Here's a lost gem -- Teen Wolf, the 1985 hit where Michael J. Fox turned into a werewolf with supreme basketball skills, was spun off as an animated series of the same name the following year. There's been plenty of cartoon spinoffs that didn't seem quite right for a young target audience, but this one made sense. Teen Wolf was a proven commodity with kids -- hip teens that turn into monsters, what's not to love? The Saturday morning offshoot wasn't a runaway success, but it fared pretty well considering the competition. Course, the animated plot only follows the movie in a scattershot way, so don't bother hunting it down if you're the type who's going to be bothered with all the times the guy next to you says "THAT'S NOT HOW IT WENT!"
They made about as great of a flick out the material to work with in Teen Wolf as anyone could've hoped for, but the precise story wasn't really conductive for episodic television. Even an animated Alex Keaton with pubic hair on his palms wasn't going to keep the luster for too many episodes, so a few "small" changes were made to spice things up a bit. It's an unfortunate thing for diehard fans of the movie, so we're lucky there's so few diehard fans of Teen Wolf. Oddly, the most remembered thing about the series was its eye-catching opening credits sequence...
Keeping with the thought that Teen Wolf was hip with kids, random shots from the cartoons were immersed with what you see above: paintings of a "real" Teen Wolf wearing all the then popular clothes and rocking out to whatever's playing on the decisively cool flamingo pink Pocket Rockers cassette deck in his hand. There's also shots of the guy shaving, dancing in front of clouds, and wearing aviator jackets. All of the hip stuff. I know it's a dumb thing to reflect on now, but back then, it seemed a little more cutting edge than our usual Saturday morning dishes. Decent theme song, too. It just seemed to kids like one of the shows that made anyone who viewed them a better person. I've got no better explanation, so I'm begging you to believe that one.
The series ended in 1989, which gives a misleading view as to its true run. In the final year, Teen Wolf was all repeats, so while it was popular enough to "keep on," it wasn't bringing in high enough ratings to actually script and animate a whole new season. Actually, I'm sure the "script" part would've been easy enough. "Scott Howard gets into trouble; turns into werewolf" can be written in at least 600 different ways. But, animation is muchos time and money, and Teen Wolf's fans weren't numerous enough to warrant the expense. So, if you only got into this shit a few years ago, you're to blame.
There's Scott Howard, whiny hero, midway through the wolf transformation. The name's the same, but this guy is nothing like the Michael J. Fox version. As a saving grace, he's nothing like the Jason Bateman version either. Ick. Talk about perpetuating the stereotypes about movie sequels. I'm not reviewing Teen Wolf Too today, but suffice to say, if you hated Bateman on The Hogan Family, you'll be fully prepared to rip out your own intestines just so you have something to choke him with after seeing that piece of crap. This cartoon wasn't too inspired, but it's no Teen Wolf Too.
All that said, we're not given a particularly likable Scott Howard this time around, either. Townsend Coleman supplied the voice, apparently with the urging from his superiors to sound as gratingly downtrodden and complainy as possible. This is the same guy who voiced "Michaelangelo" on the Ninja Turtles cartoon, so it's not like he didn't have a party time voice somewhere inside that cute little mouth. Luckily, the character seemed to lighten up as the series progressed, apparently satisfied in knowing that his show wasn't doing well enough to keep those pesky cameras in his face for too much longer. In spite of the differences, it's the rest of the series' characters who really created a continuity flop between the movie and the toon...
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This time around, Scott's entire family turns into werewolves. Not just his movie family, but also a tacked on pair of grandparents who go a long way in making the audience hate the show. They've got the whole Munsters vibe going on -- a troop of monsters trying to coexist in modern suburbia. Scott's transformations are generally treated as "special" -- it's not that it doesn't happen often, it's just that the process is usually brought on by more poignant circumstances. Think "Incredible Hulk," only with werewolves. His family, though -- his family goes from human-to-werewolf constantly, as if the novelty of these great powers they didn't really get to enjoy in the movie hadn't worn thin yet.
Grandpa Howard is the worst of 'em all. You've seen the character to almost total precision on virtually every other cartoon in history, but this time, the "crotchety ol' half-crazy grandfather" is a werewolf, so he gets super agility that affords him a much broader role. I hated the "crotchety ol' half-crazy grandfather" characters enough when they were confined to rocking chairs -- between the super agility and the fact that he's always wearing these must-notice lemon yellow overalls, Grandpa Howard will make you rip out your "strangling intestines" even quicker than with Jason Bateman.
Oh, Scott has a sister, too. "Loopy Howard." Indeed. Here's a review of one of the episodes, titled "The All-American Werewolf." Could be the first episode, actually, but who am I to say, much less research? Under one of the worst storyline guises you could ever hope to find, it's designed to explain to nuances of the Howard family's rather off-kilter lifestyle, and ostensibly, to make you chuckle. I didn't chuckle, though I admit -- I seem to hate that "crotchety ol' half-crazy grandfather" character a lot more than most other folks.
Immediately, Scott is established as the Marilyn of the family. He turns into a werewolf just like the rest of 'em, but only because he has to. It's like shitting to him. Can't avoid it, but come on, not in front of the neighbors. While getting ready for school, Scott's assaulted by the pestilent "wolf jumps" of his kid sister, not to mention an intense chase sequence between his grandparents that spun off from an argument about Grandpa scratching himself when he was supposed to be standing perfectly still for a painting. Don't make sense? I know, isn't it great?!
I hadn't thought of it before, but doesn't he look a lot like "Captain N" from the old Nintendo cartoon? He traded in the Spock ears to get a video game controller sewn to his crotch. Good trade -- Captain N was much more successful than Teen Wolf. Well, at least the Teen Wolf cartoon. Yay underline. Anyway, Scott's mother is a nonfactor -- she's there, but in what appears to be an effort to corner a market left untackled by supreme TV Mom Clair Huxtable, she spends 100% of her time cooking. Even when she does appear, the other characters don't appear to actually see her. My point? Scott's fed up, and he needs to vent. The only person in the house sane enough to gauge the validity of his points is Harold Howard, his dear old dad. He's also a good person to listen to your extensive gripes because he never leaves his living room chair for the entire duration of the series. If Scott preferred venting to Grandpa, he'd have to chase him all over the house first.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Harold Howard. The chairman of the clan. GET IT? Now despite what I've said, there's one awesome thing about this character. Yeah, he's very, very boring. I wasn't kidding before -- he literally spends entire seasons in that chair, reading the town newspaper, "The Wolverton Times." They live in the city of "Wolverton." GET IT? So you've got this guy, and he's a pretty major character who appears in every episode of the show...and all he does is sit in a chair. You grow to expect nothing from Harold; it's as if he's just another piece of furniture. Other characters will speak to him, and while you certainly hear a voice coming from behind that newspaper, you never actually see Harold move. Alright, so at best, he's a piece of furniture that talks. Then, suddenly and very sporadically, Harold won't want to talk to someone, instead opting to lower his shielding paper and insanely growl while rapidly growing hair all over his face. He's a talking piece of furniture that turns into a werewolf, and that's a Hell of a lot more interesting than a plain person turning into one. Go Harold.
I'm sure you know how derivative and obvious cartoons can get. For example, whenever you hear a character make some sort of against-the-grain comment to an audience, you can bet that something will pop up no more than three seconds later to completely contradict what they just said. If Scott was to say, "THERE'S NO WAY!," a "way" will surely turn up momentarily. But, are you ready for the ultimate example of that device? Are you really ready, or just thinking wishfully? You better be ready, because there ain't no stoppin' it now. Scott Howard goes on his virtual pedestal, crying about how nobody in their right mind would ever pursue spending time with this kind of family, and how nobody in the world would ever accept them for what they are. Now, in keeping what we're talking about, predict which of the following is about to happen:
A) Phone rings. It's Scott's friend. He assures Scott that people would love his family and accept them.
B) The family receives a telegram from some people they met on a dinner cruise. They just wanted to say "hi." This causes Scott to feel loved again.
C) Harold Howard makes a rare appearance standing up; offers a rebuttal citing that "real" friends would accept the family as they are, or they're not "real" friends to begin with.
D) Some guy knocks on the door to tell the Howard family that they've been chosen as the "All American Family" in an annual, national contest produced and promoted by a well-known and respected billionaire.
Yes, Scott's claims are blown to shit as a messenger relays the...well, message: "You're the new All-American Family! You personify everything! It all! Et all! There are riches, and they are yours!" I sensed a trap, but this was all perfectly legitimate. There really was an "All-American Family" contest -- it wasn't some kind of setup by a villain who just wants to trap the Howards in cages so he can perform all sorts of strange, probing "werewolf tests" on them. No such luck. :/
Our hero even manages to whine about that: "WHAT?! You want THIS FAMILY as your ALL-AMERICAN FAMILY?! Oh that's rich! Hahaha! HAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHA! Hahah. HAHAHHAHAH!" Seriously, it's the cackle from Hell. We're no more than 200 seconds into the series, and already they've turned the beloved movie character into a full-fledged psychopath. Then again, I know people who laugh at funerals. Surely there's a few who laugh like insane lunatics when their family wins a major award. Reluctantly, they agree to be the country's icons, even though it might put some attention on their dark, furry secret. Harold signs the contract immediately. This becomes important later, because even as they try to get out of being the "All-American Family," the billionaire contest orchestrator points to the signed dotted line. Personally, I didn't see how that really tied the Harolds to being the All-American Family. They showed the contract -- from where I sat, it read like this:
The only thing you could possibly maybe argue is that they signed on to make "razzle" noises with their lips and tongues. There ain't shit in there about doing local laundromat commercials or cutting the ribbon at the new Wal-Mart. Too bad the show's artists didn't know how to draw a lawyer werewolf.
Front page news?! Oh COME ON, there's no way that'd be on the front page. I don't care if they live there. Does Wolverton have no crime and a population of 14? And while we're at it, is it really legal for the paper to reprint the terms of the Howards' contract, verbatim? THIS SHOW ABOUT A FAMILY OF SUBURBAN WEREWOLVES IS SO UNREALISTIC!
The press rages on, with the Howards becoming the champions of their city -- cameramen follow them wherever they go, citizens ask for autographs, and by and large, one must assume that this "All-American Family" contest was a really, really big deal. You've seen those old videos where thousands of raving fans will maul limos the Beatles were rumored to be hiding inside? Well, picture that magnified by ten. People are treating the Howards like royalty -- just because some billionaire said they were the most "Al-American" of the "All-Americans?" If that's all it takes, I wish I was a cartoon.
Then again, I'd hate to see the same lampshade over and over again if someone chased me through the house. Poor Grandpa Howard.
Finally, some sanity! The show's star villain is the Howards' next door neighbor -- can't remember the name, let's call her "Triz Walla Walla Gheeckojort." Triz shows up on many of the episodes, usually in an effort to "out" the Howards as the filthy, flea-infested werewolves they truly are. I can dig it. Later episodes presented more "impressive" villains -- I seem to remember a few evil werewolves thrown into the mix at points. Triz Walla Walla Gheeckojort isn't a werewolf, but she's got the bark, baby. The bark, and Gargamel's cat. Show would've been so much better if that really was Gargamel's cat. Hey, Freddy Vs. Jason -- everyone loves a good crossover.
Triz sees, smells, and eats opportunity. Since the Howards just won that blasted contest, all eyes are on them. What better time to expose the hairy truth? Not only will she ruin their celebrity grace -- she'll ruin their whole damn wolfensecret lives. Add horns and you've got Satan. The curlers are almost as effective.
Evil Woman calls Evil Relative Photographer Boy, and I can't remember his name either. She lays out the plot: "Say! You take pictures of them Howards turning into them werewolves. Them Howards get the shaft and you get all them glory!" And people wonder why phonics is such a stressed subject in grade school. We're just being deprogrammed after seventeen hours of weekend cartoons. Just because a few kids sliced their friends to pieces like the animated Jackie Chan doesn't mean we should overlook the much broader threat of making all us do stupid talk. Really, Triz Walla Say Walla aims to harm more than the Howards' private life. She dumb make them you.
Evil Relative Photographer Boy agrees on two points. One, he will get the Howards on film in their werewolf form. Two, he does look a lot like Roger Cobb. We almost had a turkey, but Triz couldn't get him to agree that Scott Howard was an acronym for "So, Can Ostriches Take The Hooting Owls Westward And Read Dickens?" Sure, he'll believe the bit about werewolves, but not that? Skank.
Oh for the love of God, give me a break! They weren't crowning Miss America, the Howards are just the "All American Family." Was Wolverton so previously devoid of intrigue that the whole damn town would spend twenty-four hours a day gawking at their lawn ornaments? It's not that important of a contest. I don't put huge banner arches over my porch reading "HOME OF THE GUY WHO WON TEN BUCKS ON A SCRATCH-OFF LOTTO TICKET" whenever I win ten bucks on a scratch-off Lotto ticket. Now that I see how the Howards are living it up, perhaps I should.
Most of the clan enjoys their newfound fame, but Scott hates it. Don't be surprised -- Scott hates everything. To illustrate how much he hates being the contest winner, he does more of that obscene cackling while curving his eyebrows to angles only possible in the cartoon universe. Proving my point, he then rips off his socks and declares that he hates socks. Sock Howard.
There's Scott's friend, "Stiles," who comes pretty close to the movie version. I'm not sure if Jerry Levine had a 22-inch waistline, though. Well, I only said "pretty close." Stiles knows Scott's secrets, even the ones about werewolves, and even the ones about being terribly afraid of mimes. Ever the opportunist, Stiles crafts and sells SCOTT HOWARD T-SHIRTS, with his face as an iron-on and everything. They were just named "All-American Family" that morning, so this is an absurdly quick turnaround. I don't think Episode II even got a cereal brand that quick.
Scott's not happy. Duh. You know what happens when Scott's not happy? He transforms...into a werewolf! There's no big "transformation sequence" set to a static theme -- it's not like when the Voltron lions merge or when Lion-O gives his sword an erection. He just sorta falls into it, matter-of-factly. Stiles acts like he's never seen the werewolf side of Scott before, but admittedly, I'm not sure such a thing would ever really get old. Just before Scott throws in the towel and secedes from his entire family in protest, he learns the true coup of being an All-American...
Reporter: Scott! You ladies man! How does it feel to be the "All-American Teen?"
Scott: Feels like I'm looking at the wrong pair of circles! Hahahah. HAHAHAHAH. HAHA."
Swayed by woman skin, Scott has a change of heart about this whole arrangement. Now he's in love with the idea of being the most All-American of the All-Americans. If this show was set in the late 40s, I'd say that he's shacking up with a young Audra Lindley. It's not, so he's just shacking up with someone who looks like a young Audra Lindley. Either way, it's creepy. After this, the Howards decide that the publicity is becoming a bit much. Harold, the sitting patriarch, contends that all of the press will invariably lead to their secret becoming not-so-secret. Even Grandpa agrees with the assessment, and he certainly seems like the type who'd never stop getting a kick out of mooning television cameras. I'm not sure what Mother Howard thought; she's still in the kitchen offscreen. I assume she's down with it. Scott, now reluctant because he's getting all that poon, eventually gives in and admits that a family of werewolves is better suited to life without a Reality TV series.
But! The billionaire who made them celebrities won't end the arrangement. He's pumped too much money into this "Howard experiment," and after all, Harold signed his name under a bunch of squiggly lines. Just as he's about to rechristen Christmas as "Howard Day," Evil Relative Photographer Boy turns up with a peculiar videotape...
Billionaire: Roger Cobb?! You look so young!
Photo Boy: Conrad Bain?! You got so fat!
Billionaire: Let's just say this. If he's elected governor of Cali Cali, they'll have to let my stomach oversee the yearly budget.
Photographer Boy claims to have proof that the Howards are actually Howlards. Conrad insists that he sees the tape for himself. The camerawork is terribly shoddy, but the truth is on there: those Howards are werewolves, and how can werewolves be the All-American Family? Well, there's one way...
Yep, as things turn out, the billionaire guy was actually a werewolf, who picked the Howards as his "All-American Family" to make werewolves a more welcome part of civilization. Who woulda thunk it? The gang shares a laugh at the expense of Evil Photographer Boy, who for some reason was locked in a paddy wagon and taken, presumably, to Hell. They never resolve that problem about the billionaire demanding that the Howards fulfill their contractual obligations, but who cares? He's a werewolf! Overlook it!
I was never a huge fan of the show, but I definitely remember it being heavily promoted back in its heyday. The campaign must've worked, as Teen Wolf lasted far longer than most of these sorts of spinoffs. Like I said, few wax nostalgic over the series, but everyone who was watching cartoons at the time will never forget that eerie painted werewolf from the opening credits. I can't stop thinking about that guy. And I'm not sure I want to.
RETURN TO X-E!