Greetings and bienvenue from Judge Dan Mancini.
Everybody has secrets.
Solomon "Doc" Saturday, his wife Drew, and their 11-year-old son Zak are the world's hippest cryptozoologists. The Saturdays have globe-trotting adventures with their adopted cryptids Fiskerton the gorilla-cat, Komodo the genetically-modified Komodo dragon, and Zon the flying dinosaur. At the behest of a group of cryptozoologists known as the Secret Scientists, the Saturdays work to keep the existence of cryptids (legendary animals from folklore) secret for the safety of both the cryptids and humanity. During their adventures, they research the strange beasts while doing battle with a rogues' gallery of enemies that includes the diabolically evil cryptid collector and TV host, V.V. Argost.
Volume One of The Secret Saturdays contains the first five episodes of the series' first season:
• "The Kur Stone, Parts 1 and 2"
• "The Vengeance of Hibagon"
• "The Ice Caverns of Ellef Ringnes"
• "Guess Who's Going to Be Dinner?"
I'd never heard of The Secret Saturdays before receiving this disc for review. The show was a pleasant surprise. Created by Jay Stephens (Tutenstein), the series wears its love of Jonny Quest on its sleeve. Though set in the present day, The Secret Saturdays is packed to the gills with mid-'60s hipster style, from the retro space-age modernism of the Saturdays' elevated dome home (or base), to the bongo-heavy theme music, to V.V. Argost's swinging catch-phrase, "Greetings and bienvenue." The show is more fun than it has a right to be. Zak is a likeable child lead, not as square as Jonny Quest but just as eager to jump headfirst into adventure. Filling the role of Zak's sidekick is Fiskerton, a shaggy, red-eyed primate something-er-other who can speak almost as well as Scooby-Doo and is more like Chewbacca than Quest's bulldog Bandit. Zak's old man Doc Sampson is pure tight-lipped adventure hero with a shock of white in his otherwise jet black hair and a wicked scar across one presumably blind eye, while Drew is the doting and protective mother figure always trying to keep Zak out of trouble. It's a cast perfectly calibrated for light-hearted adventure, which is exactly what the show delivers. Episode plots are consistently absurd but that won't matter to kids…or their parents, who'll dig the show as a loving and spot-on tribute to the Saturday morning Hanna-Barbera cartoon shows of yesteryear.
In one respect, The Secret Saturdays has nothing in common with Jonny Quest or other Hanna-Barbera productions: The quality of its animation. Don't expect the rickety movements and constantly recycled sequences found in old school shows made on prohibitively tight budgets. Characters are rendered with bold, angular black outlines, colors are bright, and movement is smooth. The show's background plates evoke the style of old cartoon adventure series, but take full advantage of modern advances in television animation. Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the series looks superb on DVD.
Audio is a functional Dolby stereo track that is solid in terms of the way it balances dialogue, music, and effects, but is extremely weak on volume. I had to crank my system in order to produce a satisfactory audio experience.
Supplements include some concept drawings (presented in featurette form), a cryptid catalog that provides text-based background information on three of the weird animals from these episodes, and a few deleted scenes.
The Secret Saturdays is a blast for kids, as well as adults who wish they still made cartoons like they did back in the '60s and '70s. The characters are likeable (if slightly campy) and the episodes are breezy and fun. The five episodes in Volume One are a great introduction to the show, though fans may want hold out for a complete Season One box set.
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