Missing The Green Light: Three Great Animated T.V. Pilots That Never Got Picked Up

See? It’s Funny, cuz’ it’s a pilot! …I’ll go to my corner now.
Source: HassleFreeClipart.com

Lately, I’ve been getting my daily recommended R&R by watching The Mysterious Mr. Enter’s YouTube channel where he gives brief but detailed reviews of animated shows. Watching his work has got me hungry for more cartoons.

After a brief glimpse around the web, I found a few pilot episodes – those first episodes intended to sell the show to networks – that, for one reason for another, never got picked up for series but deserve to be loved and recognized for what they gave us.

3 Dog Band

Given the play on words of the band Three Dog Night, you can guess at the plot here. 3 Dog Band is the story of three quirky anthropomorphic dogs who play in a band.

The story is very light and I feel that this might be the primary reason that it was never green lit. However, where the pilot lacks in story, it makes up for in presentation.

If the art looks familiar, it’s because this show was the brain child of Paul Rudish, an animator most well known for his work on Dexter’s Labroratory, The Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack, Sym-Bionic Titan, and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. As is par for the course with Rudish, the art is beautifully stylized; reminiscent of his work in the mid 90’s.

The goal for Rudish was to create a show with a focus on music. In that regard, the soundtrack is astounding. It’s a fantastic blend of House Electronic, Funk, and Disco that comes together perfectly. Think Daft Punk’s Get Lucky years before.

As a series, I see why 3 Dog Band didn’t get picked up. However, I can’t help but feel that it could thrive in the YouTube era where many music artists earn renown.

The Modifyers

Imagine James Bond as a young girl, give her a bit of slapstick humor and a whole lot of British Mod fashion, and you might arrive in the ballpark of the awesomeness that is The Modifyers.

This show is the tale of Agent Xero, a master of disguise working with the aid of her transforming mechanical assistant Mole to bring down the criminal empire of Baron Vain.

As mentioned, the humor is very slapstick oriented, but it does so with a deft touch. Many of the best gags are subtle and in the background while Xero and Mole do their work.

I’m also quite fond of the art. It’s reminiscent of My Life As A Teenage Robot with a bit 60’s spy show ala, shows like Get Smart or The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

There are many theories as to why the series was never picked up. I like to think the reason was that people watching it would likely mistake it for the adult parody that appeared on Newgrounds shortly after (Yeah, I’m not going to inflict that on you. It’s bad enough that I had to watch it to research this show), but it’s much more likely that Nickelodeon – the channel it was pitched to – just has a long track record of having a poor eye for quality; they did give Fred a series, after all.

Constant Payne

The late 90’s and early 2000’s weren’t hurting for American attempts at recreating the popular art style of anime. But seeing as it did give us shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender, I think we could have gotten away with a few more.

Constant Payne follows the titular Paynes, the headstrong Amanda who’s eager to prover herself and her loving scientist father who’s just a little overprotective of her. Together, they manage to fight crime and protect the city.

While the art direction is very generic, I rather liked the subtle hints that story dropped. One such hint comes at the beginning of the pilot where it is suggested that Ms. Payne met some horrible fate; giving Doc Payne the motivation to protect his Daughter.

What’s more, the introduction of Amanda’s uncle Welton as a villain creates a very Runaways/Kids Next Door vibe in the plot that would help to build tension in future episodes.

So why did Nickelodeon turn down yet another seemingly great series? Because of politics. Executive Producer Micah Wright was apparently attempting to create an animator’s union in order to ensure better wages and benefits for his fellow artists. Nickelodeon refused the show fearing that supporting him would cost them much more than they were willing to part with.

Perhaps if today’s cartoon centric stations existed back then, we would have enjoyed the adventures of The Paynes. We can only imagine.

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