Spang Ho!

Welcome to Cartoon Brew – where rejected pilots from Cartoon Network come to play. Here’s another one:

Here is what the creator, Lincoln Peirce, had to say about it:

“Spang Ho is the latest of several pilots of mine Cartoon Network has rejected over the years. No, it wasn’t for Cartoonstitute; that program hadn’t officially been launched when CN bought Spang Ho. Frankly, I’m not sure exactly why they bought it, since nobody there seemed too sanguine about its prospects as a CN series. There was a lot of turmoil going on in the CN programming and development depts at the time (as there continues to be), and CN actually fired Spang Ho’s in-house producer when we were about halfway done without telling us. (When I say “us” I’m referring to myself, my director Rich Ferguson-Hull, and the crew of Global Mechanic, the house that did the animation.) But they allowed us to finish it, and then they focus-grouped it. The kids were only luke-warm about it, and that was the end of that. It was likely my last TV writing stint for awhile, since I’m working on some kids books for Harper Collins right now featuring my comic strip character, Big Nate.”

(Thanks, Joshua Bailey)

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  • ArthurF

    The main character, in terms of costume and personality seems sprinkled with traces of Pee Wee Herman and Spongebob, albeit subtly enough not to fully caricature (a sudden fondness for “synchronized swimming” surely goes into Pee Wee territory) but just seem familiar in spirit, in a better way than the “Austrian/Swiss speaking student” seems to be a more tired gag borrowed from the Simpson’s school. I do feel the supporting characters are all defined and clear, although I feel sometimes unclear for which age group. The girl who does most of the lifting might nerve in a sort of “Dora” way of optimism… and as seems to be the rule nowadays, the dog-sideman has potential. The animation is fine but it belongs more to a computer feel than the kind of animation I like (such as “The Mighty B” continues). I think if something nerves me it is the overall tone, which matches to one tendency that became prevalent on CN cartoons, of being a bit TOO forced into the domain of just idosyncratically twee… I don’t know if that is for the demographic of kids really, or for us adults to laugh in the end with. But anyone who was trying this out on spec in CN would have known all this already (and may have issued notes supporting that feel) so it wouldn’t have blocked them from following through. I guess it’s not significantly different enough to catch attention in the crowd, which is thinning out anyway…

  • Riza Gilderstein.

    It’s a pretty boring cartoon. But anything is better than reality tv. Even this mish mash of mush.

  • Jay Sabicer

    Too many executive decisions made, then killed this project, and it shows. Frankly, it left me flat – flash animation with too many round edges and flash-squash/stretch, no soul whatsoever.

    It appears that CN has tried the “let’s make another SpongeBob” formula for years, trying to replicate the monstrous success it has had over the last 10 years (and subsequently monstrous profits). They’ve finally given up after Chowder and Flapjack, neither ever meeting up to their expectations or ratings. This is the downstroke of the cycle. When CN has hit rock bottom (almost there), there will be the inevitable shakeup and chopping of heads and hopefully, HOPEFULLY, someone who actually enjoys cartoons will rise to the top. Then, and only then, will the Cartoon Network renaissance will occur.

    Be patient fellas, an all-cartoon channel is still a great idea, it just needs new blood. Oh, and Time Warner, I am available for any VP positions, the standard 6-figure salary and perks package will do just fine. And I’ll even make my own coffee.

  • ZN

    There is far too much exposition going on at almost every turn, no real chance for the viewer to understand or appreciate the characters because they’re too busy telling you who and what they are, rather than just being who and what they are. There’s nothing to hook a viewer here. If the characters were strong, then you wouldn’t need to introduce them, because people would be able to read them just by watching them interact in a regular setting.

    When you look at Cartoon Network’s other cartoons, the ideas just go further. You have a surrealist cartoon set in a very Seussian world about a boy learning to be a chef, you have a slapstick cartoon set in a swashbuckling world where candy is currency.. a cartoon about a place where imaginary friends go when they are abandoned. These concepts are all interesting and eye grabbing. What is Spang Ho’s concept? ‘It’s like all those other school shows but this time the boy wears a cape.’ There’s no hook.

  • matt

    wow, just…
    straight up awful

  • http://www.animationinsider.net/ Aaron H. Bynum

    Cartoon Network relies on focus groups far too much as it is.

    But then again, I wonder if they used focus groups at all for their new August live-action programs “Bobb’e Says” and “Dude, What Would Happen.” (The premise of both of which sound absolutely terrible.)

  • Isaac

    Not every dropped pilot is dropped because of executive shortsightedness.

  • Abe Zukor

    By now there oughta be a virtual sea of severed bloody CN executive heads over in Burbank. Surfing, anyone?

  • Tokyo

    Completely agree on not accepting this.

  • Oluseyi

    I only made it through the first three minutes. Every once in a while, through the sheer miracle of statistical randomness, focus groups and executives make the right decision.

    Sorry, Mr. Pierce. Hope your kids’ book goes well.

  • Someguy

    If I remember correctly this Spang Ho! cartoon was the last pilot we recorded before the two execs in charge of development were canned. Leaving a few other pilots to die in the production limbo before the Cartoonstitute began. One of them a Doug Tennapel comedy.

    There were quite a few pilots made between the time Flapjack was developed and when it aired. None of them made any sort of impact after screenings except Shannon Tindle and Shane Prigmore’s Project Gilroy, which unfortunately didn’t test well and was scrapped (probably due to being half animatic). Let’s hope that one gets leaked out someday and you can all experience what could have been a great action comedy series.

  • David Levy

    Looking at these pilots is always interesting. For whatever reason they are green lit, they are often quickly disowned by the regimes that signed them into being, that is- if those execs are even still working there when the pilot comes to completion.

    At a glance, its easy to say that a school-based idea is too familiar territory, that’s a bit unfair. It’s what you do with it that counts. A creator has to process it all through their own unique POV, which comes out in the execution.

    With all do respect to this film’s creators, the questions become, “Do I want to see these characters again? Do they beg to be seen in further adventures?”

    Some pilots are lovingly encouraged by their execs and others might be all-but ignored, yet none of that matters to the audience. A pilot stands or falls on its own without a text scroll on the bottom of the screen explaining what went wrong and why we should cut it some slack.

  • Hulk

    Where to begin? The main character has zero appeal and he looks like Hitler. I know that’s supposed to be a shadow under his nose but it’s a little too pronounced. The Token Hispanic Girl character seems to be there just to fill a politically correct quota and the dog looks like a ripoff of a Gary Baseman character. For that matter the whole style of the show looks like that. Not to mention, the ‘kids in school’ theme has been done to death. Why would kids who spend all day in school want to come home and watch a cartoon about school? It’s like having meatloaf for dinner and then meatloaf flavored ice cream for dessert. Do something more interesting with that theme if you’re going to keep re-hashing it over and over.

    I say bring back Fred Seibert. He seemed to really know how to run CN.

  • http://animationinventory.blogspot.com/ Teodor Ajduk

    Finally, Cartoon Network do something smart.

    Ugly production design,
    ugly characters,
    ugly animation

  • http://bakertoons.blogspot.com/ Charles Brubaker

    I have nothing against Lincoln Peirce. His comic strip, “Big Nate” (running in several hundred newspapers across the world) is pretty decent with appealing characters, and I admit I enjoyed his “Uncle Gus” pilot (which Cartoon Network aired once or twice), although I haven’t seen it in years.

    But I think I agree with the executives and the focus groups who shot this down. It’s not very appealing and I absolutely hate the character designs.

  • http://animationapocalypse.blogspot.com Baron Lego

    This was pretty hard to sit through…. I gave up waiting for something interesting to happen.

  • http://goldenagecartoons.com Matthew Hunter

    Did I miss the super-hit cartoon that inspired all these “flat, geometric and thick-lined kid characters doing things real kids do”?

    Opening shot…kids get off a school bus. Little dorky kid, Big stupid kid, smart token black kid, and their talking dog. Where have we seen this before? Oh yeah, I remember…”Recess”, “Detention”, “Weekenders”, “Phineas and Ferb”, “Kids Next Door”, “My Gym Partner is a Monkey”, “Re-Animated”, etc.

    Not to mention that these characters are really just SpongeBob, Patrick, and Sandy in human form, but without the originality.

    If they’re going to do kids-in-school AGAIN, why not do it like the original Nicktoon, “Doug”? (Not the Disney remake, that was horrible!) In that show, the characters were weird but believable, they were drawn in a unique cartoony style that never seemed flat, they had distinct personalities, and the voices were ACTED, not SCREAMED. I was a kid when that show was first on, and I enjoyed it because Doug wasn’t a generic storybook/cartoon kid, he was like me…the geeky kid who drew in his notebook all the time.

    What shows like this rejected pilot (and the ones that WEREN’T rejected) are doing is taking the same few characters and putting them in different costumes. It’s like what happened with Mickey Mouse or Daffy Duck spawning Bosko or Woody Woodpecker, respectively. If it worked once, clone it!

  • http://eggheadcheesybird.co.uk Alex

    I liked it.
    My main problem with the designs was the shadow under their noses tended to look like a hitler-moustache.

  • Makinita

    ugggg sooooooo boooorrrriiiiingggg ..bored !!!!

  • http://highhopesproductions.blogspot.com/ Benjamin James Wigmore

    I was gonna defend this cartoon but I’m too tired. I liked the animation and stuff but blah blah blah blah…

    Makes you reliase that I’ve spelt realise wromg…

    Oh god I need sleep…

  • Isaac

    I have to ask, is this related to King Arthur’s Disasters? The characters’ design and mannerisms are almost identical, even if the level of action is different.

  • http://ukracattack.blogspot.com RacattackForce

    “Every once in a while, through the sheer miracle of statistical randomness, focus groups and executives make the right decision.”

    Happens more than you’d think. We only hear about the times executives fail, when really they are good at their job. Choosing shows like “Flapjack” and “Adventure Time” over bad pilots like this is doing their job right. Only rarely does something possibly good (like the Plastic Man pilot created by Tom Kenny) gets the “NO WAY” symbol from those in charge.

    That said, the cartoon is boring and the only time I laughed was when the walrus exploded. Just a huge eh from me.

  • http://ryuuseipro.deviantart.com John Paul Cassidy

    I am *not* going to make Adobe Flash into a punching bag. Great animation can be done in Flash. But alas, this is not the case…

    Please forgive me, but SPANG HO! was just pedestrian. I’m afraid I have to side with CN in this case.

  • Oluseyi

    @RacattackForce:
    You’re absolutely right, and I reached too far in search of a witticism.

    A walrus exploded? I guess I couldn’t get that far.

  • Adam

    I pretty much agree with everyone else. I found the cartoon really boring, the characters just kept talking the whole time. I only got through a few minutes before I stopped watching. All talk and no action seems to be the common plot for cartoons these days. Unlike older cartoons where there was diolauge but most of the cartoon was about visual humor and sight gags, an example would be Popeye cartoons where most of the time whenever he ate spinach there would be a visual gag on his muscles representing strength, like a tank or a torpedo. One sight gag I find funny in particular is in “A Hull of a Mess” when the signs in the shipyard read “Ships for Sail” and “Sail on Ships”. Hopefully sight gags will return to cartoons, instead of just diolauge.

  • http://www.driftingeddy.com Erik Griott

    did anyone notice that the nose-shadow on the german kid makes him look like hitler?

  • http://ukracattack.blogspot.com RacattackForce

    @Oluseyi
    It was a toy walrus, but seeing its head explode was somewhat funny.

    @Adam
    You should check out Flapjack. There are quite a few awesome sight gags (doubles as Nightmare Fuel, depending on how you like your comedy).

    @Erik
    Barely even crossed my mind until I read the comments. Didn’t even notice the shadow.

  • christy

    that mustache is called a “toothbrush mustache” not a “hitler mustache” and it was sported by many others like Charlie Chaplain, Ron Mael, and someone you all should know MAX FLEISCHER!!!!!!!
    i bet there musta been some other sweet old school animators who rocked the toothbrush…before that jerk off hilter tarnished that shit for eternity…maybe it’ll make a comeback in the 3000′s…

  • Adam

    @RacattackForce

    Flapjack is currently my favorite cartoon on not-cartoon network. The imagery is wonderful and so is the animation style. I like that it’s mixed with stop motion, plus the plot alone is great, turn of the century nautical stuff with some steampunk themes as well, very origional in my opinion. My favorite episode happens to be the one where a guy comes to town with his invention, the movie projector.

  • http://www.driftingeddy.com Erik Griott

    @ christy

    the toothbrush mustache was also worn by hardy, of laurel & hardy. but ever since the reign of hitler, his mustache in particular is more of a symbol of his tyranny than anything else except the nazi swastika. even a person with no other physical resemblance to hitler can wear a toothbrush mustache these days and be compared to him. this is reinforced in this cartoon by the fact that the little blond german leiderhosen-wearing kid has a conveniently protruding nose. it’s hard not to call it a “hitler mustache”.

    on the by and by, i just want to point out how ingeniously funny it was in the movie “Idiocracy” that people in the future thought Charlie Chaplin was a mass murderer.

  • http://www.seanszeles.com Sean Szeles

    If you guys actually want to support original cartoons that are actually still on the air on Cartoon Network, then watch the Season 2 Premiere of Flapjack tonight at 8pm!