And that’s a wrap!

I think everybody always pictured us having some big watch party and celebration when the show finally aired, but in the end it wound up being kind of anticlimactic.

Back when the rough cut had arrived in September, the note with it said we’d hear from them about the final air date. We were expecting a phone call, but instead Mom opened the newspaper one day in October and saw an article with a picture of us as cartoon characters, giving the air date as November 18. Apparently they’d decided to release it to the AP without telling us.

The next surprise happened during the interview blitz before the premiere. CNN came to shoot a story on us, and they’d already gotten a copy of the final episode and wanted to film us watching it for the first time. (Not sure if they knew we’d already seen the rough cut.) After having to get word about the air date secondhand, I was a little irritated that they’d wound up with a copy of it before we did. So the three of us ended up seeing the finished product on November 13, and it didn’t get much space in my journal:

Anyway, CNN did come today. Nothing really fabulous happened, nothing worth mentioning. Except that we saw the final version of the cartoon.

Besides mentioning the different dialogue (at that point, it was just Sneezer’s line that had changed), there was nothing else said.

Monday, November 18, 1991

Well, it’s over. The cartoon has aired.

They changed another line for the worse, in the Karl Malden scene, from “Hey! That guy ripped us off!” to “Hey! That guy’s nose is huge!” In the words of Jean MacCurdy (who called a few moments ago to see how we liked it), “Tom [Ruegger] and Sheri [Stoner] decided to get witty at the last moment.” (To this I replied, “Comedy in the wrong hands really is a dangerous weapon.”)

In the end, after having TV producers and hosts and camera crews in our house countless times over the previous months, it was just my family members gathered to watch the show, with others calling afterwards to offer congratulations. Looking back on it now, I think truthfully we were all kind of tired by this point. There would be one more TV interview in December, for a kids’ news show called Not Just News, but since we were never told when our segment would air, Amy was the only one who happened to catch it, and I found that by then, it really didn’t matter to me whether I ever saw it or not. (I just noticed that there are apparently a few episodes of it floating around the Internet, so feel free to investigate if you like.)

Well, I guess what you’re wondering now: what’s going to happen next. I have only one answer: I don’t know. I didn’t know then and I don’t know now.

It had been a wild ride, and now we were moving on, to the rest of high school and whatever lay beyond for us. And as tired and somewhat cynical as Fourteen had become, she still had to admit at the close…

Anything’s possible.

Interstitial: What Might Have Been

Through the course of booking all our media appearances, there were various ones that didn’t work out. Some, I’m sure, we never heard about in the first place—I know it was mentioned that we weren’t always told about possibilities, so we wouldn’t all get our hopes up if things didn’t pan out. Some names that were dropped in passing were Today, Good Morning America, Geraldo, and Live With Regis and Kathie Lee (we were told that that one didn’t happen because Disney was the parent company, though who knows if that was actually the case).

We also had one magazine that, as far as we ever knew, didn’t print the story they prepared. We were supposed to be in TIME, and the interview and photo shoot had all been done. As fate would have it, though, the story was slated to run the week that turned out to be the start of the Gulf War, so it understandably got bumped for harder news. We were told it would still run, and week after week we kept flipping through the issues in the checkout line, but the story never showed up and we never heard from them with a copy of it, so I’m assuming it never ran. (If anybody can find it, please comment and let me know!)

A snapshot from the TIME photo shoot. At least we got free sweatshirts out of it.

We were also offered the chance to be on a revival of the game show To Tell the Truth, which would have meant a trip back to L.A. (the biggest argument in favor of it, in my opinion back then). We weren’t all sure we really wanted to do that, though—a game show isn’t exactly the same kind of spotlight as an interview—and in the end the dealbreaker was that they were only willing to pay for one parent to chaperone the three of us, which wasn’t something our parents were comfortable with doing for a cross-country trip.

And of course, much to our disappointment, we never got to be on what was then the Holy Grail of TV appearances: Oprah. There was word of it being a possibility at one point, but what I remember is that it was supposed to be a show about kids doing amazing things and we would be one segment on it, whereas they (WB/our publicist) were aiming for appearances where we were the only ones featured. (We didn’t care. We would have happily been on Oprah in a segment short enough to be a subliminal message.) That kind of info often got to us second- or third-hand, though, so I’m hesitant to state that as the reason (or even a reason) that it didn’t work out.

Also in the category of things that never happened were any other scripts or pitches for more Tiny Toons episodes. At the time we were told, yeah, sure, send in any other ideas you have, though I think even then we understood deep down that they were just being polite and encouraging to the kids. I do remember writing and drawing various ideas on a yellow legal pad, and I noted in my journal once that Amy and Sarah “have written another episode,” one about a concert featuring a fox singer/rapper called MC Frozen Yogurt. (I think it was inspired by their experiences at a New Kids on the Block concert they went to.)

My journal also has a cryptic reference one day that “I finished writing B&BGH 2-1/2,” but there are no other mentions of it that I can find, and I have literally no memory of whatever that sequel was. Hopefully Buster and Babs had a better trip, but I rather doubt it.

The final countdown (November 15-16, 1991)

With the episode fast approaching its air date, publicity ramped up again. In the week leading up to the show’s premiere, I did so many phone interviews for local and regional news outlets that I sometimes lost track of which place they were even for—my journal mentions things like “did an interview for a radio station” or “some newspaper in Fredericksburg” or “that Rob guy never called back.” If I were doing all that now, I’d be exhausted and overwhelmed, but as far as I can tell, Fourteen took it all in stride—world history homework, phone interview, English paper, phone interview. No big deal.

Our last travel opportunity took us to familiar territory: Washington, D.C., where we’d had numerous field trips through the years. We went to a studio there to do satellite interviews, one after the other, some live and some recorded. Not being able to see who we were talking to, and yet knowing we were on camera, took a little getting used to, and of course we had a few minor audio glitches (getting our voices echoed back to us in the earpiece, or when we couldn’t hear the reporter or they couldn’t hear us). But as Fourteen noted, “by and large it went pretty well,” and we also had time to do some shopping and sightseeing.

The next day we were all up early again for another event, though this one was much less demanding: The three of us and our families had been invited to the grand opening of the Warner Bros. Studio Store at the Fair Oaks mall in Fairfax, Virginia.

Yeah, we weren’t turning down a trip to a mall.

A (blurry) snapshot from the Studio Store opening in Fairfax, Virginia.

We were actually supposed to see Jean MacCurdy there, something I’d forgotten about until I re-read my journals, but in the end she had to cancel because she had a lunch date with Barbara Bush (something to do with the then-First Lady’s literacy campaign).

The opening was a lot of fun. I’d been looking forward to it ever since I’d seen a news segment about the opening of the one in L.A., though at that time I hadn’t thought there’d ever be one so close to home.

They had a few tables set up, with Yosemite Sam’s Ranch House coffee, orange juice, cookies in the shape of the Looney Tunes, and even white chocolate in the shape of Bugs Bunny’s head (which, by the by, cost $6 in the store).

So we made off with as many as we could without being too obvious. Those things were heavy.

Polaroid of me with the Buster and Babs costume characters at the opening.

Apparently I also signed two autographs while we were there, on the tags of the Babs plushes that were in our gift bags. (I always sort of wonder what happened to the autographs I signed back then. Did people actually keep them? Have they run across them now in a box in their basement somewhere and gone “Who the heck was that, anyway?” and tossed them? Anyway…)

It all made for a busy Friday and Saturday. We had Sunday to rest and for me to catch up on my journal, and then Monday would bring the culmination:

Tomorrow the episode airs. Almost a year’s worth of work (including our work on the original story), and it all comes down to about 22 minutes of animation at 4:30 tomorrow afternoon.

Well, see ya there!

Diamonds in the rough

The TTA crew had promised to keep us in the loop as much as they could while the episode was in production, and for the most part they did. (Okay, we were still a little disappointed that we didn’t get to do our own voices.)

On September 11, 1991, another part of that promise came through when we received a package with the rough cut of the episode.

VHS box for the rough cut

The rough cut was the final animation plus voice tracks but without the score or sound effects, and it was our first real sense of what things were going to look like in finished form.

All in all, it was great, though as I noted in my journal, “I had my favorite parts and my… well, not-so-favorite parts.”

There was only one major thing I had a problem with (but I’ll have to live with it, of course). They cut out the cruise ship scene. That part wasn’t what I didn’t like. I didn’t care that they cut it out. What I cared about was that now it doesn’t make sense. The volcano hurls them into the sky—and they land on a raft. A raft that just happened to be floating there, in the middle of the ocean. Does that make sense to you?

(I’m guessing now that the raft was debris from the fated luau, but try telling that to Fourteen.)

As background, our original story had Buster and Babs deciding to go on a cruise near the end. One page showed them having a great time, all dressed up but with Buster saying, “The way this trip’s going, we’ll probably wind up shipwrecked.” On the next page, they’re both in a life raft, with Buster saying “Me and my big mouth.” (This was an ending that came to Amy in a dream, when I’d talked about having trouble figuring out how to wind things up.)

There would be several lines of dialogue changed between the rough cut and the final version, some for the better, and a couple others not so much. Here’s the full list as far as I can remember, with the caveat that it’s been years since I watched the two versions back-to-back:

  • After the Karl Malden character walks off with their money, the rough cut line was “Hey! That guy ripped us off!” In the final version it became “Hey! That guy’s nose is huge!” (Not crazy about this change, but as we said back then, maybe they didn’t want to sound like they were accusing Karl Malden of being a criminal so had to change it for legal reasons?)
  • When Buster gets out of the limo at the hotel (after Babs is kissing the credit card), in the rough cut Buster’s line was “Thank you, my good man,” in a fake British accent. This became “She’s got a thing for plastic.” (No strong opinions on this one.)
  • When Gogo is asking what kind of “suite” they want, in the rough cut as he was spinning around he offers “a sugar twirl?” and I believe the final line is “a sourball?” (Unless that was the other way around. *shrug* What the heck is a sugar twirl, anyway?)
  • When Sneezer trips and their luggage tumbles into their room, in the rough cut he said a cute “Oops, I stumble-led” and giggled. The final line was “Hey, guys, it’s not my fault!” (This change we hated. With a passion. The original line was adorably delivered, and the final not only made little sense in context, it made Sneezer sound like a brat. No clue why it was changed; I have to hope there was some kind of technical reason because honestly, I still don’t get it.)

And yet, for all the excitement, Fourteen ends the journal entry on something of a wistful note:

You know, in a way I don’t want the cartoon to air. Because when it does, all this will be over. All the publicity will be over, all the preparations and fun of seeing the cartoon being made will be over. And after all this is over, will anybody at WB care about us, or will they just care that all their publicity is gone?