When was the last time a live action network primetime drama series featured an original animation segment as part of its plot? Van Partible (creator of Johnny Bravo) has just produced and directed three and a half minutes of cartoon madness for the two-hour season premiere of Medium on NBC. And it may just be a first.With characters designed by Dan Haskett (in a loose Jim Tyer style), the four brief Monkeyhead dream sequences were animated in flash by Six Point Harness Studios under Partible’s direction. The script was written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach (Supervising Producer from “Lost”) and Glenn Gordon Caron (the creator).So, is this the first time an adult theme – like murder – has been explored through animation in prime time? I know Fred has tried to kill Barney over a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles, but that’s not what I mean. Animation segments have been used on live action prime-time network series before, primarily on comedy shows like Caroline In The City, My Wife and Kids, The Drew Carey Show, and Mad About You, The Duck Factory, My World and Welcome To It. There was an outstanding episode of George Burns Comedy Week (1985) called “The Honeybunnies” with a dark comedy animation segment created by Nelvana. Anything else?In the meantime, I’ll be watching the November 15th episode of Medium. It sounds great – and it might just be an historic occasion!
UPDATE: Animator Mark Mayerson writes: “Glen Gordon Caron previously used Will Vinton to do an animated segment on Moonlighting. I remember that they turned Bruce Willis into a clay frog for that.”IMDB’s Jon Reeves mentions that “a stop-motion segment for an episode of My Name Is Earl will air some time this month”.And finally, Bob Miller wants to remind us that Hanna Barbera’s New Adventures Of Huck Finn was a dramatic prime time series that combined live action and animation on a weekly basis.(Image from model sheet above Property of CBS Paramount Network Television / Picturemaker Productions / Grammnet Productions)