Much has happened since the last
Sabrinas Through Time, where
we looked at eleven versions of Sabrina the Teenage Witch as she
metamorphosed over the decades.
Two years later, Sabrina has now regenerated twice more.
THE TWELFTH SABRINA
The promised CGI Sabrina cartoon has come and gone, and it was a badly-written, limply-animated letdown. In this version Sabrina lived two lives: one of spectacular fantasy and adventure in the Witch World, and one of mundanity in regular ol' Earth, going to normal school. Guess which world dominated the majority of screentime?
This Sabrina was special. When she turned 18 she would have to choose which of the two worlds she preferred, and that world would hence have dominion over the other one forever. Head Witch Enchantra pulled every dirty trick in the book to persuade Sabrina to choose Witch World. Harvey was a pencil-necked geek for unexplained reasons and a new, more annoying love interest was pushed. All this is detailed in the writer's bible which was made available on the Moonscoop website before the show premiered.
The show was cancelled well before Sabrina had to make her choice, if it was ever even planned.
THE THIRTEENTH SABRINA
She has her own book again, and for the first time, she's being written for grown-ups. "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" is a horror comic in the EC tradition, a genre you rarely see exploited today. You might think this is a good development, but.....to be honest, so far the book just feels wrong to me. It's not completely serious (Betty and Veronica are members of a rival coven led by Miss Grundy) but it's written by the guy who implied Cheryl Blossom's brother wanted an incestuous relationship with her, so yeah, I'm a bit worried about Sabrina here.
But what I gathered you all here today to discuss is Sabrina's first appearance on TV. It wasn't in 1996, as a lot of ignorant people believe....it was all the way back in 1969! I mentioned it was during an Archie TV special on September 14, 1969, and now I have a full copy of that special, so let's take a look!
Notice that the title of the special is not mentioned -- just the general idea of one, in quote marks. There was a reason for that, which I'll explain below. The first minute of broadcast revealed the title as "Archie And His New Pals."
The choice of font was deliberate -- that "Pals" there is a logo. Bristol-Myers bought the entire half-hour and covered it in ads for children's pills, mostly for a new kind of animal-shaped vitamin product called "Pals." Every so often, Archie comes up in front of a photo of a Pals box and screeches, "YOU'LLLLLLL LIIIIIIIKE PAAAAALLZZZZZZ!!!"
And I mean he screeches it. The voices Filmation used for the Archie characters are some of the most horrid I've ever heard. Archie himself sounds like a drug-affected Shaggy impression. Jughead sounds like Professor Frink only he doesn't "glavin" a lot. Veronica has a Southern accent for no reason. They don't sound like professional voice actors, they sound like people who'd never worked in cartoons before and thought "if these are animated characters, they have to have the WACKIEST voices possible!"
You might be thinking, "Is everybody pink to promote breast cancer awareness?" Not exactly. Age turns the colors in celluloid red, and this happened to the Archie film before it could be telecined into video form and bootlegged. Much later, Archie and His New Pals was included in a DVD called "Archie's Funhouse" in 2008. It had all the ad material excised, yet the "Pals" logo still remained unaltered in the title. If they didn't remember these vitamins existed, I don't blame them.
And here she is -- the face that would become a legend. "It's my first day at Riverdale High, and I'm nervous! I'm afraid that someone might discover that I'm a....TEEN-AGE WITCH!" She pauses between "teen" and "age" so you know there's a hyphen there. "One wrong move, and the cat's out of the bag!" Maybe she shouldn't have actually brought her cat.
Worst Salem design ever, and this is saying something.
Sabrina, of course, is never conspicuous. As she looks through her class schedule to find out what books she'll need, she makes them appear one by one and flattens poor Salem every time, accompanied by a magic laugh track from a nonexistent audience. Scooby-Doo was not the first Saturday Morning cartoon to dub in a laugh track; Archie started in 1968 and beat Hanna-Barbera to the punch by one year. By 1972 cartoons were full of obnoxious laughter, even when nothing was particularly happening. The fad went away, but still, thaaaaanks, Archie.
Miss Grundy appears and is about to scold Sabrina about the school's no-pets policy when Salem disappears. "Uh....never mind, on your way, young lady!" Then she mutters something about buying glasses from a Hong Kong catalog. Sabrina had nothing to worry about; this kind of thing would happen every thirty seconds in her own cartoon show, and Grundy or Weatherbee would always shrug it off with a nervous "I didn't see that; I didn't see that." When it came to repetitive remarks, the Flintstones cartoon had "It's a living," the Sabrina cartoon had "I didn't see that."
Still shaken over her close call with Grundy, Sabrina collides with Dilton Doiley, Boy Inventor (the title he introduces himself with). She's about to attempt making her first friend when Reggie comes up from behind Dilton and yanks him away by the shoulder. She sighs and wonders how long she'll be alone. That's all the Sabrina we get until the show is almost over.
Nominations for Riverdale's Student Body President are now under way, and Reggie has his eyes on the seat of power. He's given Dilton the promise of a new science laboratory in the event of his election, and Boy Inventor finds the offer too tempting to pass up, though he still feels uneasy about helping Reggie.
As Mr. Weatherbee calls for nominations, Moose Manson (normally Mason; they got his name wrong) suggests Archie. Weatherbee points out Archie has already served two terms and is ineligible. Dilton swallows hard and raises his hand, nominating Reggie to everyone's disbelief.
"Does anyone second this nomination?" Weatherbee asks. Dilton brings out some kind of transistor laser wahoozits and pushes the button, giving Jughead an electric shock and catapulting him from his chair. This counts as a second nomination in Weatherbee's eyes.
When asked for a competing candidate, Reggie grins and nominates Moose. Dilton seconds the nomination, and with two candidates, the process is closed.
Archie huddles with his Gang and points out the unbelievable: they're going to have to help Moose get elected. "Moose? Whah Moose?" says the bad imitation of Veronica. "Because the alternative is REGGIE!" Archie says in an exasperated tone with his arms outstretched. Did they already forget?
They decide what Big Moose needs more than anything is a good image. Then they sing about it. "You need an image, Big Moose! You need an image, Big Moose! You need an image, yes you do!" Ad infinitum.
Before you risk having that song stuck in your head all day (and it WILL happen), keep this in mind: rock and roll was still considered "rebellious" and good music was not popular with the establishment yet. Woodstock was last month. Songs by the Archies tend to be soft, bland and parent-pleasing. There'll be no edgy "Yakity Yak" lyrics here!
Somehow, this did not stop an Archie single, "Sugar Sugar," from inexplicably reaching the Top Forty in the 60's...and the Archie company has NEVER LET ITS READERS FORGET THIS. When I was reading the comics in the 90's, the Archies were still depicted singing "Sugar Sugar" to a screaming crowd of fans, as if nothing in the world had changed.
Reggie's level of propaganda seems unbeatable. With Dilton's help, he's rigged a minivan to self-paste his campaign posters with mechanical hands. He's got them everywhere, and Archie's Gang is depressed about it. How can Moose make a strong enough impression? Veronica may have an idea.
At the Lodge Mansion, Ronnie introduces Moose to Jives, her butler. (They don't say "Jeeves," they say "Jives.") Jives is a "gentleman's gentleman," according to her, and if anyone can pull a My Fair Lady makeover on Moose, it would be him. Jives locks himself in a room with Moose for several hours and starts with "Repeat after me: 'The strain of this campaign is always on my brain.'"
One time-dissolve later, Moose comes out of the room looking dapper and sophisticated. "Jives, you've done it!" gushes Veronica. Then she turns around and notices in the process, Jives has turned into Moose. "Duhhhh, it was nuttin, Miss Veronica....youse kids must be hungry, I'll fix ya up some grub."
Well, whatever works. Moose didn't even have to use the bag of marbles he came with...he thought, to learn diction, he would have to talk with them in his mouth. So he throws the marbles away....all over the floor. Jives comes back and slips on them, initiating a cascade of easy-to-animate pratfalls where various people are catapulted in a static position through long long long hallways. The mansion turns chaotic, and Moose ends up in a tree.
The others didn't see it happen and start looking for him. Moose hears them call but doesn't come down, feeling he's nothing but a failure. "Aw, I never wanted to be President anyway." Time to sell more Pals!
The hour of the candidates' debate, Moose is still nowhere to be found. Reggie is going to succeed if something doesn't change. Moose is hiding in the boiler room, ashamed of himself. As fortune would have it, Sabrina is hiding there as well, sobbing that she can't make any friends.
"Duh, I would be your friend," Moose
says, sitting next to her.
"What are you doing down here anyway? Aren't you running for President?"
"Duh, running away is more like it. I just don't have what it takes. I couldn't act like a gentleman."
"Then why don't you act like yourself?"
"'Cuz no one would elect me."
Sabrina assures Moose that she would vote for him, and so would a lot of others. This boosts Moose's confidence high enough to get him out of the boiler room. But there's no way he could make it on foot before the end of the assembly....unless he knows a witch!
After a jingle-jangle sound effect, Moose gains the speed of ten Mooses and charges straight for the auditorium. Reggie is making jabs at Moose's expense and mocking his empty seat. "My opponent is Moose....although Chicken would be more like it! If he had the guts to run this school, he would be in that chair right now!" As he gestures to the chair, suddenly Moose is in it. Reggie is blasted as to how he could have gotten there so quickly, but Moose still has time to make his speech.
"Duh, I may not be the brightest
candidate.....but I know better than to make a bunch of
promises.....I could never keep!" Moose's speech rouses the
crowd, but will it be enough?
Of course it'll be enough, this cartoon is pretty predictable----wait, no, it wasn't enough.
As the votes are being tallied in Dilton's Chad-O-Matic, Reggie actually has a strong lead. The school has 1,000 students, so if Reggie gets over 500 votes, he wins. He's at 499!
But then Reggie's number stalls there, while Moose's keeps climbing. Archie and the gang cheer for Moose as the digits rise. The counting finally stops at....500 to 500. A tie!
Or maybe not. Mr. Weatherbee finds an envelope on the floor and discovers one ballot was never given out: Dilton's. Things might be in the bag for Reggie now.....if Dilton hadn't become so sick of him by this point. When Dilton emerges from the voting booth, the extra vote is Moose's. "All the fancy labs in the world aren't worth electing you!" he retorts.
"Aw,that's all right," Reggie shrugs. "To tell the truth, I would never want anything to do with a school that would actually elect ME class president! Har har har!" I guess everyone's in agreement then.
Well, what can you say? It hasn't stood the test of time, but none of the other Sabrina cartoons to hit the airwaves since have been that great either. I'm in a bit of disbelief that it bears the Filmation label, given that the one nice thing I can say about Sabrina's first TV appearance is that it's decently animated for 1969. At no point is anybody standing still with dead eyes and their mouth moving, there are no really long pans of static backgrounds, and only one shot is reused (the image of Reggie in the Nixon pose). Everyone displays a variety of vivid facial expressions. Normally Filmation had a Moose-level ineptitude about these things.
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