Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Dick Tracy Show

Dick Friggin’ Tracy! When I was six years old, I was super into Dick Tracy. I had a bunch of the toys, I had the NES video game, I even had the toy wrist watch that lit up and actually told time. (Even though I wasn’t very good at telling time back then) With my Dick Tracy style hat, and my toy gun (which I think was actually a pirate gun I got from the Pirates of the Caribbean gift shop but I didn’t care. A toy gun was a toy gun) I was totally enthralled in the Dick Tracy hype of the early 90s. I’ll bet you’re wondering, why I’m suddenly talking about all this. Well, I wanted to give you an idea about just how much I was into this character and his world. Just how much of a big deal Dick Tracy was in my childhood. So you’d understand the massive disappointment I had for a certain adaptation of the character I discovered during my Dick Tracy hype.

If you don’t know, Dick Tracy began as a comic strip in the 1930s by Chester Gould. I was introduced to the character through Disney’s 1990 movie starring Warren Betty and went nuts for it. It was colorful, action packed, filled with memorable villains, and a kick ass hero taking them down. What wasn’t to like? But Disney’s epic action film wasn’t the first adaptation Dick Tracy got. Far from it. In the 60s, Dick Tracy’s comic strip held great popularity among kids. So what better way to capitalize on this popularity among kids than with an animated series? It makes sense, right? Dick Tracy’s adventures animated seemed like a fantastic idea. That is until… we saw what they did.

The Dick Tracy Show premiered in 1961 and when Disney was hyping the Dick Tracy movie in the 90s, networks decided to capitalize on the hype by re-airing the series which is how I discovered it. So, what did they do wrong with this show? It would be faster to explain what they did RIGHT on the show. Which wasn’t much.

I’ll admit, Dick Tracy and his villains properly drawn. They look like they should and feel like they at least attempted to make them resemble as they appeared in the comic strip. But that’s pretty much the only good thing I can say here. I’m ignoring the poor animation. This was more or less the standard of the time. No, my main gripe was the writing. Why? For one simple reason. Remember how in the movie, Dick Tracy turns down a promotion because it meant “Being stuck behind a desk?” Well, he must’ve gotten the idea from watching this cartoon because that’s all he did!

He sat at a desk and sent other people out to catch the crooks. So Dick Tracy did practically NOTHING in the “Dick Tracy show.”
Now, the idea of Dick Tracy with a team of crime stoppers is kinda cool but it was another potential concept that fell flat. Just... just at the cops he would send out.

Some random stupid chubby guy

A downright offensive Mexican stereotype

An even MORE offensive Japanese stereotype

And a talking dog. That’s right. A freaking talking DOG!!!

So, the basic pattern for every episode would be this; two Dick Tracy villains rob some place, Dick Tracy sits at his desk, calls one of these goofballs and then does nothing for the rest of the show, and the goofball would chase the villains around town, and from this, “hilarity” would ensue. I say hilarity in quotation marks because the episodes make up of some of the lamest slap stick comedy you can imagine. Oh, sure. I get the occasional giggle out of it, but it’s few and far between. I DID think the talking dog not only running away from Mumble’s bullets but actually holding his hand up and making them stop was worth a chuckle. They’d eventually catch the crooks followed by Dick to come in at the last minute to issue some “Good job” response. At the end of at least one episode, he even drives in on the scene in his police car teasing us that he might actually get in on the action and all he does is just say “Good Work!”

“Good Work. For a moment there, I thought I’d actually have to get off my ass and do my job.”

I watched some stupid stupid things when I was six, and even then I could tell this was horrible. I don’t know what made them think a Dick Tracy cartoon where not only Dick Tracy never does anything, but doesn’t even have the atmosphere of Dick Tracy was a good idea, but they were wrong.
My theory? The animation studio must’ve wanted to do some generic cop cartoon to compete with Hanna Barbara and someone in the studio decided to slap Dick Tracy on it at the last minute because he would sell it.

Man 1: Alright, we finished our comedy slapstick cop cartoon.

Man 2: Throw in Dick Tracy

Man 1: … this is a comedy

Man 2: Yep. Put in Dick Tracy. It’ll sell!!

Maybe it’s the generation gap talking because I‘m sure many children of the 60s grew up loving this cartoon and if that‘s the case, more power to them maybe they‘re seeing something I‘m not. Maybe it’s because my introduction to the character was through the kick ass ’90 film so I was spoiled from the start, but when I want to watch Dick Tracy, I want to watch DICK TRACY!!! That means I want Tracy punching out crooks, gunning down the thugs in his way, and giving all forms of evil a hard time. Not sitting at a desk as he sends Japanese stereotypes and talking dogs out to do it for him in bad Hanna Barbara style “humor.”
But on an up side, at least they’re short. They don’t go much longer than five minutes each.

This is the Ninja Pirate signing out

BTW, like my new title banner?