DR ZITBAG AND THE HALLOWEEN HORSE RACE!

Originally published October 30th, 2011

GAZE UPON UNIMAGINABLE HORROR!

Ah, Transylvania. The setting of every lazy monster-themed cartoon. You know, ’cause Dracula was set there (strangely, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a monster-themed cartoon set in Geneva or Ingoldstadt. I wonder if decades from now, we’ll have monster cartoons set in Forks…no, that’s too terrifying to contemplate). I actually remember reading somewhere that Dracula was set in Transylvania due to a stereotype about the region; everyone there was supposed to be primitive and superstitious. After all, Dracula did go to London because they were more rational-minded and thus he thought his vampirism would not be found out.

Ever since then, all cartoons and cartoon episodes with a Halloween or monster theme have used Transylvania as their setting, often portraying it as a gloomy Halloween Town-esque place full of ghouls creeping in the shadows. The Dracula connection to Transylvania has helped its economy, but still. An episode of Inspector Gadget used it, as did at least one Scooby Doo movie and our subject today, Dr Zitbag’s Transylvania Pet Shop.

In this show, Transylvania almost seemed like a magical fantasy land, where all the inhabitants were zombies and freaks of some kind, and there was even a jungle there in one episode. Are there any jungles in Eastern Europe? Anyway, the title character is a sleazy pet-shop-owner-cum-mad-scientist who used his pet shop castle to sell monster animals and make dirty money. He was assisted by his skeletal dog Horrifido (because monster cartoons need a good pun) and undead rabbit Zombunny (see?) while trying to escape the long arm of demonic policeman Officer Deadbeat.

I remember liking this cartoon in my youth, and that a good portion of said youth was spent debating with myself on what species Zitbag actually was. Was he a vampire? A zombie? A ghost, a goblin? He looks like a hybrid of Dr Doofenshmirtz, the Joker and a waiter, but I don’t think they ever said what genus of supernatural creature he was. Oh well.

Let’s look at an episode anyway. Since it’s Halloween, we’ll look at ‘Halloween Horse Race’ (this is from an old VHS, so I apologize for the lack of pics). You’d think a bunch of ghouls and goblins would think of a better way to celebrate the holiday dedicated to them than horse racing, but I digress.

First of all, the intro. It’s utterly awesome. If Halloween had a theme song, this would be it (sorry, This is Halloween). It’s filled with a sense of spooky glee and energy that makes one look forward to the show.

Then the title. Bonus points for putting a ‘ in Hallowe’en. I’m still going to spell it without the ‘ though. I’m lazy.

We begin with Horrifido and Zombunny on the till, with the former lamenting about the lack of business due to the horse race of the title. The till is empty, and Horrifido dreads his master’s reaction. Instead, Dr Zitbag, he with one of the goofiest accents I’ve heard in a cartoon, is dancing around like a loon, up to a top secret project of some kind. I wonder if it’ll go haywire somehow?

Zitbag and Horrifido leave, and, strangely enough, a human enters the shop. This human is a criminal who acts like the archetypical footie fan and is seeking a place to hide his loot. Officer Deadbeat is outside, and says that the criminal’s name is Fingers Malone. Really? The most generic ‘bad robber’ name you can think of and you used it? Why not just call him Meanie McStealsThings? ( Fingers actually made an appearance in an earlier episode, which was notable in that it used the Number of the Beast).

Fingers escapes, leaving his stolen box on the till. Horrifido leaping onto the scene, Deadbeat tells him that the box is stolen and that he’ll explain things later. You know, for suspense or whatev.

Then we cut to Universal Studios’ Frankenstein Adaptation Homeage 4000, with Zitbag laughing as he raises a shrouded table. I think you’re mixing up your movies here. Transylvania is Dracula’s homeland, not Frankenstein’s. Common mistake, I know. ‘They said I was mad,’ cries Zitbag, ‘They said I was absolutely bonkers! They were probably right.’ Sorry, Zitbag, Darkwing Duck did that joke better.

As the lightning hits oh you know this, Horrifido appears with the box. Zitbag cares not, as his creation is complete. What is this creation, you might ask? A Frankenstein-monster-horse. I bet you can just guess what her name is, can’t you? It’s Night-mare. Oh, horror puns, where would we be without you? At least it’s not Frankenhorse or something like that.

Of course, Zitbag plans to win the Halloween Horse Race. To crush his rival ‘Sherman Vermin’ (gotta have rhymes too, you know). We even have a fantasy sequence where he literally crushes Vermin. Sadly, not with a compactor or anything, just with his foot. He also wants to win to impress these two female vampires (with Bride of Frankenstein haircuts STOP MASHING UP MOVIES) called the Exorsisters. Is that an appropriate pun? Because, you know, exorcists get rid of supernatural creatures? Maybe they really are exorcists and are just pretending to be vampires to kill Zitbag. I wonder if that’s the final episode? They make Dr Zitbag think they’re going to sleep with him, but it’s a trap and they use the power of Christ to destroy the accursed Doctor once and for all! Nah, that’s stupid.

Why do they keep calling Night-mare ‘boy’? Mare is a female horse.

Anyway, Zitbag run out of oats to feed Night-mare, so he looks to the box, thinking that some of the ‘valuables’ might be edible. Um….if it’s valuable, doesn’t it mean it has to last? All that’s in the box is an old oil lamp, and once again we enter the realm of cartoon predictability. Indeed, Zitbag drops it, some red smoke emerges and Arabian music plays for a bit. Yes, it’s one of those ‘problems with a mischievous genie’ episodes. I bet all the money in the world there’s an episode where Zitbag shrinks or switches bodies with someone.

Suddenly, Night-mare goes mad and takes Zitbag for a ride around the castle. As she does, she knocks over some armour, and the armour magically floats and forms into a car. You know, I’m all for slapstick, but stuff like that is just confusing. Oh wait, it’s a haunted castle, so it must be ghosts, right?

When the joyride is over, Dr Zitbag tells Horrifido to feed Night-mare some dog food. Then, surprise surprise, the red smoke from the lamp forms into a genie. A Hawaiian genie. Yes, the genie has a grass skirt and a necklace of flowers, and ‘Aloha-oe’ plays in the background as he emerges. The genie is cold in the castle, lamenting not being in his ‘native Hawaii’, and thus swears revenge on Zitbag for this injustice, with a voice that sounds like a high Ed Wynn.

So Night-mare is apparently a he and not a she. Night-colt doesn’t sound all that intimidating, I guess. The genie catches up with Zitbag, and Zitbag proceeds to mock the genie, as the genie only has power to grant wishes. Now he doesn’t wish for anything because he wants to win the horse race fair and square. I dunno, I’d still wish for money or something. Keeping a horse is expensive, you know.

So Zitbag ignores the genie, and says to himself ‘I bet Vermin wishes he had a horse as great as this!’. Thus, because genies do this kind of crap, the genie teleports Night-mare to Vermin’s place. This is fortunate for Vermin – he looks like Hugo Strange with clown hair, and has a silly accent but not as silly as Zitbag’s – as he hasn’t been able to find a horse and thus sees nothing wrong with a zombie horse that appears from nowhere.

Zitbag learns of this, and wants the genie to pay with his blood. Well, he doesn’t actually say blood, this is a kids’ show after all, but words to that effect. Do genies even have blood? Anyway, the genie is warming himself with a fan heater. But earlier on, Horrifido said there was no electricity because Zitbag didn’t pay the bill. So maybe the genie used his magic, but why doesn’t he use his magic to go back to his ‘native Hawaii’ then, if he misses it so much?

Actually, it is normal electricity, since Zitbag stops it by pulling out the plug. Zitbag then chases the genie down a staircase, sliding down the banister as he does so. Huh, and a sphere on the banister hits him between the legs, making his voice more high-pitched. And here I thought ‘hit in the nuts’ jokes were only in 00’s cartoons.

Horrifido plans to trap the genie somewhere cold. Does Dr Zitbag claim this plan is his own? Is a non-Catholic non-Catholic?

Horrifido’s plan works out quite well, and by that I mean, when Dr Zitbag opens the fridge door, the genie enters. Now why’d he go and do that? If he hates cold so much, wouldn’t he avoid a place like that? Zitbag stuffs the frozen genie in an old teapot, and could try wishing Night-mare back, but he doesn’t. He puts the teapot in the box though, to replace the broken lamp. Teapot, oil lamp, same thing. Both have a spouty thing.

So what to do about Night-mare? Zitbag and Horrifido dress up as a horse, with Zombunny as a jockey. Of course.

‘My back is killing me,’ whines Horrifido, ‘Zombunny weighs a tonne!’ First of all, you’re a skeleton, you shouldn’t have nerve endings. Second, rabbits are heavy?

Zitbag and Horrifido get to the horse race, where a witch-doctor (yes, go with it) is sceptical of their disguise. After trying to get Nightmare back to no avail, Zitbag ends up entering the race anyway, costume and all. One amusing part of this scene is the other entrants – one is the Grim Reaper and another is riding a gryphon (!).

Zitbag tries to go home, but the witch-doctor has a voodoo doll of Zitbag in his horse costume (!), and when he pricks it, Zitbag of course, wins the race. And speaking of predictability, Zitbag’s prize is the stolen box and its contents. The genie returns and creates a carousel, where Zitbag is one of the horses and the witch-doctor uses another voodoo doll on him.

During the ending, however, my attention was drawn more towards the background characters in this scene. Generic Dracula, generic Frankenstein monster, a Cyclops Frankenstein monster, a furry skeleton in a bikini, what looks like Santa Claus or Papa Smurf (?), a wizard (??), some jester goblin thing, the Invisible Man, a werewolf in a coffin and many other weirdoes. And people say My Little Pony has interesting background characters. I wonder what these guys’ stories are.

So that’s Dr Zitbag’s Transylvania Pet Shop. And despite the title of this episode and the presence of monsters, this didn’t really feel all that Halloweeny, so I apologize for making this a Halloween entry. Well, at least the theme song’s nice.

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About jabberw

A writer of short stories and reviews, who likes to dabble in other creative media as well.
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