, Eek dawns a festive Christmas outfit that’s very Dickens in its style. He boards a train traveling through, but not in a conventional sense and actually ends up on top of the train. The present gets jostled and comes to rest over a box car that is full of shark-infested waters. Why would a train be carrying such cargo? I don’t know – it’s a cartoon, dummy! Eek is forced to tightrope across the opening and, of course, he falls in, but actually jumps out rather unscathed. He retrieves the gift, only to be clothes-lined by a water tower. He winds up on the roof of a traveling truck and wonders where he is. He needs to find Dudd City, which he promptly smashes into a sign for. Unconscious, he slides off the sign to land in the back of a farmer’s pickup on a soft bed of hay.

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Oslo Piggy, who’s plight is far worse than Joey’s.

Eek wakes up in the same truck in a barn, and he overhears a pig playing a sad song on his harmonica. The pig is named Oslo (I think), and he’s pretty bummed that he’s on the menu for Christmas the next day. Eek decides to help him out by fetching the key to the shackles that bind him, but before they can leave the barn they’re met by the farmer himself (Brad Garret, who sounds like he’s doing a Rodney Dangerfield impression) who is brandishing a double-barreled shotgun. He’s not about to let Eek leave with his pig, but Eek takes notice of the farmers torn shoes and offers to trade his boots for the pig. The farmer tries on Eek’s red boots and finds them to his liking, but rather than let Eek leave with the pig, he decides he’d rather have ham the next day and a cat to make a new hat out of. The duo are forced to flee, and Eek pulls on a rope that opens a compartment in the ceiling for hay to fall from and crush the farmer, a rare act of (justified) violence on the part of our protagonist.

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I’m a bit down on the visuals in this show, but that’s a nice looking scream.

Free from the farmer, Eek and Oslo are walking alone on a long, empty, road. Oslo is thankful for Eek’s help and seems interested in Eek’s mission to make sure this gift gets to Joey. Oslo is concerned though that they won’t be able to find this Joey, but Eek assures him that if they have faith, and wish upon the Christmas star, they’re sure to find their way. Oslo alerts Eek that it isn’t a star he’s wishing upon, but the headlights from a truck! It’s the farmer, and he runs the two off the road. Eek comes to land on a block of ice in a fast-moving river. The present for Joey is floating in the same river, and Oslo jumps in to grab it. Eek winds up on the precipice of a waterfall, basically a repeat of a gag with the sleigh on a cliff from earlier, and Oslo and the gift smack into him knocking them over. Eek is able to grab onto a branch, but Oslo ends up in the water below. Wishing him well and a merry Christmas, Oslo tosses Eek the present as he goes over another waterfall. Eek catches it, but in doing so he releases his hold on the branch and ends up in the water too. He’s still rather upbeat, even though Oslo might be dead, as he gets sucked into a pipe and sent through the stinky sewers to arrive in (presumably) Dudd City.

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Worth pointing out that The Simpsons and Eek did share a network.

Once Eek emerges from the sewers, he encounters a mother dachshund who bares a strong, stylistic, resemblance to Santa’s Little Helper from The Simpsons. She has three puppies and a problem. She was supposed to spend Christmas with her sister but lost the address. Now she and her pups are out in the cold. Eek gives them his top-hat and scarf to sleep in, which is more than adequate. He wishes them well then resumes his search for Joey.

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This is where we say good bye to that jerk-ass farmer.

Now naked, Eek seeks out what everyone in the 90s would seek when lost – a phone booth! And lo and behold, Little Oprhan Joey is listed and Eek is overjoyed to finally have an address. When he turns to leave though he’s met by the farmer, who now without a pig because of Eek decides to take the gift instead. He chases him around, and arms himself with a swordfish (they’re on a dock). Things look bad for Eek, as Santa-hat wearing sharks roam the waters below. As the farmer closes in, he’s felled by some garbage and a banana peel. It’s Oslo! And he’s on a garbage barge eating and enjoying being a filthy pig. The farmer winds up in the water, where the sharks apparently gobble him up.

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Are cartoons still doing the rabies gag in 2018?

With that out of the way, Oslo and Eek bid each other farewell at a bus station. Only Oslo is riding in the back of a garbage truck. While Eek waves goodbye, the present goes missing. A line of people waiting for a bus all have gifts that look identical to Joey’s. Eek starts frantically searching each one which attracts the attention of a guard who kicks him out. He is sent flying into a root beer bar and collides with a woman, leaving root beer foam all over his face. She screams “Rabies!” and within seconds Eek is on the streets and fliers depicting his foam covered face are all over the city and the hunt is on. Eek is forced to take shelter in a dumpster where he sadly hopes for a Christmas miracle that gets that gift to little Joey before falling asleep.

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So that’s Little Joey.

Eek is woken when a garbage truck dumps a bunch of garbage on him (isn’t it supposed to work the other way around?) which just so happens to contain the present for Joey! Eek is delighted to be reunited with the package as he sets out for the Our Lady of Really Really Dumped On Children Orphanage. He gets hit by a few cars along the way, but he finds it. It’s Christmas morning though, so he has to be quick. He finds that inside the children have not awoken to find their gifts yet so he sneaks in. He gets caught in the window, and he’ll get squished by a door too, but he succeeds in placing the gift under the tree. He sees all of the children come running in and out like a tornado. One child is left, who looks just like how Eek imagined Joey earlier. Only, it’s not Joey and he calls for the real Joey to come get his gift. Enter Joey (Cam Clarke), who’s not a little orphan boy at all but a rat. He’s in clothes and stuff, so it’s kind of weird how he fits in socially, but whatever. The present ended up containing his family, so he’s not an orphan at all!

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And that’s what was in the present. They’re certainly a colorful looking bunch.

Eek is happy to have brought Christmas joy to Joey. As he readies to leave he runs into the big man himself – Santa Claus! Santa thanks Eek for delivering that gift for him. Now that Eek’s job is done, he succumbs to the trials of his long, long night and falls asleep in Santa’s arms. He then wakes up back at home, and assumes it was all a dream. He mistakenly moves over to the door to the livingroom and the kids Wendy Elizabeth and J.B. slam the door on him (really Eek, avoid doors) as they attack their tree and leave it barren and beaten. Having retrieved their gifts, they head for the TV while Eek notices a gift underneath the tree addressed to him. It has a letter from Santa affixed to it which thanks him once again for his efforts the prior night. Inside the box is another note which orders him to “open the door.” When he does he’s greeted by all of his friends, including Oslo, who are there to wish him a merry Christmas. Eek got what he wanted for Christmas as well, a Christmas with friends and family – how swell!

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We have to give Santa a little screen time.

So that’s Eek! The Cat’s “It’s a Wonderful Nine Live” Christmas episode. The title is certainly misleading, but I suppose Eek went through most of his nine lives during his harrowing night. The rhyming in the episode is certainly annoying, but at least Eek is so likeable it makes it hard to get mad at him or the show. More annoying is the script’s over-reliance on Eek’s catch phrase “Kumbaya!” which I could do without ever hearing again. In comparison with the other Christmas episode from this series, I feel like this one is a lot uglier. There’s not a lot of detail to the characters and everything looks really cheap. The reveal of Joey I suppose is supposed to be both surprising and funny, but I was mostly indifferent. The voice acting is good though, and the show has a real rock and guitar driven soundtrack which is probably its signature distinction when measured with its peers.

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Eek did a good thing and wound up having a merry Christmas. Mission accomplished?

Is this a good Christmas special? Eh. I suppose if you have fond memories of Eek! The Cat then you’ll probably enjoy revisiting it. I was never a regular viewer of the show, though I must be less cynical with old age as I don’t find the character as annoying as I did when I was younger. The show is not available really anywhere and it absolutely will not be shown on television this holiday season. If you want to give this one a look yourself, it’s easy to find on YouTube and elsewhere since no one seems to care about old Eek the Cat.

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Dec. 8 – It’s A Very Merry Eek’s Mas

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I apologize, but there are not many high quality images on the internet of this one, so we’re making do with what we got.

For a pretty sizable chunk of the 90s, the Fox network really dominated the Saturday morning cartoon landscape. A network, at the time, more synonymous with “filth” somehow managed to corral the kid demographic away from the more wholesome ABC and CBS. Fox was largely able to do this by partnering with some big players:  Steven Spielberg, Warner Bros, Saban, and Marvel – all before a lot of them would go off and do their own thing such as Warner launching its own network. It was also rather impressive that Fox had a ton of original programming and it wasn’t relying on old standbys to fill air. Some of the shows it launched are still pretty beloved:  Tiny Toons, Animaniancs, Batman, X-Men, The Tick. Sure, not all of those shows debuted during the Saturday morning block, but they often ended up there and helped make way for more shows.

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Eek and his beloved Annabelle, who is voiced by Tawny Kitaen, of all people.

One show that probably isn’t remembered all that fondly is Eek the Cat. It’s not that Eek was a bad show by any means, it just kind of got lost in the shuffle of many hyper-active 90s cartoons. It was also usually one of the earlier shows in the block when some kids were just getting out of bed, and its star had no pedigree. Eek was a round purple cat who is pretty dim but has a heart of gold. He wants to help those in need, but often gets the short end of the stick leading to numerous instances of pain and misery. His girlfriend, Annabelle, is an obese pink cat that towers over him. She has a pet dog, the appropriately named Sharky, who hates Eek and bites him whenever he gets the chance. Eek’s existence is in many ways miserable, but he always finds the bright side which makes him a pretty likable cat.

Christmas is a holiday that should suit a fellow like Eek pretty well. He adores Christmas, as we would expect him to, and at the opening of his own Christmas special we find him carrying a stack of gifts as he remarks to himself how much he enjoys the holiday. He narrowly avoids mayhem as he works his way through the crowded, snowy streets and puts his gifts down to make a donation to charity. In doing so, his stack of gifts is gobbled up by a street sweeper, and we’re under way!

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Santa’s reindeer, lead by Blitzen (Bobcat Goldthwait) are on strike despite only working one day per year.

We’re soon taken to the North Pole. Santa’s reindeer are striking, despite Santa pointing out that they only work one night a year. Santa, voiced by William Shatner surprisingly competently, is distressed and voices his concerns to his reindeer assistant, Elmo. Soon his helpers go on strike, and even Mrs. Claus has left him. Who will save Christmas?!

Eek visits his beloved Annabelle and is surprised when Sharky doesn’t devour him. Annabelle is worried about Sharky, and the two enter his dog house which is typical looking from the outside, but inside it’s basically a mansion (I always loved similar gags in cartoons for some reason). Sharky is depressed and we find out it’s because he misses his family, who he hasn’t seen since he was a little pup. Eek, even though Sharky has never treated him well, resolves to help Sharky find his family for Christmas.

Due to a mishap with a discarded banana peel, Santa finds himself laid up in bed just two days before Christmas. He’s despondent, but Elmo the brown-nosed reindeer volunteers to head out into society to make people aware of Santa’s predicament and get help. Meanwhile, Eek and Sharky set out to find Sharky’s family with Eek deciding they need to consult a wise, all-knowing individual. Sharky, through guttural noises that Eek can understand, suggests Rush Limbaugh (apparently Sharky is a hardcore conservative) while Eek corrects him and suggests Santa Claus. They seek out all of the street corner Santas to no luck. While this is ongoing, Elmo appears on a call-in show to ask the public for Santa’s help. When no one calls, he’s booted out and happens to collide with Eek and Sharky in an alley outside the studio. They both reveal to one another how they need help, and they decide to set-off for the North Pole together. They have to take a commercial airline, since reindeer can only fly on Christmas Eve, and Elmo happily enjoys an issue of Play Doe while they ride.

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Not much is going to get this purple cat down.

When they arrive at Santa’s house, they find Santa is in a pretty low place. He’s depressed and even asks Eek to call him Mud at first. He has no help, the toys aren’t finished, and he can’t deliver them even if they were due to a broken leg. Eek, in an attempt to cheer him up, teases a song that Elmo and Sharky are eager to assist with, but Eek has to inform them he only prepared a speech. Santa finds his words nice and all, but they don’t change the reality of this grim situation. Eek volunteers to finish the toys and make the deliveries and a short montage takes place of Eek assembling numerous toys and piling them onto the sleigh. Elmo informs him they have no way of getting that sleigh into the air, and Eek tells him some stuff about bumble bees with his usual dose of optimism. We cut to Eek freezing in the snow, his optimism gone, as he realizes there’s no way he can get that sleigh to fly. They need to consult some serious minds if they want to pull this off.

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Santa is in need of some cheering up.

The Barbi Twins are those minds, and they end up being really smart because if they weren’t then the joke wouldn’t work. If you don’t remember or never knew who the Barbi Twins were, they were a pair of identical twins who were pin-up models in the early 90s. They were popular enough that their appearances in Playboy broke sales records. The twins devise a rocket, and the boys are eager to try it out. Their first flight only succeeds in destroying Santa’s house, but the second is more successful. In between launches, Santa is somehow able to rebuild his entire house. He can construct a home just fine in his condition but can’t fly around in a sleigh. The second rocket may be successful, but it also takes out Santa’s house. Poor guy can’t catch a break.

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The Barbi Twins are ready to help. Who knew they possessed such knowledge?

While flying around the world, Eek notices the island of shark dogs on Santa’s map and deduces that this must be where Sharky is from. Before they can check it out, he overhears a small voice calling for help and he steers the rocket-sleigh down to investigate. There they find a young girl who’s lost her bunny. Sharky is plenty eager to track a rabbit, and he and Eek are able to find him rather effortlessly. While doing this, the rocket-sleigh starts to slide and Elmo is unable to get it under control. It plunges off a cliff but Elmo is able to grab a tail fin and prevent it from falling to the ground. Somehow he’s able to hold the impossibly large rocket until Eek and Sharky show up to help. A Grinch parody takes over as Sharky’s heart grows three sizes and he’s able to lift the rocket high over his head. When Eek points out that this is the wrong Christmas special for that, Sharky’s strength vanishes and the lot of them fall with the rocket smashing as they hit the ground.

With the rocket destroyed, they have no alternative but to pull the sleigh themselves. Eek is able to make it budge about six inches, which is all the motivation Elmo and Sharky need to lend a hand. They start dragging the sleigh and delivering gifts montage style as news crews from around the world flock to take up the story. The coverage centers on how these three brave souls are willing to do what it takes to save Christmas, while no one else will as the camera pans to reveal hundreds, if not thousands, of people just watching the trio freeze and struggle to pull the sleigh. The montage ends and we find out they still have tens of thousands of houses to get to, so it wasn’t as effective as a montage typically is. Just then, the little girl who lost her bunny, Dolores, returns with some friends to help them. Better yet, her giant of a brother is with her and they all help pull the sleigh. This attracts more kids, then Santa’s elves, and finally even the reindeer pull themselves away from their new gig as wall ornaments to finally pitch in.

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Elmo and Sharky, even with all that’s going on, still find time for some TV shopping.

With things now running smoothly, there’s only one gift left which is to reunite Sharky with his family. Elmo gets them right on trajectory to Sharky’s home, and the reindeer then depart. As the sleigh speeds through the air it attracts a military plane which is advised to shoot the unidentified object down. We then are taken to the island of shark dogs, where Sharky’s family is saying it’s form of grace before Christmas dinner, remarking how they wished they had a cat for dinner and how they miss their favorite son (this is all done through subtitles as Sharky’s dad speaks in grunts like his son). In an answer to their prayers, Eek and Sharky fall from the sky and land in the giant cooking pot. Sharky is delighted to see his family, and even gives Eek a hug. Eek remarks on how this has been a wonderful Christmas, then hopes aloud they can stay for dinner because something smells good as the camera pans back to reveal he’s still in the pot and the other shark dogs are dumping salt and fixings on him. With a wave of his hand, Eek wishes us a merry Christmas and our special is concluded.

Eek the Cat’s first Christmas special is a solid entry. It takes an unoriginal premise but goes about it differently enough that it doesn’t feel too familiar. This was, after all, before The Santa Clause re-popularized this type of story and the most noteworthy before it was probably “Christmas Flintstone.” This episode is less manic, less loud, than I remember most Eek the Cat episodes being. It’s also longer as it takes up the full run-time of the half hour block. Also, to my surprise, this special debuted in primetime on Fox in front of Martin, which was pretty popular at the time. I never remembered Eek being that big of a star as to warrant a primetime debut, but maybe Fox was really pushing him. The show had a pretty decent run of five seasons, so it had staying power, even if it’s not remembered as fondly as its peers. Because of that, this special is a bit tough to come by these days. The show has not been released on DVD, and likely never will be at this point, so the internet is your best bet for seeing this one. If you don’t mind watching Christmas specials on YouTube, this one is actually worth the effort as it’s different and entertaining enough, though it does lack some real laugh-out-loud kind of moments and the animation is just so-so. If you just want something different though, it gets the job done.