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Now it's actually a cartoon

'Spaceballs: The Animated Series' is here. 'Spaceballs: The Breakfast Cereal' can't be too far behind.

September 19, 2008|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

Oy vey! The Schwartz is with us once again.

"Spaceballs," Mel Brooks' 1987 "Star Wars" parody, has made the jump from the big to the small screen and is landing on G4 Sunday with four back-to-back episodes of a new animated series based on the movie.

Brooks, an executive producer on the series who co-wrote the pilot with Thomas Meehan, found adapting a feature-length film into a 22-minute cartoon no easy task. (Brooks and Meehan supervised the writing of the 12 remaining scripts as well.)

"What you have to do is get a big scissors and just put the blindfold on and cut," said the 82-year-old writer-producer who hasn't worked in animation since 1963 when he created an Oscar-winning comedic short called "The Critic."

Ironically, the movie version of "Spaceballs" was nowhere near the critical or commercial success of previous Brooks comedies such as "The Producers," "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein." But "Spaceballs" has been a surprising hit on TV and in home video.

"You know what's weird? It's like my No. 1-selling DVD," said Brooks by telephone. "Even over 'Young Frankenstein' and 'Blazing Saddles.' I think it has a never-ending young audience who loves 'Star Wars' and it's a satire."

Still, the cable network is waiting to see how Sunday's "Spaceballs: The Animated Series" episodes perform before scheduling the remaining nine. Sunday's episodes will be preceded by the film.

The series features the same wacky galaxy of characters as the film: the handsome but dimwitted space rogue Lone Star; his half-man, half-dog sidekick Barf; Princess Vespa of Druidia -- the ultimate "Druish" princess; the evil and diminutive Dark Helmet; the ruthless President Skroob; and the Borscht Belt sage Yogurt.

Brooks' career has spanned more than a half a century, and in that time he believes comedy has certainly changed -- not necessarily always for the better. Today, political correctness has shut off avenues of humor, but "dirty" references have become a crutch for many performers and writers.

"They would never dare do the stuff I did in 'Blazing Saddles,' " he said, referring to the widespread use of racial and ethnic jokes. "But you will find more flat-out filth than you could ever imagine."

For example, Brooks found the premise of Ben Stiller's comedy "Tropic Thunder" -- satirizing the making of a movie -- a good one.

"But when it gets down to it, there are too many farts," said Brooks, who wasn't afraid of capitalizing on the bodily function in "Blazing Saddles." "They were leaning heavily on crass humor."

So what's next for Brooks? He's heading back to Broadway. After his success adapting "The Producers" and "Young Frankenstein" for Broadway, Brooks and Meehan may be bringing "Blazing Saddles" to the Great White Way in the near future.

"Tom Meehan keeps bugging me to do it," said Brooks. "He said even if the critics savage us, we'll run for two years!"


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