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Freakazoid! is an American animated television series created for the Kids' WB! programming block of The WB. The series chronicles the adventures of the title character, Freakazoid, a manic, insane superhero who battles with an array of super villains. The show also features mini-episodes of adventures of other bizarre superheroes. The show was produced by Amblin Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation. The cartoon was the third animated series produced by the collaboration of Steven Spielberg and Warner Bros. Animation during the animation renaissance of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Bruce Timm, best known as a major architect of the DC animated universe, originally intended the series to be a straightforward superhero action-adventure cartoon with comic overtones, but executive producer Steven Spielberg asked Animaniacs seniors producer and writer Tom Ruegger and the team to turn Freakazoid! into a flat-out comedy. The show is similar to fellow Ruegger-led programs such as Animaniacs, and the humor is unique in its inclusions of slapstick, fourth wall firings, parody, surreal humor, and pop cultural references. The series was among the debut series on the inaugural Kids' WB! Saturday morning block of the WB, on September 9, 1995. The series lasted for two seasons, finishing with 24 episodes. Although the series originally struggled in the ratings, reruns on Cartoon Network, and a fan following have elevated the series to become a cult hit.

BackgroundEdit

The show's title character is the superhero alter ego of geeky teenager Dexter Douglas who attends Harry Connick High School. After being absorbed into the Internet and instantly gaining all of its information, Freakazoid possesses enhanced strength and endurance, extraordinary speed, agility, and negligible amounts of sanity. These changes make him a powerful and fearsome force for upholding freedom and righteousness, unless he gets distracted by something like a bear riding a motorcycle. He has a base called the Freakalair, a parody of the Batcave, built by his mute butler, Ingmar. The Freakalair contains a "Hall of Nifty Things to Know" and even a mad scientist lab. His greatest weakness, as he once explained to a villain, is that he can be imprisoned in a cage with graphite bars charged with negative ions. He also expresses a great aversion to "poo gas."

Peripheral powers come and go: Freakazoid once developed telekinesis triggered by anger that was never mentioned again after the episode, and once crossed the globe to yell at a Tibetan monk for raking too loud. He also has the ability to assume the form of electricity and cover long distances instantaneously, although he just as often simply sticks his arms forward and runs while making swooshing sounds with his mouth, pretending to fly.

Dexter can change into and out of Freakazoid at will with the words "Freak out!" and "Freak in!" When not in Freakazoid mode, Dexter looks and acts completely normal, and his family is unaware that anything has happened to him. Freakazoid spends this time in an area of Dexter's brain called the Freakazone, where he reflects, has profound thoughts, and watches reruns of The Rat Patrol.

The "secret key sequence" that must be typed for the computer bug to become active (a reference to the Pentium FDIV bug) begins with: "@[=g3,8d]\&fbb=-q]/hk%fg" followed by Delete. The bug was first manifested when Dexter's cat crawled onto the keyboard.

While the show's setting is set around Washington D.C., the locale often varies with the show's humor, taking Freakazoid to locations around the world as needed.

Development Edit

01

After executive producing Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs at Warner Bros. Animation, Steven Spielberg decided he wanted to work with the crew of Batman: The Animated Series. The crew was tasked with developing ideas for an action-comedy show. Writer Alan Burnett worked with various Batman artists and directors to come up with several pitches, including a "futuristic action/adventure show" called Joe Grunt developed with Eric Radomski and Ronaldo Del Carmen (which Spielberg loved but WB Network head Jamie Kellner hated), a Star Wars-type show about a smuggler/space pirate developed with Bruce Timm, and a "teenage Jonny Quest-type show."[1] Ultimately, the winning pitch came from Burnett, Timm and writer Paul Dini: a teenager who gains super powers and becomes "the Freakazoid." Dini and Timm envisioned the character somewhat like Spider-Man, in terms of telling a story about an immature teenager coping with newfound power. Timm claims that his version of the character would have been similar to the way the Creeper is portrayed in the later Batman: The Animated Series episode, "Beware the Creeper," including sounding the same as the Creeper (who was voiced by Jeff Glen Bennett).[2]

Eventually, Timm realized that Spielberg wanted something much more in an Animaniacs comedy vein, and he was uncomfortable working in that style, so he left the project and Tom Ruegger (senior producer on Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs, as well as executive producer on the early seasons of Batman: The Animated Series) was brought in to revamp the series. Ruegger wrote a sort of pilot script for the show, made up largely of quick, blackout-type gags. The script was 85 pages long, about the length of two episodes. Most of the "in-between" segments in the first season originated in this script, including: "Freakazoid and Friends," "Handman," "The Lobe," the "Mo-Ron" segments in Episode 3, and "Legends Who Lunch."[3] Spielberg liked the script, but suggested that there be some longer sketches with more story. Ruegger then brought in Paul Rugg (who was a story editor, writer and occasional voice actor on Animaniacs) and John P. McCann (a staff writer on Animaniacs) to write material. Rugg and McCann were good friends, having performed together in the Acme Players comedy troupe, and been hired to Animaniacs at the same time. McCann wrote the first full script for Freakazoid!, "Dance of Doom," and Rugg wrote the second, "Candle Jack."[4] Rugg was cast as Freakazoid when all of the auditioners were overly manic, and Rugg repeatedly demonstrated to them how they should play the role.

Ruegger was brought onto the show in January 1995, and McCann wrote "Dance of Doom" in February; since the show was slated to premiere in September, the timeline was very tight. There was no time to write a series bible or set rules for the show. Rather, the writers were finding the world of the show each episode as they wrote (as referenced by the characters in episodes such as "And Fanboy Is His Name"). Timm had already designed almost all of the major characters and villains, including Freakazoid, Steff, Lobe, Candle Jack and Cave Guy; the writers were tasked with keeping the current designs and developing backstories for the existing characters. Rugg and McCann initially spent a great deal of time trying to figure out the logistics of the show's universe, including a possible origin story for Freakazoid involving a garage door opener. Ruegger told them to stop focusing on the underlying logic and to just start writing episodes.[5] Many of the first season directors (Dan Riba, Eric Radomski, Ronaldo Del Carmen) came to the show by way of Batman: The Animated Series, and remained attached to the show despite Timm's exit. Paul Dini submitted several scripts to the show during the first season. The series debuted as part of Warner Brothers' new lineup of children's cartoons, Kids' WB!, on September 9, 1995.

In the second season, producer Mitch Schauer left to produce his own series, Angry Beavers. Most of the series directors also exited the show, either to work on Warner Bros.' new Superman series or to exit Warner Bros. Animation altogether. Additionally, Ruegger had three other series on his plate (Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain and Road Rovers). Although Rugg and McCann did not wish to produce, believing it would take their time away from writing, Jean MacCurdy told them that this was the only way a second season of the show would be made. Rugg and McCann therefore assumed producers' duties, and Rich Arons, a former Animaniacs producer and director, also stepped in as producer and supervising director. At a season-start meeting with Steven Spielberg which covered all of the shows he was producing at Warner Bros. Animation, Rugg and McCann were told that, for budgetary reasons, Freakazoid! was now to be made up of full half-hour episodes, rather than the shorter segments that had been the bulk of the first season.[6]

On October 19, 1996, the time slot for Freakazoid! was changed to 8am on Saturdays as part of Kids' WB!'s new scheduling edict, "Big Kids Go First."[7] At this point, the producers and writers realized that Freakazoid! would be canceled. After five weeks in this timeslot, Freakazoid! was removed from the Saturday lineup entirely and began airing Friday afternoons at 4pm for "Freakout Fridays" (with a random show from the Kids' WB! lineup airing each week at 4:30). Kids' WB! had even lower distribution on weekdays than it did on Saturdays, since many of its affiliates were still under contract to show syndicated programming such as The Disney Afternoon. Before the move, Kids' WB! had only shown reruns of Animaniacs and vintage Looney Tunes cartoons on weekdays. Freakazoid! had its final Kids' WB! airing on February 14, 1997, with two episodes still left unaired. Those episodes finally aired in May and June of 1997, when the show went into reruns on Cartoon Network.

Awards Edit

Daytime Emmy Award Nominations and Wins Edit

Episodes Edit

Season 1 Edit

Season 2 Edit

Crew Edit

Season 1 Edit

Senior Producer: Tom Ruegger

Producer: Mitch Schauer

Associate Producer: Haven Alexander

Story Editors: John P. McCann, Paul Rugg

Series Directors: Ronaldo Del Carmen, Jack Heiter, Scott Jeralds, Eric Radomski, Dan Riba

Music By: Richard Stone (Episodes 1-11, 13), Julie Bernstein (Episodes 6-7), Gordon L. Goodwin (Episodes 8-9, 12), Carl Johnson (Episodes 10-11), Steve Bernstein (Episodes 10, 13).

Voice Direction: Andrea Romano

Casting Director: Leslie Lamers

Animation Services: Koko Enterprise Co., Ltd. (Episodes 1-5, 7-13), Dong Yang Animation Co., Ltd. (Episodes 1, 3-5, 7-13), Seoul Movie Co., Ltd. (Episodes 2, 7-10, 13), Animal House (Main Title, Episodes 6-7 ["The Chip" Parts I and II]), Studio Junio (Episode 11 ["Next Time, Phone Ahead!"]), Tama Production Co., Ltd. (Episode 12 ["House of Freakazoid"])

Executive in Charge of Production: Jean MacCurdy

Executive Producer: Steven Spielberg

Season 2 Edit

Senior Producer: Tom Ruegger

Producers: Rich Arons, John P. McCann, Paul Rugg

Associate Producer: Haven Alexander (Episode 14), Laura V. Perrotta (Episodes 14-24)

Story Editors: John P. McCann, Paul Rugg

Supervising Director: Rich Arons

Series Directors: Jack Heiter, Peter Shin

Music By: Richard Stone (Episodes 14, 16, 18-24), Gordon L. Goodwin (Episodes 14-15, 18, 21), Steve Bernstein (Episodes 16, 19-20), Julie Bernstein (Episodes 17-24), Tim Kelly (Episodes 20, 23)

Voice Direction: Andrea Romano

Casting Director: Leslie Lamers

Animation Services: Koko Enterprise Co., Ltd. (Episodes 14-24), Dong Yang Animation Co., Ltd. (Episodes 15-24)

Executive in Charge of Production: Jean MacCurdy

Executive Producer: Steven Spielberg

References Edit

  1. Eric Nolen-Weathington, Modern Masters Vol. 3: Bruce Timm, TwoMorrows Publishing, 2004, p. 52.
  2. The Original Freak Documentary.
  3. http://zvbxrpl.blogspot.com/2004/07/freakazoid.html; The Original Freak Documentary.
  4. Audio Commentary on Episode 1; Audio Commentary on Episode 2.
  5. The Original Freak Documentary.
  6. Liebeslied für Normadeus Feature.
  7. The Warner Bros. Animation staff expressed their feelings on this change in the gag credit for Animaniacs Episode 90: "On the WB, big kids go first: In reality, big kids sleep in."

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