Thursday, February 26, 2015

RR Bill & Ted's Excellent Cartoon

Did you know there was a most excellent Bill & Ted cartoon?

For more Bill & Ted, check out these other reviews:

Name: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures (1990) aka simply the Bill & Ted Cartoon
Created by David Kirschner & Paul Sabella (Season 1)/Andy Heyward (Season 2)
Original run 1990-91
Genre Comedy animated series

Following the huge success of the first Bill & Ted film, a cartoon series was quickly put into production to be launched in the early 1990s. It lasted for two, kind of uneven, short seasons.

Still produced by Orion Pictures, the first season was animated by Hanna-Barbera Productions and ran on CBS for about 13 episodes in 1990. It followed our heroes Bill & Ted time-traveling around different eras, trying to fix all kinds of shenanigans they provoked by accident, much in the same style as the original film or the very similar Back to the Future cartoon series by Universal Cartoon Studios (anyone remember that one?) that would be released later around that same time.

This cartoon is mostly remember for the very unusual move - ever compared to adaptations we get nowadays - they managed to keep the live action cast to voice the characters in the show. It reunited Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, George Carlin and even Bernie Casey to provide voices on the series.

Following the box office success of the second film, the increasingly popular cartoon was now off to an even bigger fanbase. Thanks to the sequel, Fox decided to grab the cartoon for themselves (it would now air on Fox Kids) and they decided to switch production companies to work on it internally (much like they would also do later with The Critic when it switched from ABC to Fox in '95)...

The first Season of the cartoon sticks pretty close to the rules established in the first movie.

The series follows our time-travelling slackers Bill S. Preston Esquire and Ted “Theodore” Logan as they go on various most excellent adventures! To help them out, our future "Wyld Stallyns" get the help from their future guide, friend and mentor Rufus.

Season one saw Bill & Ted exploring ancient China or ancient Rome, participate in the first Thanksgiving feast, etc.

And along the way, they would bump into the likes of Marco Polo, a young Mozart and Little Richard in the same episode (rock legend Little Richard even played by himself, which frankly was all kinds of awesome if you ask me!), Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers, Calamity Jane, Leonardo da Vinci and many more!

It was often kind of silly, but pretty fun. The jokes flew fast and the pacing was great. With several inside jokes here and there, it really helped make this show work and make the audience smile whatever age you were.

It was pretty much in tone with the actual films, despite the added slapstick.

I mean, they were even able to keep the fantastic CGi-time travel effect!

These Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures were pretty fun! Bill & Ted made for such a great Saturday morning cartoon! A perfect transition. The medium was the best possible way to continue their adventures.

Bill & Ted made for such fun characters both kids and the older crowd could enjoy. And unlike most adaptations back then, they didn't try here to pander to the younger audience by completely changing the characters, like adding random talking pets (looking at you Dumb & Dumber!) or odd magical gimmick. The Bill and Ted here are basically the same as they were portrayed in the films (if slightly dumber). And for that alone it was already so refreshing compared to most other adaptations!

The cartoon sticked pretty close to the first film. They kept Ted's cop father, Missy-mom still popped up here and there, even Ted's little brother Deacon and the Princess Babes appeared one time or another!

Most episodes revolving around the High School and San Dimas mall.

Along our main cast, the series saw several cartoon regulars like Joe Alaskey, Brian Cummings, Maurice LaMarche, Phil Hartman, or also Rob Paulsen providing a few additional voices here and there.

Then came Season two...

I get it. But that doesn't mean I excuse it.

Fox' original intentions was just that they wanted to improve the formula of the show. Keep this adaptation around way past the second film. The problem is that they tried aiming the cartoon at the youngest possible audience.

All these changes can be simply summarized as Fox' fault. After the second film, they quickly began working on a live action series to follow it. So naturally they replaced the entire movie cast with their own voice actors set to portray Bill and Ted in the then-upcoming short-lived live action series.

The series now starred Christopher Kennedy as Bill, Evan Richards as Ted and Rick Overton as Rufus.

Where it really affected the series was how they even changed the time travel nature of the phone booth they used. Our heroes could now randomly travel into works of fiction. Literature, fictional TV shows and even shrinking them to explore the human body at one point was now fair game!

And the nature of the show was changed for a more "edutainment" direction. They would explore a Museum, the human anatomy, Columbus and America. But the real problem was the really awful plots. While the idea of Bill & Ted exploring classic works of literature like Pinocchio or the Wizard of Oz could have been interesting possibilities, they instead went for the worst possible cheap dumb stories only kids could enjoy. They even time traveled to babysit their past-selves!

While I find the final episode decent, this retooling of the series didn't get much success and it would be quickly canceled and only last for a few 8 episodes.

Overall, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures was such a fun cartoon. Recommended for any fans of the films. It was a great little series, that saw Bill & Ted traveling all over the place. I would say it even worked for the audience/kids that didn't knew it was based on a film in the first place!

It's really great how we got Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter and George Carlin all reprising their roles in this cartoon series!

The formula does gets kinda repetitive, like many cartoons of that time. But this cartoon was not meant to be binged-watchted, but slowly burned through over a few weeks.

The change of production companies and networks really affect the second season. It's not that entirely watchable, looking back. It was really aimed at a much younger crowd, like way younger dudes! The real problem aside from the plots, was the most notable change in voice actors.

The above dvd set is titled the "Best of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures" for a good reason. While it does contain the entire short Season 2 on a second disc, of the total 13 episodes of Season 1 five episodes are actually missing from the set! Why? I have no idea.. I'm pretty sure they could have squeezed all of them over these two discs or simply add a third one (it's not that expensive, come on!). And the entire series only counts 21 episodes in total. Thankfully the entire series has since been made entirely available through likes of Netflix.

Here's the list of the missing episodes missing - which saw Bill & Ted meet with the great William Shakespeare, work on some haikus with Bashō, and also encounter the Brothers Grimm, George Washington and Davy Crockett:
Episode 8 - Pocket Watch Full of Miracles
Episode 9 - This Babe Ruth 'Babe' Is a Dude, Dude
Episode 11 - Never the Twain Shall Meet
Episode 12 - A Job, a Job, My Kingdom for a Job
Episode 13 - A Grimm Story of an Overdue Book
The series was a great success at the time. In fact it would even spawn a very popular brand of cereals, the now infamous "Bill & Ted's Excellent Cereal"!

Following this 1990-91 cartoon aired the Bill & Ted live action series in 1992, which sort of acts as a third season since it continued on Fox like season 2. This live series starred Evan Richards and Christopher Kennedy this time in person as our duo. But they were no replacements for Reeves and Winter. It was received to much negative reception. It's really, really bad. Like a pretty strange weak cross between Saved by the Bell and Parker Lewis, it's honestly not recommended... It really aged badly and only lasted for 7 episodes.

I give it:
2 / 3 Felixes!


  1. Yeah, I kind of remember this show. Well, the first season, anyway. Even did a Looking Back article about it on Channel Awesome back when it was still That Guy With The Glasses:

    It's really too bad that it got messed up when Fox took the show over.

    1. You "kind of remember" this show, but wrote a review on it nonetheless?
      How does that work :P

      I'm just messing with you~