(Why Kids' TV Sucks)

The following story is scarier than anything you'll read in an old EC horror comic.

In 1993, I co-wrote an animated teleplay for the Saturday morning TV show, "Tales From the Cryptkeeper," for ABC-TV, based on the HBO adult series Tales From the Crypt, which in turn was inspired by the 50's EC comic book line of the same name. I had never written for children's animation before, but in college, I had actually studied to become an animator, so the job was like a dream come true. Beyond that, my entire sense of humor had been formed by reading EC comics, which morphed into MAD Magazine after threats of government censorship had forced the end of their comic book lines.

My partner (Dave Hines) and I were contacted through Richard Donner's office (he was an executive producer for "Tales From the Crypt," from which this animated children's series was spun off).¹ They wanted to avoid the usual hack "Scooby-Doo" style of TV animation writing, so they were hiring film writers to do the teleplays. They sent us three stories from various EC comic from the early fifties, and asked us to adapt one of them.²

They were particularly keen on a story from The Vault Of Horror comic from April/May 1952, called "Death Wagon," a gruesome tale illustrated by Jack Davis in which the protagonists, unscrupulous used car dealers Herman Kitch and Amos Sink, were dismembered at the finish, and their body parts used to build a car (they foresaw marketing a toy based on the car after the episode aired). The final frame read:


Some adorable toy car THAT would make, huh?
We realized that this was a story that would horrify young kids (not to mention their parents), give them nightmares, emotionally scar them for life... and so, we JUMPED at the chance! Our only stipulation was that we wanted a couple of the toys for ourselves.

Now, I LOVED to be scared by movies and TV shows when I was a kid. Som if there was anything I hated, it was "Scooby-Doo"-like crap in which a ghost turned out to be the cranky old carnival owner, and Fred wasn't really dead—he was just tied up in the basement. It was a cop-out, and pretty soon you knew that it was NEVER going to be a real ghost on Scooby Doo, and that the characters were NEVER in real danger, so once that was figured out you NEVER watched it again.

Everyone said this show would be different. The producers had even hired their own child psychologist to argue down the network censors. There were only a few stipulations:

  • Stories should be morality plays with ironic twist endings.
  • Protagonists should be 6-12 year-old children whenever possible.
  • The comic would be a jumping off point—we were free to explore new ideas.
  • No graphic violence... (Okay, we'd dismember the guys offscreen)
  • No imitative killings (Could 6 year olds build cars out of each other? No way!)

Simple! (Okay, we couldn't dismember two six year-old kids, but the other instructions were easy to follow.) We switched the action to a high school car shop class (who doesn't want to kill high schoolers?) and faxed off a one paragraph pitch:

"Eddie and Herman are two young hoods, working to fix up their vintage, but beat up 60's muscle car, wanting to turn it into the hottest car on the road. One of a kind. What they don't want to do is get jobs to earn money to buy the parts they need. So they venture out at night, stealing parts off parked cars to fix up their muscle car. It becomes there obsession, particularly with Eddie, who is determined to have a car that everyone'll stare at as it goes by. They don't realize that, because of the parts they're taking off the parked cars, innocent car owners are careening to their deaths the next mornings as they try to drive without brakes, steering boxes, etc. But Eddie and Herman don't care, intent on putting the finishing touches on their muscle car. As they work on their pride and joy, they fail to hear the undead victims, fresh from the grave, enter the garage...

... The next morning, the muscle car is parked on the street—completely rebuilt using the body parts of Eddie and Herman. Their skulls where the headlights should be, eyeballs in the parking lights, severed hands as door handles. And the trim? Let's just say that now it truly IS a muscle car. One of a kind. A car that everyone will stare at as it goes by."

Nelvana (the company producing the shows) loved it. They instructed us to expand it into treatment form and then submit the story to ABC for Network and Broadcast Standards and Practices approval. We weren't worried—we had Richard Donner, Joel Silver, Robert Zemeckis, Nelvana, and a real child psychologist behind us!

Okay, Nelvana did recommend that we add a new character—a "good" boy, Kevin—who rebuilds his car the right way. And okay, he would be the MAIN character... and, okay, we'd have to add a bland love interest—Erin, a girl who wore the mascot uniform on the cheerleading squad (we made the school mascot a lemming).

But no problem—at least we still had the car...

... until we got a message from Nelvana:

"Since this premise was given the okay to go to outline, we've had our BS&P meeting. This story was talked about and it was decided that no one could die in the car crashes and that the boys' dismembered body parts could not be used for car parts in the end."

As it turned out, the psychologist they hired to defend us was actually AGAINST scaring kids. Characters could no longer die on the show at ALL (which seems kind of strange in a series called "Tales From the Cryptkeeper." I suggested that from now on everybody could just get a bad bruise and we'd call it "Tales From the Nurse's Office." The reaction was not positive). Furthermore, we argued that showing kids stealing car parts and having NO fatalities sent a WORSE message to kids—but it was all to no avail.

Now instead of our beloved Death Wagon, Nelvana had a new idea:

"Possibly Eddie and Herman even steal parts from Kevin's car so that when Kevin takes it out for a test drive, it goes out of control. Kevin manages to leap to safety but his car is totally destroyed (basically 'dies')."

Brilliant—that would be a great influence on kids—LEAP from your car when it's out of control! Don't trust air bags and seat belts—JUMP FOR YOUR LIVES!!! They continued...

"(The crash is a) Big joke as far as Eddie and Herman are concerned. That is until they discover Kevin's car parked outside, gleaming and not a scratch on it. Deciding to take it upon themselves to make sure it's destroyed this time, they hop in. However, the car instantly takes on a life of it's own—doors lock, seat belts wrap around them, horrifying shrieks, moans, and laughter pour out of the radio. all sorts of macabre (NOT DEAD) creatures, zombies, ghouls, etc pommel the windshield, reach in through the no drafts, etc. etc."

"Perhaps in the end, the boys are freed, they race off doors flapping. We later see Kevin in a new old car w/the girl drive past Eddie and Herman waiting at a bus stop. Offers them a ride. They blanche. Haven't been in a car.... well, in a long time."

Our hearts sank. Our toys were no more. The best we could hope for was tiny action figures jumping out of moving Hot Wheels. There were some scares, I guess. I was kind of like Steven King's book "Christine," and... well, that wasn't very scary either, but still... aw, heck, I still just wanted to write an animated show. It presented some sort of closure for my animation studies in college... and oh yeah—we weren't working anywhere else and needed the money. So we renamed the story:

... and we began a new treatment...

CRYPTKEEPER INTRO:

The Cryptkeeper stands at the counter of 'Hearse Rent-A-Car'. He's in a foul mood because his car died, and won't run anymore. He never let a little thing like death slow HIM down! Today's tale of terror comes straight from one of the most terrifying places on earth, where zombies walk the halls and the screams of the tormented echo from behind closed doors...

... As he talks we DISSOLVE TO a dark corridor, shuffling figures lurching slowly through the murky gloom. Of course he's describing HIGH SCHOOL! The Cryptkeeper laughs maniacally as the lights come up to reveal a typical high school hallway filled with bored kids on their way to class. Just another day at William M. Gaines Memorial High...

We introduce Kevin, who is attacked by a giant lemming!!! Fortunately, it just turns out to be his girlfriend Erin (hey, at this point we were willing to use any scare, no matter HOW lame). In car shop, Kevin works diligently on his car, which he treats like a living being. Meanwhile Eddie and Herman torture Kevin, instead of working on their own car. They bet Kevin that by the end of the semester, their car will be faster than his.

So we see Kevin going about it the right way—BUYING car parts, even though he has to work longer hours at the local fast food joint to earn the money (we see him slaving in the kitchen, scraping dirty trays of food into a plastic tub marked "SECRET SAUCE." With his bigger paycheck, he visits a spooky Auto Graveyard and buys the parts he needs (a "Frankenstein" grave-robbing reference—very hip).

Meanwhile, Eddie and Herman are out removing parts from neighborhood cars. So the next morning, all of the cars pull out of their driveways and crash in a horrible wreck. The owners all climb out, dazed (nobody LEAPS out - we avoided that).

That day at school, Kevin finally gets his car to start. "It's alive!" he shouts (another "Frankenstein" reference—spooky, eh?). He pats it and strokes it like a girlfriend, and it seems to purr back. Eddie and Herman look on jealously.

That night, Eddie and Herman sneak back into class and sabotage Kevin's car. But Kevin's car is ALIVE! It straps them into the seats and takes them on a terrifying Hell ride (okay, you can't mention Hell on Saturday morning kids' shows—it's a religious reference—so it's a HECK ride)! They end up in the Auto graveyard, where the dead, cobweb-covered cars all come to life a circle them menacingly. We DISSOLVE TO...

Kevin and Erin driving home from the prom. Eddie and Herman have been missing for days. They park and snuggle near the Auto Graveyard, when Kevin sees a part that he needs on an old junker—he snaps it off and swears that he hears an "OW!" Shrugging, he walks back to his car as we see the name "EDDIE" on the license plate!

Pretty scary, huh?

Okay, it basically blows—but it's not TOTALLY embarrassing... yet.

Two weeks later we received their changes:


"Look out! A terrifying... squirrel!?!"
—We must include dialogue after each car wreck like, "Are you all right?" "Yeah, I'm okay." "You're lucky." etc.
—Now Eddie and Herman WILL sabotage Kevin's car. Kevin races them in the car, which crashes and is totaled (Kevin of course LEAPS OUT of the car at the last minute and receives only a small cut on his forehead).
—Eddie and Herman celebrate at a restaurant, only to see Kevin's re-born car outside, which will take them on their terrifying heck ride. Eddie and Herman escape the graveyard, and will be last seen working in shop class on old bikes.

Whatever. We needed the money. Quitting at this point would be as stupid as... well, leaping out of a moving car. So we plow into the script, and one month later, we typed in the Crypt Keeper coda:

INT. CRYPTKEEPER'S HEARSE - LIVE ACTION
The Cryptkeeper sits in the driver's seat, wearing a chauffeur's cap, talking to us through the open window.

CRYPTKEEPER: Well, kiddies, what do you think of Kevin's car? A real DEATH WAGON, wouldn't you say? And poor Eddie and Herman, why it practically gave them CARdiac arrest!
(laughs)

Well, as you can see, I finally got my rental car—which is fortunate because I'm attending a funeral...

We hear MUFFLED CRIES, and now notice a coffin in the back of the hearse. Someone's hands are trying to raise the lid from the inside! The Cryptkeeper smiles apologetically.

CRYPTKEEPER: Okay, so I'm a little early... Don't you just hate a backseat driver?

The Cryptkeeper laughs maniacally as we...

FADE TO BLACK
THE END

So we took the money and ran. Hey, it wasn't HORRIBLE— we snuck a couple of fun moments in there. Sure, we heard they had to change a few things: The heck ride was too scary, so now the car just held them down with seat belts and drove them around really fast (apparently the network had realized that zombies and ghouls were actually dead people). But all in all, we had escaped without embarrassment... until...

The show premiered one cold September morning (Nelvana never bothered to tell us—a friend at Donner's called us to tell us it would be on). Well, it wasn't the season premiere slot, but they hadn't buried us, either. So we (somewhat) eagerly watched that morning...

The first thing we noticed was that the title had changed: it was now:

"OF???" A body OF work? That's not only NOT scary and NOT funny, it's not even about CARS! Apparently it was a typo.

Apparently there were LOTS of typos. Now the girlfriend was gone, and Kevin had practically disappeared from the story himself. Not bad cuts—if Eddie and Herman had anything left to do themselves. The only "scary" moment in the first act was when Eddie and Herman went to a restaurant ("Donut Burger," we had named it), and a ghoul was working behind the counter... but unfortunately Eddie and Herman didn't see the ghoul, and, frankly, I've seen much scarier PEOPLE working at donut places.


They misspelled "BURGER." Yumm!!!

After watching the first act we noticed something else: There was no SECOND act—the cartoon was only fifteen minutes long now (with commercials), instead of half an hour! What was left wasn't scary—I've had scarier heck rides in taxis (while they were sitting still).

I was watching EXACTLY the kind of show that I'd HATED as a kid.

The second fifteen minutes of the show was filled by a story about a family on a picnic that shrank down to the size of the ants that were ruining their meal—nothing scary happened to them, they just shrank.

In the coda to that story, the Cryptkeeper was fishing on a boat. I have it on good authority that in the original script he reeled in his line to reveal a human hand as bait. The finished show revealed something else... a PORK CHOP. It was the psychologist's idea. What, you may ask, is so scary about fishing with a pork chop? Nothing, other than the creative process that devised that solution.

So, "Tales From the Cryptkeeper" changed. It NEVER had a real ghost on the show, characters were NEVER in real danger, and, true to form, kids NEVER watched again. The psychologist had censored himself out of a job. The show was canceled after the next season, to nobody's regret. Except mine...

... I really wanted that car toy.³


¹—In 1989, HBO, The Geffen Film Company and Warner Bros. Television, collectively known as "Tales from the Crypt Holdings," developed a live-action anthology series based on three original EC comics series from the early fifties: Tales From the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear. The series, titled simply Tales from the Crypt, featured a Cryptkeeper puppet (created by Kevin Yagher, voiced by (John Kassir), who introduced the tales from his lair. (The Crypt-Keeper was only the host of the Tales From the Crypt line of comics, with an Old Witch and a "Vault Keeper" hosting the other two, but he served as host for every episode of the series, whatever the source material.) He actually started off with a much deeper, evil-sounding voice, but gradually he was transformed into the pun-filled cut-up (see? It's so easy!) that became our pork chop-wielding kiddy-show host. "Tales from the Cryptkeeper" was made by Nelvana Limited, PeaceArch Entertainment, kaBOOM! Entertainment and Warner Bros. Television Animation. It was shown on TVO and ABC, and is still shown near Halloween on Teletoon. It was based on the live-action television show, which aired concurrently on HBO. Being directed at children, it was significantly milder than the live-action HBO version.

²—The show mainly used stories from Tales From the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear, but expanded into EC's other lines Crime SuspenStories, Shock SuspenStories, and Two-Fisted Tales. The executive producers who owned the rights to the EC stories were Richard Donner, David Giler, Walter Hill, Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis.

³—Ace Novelty released two series of four figures based on the show: two versions of the Cryptkeeper and the rest generic classic monsters. Other merchandise included a wrist watch, silly putty, play slime, a board game, a lunch box, monster-faced balls, an electronic handheld game, googely eyes, and talking Cryptkeeper dolls. No car, though...


Watch the entire scare-free episode!

(Or a better version on Amazon Instant Video for a buck ninety-nine!)

"A LITTLE BODY (OF) WORK"

As Originally Published by William M. Gaines in E.C. Comics

Producers: Michael Hirsh, Patrick Loubert
Supervising Producer: Stephen Hodgins
Coordinating Producer: Patricia R. Burns
Line Producer: Pamela Slavin

Director: Laura Shepherd

Story Editor: Pete Sauder
Story Supervisors: Wendy Wanderman and (the late, super-great) Scott Nimerfro

Casting and Voice Director: Jessie Thomson
Production Supervisor: Steve Chadwick
Production Manager: Ruta Cube
Overseas Director: John LeKlein
Assistant Director: Ken Morrisey
Overseas Unit Manager: Jane Gardner

Coordinators
Production: Asha Daniere, Craig Wilson, John Wisner
Script: Erika Strobel
Storyboard: Lauri Towata
Design: Joyce Marshall

Production Secretaries: Stephanie Kravos, Caroline Simmons

Storyboard Artists:
John FlaggFrank Lintzen
Jim CraigSean Newton
Bob SmithKeith Ingham
Scott CapleChris Schouten
Vincenzo NataliRobert Rivard
Craig J. Wilson

Storyboard Clean Up Supervisor: David Thomas
Art Director & Production Design: Paul Rivoche
Character Design: Chuck Gammage
Additional Dialogue by Terry Black
The Cryptkeeper Based on Design by Kevin Yagher
Backgrounds: Kellie Jobson
Colour Design: Rebecca Barclay, Kellie Jobson
Paint Supervisor: Mary Bertoia
Layout Supervisors: Tony Tarantini, Lindon Ruddy, Tim Deacon
Design Supervisors: Richard Livingston, Don Spencer, Rick Morrison

Designers:
Scott BennettTodd Sullivan
Joe GosselinTroy Sullivan
Derek ProutMark Petlock
Rob ClarkTrevor Davies
Ross CampbellAndrew Hickson
Erja Brigitta Pollanen

Layout Crew:
Scott A. AmeyDave Brown
Andre St. AmorChris Butler
Anne BrandAe-Ran Cho
Benoit CecyrePhilip Cruden
Kevin CurrieHarold Duckett
Diamond DaveBlake James
Keson JangHarvey Iau
Steve LynesSteve Majeury
Glenn McDonaldTim O'Halloran
Jerry PopowichRob Sheldowich
Trish StolteDave Boudreau
Dale DesrochersChad Hicks
Brian LeeJohn Lei
Jeff LyonsMary Lyons
Chris MinzBrian Poehlman
Affee YeppTed Collyer
Rob SadlerSuzanne Dargie
Fred WilmontBlaine Burnside

Supervising Editor: Rob Kirkpatrick
Post Production Manager: Lan Lamon
Supervising Sound Editor: Mac Holyoke
Picture Editors: Al Maciulis, Karen Lawrie
Music Editors: Stephen Hudecki, Peter Branton, Anthony Crea
Dialogue Editors: Keith Traver, Annellie Samuel

Sound Effects Editors:
John BaktisEric Mattar-Hurlbut
Glenn BarnaRob Nokes

Pre-Production Supervisor: Darrell MacDonald
Breakdown Supervisor: Rick Dubiel
Recording & Transfer Technician: Mike Reid
Re-Recording Engineer: Elis Caruso
Theme Performed by Heart Times Coffee Cup Equals Lightning
Background Music by Amin Bhatia
Music Production by David Greene

Production Facilities:
Wang Film Productions Co., Ltd.
Funbag Animation Studios Inc.
Bardel Animation
Medallion-PFA Film & Video
International Image
Studio 306

Consultant: Dr. Brian Newmark, professional dumbshit

© 1993 Tales from the Crypt Holdings. All rights reserved.

CAST

John Edward Kassir (Cryptkeeper) was born on October 24, 1957 in Baltimore, Maryland. He is known for being the voice of The Crypt Keeper on Tales from the Crypt (1989) and Tales from the Cryptkeeper (1993). His big break came in 1983, when he was the comedy champion on Star Search, edging out Sinbad and Rosie O'Donnell for the $100,000 prize. Beyond that, he was the voice of Elliot in Pete's Dragon (2016) and Scrooge McDuck from 2016-2018, and actually appeared on camera (at least partially) in another muddled, broken production with angry, moping script doctor Jeff Hause called Pirate Camp (2007) in which he played Blackbeard's head. As a side (legal) note, he also recorded his "Crypt Keeper" voice for use in the Jekyll & Hyde Club in New York, New York. He is of Syrian and Iraqi descent.

Thor Bishopric (Kevin) was born on September 6, 1963 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He has worked in the film and television industry since 1969, writing and adapting hundreds of programs for Paramount, HBO, Nelvana, Gumm, Filmoption International, CineGroupe, CBC, Cinar, Prisma and Hanna-Barbera. As an actor, he has performed in films, TV and theatre productions, and lent his voice to more than two thousand animated programs, documentaries, radio dramas and video games. He also works as a voice director, story editor, translator, lyricist and development consultant. His company, Thunderstorm Productions Inc., has provided production services on international TV series and films. He was the National President of ACTRA from 1999 to 2005, and Chairman of the Board of AFBS (Actra Fraternal Benefit Society). So, that's his story... what have you done today?

Rino Romano (Eddie) was born in 1969 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has voiced Batman in the animated TV series The Batman, Spider-Man in the animated TV series Spider-Man Unlimited and the PlayStation Dreamcast Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Color video game Spider-Man, Eduardo Rivera in Extreme Ghostbusters, Luis Sera in Resident Evil 4, Scorp in the Skylanders franchise. He was also the original Tuxedo Mask in the '90s English dub of the anime series Sailor Moon, an Revan in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003). According to Rino's Wikipedia page, he returned as the character "Eddie" on Tales frpm the Cryptkeeper in the episode 'Cold Blood, Warm Heart/The Spider & the Flies.' It's nice that they bring people back, you know? (Except of course for the writers who created the character in the first place.)

Hadley Kay (Herman) was born on February 22, 1973 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Hadley was discovered by a director at the age of five, and was already a veteran actor at the ripe old age of six. He captured the imagination of Ivan Reitman when he auditioned for Meatballs starring Bill Murray, and won the role of "Bradley." He was then rescued from sure disaster by Christopher Reeve after plummeting over Niagara Falls in Superman II. He has delighted children and adults alike with his starring turns as the voice for the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee, Darkheart in the Care Bears Movies, and everyone's favorite mutt, Scooby Doo, from 1996-1998.

Adorable children's book!
Adorable DVD!
Adorable Humanitas Nomination!

Jeffrey C. Hause
has been writing professionally (in a very amateur fashion) for thirty years. In collaboration with Dave Hines, he's written screenplays at film studios like Warner Brothers, Disney, Universal, Columbia, and Interscope; on films like Once Bitten, Desperate But Not Serious (aka Reckless & Wild) and Tales from the Cryptkeeper, for producers such as Ivan Reitman, Samuel Goldwyn Jr. and Ray Stark. Jeff and Dave's most recents works are BachelorMan (2006) and Pirate Camp (2008). Jeff has also written for entertainers such as Rodney Dangerfield, Gabe Kaplan, Rick Dees, and Jay Leno. He also worked on the Lifetime Channel movie Holiday Baggage (2010) and is currently working on a book entitled, Davy Crockett on Stump, Stage, and Screen.

AMAZON INSTANT VIDEO: "A LITTLE BODY OF WORK". See a high-quality digitized version for a buck ninety-nine. Good until you realize it was free when it aired...

TALES FROM THE CRYPTKEEPER: GONE FISHING' AND A LITTLE BODY OF WORK, Buy the adorable children's book by Jane B. Mason (Author) and Erik Doescher (Illustrator); Publisher: Demco Media (May 1995). It's out of print, but copies are available for up to ONCE CENT on the open market. Valuable collector's item!.

BEST HORROR MOVIES: Animation and Horror: Tales from the Cryptkeeper (Season One). "A Little Body of Work also functions as a quasi-cautionary tale, but it's got a serious flare to it. In fact, this story of two car-part jackers who run into a car with a life of its own is awfully reminiscent of John Carpenter's, Christine. It's dark, at times a little unsettling and strangely nostalgic. We'll call that a winner!"

BIG CARTOON DATABASE. Cast and Crew for A Little Body Of Work.

SATURDAY MORNINGS FOREVER. Tales From the Cryptkeeper's evolution from comic to adult horror to kiddie cartoon.

BEHIND THE VOICE ACTORS: TALES FROM THE CRYPTKEEPER: Listing of credits, characters and voice actors for the series.

VOICE CHASERS: TALES FROM THE CRYPTKEEPER: One of the leading online destinations for information related to voice acting. Its database includes voice actor profiles, headshots, demos, and voiceographies.

CHILD PSYCHOLOGIST BRIAN NEWMARK, heck-ridin', porkchop-loving series consultant for Tales From the Cryptkeeper, who felt it was better to bore kids than to scare them.


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