Saturday morning, we’ll remind you of the time when it was still cool
to wake up early on weekends. So whenever the hell you wake up these
days, there will be a nostalgic treat waiting for you, reminding you of
those old jammies you used to wear and that old television set. They
make even less sense now, but that’s half the fun. We hope you enjoy.
The Cartoon: Aaahh!!! Real Monsters
Animation Studio: Klasky-Csupo
Original Run: October 30, 1994 – December 6, 1997
The Characters (plus their Wacky car):
- The Gromble
The sewer system beneath a dump in Newark, New Jersey which serves as the Monster Academy and home for our cast of monstrous heroes. It also takes place out in the city, often in suburbia, as the monsters attempt to scare children on assignments.
In the early height of the Klasky-Csupo era, came Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, perhaps the most unique and character-filled show the production duo ever created. An offshoot of the same crew behind Rugrats, Doug, The Wild Thornberries and more, what these folks created was a truly wonderful cartoon that was just dark enough, just fun enough, just gross enough, and just smart enough to be something near perfect for a Saturday morning. Centering around three young monsters –Ickis, Oblina, and Krumm– the show catalogs their trials and tribulations out in the human world as they attempt to scare children to appease their nasty professor, The Gromble. Not only was it obviously a big precursor to Monsters, Inc. taking place in a hidden world of monsters which is based around a routine human-scaring infrastructure, but it also has a lot in common with a certain wizarding franchise, as I’ll explain below.
While not many of the cartoons spotlighted in this series (beyond the true classics) will mean much to those who didn’t watch them as children, I would wager that Aaahh!!! Real Monsters is one of the few cartoons that would appeal to Chewers no matter what their age or era of nostalgia. The show was a perfect combination of fun writing, perfect concept/universe, and absolutely wonderful vocal performance. In fact, the dynamic that made Harry Potter work so well was actually exploited thoroughly here. Imagine a show taking place in a secret, fantastical school centering around an ostracized but often brave young student (descendent of a famous, highly-skilled father) whose best friends are a studious young lady, and a loyal doofus. Also, the biggest threat in said brave young student’s life is a particularly nasty professor who seems to have it out for him. Potter, Granger, Weasly, and Snape… eat your hearts out because Ickis, Oblina, Krumm, and The Gromble were way ahead of you.
In any event, a chewer couldn’t help but love a show with in-jokes like the local nuthouse being named, “McMurphy Asylum,” a space captain called “Major Tom,” a character inspired by the lead Blue Meanie, an episode called “Rash-a-monster,” and an episode that ties monsters into the key events of human history, including a demonstration of the fact that all those screaming Beatles girls might not have been shrieking just because of the music. Aaahh!!! Real Monsters is available on Netflix Instant Watch, and any interested chewer would do well to check out the “History of the Monster World: Part I” episode.
The Short History:
The second of the Klasky-Csupo shows after Rugrats, and among the first wave of NickToons, the show enjoyed a healthy popularity despite it’s darker tone and gross tendencies. It was the brainchild of the oddly-named duo behind the equally oddly-named production company, the same gentleman and animation house that handled the first three seasons of The Simpsons (and were apparently the ones to screw up and make Smithers black that one time). Peter Gaffney and Gabor Csupo specifically came up with the idea that was pitched to Nickelodeon and picked up to be premiered on Halloween.
The success of the show was largely because of the great cast, who apparently recorded in the studio together at the same time- a rarity for animation voice sessions, but a great technique for keeping up chemistry…
Charles Addler (Ickus) – a long-working voice actor, Addler has served as the vocal chords behind characters like Dr. Doom, Low-Light and Gung-Ho on different G.I. Joe series, the Hamburglar, Ed Bighead on Rocko’s Modern Life (my likely next target for this article series), and was the voice director for the more recent Flapjack series. Most famously Charles is also the only voice actor –aside from Peter Cullen– from the original Transformers cartoon to also be featured in the live-action films. Having voiced Silverbolt in the original, he was brought on to voice Starscream in Bay’s epic franchise which will see a third entry next year.
Christine Cavanaugh (Oblina) – A prolific and consistently working voice actress, Cavanaugh has actually voiced a number of the most iconic 90s cartoon characters- Chucky from Rugrats, Oblina, and Dexter of Dexter’s Lab. Even better, she was the voice of Babe!
David Eccles (Krumm) – Eccles hasn’t done much listed work beyond voicing Krumm, which is kind of baffling when you hear how delightful his voice is.
Gregg Berger (The Gromble) – Berger is another consistently working voice-actor who seems to have made a serious living off of video game appearances. While he brought the unique sing-song-to-death-roar scaling vocal pattern to The Gromble, he was also the dulcet tones behind characters like Eeyore, Kay on the Men In Black TV series, and characters on Angry Beavers.
The show continued for four seasons, and after it concluded the characters did make a brief appearance in an episode of the resurrected Rugrats. A movie was proposed and developed after the success of The Rugrats Movie, but was unfortunately shut down because the tone was considered too dark to sell to children. A real bummer.
Real Monsters had its merchandise like any other NickToon, though it was never wildly popular or mainstream enough to get the full treatment. There was a video game that I never played, and apparently a fan dedicated enough to immortalize the monsters in his own flesh!
You Might Have Seen This Commercial:
In this case the opening sequence, which employed the famous “Kyle Scream” (which is often mistaken for the Wilhelm)…
Tune in next Saturday morning for another installment.