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Final Thoughts on Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars

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Bucky O’Hare raced onto television screens in September of 1991.

Another series is in the bag as the past 13 weeks have covered 90s relic Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars. As evidenced by my posting on the toy line by Boss Fight Studio as well as other pieces of Bucky media, this show has a special place in my heart. It was something I loved intensely as only a child can for a short duration that then broke my heart, but I got over it because for kids most things are short term. I found something else to obsess over and didn’t think about Bucky O’Hare much until I reached adulthood when suddenly looking back on childhood things held new meaning.

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The animation is sloppy and careless, such as with this scene in which Dogstar is mistakenly included as part of Bucky’s infiltration team when he’s actually piloting the ship.

I won’t lie to you all and say that Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars is a great television series. I’m not even sure I can say it’s a great children’s show. It does have things going for it, and then it doesn’t. It certainly suffered from a small budget, which isn’t a surprise as the property wasn’t exactly tried and true nor was it backed by a major studio. Those putting up the dollars to make the show likely viewed it as a toy commercial primarily with the hope it would find a footing so more money could be made off of it via other merchandise. Had the show arrived in the 80s it would have largely fit in with other shows on television, but for a 1991 show it was rather shoddy looking. The animation is choppy, there’s numerous visual errors, and few sequences that seemed to attempt anything truly artistic. The classic cartoon where a lavish intro serves as a red herring for what’s to follow.

In addition to the rather poor visual fidelity, the budget is further constrained in the sound department. A small cast of voice actors was forced to shoulder the load. When a new character shows up there wasn’t a thought to getting a guest voice actor (or if there was at the time of recording it was abandoned before release) so get used to a lot of characters sounding the same. This isn’t a knock on the cast, all of which I thought did a good job with the scripts provided, but a short-coming nonetheless. The music also suffers in the same manner. Doug Katsaros handled the music, including the memorable opening and closing number, and was apparently only hired to write and arrange about five tracks which are recycled through every episode. I like the music in the show and consider it perhaps the show’s greatest attribute, but it certainly was becoming repetitive by season’s end.

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Willy’s interactions with bullies in the early episodes are among the lowest points for the show.

Those are the show’s most obvious flaws production-wise. Serving as both a strength and weakness is the show’s writing. There are some early sequences, namely anything involving Willy DuWitt’s time on Earth, that are dreadful. Just pandering, talking down to the audience kind of stuff. The show also had pacing problems, particularly early on, where the episodes tried to cover too many things and never had a chance to breathe. The end of the first episode is supposed to be stressful so I don’t fault the writing there, but there were other episodes where plot points were basically glossed-over or the end felt rushed. The show is happy to use Willy’s genius as a deus ex machina to get the gang out of trouble on many occasions which probably won’t entertain an adult, but kids may have been more forgiving. I know for me personally as a kid characters like Willy and Donatello from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles annoyed me a bit with how they could seemingly invent their way out of any problem, but I don’t know if I was the exception or the norm.

Another aspect of the show that works, but also doesn’t, is the nature in which Willy was approached. He’s clearly meant to be the audience stand-in. As more of this universe is unveiled, we experience it alongside Willy. Whenever the show takes us to another world, we experience that world via Willy who has to learn about the cat people on Jenny’s world and learn how to deal with pirates in the Dead-Eye episode. It’s the type of approach that probably sounds good on paper, but in practice it’s not as successful. Willy just isn’t interesting, and having almost every episode center around him in some way harms the show. The only episode I actually felt this approach worked was the finale, and that’s because the crew was hiding something from Willy and thereby hiding it from the viewer as well.

Otherwise, the writing for Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars could be really ambitious and even better than the average slop thrown at children in 1991. The first three episodes are serialized and even the fourth fits into that as well. For the rest of the season, the show often reflects back on past events and there’s a feeling of continuity throughout, for the most part. Networks were loathe to attempt this sort of thing with kids as many just don’t respect the intelligence of the audience. Serialized story-telling isn’t necessary for every show, but it is rewarding for viewers in the right setting and that’s true of adults and kids. It’s why I found the show riveting as a child, and I believed there were more stakes here than was the case with the other shows I watched.

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Mimi LaFloo was an excellent addition to the show, I just wish we saw more of her.

This show was also really good to its female characters. Females were often an afterthought for shows aimed at boys. At most, they were often someone who needed to be rescued. April O’Neil was the gold standard at this point, a character who was confident and fearless, but ultimately always ended up captured by Shredder. In this show, we have Jenny who is the second in command and a powerful telepath. When she gets captured in episode three, it’s in addition to Bucky and Dead-Eye. It’s she who takes charge in her own episode to save her people, and in the final episode she gets captured on purpose as part of a master plan. The other female is Mimi LaFloo, a character determined to save herself and the other slaves who isn’t going to wait around for a hero. She becomes a captain herself, though we only get to see her in this role in one episode. The only negative is that these two characters are quite “catty” towards each other which feels too stereotypical. The most frequently used writer on the show is a female, Christy Marx, who wrote or co-wrote both episodes featuring Mimi so this may have been a contribution on her part or she was instructed to put these two at odds with each other. That aside, it’s cool to see the females in a heroic role and equally cool that a woman got to write them and I think it’s something that should be talked about as part of the show’s legacy.

The show also can be funny, and it’s not the sort of stupid humor I was accustomed to seeing in action shows. The show did tone down on the political humor with the obtuse and budget conscious S.P.A.C.E. bureaucrats. Some of it was retained, but I’m not surprised that Willy wasn’t made to sign-up for company healthcare before going on his first mission. Even the incompetent villains manage to remain funny throughout the season. Perhaps some of that is due to it only lasting 13 episodes, but at least the bumbling Air Marshall had yet to ware out his welcome.

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The villains are predictable, but also often amusing.

I largely view Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars as a flawed series, but still worth watching. It’s definitely worth watching for kids of 1991 as there wasn’t much better on TV as far as action cartoons were concerned. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was pretty dumb and The Real Ghostbusters was well past its prime. The Pirates of Dark Water might have been the best contemporary for the show, but I find Bucky O’Hare to be more interesting. Come 1992 the television landscape for this genre would be forever changed with Batman and X-Men, but for a brief period of time, Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars was at least in the conversation for best children’s action adventure program. It’s a shame the show isn’t readily available on DVD or at least streaming somewhere. I suppose it’s never too late, but it definitely doesn’t feel like that is something that is going to change anytime soon.

With my final thoughts out-of-the-way, I felt it would make sense to close the book on this series with a ranking of the 13 episodes. Let’s start with the worst:

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The only thing “On the Blink” has going for it are the scenes shared by Al Negator and the Air Marshall.

13. On the Blink – the Blinky episode on the koala planet is my least favorite. It feels inconsequential, and is, and has a lame resolution. It also was the first episode to really look poor. It does score points for showing Al Negator and the Air Marshall in golf attire.

12. The Warriors – Kamikaze Kamo would have made for a good action figure, but as a character he’s pretty annoying. I like that the episode gave us a new villain in Sly Leezard, and seeing the Air Marshall fired was amusing, but it’s a pretty ugly episode that didn’t do much to further the overall narrative of season one.

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This episode is just awful to look at.

11. Corsair Canards – This episode is all right, and the overall plot is solid, though some of the execution is a bit off. Mostly, it’s ranked this low because it is absolutely the low point in terms of animation. So many errors and just plain ugly sequences. With some polish, this could have been one of the better episodes.

10. Bye Bye Berserker Baboon – Bruiser’s homeworld is surprisingly low key, but at least there’s some Toad ingenuity on display here. Plus, the Terror Toad looks pretty cool. The baboons just get pretty annoying though and Bucky’s Bugs Bunny impression felt really off for this show.

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Al Negator, perhaps second only to Toadborg in the villain rankings, debuts in “A Fistful of Simoleans”

9. A Fistful of Simoleans – Now the list gets a bit tricky. I’ll put episode 2 here as it’s a bit slow and yet also over-stuffed. Al Negator is introduced and Bucky’s naivety is on display, though the message of the episode is kind of that racism can be okay? Basically, Bucky should have known not to trust Al because of his species, which is pretty shitty, but he’s also part of a fictional race of crocodiles so I guess it’s possible that they are all greedy, shifty, pieces of crap. I don’t think it was malicious on the part of the writers, but it comes off weird.

8. The Kreation Konspiracy – The plot for this episode is pretty cool, and I like the added Toad lore. Really, what knocks this one down a few pegs is the resolution with Willy converting a planet into a giant ape. And yet, the actual ending is possibly the best ending of any episode of the show as it’s genuinely funny, if rushed. At least Blinky got to do something to make up for the lackluster “On the Blink” episode.

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It was Toadborg’s time to shine in this one.

7. The Artificers of Aldebaran – This episode helped clarify how Jenny and her kind get their powers, even if it was pretty crazy given it involved a moon-sized demon in outer space. Mostly though, I rank this one here because I love how ruthless Toadborg is when negotiating with Jenny. He’s such a good villain and I feel like similar villains are rarely allowed to be this nasty in children’s shows.

6. Komplex Caper – This is just a fun action-heavy episode. The plot is a tongue-in-cheek commentary on television and works well in this show which is full of that stuff via Toad TV gags. We get to see Bucky take the fight to Komplex and also Dogstar’s crew gets a moment to shine. The only real negative for me watching as an adult is how the Toad fleet is weakened. In the first few episodes, Bucky and his crew couldn’t possibly hope to go toe to toe with so many enemies, but Dogstar’s crew seems unphased. Bonus points go to the humorous confrontation between Dead-Eye and the Toad Master Spy.

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“War of the Warts” introduced us to Bucky O’Hare and his crew.

5. War of the Warts – The debut episode is very lore heavy, but it’s necessary to establish the world. Really, the only parts I don’t like are Willy’s experiences on Earth dealing with bullies who will thankfully not make it out of Episode 3. This is also the episode that “killed” Bruce forever creating stakes kid-me never knew existed in cartoons.

4. The Search for Bruce – The episode that brought Bruce back, albeit as a ghost of some sort. It does a good job of showing a character, in this case Bruiser, actually experience grief which is something “War of the Warts” didn’t have time to explore. It’s a bit sad, but there’s also some fun stuff in the middle as well as the show’s most violent sequence. The only real drag is the constant references to bananas by the two baboons. I get it, they love bananas, I don’t need the constant reminder.

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The finale even finds time for the unheralded to get a moment, though maybe not a “shining” moment as it were for Digger.

3. The Taking of Pilot Jenny – The series finale does its job. While it has a few warts, namely with how Komplex is finally defeated, it’s largely a satisfying conclusion to the first season. Bucky gets to play hero and the mammals pull off an inventive scheme. Past plot points are revisited and the whole thing is just very satisfying. That last scene is still able to hit me in the feels, cheesy as it may be.

2. The Good, the Bad and the Warty – The conclusion to the first arch brings about the show’s first action-heavy episode. We get to see Bucky and his crew captured by the Toads and forced to escape. During which we see Willy’s ingenuity and Jenny’s impressive powers. It’s also our first real look at Toadborg and what he’s capable of and makes for an entertaining episode. There’s some more junk with Willy on Earth, but at least it also marks the end of his conflict with the bullies, something that felt really tacked on to make the show more “relatable” to its audience. The show in general features too much Willy, but at least he ditched the Earth problems for the most part.

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A debut for Mimi plus a dramatic and heroic moment from Bucky contribute to make “Home, Swampy Home” my favorite of the bunch.

1. Home, Swampy Home –  I had a feeling this one would be my favorite and it remained so after all was said and done. It does have the one real strange sequence of Bucky meeting his off-camera mentor who had some really on-the-nose advice for the captain, but aside from that it’s pretty cool and a lot of fun. It showcases how the other hares idolize Bucky and view him as their Superman, in a way. He will save them, no questions asked. It also gives us Mimi LaFloo, who is a really interesting character for a 1991 cartoon aimed at boys. She’s an anti-princess, a female who isn’t going to wait around for someone to save her. She looks down on her fellow captives, the hares, because they’re just waiting for Bucky to save them while she intends to save herself. And while Bucky’s help is needed in the end, she’s rewarded for her efforts by being named captain of her own frigate. This was an era where pretty much every female cartoon character was just a damsel in distress, so seeing an empowered female character was pretty cool. Bucky’s dramatic reveal to Mimi and the hares is also my favorite moment from the show.

 

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Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars – “The Warriors”

img_3714Episode Number:  11

Original Air Date:  November 17, 1991

Directed by:  Karen Peterson

Written by:  George Arthur Bloom

First Appearance:  Kamikaze Kamo, Sly Leezard

Reminding us that this show was created in the 90s, episode 11 brings us the requisite ninja episode. Likely owing to the success of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the rise in popularity of ninja characters in general. It wasn’t all TMNT, but ninjas felt like they were everywhere. And since young boys especially seemed to dig them (and what’s not to like – cool clothes, big swords, throwing stars, etc) they were often good guys rather than bad guys, which isn’t where you would typically expect a character that is essentially an assassin to reside.

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Are you ready for Kamikaze Kamo and Sly Leezard?

The cast of Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars may have contained some bad ass characters, but it lacked ninjas. No longer! Enter Kamikaze Kamo (Garry Chalk), an old friend of Dead-Eye’s and fellow member of the four-armed duck race (which is referred to simply as the four-armed ducks, so apparently that’s their official name). Kamo dresses in an all black standard ninja costume that only reveals his eyes. Surprisingly, AKOM went through the trouble of animating his mouth movements beneath his mask so he actually looks relatively good. He’s got a neon green belt, which probably isn’t very stealthy, and his two lower arms are actually cybernetic so he’s a ninja-cyborg which just maximizes his coolness factor. And to top it off, he not only has a big katana on his back but a pair of white nunchaku as well. Now they’ve just gone too far.

Every ninja needs a mortal enemy, and for Kamikaze Kamo that enemy is Sly Leezard (Scott McNeil). Sly is a samurai and a member of a reptilian race from the planet Saurion. He dresses all in red and appears to lead a band of fellow samurai that all basically look exactly like him. Even though he’s a samurai, he’s a true bad guy out to take over the homeworld of Kamikaze Kamo and the four-armed ducks:  Canopis III. His race sounds like brutal conquerors as he explains he won’t be recognized as a true samurai until he conquers another world. He is a bit more developed than other one-shot characters we’ve seen on this show which helps to make him stand out.

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This can’t be Toadborg’s favorite assignment.

The episode opens on the planet Crystal where the Toads are forcing a race of beaver-people to mine (what else?) crystals. Toadborg is overseeing the mining at ground level while the Air Marshall is providing air support from a new fully functional Toad Mothership. We haven’t seen but a few shots of a Mothership since the original one was destroyed a while back so apparently the Toads are fully recovered from the events of the first three episodes. The Righteous Indignation bursts onto the scene and they’re here to free the beavers from Toad enslavement. An eager Dead-Eye is advised to flex his phalanges by Bucky who is always looking to expand the vocabulary of the viewing audience.

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It’s been awhile since we’ve seen one of these.

The Air Marshall is excited to see his old nemesis make an appearance. He commands the Toad fleet to perform the double-helix maneuver. Frix and Frax caution him because the maneuver is difficult to pull off, but the Air Marshall doesn’t care. He’s not just looking to take out Bucky, he wants to earn some style points while doing it. The Double Bubbles take off towards the Righteous Indignation and the ship loses its engines once again (it’s a piece of junk). They’re helpless as the Toads go into their maneuver which involves them elaborately circling the ship. Of course, the Toad ships collide and the whole thing is ruined. The ship is back up and running and Dead-Eye blasts Toadborg with the ship’s M.A.S.E.R. canons. Even that isn’t enough to stop him, but the distraction created by the Righteous Indignation allows the beavers to revolt and steel the Toad tanker they were loading the crystals on. They flee with a wave of thanks towards the Righteous Indignation which too flees the scene.

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The Air Marshall weeps over the loss of his medals.

Following his latest blunder, the Air Marshall is dressed-down by Komplex. A series of insults beginning with the prefix “in” are directed at the Air Marshall (inept, incompetent, etc.) by Komplex before the A.I. commands Toadborg to strip him of his beloved medals, all except one that is. That one lone remaining medal is intended to remind the Air Marshall of what he once had. Komplex banishes the Air Marshall from the premises and demotes him to a rank not specified. When Toadborg questions who will succeed him, Komplex suggests anyone and follows through on that proclamation by apparently promoting Frix and Frax to assume the position of Air Marshall. Air Marshall sadly exits the room, but since we have no idea what his actual name is, I’m going to just refer to him as Air Marshall despite the demotion.

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Where do you go when you get fired? The bar.

The Air Marshall winds up at some dive where he’s drinking some green water and bemoaning his fate. A sympathetic ear in the form of Sly Leezard indulges him. It would seem Sly has a problem too. If he wants to earn the respect of his peers and be considered a true samurai he needs to conquer a planet. He had set his sights on Canopis III, home of the four-armed ducks, and even devised a plan to use a series of satellites to evaporate the water on the planet’s surface which would render the ducks helpless, apparently. Sly even had a scientist lined-up to help him, but something happened and he basically suggests that he murdered the scientist instead. The Air Marshall is intrigued by this story though. Reasoning he could get back into Komplex’s good graces by conquering Canopis III himself, he mentions he knows of a scientist that may be able to help them:  Willy DuWitt.

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Sly knows how to travel in style.

Dead-Eye Duck and Willy are shown making repairs to the Righteous Indignation. They’re in some kind of external hangar on a space station and are just out in space. This seems dangerous, but it also is convenient for Sly and the Air Marshall who show up unannounced in Sly’s spaceship which looks like a lizard (lizards and toads apparently share similar philosophies on spaceship aesthetics). They’re able to effortlessly abduct Willy, and despite them being in space, Dead-Eye’s jump after him is limited by gravity. Dead-Eye heads inside to inform Bucky about Willy’s kidnapping, and that he has a lead. He was able to see Sly Leezard in the spaceship as well as the Air Marshall. He knows Sly and he also knows of someone who could help them. With the Righteous Indignation out of commission, Dead-Eye takes a spare spaceship just hanging around that only fits one person to seek out the aid of Kamikaze Kamo.

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It’s the latest craze:  Pirates vs Ninjas!

Dead-Eye arrives at a forest presumably on Canopis III. A legion of crimson-clad ducks drop in on him and he quickly puts his hands up to indicate he’s just here to see Kamikaze Kamo. Kamo approaches and recognizes him immediately. Before they can get to reminiscing, Dead-Eye informs Kamo he needs his help in tracking Sly Leezard down so save his buddy Willy. Kamo agrees to help and the two hop into Kamo’s goofy-looking duck spaceship and head for Saurion.

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Willy does not wish to help, but you know he’s going to.

At the base of Sly Leezard, Willy is being bullied into helping Sly complete his water-desolving satellites. Willy is unwilling to help him, but Sly tells him if he doesn’t then he’ll detonate a bomb he planted on the Righteous Indignation killing all aboard. He promises to release Willy when the job is done, and gives him his word as a samurai. Willy reluctantly agrees and gets to work.

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These are odds Kamikaze Kamo apparently enjoys.

Kamo and Dead-Eye arrive at Sly’s planet and disembark from Kamo’s spaceship. They continue on via hangglider which unnerves Dead-Eye somewhat. Apparently this race of duck does not fly. They land and are almost immediately set upon by Sly Leezard’s men. When Dead-Eye questions where’s the honor in ganging up on the two of them, Kamo reminds him that the odds are in their favor. He’s apparently a bad ass and whips out his nunchaku and starts taking out the enemies. Dead-Eye is impressed and whips out his pistols to help, but really it’s not needed as Kamo seems to have things under control. As the lizards flee, Kamo throws a ninja star at one and actually hits him in the tail with it which becomes lodged in his flesh (there’s no blood or anything, but still surprising). They interrogate this lone samurai to find out where Sly’s base is. Unfortunately, getting there will require scaling a mountain.

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Willy is some kind of genius, and yet he fell for the old candy-as-a-bomb-detonator trick.

Willy finishes the work on the satellites, and to no one’s surprise, is not set free. Willy gets a lesson on trusting others as he’s hauled off to a dungeon. Air Marshall is impressed with Sly’s ruthlessness and inquires about the detonator for the bomb on the Righteous Indignation. Sly pulls it out and tells him it’s just candy before tossing it to him. Sly apparently deals in lies. Air Marshall is even more delighted with Sly once he tastes the candy – cherry.

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Kamikaze Kamo is very image-conscious.

Dead-Eye and Kamikaze reach the mountain’s summit and find it’s open at the top. There they can look down into Sly’s lab before getting the drop on him. Sly Leezard is surprised, but angry, to see his mortal enemy Kamikaze Kamo and the two square-off. Dead-Eye is forced to deal with the stragglers. Kamo does some fancy moves with his nunchaku before finally removing the sword from his back to have a proper ninja fight. As the two battle, there’s some countdown going on in the background that will apparently ready the satellites. Air Marshall decides this is no place for him and takes off in one of Sly’s spaceships which the satellites have been loaded onto. He heads for Canopis III to oversee the deployment of the satellites.

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Sly threw his only weapon at Kamikaze, what a dope.

Kamo eventually gets the better of Sly disarming him in the process. With him at his mercy, Sly once again turns to his samurai code of honor to get Kamo to back off. Claiming he’s going to shut down the satellites, he instead activates them then laughs as Kamo futily tries to undo what’s been done. It apparently can’t be, and Sly flees. Seeing no sign of Willy, Dead-Eye contacts Bucky. The ship has been repaired and Bucky is just awaiting word from Dead-Eye on what’s going on. He instructs Bucky to head for Canopis III and fast.

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Everything is actually going according to plan for a change.

From space, the Air Marshall watches the satellites switch on. He laughs gleefully as they go to work sucking up the water from Canopis III. The plan has worked, and he openly wonders what rank Komplex will bestow upon him for helping to conquer the duck homeworld.

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Frix and Frax have done some stupid things, but nothing quite this stupid.

As the Righteous Indignation emerges from hyperspace, Frix and Frax are there in a Toad tanker hauling crystals. They were assigned to oversee the mining on Crystal and apparently they’ve gathered enough to fill a tanker. Frix sees the appearance of the mammal frigate as an opportunity to achieve something even the Air Marshall failed to do, while Frax reminds him they’re in a tanker which isn’t even armed. Frix doesn’t see the problem since their ship is ten times the size of the Righteous Indignation. Frax cautions him by reminding him of Air Marshall’s failed double-helix, but Frix orders the pilots to ram the ship. The Toad Tanker is detected by the Righteous Indignation’s sensors, and they easily avoid the attack. The tanker misses, smashing into a nearby asteroid or moon or something. Frix and Frax are immediately shown in an escape vessel openly hoping Komplex won’t ask about the cargo they just lost.

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Kamo can’t stop the satellites by simply pulling the lever again.

Bucky and the Righteous Indignation arrive at Canopis III and find that the satellites have been deployed and activated. With Bruiser behind the guns this time, they soon discover the satellites have a forcefield on them and can’t be destroyed. On Saurion, Dead-Eye and Kamo find Willy in a stalagmite prison and Dead-Eye blasts them out. He tells Willy what happened and Willy advises him not to worry because he built a fail-safe into the satellites. Then head back for Sly’s lab where Willy pulls out a remote he had stashed which, when activated, will cause the satellites to self-destruct. He activates it and Dead-Eye reaches out to Bucky for confirmation. The Air Marshall watches the satellites explode from the ship he commandeered and bemoans another failure. A Storm Toad is on the ship with him for some reason, which must be an animation mistake.

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Sly Leezard ready for his crowning achievement.

Dead-Eye, Willy, and Kamikaze Kamo head for the mountain top. Below them, Sly Leezard emerges with his men ready to lead the attack on Canopis III that will end with him crowned emperor. The good guys drop a net on him and haul him up to their level. They let him know his plan has failed and they vow to take him to Canopis III as a prisoner. Suddenly, a legion of other samurai lizards show up. They look more like Roman gladiators complete with gold underwear. The leader, dubbed Supreme Commander, demands to know what is going on, and the heroes explain that Sly broke his word as a samurai. This displeases the Commander, who demands that Sly be handed over to them. Sly cries out that he’d rather be a duck prisoner as they turn him over. The Supreme Commander then tells them to leave, and if they ever return to Saurion they can expect to be attacked. No one doubts this samurai’s word.

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Check out these dudes.

Having no where else to turn to, Air Marshall requests an audience with Komplex. He intends to grovel and beg for forgiveness in hopes of being reassigned. He says to himself he’d accept any demotion except to that of Storm Toad, but then backtracks and decides he’d even take that. As he enters a room for his conference, Komplex comes onto the various monitors and has surprising news:  the Air Marshall is having his rank restored and his first assignment is to return to Crystal. When Air Marshall asks what has become of Frix and Frax, Komplex lets him know that the two are waiting for him. We then cut to the two who are all alone mining for crystals unhappily. Frax pauses for an “I told you so” directed at Frix while Frix just tells him to shut up and get back to digging.

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You were so close Sly, so close.

“The Warriors” feels like a very unnecessary episode. It doesn’t provide additional backstory for any of the usual characters and is just a stand-alone story. It does somewhat address the ineffectiveness of Toad Air Marshall, but it also just returns everything to the status quo when all is said and done.

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I suppose it’s no big surprise to learn that the Air Marshall had his rank restored in the end.

The introduction of Kamikaze Kamo and Sly Leezard is welcomed since the roster of characters on this show is a bit thin. They fail to be more than just action figure ideas brought to life though. Well, I will say Sly is somewhat interesting even if he is just another version of Al Negator. Kamo though is downright annoying with his constant “Quack-quack-quack,” battle cry. Both guys also speak with bad, fake, Japanese accents. I’m not surprised Sunbow didn’t hire actual Japanese voice actors for the role, but they could have toned it down or something or just not done it. They don’t say anything offensive at least, though Sly does go with the cliché “Sayonara suckers” line.

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Likely the only hard labor these two have experienced.

With so few episodes remaining, it’s disappointing to get one so inconsequential as this. It’s not terrible, but it does feel like it’s not aiming particularly high. I probably liked this episode as a kid since it involved Dead-Eye teaming up with a ninja, but as an adult it feels like a toy commercial. New, neat looking characters and vehicles with no real stakes. I guess I should care about the planet of the ducks, but there’s no built-in attachment there to make me care. It’s also not a great-looking episode as the animation is quite choppy in the fight scenes. The showdown between Sly and Kamikaze is especially underwhelming, not that I expected greatness. No aspect of this episode marks a low point for the series, but it’s definitely not a highlight. Next week’s episode takes us to the home of the berserker baboons so hopefully that’s a bit more exciting than seeing Dead-Eye’s planet.


Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars – “War of the Warts”

war of the wartsEpisode Number:  1

Original Air Date:  September 8, 1991

Directed by:  Karen Peterson

Written by:  Christy Marx

First Appearance:  Bucky O’Hare, Jenny, Dead-Eye Duck, Bruce, A.F.C. Blinky, Willy DuWitt, Toad Air Marshall, Frix, Frax, Komplex, Any Phibian

The premiere episode for Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars begins with what is probably the most memorable aspect of the show:  that theme song. Doug Katsaros is credited with the music of the show as well as the theme song. Supposedly, Larry Hama hates it. In looking over credits for the show, some familiar names show up in the storyboard section, and if you’ve been reading along with the Batman posts, those names should be familiar to you as well:  Boyd Kirkland, Frank Paur, Will Meuginot, Larry Houston, to name a few. Paur and Kirkland also have producer credits on the show and they’re most associated with Batman where both directed episodes. Will Meuginot did one episode of Batman as well as one of X-Men and has generally been all over children’s programming (The Real Ghostbusters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Captain Planet, and many more). Larry Houston is most familiar to me because of his work on X-Men as he was featured a lot in the Previously on X-Men book about the series as he was one of the only staff members who was actually a fan of the property. He also worked on storyboards for Batman and many other programs, as I’m sure a lot of the other storyboard artists did as well. Those were the guys who just stood out the most.

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He goes where no ordinary rabbit would dare, which is probably a lot of places.

Back to that theme song though. It’s very upbeat and the horns section gives it this triumphant quality. Everything builds to the “Bucky!” parts and the lyrics are effectively cheesy. Effective in that they capture the spirit of the show while also interjecting some goofy nonsense, like the ending of “Did you say Bucky? I said Bucky!” And like most shows of this era, the animation on the intro is noticeably better than what is in the actual episodes. Sunbow was quite good at sinking money into brief pieces of animation, like for toy commercials, and was well-versed in this. It’s not as bad as Thundercats, but I do wish the whole show could look like this. That intro makes the show look like an action heavy broadcast with Bucky running and gunning his way through the Toad Empire, but the show is a bit more slow-paced than that, as we’ll see. The song also does employ the age old technique of introducing most of the characters by name as well as the general conflict. Just watching it lets you know this show is about mammals fighting toads in space.

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Get used to this, the writers and animators seem to have a lot of fun with Toad TV.

The episode begins onboard the Toad Mothership. Frix (Terry Klassen) and Frax (Scott McNeil) are two Toad officers that apparently don’t take their job very seriously. They’re spending their time watching Toad TV and the only thing on is a commercial in which a female toad expresses her admiration for male toads who feature a lot of warts. The Toad Air Marshall (Jay Brazeau) interrupts them and demands they shut off that brain-rotting Toad TV. He wants them to congratulate him for taking over the home world of Bucky O’Hare as he happily anticipates getting a new medal as recognition for his conquest. He speaks in between grunts or croaks that sound more like burps. Think Rick from Rick and Morty or Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He also drools a bit, and these are characteristics that are going to be dropped in later episodes, which is welcomed as the grunts are a bit annoying. He’s short, chubby, and excitable so he’s a fairly typical villain for the era.

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Our first shot of Captain O’Hare and First Mate Jenny.

We’re then shown the Righteous Indignation, the frigate captained by Bucky O’Hare (Jason Michas). The ship is shown from the front and we can see Bucky and First Mate Jenny (Margot Pinvidic) in the command tower/cockpit and Dead-Eye Duck (McNeil) down below behind the guns. Bucky then signals to the rest of the crew to get ready for action, and we get our first animation error as it cuts to Dead-Eye near the lockers as he races over to his guns excitedly, even though the establishing shot a second ago placed him behind the guns to begin with. Also introduced is Chief Engineer Bruce (Dale Wilson), a large baboon creature referred to as a Betelgeusian Berserker Baboon, and Android First Class Blinky (Sam Vincent), a diminutive little robot with a large, orange, eye for a head. Bruce is bemoaning how junky their photon accelerator is, which is the device that allows them to utilize warp drive, which is their light speed and is also referred to as a hyper space jump by the characters. He voices his concerns to the captain who tells him to back-burner it for now because they have work to do.

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This is Bruce. Don’t get too attached.

Bucky then tells Jenny she’ll be part of a boarding party, as they’ve located a Toad Slave Ship and six fighters. They intend to spring whoever is being held captive while dispatching the fighters. Dead-Eye is quite eager to fire up his guns and the Toad fighters are equally eager to engage the frigate. Dead-Eye takes out a few rather quick, and as the Toad Double Bubbles are destroyed the pilots inside are show floating in bubble-like escape pods which I assume is there to quiet the censors. Dead-Eye also shows his tally of defeated toads as he marks each “kill” with a piece of chalk.

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This is what happens to toads when they see a baboon.

Jenny and Bruce then leave via the Toad Croaker, a small, open-air, vessel which does not seem suitable for space travel. They head for the slave ship while Bucky leads the remaining fighters away. Inside, Toad Storm Troopers ready themselves to deal with the intruders in their slave ship. They’re quite cocky, until Bruce smashes in their door. This is where we learn that all toads have a paralyzing fear of baboons, and all drop their guns and run. Bruce, for his part, is overcome with a berserker rage and takes off after them leaving Jenny to shake her head. She makes her way into another area of the ship and is met by a security robot. She then demonstrates her powers for us, which seem to feed off of the many gems in her armor, as she magics up an energy blast to destroy the robot. She does the same to a door, and when she encounters some toads on the other side, they just act relieved she isn’t a baboon. She takes them out in a far less glamorous manner by punching one in the face (something Batman was never allowed to do) and kicking the other in the gut.

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Dead-Eye is happiest when blasting toads.

Bucky is still giving the remaining Toad fighters the slip, much to the disappointment of Dead-Eye who would rather be taking them out. He then does a loop move, something Star Fox 64 fans are familiar with, to maneuver behind their would-be assailants allowing Dead-Eye to finish the job. Bucky then shouts out a warning (I guess the ship has external speakers?) to the floating Toad pilots that the entire United Animal Space Fleet will be on their asses (not in those words). They receive a radio message from Jenny to come check out the slave ship and they head over. Jenny warns Bucky that he’s not going to like what happens when she opens the door to the holding area, but the dire warning was partially in jest as Bucky gets mobbed by several happy hares. Bucky then finds out the fate of his home planet from the prisoners, and he vows to head to Genus where the Animal Liberation Security Council convenes. Meanwhile, Toad Air Marshall is incensed when he finds out Bucky took out six fighters and captured the slave ship. The pilot also passes on Bucky’s threats and the Air Marshall is irritated to find out there’s now a fleet ready to oppose him. No matter, he declares that he will have Bucky O’Hare in dramatic fashion.

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This is Willy DuWitt, who has problems of his own, small as they may be.

We’re taken briefly to Earth during these events to meet a young boy by the name of Willy DuWitt (Shane Meier). Willy finds his locker has been vandalized with the word “Nerd” spray-painted across it. Three kids convene on him by skateboarding right up to his face. One boy appears to be the leader of this trio, Doug (Sam Vincent), and he has a message for Willy. This is where many boys my age learned what grading on a curve meant, as Doug is ticked off that Willy keeps getting A’s on everything making it harder on the rest of the class. It’s interesting because these three boys are a lot bigger than Willy and basically look like normal people. Willy is shorter, and like most cartoon characters, he has a big head and feet. Either he’s skipped a few grades or this was just an odd stylistic choice. Willy professes that he loves math and science and it’s all easy to him, but Doug doesn’t care and demands he get an F on the next test and the three leave.

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The head of the United Animal Security Council, a true politician.

Bucky and his crew lead the Toad Slave Ship to Genus, which has a very advanced defense system surrounding it. It at first sees the Toad ship as an enemy vessel and begins firing upon it. Jenny is forced to transmit a security clearance to get them to back off. Once on the planet, Bucky and his crew storm a council meeting to inform them of what has happened to his home planet of Warren. He’s rightly ticked off, and this is where we find out that the entire mammal fleet is Bucky O’Hare and his crew and his threats to the Toads were just bluffs. He demands more help, and Dead-Eye is forced to silence the chattering bureaucrats with some gunfire at one point. An old pig then confronts Bucky to tell him they need documented evidence of Toad atrocities (apparently a slave ship full of rabbits isn’t enough evidence) in order to allocate more funds to building up the fleet. Bucky angrily leaves vowing to return with this evidence they seek.

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He may just a computer program, but Komplex is one tough boss.

Aboard the Toad Mothership, we see Toad Air Marshall at his desk looking over a massive sheet of paper containing a map. It turns out, he’s only holding up the paper to hide the fact that he’s watching Toad TV behind it, proving he’s just as bad as his subordinates. The TV screen then changes, and we get our first introduction to Komplex (Long John Baldry). Komplex looks like a polygonal toad face with red X-shaped eyes. It speaks with a menacing voice through the TV and it’s apparent that the Air Marshall both fears Komplex and is subservient to it. Komplex demands the destruction of Bucky and the hares.

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The Toads are coming for you, Bucky.

Bucky decides to go to Warren for this evidence, which may not be the wisest choice. Toad Air Marshall anticipates the move, and he has a fleet of roughly 50 fighters waiting for him. On Earth, we see Willy’s homelife (in a house that could pass as the Tanner residence from Full House) and meet his parents David (McNeil) and Sunshine (Pinvidic), two hippies who have grown up. He’s not excited to eat his tofu burgers and tries asking his dad for advice on what to do about his bully problem and his dad tells him that sometimes you have to do what’s right no matter what the consequences. He’s only half paying attention to his son though as he’s reading the paper. Sunshine parrots her husband while referencing the need to save the whales and such. She then reminds her husband they need to head to a rally and take off leaving Willy all by himself.

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Air Marshall unleashes his entire fleet on Bucky’s ship.

The Righteous Indignation finds itself in a real predicament as the Toad fleet surrounds them. The Toads take out two of the six engines on the rear of the ship, and surprisingly the animators will account for that as the ship flees with only four engines illuminated. Their shields are taking a pounding and there’s no feasible way for one frigate to take on 50 fighters. Bucky calls down to engineering for a hyper space jump and Bruce advises it’s dangerous, but what choice do they have? He tries hastily making some adjustments to the photon accelerator, but it’s making a funny sound. He activates it anyway, and it immediately starts trying to suck him in. Blinky grabs onto some equipment as he too is being pulled towards the device. He grabs ahold of Bruce’s belt, but the accelerator pulls him right out of his space suit. Blinky goes flying too, but he braces himself against the accelerator and is able to unplug it before he meets the same fate as Bruce.

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Naked Bruce gets sucked into another dimension. So long, baboon.

Blinky radios up to Bucky and informs him of what happened. “Calamity and woe,” he begins which is some-what of a catch phrase for the character. He tells his captain that Bruce was either pulled into another dimension or has attained oneness with the universe, as he puts it. It’s the closest thing to “death” as we’re going to get on this show. Bucky tells Jenny she’s in charge, as he’s positioned the frigate in a crater in a bid to hide from the fighters momentarily. He heads down to survey the damage while remarking they’ll miss Bruce, but he has no time for mourning. Blinky informs him he’s made some repairs, but he has no idea what will happen once the warp drive is engaged. Bucky decides they have no choice, as the Toad fighters have found them and their shields can’t last much longer. He approaches the photon accelerator and activates the warp drive.

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Calamity and woe, indeed.

On Earth, Willy is recording himself as he prepares for his greatest experiment. It seems he has constructed his own photon accelerator, and like Bucky, he’s not sure what will happen when he turns it on. His recording is intended to let his parents in on what happened, should something bad happen. He activates his, and everything goes dark. He tries looking out his window and sees just blackness. Meanwhile, on the Righteous Indignation all power has gone out. Jenny declares they’re in some kind of stasis field. Nothing can get in, or out. Bucky is more alarmed by the presence of a door that suddenly appeared near he and Blinky. It’s Willy’s door, and the backside of it just contains a swirling vortex. The door opens, and out steps Willy.

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Willy readies his own photon accelerator.

Dead-Eye nearly blasts Willy as he mistakes his flashlight for a lightsaber. Interestingly, in the comics Willy’s room is decorated with Star Wars stuff, so it’s nice they still found a way to slip in a reference via lightsaber here. Willy insists it’s just a flashlight and shuts it off. This seems to calm Dead-Eye some and the characters all stop to stare at each other. Willy is surprised to find a talking green rabbit, while the others think Willy is some sort of shaved baboon. Bucky introduced himself, seeming to take exception with Willy’s description of him, before introducing the others. He tells Willy what danger he faces by being aboard his ship, while Willy is amazed to see that they have a photon accelerator. Willy offers to help, but Bucky doesn’t see how this human could be of use, until Willy tells him that he built his very own photon accelerator. They need to head back to his room for some tools, but Willy thinks he can fix theirs.

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Willy meets some interesting characters.

Back in Willy’s room, the young boy is grabbing stuff while Bucky and Dead-Eye accompany him. Dead-Eye spies what appears to be a toy gun on Willy’s bed and confiscates it, pointing it out to Bucky in a hushed voice just in case Willy can’t be trusted. He also spies some play money and seems to mistake it for real cash and stuffs it in a duffel bag with Willy’s tools. They then head back to the ship and Willy makes the repairs. He vows to stay aboard the ship to see it through, even though he knows once the warp drive is activated his door will disappear. Jenny, in reward for Willy’s bravery, gives Willy a kiss and embraces him which causes Willy to blush and plants the seeds for his future life as a furry. As the crew gets ready to fire up the warp drive, the stasis field drops as a Toad gives the order to fire at full strength and our first episode ends on a rather major cliffhanger.

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Dead-Eye’s discovery.

There’s a lot to pack into this debut episode. We get the general conflict of Toads vs Mammals, and also a season-long storyline is introduced and that’s the enslavement of Bucky’s home world. We also get a peek at the leaders of the mammal world, who because of their relative safety behind their advanced defense systems, are reluctant to take the Toads seriously frustrating Bucky. It’s basically just Bucky and his crew left to fend off a planet’s worth of toads who are hellbent on taking over. We don’t know much about their goals or their methods just yet, but that’s still to come. We know enough though. The Toads are a serious threat, and Bucky is going to need help to drive them back.

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This whole time, the Righteous Indignation in a stasis field and unable to sustain direct damage.

We also get something that doesn’t arise in shows like this often:  death. Well, a sort of death with Bruce getting sucked into the photon accelerator. It’s a bit clunky and weird, but at least the groundwork is partly laid in Bruce’s first scene when he remarks that it seems like part of the device doesn’t exist in their dimension. In the comic, Bruce just gets blasted by the Toads and reduced to a pile of dust. This is far more ambiguous. Blinky theorizes he got pulled into another dimension while also saying it’s possible he’s just dead, though he phrases it in a clever way. We’ll eventually find out that Blinky’s first guess was correct, but for now it looks like a member of Bucky’s meager crew got taken out, and Bruce was one of the most formidable. The whole sequence happens rather quickly, and since they’re in a dire situation there’s no time for the moment to breathe. It’s rushed, but also it’s the reality of war that you can’t stop and mourn in the midst of a fire-fight lest you want to end up like your comrade.

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Like it or not, Willy is going to be a part of this crew going forward.

The inclusion of Willy is and has always been odd to me. If I had never read the comics I would have thought he was shoe-horned into the cartoon in an attempt to create a character kids could relate to. He was likely included in the books for the same reason, but it just always felt silly to me which is odd since we’ve got a bunch of animals fighting each other in space. He’s got time to prove his worth and win me over, but I’m not an instant fan. And his hippy parents are just confusing. What’s the message they’re trying to convey here? Did Larry Hama just hate hippies? They’re bad, yuppy, parents more consumed with their activist lifestyle than their child. I guess if the message is a bad parent can come from any background then okay, I guess. I think it has a lot to do with the cynicism of the 80s just viewing hippies as pretty goofy and silly and they’re just supposedly inherently funny as a result. “Ha, look at Willy’s dumb, hippy, parents!” I didn’t find it funny as a kid, and I don’t find it funny as an adult. They also made the choice to not show their faces, not an uncommon technique in kid’s shows of the era. Making them faceless hippies feels like a political statement of some kind, I’m just not sure what that is.

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There’s also going to be some weird, sexual, tension between Jenny and Willy.

The animation on this show is pretty inconsistent. It reminds me a lot of another AKOM show, X-Men, as character models get shifty at times. Especially Jenny, whose face seems to change shape at times. The more cartoonish toads, especially the Air Marshall, look pretty good and there are some fun sequences during the firefights. Like one shot from in front of Dead-Eye’s guns. Unfortunately, the premiere episode is basically the high point in terms of visuals. There will be sequences here and there in future episodes that look as good or better than what’s here, but in general the animation quality only goes down from here. The voice acting is fairly capable though and I like the voices for each character. I mentioned Air Marshall’s weird croak/burps, but in addition to that it seemed like there was some confusion over what Dead-Eye should sound like. Scott McNeil does a stereotypical pirate voice at times, which is basically what will be carried forward. At other times though he goes for a southern accent, and even a Cajun one. They’re brief, but weird. I think things get more consistent going forward, as is often the case following a debut episode.

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The final shot of the first episode from the cockpit of the Righteous Indignation is pretty ominous.

This episode throws a lot at the viewer and it’s a pretty demanding way to start the series. The scenes move quickly from one to the next for time considerations and the episode feels long, even though it’s only about 21 minutes including the intro. I personally like a lot of world-building in the first few episodes, so I’m mostly okay with it, but by the end I do want to see things start moving. Lets get some action. A lot of the characters are introduced though so the episode does accomplish a lot which will hopefully pay dividends rather quickly. It was probably harder for kids to follow, especially the scene with the animal council, and I know I hated how abruptly the episode ended. A week is a long time for a kid to find out how Bucky and his crew get out of that mess. You’re going to have to endure the same, or you could just run to YouTube or something and watch the next episode.


Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars – Introduction

bucky introThis may often look like a Batman blog, but if I could make it look more like a Bucky O’Hare blog then I totally would. The problem is, there just isn’t enough quantity to talk about when it comes to Bucky O’Hare. While Batman:  The Animated Series produced 85 episodes in its original run, Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars produced a mere 13. Batman was broadcast on Fox Kids, then Kids WB (with a new season too), with reruns airing for years when it was all said and done. The show had a comic tie-in, toys, three films, and then it went on to basically spawn Batman Beyond, not to mention all of the Justice League themed shows. As for Bucky, he got the toy treatment and a Nintendo game, but his 13 episode total meant there was really no home for him in syndication. After the episodes were broadcast a few times, they all but disappeared. A comic line was launched in the UK, but it never left that territory so if you wanted to continue enjoying the show in the US you had to seek out the VHS tapes.

And that is largely where things remain even today in 2019. Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars has been practically forgotten, and if not for the contribution of toy maker Boss Fight Studio the property would be dormant. On this blog I’ve drawn attention to the various Bucky releases over the years and to the new toy line from BFS. In my last post, a wish list for the line, I theorized that in order for my new favorite toy line to continue as long as I want it to there would likely need to be more Bucky promotion. Well, I’m hardly a major vehicle for said promotion, but I am going to do my part by not only continuing to post about that very line, but starting tomorrow we’re going into a Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars deep dive. All 13 episodes over 13 weeks.

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The one true Easter Bunny.

Today seemed like a good day to start this as it’s the day many people invite a large bunny into their homes to hide eggs and candy all over the place. Bucky isn’t as famous as the Easter Bunny, but he should be! Bucky O’Hare is the creation of Larry Hama with an assist given to artist Michael Golden. He was allegedly created sometime around 1977 or 78, probably after Hama saw Star Wars, and made his comic debut in Echo of Futurepast #1 in May of 1984. Likely due to the popularity of a certain group of ninja turtles, Bucky would get his shot at TV stardom not too long after despite only having a total of six comic book stories.

Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars was conceived during the time when it had already been established that in order to launch a cartoon aimed at boys you needed to attack the market from multiple angles. It wasn’t enough to just create a successful show, it needed to be very merchandiser friendly. Hama had already anticipated this when creating the characters and included pegs on their various outfits that a weapon could be affixed to should they become action figures. Due to the success of other toy line/cartoon properties, there was a strong appetite for anything that looked marketable and a lot of people wanted in on it.

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The show’s first few episodes largely mirrored the comics while adding in new characters like Bruiser.

The show ended up being a combination of several companies. First was Sunbow Entertainment and its new Sunbow Productions arm. Sunbow had made a name for itself primarily animating commercials for toys. Eventually, the company moved towards creating shows of its own and by 1990 it had several under its belt. It would initially partner with Toei Animation, the company responsible for Dragon Ball, and by the time Bucky arrived the company was partnered with South Korean animation studio AKOM (The Simpsons, X-Men). Abrams/Gentile Entertainment was involved as a producer and Continuity Comics obviously had a stake in the show as well as French company IDDH. Marvel Productions co-produced the show and Hasbro distributed it via Claster Television and it’s Hasbro Studios that holds the distribution rights today. That’s a lot of cooks in the kitchen and a lot of arms with a share in the profits. It’s no wonder the show failed to satisfy and also less surprising to see it has struggled to get a Region 1 DVD release as there are a lot of people that would be owed money.

The show premiered on September 8, 1991 and would conclude its first run on December 1 of the same year. It aired on Saturday mornings in most markets on various local television affiliates. It didn’t air on any of the major networks in my market and I don’t know if it did in others. The show was quite similar to the comics, but since it had more stories to tell it expanded the roster of characters. The only character left out of the show was the Omnipotent Mouse. The first few episodes of the show are presented in a serialized nature and there is a running story through-out the first season concerning Bucky’s home planet of Warren. It’s a sophisticated form of story-telling for children, and it would be popularized by X-Men the following year, and it’s possible that this played a role in making it hard for new viewers to just jump in. I think such arguments are overblown, but it’s worth mentioning.

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The Air Marshall may have actually ended Bucky’s existence after all.

To coincide with the launch of the series, Hasbro released the first wave of action figures. Hasbro had ridden to prominence on the back of the Transformers line and had expanded to become the largest toy seller in the world. 1991 was an especially big year for the company because it purchased Tonka, Parker Brothers, and Kenner giving the company huge reach into almost every facet of the toy market. Still, Hasbro (and other toy makers) had passed on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a few years earlier after making the same mistake back in the 70s with Star Wars. Maybe that was part of the drive to go after Bucky O’Hare in hopes it would become a major action figure property for the company.

The initial wave of Bucky O’Hare figures based on the show included six heroes:  Bucky, Dead-Eye Duck, Willy DuWitt, Commander Dogstar, A.F.C. Blinky, and Bruiser. Four villains joined them:  Toad Air Marshall, Toadborg, Toad Storm Trooper, and Al Negator. The company also released a vehicle play set for the good guys and one for the bad guys, the Toad Croaker (which featured a whoopee cushion like device in it to squish the bad guys) and the Toad Double Bubble, essentially the toad version of a Tie Fighter. The toys were prominently placed in my local Toys R Us and Christmas of 91 was the year I got a lot of Bucky stuff. It ended up being the only Christmas for me and Bucky as the line was discontinued. Series 2 was famously shown in a Hasbro catalog, and a figure of Jenny was completed for the first series but held back. Carded figures of Jenny have become the most sought-after piece of Bucky merch there is even after she finally received an official figure release from Boss Fight Studio.

Blame for the demise of Bucky is largely placed on the toys and Hasbro for its case ratios. When a store would order more, Hasbro would send out a standard case which included two of each figure. Gradually, less popular figures like the Toad Air Marshall would start to take over the pegs while figures of Bucky and Dead-Eye would disappear quickly. Hasbro allegedly never adjusted the case ratios and stores stopped ordering when they had pegs full of Air Marshalls and Storm Troopers. It’s hard to say if that played the largest role, but I can personally recall going to the store and indeed seeing an entire section of Toad Air Marshall figures.

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Bucky was apparently picked up by at least one Fox affiliate.

With Hasbro bowing out of the property because of the profitability of the toy line everyone else bailed as well. Obviously, since only 13 episodes were ordered initially there was some skepticism from the beginning for Bucky O’Hare. We don’t know how the show fared ratings-wise or how successful sales of other merchandise was. Like most cartoons, Bucky was on everything:  party supplies, puzzles, costumes, lunch boxes, shoes, coloring books, etc. Family Home Entertainment had the distribution rights for the show on home video and released 3 VHS tapes of the show which totaled 7 episodes. The Konami video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System would be a late arrival in January of 1992, but likely still in before the consumer had a notion the show wouldn’t continue. A separate arcade game arrived in the fall of 1992 when it was likely obvious the property was dead. Not surprisingly, I don’t think many units were produced and I’ve actually never come across one in the wild. I mentioned the Hasbro Jenny as the most sought after of Bucky collectibles, but I bet if one of these arcade cabinets were to go up for sale it would fetch a pretty high price.

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In Canada, the show was titled Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Menace, like the TPB release.

Whatever the reason, Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars failed to catch on. Blame it on the toys if you wish, or maybe it just wasn’t promoted enough on television. I think a large part of the issue is simply that selling boys on a green space bunny was a bit of a hard sell. I think most who gave the show a chance probably liked it, but they might have needed convincing. Had Bucky been a weekday afternoon show, he might have stood a better shot as that’s easier for kids to get into. A week is a long time between episodes for a six-year-old.

Where I grew up in New Hampshire, Bucky O’Hare was pretty popular. My friends were all into the show and the toy line and eventually the NES game. It seemed popular to me, which is partly why I was so confused as a kid when Bucky simply went away. Now, I’m ready to engage this property once again as an adult. Like Batman, I’ve seen the episodes multiple times as both a kid and an adult, though overall I’ve seen these episodes less simply because the re-runs weren’t on TV for years. As I work my way through the series here, I’ll be re-watching the episodes again and approaching it from a critical standpoint as I walk the reader through the episode. My opinion going into it is that this show is not high art, but it has more depth than many of its peers. Bucky O’Hare aired in a more cynical time pre-Batman and pre-X-Men, and I’ll keep that in mind. This show was supposed to be a 23 minute commercial for toys and games, but it seemed to aim higher.

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The now out of print R2 release is the only official way to enjoy Bucky on DVD.

If you want to follow along with me it’s going to be a bit more difficult than it is with Batman. Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars received an incomplete VHS release, but that’s likely not that important to readers in 2019 who likely don’t even own a VCR any longer. The show was released on Region 2 DVD in 2004 by Metrodome Distribution. It was a bare-bones release that contained just the episodes in a quality pretty typical of the era. The DVD is out of print. No official Region 1 DVD was ever released, though there was a popular bootleg put out by Exposure Entertainment in 2010. It just contained the episodes and was probably a rip of the Region 2 release as the quality is pretty much the same. The packaging though was pretty ugly. I covered both in the early days of this blog, though both are a lot harder to come by now than they were back then.

It is highly unlikely at this stage that Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars will get an official Region 1 release and that’s further heightened by its presence on the internet. The entire series can be streamed on YouTube and probably on other platforms as well for free. No one is protective of the property in 2019 and it’s hard to imagine that changing at this point. No matter, this should be a fun exploration of the old show and hopefully you enjoy going on this trip with me. We start tomorrow with the very first episode “War of the Warts.”


Bucky O’Hare – The Video Game

Bucky O'Hare - Nintendo Entertainment System (1992)

Bucky O’Hare – Nintendo Entertainment System (1992)

I’ve been away for awhile, a combination of life events and vacation, but I’m back and ready to talk about some old things.  Here is one such old thing and a topic I’ve discussed before:  Bucky O’Hare.  Bucky O’Hare was a part of that glut from the late 1980s into the 1990s of anthropomorphic cartoon characters riding on the coat tails of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Very few of these properties (Street Sharks, Biker Mice From Mars, Battle Toads) had any staying power and Bucky proved to be no exception.  His show lasted one season, and it was a half season at that, before getting cancelled.  There are a number of theories why from poor marketing decisions, bad distribution of the toys, too serious, though I personally think a lot of boys just didn’t buy into the idea of a green space bunny saving the galaxy.  Despite Bucky’s outward appearance, I liked him and the show quite a bit as did a number of my friends.  Bucky probably dominated a good six months of my young life and during that time period he was even able to overtake the TMNT for a brief spell.

Even though Bucky didn’t last long as a cartoon hero (he didn’t last long as a comic book hero either), he was still around long enough to have his likeness inserted onto just about every product imaginable.  From the obvious items like toys and clothing to the less obvious such as dishes and light-switch covers.  Not surprisingly, another item that took advantage of the Bucky O’Hare license was a video game, simply titled Bucky O’Hare.   The game was developed by Konami and released in 1992 a short while after the cartoon had finished its run.  Right away, it should be noted that Bucky dodged a major bullet in that his game was developed by Konami, and not LJN, whom Konami had a tendency to hand all of its licensed products to.  LJN is known as one of the worst game developers from that era; it possessed the opposite of the Midas Touch when it came to game development.  The fact that Bucky managed to avoid such a fate is really quite surprising, in hindsight.  Even more popular properties like the X-Men were unable to avoid LJN but somehow Bucky snuck through.

DownloadedFile-33Bucky O’Hare on the NES is an action platformer starring Bucky O’Hare himself.  Players control the funky fresh rabbit and navigate him through various levels, mostly going left to right but not always, as they run, jump, and gun down the evil toads to save Bucky’s crew.  The game starts off giving the player a choice of 4 different stages, represented by different planets, that Bucky can choose from.  On each planet, one of Bucky’s crew-mates is being held captive:  Blinky is on the green planet, Jenny is on the blue planet, Dead Eye the red, and Willy DuWitt is on the yellow planet.  Bucky can choose to rescue his mates in any order, though at least one planet requires the aid of one of Bucky’s comrades, for when Bucky rescues a character that character becomes playable.  The player can switch on the fly with a press of the select button.  All characters share the same health bar but have their own power bar.

The power bar is where the characters distinguish themselves.  Each character had a unique attack and unique ability.  Attacks are simply done by pressing the B button.  Bucky can shoot horizontally and vertically and his special ability is a super jump.  By pressing and holding the B button, Bucky crouches down and charges up a jump.  The power meter determines how high he can go and it can be increased in size by collecting certain power-ups.  Blinky has a jetpack that allows him to fly for a short duration.  His attack is a canon-ball like  weapon that fires in an arc.  It can also break certain blocks found in the environment.  It’s more powerful than Bucky’s attack, but has limited range.  Jenny fires a laser that may or may not inflict more damage than Bucky’s gun, though it’s rate of fire doesn’t seem to be as good.  Her special ability is some kind of telekinetic ball that the player can control with the d-pad once it’s been fired.  It’s useful in certain spots where the player can sit out of danger and attack from cover.  Dead Eye has a scatter-shot for his main weapon.  Think the spread gun from Konami’s much more popular Contra series. His special ability lets him crawl on walls for a short duration.  Not particularly useful.  Willy has a fairly normal attack with his special being a charged shot.  Unlike, say Mega Man, Willy is stationary when charging making his special ability the least useful.

Mega Man fans, does this look familiar?

Mega Man fans, does this look familiar?

Willy’s special ability isn’t the only comparison to Mega Man one will find when playing Bucky O’Hare.  In many ways, the game is like a Mega Man clone.  The non-linear setup at the start is certainly reminiscient of the blue bomber’s games and the general run, jump, shoot mechanics seem to be clearly inspired by Mega Man as well.  There’s also some levels, or parts of levels, that are inspired by some of Mega Man’s more famous levels such as the red planet’s nod to Quick Man and the vanishing blocks from the Toad Mother Ship.  A quick google search will reveal that, in some circles, this game is known as the Konami Mega Man.  I’ve never heard anyone actually refer to the game as such, but the internet never lies.  Bucky owes a lot to Mega Man, but it’s different enough to maintain integrity and similar enough that it’s safe to say most fans of the blue bomber will enjoy the green rabbit.

Bucky O’Hare may not be among the most popular NES games, but most people who are into NES games seem to know about it and associate it with one word:  hard.  Many games from this era are hard, but Bucky O’Hare is often placed in that upper tier of really difficult games.  I’ve never heard anyone outright call it the hardest NES game ever made, but I’ve seen it included in several lists or youtube videos amongst the elite.  This is mostly a good thing, as Bucky O’Hare is able to achieve it’s difficulty without being too cheap.  There are some areas, when playing for the first time, that will piss a gamer off.  The most obvious to me occurs on the yellow planet where the player has to hop on these futuristic mine carts that zip along a track.  Jumping from one to another is not difficult, as they slow down long enough to make the timing easy, but before long a wall of spikes will pop up that result in a one-hit death if the player doesn’t react fast enough.  These one-hit deaths comprise the majority of player fatalities in Bucky O’Hare.  Very rarely can I recall actually having my life depleted slowly during a non-boss encounter.  And even the boss fights, as one might imagine, include a number of instant death attacks that can put an end to the fight rather quickly.  What keeps Bucky O’Hare from being among the hardest of the hard is its generous continue system.  Each level is broken up into several acts which, by themselves, are pretty short.  If a player loses all of his or her lives the continue screen is displayed and electing to go on will bring the player to the start of the most recently completed act with a new set of lives.  Continues are unlimited, and completing a full level gives the player a password which isn’t overly complex or long.  This means anyone of moderate skill can probably complete Bucky O’Hare so long as they’re persistent.  And given that much of the game’s difficulty comes from being surprised, practice does indeed make perfect.

Right around the time it seems like the game has thrown everything it can at you, it introduces the flying stages.  Prepare to die.

Right around the time it seems like the game has thrown everything it can at you, it introduces the flying stages. Prepare to die.

Bucky O’Hare is deceptively long and offers a good amount of gameplay.  After completing the first four stages the player is abducted by the toads and (annoyingly) must also re-rescue the trio of Jenny, Dead Eye, and Willy.  The setup, beyond the run and gun nature of the game, is pretty straight-forward but there are areas later in the game that are non-linear as Bucky explores the Toad Mother Ship.  After the conclusion of each level, a boss encounter occurs.  They’re usually fairly challenging, but there are some easy ones, and part of the challenge is knowing which character works best.  For the most part, Bucky on his own is enough to take down a boss but I did find some uses for Jenny’s special attack (namely the yellow planet boss) and Blinky has his moments too.  Only Willy comes across as feeling useless as I was able to make regular use of the other four characters.  Bucky never had another console video game release, but he did have an arcade game released after this one though it wasn’t very popular.  This game, along with the cartoon’s catchy theme song, is probably the way most remember Bucky O’Hare.  Considering most of those other shows, TMNT included, received mediocre to terrible games, I’d say Bucky came out ahead in one respect.  If you like NES games and have never played this one, I whole-heartedly recommend it.