Good news for all you cartoon fans out there - I just happened upon a shitload of 'em, so for the next few weeks, you can look forward to plenty of substantial reviews on topic matter meant for six-year-olds. To wet your appetites, here's some of what's on deck: the Mr. T cartoon, Droids, Centurions, and if I'm really depressed, Bucky O'Hare. Let's kick things off with a toon a lot of you guys might've enjoyed growing up: Bravestarr.
I'm pretty sure I never saw a single Bravestarr episode until yesterday. Not sure if the idea of a Cowboy/Indian amalgam didn't appeal to me as a child, or if I was just too busy pretending Fun Dip was cocaine. Either way, seeing it now with a mind that wasn't meant for it's audience is a bit weird, as I'm unable to dig deep enough to unearth whatever charm kept it on television for so long. At core base, it's a pretty harmless show about Marshall Bravestarr, who can call upon the powers of various animals, and his trusty sidekick, a horse than transforms into a Super Horse. The myriad villains are as goofy here as in any of the other 80s toons, but at least Bravestarr episodes weren't usually climaxed with the bad guy tripping over his super-weapon right into an electro-cage week after week. There was a little more effort than that.
The episode we're gonna take a look at today is a good initiation - it features an explanation as to why Bravestarr has special powers, plus many of the star characters featured, and a few scenes featuring an old blind Indian which mark a new precedent in animated stupidity. Let's take a look...
The video, by Filmation, kicks off with a brace-faced slob of a child explaining how to use a VCR's tracking button. There were squiggly snow lines all over the place, so his tip might've come in handy if my VCR actually had a tracking button. Little Steve becomes so proud and happy of his tracking ability that he ends up looking like one of those poor reporters who used the poisoned Joker cosmetics in Batman. This is a pretty auspicious way to start the tape, but I guess it's better than a commercial for cartoon ape iron-ons.
Bravestarr is seconded by his deputy horse, Thirty/Thirty. While on one of their scouting missions, they come across a guy who's screaming for help - apparently, his friends is trapped by a boulder in a nearby cave. Since I didn't know any of the villains beforehand, I couldn't tell if we were in for any tomfoolery or not, but to lay to rest that nasty rumor - there really is someone trapped in the cave, and it's up to Bravestarr to free him. And with that, we've safely established him as the hero character. A bad guy would just add more trapping boulders if he heard someone was stuck in a cave.
Thirty/Thirty, by the way, is far from a likable character. He might be saddled with the hero moniker, but he's got an awful lot to complain about for a horse who can talk. I mean, be happy with what you've got, you're one of only three horses I know of who can do that. And of those three, one was really a Zebra, and I think She-Ra's might've been a unicorn. So shut your trap Thirty/Thirty, god damn half-empty glass pessimist bastard. He's got the same mane Heloise does, though.
Bravestarr calls upon the 'strength of a bear' to help the poor guy, but nothing happens. None of his other animal powers seem to be working, either. In other words, now he's just a useless sap who looks like a Native American going through his rebellious teen years. As it's explained later, Bravestarr's courage and helpfulness is what ended up getting him all those wonderful powers by the Shaman. With this magic on his side, he can mimic the strength of a bear, sight of an eagle, speed of a something-or-another, flatulence of a rhino, and other various animal stereotypes. Without them, he's pretty much worthless.
He's devastated by the news, obviously. So devastated, in fact, that he completely forgets the poor guy gasping for air inside the cave. Luckily, Thirty/Thirty's powers haven't diminished - he can still turn into a roided horse with robot arms and a big bazooka.
Makes you wonder why he even bothers reverting back to the usual horse-like state. He's got that Battle Cat complex I guess. Whatever, he helps the, uh, Cowboy Snake Guy free his friend, so now at least the peril situations have gone down a notch. Bravestarr's still curious as to why he's a normal peon, though.
They decide that his best course of action is to seek the aid of the Shaman, who's really Yoda and The Sorceress wrapped up into one really neat package. Thirty/Thirty stays behind cause this is Bravestarr's problem, and besides, he's already met his heroic actions quota for the day. Plus, horses with robot arms that can talk can likely find better things to do with their time than tag along incessantly with sad Indian superheroes. Maybe he's plying his profits at the OTB.
The Shaman explains that Bravestarr needs to get back in touch with the animal spirits to regain his powers. He then drones on and on about it, but Bravestarr keeps cutting him off to ask how he can get the magic back. Hey, if you could lift boulders up and inspire the silhouette of a bear made entirely of fireworks behind you at any given time, you'd be pissed too if it disappeared.
Shaman: You need to become more in tune with the animals you draw your powers from. See, it's like this--
Bravestarr: Shaddup old man, and gimme the happy juice.
Shaman: I know not what you speak, but to find salvation, you must utilize every part of a buffalo in making a diorama celebrating our heritage.
Bravestarr: I promise I'll do that if you give me back my powers first, deal?
Shaman: Grrr. You better be careful, or I'll give your powers to Ma-Ti and his little monkey instead.
To regain what makes him special, Bravestarr must venture alone into the forbidden desert without his friends, or any weapons. Christ, is that Shaman a sadist or what? He's dangling this carrot in front of Bravestarr, but the carrot's laced with cyanide and has needles pinned throughout. Going solo and unarmed into the forbidden desert is just asking for trouble. But trouble? That's his middle name. Marshall Trouble Bravestarr. Apache Chief Version Alpha.
Thirty/Thirty isn't pleased that his partnah wants to go about this mission alone, but Bravestarr can be pretty stubborn. He's got good reason to worry though, since the villain crew used their Spy Tech equipment to see all the action. Now that they know a powerless Bravestarr will be roaming the desert alone in a certifiable jackass maneuver, he's ripe for the picking.
Sadly, Tex Hex isn't in this episode, and I don't know any of the other guys' names. I used to own the giant red squiddy-type monster, though. Had no idea he was from Bravestarr till I saw the cartoon. I think his action feature was the ability to squirt water out of his mouth. A true villain superweapon. Anyway, the big red guy doesn't want to waste any type, and suggests an attack immediately. Dolt. It's a good thing there's a huge demonic cow skull there to set him straight...
Stampede, I guess, is the villains' big boss character. He tells the bad guys to wait it out a bit, since Bravestarr is still in range of help. Smart move. We wouldn't want to bring Thirty/Thirty back into the mix just yet, especially considering that if we had, I probably would've turned off the tape and moved on to reviewing something less frustrating, like the DeVito college textbook on Communicology, volume six. The red guy isn't going to fuck with Stampede, and rightly so, so their plot become more complex. First, they must subdue Bravestarr. Then, when he least suspects it, they have to pants him. When he's busy picking up his pants, then they can kill him.
One of the villains uses a snakelike weapon to sting the back of Bravestarr's neck, poisoning him. The stupid idiot thinks he was bit by one of those 'desert insect varmin,' and just completely avoids turning around to see all of his arch-nemesis characters giggling like schoolgirls behind him. I guess that's what happens when you can't call upon the Mind of the Owl.
Within moments, Bravestarr starts feeling week, and then goes into this extended narrative where he speaks aloud about how he needs to eat something, over and over again, saying it so much that the entire audience gets hungry. I had to stop the tape to make chicken because the neuro-association was just that damn strong. Then, he starts hallucinating, thinking he's seeing demons, but that sideplot doesn't really go anywhere. He can't really walk too well, though, so I guess the snakebite deal proved at least somewhat effective.
He ends up stumbling into a cave, (there's lots of caves in Bravestarr) collapsing at the feet of an old, homeless, blind Indian. The old, homeless, blind Indian gives him water, and wouldn't you know it, it completely brings him back to full health. I guess that was some weak ass poison, eh? They strike up an immediate bond, both being Native Americans and all, and Bravestarr makes a solemn vow to help the old, homeless, blind Indian to find a better life for himself. You can pretty much see where this is going from 37 lightyears away, so I don't think I'm spoiling anything if I tell you that the old, homeless, blind Indian is actually part of the Shaman's plan to get Bravestarr his powers back.
The bad guys finally arrive, riding on cool electronic seahorses, and they announce their intentions of killing Bravestarr. Our hero, good guy that he is, tries to strike up a deal: he'll go quietly as long as they don't hurt his blind friend. The villains, having all the cards in their favor, deny this request, and wrap Bravestarr up in electrorope. All seems lost.
That is, until his friends arrive. Still, Bravestarr calls them off, citing that the Shaman said he must face this mission alone. Then there's about five minutes of debate between all the good guys as to whether or not they should leave, with all the bad guys just standing there like morons, letting them settle things. Finally, things go on so long that the animal spirits themselves get annoyed, and give Bravestarr back his powers just to put an end to this thing. With the strength of the bear, he breaks free from the ropes, and now that he's back to his old self, his friends open fire on the villains with reckless abandon.
PS, doesn't Thirty/Thirty's bazooka look a lot like one of those Bugles chips? I'm telling you, the entire point of this show was to make you hungry. Bravestarr rhymes with Mars Bar.
The bad guys take off, realizing that they'll be other days to fight. Of course, I don't see any reason for them to fight at all, they weren't trying to steal anything, they just wanted to kill Bravestarr. Where's the motive? At least tell us the guy has some valuable gold teeth fillings so it doesn't seem so by-the-numbers. Anyway, with the battle over, Bravestarr helps his fallen blind friend up, and tells him that he's going to help him regain his sight. Then he laughs heartily and explains that even he can't do that. Okay, that doesn't really happen, but it should've.
Course, the old, blind, homeless Indian isn't really that - he's actually the embodiment of all the animal spirits Bravestarr calls upon...
See? Within moments, he morphs into a great light show and vanishes into the sky. Pity, you can really tell Bravestarr was just getting into the new friendship. Now he's gonna be stuck playing checkers with that damned whiny horse for the rest of his life.
The end! Honestly, even though this is the only episode of the show I've seen, I can surmise that it was actually pretty good. It's essentially He-Man with Indians replacing Eternians. There's a lot of similarities like that - the horse turns into a Super Horse the same way Cringer turns into Battle Cat, and the red guy is like Beast Man on a heapload of Vitamin B-12. I guess there's nothing wrong with that, but this series could've really used a modified version of Zodak. Just my opinion.
SPECIAL BRAVESTARR FEATURE:
Toy Commercial Archive!
I never used these in other posts because I didn't know enough about the lore of the show to even fake my way through it. I guess it's better to give them to you now than to delude myself into thinking I'll ever devote a few hours to learning more about them. So, if you're a Bravestarr fan, this is your lucky day! Here's four of the original ad spots, with downloads so you can feel ashamed over what you used to drool over 15 years ago...
Thirty/Thirty vs. Tex Hex: The toys were actually incredible when compared to other action figures. This ad spot features everyone's favorite talking horse. Thing is, the toy doesn't actually talk. But it looks like it can! Click here to download!
Big Bravestarr Gun: Some of the toys used infrared technology, meaning that you'd actually be able to kind of shoot things. No bullets came out, but a lot of bells and whistles took place and kids felt like they could kill something if they tried hard enough. In this commercial, they kill Tex Hex. Click here to download!
Action Figures: This ad spot features the two top characters, Bravestarr and Tex Hex, in action figure form, kicking the crap out of each other. Note that the kid who's puppeteering Tex Hex looks five times more evil than the kid playing with Bravestarr. I love it when commercials typecast. Click here to download!
More Infrared Action: They really drive the point home here. Use Bravestarr weapons and figures to make the villain characters fall flat backwards. Cool red sonar circles not included. By the way, this one also features that red guy I used to have, but sadly, he doesn't squirt any water here. Click here to download!
That's it, that's all, enjoy!
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