Wednesday, April 06, 2011


You're probably wondering why I picked this 'un up in the first place. Actually, I'm wondering the same thing too. Gotta admit that this particular series was being aired a whole year or two after I put my Saturday Morning Cartoon viewing days behind me (last series I was a regular tuner-in on was ARCHIE'S TV FUNNIES...hated the competition, especially that ALL IN THE FAMILY carbon THE BARKLEYS which once got a thumbs up from R. Meltzer) but the power of suggestion can be mighty strong. And that's just what kinda seed Don Fellman planted into my manure mind when he called to see if I could find out whatever I could (via the ol' internet) on not only MISSION: MAGIC! but a wide variety of subject matter that he jotted down on some papers. Well, since he doesn't have a computer he's gotta call someone to find out about certain cinematic excursions along the lines of old Marisol films, and (as you can guess) it might as well be ME!

Fellman somehow thought that MISSION: MAGIC! might have been an old fifties b-film, but that's probably because he didn't have the colon between the two words in the title and evidently was unaware that Saturday morning cranker-outers Filmation were obviously riffing on the just canceled MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE series. And although this one would most definitely be way outside of Fellman's own cultural sphere (for him, life MIGHT HAVE WELL HAVE ENDED 12/31/63 because nothing after that really had the same zing for him) I think even he would get a kick out of all sixteen episodes of this '73-'74 ABC Saturday Morning cartoon which I find a few cuts about the typical doofus drek that was being made during the time and of course many years beyond.

This MISSION: MAGIC! brouhaha deals with the abnormally nice and sweet teacher Miss Tickle, a pleasant enough ideal (and obv. model for THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS's equally beyond pleasant Ms. Frizzle) who has what some might call occult powers (some sources refer to her a being a "witch") but I prefer to think of her in a more innocent light. This might be because she's everything I wish I had in a second grade teach 'stead of that harridan who bludgeoned me beyond recognition but pleasant reminiscences aside, Tickle leads a clandestine group of typically Filmation-esque kids (a melange of various ARCHIE/FAT ALBERT types) called "The Adventurers Club" through other-dimensional adventures with the aid of none other than fresh-off-the-boat Rick Springfield, this during his first attempt at Amerigan teen heart-throbdom a good decade before he finally cashed in as a squeak-rocker during the era of MIAMI VICE shuck.

Wearing an appropriately 197X flared superhero costume, Springfield beckons forth from an antique cylinder-spinning gramophone whenever Tickle and the Adventurers are needed, and when the action gets into one of those long JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS-styled chase scenes or some other lull he does an abbreviated number soon to be released on a soundtrack to the series album complete with the same overused up-close guitar strumming, blippoid psychedelic effects and body swaying shots all ending in a hail of course canned applause. Which only goes to show you that when it came to recycling animation clips in order to cut down on the big bux, nobody could top Filmation!

I gotta admit that when MISSION: MAGIC! was trying to look like what it wasn't (a typical cheap TV cartoon) it flopped bad. Some of the animation in the episodes seemed to look more 1971 "relevant" like THE POINT or that old supposedly "classic" Tootsie Pop commercial with the Owl trying to find out how many licks it took, and the results can be just as bad as when Chuck Jones did those artsy-doodle cartoons that were trying to ape the Sidney Peterson stuff at UPA which was pretty artsy-doodle to begin with...extremely abstract, arty and dated. When they stick to the good ol' Saturday Morning trash MISSION: MAGIC! does just what it's supposed to do...entertain a buncha pajama'd suburban ranch house 10-year-olds who shoulda been outside helping mom and dad inna yard but the folks were too lenient and they WONDER why the kids don't drop in to visit 'em at the rest home. But hey, it is fun trash and I can see that although it was the kid crap I thought it was all along at least it was good crap and how much do we get of that these days?

Oddly enough I don't find Springfield's music as bubblegummy offensive as I might have had I been aware of it at the time. It's rather decent straight-ahead 1973 pop, nothing along the lines of a Raspberries, T. Rex or even a Blue Ash but go-gettem enough that I could see Gene Sculatti and maybe even Ken Highland giving Springfield's album a thumbs up review. Nothing I would BUY, but I find it suits the mid-seventies ambiance of this series more than say, the hits permeating the Osmonds' own cartoon series did and who in their right mind outside of Mark Shipper and Highland ever took them seriously?

I ain't gonna forget to mention the voice artists either even if getting the producer's kids in on the game reeks of pure Kennedy-ish nepotism. It's always good to hear Howard Morris do those various twists and turns on his already patented Ernest T. Bass and Jughead voices, and Lola Fisher as Miss Tickle oozes that good ol' teacher love feeling that I'm sure some of you more adjusted types had in your single-digits. Not only that but she can even warble a good melody herself as she does with "Sing Me a Song" (not the number from the MARC show!) in episode #15.

So hey, it was a good effort and a lot better'n what Hanna/Barbara and Friz Freling were dishing up on tee-vee at the time even if they certainly weren't taking as many short cuts with the animation as they were at Filmation. MISSION: MAGIC! was a good enough reason to shrug off the usual Saturday AM chores to plop in front of the boob tube, and although it was in many ways indicative of an era that pretty much paled with regards to what came before (why do you think that GILLIGAN'S ISLAND reruns were drawing more viewers than the news?) I can also say that it was a kinda unique and affects you in a nize li'l way program, especially when judged with what came directly after.


Anonymous said...

crap. i dug out a 15 year old issue of black to comm, googled yr name, and found that chris stigliano = christian weston chandler. google it. the main question left, are you a high-functioning autistic? seems like it to me. do you still rock out with a tennis racket to white light/white heat? jus' axin'...

Christopher Stigliano said...

This Chandler guy sounds boss enough to make me want to get in contact with him so's he could illustrate my latest anti-queer blog adventure entitled "Chicken Prayer Quorum" and hey, anti-athletic me doesn't even own a tennis racket!