Step inside your phone booth time machine and dial back to 1988: Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
, one of the most bodacious
films of the 1980
's, is a huge hit at the box office. Dialing two numbers higher on the time machine will take you to 1990
: a highly anticipated sequel to Excellent Adventure
is in the works. The public, including a large number of children, is once again in the throes of Bill and Ted mania. With two movies aimed at teens and adults under its belt, the B&T franchise
needed a way to reach its neglected younger fan base and to cash in on the duo's renewed popularity. The solution was simple: an animated series
"Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventures" premiered on CBS on September 15th, 1990, in the timeslot immediately following another hit, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles". The show was produced by Hannah-Barberra and quickly made a name for itself with its quality writing, original concepts, and superb animation. With its goofy but loveable characters, crazy-enough-to-work premise, and intriguing events and scenery, the movie itself contained many elements that could attract children. Considering this, the fact that the look and feel of the original movie was preserved in the cartoon is quite remarkable.
Unlike most movie/cartoon conversions that dope down characters and betray personas, Bill and Ted's personalities remained true to those established in Excellent Adventure. Despite their time traveling abilities, Bill and Ted still know next to nothing about history (at one point referring to B.C. as "Before Clocks"), much to the chagrin of an ever-helpful Rufus. Every significant character from the first movie appeared in the cartoon: Deacon, Missy, Detective Logan, Mr. Preston, and The Three Most Important People all made multiple appearances, and even the Princesses were featured in one episode. The only major changes in Bill and Ted's world were to the name of their beloved Circle K convenience store and the position of Mr. Ryan; the Circle K was rechristened the Kozy Korner and Mr. Ryan no longer a history teacher, but rather the principal of Bill and Ted's school.
Another high point of the show was the voice talent. All three starring actors reprised their roles: Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves, and George Carlin all lent their voices to their cartoon incarnations. Although it's likely that most kids didn't pick up on this, many youngsters (including me) probably noticed that "whoever" did the voices of Bill, Ted, and Rufus sounded just like the actors from the movie.
The slacker humor present in the films also made an excellent transition to the cartoon, with every episode being filled with quips like this:
- (Embarassed, whispers something to Bill while time traveling.)
- Couldn't you have done that before we left the 18th Century?
There were also some superb inside jokes
, such as a scene in one episode where Rufus is seen looking at a George Carlin album in a record store. The writing remained fresh throughout the series, and the writers always had a grip on the humor that brought Bill and Ted to life. Although the jokes were brought down a notch from the movie (there was no "69, dudes
!") this never took away from the overall hilarity present in each episode. Another classic from an episode in which Bill and Ted are being forced to rebuild the Great Wall of China
- Chinese Guard:
- "Do you have any questions?"
- "Yeah, how do you zip your pants with fingernails that long?"
"Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventures" was one of the few shows around that could claim to be bona fide "edutainment", or a program that is educational and has stand-alone entertainment value at the same time. The writers behind "Excellent Adventures" obviously did their homework when it came to historical accuracy, although a few artistic liberties were taken from time to time. Any fudging of facts, however, served to advance the plot and weren't often major fallacies. One such goof is an incident in which Bill and Ted help Thomas Edison perfect his recording technology by pounding a wax cylinder flat, thus inventing the modern record. However, Edison's recorder did use wax cylinders to store sound information; records did not come along for some time. Minor tweaks aside, the events and people Bill and Ted encountered in history ran the gamut and were usually quite accurate. Davy Crockett, Harriett Tubman, Abner Doubleday, Babe Ruth, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Little Richard are just a few of the historical figures encountered throughout the course of the series.
Also, small bits of trivia were interspersed in various scenes. During another misadventure, Bill and Ted convince the inventor of bubble gum that his invention has potential, which the inventor was marketing as "Blibber Blubber". My dad scoffed when I told him that this was bubble gum's original name. 15 years later, an issue of Time proved me (and Bill and Ted) right.
Despite the show's consistently high ratings, CBS made plans to cancel "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventures". Although an exact reason for the cancellation was never confirmed, the show was allegedly exceeding its budget by far. This is quite possible, considering the high costs of securing the voice talent (especially George Carlin) and maintaining the high standard of quality that Hannah-Barberra was known for. "A Grimm Story of an Overdue Book", the final episode shown on CBS, aired on December 22nd, 1990.
As the 1990 season drew to a close, it was announced that FOX had acquired the rights to air the second season of "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventures". Not only was the show moving to a new network, but Saturday morning veterans DIC took over production from Hannah-Barberra. This second incarnation of the show significantly watered down the characters and existing plots. The phone booth was now capable of traveling into outer space, works of literature, and other blatantly educational (bogus!) destinations that went far beyond time travel. Unlike the first season, which was educational and fun, DIC made the mistake of pandering to its audience and almost totally abandoned the premise of the two films in trying to do so. Another low point was the lack of the "real" Bill, Ted, and Rufus; none of the original actors returned for the new season. FOX's second season lasted only eight episodes and is regarded by most B&T fans as being utterly horrible and bordering on unwatchable. The FOX version of the cartoon is second in unpopularity only to the "Excellent Adventures" live action series that FOX also aired during the 1991-92 season.
Probably owing to their short runs, neither series was available on home video. Your only hope of seeing episodes of this show would be to (unfortunately) pick up a bootleg tape of some sort. Also, no network (not even Cartoon Network, usually a haven for Hannah-Barberra's long forgotten cartoons) has taken it upon themselves to show "Excellent Adventures" in reruns. This is most heinous; "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventures" was one of the most original, well-done cartoons of the early 1990's.
- The most triumphant Official Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventures website: www.billandted.org/toons.html
- The thirteen consecutive Saturday mornings that I spent on the rug in front of my TV watching Bill and Ted. (After viewing the episode guide from the official site, I'm fairly certain that I saw every episode of the first season.)