Bartlet’s Party Wagon Blazes Trail Tonight

If you’re a cartoon fan who also likes classic shows like Wild, Wild West and Little House on the Prairie, you won’t want to miss tonight’s premiere of the animated period comedy Party Wagon on Cartoon Network.

At a time when TV animation is ruled by superheroes, robot kids and prepubescent spies, Party Wagon is a welcome change of pace. It’s fresh, funny and teeming with likeable characters. Lord of the Rings star Sean Astin heads up the voice cast, which also includes Dan Castellaneta (Homer Simpson), Pamela Hayden, Scott Lawrence and Maurice LaMarch.

Spearheaded by Hey Arnold! creator Craig Bartlet, Party Wagon was storyboarded at Cartoon Network’s studios in Los Angeles and animated by Saerom and Sunwoo studios in Korea. Bartlet and Tuck Tucker (Hey Arnold! The Movie) co-directed this 90-minute feature, which was two and a half years in the making. It was originally developed as a late-night series but gradually grew into a more family-oriented project that works better in primetime.

The movie is set in the mid-1800s and follows the westward adventures of 16-year-old Randolph P. McDuff (Astin), a city boy who is quite the fish out of water when he hooks up with a wagon train and heads out into the frontier. Randolph winds up on a wagon of misfits that is ordered to travel behind the rest of the train. When a chance meeting with a character named Three-Eyed Jack puts the motley crew in possession of a treasure map, they decide to branch out on their own to find a jewel-filled cave dubbed El Glitterado.

The special leaves plenty of room for a weekly series, which Bartlet is hoping for. He’s also developing another pilot for Cartoon Network.

Party Wagon airs tonight, Feb. 27, at 8 p.m. on cartoon Network. Read more about this retro rib tickler in the March issue of Animation Magazine.