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DVD Review: Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1970s Vol. 2

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Written by Hombre Divertido

On October 27th Warner Brothers released 316 minutes of cartoon memories from the seventies, though, not all of it is animated nor from the seventies. This new release not only contains some classics, but some you may not remember as well. It is important to remember the collection makes no reference to being the best of the seventies, and it certainly isn’t. Nonetheless, there is some interesting history here, as well as some voices to listen for.

The release contains 12 shows on two discs, but you won’t find the list of shows anywhere on the packaging. The main menu on the disk does supply the list, but can be frustrating to operate as selecting some episodes will return you to the menu unnecessarily, and selecting “Play all” excludes one episode.

The twelve shows included are: Help! It's the Hair Bear Bunch, the story of three mischievous bears who live in a zoo and manipulate the zoo keeper; New Adventures of Gilligan, which continues the adventures of the castaways from the sitcom of the sixties; Sea Lab 2020, a futuristic series based on an underwater community; Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, which follows the exploits of the famous detective and his children who happen to be a rock group; Shazzan, the story of two teens who travel around on a flying camel during the time of the Arabian Knights and call upon a sixty-foot Genie when they get into trouble; Yogi's Gang, which follows the classic members of the Hanna Barbera library as they travel in a flying ark and meet people who teach them important lessons; Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour, which consists of stories from the two classic Warner Brothers characters; Valley of the Dinosaurs, which tells the story of a family that travels back in time and is befriended by a Neanderthal family;
Tom and Jerry/Grape Ape Show, which consists of stories with the classic cat and mouse and stories with the 40-foot purple ape and his canine best friend; The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, a live-action series with four costumed characters who would introduce animated series and live-action serials; Inch High Private Eye, which followed the adventures of the diminutive detective and his assistants; and The New Adventures of Batman, which continues the adventures of the caped crusader. There is certainly something in this eclectic mix for everyone, but likely they all won't be satisfying.

From a story perspective, many are quite weak, such as the Inch High Private Eye episodes where the solution to the mysteries rarely made sense to anyone other than Inch High. The animation is poor in several of the shows, most noticeably in The New Adventures of Batman. Filmation had produced superior superhero cartoons in the sixties, and though these episodes have a smoother flow to the movement, it is easy to see the lack of attention to detail in this episode as the Bat Logo on the hood of the Batmobile changes color and disappears all together.

It is the historical aspects that make this release most interesting. Batman reunites the talents of Adam West and Burt Ward for the first time since the original series. Unfortunately the series also introduces the Bat Mite character, which was nothing more than annoying. Filmation’s New Adventures of Batman aired during the same season as Hanna Barbera’s Super Friends which marked a rare occasion in television history where the adventures of the same character were being chronicled on two different networks.

The Banana Splits Adventure Hour was created by Sid and Marty Kroft, and produced by Hanna Barbera. This is most interesting since this release includes Valley of the Dinosaurs, an animated series produced by Hanna Barbera that tells the story of a family on a rafting trip that gets swept into a prehistoric world. Valley premiered on the same day as Sid and Marty Kroft’s live-action series Land of the Lost, which coincidentally follows a similar story line.

The New Adventures of Gilligan reunites the original cast with the exception of Dawn Wells and Tina Louise. Jane Web would voice both the Mary Ann and Ginger characters. Sealab 2020 would be remixed to produce Sealab 2021, part of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan marked the first time that the character of Charlie Chan was portrayed by an actor of Chinese decent, Key Luke.

Jodie Foster can also be heard on episodes of Amazing Chan. Along with Foster, other notable actor’s voices in this collection are Jackie Earle Haley, Ross Martin, Ann Jillian, Jay North, and classic cartoon vocal talents including Paul Winchell, Joe E. Ross, Daws Butler, John Sephenson, and Don Messick.

Not a lot of bonus material here. “The Power of Shazzan” tells the back-story of this classic cartoon. What it fails to reveal is that this series ended its original run in 1969, and thus does not belong in this collection. “Saturday Morning Wake-Up Calls” provides a brief preview of the contents of the DVD. Though it is somewhat of a waste, as it appears to be a commercial for a product already purchased, it is voiced by Casey Kasem, who was also the voice of Shaggy on Scooby Doo and Robin the Boy Wonder in the first animated Batman series and a legendary radio personality.

Bottom Line: The historical significance may be more than those who are looking for memories to sit back and enjoy with a bowl of cereal care about, and there are certainly better series from the decade, but Warner Brothers has put together a collection worth owning. Watching these series in small portions is just right. Having all the episodes of any of these series would only serve to remind us that all the stories of the shows we loved as kids were basically the same.

Valley of the Dinosaurs Clip From the DVD: “Such Luck”

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