Taz as he looked in the Taz-Mania series.


Original Medium: Television Animation
Released by: Warner Bros.
First Appeared: 1991
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At first glance, the lead character of Taz-Mania looks a lot like The Tasmanian Devil, that animated eating machine who appeared in several …

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Warner Bros. cartoons in the 1950s and '60s. He even sounds similar, and has the same name, at least to the extent that the old Taz had a name. But that can't be Taz from the old days. This guy doesn't just have a family — he even holds down a steady job!

Taz-Mania was just one of several attempts the producer made in the 1990s, to expand the franchise of its old-time hits. Another was a series of mystery stories built around Sylvester Pussycat and Tweety Bird. The idea wasn't to create a new body of classic work about classic characters, but to capitalize on merchandising icons. As long as the new material sort of reminded viewers of the old stuff, it was doing its job. Even Michigan J. Frog, who, by his original characterization, is the most unreliable performer in toon history, was trotted out out on stage every night to act as "host" to the WB TV network. Compared with that, a half-hour domestic comedy about the least domestic character the studio ever had is nothing.

Taz-Mania debuted on Fox TV, on Saturday, September 7, 1991. Stories generally revolved around his family (including father Hugh Tasmanian Devil, mother Jean Tasmanian Devil, sister Molly Tasmanian Devil, etc. — Taz's own full name in the series was Taz Tasmanian Devil) or the staff of the Hotel Tasmania, where he worked as a bellhop. The family consisted mostly of cultured, civilized Tasmanian Devils who didn't know how to cope with their demented scion, but had to deal with him because after all, blood is thicker than water. Why the hotel, where his simple-minded savagery repeatedly caused mayhem, continued to employ him is less clear.

Still, the fact that he did show up for work regularly, and didn't try to eat other family members, is very much at odds with Taz of the Looney Tunes days.

This Taz's adventures were confined to the island of Tasmania itself, in contrast to the real Taz, who could turn up anywhere. One source of plot devices was the ongoing attempt on the part of various other characters, such as Bull and Axel Gator or Francis X. Bushbaby to — get this — prey on him … if you can imagine anything less likely to happen to the Tasmanian Devil who once menaced Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.

Jim Cummings (Darkwing Duck, Winnie the Pooh) did Taz's voice in this series. Other voices heard regularly are those of Maurice LaMarche (Plucky Duck, The Brain of Pinky & the Brain), Dan Castellaneta (Earthworm Jim, Homer Simpson), Rob Paulsen (Raphael Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Pinky of Pinky & the Brain) and others.

Naturally, Taz in this series sounded primitive and ferocious. But how primitive and ferocious can a guy be, who brings a regular paycheck home to his loved ones? In any case, the show lasted several seasons on Fox. A total of 65 episodes were made, and reruns of them are still spotted from time to time.


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Text ©2002-09 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Warner Bros.