As much as I love G.I. Joe toys and comics, I was a fan of the animation first. I went to school for animation, and teach it, and the Sunbow/Marvel G.I. Joe (along with Transformers) are my top shows. Vivid color, strong animation, smart writing, superb sound design, stellar music, and top-notch voice acting bring me back to these two series again and again. They’re charming. And their strengths are such that I can blissfully ignore their many flaws, like the ease with which a squad of Joes flies into space in F-14 jets, or return via parachute.
But Flint Dille and Stanley Ralph Ross’ “The Wrong Stuff,” for all its silliness, is one of the series’ best episodes. One day I’ll write a long post about it, but in a word, it’s funny. So let’s celebrate that fun with an original production cel and background of Wild Bill in full astronaut regalia. Click for larger:
This is a two-layer cel. The cockpit and Wild Bill’s body are on one layer, while his head/helmet/breathing tube are on another. That means that one animates more than the other, or at least that the two animate differently enough that for efficiency the elements are split. Animation cel paint is close to acrylic paint, so it’s basically plastic when it dries. That means waterproof and scratch-proof, unlike, say gouache or watercolor. The background painting, on bristol or a thicker paper, is very likely gouache, which accounts for the vivid saturation (although telecine, the process of transferring film to video, is a big part as well).
Anyway, I love untrimmed backgrounds because they reveal where the paint stops being a place or an object and starts being paint again. And details like this:
Here’s where I’m confused, though. This looks like a cel from “The Wrong Stuff.” But I’ve watched the episode, and I don’t see this shot. There aren’t many episodes where Joes are astronauts, much less where Wild Bill is one. Further, when Joes are astronauts, they wear this outfit only in “The Wrong Stuff.” So I’m convinced this is from “The Wrong Stuff” and not, say, “The Pyramid of Darkness Part 1” or “Joe’s Night Out.”
Wild Bill is only in astronaut gear for about five minutes, but we barely see him. Here’s every shot from the first minute of that, when his squad are still on Earth:
But I don’t see it in there. I uploaded the scene if screencaps don’t move enough for your taste. Again, after this minute, the settings are in space or the Cobra space station. And Wild Bill has no dialog in that minute or the following four and a half minutes, by which time his helmet is off, he’s standing upright, and the jets have been destroyed. So I have four ideas:
1. I’ve just missed it. It’s there, and one of you gentle readers will point it out.
2. Mismatched cel and BG. That cel belongs to a different BG, and that BG belongs to a different cel. But I’ve been watching this episode all morning, so I don’t think so. We barely see Wild Bill in full gear.
3. Maybe I’m watching the edited version? When the cartoon ran on USA Network in the ’90s, each episode was cut down by a minute or so. But I’m checking against my Shout! Factory DVDs, and it would be troubling if both Rhino Home Video and Shout! Factory excluded something.
4. All of this leads me to believe this shot was cut from the episode. I’m happy to admit I’ve overlooked something if one of you, gentle readers, recognizes these elements. But now I think that this is art that was either photographed and cut for time, or because it was a mistake. So I cautiously say–
“Wow, unused Sunbow art?”
Whatever the case, we can all agree it’s a beautiful cel and background and great condition.