Raw Toonage (1992)

Swing and a miss!

Still falling from their high perch in animation set a few years prior, Disney’s next cartoon to follow the uneventful The Little Mermaid would in fact…well, fair even worse.

However, while Raw Toonage, which premiered on September 19, 1992 on CBS, didn’t last that long, I found it to still be a decent offering from Disney when I saw episodes of the series years later. Before that, I had almost forgotten the show had even existed, but it sat in the back of my mind for years and I knew there was a show called Raw Toonage but couldn’t quite remember it. Then the reruns started and it all came flooding back to me. It was the second series not to be associated with The Disney Afternoon and never aired in the block.

Raw Toonage was an experimental showcase for several animated shorts, kind of like a sketch show, which were hosted every weekend by a different popular Disney character. The four cartoons which regularly appeared in the show were “He’s Bonkers!”, “Marsupilami”, “Sebastian”, and a variety cartoon called “Totally Tasteless Video”. While an interesting format, Raw Toonage failed to achieve its purpose – but out of its ashes, arose the success of those shorts graduating to their own animated programs. “Marsupilami” and “Sebastian” were combined into Marsupilami, and “He’s Bonkers!” became Bonkers.

The idea for the show had an unusual genesis. At the time Disney was developing Bonkers, about a bobcat living in a “real world” that had once been the star of his own cartoon, and when it was canned became a policeman. The series dealt with his adventures post-stardom. At the same time, Michael Eisner had purchased the rights to the popular Belgian comic strip Marsupilami. At some point, someone had the post-modern initiative to actually make the cartoons that Bonkers would have starred in before becoming a policeman, and that’s how Raw Toonage was born. The additional segment “Totally Tasteless Video” was intended as a satire of popular culture, and not a proving ground for new stars. The host was added to give the series the familiar feel of The Wonderful World Of Disney show. Though it looked like the 1993 Bonkers series was spun off from the shorts, the reverse is actually true. Due to the shorter production schedule, Raw Toonage, with its “He’s Bonkers” shorts, was on the air before the 65 half-hour show, thus adding some credibility to the back story.

Contrary to what I originally wrote here about The Wuzzles, Raw Toonage actually stands with the lowest amount of episodes of any animated television program Disney has put out thus far, with only 12 episodes made – a thirteenth was in production but was never completed. It’s also the shortest run series, airing its last episode on December 5, 1992. There is no merchandise for this show that I know of, although I’m fairly sure it had comics published in Disney Adventures. I never saw a huge fandom grow from this show, but it does have its followers for those who remember it well. The series was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Television Production in 1993.

The last time this variety show was seen in Canada was on Family Channel in late 2001. Youtube is currently limited in what clips of the show it has available, a hinting of how forgotten it really is. Raw Toonage was a “strike two” behind The Little Mermaid in terms of performance – it even followed suit and also had a crappy opening theme song which basically had no lyrics and really wasn’t at all catchy or memorable (and is also very much a knockoff of the song “Oh Yeah” by Yello). It’s interesting to note that Webby from DuckTales makes an appearance in the opening credits, but never actually appeared on the show. Disney needed another homerun hit of a cartoon, and fast – because another strike could have put them out of television animation game for good.

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