Thursday, April 4, 2013

Classic Nick Wed. – Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids

Classic Nick Wed. – Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids
April 3, 2013

While Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids never aired on Nickelodeon it is a true classic and deserves it's time in the spotlight and it was one of my favorite cartoons as a little kid growing up in the 1970's. - Forgive me, this is very long but worth the read, I learned a lot while writing this.


Fat Albert began life as a character in comedian Bill Cosby’s (Picture Pages) stand-up comedy routine "Buck Buck," as recorded on his 1967 album Revenge. The stories were based on his tales about growing up in inner city North Philadelphia. When Cosby teamed up with veteran animator Ken Mundie in 1969 Fat Albert became a real animated character for a one-shot prime-time special entitled Hey, Hey, Hey, It's Fat Albert. The special, which aired on NBC, was a hybrid of live-action and animation.


The music for the special was written and performed by jazz pianist/keyboardist Herbie Hancock in 1969 and was released on the Warner Bros. album Fat Albert Rotunda. For the animated portion of the special, it was necessary to develop the actual appearance of each of the Fat Albert Gang's characters. For this, Ken Mundie relied on animator Amby Paliwoda, a former Disney artist. Paliwoda not only created all the Gang's characters, but also painted a "group portrait" which was eventually shown on the front page of TV Guide magazine shortly before the showing of the special. The Fat Albert gang's character images were primarily created by the artist Randy Hollar with the assistance of one-time Disney animator Michelle McKinney, under the direction of Ken Brown.

When the time came to bring Fat Albert to Saturday mornings NBC refused because the series was too educational (a quality that is seriously lacking in to days animated series) so Bill Cosby and a new production company, Filmation Associates, then took the property to CBS where it premiered on September 9, 1972 as Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. It lasted for 12 non-continuous years then spent another season in first-run syndication from 1984–1985 and produced three prime-time holiday specials for Halloween, Christmas, and Easter. The series was rerun on NBC Saturday mornings and on the USA Network in 1989.

==Educational Lessons And Songs==
Fat Albert was honored and noted for its educational content, which included Cosby earning a Doctorate in Education. In every show's opening Cosby would playfully warn:

"This is Bill Cosby comin' at you with music and fun,
And if you're not careful you may learn something before it's done.
So let's get ready, OK? (Fat Albert voice) Hey, hey, hey!"

During each episode, Fat Albert and his friends (aka The Junkyard Gang), dealt with an issue or problem commonly faced by young urban children, ranging from stage fright, first loves, medical operations, and personal hygiene to more serious themes (though toned down for younger children) including vandalism, stealing, racism, smoking, being scammed by con artists, sexually transmitted diseases, child abuse, kidnapping, drug use, gun violence and death.

At the end of most episodes (with some exceptions in the case of particularly serious themes), the gang would sing a song about the theme of the day. This sequence, similar to those seen in other Filmation shows including The Archie Show, has often been parodied. The musical sequence was dropped during the Brown Hornet/Legal Eagle years.

==Revamps And Renames==

In 1979, the show was re-titled The New Fat Albert Show and featured a new segment titled "The Brown Hornet" detailing the adventures of a larger-than-life African-American crime fighter in outer space whose design resembled a caricature of Bill Cosby, who also performed vocal talents on the character. In 1984, the show was syndicated and renamed The Adventures of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. The lack of network restrictions allowed the producer to delve into more mature subject matter. A notable episode ("Busted") featured the kids having an inadvertent brush with the law and given a Scared Straight!-style tour of an occupied maximum security prison, even contained utterances (by the jail's inmates) of the words "damn" and "bastard" (Cosby had appeared in the beginning of the episode advising viewers that those words would be used as part of the story's dialogue to realistically depict jail life). Another notable episode, "Gang Wars", featured a child being shot and killed. Another new segment was added: "Legal Eagle", a crime-fighting eagle with a pair of bumbling police squirrels. Production of new episodes ceased in 1985.

==Characters – The Cosby Kids==

"Fat" Albert Jackson (voiced by Bill Cosby) is based on Cosby's childhood friend Albert Robertson. The main character in the series, he is the heart and soul (and often the conscience) of the Junkyard Gang. Though depicted as being obese, he is shown to enjoy sports, often playing in different games with the rest of the gang. Civic-minded and wise beyond his years, Fat Albert works hard to maintain integrity in the gang and with others.

Mushmouth (voiced by Bill Cosby) is a chinless, slack-jawed simpleton wearing a red knit hat and a blue scarf who always speaks in virtual Ubbi Dubbi, tantamount to an overdose of Novocain in the mouth, which Cosby would later use in the "Dentist" monologue from his 1983 film, Himself.

"Dumb" Donald (voiced by Lou Scheimer) is a lanky but dimwitted fellow. He always wears a green long-sleeved jersey three sizes too big, and a pink stocking cap covering his entire face except his eyes and mouth.

William "Bill" Cosby (voiced by Bill Cosby) is a character based on Cosby himself. Like the others, Bill is an all-around good athlete, but more often he spends his time trying, though not always successfully, to keep his little brother Russell out of trouble. Like Fat Albert, Bill is usually the voice of reason in the gang, although at times a little more stubborn. He also acts as Fat Albert's second-in-command.

Russell Cosby (voiced by Jan Crawford) is Bill's younger brother (based on his real-life brother—whom he often talked about in his routines) and the smallest and youngest of the Junkyard Gang. He always wears a heavy jacket, boots and an Ushanka winter hat regardless of the weather. Russell has a penchant for making blunt observations (much to his older brother's consternation). His catchphrase is "No class."

"Weird" Harold (voiced by Gerald Edwards) is a tall, skinny, beady-eyed kid who always wears a beige dress blazer, a brown sock on one foot and a red sock on the other, and is usually clumsy. (In the film adaptation, he is called "Old Weird" Harold, like he was in Cosby's stand-up routines, rather than Weird Harold.)

Rudolph "Rudy" Davis (voiced by Eric Suter) is a sharp dressed, smooth talking, somewhat antagonistic huckster whose smart-aleck attitude gets him into trouble more often than not. Hi's poor attitude and dismissive demeanor is often the catalyst for a typical plot's conflict. But inside he has a good heart and often learns his lesson. He wears an orange flat cap, purple vest, pink tuxedo, regular bell-bottom jeans, and boots. Rudy's personality in the Fat Albert movie is much different as he is portrayed as a shy, kind-hearted, gentleman who falls in love with the female lead Doris (Kyla Pratt).

Bucky (voiced by Jan Crawford), as his name indicates, has a large overbite. He is shown to be really fast and flexible.

==Other Characters==

Miss Berry, The Brown Hornet (Voiced by Cosby), Stinger (voiced by Lou Scheimer), Tweeterbell (voiced by Erika Scheimer—daughter of Lou and Jay), Legal Eagle (voiced by Lou Scheimer). Margene (voiced by Erika Scheimer), Dennis and Pee Wee (voiced by Erika Scheimer)

The Three River Blockbusters are the Junkyard Gang's main rival when it comes to competing in sports such as baseball and football. The Blockbusters stole the title of being champions in a competition called "buck buck". (They make an appearance in the film adaptation featuring totally different members and the leader, dubbed as Crips, voiced by Catero Colbert credited as Lead Teen)

==Theme Song==
A cover of the show's theme song, performed by Dig, is included on the 1995 tribute album Saturday Morning: Cartoons' Greatest Hits, produced by Ralph Sall for MCA Records.

As of 2013, Fat Albert is seen Saturday mornings on Retro Television Network (RTV), and weekdays on Bounce TV, both of which are digital networks. It can also been seen weekdays on Angel Two (ANGL2) and on Kids & Teens TV (KTV).

On January 15, 2013, Bill Cosby posted the following on his Facebook page, "I’m telling you there are people at work, who I think, will make Fat Albert happen again. And it will be loved by all generations to come.", hinting that the series might be brought back once again. No further word has been given yet

==DVD Releases==
In 2004, Urban Works acquired the rights to the series, subsequently releasing several Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids DVDs including a two-volume collection featuring 24 episodes from the original animated series, as well as all the Fat Albert specials to coincide with the theatrical release of the feature film adaptation of Fat Albert. In addition Urban Works released a Greatest Hits four-disc box set and a five-best episodes set via Ventura Distribution. In 2008 Urban Works lost the distribution rights and as a result all of Urban Works' DVD releases are now out of print.

In 2008, Classic Media acquired the rights to series and stated at the time that they intended to release the entire series on DVD. Unfortunately this never happened as they only re-released The Fat Albert Halloween Special and The Fat Albert Easter Special on DVD via distribution partner Genius Products.

On April 6, 2012, it was announced that Shout! Factory had acquired the rights to the series (under license from Classic Media) and planned to release a complete series box set on DVD on July 31, 2012. The release was postponed but is now scheduled for June 25, 2013.

On September 4, 2012, Classic Media re-released all three-holiday specials together in one collection entitled The Hey Hey Hey Holiday Collection on DVD in Region 1.

==Film Adaptation==
In 2004, Twentieth Century Fox released a film adaptation of the series titled Fat Albert. The film stars Kenan Thompson (Kenan & Kel) as Fat Albert. 

In the film, Fat Albert and the boys’ journey into the real world after jumping out of a television in order to help a lonely girl (Kyla Pratt) with her issues. Fat Albert enjoys being in the real world but after a meeting with his creator, Bill Cosby (portraying himself) he is informed that if he and the others don't return back to the television, they will turn into celluloid dust.

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