The Police Academy film series is one of those cherished things from my youth that I dare not revisit for fear that I’ll wonder why I ever liked it in the first place. Even back then I knew the movies were getting increasingly crummy, but it was fun ditching school to see them with my friends. It was pretty much a yearly tradition in the second half of the ‘80s. While I was aware of the barely-released Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow (1994), I never bothered seeing it. The thrill was gone by that point, and based on its box office gross of $126,247 most people apparently felt the same.
What I didn’t know about was Police Academy – The Animated Series, which ran for two seasons in 1988 and ’89. For whatever reason, Warner Archive Collection has chosen to include the first 30 episodes in their Volume One release, which is the first time the series has been available on DVD. That’s a pretty generous selection, spread over three manufactured-on-demand discs, but odd considering the first season ran 26 episodes. Though not restored in any way, the episodes look acceptable. Anyone familiar with Warner Archive animation titles of similar vintage knows what to expect.
As long-forgotten ‘80s cartoon shows go, Police Academy is surprisingly entertaining. Even though the movies became increasingly kid-friendly after the raunchy, R-rated debut, it’s still kind of a weird choice to turn into kiddie fare. All the classic characters are present and accounted for, including Mahoney, Larvell, Zed, Sweetchuck, Hightower, Tackleberry, Callahan, Captain Harris, and Commandant Lassard. Considering the film series was still an active franchise when the cartoon show was produced this might go without saying, but none of the original cast voiced their characters. That’s not really a problem, especially with Dan Hennessey doing a reasonable approximation of Bobcat Goldthwait’s Zed.
The one noticeable loss is the inimitable Michael Winslow as Larvell Jones. His truly amazing ability to make seemingly any sound effect using just his voice made Larvell the real star of the films. Nothing against Greg Morton, he reads Larvell’s lines just fine and seems to have a fairly versatile voice. But hearing overdubbed sound effects just isn’t the same.
One cute addition not present in the films is the K-9 Corps. This special unit of crime-fighting dogs is one way that Ruby-Spears Productions adapted the franchise to appeal to youngsters. There is, of course, a wide array of formidable villains the Academy members must go up against each episode. The theme song, “They Wear the Blue,” was performed by the ‘80s hip-hop group The Fat Boys. Police Academy – The Animated Series: Volume One is definitely aimed at hardcore ‘80s nostalgia junkies. But it is worth remembering as evidence of just what a minor powerhouse the Police Academy brand once was. The animated series spawned a Kenner-produced line of action figures and accessories, while Marvel even had a comic book adaptation in circulation.
It’s pretty cool that Warner Archive is keeping shows like this from languishing in total obscurity. Did you know there was also a live-action Police Academy TV show? It ran for one season in 1997 and starred none other than Michael Winslow as Larvell Jones. Note to Warner Archive Collection: can we have that one as well, please? For now, Police Academy buffs should enjoy this first volume of the cartoon series.