Dental Tales

Glenn Martin DDSOn July 28th,  Daily Variety reported that,

Nickelodeon’s Nick at Nite has given a 20-episode order to “Glenn Martin DDS,” a stop-motion animated comedy series from former Walt Disney Co. CEO Michael Eisner.

Series reps the first to come out of Tornante Animation, a newly formed part of Eisner’s investment firm, the Tornante Co. Eisner has partnered with “Celebrity Deathmatch” creator Eric Fogel to design “Glenn Martin,” which Nick at Nite plans to launch next summer.

“Glenn Martin” revolves around a dentist who persuades his family to embark on a cross-country road trip — in their toothbrush-topped “dental mobile.”

Eisner brought “Glenn Martin” to Nick at Nite after reading how Nickelodeon was readjusting the evening programming service to target young families ….

The story caught my attention not so much because of the involvement of Eisner and Vogel, but because of the series has a dentist as its central character. I’m not sure if it is my imagination, but it seems to me that dentists are more common in animation than physicians, especially in comparison to live-action films and TV shows.

Alison Snowden and David Fine's Bob and MargaretDavid Fine and Alison Snowden’s TV series Bob and Margaret (1998-2001) and Michael Sporn’s Oscar-nominated short Doctor De Soto (1984) (pictured below) come immediately to mind. After bit of searching, I also found Earl Hurd’s Bobby Bumps at the Dentist (1918), Ben Hardaway’s Buddy the Dentist (1934), and Signe Baumane’s Five Infomercials for Dentists (2005).

Doctor Desoto While films featuring doctors and even nurses abound, the amount of live-action fare featuring dentists seems sparse; e.g., while there was a Carry on Doctor and a Carry on Nurse, there was never, to my knowledge, a Carry on Dentist. The popular Bob Hope comedy, The Paleface (1948), featured him as Painless Potter, though it was co-written by Frank Tashlin, who had recently graduated from directing cartoons for Leon Schlesinger.

Perhaps the scarcity of doctors in animation is due, in part, to the fact that animated characters are virtually indestructible. Thus, one paper presented at the recent Society for Animation Studies conference by Van Norris (University of Portsmouth), “‘Taking an Appropriate Line’ – Assessing Representations of Disability Within the Popular,” which basically pointed out the obvious, that animated characters are not supposed to have disabilities; there are exceptions, but they are few and far between. (Norris used some Aardman public service announcements as examples, though one might also add the Nelvana TV series Quads! [2001] and the character of John Silver in Treasure Planet [2002].)

Anyway, the comic potential of dentistry seems too much to resist even for a bunch of indestructible toons, drawn or otherwise.

Author: Harvey Deneroff

Harvey Deneroff is a Los Angeles-based independent animation and film scholar specializing in labor history. He formerly taught at the Savannah College of Art and Design and was editor of Animation Magazine, Animation World Magazine, and Graiffit (published by ASIFA-Hollywood). He is the founder and past president of the Society for Animation Studies.

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