The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, even that short-lived Storyteller thing....All of Henson's other programs have made it to DVD by now, except for this one. What's going on?
The truth is that Muppet Babies is currently being held captive by a legal quirk that's now put anchors around the necks of some programs. Back in the 80's, MTV was starting to influence the way a traditional show was put together, and music and video licensing started becoming a popular trend. Many of the tightwad execs in charge of children's programming started paying for such licensing, but they paid as little as possible -- meaning, in some cases, they only paid for the rights to broadcast a recording owned by someone else for the duration that the show aired on their network. If a cartoon lasted long enough for the syndication market, it was now the syndicator's problem--either buy the rights again, or replace/redub/cut any legally dicey scene.
That wasn't always the case--that was the worst scenario. The best-case scenario was that they would pay for the rights "in perpetuity," meaning the footage could now be in the episode it was put into forever. WITH an annoying exception....due to the wording of many of those contracts, that only applied to video formats currently in existence! This fact has become a headache for the growing TV-to-DVD market.
It's resulted in delays, sets more expensive than they'd normally be, and bizarre compromises like the Life Goes On set replacing its namesake Beatles theme song. It's why the Beavis and Butt-Head sets barely had any music videos. It's why it took six years to get out a first-season DVD for SNL (at this rate they'll never get to the seasons nobody cares about).
Now, if you remember how every episode of Muppet Babies went, then you realize where the problem is. The show is stuffed with outside video footage, from Lucasfilm to newsreels, and most of it is impossible to remove. The producers of Muppet Babies may have worked out a blanket deal with several video archive companies to keep pumping in constant footage for a flat fee. But that only applied to Saturday Morning, and the ways to distribute video that currently existed at the time (the only cuts this show got in syndication were for time, so they musta paid for perpetuity).
If someone wants to put Muppet Babies on DVD, there's no flat fee now. Yes, they would have to track down every single owner of every single live-action scene and repay them, a process that would take years and might not be worth it. It's all about the profit, and Muppet Babies isn't high-profile enough where manufacturers could see the demand paying for all the permissions.
If you still want it, the question you have to ask yourself is if you would buy more than one Muppet Babies DVD. This show's writing wasn't as smart as Henson's other shows; it's a kindergarten program pretty much. I have fond memories of this show too, but we all gotta face reality.
Many places on the Web incorrectly say this cartoon only aired for two seasons. Not really. According to the Head Programming Smurf, it was on for the 1986/87 season as well, but only in reruns. Meaning I might have had a chance to see it (I remember that Punky Brewster cartoon, after all). I wonder what I would have thought of it.
Describing Kidd Video is not easy. For the first minute or so, it was about four young teenagers in a garage rock band, the head of which was someone actually named Kidd Video--and he looked like this.
If Jackey Vinson hadn't been the child actor to say the Power Glove was bad, this guy would have been next in line. Anywayhoo, they're jamming out the show's theme song when suddenly the mirror they're practicing next starts to glow! And a cartoon version of Rush Limbaugh appears on it!
Rush says, "Mwa ha ha, I'm taking you to the Flipside!" One teleportation later, the young 80's rockers find themselves suspended 9,000 feet above the ground, in an alternate dimension, trapped in a crystal and floating to Rush's midair hideout, where they will become his musical slaves for all eternity! Oh yeah, and everything switched to animation, so the girl drummer says, in one of my favorite bad line deliveries ever, "Aye Yi Yi. We look like cartoons."
But all is not lost, because coming to the rescue is a fairy wearing leg warmers who gains super strength every time she sneezes. She breaks open the crystal and our heroes tumble down to the ground, while one of the shards somehow turns into the Kiddmobile, their new funky all-purpose flying music-blasting vehicle.
That's just the theme song sequence--the actual show is even more confounding than that. Listen up. I'm an animation fan; I've seen all sorts of animation in my lifetime. I've watched countless cartoons from every decade, good and bad. The statement I'm about to make....might sound hyperbolic but it's true. Believe me when I say Kidd Video is bar none, the absolute craziest, strangest, chaotic cartoon I have ever seen. You know that Raggedy Ann movie? This is weirder.
There's proof---there's YouTube proof. If you tell me you can make sense out of the first five minutes of this episode, you're lying.
But you know what's funny? .......I love it. I really think I do. The show is undeniably bad, but it's a really GOOD kind of bad. The kind of bad that's impossible not to love. The fact that it has a fairy in leg warmers is enough, but it goes above and beyond every absurdity the 80's had to offer. The animation is above-average; I can't believe somebody in the Eastern world would spend this much effort on making the things displayed up there move fluidly and impressively. Just LOOK at that living trash can crash through that wall. Aye-Yi-Yi!
Kidd Video's chances of making it to DVD uncut are even lesser than Muppet Babies' chances are. Since it cost so much dough to use actual popular songs in the soundtrack, and insert currently popular music videos, NBC went the super-cheap route and only paid for the Saturday Morning rights. The show appeared briefly in a few syndication markets, but with the videos cut out and the music replaced. If this ever does find its way to Digital Versatile Disc, they won't pay for anything more than the cut edition. There's just not that much of a demand for a show like this.
I wouldn't buy this if it were cut. It just wouldn't be the same show without stuff like "Safety Dance" in it. Your only hope is to find someone who recognized the campy genius of Kidd Video way back in 1985. In other words your only hope is this guy.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS
I wish that weren't true, and I could be wrong about it, but there must be some reason why the show has yet to show up. Like Kidd Video, Alvin used popular songs--the Chipmunks sang one per cartoon. But the difference is, the Chipmunks sang all those songs themselves, and a cover song is much cheaper to get than an original recording. The hurdle this show has to leap would be minimal, and the popularity of that terrible movie has only increased the odds. Single-disc compilations from the series have begun to trickle out, which is a good sign. I wouldn't count these fellas out yet.
Thanks to Shout Factory, most of the Nicktoons from the 90's have seen release, either via retail DVD or Amazon.com DVD-R. The exception is this one -- because it was made up of content from several individual studios and the rights have lapsed back to all of them. For example, "Angela Anaconda" aired as two shorts on Ka-Blam! before it was turned into a show on Fox Family, and once that happened, both episodes with those shorts never reran on Nick again.
THE MAJORITY OF PROGRAMS THAT AIRED ON THE FOX KIDS NETWORK (1990-2002)
Yes, all of them. Eek the Cat, Bobby's World, Life with Louie, Mad Jack the Pirate, etc...the reason is because the rights were passed to a company more indifferent. If you're American, do you remember the time when Fox Family Channel became ABC Family Channel? There was an exchange in the deal--all of Fox's produced children's shows fell under the ownership of Buena Vista, aka Disney. It's why the Power Rangers are on Disney-owned channels now.
These were just attachments that Disney didn't
care about--the extras in the deal. They'll all sit and rot in the Disney
Vault forever, with rare instances like The Tick getting its first two seasons
released. One episode each was missing from those Tick DVDs because they contained parodies and
Disney feared getting sued by Marvel. The irony is bitter.
The only true exception has been X-Men, whose releases have sold extremely well.
Some are fighting to change this. Howie Mandel mentioned in an interview that he's trying to bring Bobby's World back -- though that act might require shaking hands with someone, so don't get your hopes up. I'd say the show with the least chance of ever being seen again is "Fox's Peter Pan and the Pirates." Disney's already got a Peter Pan; why create brand confusion?
I imagine after this article appears I'm going to get Emails from people saying they found sets of several of these shows. That's not entirely true. If you see season sets offered online of any of the shows mentioned here, those sets are bootleg. The video quality on many of them is a little bit past YouTube standards, so don't get ripped off.
It's a real tragedy moments like "Fish Don't Stink" can't be legally bought.
WATCH "FISH DON'T STINK"
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