Truth be told, the overwhelming mission facing Judge Dennis Prince in 1973 was to understand the "magic" going on inside his Fruit of the Looms.
Do you believe, you believe in magic?
These rhyming lyrics, when combined with a toe-tapping tempo and amped-up by a bowl of Honeycomb, was all kids needed in 1973 to enter the world of Miss Tickle and her magical Adventurer's Club. Hey—isn't that Teen Beat heartthrob Rick Springfield, too?
High school teacher Miss Tickle (voiced by Lola Fisher) hosts the most swinging classroom ever, having invited her students to join her in the Adventurer's Club. Her course content goes beyond educational enrichment, and her class syllabus is written on a magic chalkboard. With a sing-song summoning, her statuesque cat, Tut-Tut, springs to life ready to accompany Miss Tickle and the kids into another new world; an alternate dimension where enlightenment and understanding is needed. But how does Miss Tickle determine where to take her Adventurers next? Simply cock an ear to the magic gramophone in the corner of the room to hear the voice of pop star Rick Springfield (as himself) as he calls on the teacher and her entourage to join him in whatever land needs their assistance. Quickly, Miss Tickle draws a magical door on the class chalkboard which opens up a portal to Rick in his current whereabouts.
"Oh Tut-Tut, cat of ancient lore, 'tis time to draw the magic door."
It's mystical, it's magical, and it's musical, too.
Lou Scheimer is practically legendary in the history of Hollywood animation. Half of the Scheimer-Prescott partnership, he has ushered forth numerous exhibits of classic Saturday morning cartoon fare. Standing squarely shoulder to shoulder with other animation giants of the day—Hanna-Barbera and De Patie-Freleng—Scheimer and Prescott, in association with renowned animation director Hal Sutherland, graced young viewers with now-beloved programming including Archie, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, and The Brady Kids. Having originally entered the television animation foray with 1966's The New Adventures of Superman, Scheimer and company formed Filmation Associates and proceeded to establish a reliable and cost-effective method of production. Within a few short years, the company was concurrently managing up to seven active shows, and became a staple of 1970s cartoon culture (including expanding into live action with well-received shows like Shazam!, Isis, and Space Academy). But Scheimer's devoted team struck true gold with their production of the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series in 1983. And although pressure was high to sub-contract animation and other production tasks overseas to exploit lower costs, Scheimer held steadfast to his commitment to maintain full operations within America until the studio finally ceased production activities in 1988. Scheimer, as a result, has remained a "hero" to the Filmation staff, who clearly hold him in high regard to this day.
As for Mission: Magic!, the show was classic Scheimer in that it embodied his strongly-held belief that programming should provide a benefit of good conscience and moral responsibility. He managed to avoid preachy pandering to his youthful audiences, yet still delivered a message of social awareness and tolerance within the fabric of his shows. With Mission: Magic!, he used the different lands and their cultures to pose a situation, then presented the socially responsible solution. Miss Tickle acted as a sort of moderator, serving as the impetus for recognition and reconciliation. The kids often get caught up in the trouble and serve as vehicles to demonstrate the failings of prejudice, intolerance, and misunderstanding. There are a few laughs to be had along the way, but to the adult ear these are rather uninspired shticks that utilize kid-friendly slapstick and silliness. Rick Springfield is along in each episode to deliver about 30 seconds of a thematically-inspired pop tune, too. (The bulk of these ditties can be found today on the Mission: Magic! audio CD, sold separately.)
As for this content on this two-disc set, you'll find the complete collection of 16 episodes that comprised the shows single season (which was originally aired at 10:30am on the ABC network, and which was aired in the subsequent season as reruns), spread across the four sides of the flipper discs. Each episode runs 21 minutes, intentionally shortened to allow air time for ABC's successful five-minute bridges of Schoolhouse Rock within the usual 30-minute programming segments. Presented in its original full-frame format, these episodes look remarkably clean and vibrant considering their 1973 vintage. The edge enhancement is kept under control, yet line delineation is very good. Colors are rich and well saturated without blooming or smearing. And, again, the image quality is impressive thanks to what appears to be near-pristine source material. Audio is offered in a clean and clear Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix, never spectacular but certainly suitable.
Extras are found on Side B of Disc Two and are highlighted by the 30-minute retrospective, The Magic of Filmation. This lovingly assembled piece includes a generous amount of interviews with many of the original Filmation staff and talent, plus direct input from Scheimer himself. To view this documentary is to be given a privileged look inside the workings of a harmonious team committed to their craft. Unfortunately, the visit is too brief—after the featurette's 30 minutes, you'll wish you could spend more time with this very special group of people. There are also very brief "Spotlight Interviews" with Lou Scheimer (3 minutes) and his voice actor daughter Erika Scheimer (4 minutes). An image gallery is far too brief, but the DVD-ROM content gives you access to the scripts from all 16 episodes plus various character model sheets. And while previews of other DVD releases are usually disposable, Ink & Paint (the imprint behind these Filmation releases) offers us the original opening title segments of all the Filmation shows currently available on DVD—neat idea!
While Mission: Magic! isn't on the tip of too many folks' tongues these days, those who grew up in the Seventies will likely recall this very colorful and musical diversion. BCI Eclipse and Ink & Paint are to be applauded for their continued efforts to release Filmation programming on DVD. Hopefully, earlier science-fiction/adventure series like the studio's Fantastic Voyage and Journey to the Center of the Earth won't be far behind.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BCI Eclipse
• Documentary: The Magic of Filmation
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