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After watching TALES FROM THE CRAPPER, perhaps Troma's most perverse film to date, I felt as if I needed to be cleansed. Something just wasn't sitting right. I was still a little disturbed. So I did the only thing that I could do...watch Troma's venture into children's cartoons.
If you happened to be a kid watching Saturday Morning cartoons back in 1991, you may even remember this little offering from the Troma team. Toxic Crusaders was actually a very short-lived animated television series aimed at the kiddie crowd. The idea was to take the character of the Toxic Avenger and tone down the sex and violence so it would be acceptable for the little ones. Of course, since Troma made their mark partly because of the sex and violence, it can't be that much of a shock that it didn't last any longer than a few weeks.
According to the research I've been able to gather, it appears that there were 13 episodes of Toxic Crusaders actually produced, but it appears that most of the episodes never actually aired. But the first three episodes of the series were later pieced together and released by Troma as TOXIC CRUSADERS: THE MOVIE, and that's what I'll be talking about here.
As I said, Toxic Crusaders was based on the TOXIC AVENGER films, which were up to part three by the time it was produced. The background of the character in the series follows the movies pretty closely. Melvin Junko (not Furd this time around) is still a scrawny red-haired mop boy (whose animation model looks practically identical to the actor who played him in the original film) who gets duped by the school's resident 'bad girl' (this time Julie has been replaced with Bimbette) and winds up in a vat of toxic waste (wearing the same pink polkadotted tutu as he did in the original, mind you.) After Melvin becomes Toxie, he meets his ditzy blind girlfriend (Yvonne this time, not Sarah or Claire, and she's only "legally" blind this time around.) The first episode of the series gets this out of the way pretty quickly, which serves as the first few minutes of the movie.
Toxie's animated incarnation also has a new foe, a four-armed baddie in a gas mask named Dr. Killemoff. Killemoff has recruited henchmen named Psycho (a pessimist who constantly predicts their demise) and Bonehead (Melvin's High School tormentor who has himself become mutated) and plans to make the Earth's environment hostile so that the denizens of his home planet Smogula can take over. But Toxie has recruited a few friends of his own, including Nozone (who has a superpowered schnozz) and Major Disaster (who's like Aquaman except that he can speak to plants instead of fish.) The gang dubs themselves The Toxic Crusaders (actually, Toxie dubs himself that first, because I guess Toxic Avenger sounds too mean for a kiddie hero.) Toxie still has Tromatons that go abuzz when evil's near, but this time around, his mop is actually alive.
Since the "movie" is actually just three episodes, we get some small mini-plots rather than one big one. The first mini-plot involves the origin stories and just some generic fighting between Toxie and Killemoff's Radiation Rangers. The next story arc involves Killemoff's plans to overtake a burger joint so that he can coat French Fries with a chemical that turns normal people into nearsighted, forgetful old folks. Yes, that's exactly the way they're described. Why do cartoon villains have to go through such stupifying lengths just to inflict their evil on people? What ever happened to good ol' fashioned terrorism?
Once Toxie and his gang thwart Killemoff's plan (and pick up a new recruit, the two-headed Headbanger,) Killemoff gets another bright idea to lure the Crusaders to a bogus resort while the Czar of Smogula drops his daughter off for a visit on Earth. Toxie gets wise, but the princess falls for him, and Killemoff gives him an ultimatum to marry her or he will dump toxic chemicals all over Tromaville. Toxie breaks it off with Yvonne and goes to get hitched, but the plot is soon to coagulate. Or something.
The episodic aspect of TOXIC CRUSADERS: THE MOVIE sticks out not only in the three mini-arcs of the story, but also in the unsatisfying ending. Wait, what am I talking about. Unsatisfying? This is a 14-year-old failed kiddie cartoon based on a Troma movie. Anyway, it definitely doesn't mask the fact that it's just a cartoon spackle-job very well.
Actually, for a kiddie show, the animation's not too bad. It's certainly no worse than the majority of stuff from its time. And while it's quite obviously aimed for a pretty young demographic, there are some good jokes in here that work for all ages. At one point, a half-man-half-dog thing called Junkyard starts explaining his origin with "it was a dark and stormy night", and one of the Crusaders asks him if all dogs start their stories like that. The voice work is actually pretty good, with a lot of big names most fans of big name cartoons will surely recognize. B-movie legend Michael J. Pollard especially makes Psycho a really cool and unique character. Shit, I can't believe I'm really talking about this.
Apparently, New Line Cinema had planned to adapt The Toxic Crusaders into a live-action movie, but plans fell through for whatever reason and Troma backed out of the deal. Unfortunately, this animated Frankenstein's monster of a movie was all we have of this Troma spin-off, but it's actually a lot more entertaining than it has any right to be.
Playmates toys even produced a line of Toxic Crusaders action figures, which are very similair to another Playmates property, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It's the only chance you may ever have to get a Toxie toy, so you may want to try hunting them down on eBay or something.
If you're a fan of the TOXIC AVENGER series, then this isn't a bad accessory to go along with it. And it's safe for the whole family, which is an anomaly in the world of Troma.
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