This car-toon doesn't quite get Judge Clark Douglas' motor running.
Great drive-in entertainment!
I have to admit, I had never heard of Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch before this Warner Archive DVD set turned up in my mailbox. A quick internet search revealed that it was kinda-sorta liked by a few people, once. "I loved that show as a kid," nostalgic members of internet forums would say. "It was so cute. 'Member Wheelie? 'Member the Chopper Bunch? I told ya, I told ya!"
I note this because I can certainly see how someone might really love this cartoon. Nostalgia often has a way of making even the worst programming imaginable seem charming. I certainly have my share of childhood cartoons that I still find immensely charming simply because I liked them when I was six years old. However, approaching Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch for the first time as a grown man, I found the experience absolutely interminable.
The show revolves around a little car named Wheelie (Frank Welker, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!), a good-natured, gullible fella who just wants to have some innocent fun from time to time and maybe score a date with the beautiful automobiless (?) Rota Ree (Judy Strangis, Room 222). Unfortunately, the wicked motorcycle Chopper (Welker again) and his thuggish pals Hi-Riser (Lennie Weinrib, H.R. Pufnstuf), Scrambles (Don Messick, the legendary voice of Scooby-Doo) and Rev (Paul Winchell, the legendary voice of Tigger) are ceaselessly plotting to make life miserable for poor Wheelie. Somehow, Wheelie generally finds a way to foil them (though this usually happens after he's suffered a good deal of humiliation).
Though the animation isn't horrible and the voice cast is rather impressive, Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch is an agonizingly repetitive show that gets tiresome very quickly. The characters are one-dimensional as well, which only adds to the feeling that you're basically watching the same thing over and over again. Hearing little Hi-Riser squawk, "I told ya! I told ya! I told ya!" over and over again at the end of every episode gets particularly annoying. Oh, and the car puns. There are soooooo many car puns.
One puzzling element of the show is that Wheelie is unable to speak. "Naturally, cars don't talk," you might say. Of course they don't. However, the other cars that appear in the show talk, as do all of the members of Chopper's gang. For whatever reason, Wheelie is only able to communicate through a series of honks, sputters and other car-noises (some of which are provided by Welker, but most of which are provided by a sound-effects library). He's more or less mute as far as this universe is concerned, which I suppose makes the actions of Chopper and friends all the more deplorable. In summary, it's a show about a gang of horribly mean-spirited sentient motorcycles picking on a sweet, good-natured handicapped car. I can't say I'm surprised that the show disappeared after thirteen episodes.
The DVD transfer is okay, though the colorful animation looks a little dingy at times. There's some instances of color bleeding as well, along with a few scratches and flecks. I wasn't expecting much given that these Warner Archive releases seem to offer little restoration work, but I've seen worse. Audio is rather pinched much of the time, and the tinny nature of the show's chaotic sound design is fairly grating. There are no extras included.
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