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Case Number 18911: Small Claims Court

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Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1970s, Volume 2

Warner Bros. // 1967 // 316 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // May 15th, 2010

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All Rise...

Chief Justice Michael Stailey is cuckoo for Coco Puffs.

The Charge

"Uh oh, Chongo!"

The Case

Ah, the nostalgia of Saturday mornings. As a child of the '70s, it was like Christmas morning every week—the anticipation the night before, waking up at the crack of dawn (something we never did Sunday through Friday), and dining on a wealth of sugar-infused breakfast cereals. The kids of today are missing out on a true American right of passage. Warner Bros. has done its best to simulate that experience, by compiling the premiere episodes from many of these great series. Of course, viewed through 40 year-old 21st century eyes, its not the same. But being able to share these cartoons with my nieces and nephews creates an entirely new magic that's well worth the investment.

Following in the footsteps of Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1970s, Volume 1, we have another 12 episodes spread out over two discs…

"Keep Your Keeper"—Help! It's the Hair Bear Bunch! (1971-72, 16 episodes)
The entire setup for Hogan's Heroes gets animated and overlaid onto "The Wonderland Zoo" as residents Hair Bear (Daws Butler—George Jetson, The Jetsons), Bubi Bear (Paul Winchell—Tigger, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh), and Square Bear (William Callaway—Aquaman, Super Friends) spend their days and nights outwitting the zoo's easily agitated and dimwitted keepers, Mr. Peevley (John Stephenson—Mr. Slate, The Flintstones) and Botch (Joe E. Ross—Officer Toody, Car 54, Where are You?). The first episode in this short-lived series finds Hair (Daws doing his best Phil Silvers impersonation) and the gang scheming to convince Peevley he needs a vacation, thus leaving the zoo unattended and the residents free to do as they please. But when Peevley's replacement (also voiced by Paul Winchell) transforms their expected peace and quiet into a military-style operation; it's up to Hair, Square, and Bubi to find Peevley and convince him to return. Innocuous Hanna-Barbera fun, under the direction of former Disney animator Charles A. Nichols with production design by the great Iwao Takamoto, Hair Bear Bunch continues the studio's long-running talking animal format with mixed and often forgettable adventures.

"Off Limits"—The New Adventures of Gilligan (1974-76, 24 episodes)
One of the rare Filmation series included in this collection, many of cast from the classic Sherwood Schwartz sitcom (Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr, Jim Backus, Natalie Schafer, Russell Johnson) reunite for even more castaway hijinks. In this episode, The Howell's have designed their own private beach club ("To keep the riff-raff out, of course…") and enlist Gilligan and Snubby (his pet monkey) to build it. When the rest of the gang gets wind of the project, Thurston tricks everyone but the Professor into helping in exchange for "limited" membership privileges. While Filmation shows had a flatter look and less engaging dynamic than their Hanna-Barbera counterparts, The New Adventures of Gilligan is one of the most faithful adaptations in cartoon history.

"Deep Threat"—Sealab 2020 (1972, 16 episodes)
It's hard to watch this series now, having been subjected to the bizarre humor of Adult Swim's Sealab 2021 reboot. The original comes straight from the mold of Hanna-Barbera's 1960s action/adventure format—Jonny Quest, Space Ghost and Dino Boy, The Herculoids—with an overt, environmentally conscious lesson embedded in each episode. Featuring the voice work of Ross Martin (Artemus Gordon, The Wild, Wild West), Ron Pinkard (Dr. Morton, Emergency!), and Ann Jilian (Cassie, Making a Living). This first episode in the series hinges on the discovery of decaying drums of nuclear waste dumped into the ocean and the great danger it poses to the planet's health and safety. I never got into this show as a kid, and it holds no real interest for me today either.

"Mardis Gras Caper"—The Amazing Chan and The Chan Clan (1972, 16 episodes)
Now here's a show I know and love. Yet another variation on Scooby-Doo, Where are You!, Hanna-Barbera brings the classic Warner Oland film series into the '70s by giving the world's greatest detective an army of junior detectives who double as a family pop band. Or is it the other way around? Originally cast with all Asian-American voice actors, including Keye Luke (who played Number One Son in the film series) as Chan, CBS balked at the show because the kids' accents were too thick. A quick redub later and the show was underway with such familiar names as Brian Tochi (Leonardo, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and Jodie Foster (The Silence of the Lambs) who voices the tomboy daughter (go figure). This episode finds the clan in New Orleans performing for Mardis Gras, while Mr. Chan investigates the theft of Marie Antoinette's ring from the home of some friends. "Wham bam! Someone's in a jam." The kids spring into action, splitting up to track each of the various suspects. Yes, its a knockoff and it only ran 16 episodes, but damn if these kids and their dog Chu Chu (voiced by Scooby-Doo himself, Don Messick), a super-transforming van, and another great Hoyt Curtin theme song did not burn themselves into my four-year old brain.

"The Living Island / Master of the Thieves"—Shazzan (1967-68, 36 episodes)
Note to the Warner Bros. production team: While this Arabian Nights-inspired series from the late Alex Toth (Space Ghost) might have made the syndicated rerun circuit in the '70s, its original CBS run was in the late '60s. In other words, you put it on the wrong set. Misplacement aside, this one passed over my cartoon radar completely. Granted, most of it aired before I was born, but Hanna-Barbera's Arabian Knights (whose episodes debuted in rotation a year later on The Banana Splits Adventure Hour) was far more compelling. Here, self-focused fraternal twins—Chuck (Alan, Josie and the Pussycats) and Nancy (Janet Waldo, The Jetsons)—are transported back to ancient Baghdad by two-halves of a magic ring which controls the genie Shazzan (Doc, 12 O'Clock High) and his flying camel Kaboobie (Don Messick, yet again). Much like the studio's countless talking animal shows, this one splits the half-hour into two shorter episodes, which provide lessons in human nature. Something else got screwed up in the DVD authoring, as the first half of the series first episode "The Living Island" does not show up during the "Play All" function. To view it, you have to go back to the episode menu and select it. Oh well. What we do get is a greedy master thief scheming to steal the kids rings and a greedy sultan scheming to steal Kaboobie, Chuck misusing his mastery of Shazzan, and lessons in respecting the rights and property of others. Aside from the production flubs, what surprises me is the sub-par animation (extremely rubbery and inconsistent) and an underscore that reuses everything it can find from Jonny Quest.

"Mr. Bigot"—Yogi's Gang (1973, 17 episodes)
Here's another head-scratcher. This all-star collection of H-B talking animals—Yogi, Boo-boo, Quick Draw McGraw, Baba Looey, Huckleberry Hound, Snagglepuss, Magilla Gorilla, Wally Gator, Peter Potamus, So-so, Atom Ant, Augie Doggie, Doggie Daddy, Secret Squirrel, Morocco Mole, Squiddly Diddly, Touche Turtle, Dum Dum, Hokey Wolf, Pixie, Dixie, Lippy the Lion, Hardy Har Har, The Hillbilly Bears, and more—onboard a flying version of Noah's Ark, traversing the world to fight pollution. This first episode finds the gang crossing paths with Bela Lugosi impersonator Doctor Bigot who plans to change the world with his Mind Bender ray (fueled by hate and prejudice), starting with the gang's friend Mr. Cheerful. Only love and thoughtfulness can save the day. No offense to Judge Patrick Bromley who found Episode 2, "The Greedy Genie," to be one of the high points of Volume 1, but these forced message shows turn me off as much today as they did when I was a kid. I distinctly remember avoiding this show during its original run and its easy to see why. I'd much rather watch these characters in their own adventures than fighting environmental crime. We have Captain Planet for that.

"Duck! Rabbit, Duck!" (1953) / "For Scent-imental Reasons" (1949) / "Stop, Look, and Hasten" (1954) / "Hare-Ways to the Stars" (1958)—The Bugs Bunny / Road Runner Hour (1968-1971, 1973-75)
Another bit of a cheat on the part of Warner Bros. This series actually ran in 1960 during ABC prime time, under the auspices of Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng who produced brand new wraparound segments and sketches to buffer the classic Warner theatrical shorts of the 1940s and '50s. It moved to Saturday mornings in 1962, where it bounced between CBS and ABC in various incarnations until 2000, when it was finally retired. Talk about an amazing run. This is where my love of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and the gang first began. It was only called The Bugs Bunny / Road Runner Hour for two stretches: 1968-71 on CBS and again from 1973-75 on ABC. (From 1971-73, Road Runner moved to ABC, while CBS held onto Bugs Bunny). Included here is one complete episode of the show from an indeterminate season. I tried to dig up the exact date to no avail. In any case, we get the final installment of Chuck Jones' "Hunting Trilogy" and one of the finest Bugs/Daffy battles, Peppy Le Pew seducing a resistant feline in a Parisian parfume shop, the persistent Wile E. Coyote attempting to trap the Road Runner, and Bugs tangling with Marvin Martian in a tale requiring more than the normal dose of Looney Tunes suspension of disbelief. Since many of these shorts have been cleaned up for WHV's Looney Tunes: Golden Collection, the wraparounds look god-awful in comparison.

"Forbidden Fruit"—Valley of the Dinosaurs (1974, 16 episodes)
What in the Sid and Marty Krofft is going on here?! Premiering on CBS the same day as NBC premiered Land of the Lost, these two eerily similar series fought for the attention of the same Saturday morning audience. While Rick, Will, and Holly fell down a waterfall into prehistoric times only to befriend the Pakuni tribe to battle dinos and find a way home; The Butler family—John (science teacher), Kim, Katie, Greg, and their dog Digger—are sucked into a dimensional whirlpool only to befriend a cro-magnon family—Gorak, Gara, Lok, Tana, and pet dino Glump—to battle dinos and find a way home. So who stole what from whom? As a fan of Land of the Lost, I never even saw this show. This first episode establishes the format for the series and friendships between intuitive fathers John and Gorak, adventurous kids Greg and Tana, and comic relief pets Digger and Glump. It's honestly not a bad Hanna-Barbera adventure—well thought out plots, decent dialogue, and interesting characterizations—but I had no idea cro-magnons had such mastery of the English language. The show also had some memorable voice actors—Mike Road (Race Bannon, Jonny Quest), Shannon Farnon (Wonder Woman, Super Friends), Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach, Watchmen), and Frank Welker (Fred, The New Scooby-Doo Movies).

"No Way Stowaway" / "That Was No Idol" / "The Ski Bunny" / "The All-American Ape" / "Stay Awake or Else"—Tom & Jerry / Grape Ape Show (1975-76, 16 episodes)
Grape Ape fans rejoice! The world's biggest purple gorilla makes his way to DVD, if only in a two-episode taste portion. On the other hand, Tom and Jerry fans have to suffer as these once proud rivals become friends whose actions and emotions are punctuated by an obnoxiously loud and annoying underscore in a bevy of less than memorable adventures—cabin boys aboard a pirate ship, professional skiiers trying to impress a beautiful ski bunny (feline), and Jerry trying hard to revive a drunkenly passed out Tom before he gets fired as big top circus wrangler. Meanwhile, Grape Ape and Beegle Beagle attempt to calm some restless natives by passing the purple one off as a pacific island deity and an all-star professional fullback. The format for the series was pretty basic—Beegle (Marty Ingells, Pac Man) acts as a slick agent/manager for the simple-minded Grape Ape (Bob Holt, NBC's The Incredible Hulk), swindling their way into wealth and adventure—but there's something endearing about it all. Best of all, the comedy and production values have held up well with age.

"Joining the Knights" / "Danger Island" / "The Littlest Musketeer"—The Banana Splits Adventure Hour (1968-70, 31 episodes)
Hallelujah! Hanna-Barbera's golden calf has arrived on DVD. While the majority of my peers and I absorbed the cheesy, insanity of this series in afterschool syndication during the mid-to-late '70s; Bingo, Fleegle, Drooper, and Snorky originally appeared on NBC Saturday mornings with live-action hipster, slapstick wraparounds for a rotation of animated and live-action shorts. Directed by Richard Donner (The Goonies), the series married the humor of Laugh-In with the production design of Sid and Marty Krofft, book-ending some great H-B adventure series. Arabian Knights (1968, 18 episodes) finds dethroned Prince Turhan (Jay North, Dennis the Menace) and his cousin Nida (Shari Lewis, The Shari Lewis Show), alongside friends Fariek the magician (John Stephenson), Raseem the great (Frank Gerstle, Dragnet), Bez the shape-changer (Henry Corden, The Flintstones), and the freakishly powerful donkey Zazuum (the great Paul Frees) attempting to regain control of Baghdad from the evil Caliph Bakaar (Nida's father and Turhan's uncle). The Three Musketeers (1968, 18 episodes) interprets Alexandre Dumas' literary classic as a comedy/adventure in which young Toulee (Ted Eccles) does all he can to prove he's worthy of becoming a Musketeer; while d'Artagnan (Bruce Watson), Athos (Jonathan Harris, Lost in Space), Porthos (Barney Phillips), and Aramis (Don Messick) do their best to protect France from various evil-doers. And then there's Danger Island, oh sweet live-action gold! Mere words cannot describe the joy and madness of this Richard Donner directed cliffhanger serial. If I didn't know better, I'd say controlled substances played a large part in its creation and seemingly improvised production. Archeologist Irwin Hayden (Frank Aletter, Tora! Tora! Tora!), his daughter Leslie (Ronne Troup, My Three Sons), and their swarthy assistant Link (Jan-Michael Vincent, Airwolf) are excavating an undersea treasure trove when beset upon by pirates. Sharing half-a-brain between them, these bungling high seas idiots kidnap the professor and Leslie, leaving Link for dead. Unfortunately, that's all we get in this collection, which ticks me off, having waited so long for this release. The good stuff doesn't kick in until a shipwrecked Captain Morgan (Rockne Tarkington) and his native sidekick Chongo (Kim Kahana) join the frackas, taking on Mu-tan's pirates and the Skeleton Men cannibals on a race to locate the lost city of Tubania. And we only see these characters in the opening credit sequence. Seriously, if you've never seen this series, I've included links to some episodes in the Accomplices sidebar. It's a definite must see, deserving of a true DVD release. One other segment, Micro Ventures—an early animated version of the Krofft's live-action series Dr. Shrinker—did not air on this premiere episode, and only ran four times before being pulled from rotation. The Banana Splits themselves were a rock band who filmed music videos on location in and around Six Flags Over Texas. In Season Two (1969), the live-action segments moved to Coney Island in Cincinnati (not Kings Island, which opened in 1972). These segments were the only new material that season, with repeats of Danger Island and Arabian Knights joined by reruns of The Hillbilly Bears replacing The Three Musketeers. The 30 min syndicated version showcased a reduced number of skits, repeats of Arabian Knights and Danger Island, and a greater rotation of previously produced H-B cartoons, including Atom Ant, Precious Pupp, Secret Squirrel, Winsome Witch, Squiddly Diddly, The Adventures of Gulliver, and the animated/live-action hybrid The Adventures of Huck Finn. Sadly, it has been reported by animation historian Earl Kress that plans to release the entire series on DVD was shelved due to poor condition of the original source material and a budget unable to cover the cost of restoring recently discovered secondary sources.

"Diamonds are a Crook's Best Friend"—Inch High, Private Eye (1973, 13 episodes)
A variation on Videocraft's 1966 series Tom of T.H.U.M.B., Inch High is a confident PI working for the Finkerton Detective Agency. With the help of his niece Lori (Hong Kong Phooey), her Jethro-esque boyfriend Gator (Bob Lutell), and their Saint Bernard Braveheart (Don Messick); Inch (Lennie Weinrib, Scrappy-Doo) circumvents the hatred of his boss Mr. Finkerton (John Stephenson) and the doubts of his clients to solve the crime every time. This premiere episode finds Inch and company tracking down clues to location of the stolen Gotrocks Diamond. Another of H-B's forgettable series, there's nothing compelling about these characters or their adventures, and Lennie's voice for Inch starts grate on your nerves right away…which is too bad, since a slight variation on it created the memorable Timer in ABC's Saturday morning Time for Timer PSAs.

"A Sweet Joke on Gotham City"—The New Adventures of Batman (1977, 16 episodes)
Having grown fond of Olan Soule's portrayal of the Caped Crusader on the various incarnations of Super Friends and Kevin Conroy's character defining vocalizations on Batman: The Animated Series, reverting back to the cheese of Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin is a letdown. Still a favorite among many Bat-fans, this short-lived series borrowed heavily from the Dick Sprang and Neal Adams comic book years, while incorporating Batgirl (Melendy Britt, She-Ra: Princess of Power), the annoying Bat-mite (producer Lou Scheimer), and a distractingly repetitive underscore from Ray Ellis and executive producer Norm Prescott. "A Sweet Joke," Episode 4, finds the Dynamic Duo and Bat-mite facing off against Sweet Tooth (Lennie Weinrib doing his best Paul Lynde impersonation) as he attempts to chocolate-ize Gotham's water supply. Dick must go undercover to infiltrate Sweet Tooth's gang to break the case and save the city. Over the course of 16 episodes, our heroes tangled with the likes of Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, Clayface, and Mr. Freeze. However, licensing for this series conflicted with Challenge of the Super Friends, meaning Riddler and Scarecrow could not be used. Once again, there's something off-putting about Filmation's style that pales next to the brighter, fast-paced nature of Hanna-Barbera.

Presented in their original full frame format with 2.0 Mono audio, Warner Bros. places a disclaimer up front so as to lower viewer expectations—"Portions of original film elements from certain programs no longer survive in pristine condition." While it's true some segments are much worse off than others (especially the Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner wraparounds), the majority of the toons are in surprisingly good condition. Yes, there is color fade, dirt, and scratches, but given the state of animation production at the time of their creation, they were never pristine to begin with. We're quite spoiled by the digital animation we see on television today, and thus everything else pales in comparison. I'm happy to have many of these shows in any form. If we can petition Warner Bros. to invest in some full series releases, I'd be ecstatic.

Sadly, there are only a couple of bonus features created for this release.

Saturday Morning Wake-Up Call! (3 min)
The great Casey Kasem slips into slick announcer mode to preview each of the episodes in this collection. Sadly, age has caught up with Casey and his voice isn't as strong as it used to be.

The Power of Shazzan (6 min)
A behind-the-scenes featurette finds Paul Dini, Mark Evanier, Jerry Beck, and more animation pros looking back at the ridiculousness of the show and fondness for the work of series creator Alex Toth. What you can see here are Don Messick doing a pre-cursor Scooby voice, Chuck and Nancy as the forerunners for Zan and Jana (The Wonder Twins), and a Genie who can do anything but get these kids home.

The Verdict

Not guilty. Pass the Frankenberry, please.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English (SDH)
Running Time: 316 Minutes
Release Year: 1967
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Action
• Adventure
• All Ages
• Animation
• Classic
• Comedy
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Introduction
• Featurette








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