A DVD “Sugar-Charged Saturday Morning Supershow”

Last week, MovieFanFare introduced a poll asking people to vote for their “favortie classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon series.” Now, the distinction between “classic” and “modern” can be a tricky one–after all, to those readers 40 and under shows like SuperFriends, Hong Kong Phooey and The Smurfs are old enough to be considered “classic”–but this does show the devotion that each generation has to its Saturday morning TV memories.

Movie buffs know what a godsend the Warner Archive and similar “video-on-demand” services have been to the discerning collector, but there have also been quite a few releases targeting cartoon fans of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. While the “regular” part of the company is busy trumpeting the debut of such deathless animation fare as Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, the CGI/live-action Yogi Bear abomination (yeah, I’m picking on it again). and whatever Pokemon series they’re up to these days, the good folks of the Archive division have been busy the last couple of years putting out complete series collections and specials, mostly from the Hanna-Barbera vaults. Some may not have held up with the passage of time–assuming they ever did–but here’s a sampling:

The Dukes - Since coming out with a series of Laurel and Hardy cartoons in 1965, shows based on pre-existing characters or TV programs have been a Hanna-Barbera staple. Who out there will ever forget Partridge Family: 2200 A.D. (see below), Fonz and the Happy Days Gang, or The Gary Coleman Show? Well, in 1983 youngsters could watch The Dukes of Hazzard on Friday night, then get up the next morning to see Bo and Luke (Fill-in Dukes Coy and Vance in the first season, actually) in animated form.The Duke boys, cousin Daisy and the General Lee took part in an around-the-world race against Boss Hogg and his henchmen to save the family farm, and while all the live-action cast members supplied their voices, that probably wasn’t enough to keep Jules Verne from spinning in his grave over the show.    

Goober and the Ghost Chasers - “Say, what if Scooby-Doo could turn invisible?” While we’ll never know if this pitch was actually made in a company meeting, Hanna-Barbera did indeed hang the existence of this 1973 show on that rather flimsy premise. Paul Winchell supplied the voice of the hat-wearing Goober, who would (literally) vanish when he got scared while joining the young staff of Ghost Chasers Magazine on their latest spooky assignment. The only other interesting aspect of this series was that several episodes featured guest vocal appearances by the Partridge Kids (the live-action show cast that would later star, minus David Cassidy and Shirley Jones, in Partridge Family: 2200 A.D.) and NBA Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain. Whether Wilt practiced any of his off-the-court moves on Ghost Chaser Tina or not was never shown.  

Jabberjaw - You’ll never guess what Steven Spielberg movie hit the big screen before this series made its 1976 debut. Okay, you probably did. Perhaps the epitome of the H-B studio’s penchant for combining “high-concept” ideas, the show followed an underwater, futuristic rock combo, The Neptunes, as they spent their time between gigs battling aquatic villains and would-be world conquerors. Helping bandmates Biff, Shelly, Bubbles and Clamhead was the Neptunes’ drummer, a cowardly, talking shark named Jabberjaw who spoke like Curly from The Three Stooges and used Rodney Dangerfield’s “I get no respect” tagline. As a Jetsons/Scooby-Doo/Josie and the Pussycats mash-up, Jabberjaw was hardly in the pantheon of great Saturday morning efforts, but there was a bit of goofy fun about it, espcailly if you looked to see which old Space Ghost or Josie bad guy was being re-purposed that week. Oh, and at the same time Jabberjaw was swimming his way across the screen on ABC, NBC’s Pink Panther and Friends series featured a rival cartoon shark, a top-hatted predator named Misterjaw who was voiced by Laugh-In regular Arte Johnson. Imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery…or something.          

The Space Kiddettes/Young Samson - Another typical Hanna-Barbera move was to sandwich two characters together in a half-hour show if a concept didn’t merit a full 30 minutes of airtime. Generally speaking the cartoon roommates would be linked thematically (like, say, Birdman and the Galaxy Trio or Tom and Jerry and the Great Grape Ape), but syndicated reruns could form the animated equivalent of Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison. A case in point was this entry. 1966′s light-hearted The Space Kiddettes were four kids–Countdown, Jenny, Scooter and…er, Snoopy–who roamed the cosmos with their dog Pupstar and had a space capsule clubhouse. They also had an arch-enemy, interplanetary pirate Captain Skyhook, who plotted with his sidekick Static to steal a treasure map he was sure the Kiddettes possessed. Every time Static would suggest some torture like “boiling them in space oil” to get them to talk, Skyhook would conk him on the helmet and remind him that “you can’t do that to little kids!” Meanwhile, Young Samson was a bland–even by 1967 superhero cartoon standards–collection of adventures in which teen hero Samson–voiced by Jonny Quest’s Tim Matheson–would clang together a pair of wrist bracelets to turn into a more muscular, longer-haired version of himself (shades of Captain Marvel) to fight evil. His partner was his pet dog Goliath, who at a click of the wrist jewelry became a super-strong lion. Shouldn’t Goliath have either turned into a wolf or been a cat? And I’m no Biblical scholar, but wasn’t Goliath a bad guy?   

Speed Buggy - “Okay, what if Scooby-Doo was a talking dune buggy instead of a Great Dane?” Well, he was in this fondly-remembered 1973 cartoon that was part of H-B’s time-tested “group of teenagers and a dopey animal/magical being/machine solve mysteries” oeuvre. Comedic voice icon Mel Blanc–using the same sputtering delivery he gave on the radio as Jack Benny’s Maxwell car–supplied the vocals for Speedy, who with human builders/owners/friends Tinker, Mark and Debbie travelled around the globe racing and foiling the schemes of mad scientists and other evildoers. By the way, Speed Buggy looked just like the non-sentient “Looney Duney” vehicle that another cartoon crime-solving clique–in The Funky Phantom–used two years earlier, and Tinker could easily have been the long-lost brother of Shaggy from Scooby-Doo (and both could have been ancestors of Jabberjaw’s Clamhead).  

Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch - Long before Disney/Pixar’s Cars–but not before the 1937 Merrie Melodie Streamlined Greta Green or Tex Avery’s 1952 MGM short One Cab’s Family–there was this 1974 series set in a world of anthropomorphic autos, trucks and motorcycles. Wheelie was a little red stunt car who sort of resembled a Volkswagen Beetle (but not enough to get Disney’s lawyers on the phone over a Herbie copyright infringement) and, unlike all the other talking vehicles in his world, communicated via horn beeps and a windshield that lit up messages like a sports stadium scoreboard. Always trying to foil his and sporty sweetheart Rota Ree’s fun were the Chopper Bunch, a gang of  motorbike bullies whose troublemaking schemes invariably backfired on them.

So, what can we hope for further down the road from the Hanna-Barbera stockpile? Vintage ’60s shows like Peter Potamus, Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles, or The Herculoids? Such ’70s shows as Help! It’s the Hair Bear Bunch!, Sealab 2020 (not to be confused with its Adult Swim spoof Sealab 2021), or the prime-time, football-themed sitcom Where’s Huddles? (probably not if there’s an NFL work stoppage)?  Maybe you ’80s kids would like to see the Pac-Man series wacca-wacca its way onto DVD, or one of my favorites, The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley? Me, I’m so old I’m holding out for 1957′s The Ruff and Reddy Show. What’s your toon decade of choice?

Author’s Note: Thanks to Jay Schwartz, founder of The Secret Cinema, Philadelphia’s travelling repertoire film society for obscure and oddball fare,  for the title to this installment. For more info, check out Jay’s website at www.thesecretcinema.com.

  • Jeff

    Someone else actually remembers Ruff and Ready. I thought I was the only one around with those memories.

  • Bill

    Yes, Jeff I remember Ruff and Reddy too.
    Also we should not forget Beany and Cecil or Rootie Kazootie!
    Although a portion of both shows were with puppets, I do
    believe there was animation in both shows too.

  • Kae Upton

    My daughter and I were just talking about the old Saturday morning cartoons and how I miss the fact that Saturdays is no longer a cartoonfilled morning. I remember all of these cartoons noted above and wish that someone would think to put them back on again even if they are the old repeats of the originals. Our kids would benefit greatly from these shows and not the few that are still on Saturday mornings that are so violent. Give me Ruff and Ready over pokemon anyday!!!!!!

  • jeanine

    I remember Ruff and Ready. Now does anyone else remember Winky Dink?

  • Frank

    Ruff and Ready Babeeee!….. the very first of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon empire….. I remember them kicking the butts of the Mulni Mula men on Saturday mornings….right after Crusader Rabbit.

  • Steve-o

    Ruff ‘n Reddy to be sure. But how about Crusader Rabbit? Milton the Monster in the early 60s? And the Japanese imports, Astroboy, Gigantor, and Kimba, the White Lion?

    I remember watching every cartoon show available at least once, then stick with my faves. Nowadays, there’s no point. The networks are rerunning shows from other networks. And not the good ones, either. ick.

  • DAVE

    There haven’t been ANY good cartoons made since the 1959 classic Baton Bunny.

  • Jack

    The absolute best was Jonny Quest. The stories were great and illustrations were technically drawn with a lot of attention to detail

  • Vickie

    My little brothers watched some of these, but their favorites were Jonny Quest, Space Ghost and Thundarr the Barbarian. I was always a big Loony Tunes fan; I also liked Tom and Jerry, Droopy Dog and anything from Tex Avery.

  • tim

    the hurculoids (spelling wrong) but way ahead of their time. bugs bunny & road runner show these cartoons must have been the 1960′s because i don’t remember the one’s you’re talking about they must have been the late 70′s. the 60′s cartoons were much better fantastic four, captain america, hulk,

  • Bob VanDerClock

    Not sure whom to credit these to, but some of my early TV cartoon faves were Crusader Rabbit (and Rags The Tiger…this one goes WAY back!); Super Six and The Mighty Heroes

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com Gary Cahall

    Actually, Bob, Rocky & Bullwinkle guru Jay Ward was one of the co-creators of Crusader Rabbit, which debuted in 1949. Its animation makes Hanna-Barbera look like Disney’s Fantasia, but it did feature good voice work and some clever dialogue.
    The Super 6 was a 1966 De Patie-Freleng (ex-Warner animator Friz Freleng) hero spoof series on NBC, and around the same time CBS had Terrytoons’ well-liked (by me, too) Mighty Heroes, which was some of Ralph Bakshi’s earliest cartoon work.

  • ds

    Dont forget about the Groovie Ghoulies,

  • SimbasGuard

    You’re right I’m no Bible Scholar either but Goliath was a bad guy. I always liked Young Samson and Goliath (which I got to see in syndication) and the fact that the dog turned into a lion was slightly odd to me although I never gave it much thought. My favorite decade for cartoons had to be the 80′s I loved He-Man and the Masters of the universe, Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, Super Friend, and Transformers.

  • old_man

    hey…I used to live in the New York so during the week we had Kimba the white lion, Tobor the 8th man, Giagantor,the Marvel Heroes (capt america, the hulk, Thor,and sub-mariner). My favorite Saturday was bugs bunny hour, journey to the center of the earth, beany & cecil, and of course Rocky & Bullwinkle.

  • T Lady

    I’d like to see Peter Potamus, Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles, and Quick Draw McGraw DVD box sets. Those were among the best of the H-B Television produced series. As someone said on a previous post, what these shows lacked in animation, they more than made up for with the vocal talents of Daws Butler, Don Messick, and Ted Cassidy among others.

  • Richard

    I remember bugs and all the gang, space ghost, hot wheels, sky hawks, then watching baseball right after that was my sat morning

  • Dana

    My favorite part of Saturday mornings was Schoolhouse Rock. To this day if my brain gets stuck on something the appropriate tune will get me back on track. I shared these gems with my daughter when she was little and they’ve had the same effect on her. Great stuff!

  • david j

    I seem to remember a cartoon starring sugar bear the same bear from the cereal comercial is this true or am i wrong?

  • Daisy

    I see I’m not the only one to remember Ruff and Reddy, even though I remember almost nothing about the cartoons themselves. Beany and Cecil were done by Bob Clampett, one of the “Termite Terrace” masterminds, so it is no wonder they were so good. I wish someone would bring them back. Yes, I also remember Rootie Kazootie and Winky Dink. Winky Dink was fun, and I adored Captain Kangaroo, even though he wasn’t really a cartoon.

    I notice a lot of you also remember Crusader Rabbit and his sidekick Rags, but how many of you know that it was also a very early Jay Ward production, and Rocky and Bullwinkle were born out of rabbit and the tiger.

    After I discovered Disney and Warner Brothers, those were my principle favorites.

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com Gary Cahall

    You’re right about Sugar Bear, David j. The Sugar Crisp-loving bruin was one of several Post Cereal mascots (Lovable Truly the postman for Alpha-Bits,So-Hi for Rice Krinkles, etc.) on the Linus the Lionhearted show, a 1964-69 Saturday morning cartoon that really blurred the line between programming and commercials. It was one of the first shows taken off the air after a government crackdown on such practices (Remember when the H-B toon stars were cover models for Kelloggs?) Fun Linus note: Sheldon Leonard, Carl Reiner, Ruth Buzzi, Jonathan Winters, and Stiller and Meara were among the voice talent.

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com Gary Cahall

    Daisy, I think no video company would dare put out a set of Winky Dink cartoons, for fear kids would follow the “draw-along” instructions without a plastic sheet, and color over their parents’ new $2,000 plasma TV screen with crayons!

  • DianeMG

    I don’t care what anyone say’s! the cartoons of today are horrible! I LOVE ALL the old classic cartoons! They bring back such fond memories of a simpler time and place!!! If only the kid’s of today could have such innocence!

  • Grace

    I MISS those old Saturday morning cartoons of the 50′s and 60′s!! Bugs Bunny etal! Remember Snagglepuss (“Exit, stage left” and “I’ve waited all day to be a Knight”)!! George of the Jungle was another favorite and many more I’m sure I’ve forgotten about. As far as the Rocky and Bullwinkle show, their show originally was on about 6 or 6:30 in the evening during the week and it’s definitely my favorite with all the components, Aesop’s Fables, and Fractured Fairy Tales, etc. Realy written for “adults”! Thankfully they have been releasing all the seasons on DVD – just preordered Season 5!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/cherilyn.hannen Cherilyn Hannen

    I liked Misterjaw…he was funny…especially when he’d jump out of the water and yell gotcha!!!!…and people would yell SHARK!!!!!!!!…I liked his  voice  Arte  Johnson who was on Laugh-In…Misterjaw’s accent was the German accent Arte had on Laugh-In  as the German soldier…Arte and Misterjaw have been a lifesaver for me  through my dad’s illness and death

  • Justin OKeefe

    Wow…I was a cartoon head for sure back in the day. Here’s just a few of my faves: ricochet rabbit and droopalong, mushmouse and punkin puss, magilla gorilla, yippee, yapee, and yahooie, fractured fairytales and woody woodpecker…all highly entertaining. A couple of good ones from the the newer bunch were space ghost and the herculoids. I’m also a huge bugs bunny fan but that’s not among the HB classics.

  • williamsommerwerck

    Stockpile? Schlockpile.

    It’s interesting that, although Hanna & Barbera made excellent short subjects at MGM, the word “quality” seems to have vanished from their vocabulary when they started making TV cartoons. Did they make a single show that might appeal to adult sensibilities? That might be called even remotely “witty”? Or heaven knows — “original”?

    There are dozens of modern cartoon shows that are infinitely superior to Hanna-Barbera’s crap. If I had kids, I’d rather they watched “South Park” or “The Venture Bros.” than Hanna-Barbera’s mind-rotting garbage. These programs assume an intelligent viewership, rather than pandering to the lowest common denominator — a dimwitted five-year-old.

    • Nicolas

      I have to second you on that. Looking back, there television fare, which at the time was made on the cheap, did not have any wit that would make it interesting. I think the only thing interesting about watching there more famous stuff from that period The Flinstones and The Jetsons is that one gets to see what in Americana was considered the ideal of family life. I used to enjoy as a kid though the show Johnny Quest, with its adventure plots, which was different at the time from many of the other cartoons. Having seen it again though, was struck by the cheapness of it. I found Rocky and Bulwinkle much more interesting, and later even some of the plots of Speed Racer.

      • williamsommerwerck

        Believe it or not, I kinda liked “Speed Racer” (which I first saw while in college). It had a certain weird charm, and the plots had some kind of connection with the real world.

  • laustcawz

    Hanna-Barbera’s masterpiece still remains “The Perils Of Penelope Pitstop”.
    Not familiar with it? Check it out.

    • Bruce Reber

      She was one of the contestants in “Wacky Races”.

  • RazorBlazer

    Ok, going back to 50′s-60′s ; let’s not forget Clutch Cargo and a strange space alien who was on the air around same time as Crusader Rabbit & Tom Terrific & Mighty Manfred.