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Western Animation / Roger Ramjet

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This animated Comedic Hero from the mid-1960s was the Air Force's answer to Popeye. Roger Ramjet (voiced by Gary Owens, best known as the announcer on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In) led the American Eagle Squadron (comprising Yank, Doodle, Dan and Dee) in defense of truth and justice. Ahead of Batman by one year, episodes of Roger Ramjet displayed sound effects, and sometimes dialog, on the screen.

The animation, from Ken Snyder and Pantomime Pictures, was crude, but the tone was snarky, even a bit subversive. The show's production coordinator, Fred Calvert, went on to produce animated shorts for Sesame Street. Most of the jokes went over the heads of the kids, but were appreciated by the parents.

Roger's proton pill gave him the strength of 20 atom bombs for 20 seconds, enabling him to fight assorted spies and criminals. When the pill's effects wore off, the Eagle Squadron was always there to rescue Roger. In his leisure time, Roger competed with Lance Crossfire, playboy and ace test pilot, for the affections of Lotta Love. A couple of shorts have made it into the Internet Archive's Moving Picture Collection. Before that, however, the show made history as the first ever animated series to ever be given a home video release. It was released in 1972 for the short-lived "Cartrivision" format.note 

In the early 1990s, the PBS series Square One TV featured a character named Dirk Niblick, whose segment used much of the same personnel as Roger Ramjet, including animation director Fred Crippen, writer Jim Thurman, and voice artists Gary Owens (Roger), Bob Arbogast (General Brassbottom), Joan Gerber (Dee), and Gene Moss (Doodle).

This series provides examples of:

  • Animated Series: Specifically 156 episodes of roughly 5 minutes each that originally broadcast from 1965 to 1969.
  • Audience Murmurs: The No Goods. At the end of one round of murmuring we hear "West Virginia".
  • Banana Republic - San Domino
  • Beware the Nice Ones - Dee, the littlest and youngest of the American Eagles, typically serves as the sweet, happy homemaker. Intelligent and often matching the boys in joke-telling. When an episode focuses on her, she will often be kidnapped or otherwise seized by baddies. Usually the kidnapper is Noodles Romanoff. One time she was assisted by a genie, however, she Took a Level in Badass when bound and helpless, her only weapon being an earth-shattering scream that she can hold indefinitely until the No Goods from N.A.S.T.Y. give up. Then there was the show where she sensed a miscarriage of justice when her homemade Cherry Berry pie wasn't even sampled by the spy judge in a contest. So she takes said pie and proceeds to rapid-fire hammer into the ground the four spies on their heads like nails. Gotta wonder what that pie was really baked with.
  • Brawn Hilda: Opera singer Clara Kreevich Finork; she is complete with girth, horned helmet and blonde braids. She appears in "Opera Phantom" as a performer and returns in another episode as a baseball player.
  • Catchphrase - "As today's [insert random adjective] episode begins ..."
    • "One for all and all for one, the Eagles fly 'til the job is done!"
    • See Hour of Power.
  • Comedic Hero: Roger of course. He made jokes, quips and was usually an idiot.
  • Creator Provincialism - There was a good reason for the constant references to Lompoc. A number of the staff behind the show were actually from Lompoc, California!note 
  • The Dreaded: Bernie Miller in the episode Hi Noon.
  • Dr. Fakenstein: One of the villains is a mad scientist named Dr. Frank N. Schwine, who attempted to use one of Roger's proton energy pills to give his monster strength.
  • Forgotten Birthday - The American Eagles kids surprised Roger during a nap that scared him enough to jump out the window. Everybody came to the surprise party: even his arch-rival Lance Crossfire, and his arch-nemeses Noodles Romanoff and the No-Goods who rigged his birthday cake to explode on Ramjet, harmlessly, because Ramjet's birthday also falls on April Fools' Day.
  • Fun with Acronyms - N.A.S.T.Y., the National Association of Spies, Traitors and Yahoos.
  • Hiroshima as a Unit of Measure: The proton pill gives "The strength of twenty atom bombs for twenty seconds." No word on the explosive yield of those nukes, though. 20 1-kiloton bombs isn't as much as a single 1-megaton bomb, for example.
  • Hour of Power - Roger Ramjet's proton pills gave him "the strength of 20 atom bombs for a period of 20 seconds".
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game - Roger and his sidekicks meet up with one of these hunters. They deduce that the hunter is, in fact, afraid of animals, so they defeat him by wearing animal costumes. Ramjet wears a bunny suit. It works.
  • Inherently Funny Words:
    • A parrot called Carlbob.
    • Not to mention 'Lompoc'.
  • Karloff Kopy: Dr. Frank N. Schwine's voice is a clear Boris Karloff impression.
  • Lemony Narrator: The narrator often made jokes and sarcastic comments, especially at Roger and Noodles.
  • Limited Animation
    • The frames of animation in a typical shot can be counted on one hand. In fact, the show almost seems to revel in its low production values.
      Sheila: We missed them!
      Noodles Romanoff: That's Impossible! We blew up the whole house and didn't even put a scratch on Ramjet! How can this be?
      Sheila: Poor animation?
    • In addition, the cartoons were made in the unusual format where the entire cartoon's soundtrack, with dialog and sound effects, was provided to the animator, who then decided what was going on in the animation.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr Ivan Evilkisser
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: Dee could scream real loud in one episode where Noodles and his gang kidnapped her. Her loud scream complete with Volumetric Mouth caused the villains much pain.
  • Malaproper: The sound effects cards during a typical Ramjet battle in one episode suddenly flashes "Indigestion."
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed - In "The Shaft", Roger accidentally drills a hole through the Earth, creating a whistling noise as the planet rotates. Several people are shown complaining about the noise, including a stereotypical Texan shouting "Yahoo! Heck of a noise, ain't it, Hubert?" (Think about who the president was in the mid-1960s.)
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: What usually happens to Noodles Romanoff and other villains when Roger took one of his proton pills.
    • Lampshaded in one cartoon when just before, Noodles tells his cohorts that it was "getting-punched-out time".
    • The only villain to avoid getting a beating was a villainous weatherman because he admitted to his crimes because his mother taught him not to lie and agreed to surrender peacefully.
  • One-Wheeled Wonder:
    • The Solenoid robots.
    • The Martians who showed up in only one episode; they were green skinned with tricorn hats, powdered wigs and a single wheel in place of legs.
  • Outlaw Town: Boot Heel, Montana, where Roger was sent in to clean up. It's portrayed as a classic Western outlaw town despite the episode taking place in the 1960s!
    Narrator: Where the men were men, and the women were men and that got pretty old after a while.
  • Parental Bonus
  • Phlebotinum Pills: Proton pills for Super-Strength (or rather just general butt-kicking ability).
  • A Pirate 400 Years Too Late - Red Dog
  • Pirate Parrot - Red Dog the Pirate is a short, squat scourge of the seven seas with a wise acre parrot named Carl Bob for a sidekick.
  • Poke the Poodle: Some of the villains' plots, like Dr Ivan Evilkisser's machine that burns out tiny little lightbulbs, or Jack The Nipper's pinching spree. It's still treated like a big deal by the characters.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The theme song is sung to the tune of "Yankee Doodle".
  • Punny Name - Jaqueline Hyde; Yank, Doodle, Dan and Dee; Lotta Love; the list goes on.
  • Repeat After Me: The off-screen technician doing the countdown for the rocket launch in "The Hole".
    Technician: 5....4...what was it?
    Other Technician: 3!
    Technician: 3...2...
    Other Technician: Good.
    Technician: Good.
    Other Technician: No no, 1!
    Technician: No no, 1.
  • The Rival: Lance Crossfire
  • Running Gag: Every time Roger took off for a mission, his commander was standing directly behind the jet engine (which had a chicken nesting in it).
    • The hotline was literally too hot to touch, yet Roger always had to answer it and let out various forms of "Ooh Owie Hurt Burn!" It was once turned around on the General.
      Ramjet: Say, General. You do a wonderful impression of me. Can you do Lionel Barrymore?
  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: "We are the Solenoid Robots hum buzz click."
  • Shout-Out:
    • Little Orphan Annie appears briefly in the background in one episode.
    • Ramjet reads Nancy in the funnies page.
    • Winnie the Pooh:
      Ramjet: I don't get it. How can a teddy bear walk and talk?
    • The recurring bit with the President of San Domino and his Cabinet is a shout-out to a routine by the ventriloquist Señor Wences.
    • In the Miss America episode, when Roger is undercover at a beauty contest, one of the girls tries to guess who he is. She guesses Lamont Cranston or Billy Batson.
    • The ending to the episode Hi Noon is a parody of the ending from Shane.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Dee is the only girl in the American Eagle Squadron.
  • So Once Again, the Day Is Saved
  • Super Hero
  • Super Serum
  • Talk to the Fist:
    • One episode had aliens capturing one of the kids and preparing to dissect him. The aliens try to explain that they just wanted to cut open the kid to see what was inside him — but they get pounded unmercifully by a supercharged Roger Ramjet.
    • Once a journalist comes to interview Ramjet, and notes that all his tales of fighting evil consist of Ramjet thumping people.
  • Title Sequence Replacement: Cartoon Network's reruns later included a rock cover of the theme song, which not only replaces the original opening, but uses a completely different melody.
  • Written Sound Effect: Plenty of these, including ones that were just plain weird.