THE ORIGEN OF COW AND CHICKEN AND I AM WEASEL
By Keith Jones
In 1994, Hanna-Barberra, along with Cartoon Network started The "What a Cartoon" program to revive their cartoon hey days of the 1960ís. Cartoons like Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, and others. So Hanna Barberra accepted literally thousands of submissions by cartoonists hoping they would pick their show to air. Hanna-Barberra also asked their own artists to come up with ideas. One of these artists was veteran animator David Feiss. Feiss came up with 3 ideas, one of them being about a cow and a chicken tormented by the devil. This idea originated from a storybook Feiss made for his kids. The executives loved the idea, and gave him the go-ahead to make the original Cow and Chicken short, "No Smoking". David Feiss co-wrote the episode along with Sam Keith and Pilar Feiss, as well as directing and animating it. The pilot premiered in 1995 on the "What a Cartoon" show, and was a hit. Cartoon Network received thousands of letters asking the show is put on the air, and finally in 1996, the green light was given to make Cow and Chicken the television series. David Feiss assembled many Hanna-Barberra artists to work on the show. Cartoon Network ordered 26 episodes of Cow and Chicken and 13 episodes of a back-up cartoon. David Feiss came up with the back-up cartoon, a show he called "I Am Weasel". The show was inspired by the title of the book "I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson. Feiss just thought it would be funny to say "I AM WEASEL!" all the time. Feiss put I Am Weasel in the hands of another animation studio called Wild Brain Inc. In July of 1997, the Cow and Chicken short "Orthodontic Police" aired to preview the upcoming show, and later that month, Cow and Chicken the series premiered. It aired with 2 episodes of Cow and Chicken, with one episode of I Am Weasel sandwiched in-between. Cow and Chicken was a smash hit, with such outrageous storylines as: "The Molting Fairy", "Confused", "Field Trip to Folsom Prison", "Part-Time Job" and "The Ugliest Weenie". However, I Am Weasel was not on par with Cow and Chicken. The animation was not up to Feissí standards and the stories were not that good. A few episodes were good, such as "I.R. on Sun", "This Bridge Not Weasel Bridge" and "I Architect", but many of them were no where near as good as Cow and Chicken. A second season of 26 episodes of Cow and Chicken was ordered and 13 more of I Am Weasel, but Feiss wanted to cancel I Am Weasel. The Cartoon Network executives however liked the show and wanted to keep it. So Feiss agreed on one condition: that he was allowed to cross over with Cow and Chicken and bring in the Red Guy as the main character. CN reluctantly agreed and Feiss redesigned I Am Weasel from the ground up into almost a completely new show. He also took over control of IMW from Wild Brain and made the show more in the spirit of Cow and Chicken. Also, Feiss brought in different artists for the second season of C&C/IMW. One of these people was writer Micheal Ryan, who previously worked on Johnny Bravo. Feiss was somewhat skeptical of Ryan, but he turned out to be person Feiss would most write most of the episodes with. Also, several former Spumco artists were brought in. Richard Pursel, a former Spumco artist was already working on the first season of I Am Weasel. He would do some second season episodes and a few episodes of Cow and Chicken, then leave after the second season. Bob Camp was brought in to do storyboards on both C&C and IMW. Both shows improved greatly in the second season. The stories were much funnier and the animation greatly improved. The greatest improvement was in I Am Weasel, which became less of a back-up show and more of an equal (and sometimes better) show compared to Cow and Chicken. However, the greatest controversies of the showís history occurred in the second season. And episode called "Buffalo Gals" was banned from the air after only one showing. A total of one person actually called Cartoon Network to complain. Though the official reason for the banning is unknown, it is most likely because of what could be thought of as "lesbian jokes" and other sexual references in that episode. Also, the University of Nebraska sued Cartoon Network over the episode "I.R. Mommy". They claimed the "N" on Baboonís helmet was derogatory to their school. Cartoon Network had to digitally remove the "N" from Baboonís helmet at a cost of $25,000. Despite all this controversy, the show was still immensely popular and Cartoon Network ordered a 3rd and then later 4th season of both Cow and Chicken and I Am Weasel. Around this same time, Cartoon Network was expanding globally and Cow and Chicken was seen virtually around the world. The show had already been a hit in the UK, but now places such as Latin America, Australia, and even Japan were seeing the show. Currently, Cow and Chicken can be seen in over 100 countries. The 3rd and 4th seasons of Cow and Chicken and I Am Weasel continued to be great. One person who had a great impact on the show, especially I Am Weasel, was Adam Burton. Burton, who goes under the pseudonym "Maxwell Atoms", was previously doing props for Cow and Chicken, and then he started writing episodes of I Am Weasel and later episodes of Cow and Chicken. His episodes are some of the funniest, including Honey I R Home (IMW), Magnificent Motorbikini (IMW), and I R Good Dog (IMW), Chickens Donít Fly (C&C), Chachi the Chewing Gum Seal (C&C) and Night of the Eds (C&C). In 1998, Cartoon Network decided they liked I Am Weasel so much that they wanted it to have itís own separate show instead of airing with Cow and Chicken. A 27 episode 5th season of I Am Weasel was ordered. However, there was no order for a 5th season of Cow and Chicken, despite its great popularity worldwide. The show was effectively "canceled" but Cartoon Network intends to show reruns for years to come. The reason for this cancellation may be because of Cartoon Networks thinking that they can only be profitable with a certain amount of episodes. They felt 104 episodes of C&C were enough to show for years. The last first run episodes of C&C premiered in April of 1999. The final episode shown was "the Ballad of Cow and Chicken". In August of 1999, the 5th season of I Am Weasel premiered and episodes were shown through November of 1999. Cartoon Network didnít renew I Am Weasel for another season basically for the same reasons as Cow and Chicken; they felt they had enough Weasel cartoons to show for years to come. Despite it being nearly a year since the last episode ran, Cow and Chicken remains immensely popular, not just in the U.S. but world wide. Recently, Cow and Chicken and I Am Weasel continue to be popular wherever it is shown. There are rumors that the show might return. Cartoon Network in Europe is interested in bringing the show back. Unfortunately, as long as Cartoon Network headquarters continues their thinking, Cow and Chicken will remain in reruns.