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A Saturday morning cartoon gem that sadly faded into obscurity!
There are many TV shows I remember from my childhood, but of them all, this was perhaps my favourite! I was first introduced to it in late 1994, when I was eight years old, and I would watch and tape it every Saturday morning. In more recent years, I have sometimes rewatched episodes on tape, and have very recently managed to see almost every episode online, many of which I never saw in my childhood, maybe even the majority of them. It turns out that like certain other TV shows I watched in the 90's, this one isn't just for kids!
The Tasmanian Devil (a.k.a. Taz), a character who appeared in several Looney Tunes cartoons in the 50's and 60's, has his own show here. He still spins around in a whirlwind, sometimes through trees and rocks and drilling holes in the ground, and still makes sounds, rarely speaking in complete sentences (though he occasionally shows that he CAN talk normally). He also still loves to eat, and is capable of consuming mass quantities in one gulp! However, unlike the earlier cartoons, he is a teenager in a family of five here. His parents are Jean and Hugh, both loving, caring, laid back parents, but they're also misguided and absurdly tolerant of Taz's behaviour, and virtually nothing makes them angry! Taz is the eldest of three siblings. The middle sibling is Molly, who is often seen talking on the phone with friends, and her favourite band is New Chips off the Block (obviously based on boy band New Kids on the Block). The majority of the conflict in the family is between Molly and Taz. The youngest is a playful young boy named Jake. These family members are all more advanced than Taz, and always talk normally. The family has a pet turtle that acts like a dog, and Uncle Drew, who appears in three episodes, the "Road to Taz-Mania" trilogy. He has a rather unsteady relationship with Hugh, his brother, as they like to insult each other.
Taz's family members don't appear in every episode, as there are many other recurring characters. In his early cartoons, Taz was known mainly as a vicious but dimwitted predator of Bugs Bunny, and is sometimes the predator in episodes of this show as well, such as the ones with Kiwi, who never makes a sound but is extremely clever! On the other hand, there are also episodes in which Taz is the prey, when Bull Gator and his idiot sidekick, Axel, try to capture him for the "zoo-going children" to see, or when Francis X. Bushlad tries capture him so he can earn his manhood in his tribe! Other characters include: Bushwacker Bob, Taz's arrogant, selfish, lazy, short-tempered boss at the hotel where he works; Mum, Bob's mother, who runs the hotel with him; Digeri Dingo, a selfish, lazy, scheming dingo dog who loves to use Taz; Wendel T. Wolf, a Tasmanian wolf who believes he is the last of his species; the Platypus brothers, Timothy and Daniel, pseudo-handymen who think they are scientific geniuses; Constance Koala, a huge, strong koala bear who likes to dance and sing, and works at the hotel with Taz; Mister Thickley, another co-worker at the hotel, a wallaby who tries to be the most beloved character; Buddy Boar, Taz's deal making pal; the Bushrats, a tribe of rats who talk with subtitles; and Willie Wombat, who appears in several later episodes, a friendly wombat who struggles to try and get a better role in the show. Whichever character(s) Taz is with in the land of Tazmania, it's bound to lead to slapstick chaos!
Watching episodes of this show now, I can still admire it for the animation (with beautiful backgrounds usually featuring yellow skies), musical scores, characters, etc., just like I did fifteen years ago, but it obviously isn't exactly the same. As one would expect, there's a lot of slapstick mayhem (with Taz often the victim), but there's also some satire/parodying I wouldn't have understood as a kid, with such episodes (or segments of episodes) as "Ticket Taker Taz" and many others. I also have more appreciation for some of the characters than I used to, including Taz's lovable family, with his over-affectionate mother and babbling, orange juice-loving father, with his catchphrase, "blah blah blah yackety shmackety," and the way they sweet-talk each other! There are so many lovable characters outside the family as well, plus some comically mean-spirited ones! Basically, all the characters contribute something to the show, though obviously some more than others. For the most part, "Taz-Mania" is consistently funny, with physical humour, satire, the antics of Taz and sometimes other characters, the main character's adventures, etc. The show also has a talented voice-over cast.
This early 90's cartoon series was a success during its run, but unfortunately, it doesn't exactly seem like it ever was successful now. The show sadly doesn't seem to be nearly as widely remembered as "Tiny Toon Adventures" and "Animaniacs", two other Warner Bros. cartoons from the same decade. It wouldn't have hurt if the show had lasted longer than it did, and if it were as popular as it deserves to be, it would have been released on DVD years ago, around the time they started making "Simpsons" DVD sets! And yet, there still hasn't been a DVD release of the cartoon, and reruns seem scarce. If it could get more recognition, I'm sure it could appeal to so many kids and adults alike, which I'm sure it did in its heyday! So, regardless of your age, if you like cartoons, and know a way to see episodes of "Taz-Mania", it could be well worth watching!
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