G.I. Joe Animation Art – “The Wrong Stuff”

GI Joe "The Wrong Stuff" animation cel detail

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:

GI Joe "The Wrong Stuff" animation cel and background of Wild Bill in astronaut gear

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:

GI Joe "The Wrong Stuff" animation cel number detail

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:

GI Joe "The Wrong Stuff" excerpt screencaps

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.


Filed under Animation, G.I. Joe Behind the Scenes

8 responses to “G.I. Joe Animation Art – “The Wrong Stuff”

  1. Tolan

    #4. It was cut.
    I have checked my 3 sets, FHE VHS, Rhino DVD, and, Shout DVD, and none have that scene.

  2. I checked my Shout copy and the TV version which aired on The Hub on June 20 just before they removed Sunbow’s G.I. Joe and Transformers from their schedule. There’s nothing there that I can see.

    My guess is that this scene never made it to air. It might have been meant to appear just after Duke and the Senator watch the rocket take off and Ace calls for the others to disengage. Lady Jaye is shown reacting to Ace’s predicament. That would have been the best moment to get Wild Bill’s reaction as well.

    “The Wrong Stuff” features some of the best dialogue in the series, going from biting social commentary to all-out action in just two acts. The animation is crisp and detailed, certainly at its very best here, especially in the scenes with Cobra Commander gushing about his plot to the others while mocking the influence of TV over people, then dancing gleefully with a giant world globe just as the Twins cut into his act. And then there’s the whole sequence with the Joes training to see which ones have “the right stuff” to head into space. You gotta love their individual reactions to the 10 x Earth’s G simulator. All in all, a very solid episode.

  3. Dan Pinegar

    I don’t think this is from the same episode… or that the background matches the foreground at least… if you got it from the same seller I did for some of my wrong stuff a few were shuffled.

  4. Diana Davis

    Where do you get your cels from?

  5. Thom Hazaert

    I have a great WRONG STUFF Cel and Background, Duke Scarlett etc floating in the Zero G chamber…. If anyone wants to see a photo, let me know…. I’m actually about list like 8 first season SUNBOW full size cels and backgrounds on EBAY.. I have cels from The Wrong Stuff, The Gods Below, Primordial Plot, etc.. if anyone wants the info when I post them, please feel free to email me.

    • I’ve got a “Primordial Plot” cel as well. I bring it in once a year to show students, who’ve likely never seen a cel up close, what with digital ink and paint being the state of the art, and I ask them what series they think it’s from. It’s kind of a joke, like here’s this purple BG wall with dinosaurs in front of it, and it’s not “Denver the Last Dinosaur” or “Dinosaucers” (not that my students would be familiar with either), and then I say “It’s from ‘G.I. Joe.'”

  6. Frank Rafter

    I enjoy seeing any photos I have a large GIJ cel collection
    you can send me emails at productioncels@gmail.com.

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