So that’s the story, and this is the last (scheduled) post for this blog. I may resurrect it sometime—perhaps if/when Tiny Toons Looniversity comes out, if I have any opinions I feel like sharing—but I’m glad to finally wrap this project up. I originally wanted all this to be completed for the 25th anniversary of “Buster and Babs Go Hawaiian,” but we blew past that, and then just past the 30th, so hey, it’ll all be here when the 35th comes around!
Also, a reminder that comments are open on all the posts, so feel free to ask questions or say hi wherever. (Though, if you ask a question that I’ve already answered in one of these posts, I reserve the right to just link you to that post to save time and energy.)
We’d gotten fan mail before, just a few things that found their way to us via the school’s address. Thankfully all of it had been benign, if sometimes a little odd. So I didn’t think that much of it that November when I was called to the high school office to pick up a letter that had showed up for us.
This was one of the benefits of living in a small town (or one of the benefits of name recognition by this point), that instead of marking it return to sender, they actually knew where we still were and had no trouble getting it to us.
Inside was a typed letter that ran for several pages, along with a cassette tape of an album called Touch of the Child’s Hand.
*shrug* Okay. Interesting…
Honestly, the first thing that struck me after reading it was that here was someone who actually cared about animation and the show. This wasn’t someone writing to us solely out of some weird attraction to our fleeting celebrity status, or wanting something from us. He’d already exchanged letters with some of the Tiny Toons voice actors, and one of the songs on his album, “Sincerely, Babs,” was inspired by his correspondence with voice actress Tress MacNeille.
The others didn’t seem all that interested, so I wrote back, and we became pen pals. We talked about the show, we asked each other trivia questions, and of course as time went on we talked about what else we liked, and where we lived, and our friends and families, and how our day had been. Years passed, and without thinking of it, without even noticing each stage we passed, we moved from being pen pals, to friends, to… something more, something that felt closer and deeper than either of us had ever expected.
We first met in person when he flew in to attend my high school graduation. That fall, he came back to spend Thanksgiving with my family, and brought an engagement ring with him.
Reader, I married him. We’ll celebrate 25 years this June.
We were married on a June morning, a small outdoor wedding at my parents’ home, under a tent rented at the absolute last minute when we woke up to the sound of rain. (Thus began a grudge against the Old Farmer’s Almanac that I carry to this day.)
We kept things simple and elegant, but in the end we couldn’t resist one little nod to the beginning of our relationship, on the invitations for the rehearsal dinner.
In October 1992, almost a year after “Buster and Babs Go Hawaiian” had first aired, our elementary school principal got a call from the local (as I called it in my journal) “retail merchants thing” with an invitation.
Would we like to be grand marshals of the city’s Christmas parade?
Can we get back on you on that?
Our families thought this was exciting, but the three of us… weren’t so sure. Again, bear in mind that everything had been over for almost a year, we were now sophomores in high school, drifting into different social circles, and as I noted, “Quite frankly, we’ve all gotten burned out on the whole thing.”
And yet, knowing how everyone with the city and the schools had been so supportive of us and so understanding and so positive (“and believe it or not, I’m not being sarcastic”), I also noted feeling like “we have to be kind of diplomatic, you know. I feel kind of obligated to sort of give everybody here something back for everything they’ve done.”
On the other hand, we all couldn’t help grumbling a little that they should have asked us the year before, and we had to take a couple days to hash things out amongst ourselves and make the decision. (The phrase “civic duty” actually got used at one point.)
I’ve already made a few things clear:
1. Nothing gaudy, tacky, cheesy, or childish. I want this to be mature and dignified.
2. After this parade, we are doing nothing else (except maybe Oprah). We’ve got to cut it off.
(I was always happy to leave the door open for Oprah, just in case. Matter of fact, still am…)
Well, we’re doing it. The three of us—the Spielberg writers, the Toonsters, the Toonettes, the Tiny Toon writers, the Tiny Toon girls, the Tiny Toon women, and a zillion other names—will be grand marshaling the 1992 Christmas Parade here in the stagnant little city of “Where is Waynesboro?” Waynesboro, Virginia.
(Oh, Fifteen. I can just hear how much you appreciate the honor.)
In the end, with the help of several layers of clothing and an endless supply of good-natured teenage sarcasm, we piled into an antique red convertible and waved our way down the (freezing) parade route. (Looking up the weather for that day, it looks like it was in about the mid-40s during the parade, which doesn’t seem quite as bad as I made it sound in my journal. But being in an open, moving convertible for that length of time might have had something to do with it.)
We had friends and family cheering us on along the route, of course, including my sister, who livened things up by throwing bang snaps on the ground as the car went by, which made our driver a little nervous. (Definitely file that one under Things It Would Not Be Wise to Do These Days. Actually, it probably wasn’t a great idea even then, to be honest…)
So, at last, our civic duty done, we went our various ways. That was the last public appearance for the three of us together. (My final solo event connected to the episode was a presentation to the elementary school during Career Week in the spring of 1993.)
We had finally reached the end of a journey that had started on an ordinary day with an idle sketch drawn on notebook paper in a junior high cafeteria. That journey had given us fifteen minutes of fame, travel opportunities, meetings with celebrities, a not-insignificant paycheck, and memories that ranged from silly to sublime. If you’d asked me then, I would have said that it had all played out, it was all over now, nothing left to come of it, roll the credits and cue Porky Pig.
But as it turned out, that wasn’t quite the end. The improbable sequence of events that became “Buster and Babs Go Hawaiian” had one last bit to play out, one last gift to give, and for me it would be the greatest of the entire experience.
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…
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
After the trip to L.A. in January 1991, our next travel opportunity turned out to be to New York for talk show appearances. There was a lot of wrangling with our publicist as to when we would go, exactly which shows we would be on, and things like whether the show would pay for more than one chaperone to accompany the three of us (an issue that would come up more than once). For quite a while we weren’t sure whether we’d be headed to New York once, twice, or not at all, and my journal from that time is filled with page after page of possible variations in terms of flights, drives, and taping locations.
In the end, we wound up with two short trips, one in early June for CBS This Morning, where we would be interviewed by Harry Smith, and the other later that same month for The Joan Rivers Show and an assortment of other smaller interviews.
Looking back on my journals, Thirteen didn’t have all that much to say about any of the actual interviews, just that they generally went well or were fun, etc. I was surprised to see that I spent way more time describing the hotel room we stayed in for the CBS This Morning appearance than I did talking about the actual experience of being on the show. Then again, interviews were kind of old hat for us at this point, after answering the same questions so many times, and our travel experiences sometimes had more novelty for us than the actual media appearances (for example, LaGuardia airport was apparently Thirteen’s first experience with automatic faucets/toilets, which is an event in my life I did not know I had a record of…)
The second New York trip was by far my favorite. Even though we had a ton of interviews to do for various magazines and news outlets, we also had enough free time to visit two of the coolest places a kid could go in the city (at least, according to Thirteen): the Hard Rock Café and FAO Schwarz.
And scattered among all the travel and interviews, we finished out our last weeks of eighth grade, signed countless yearbooks (and in my case, had to draw in them too — “at least I learned how to draw Buster Bunny in 15 seconds”), had a major water gun fight on the last day of school (actually inside the school, file that under Things That Absolutely Would Not Happen These Days), went on summer vacations with our families, and tried to mentally prepare ourselves for our next big adventure: starting high school in the fall.
(You’re welcome, by the way, for not making the obvious “20/20 hindsight” reference in the title. Seriously considered it, though.)
When I think back on the entire experience of making “Buster and Babs Go Hawaiian,” there are 3 main events that stand out: the trip to L.A. and meeting Spielberg; the premiere of the finished episode, of course; and the airing of the 20/20 segment. It was by far our most involved media appearance and, quite frankly, probably the one that the most people had heard of and watched regularly, at least in our area. (And until it aired, none of our other national TV appearances could be set for firm dates, so I’m assuming they were given exclusivity.)
One of the details I’d forgotten about in the saga of 20/20 is that issue with the air date. On April 5, 1991, our publicist, Valerie, told us it would air on the 19th, so we immediately set about telling… everybody. Family, friends, teachers, local newspapers, local radio and TV stations. After all, as Thirteen noted in her journal, we were told that “the only way we won’t be on 20/20 on the 19th is if there’s a national disaster or something.” (We were somewhat familiar with this, since a planned article in TIME had been derailed by the start of the Gulf War.)
Ten days later, Valerie called back with the words “I’m a messenger from hell.” The air date had been moved from the 19th to the 26th. There was not, as far as we knew, a national disaster, and all of us ranged from irritated to furious, since we’d been waiting for this thing for months already and, more importantly, we had to call everybody and their brother back and tell them, uh, yeah, it’s not the 19th after all. Of course, like a lot of snags in big events, in the long run it was so unimportant that I’d entirely forgotten about it until I reread my journal—but Thirteen sure had some all-caps lines in those entries at being forced to wait.
Friday, April 26, 1991:
It’s 6:20. Only 3 hours and 40 minutes left until showtime.
(Yeah, we were a little excited. I’ll spare you the running journal entry complete with timestamps…)
The title of our story is “When Dreams Come True.”
I still can’t believe it. I mean, us on 20/20. This is just so cool.
The running gag in my journal entry became how many times I kept writing “This is just so cool” or variations thereof. For anyone who cares (and I’m not sure I’m even among them), the grand total was 9.
I think the big impact of the 20/20 airing wasn’t so much anything about the segment itself—though of course it was well done, and even Thirteen notably had no complaints about it—but the fact that it was a show we already watched every Friday night in our house. It was part of our normal media landscape, and now… there we were, on the screen. It might be hard to fully understand this, in the age of YouTube and viral videos, but back then, being on TV was big, and not just in the “I’m famous and people recognize me in the grocery store!” kind of way, but in a more internalized, personal, “this feels not entirely real, but apparently it is” kind of way. We were now a part of what we watched. (That would be true to some degree again when “Buster and Babs Go Hawaiian” finally aired, but we were so involved in that whole process that the premiere felt more like just wrapping things up.)
At the time of posting this, “When Dreams Come True” is available online for those of you who haven’t seen it. (I should note that I’m not affiliated with the YouTube channel that posted it, but do check them out, like, subscribe, etc. They’ve got some fun old commercials posted too.)
If/when the video below disappears, you can also check out the segment’s transcript below.
See what you think, but… y’know, I think it’s still pretty cool.
First, 3FW was mentioned in the first episode of Media Hall of Fame over on the Old School Lane YouTube channel, as part of an episode about fans influencing their favorite animated shows:
I actually never realized until this video (or I’d forgotten, which is also possible) that The Simpsons did an episode that riffed on our Tiny Toon scripts. That’s kind of funny, given how much I was also into The Simpsons in the early ’90s. Wikipedia tells me that the episode aired in April 1993, which I’m thinking was after I’d drifted away from the show, so I guess that’s how I missed it. (Kind of meta that our real-life story inspired a writer to do a spec script about fictional characters submitting a spec script and… yeah, my head hurts now.)
I also recently did an interview with Redd Kaiman for his Kaimancast, which you can listen to on Spotify:
And he did this fun video trailer for the episode that includes some footage from the 20/20 segment:
And speaking of that 20/20 segment, it’s currently online again! (It’s low res, but hey, so were the ’90s.)
Just as a final housekeeping note, I know this blog has been sitting idle for a lot longer than I intended. (That was one heck of a summer break.) I do still have a few more stories to tell, so I’m hoping to wrap things up with some final posts in 2022, and then let this sit as an archive unless something new comes up.