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Jawesome: The Story of Street Sharks

Joe Galliani hadn’t finished his presentation to Mattel executives when one of them suddenly held his hand up.

“We want it,” said the man from boys’ toys. “We’ll take it.”

Galliani noticed the executive had been doodling anthropomorphic sharks on the paper in front of him. “Best meeting I ever had,” he tells mental_floss.

Interrupted in 1994, Galliani—who had started out by arranging displays for Mattel during line preview meetings with toy buyers and slowly worked his way through the ranks—was pitching Street Sharks, an action figure line consisting of humanoid man-fish with various action moves: knockout punches, projectile eyeballs, and masticating jaws. For the 1994 Toy Fair, the company hired a then-unknown Vin Diesel to extol the virtues of characters like Ripster, Big Slammu, and Moby Lick.

Galliani recalls that Diesel was recruited from the New York casting scene and that his sleeveless leather vest actually had a fin running along his back. (You can’t see it in the video, unfortunately.) The actor toiled for two weeks, making upwards of 20 presentations a shift, and was paid $250 a day. “He got it,” Galliani says of his enthusiasm. “Nobody had to tell him.”

Diesel’s affection for punching out plastic sharks was shared by Mattel’s demographic: The line grossed $40 million in its first full year out in 1995, besting the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers phenomenon in some markets. Galliani credits the success with children's fascination with sharks. When licensee David Siegel asked him to come up with a man-eating property they could sell to Mattel, Galliani noticed that every shark book in the local library had a waiting list.

“Boys,” he says, “love sharks.”

After dissuading Siegel from using a single shark toy mold painted different colors and expanding the line to include hammerheads and other ocean terrors, the two proceeded to sell Mattel, the licensing agent for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and animation company Bohbot Entertainment on a story about a scientist who is mutated along with his sons into bipedal sharks via a “gene-slammer” and must fight the evil Dr. Piranoid. The toys were packaged in something resembling a diving cage, complete with teeth marks. Some wore rollerblades.

Mellow Toy Reviews via YouTube

The Street Sharks cartoon ran for 40 episodes in syndication through 1997—Galliani was recruited to polish scripts with catchphrases like “Jawesome” and “Fintastic”—at which point interest in the line cooled. Galliani took his share of the royalties and pursued a new pro bono career in environmental activism, heading up the South Bay Los Angeles chapter of 350.org and spreading awareness about climate change. He was as surprised as anyone when video of Diesel’s Toy Fair gig popped up this week.

“There was never any media allowed,” he says of the elaborate displays Mattel would set up in New York. “This could all be a very skillful viral campaign on Mattel’s part to announce a CGI Street Sharks movie with Vin Diesel.”

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British Film Institute
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Where to Watch Over 300 British Animated Films for Free Online
British Film Institute
British Film Institute

The history of animation doesn’t begin and end with studios in Japan and the U.S. Artists in the UK have been drawing and sculpting cartoons for over a century, and now some of the best examples of the medium to come out of the country are available to view for free online.

As It’s Nice That reports, the British Film Institute has uploaded over 300 films to the new archive on BFI player. Dubbed "Animated Britain," the expansive collection includes hand-drawn and stop motion animation and many distinct styles in between. Viewers will find ads, documentaries, films for children, and films for adults dating from 1904 to the 21st century. Episodes of classic cartoons like SuperTed and Clangers as well as obscure clips that are hard to find elsewhere are represented.

The archive description reads:

“Through its own weird alchemy, animation can bring our wildest imaginings to life, and yet it can also be a powerful tool for exploring our everyday reality. Silly, surreal, sweet or caustic, this dizzyingly diverse selection showcases British animation's unique contribution to the art form, and offers a history ripe for rediscovery.”

This institution’s project marks their start of a whole year dedicated to animation. UK residents can stream the selected films for free at BFI player, or check out their rental offerings for more British animated classics.

[h/t It’s Nice That]

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Amy Meredith, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
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You Can Still Visit This Forgotten Flintstones Theme Park in Arizona
Amy Meredith, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Amy Meredith, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Like many pop culture institutions of the 20th century, Hanna-Barbera’s The Flintstones hasn’t been relegated to just one medium. The animated cast of America's favorite modern Stone Age family sold cigarettes, starred in a live-action 1994 film, and inspired all sorts of merchandise, including video games and lunchboxes. In 1972, it also got the theme park treatment.

Bedrock City, located 30 minutes from the Grand Canyon in Williams, Arizona, was the brainchild of Linda and Francis Speckels, a married couple who bought the property and turned it into a 6-acre tourist attraction. Concrete houses were built to resemble the Flintstone and Rubble residences and are furnished with props; a large metal slide resembles a brontosaurus, so kids can mimic the show’s famous title credits sequence; and statues of the characters are spread all over the premises. The site also doubles as an RV campground and parking site.

A Flintstones theme park house
Matthew Dillon, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A statue of Bam-Bam at the Flintstones park in Arizona
Matthew Dillon, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A statue of Wilma Flintstone at Bedrock City in Arizona
Matthew Dillon, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When it first opened, Bedrock City employed actors to stay in character, but the remote location proved challenging to retain both employees and visitors. Over the past four decades, it's had a steady stream of tourists, but not enough to turn a huge profit. Atlas Obscura reports the attractions are in various stages of disrepair.

Linda Speckels put the property up for sale in 2015 with an asking price of $2 million, but it has yet to sell. One possible hold-up: The new owner would have to negotiate a fresh licensing deal with Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros. for the right to continue using the show’s trademarks. (A separate Flintstones park in South Dakota, owned by another member of the Speckels family, was sold and closed in 2015.) With its proximity to the Canyon, the 30 total acres could be converted into almost anything, from a mall to a golf course. For Flintstones enthusiasts, the hope is that the park’s unique attractions won’t be reduced to rubble.

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