Author’s Note: Since this article was first published in June 2009, Warner Home Video has released second volumes of ’60s and ’70s shows (I’ve updated the listings to reflect this), with plans to put out a collection of ’80s toons (for all you Monchichis fans out there) in May.
Today’s youngsters, in the age of Cartoon Network, the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, probably can’t conceive of a world without programming just for them 24 hours a day. For we Baby Boomers and most of Generation X, though, finding cartoons and other cool stuff to watch often meant either racing home from school to catch a local TV host’s show, usually on a a UHF station, or waking up early on Saturday, getting an oversized bowl of cereal (preferably something with the big, bold letters “S-U-G-A-R” prominently displayed on the box) from the kitchen, and settling in front of the set for a several-hour sensory overload.
Well, you’re on your own with procuring suitable breakfast fare (these days us Boomers are skipping “S-U-G-A-R” in lieu of the big, bold letters “B-R-A-N”), but Warner Home Video is supplying the video portion of the entertainment with two series of nostalgia-packed collections, Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1960s, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 and Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1970s, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. And you don’t have to get up early to watch them!
Each two-disc set features 12 to 13 different shows from the title decade…give or take a couple of years. The mod and groovy ’60s volumes give you (deep breath) Top Cat, Atom Ant, Peter Potamus, Secret Squirrel, The Flintstones, The Porky Pig Show, Quick Draw McGraw, The Jetsons, Marine Boy, Space Ghost, The Herculoids, Frankenstein Jr. and the Impossibles, Magilla Gorilla, Young Samson (aka Samson and Goliath), The Space Kidettes, The Bugs Bunny Show, The Adventures of Gulliver, Wally Gator, and Tom and Jerry.
Meanwhile, for the polyester crowd, the line-ups for the ’70s installments include The Batman/Tarzan Adventure Hour, Hong Kong Phooey, Goober and the Ghost Chasers, Speed Buggy, Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch, Yogi’s Gang, The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, The Roman Holidays, Josie and the Pussycats, The New Scooby-Doo Movies, The Funky Phantom, Help! It’s the Hair Bear Bunch, The New Adventures of Gilligan (the first of TWO Gilligan cartoon series with most of the original cast supplying voices), Sealab 2020, Shazzan, The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show, Valley of the Dinosaurs, The Tom & Jerry/Grape Ape Show, The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, Inch High Private Eye, and The New Adventures of Batman and Robin. Phew!
Sharp-eyed animation fans will notice that three of the shows (Top Cat, Flintstones, Jetsons) originally ran in prime time, while five others (Quick Draw, Wally Gator, Peter Potamus, Magilla Gorilla, and the Japanese import Marine Boy) were syndicated, but all played Saturday A.M. at some point. Also–probably since Time-Warner controls the Hanna-Barbera library–each of them are H-B titles save for Marine Boy, Gilligan, and the Warner-owned Porky, Bugs, Road Runner, and Batman. Anyone looking for episodes from Rankin/Bass (King Kong, The Osmonds, Kid Power), Filmation (The Lone Ranger, The Archie Show, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids), or De Patie-Freleng (The Pink Panther, Here Comes the Grump, or my personal favorite, Super President) series is out of luck. And as for such popular programs as Jonny Quest, Wacky Races and its spin-offs, and the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, you’ll have to find those in their own complete series collections.
On a technical note, for some reason on volume one of each set, the powers that be made it impossible to go from one cartoon on an anthology show to another. For example, after Atom Ant’s own short, you have to go back to the menu to watch his co-stars, The Hillbilly Bears and Precious Pupp. This was fixed on the second round of shows. It’s nice, however, to see that for the most part original opening and closing credits are included, even if a few judicious cuts had to be made to remove mention of the shows’ original sponsors (Note: the Quick Draw McGraw installment in 1960s, Vol. 2 still prominently features Kellogg’s Cereals ). It’s too bad they couldn’t have tossed in a few vintage TV promos or commercials, while they were at it.
Still, these are minor nits to pick. With these four cartoon cornucopias, you get a fine selection of childhood faves that reflect the shifting pop culture mood of their times, from the early dominance of funny animals and animated sitcoms to the rise of superheroes–both serious and silly–in the wake of mid-’60s “Batmania,” and on to the “non-violent humor with a moral” and “some kids and a talking something-or-other solve mysteries” trends of the early ’70s. Bonus featurettes detail the making of The Amazing Chan (which featured scripts by M*A*S*H co-star Jamie Farr), Funky Phantom, The Herculoids, Magilla Gorilla, Shazzan (could he have been Hanna-Barbera’s first Muslim superhero?), and even Quick Draw McGraw’s guitar-whumpin’ alter ego, El Kabong. There are enough fond memories in these sets to fill up several Saturday mornings and keep animation geeks like myself happy.
One final note: in one of the strangest advisory notices I’ve ever seen, each back cover says that the collection “is Intended for the Adult Collector and Is Not Suitable for Children.” Now, sure, there’s lots of costumed-action fisticuffs and Quick Draw got more than his share of gunshots to the face, but come on. The kids who grew up on these cartoons are now afraid of showing them to their own kids…when many of the same shows are on Warner’s Boomerang cable channel? Aren’t we being just a tad overprotective?