Saturday, October 24, 2009
I'm surprised to say that until just now I'd never even heard of this 1974 animated Mad Magazine TV special. I was born too late to have seen this when it was new, but I was a big Mad geek growing up and I'm not sure how I got this far without ever hearing anybody mention the thing. (It's on Youtube in three parts. The first part is below.)
The commenters over at Cartoon Brew criticize the special for not capturing the flavor of the old Mad, but I think the show was actually amazingly faithful to its source material, compared to cartoon specials of the era that adapted other properties. Most '70s TV specials are pitched directly at kids and feature rather low-budget animation and a lot of sappy songs. (I have a certain nostalgic fondness for the Rankin & Bass version of The Hobbit, for instance, but Tolkien probably would've had a stroke if he'd seen that thing.)
The producers of the Mad special adapt a lot of Mad features pretty directly, almost to a fault. It's funny how the relatively mild humor of Mad seems fairly edgy in this context. Remember, this was decades before stuff like The Simpsons and Adult Swim, when angry satire was the last things anybody expected in TV animation. The opening bit about auto manufacturers is a pretty relentless attack. It almost plays like something out of early Saturday Night Live!
The animation itself is not bad, either. It simplifies the Mad look a lot, but that sort of thing is inevitable in animation. But jeez, is that "smooth jazz" score ever obtrusive! What furshlugginer clod thought that was a good idea? Ecch!
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