The “Toby Danger” Pilot

Suspended Animation #371

Freakazoid! was a televsion series created by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini and developed by Tom Ruegger for the Kids’ WB in 1995 that ran for two seasons.

The show was produced by Amblin Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation but the animation was outsourced to several Pacific Rim studios.

Tom Minton, a writer for Animaniacs, loved parodying cartoon series and had a fondness for Jonny Quest. He wrote a twelve minute parody episode substituting the character of Sandra for the racially insensitive Hadji in the original and as a nod to Race Bannon’s daughter Jessie who first appeared in 1993.

The short was written and storyboarded but it didn’t seem able to be fitted into Animaniacs so was shelved.

Freakazoid! started as a straightforward adventure but with more and more input from producer Steven Spielberg it became more humorous.

However, there was very little time to produce the first thirteen episodes so producer Mitch Schauer, another Jonny Quest fan, decided to put the Toby Danger short into production since it was already written and storyboarded (by Brian Chin and Butch Lukic). Minton, Chin and Lukic are caricatured left to right as the soldiers firing the laser in the opening credit sequence.

Tom Minton remembered, “I wasn’t involved in the making of this short. My first wind of it was when John McCann showed me a color rough cut. My initial thought was ‘nobody on earth is gonna know what that means’. I was able to finally get Toby Danger on the air thanks to Freakazoid! being short eight minutes in one episode, so to that series I’ll always be grateful. And it should be on DVD!”

An uncredited Eric Radomski directed the short and edited it from twelve to eight minutes to fill the slot in the Freakazoid! episode.

At the Danger Semiconductor Testing Lab in Nevada, the World’s Largest Semiconductor is stolen by archvillain Dr. Sin (Jeff Glen Bennett), who uses it to wreak havoc across nearby Las Vegas since it looks like a gigantic robot.

Famed scientist Dr. Vernon Danger (Don Messick) arrives to stop it, along with his young son Toby Danger (Scott Menville), adopted daughter Sandra Danger (Mary Scheer), and his bodyguard/co-adventurer “Dash” O’Pepper (Granville Van Dusen).

They travel on a floating island with detachable sidewalk slabs. Jules the cat only appears in the opening credit sequence.
Don Messick voiced the original Dr. Quest (along with John Stephenson), and also voiced Dr. Quest in the 1987 revival of the series. Scott Menville and Granville Van Dusen respectively voiced Jonny and Race in the 1987 revival.

The sound effects (including the ‘Aieeee!’ Scream) are the same ones used on Jonny Quest, and Richard Stone’s score spoofs Hoyt Curtin’s jazz-influenced music for the original. Dash’s “Heads up, you heathen monkeys!” was actually spoken by Race Bannon in an episode of Jonny Quest who also threw things like barrels in some episodes.

The man calling for the diversion of all non-essential power (like to hospitals and airports) is a caricature of 1950s-era Frank Sinatra. A caricature of sheriff deputy Barney Fife, Don Knotts’s character from The Andy Griffith Show also appears.

Some retakes had to be done for the short because they did not have limited enough animation.

John P. McCann who was a writer on the series remembered: “In 1997, I pitched Jean MacCurdy on breaking out Toby Danger for its own series. Jean said the chances were remote because everything developed with Steven Spielberg—Animaniacs, etc.—involved profit sharing and a host of complicated legal elements. Warners didn’t see any point in bankrolling a show in which they didn’t totally own the property.

“That said, here is my outline for the pilot: Danger on Ice.

“An Alaskan cruise ship full of retirees is attacked by two giant snow crabs, who carry off a Jell-O effigy of Wayne Newton. The Dangers arrive to investigate on the Flying Island. As they circle to land near the fishing village of Muskeg, Dr. Danger lectures everyone on the how the government has a responsibility to help people in trouble. As the Island lands, it throws up a huge wave that swamps several fishing boats.

“The Dangers disembark in the Danger Command Car, armed with a high-powered micro wave ray dish and a rack of stainless steel barrels for Dash to throw. They head over to the inlet where the cruise ship was attacked, accidentally locking Jules the cat outside the vehicle, clinging desperately to the radio antennea.

“At the inlet, Dr. Danger investigates a shoreline littered with dead fish. Toby, Sandra and Jules go exploring. Dash attempts to open a metal thermos of cocoa with a pipe wrench and fares badly. Face dripping cocoa, he joins Dr. Danger who surmises that a mixture of cruise boat fuel and jettisoned low-salt meals have interfered with the aquatic ecosystem, upsetting the snow crab’s diet.

“DR. DANGER: You see, Dash, according to Newton’s First Law of Physics, the crabs are left with no choice but to grow to monstrous size and attack Mankind.

“DASH: When you put it that way, Doc, it makes a lot of sense.

“Meanwhile, Jules pounces on a young bald eagle that has landed in the snow. Suddenly, a giant snow crab rises up behind the unsuspecting cat. Toby bursts INTO FRAME and grabs the bald eagle, fleeing as Jules is squashed by the crab. Toby tells Sandra how proud his dad will be when he learns he rescued a rare species. The eagle bites Toby on the nose and flies off.

“Sandra and Toby are cornered by the snow crab, but a battered Jules has alerted Dr. Danger to the menace. Arriving with Dash in the Danger Command Car, they open fire with the micro wave ray, missing the crab and incinerating a forest of old growth timber. Finally roasting the crab, the Dangers are reunited in time for the second snow crab to attack. Dash buys time by throwing a stainless steel barrel.

“Inside the Danger Command Car, Dr. Danger fires the micro wave again. But the crab is too close and tips over the vehicle. The Dangers flee in an escape flier, leaving the micro wave ray still running, pointed directly at a huge glacier.

“Inside the escape flier, Toby realizes they’ve forgotten Jules.

“DASH: Too late to go back, Toby. Let’s hope Jules has a couple of his nine lives left.

“CUT TO: The second snow crab crunching Jules.

“Using the escape flier’s grappling hook, the Dangers’ at last clutch the second crab and drop it into a volcano. WIPE TO: The village of Muskeg where everyone is enjoying giant crab legs. As they return to the Flying Island, Sandra tries to get Dr. Danger’s attention.

“The glacier struck by the micro wave ray has melted and a great wall of water is descending on Muskeg. But Dr. Danger is busy lecturing Toby on the importance of preserving nature’s balance and how science must be harnessed to that end. As the Flying Island lifts off, the glacial wave submerges Muskeg, while the villagers flee, screaming “IEEEEEEEE!”