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For this month’s installment of “TV Terrors” we revisit the short-lived animated series “Gravedale High” (aka “Rick Moranis in Gravedale High“), which aired on NBC in 1990.

During the era of Saturday Morning Cartoons, there was always this idea by studios to build on a big star’s name by giving them an animated vehicle. We saw it with Mr. T, Chuck Norris, Macaulay Culkin, and Gary Coleman, as well as comedians like Louie Anderson and Howie Mandel. John Candy got (the still celebrated) “Camp Candy,” while his SCTV colleague Rick Moranis headlined his own animated horror comedy series for kids: “Gravedale High.”

Rick Moranis garnered immense fame and cult status in the eighties and nineties with an iconic comedy career that carried over into big films like Ghostbusters and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. As a means of marketing off his momentum, an animated series was developed by NBC and Hanna-Barbera to help broaden his family friendly image going into a new decade. “Gravedale High” was born, an animated series that channeled the classic Universal Monsters and teamed them up with a human out of his element; Moranis, naturally.

Rick Moranis starred as Maxwell Schneider, a well-intentioned teacher who presides over a class of young monsters; and the only human among the colorful cast of monster characters. The series provides literally no backstory to explain how he’s found himself teaching at the titular Gravedale High, mind you, but it’s a fun gimmick that the writers run with all the same.

Even though they’re rarely mentioned, we know who these students are modeled after. Among Schneider’s monster class there’s Vinnie Stoker, a Fonzie-like teen version of Dracula. Frankentyke is a shorter, grouchier version of his monstrous father who is prone to bullying others. Reggie Moonshroud is a geeky red haired werewolf very similar in nature to Ron Howard. There’s also J.P. Ghastly III, a blue skinned gnome similar in appearance to Peter Lorre. And my favorite: Gill Waterman, a Spicoli-esque creature from a lagoon who lives and breathes for surfing.

And then there’s Cleofatra, a heavier female version of the mummy who is the antithesis of normal mummies and, as per the rules of the ’90s, obsessed with food. Sid is the class clown who is based on the Invisible Man. He compensates for being invisible by telling non-stop jokes and playing pranks. Rounding out the class, there’s the Southern zombie with an obsession for shopping named Blanche, as well as Duzer, the snake haired Gorgon who is also a vain, self centered Valley Girl.

While similar to “Scooby Doo and the Ghoul School,” Hanna-Barbera developed “Gravedale High” more like a teen sitcom in the vein of “Head of the Class” or “Welcome Back, Kotter.” Schneider always had a lesson to teach his monster class, with each episode mostly serving as a self-contained comedic misadventure. Despite being hopelessly outnumbered, Schneider viewed the students as more than just monsters, and always inspired them to do the right thing. Despite the students clashing with one another and giving Max a hard time, they also had a real sincerity toward him that made their whole dynamic a lot of fun.

Equally fun was the show’s ensemble voice cast, which included the likes of Shari Belafonte, Jackie Earle Haley, Ricki Lake, Maurice LaMarche, Ruth Buzzi, Charlie Adler, Frank Welker, and so many more.

While Rick Moranis’ career continued on, sadly the series only lasted for just thirteen episodes before cancellation; that can mostly be attributed to NBC dropping all of their kids shows altogether in the mid-nineties, in favor of a more teen oriented, live action line up. “Gravedale High” did manage to re-appear in syndication on occasion, however, and spawned a small line of McDonald’s kids meal toys that are still highly coveted by fans to this day.

While Moranis sadly retired from show business in 1997 to focus on his family, I’d still love for someone to revive this series with new characters and a more modern approach. A new generation of budding horror fanatics could use a show like “Gravedale High” in their lives.

Where Can I Watch It? Criminally, the series is not available to stream and you won’t find any official physical media releases in print, but full episodes can be found on YouTube.

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