Sitting down in front of the DVD player with a giant cereal bowl in hand to watch Saturday Morning Cartoons 1970's Volume 2 is a very different proposition than watching the simultaneously released 1960's Collection. Although both rely heavily on Hanna-Barbera produced programs, the product H-B were creating had changed dramatically.
Kooky animal characters such as Quick Draw McGraw, Wally Gator, and Augie Doggie were pretty much over, as the studio’s emphasis became focused on action-adventure cartoons. Of the 12 shows contained on this two-DVD set, half fall into the adventure genre. Things had gotten much more serious in cartoon-land, even Yogi Bear had sobered up.
The 1970s Volume 2 set contains quite a number of pilots. The first episodes of The New Adventures Of Gilligan, Sealab 2020, Yogi’s Gang, Valley Of The Dinosaurs, and Inch-High Private Eye are all featured.
The Valley Of The Dinosaurs episode “Forbidden Fruit” is a prime example of the action-adventure field in animation. It is sort of a Swiss Family Robinson in prehistoric times. The Butler family somehow fell into a whirlpool in the Amazon which transported them to a land that time forgot. Thankfully, there are some friendly cavemen to help them hide from the dinosaurs.
It seems as if the live action TV stars of the 1960s were having a rough time of it in the 1970s. The New Adventures Of Gilligan features the voices of Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus, and Natalie Shafer. The New Adventures Of Batman has both Adam West and Boy Wonder Burt Ward intoning their animated alter-egos.
The strangest aspect of all though has to be the new “socially conscious” trend that took place in the early '70s cartoons. As a kid, I had no idea of the messages in some of these, but as an adult I find the indoctrination somewhat startling.
The short-lived Sealab 2020 is interesting as it equates exploration of the oceans with that of space. The explorers are even called “Oceanauts.” The first episode “Deep Threat” from 1972 concerns itself with nuclear waste being dumped in the oceans. A serious concern to be certain, but one for six-year-olds to worry about?
Even more bizarre is Yogi’s Gang. Another first episode, “Mr. Bigot” is possibly the strangest Hanna-Barbera cartoon I have ever seen. Yogi has built an ark, like Noah’s I guess, but it flies. Yup, it has a propeller that is powered by Magilla Gorilla running on a treadmill. A very PC touch.
Populating the ark are all the '60s H-B gang: Atom Ant, Ricochet Rabbit, Huckleberry Hound, Snagglepuss and the rest. This episode is titled “Mr. Bigot.” Yes, there is a villain out there with a “Bigot-Gun” set to turn all of mankind into hate-mongers. When the formerly friendly Mr. Cheerful gets zapped, and turns on the gang, Yogi springs into action. Good guys that they are, the animals turn the other cheek and bake him a cake.
As Snagglepuss should have said: “Heavens to Mergatroyd!” What kind of a lesson is this? It took a quick trip to the menu bar and an episode of the always reliable Bugs Bunny/ Road Runner Hour to cleanse my mental palette after this travesty.
Then there is The Banana Splits Adventure Hour. This is a glorious mess of live action, cartoons, and music. For some reason The Splits’ antics still crack me up. The live action Danger Island serial cliff-hanger is a little odd, as it is just literally cut with scissors in the middle of a scene. There is no method to it at all. Just snip, and no word about tuning in for the next episode or anything.
The Banana Splits song “Soul” is the best part. Filmed in that super-cheesy Hollywood version of psychedelia, the video for “Soul” is great. The singer even gets in name-checks of Otis Redding and Ray Charles, for the hip kindergartner in the crowd.
The only bonus feature included is titled “The Power Of Shazzan.” This is a five-minute documentary on the short-lived Hanna-Barbera show, mainly featuring interviews with people associated with its production.
Watching Saturday Morning Cartoons 1970s Volume 2 is fun. If nothing else, it serves as a reminder of what a truly bent decade those years really were.
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