Bluey the dog, Steve try TV Cartoon: Steven Fischer developed his characters when he was a lad in the early 1980s. Their development has grown to the point that he is using them in spots -- with sound effects -- on Baltimore's cable television system.


Steven Fischer of Gambrills has grand plans for the cartoon comedy team he invented a decade ago -- Bluey the blue dog and his human partner with big hair, Steve.

They are hosts of a radio show. They perform their comic routine in palaces. The sky is the limit when you're creating an entertainment career on paper.

But in real life, to get Steve and Bluey where they are today, Fischer, 24, has put in long hours drawing, writing scripts, recording voices and learning the ins and outs of production.

His characters star in two-minute segments between programs on Baltimore's cable Channel 58, which is dedicated to locally produced educational and community programs. The spots -- a series of still drawings with voice-overs and sound effects -- serve as fillers between shows that don't take up an entire time slot.

"There's no other place on the dial that's doing anything like that right now," said Phillip Guthrie, program and production manager at TCI, the city's cable television system, and an occasional voice in the spots. "Plus, it's like a training ground for him."

Though hardly glamorous, the "In a Minute" segments, which air once or twice a day, are a step for Fischer on the way to his goal of producing a fully animated half-hour show or expanding into radio and other formats.

"My whole life is work and specifically the work with Steve and Bluey because that's what I feel I should be doing," said Fischer, a television producer and director and a film major at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. "It's just such an inexplainable feeling that this is why I was given these characters. This is what they should be doing."

The characters grew out of the skits Fischer and his older sister Michele wrote and recorded when they were children. Fischer began drawing characters to go with the skits in the early 1980s. And Steve and Bluey had their debuts in a cartoon strip in the Crofton Neighborhood Gazette in 1989.

After a year of college, Fischer moved to England in 1991 when his father, a Defense Department employee, was transferred. In England, he started shopping around the idea of a half-hour animated show to the British Broadcasting Corp. and elsewhere.

Fischer has saved hundreds of rejection letters he has received over the years and he is planning to count them all when he produces the half-hour show.

He got the break at TCI last year after working as an intern for a semester. He performs the voice of mild-mannered Steve and the high-pitched, nasal voice of manic Bluey.

"It's something that scares a lot of people," Fischer said of his ability to "channel" the characters. "But it's something controlled. It's more like a close relationship with the spirit world. Bluey is just one of those spirits that comes through in the form of a dog."

Fischer films the segments at TCI using combinations of paper cutouts of the characters, backgrounds and camera motions such as panning or zooming to add a sense of action.

Fischer recently recorded the voices and sound effects for two episodes at TCI.

In one, Guthrie stepped in as the voices for guests on Steve and Bluey's radio call-in show. In the other, Bluey attempts to make the perfect piece of toast -- "not underburnt, not overburnt, but burnt just enough" -- aggravating Steve, who wants to use the toaster.

Fischer said he prides himself on the wholesome characters.

"I'm trying to make them role models," he said. "They are not the kind that are going to demean someone to get a laugh."

Pub Date: 3/18/97

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